Labriola, Arturo

   The most noted Italian follower of the French syndicalist Georges Sorel, Labriola was viewed as a heretic by the socialist movement in Italy, which he had joined in 1895, the year he received his laurea in jurisprudence from the University of Naples. Syndicalist thinking was one of the mainsprings of the general strike of September 1904, in which Labriola played an important organizational role. His contempt for parliamentary democracy and the pacific resolution of political disputes that pervaded the thinking of the Italian right in the early 20th century runs through his prewar writings. Unsurprisingly, in his periodical, Avanguardia socialista (The Socialist Vanguard), published between December 1902 and October 1906, and in his many books and pamphlets, he espoused an interpretation of Marxism that differed from both the moderate social democracy of Leonida Bissolati and the mainstream of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI), which believed that socialism would occur through revolutionary action only when historical conditions were ripe.
   Labriola, like Sorel and the young Benito Mussolini, believed that the working class should accelerate the historical process and smash the institutions of the state through violent action by the trade unions. He was “intransigently revolutionary,” having bolted from the PSI in 1907. Elected to Parliament in 1913 as an independent socialist, he found convoluted reasons for defending Italy’s war against Turkey and Germany and Austria. He accepted the post of minister for labor in the last government of Giovanni Giolitti in 1921 and yet opposed Fascismboth in Parliament and in a much-discussed book, La dittatura dei borghesi (The Dictatorship of the Middle Class, 1924). Labriola was dismissed from his appointment as a professor at the University of Messina for having criticized the regime. Thereupon, he immigrated to France and Belgium and lived in exile until the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, which he openly supported, induced him to return. After the fall of Fascism, Labriola resumed an active political role. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1946 and became a life senator in 1948. In 1956, he was elected to the Naples city council as an independent on the list of the Partito Comunista Italiano/ Italian Communist Party (PCI). He died in his native Naples in 1959.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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