The Kingdom of Italy During World War I Part 1

In the second half of March 1914 Giolitti left power to Antonio Salandra, an enlightened conservative, who, according to most, had to touch a short ministerial life. His predecessor would return as soon as the international concerns had been resolved, the economic and financial difficulties deriving from the Libyan war had been resolved and the renewed social unrest had been quelled, all issues that the majority who emerged from the elections of 1913 did not agree with, in which a first small nationalist representation. The serious revolutionary unrest and the general strike of  the Red Week (June 1914) immediately confronted the new ministry with those difficulties that Giolitti had wanted to avoid by retiring, as he had done on other occasions. Salandra managed to restore order without resorting to reactionary measures and then set about to resume the usual administrative and legislative work. The outbreak of the world war surprised disoriented and restless Italy. While socialism was asking with its official organ, the Avanti!, absolute neutrality, the nationalists, at first, even demanded intervention alongside the Central Empires. But the government declared its neutrality (2 August), which it unofficially interpreted as an act necessary for the defense of the great Italian interests in the Adriatic and in the Mediterranean, harmed by the aggressive war declared by Austria to Serbia. And in reality, not informed of the preordained Austro-German action, which violated the spirit and the letter of the Triple Pact, Italy regained its freedom of action in the face of the alliance, which had long been devoid of real content and severe test from unfriendly gestures of Austria (attitude in the Libyan war, Hohenlohe decrees of 1913 against the royalties, aggressive intentions of its military caste, that during the struggle of Italy against Turkey had concretized an attack project behind him). According to the generic interpretation of the casus foederis  offered by the Triple Treaty, instead of certainly breaking the alliance due to the precise violation of article 1, which committed the allies to a preliminary exchange of ideas on general political-economic issues, and of art. 7 which guaranteed the  Balkan status quo  and required a reciprocal notice in case of change. But soon the declaration of neutrality, which benefited the Entente so much, proved insufficient.

According to, Italy could not remain absent in a larger and more decisive conflict from day to day, from which the whole problem of European relations was radically upset. However, many for sentimental or political considerations (loyalty to the alliance, suggestion of Germanic culture and strength, aversion to French democracy or English imperialism or Russian absolutism, concerns about the unprepared army, mistrust of the Italian people, nightmare of possible defeat) asked for the maintenance of neutrality and foreshadowed disasters for Italy if it entered the war and encouraged, more or less consciously, fearlessness, a spirit of inertia, quietism. Conservatives and men of culture, to which were added clericals and in their great majority the Orthodox socialists, the Neutralists  soon found themselves confronted with the supporters of the war, the interventionists, also of very different political origins and in favor of intervening alongside the Entente (no one thought of Central Empires any more) for different reasons, often in contrast. Sympathy for the “Latin sister”, “the struggle of civilization against barbarism”, aversion to militarism and Germanic imperialism, anti-triplicism were the motives of the democrats of the various tendencies, who believed in the myth of the “last war “, while the liberals of the Risorgimento tradition wanted the fulfillment of national aspirations, the liberation of Trento and Trieste, and the nationalists demanded the affirmation of Italian power, the expansion in the East, on the seas, in the colonies, the redemption of ‘Adua, Lissa’s revenge. The writers spoke of the “beautiful war”; some noisy avant-garde proclaimed it “the only hygiene in the world” and some solitary republican dreamed of possible regime upheavals. Great confusion, therefore, and torment and disordered ardor, which did little to illuminate the action of the government. Towards the end of the year the former director of theForward! , Mussolini, who dramatically emerged from the ranks of the Socialist Party and became a fighting apostle of war among his glorious  People of Italy  (25 November). And the exiles of Trento and Trieste, first Cesare Battisti, revived the tradition of the Risorgimento.

Faced with this minority, predominantly young and bourgeois, large masses of people remained indifferent or distrustful, most of the most authoritative politicians uncertain and doubtful. At the test of such a great crisis, the lack of a conscious ruling class appeared and it was very serious damage. Intuition of individuals and groups, the prevailing and overpowering of minorities had to indicate and impose the way, in the absence of that.

The Kingdom of Italy During World War I 1

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