16/5/1915 Italy returns to the war path

Italy’s government resigned three days ago. Prime Minister Salandra had been trying to bring the country into the war on the side of the Allies but was facing mounting opposition to his plans. His cabinet’s resignation left the field clear for the anti-war faction to form their own government. However, Italy’s peace faction is a motley crew of socialists, bourgeois liberals and the Pope’s loyal adherents. Nothing unites them beyond an opposition to the war; it is almost impossible to imagine them uniting to form a government.

The one person who could perhaps lead a neutralist government is Giovanni Giolitti, the liberal former prime minister. He is deterred from so doing by the increasingly violent agitation of pro-war nationalists. In the streets and in the press, much of the nationalists’ rhetoric threatens violence to him personally. Then King Vittorio Emanuele privately informs Giolitti that the country is bound by its secret treaty with the Allies: even if Giolitti were to head a government, the King feels that he would still be obliged to bring Italy into the war.

Giolitti gives up. The King invites Salandra to form a new government and threatens to abdicate if parliament opposes war. Italy is back on the road to armageddon.

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