Liberal Government couldn’t: pride

Another problem, which the Liberal state was unable to effectively deal with, was the issues posed by the attitude of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Between 1861 and 1870 the lands owned by the Pope, the Papal States, were taken away from the Pope and controlled by the new Italian state. For this, the Pope denounced the Liberal state, which had stolen 'his' land, and promoted religious freedom that went against the Catholic teachings (this being that Catholicism is the only true religion). The Pope fought back by instructing all Catholics not to participate in the new state, mainly by not voting in elections.

This damaged the Italian state, as it was unsure if it was in control as only a small amount of Italians were allowed to vote. Relations did improve between the state and the Church but not greatly as the Pope only wanted to cooperate with the Liberal state if it would keep socialism as bay. Fascism was much more attractive to the Church as not only did it promise to destroy socialism, whom the Church feared for their anti-religious views, but also held similar attitudes such as the need for order, discipline and respect for hierarchy.

The attitudes of the Church could not be altered by the Liberal state short of giving back all the land to the Pope, which was out of the question. This friction between state and religion meant Fascism gained support from the Church and it's followers, which were later rewarded by Mussolini with a formal treaty recognising the independence of the Vatican and giving the church compensation. This distrust between the Liberal state and the Church boosted the power of the Fascist movement as it provided a mass of loyal supporters.

The other threat to the Liberal state came from the opposite side of the spectrum to the conservative Church, namely the Socialists and the Radicals. Socialism, particularly in a grassroots form of local labour organisations had already begun before this period (POI), but there were many different groups all committed to different aims and ideologies. The setting up of Trade Unions, which were linked by the CGL, the Confederation of Labour, paralleled the heavy industrialisation of the North in the late 19th century.

By 1900 the socialists had their own political party, namely the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) that began winning seats in Parliament and by 1913 had over 20% of the vote. These socialists were later influenced by the success of the Russian revolution in 1917 and workers launched a series of strikes in 1919. Peasants and returning soldiers also seized Land. All this socialist progress scared the right wing politicians, landowners, industrialists, middle classes and the Church who looked to a strong anti-socialist group who would protect their wealth and positions.

This group was the Fascists. There were several violent clashes between socialists and Fascists during 1919-1922 and the quarter of a million army of black shirts smashed socialist meetings and destroyed all opposition. It was because of the huge fear of socialism that the Fascists seemed such an attractive option to the elite and by the 1920's the Liberal Government was on its knees and was forced to stand aside for Mussolini when he became prime minister in 1922. In reality the Liberal Government had lost what little control of Italy it had, very early on.

It was the failures of the Government and its failed attempts at generating a sense of national unity with its aggressive foreign policies in Turkey and Africa which created the social conditions for Fascism to dominate in. Had there been more military victories for Italy then perhaps the Italian people would be proud to be Italian and proud of their Government. But this was not the case and the First World War further highlighted the weakness of the Italian military with more humiliating defeats.

The Liberal Italian state was a pleasant thought, a united Italy brimming with national pride in its unity and the memory of their powerful Roman ancestry seemed like an almost perfect scenario. Unfortunately things aren't always perfect, just as Liberal Italy's failures effectively represent. The Government's failures paved the way for Fascism by disenfranchising it's own people, alienating the South, failing to give the Italy people anything to be proud in and humiliating itself in front of the other world powers whom Italy was so desperate to impress.

Mussolini offered just what the Liberal Government couldn't: pride. This was desperately important to the Italian people and by humiliating it's own country the Liberal Government doomed itself to failure. However it is not correct to say that Fascism was the only path that the Italian people could have followed. Socialism also reared its head and demanded attention and support, which it did receive. Socialism and Fascism walk hand in hand in all politically unstable countries and to say that Fascism was an only child would be a lie, as it's brother Socialism, could have taken it's place.