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in the industrial centres of Italy. The Army itself was rapidly being won over to the Revolution; and the Nitti Government was obliged to hasten demobilisation in order to avoid a catastrophe like the Russian.
It was in these circumstances that the elections of Nov. 16, 1919, were held. The Nitti Administration had alienated a large part of the old Liberal elements and the whole of the Nationalists from its support. The prestige of the Government was at stake; and its efficiency in representing the interests of Italy at foreign conference tables was seriously doubted. The consequence was that a considerable portion of the supporters of constitutional government abstained from the polls. The Socialists on the other hand were compact. The different shades of Socialist opinion-Reformist, Official, and Extremist-made common cause, and launched a political campaign which bore quick fruit on ground well watered by widespread discontent. Socialist propaganda in the North and the Centre and in some of the agricultural districts in the south-eastern provinces was so intense that a fatalistic belief in the ultimate victory of the Revolutionaries took deep root in the minds of Italians of all classes. It was felt that, even if a strong constitutional parliament were returned, the struggle would not cease, and that a protracted period of violence would follow. On those grounds many voters were found who, while rejecting revolutionary tenets, voted for the Socialists in the hope of seeing social peace re-established and the work of reconstruction begun. The discouragement and apathy of the voters who stood for order on the one hand, and the rapid progress of revolutionary ideas on the other, were the principal causes of the signal Labour victory at the general elections of November 1919. The Socialist seats in Parliament were more than doubled-the total number of Socialist deputies elected was 156-while the newly formed Popular or Catholic Party, which stood for radical and Christian, as opposed to revolutionary, social reform, secured a firm footing in the Chamber at very first appearance on the electoral lists.
It was evident, as soon as the results of the elections were known, that traditional party government by a Liberal majority with a Democratic Opposition, or the
reverse, was impossible; the support of either the Socialis or the Popular Party was indispensable. The Socialist resolutely refused to participate in the government o the country, the Official wing, with Bolshevist tendencies far outnumbering the Reformists who advocated Socialism by constitutional means. After protracted negotiation Nitti formed a Cabinet including members of the new Catholic Party; but the social exigencies of the latter strongly tainted with clericalism, were not of a kind t please the Liberals. Parliament was given a short leas of life, instability having made its appearance at the very start both in the Government and among its sup porters. The Socialists were eager to take advantag of the strength of their position in Parliament; bu the feeling of approaching victory carried them to a exuberance which was premature. Nationalism was stil a predominant sentiment in the country in spite of it temporary eclipse. Revolutionaries as a rule are poor group-psychologists; and certainly the Italian Socialis Party grossly miscalculated the temperament of the mass of their countrymen when its members in Parlia ment withdrew in a body from the Chamber as the King entered to read his speech, to come back again when the ceremony was over amid the singing of the Internationale' and the 'Red Flag.'
The first Nitti Cabinet in the 25th Legislature lived an uncertain life until March 1920. During most of this period Signor Nitti was in London and Paris, trying to settle the Adriatic question. The halting solutions he obtained contrasted so unfavourably with the determi nation of D'Annunzio that he made enemies of the Nationalists and gradually lost the support of the very Liberals who stood behind him in Parliament. In the mean time the Popular Party, benefiting by its pre ponderant rôle in the Chamber, began to agitate for a larger share in the Government. The pressure brought to bear by it was so great that eight Ministers resigned on March 14, and a modified Ministry was patched up only to fall two months later. Between May 12 and June 9 negotiations were in progress for a new Cabinet including the Catholics. All efforts, however, were doomed to failure, owing to the intransigent conditions laid down by the Popular Party before participating in
the Government. The second Nitti Cabinet tendered its resignation on June 9; and on June 24 Signor Giolitti appeared with what seemed a workable Ministry including a strong Catholic element.
Signor Giolitti, who is above all a politician, presented a programme calculated to satisfy all the parties that had been working for the downfall of his predecessor. The Nationalists were promised that in future Parliament would be fully consulted on matters of foreign policy, and that a permanent parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee would be appointed for that purpose. The Socialists were assured that the Government would be strictly neutral in the class-war; that an inquiry would be held on war expenditure; and that retroactive taxation would be imposed on excess profits made during the war. Finally, satisfaction was given to the Popular Party in respect of their fundamental demand that uncultivated land should be expropriated and distributed among the peasantry.
