Collapse Of Liberal State Essay

Submitted By Yeowart
Words: 1306
Pages: 6

How far was the collapse of the Liberal state caused by the First World War?

Italy had been a Liberal state since its unification in 1861 and would stay that way until Benito Mussolini became prime minister in 1921. He would rule constitutionally until 1925 but then he set up a legal dictatorship and became 'Il Duce'. World War I was a key factor in its collapse because Italy suffered heavy defeats and the people saw it as a 'mutilated victory' and blamed the politicians for not being strong enough. This was as well as the dividing effect it had on the nation along with the crippling debt wars are often accompanied by. However, there were many other factors in the collapse of the Liberal state, for example; The transformismo system was very weak, the rise of new political forces and the huge north-south divide.
The war was a disaster for Italy, despite finishing on the winning side, because they suffered heavy defeats to Austria-Hungary despite them not being particularly tough opponents, and at the end of it all were not given the land they were promised at the Treaty of London in 1915. The heavy defeats not only cost Italy a large amount of men and money but also humiliated them as a 'European power', the battle of Caporetto is the best example of these heavy defeats with 300,000 troops either dead wounded or captured and 160km of ground lost. The shear size of the figures was extremely embarrassing for Italy as over 250,000 men had surrendered as well as meaning that Italy was now fighting on its own soil. This made many Italians think that the Liberal state was too weak to wage war and that they'd never be a big power with them in charge. This is why d'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume was so popular because it showed he was a strong leader and took what he wanted rather than asking for it. The sense of a 'mutilated victory' was brought about by the fact Italy had demanded 6 pieces of land, were promised 5 and only received 3 due to the USA's intervention. The people of Italy saw this as the politicians fault as they were not strong enough at the meetings and conceded too much, especially considering how badly the war had effected them.
The war also had huge political and economic effects on Italy as it divided an already divided country and sent its economy into huge debts and inflation. The decision to get involved in the war was one that sparked much debate in Italy with Salandra leading the for war side and Giolitti lead the against war side. Salandra believed a short and glorious war would strengthen the Liberal state and his position as PM whereas Giolitti thought it was too risky as failure could be disastrous. In hindsight Giolitti was correct but at the time the King decided to side with Salandra and sent Italy off to war. Not only could the politicians not decide but two hugely popular factions of Italy, the Socialists and the Catholics, took no part in government at the time so drumming up enthusiasm for the war was extremely difficult for the Liberal state. This could be a reason why many of the troops surrendered during the war as they were never truly behind the cause. It is thought that a slight majority was opposed to the war so the Liberal state was already unpopular before the war had even begun and once Giolitti was proven right even more shame was brought upon the state as it was clear they had made the wrong choice. The huge cost of the war, roughly 12 billion dollars, meant Italy plummeted into debt and inflation and this widened an already huge gap in wealth between the rich and poor. It also made Itlay look weak as the purchasing power of the Lira was very low, especially for the 'European power' that Italy so badly wanted to become.
The Transformismo system that was running in Italy was flawed on so many levels that it most definitely contributed the collapse of the Liberal state. The system was introduced to ensure a stable government that isolated extreme shifts to the left or right. However