All promised well within Montecitorio, but fresh troubles of a particularly grave character soon broke the social peace necessary for economic reconstruction, which the Giolitti Government held out as being near at hand. Labour, though less organised and less united than it had been at certain periods before the war, had recruited to its ranks large masses of turbulent characters, more inspired by vague anarchical sentiments than by any ideas of a disciplined revolution. The cry for immediate direct action against the established order came from every part of Italy-from the industrial North and Centre as well as from the agricultural South. Socialist agitators and extremists from the left wing of the Popular Party fanned the flame of revolution throughout the land. The Parliamentary Socialist Party, with the exception of the more balanced leaders like Filippo Turati, really thought that the moment had come for the downfall of the capitalist regime, and encouraged the rising spirit of revolt by all the means in its power. The industrial workers and the agricultural labourers were in a dangerous mood; and the managers of industry as well as the landowners felt powerless before the rising tide of insubordination.
The inevitable followed. Towards the end of August
1920 there began that process of occupation of factories by the workers and the seizure of land by the peasants which astonished the whole world by the suddenness and ease with which it was carried out, but which Italians, who took in the situation from close quarters, accepted with a kind of fatalistic resignation. In the eyes of unthinking partisans of Labour, the millennium had come. Land and industry were henceforth to be the property of their own workers; and the fall of the bourgeoisie as a ruling and economic power was only a matter of time. To this end Red Guards were organised as a counter-weapon against the Royal Guards, which had been founded under Nitti's administration to save the country from proletarian disorder. The most disquieting feature of the situation, while the factories were in the hands of the workers, was the clandestine stocking of arms and munitions in the workshops and in Labour Clubs. The internal situation of Italy in the first half of September 1920 was critical; and the country was at one moment on the eve of a catastrophic revolution which might have plunged it into the horrors that followed the Communistic experiment in Russia. On the one hand there was the firm stand taken by the factory-owners, which was proclaimed at the close of every one of their meetings, not to make any concessions until the workers had evacuated the factories seized; and on the other hand there was the daily extension of the seizure movement, which was being fanned into a revolutionary manoeuvre by the Parliamentary Socialist Party and by the Socialist organ 'Avanti!'
A clever move made by Signor Giolitti saved Italian industry and the country itself from anarchy and disorder. He boldly espoused the moderate attitude displayed by the Labour Confederation majority, which was for conciliation, against the Socialist political party, which wanted to give the movement a revolutionary character. The bourgeois Press in general sided with the Premier, who, in conformity with his programme of neutrality in the class-struggle, was steering a middle course between the extremist attitudes of the Communists and the Federation of Industrial Owners. Meanwhile the leaders of the Confederation won the support of the Popular Party, which, in a manifesto to the
Catholic workers, warned them against Communism and dangerous social experiments, but recognised the principle of the democratic control of industry and profit-sharing.
Industrial peace was temporarily restored by the meeting in Rome between the delegates of masters and men on Sept. 20, 1920. Signor Giolitti was present as the guiding spirit of the negotiations, while the Prefects of Milan and Turin, the principal centres of disturbance, also attended. The agreement concluded was a virtual victory for the workers. Not only did they obtain the increase of 4 lire a day in wages, but the masters were obliged to waive their insistence on the dismissal of the leading agitators. On his own responsibility Signor Giolitti imposed a conciliatory formula, by which the workers should immediately evacuate occupied factories, and no workman should be dismissed without the previous consent of a Commission appointed by the Government. After long discussions discussions the masters declared that, while they could not accept the Premier's proposition, they would abide by it in the interests of peace. The Government Commission was formally constituted by a decree published on the morrow of the sitting. It was to consist of twelve members, six appointed by the Owners' Federation and six by the Labour Confederation. Its main object was to make suggestions for the Bill promised by the Government to 'organise industry on the basis of active intervention by the workers in the technical and financial control and in the administration of industry.' The Commission was also charged with settling difficult questions regarding wages, discipline, and dismissal.
Workers all over the country received the solution reached through the mediation of Signor Giolitti with great satisfaction. Signor D'Aragona, the secretary of the Labour Confederation, said that, if the principle of control were put into practice with sincerity, production would be intensified; while the Socialist organ 'Avanti !' commenting on the agreement in its issue of Sept. 21, wrote: " It is a victory not only for the metalworkers, but also for Signor Giolitti. Control means collaboration; and, if it is seriously carried out, it will inevitably lead to the workers becoming interested cooperators with capitalist directors.'