Treves, Claudio

   Born in Turin to an affluent family, Treves studied jurisprudence at the University of Turin and became a leading deputy of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Together with Leonida Bissolati, he bent his efforts to persuading his constituents to accept reform as preferable to revolution. For Bissolati, this could even mean agreeing to join bourgeois governments, though Treves’s view was that this was taking reform too far. Yet when the PSI supported a more intransigent position than his, Treves began publishing Critica Sociale (Social Criticism), which came close to justifying the war in Libya, contrary to the party’s position. He seemed unable to choose between violent revolution (which he rejected) and sharing power with the bourgeoisie (which he also rejected). Even in the Socialist Party’s internal affairs the importance attached to doctrinal purity was often self-defeating. Turati and Treves, for example, who were on the left wing of the reformists, were the right wing of the official party once it was in the hands of intransigents. Convinced that the maximalists’ policies were bound to fail, the reformists refused to accept places offered them on the party’s executive committee. These maneuvers, not surprisingly, left the party divided between equally unyielding reformists and revolutionaries and quite unable to respond effectively to changing circumstances. They nevertheless refused to cooperate with the Partito Popolare Italiano/Italian People’s Party (PPI) to impede the seizure of power by the Fascists. Events were to prove that time was not on their side. At the 1919 Socialist Congress, Treves and the other moderates were outvoted by four to one. Even after the most radical wing of the PSI split from the party at Livorno (Leghorn) in January 1921 to form the Partito Comunista d’Italia, Treves and Turati remained in a minority, and they were eventually expelled in October 1922. They formed the Partito Socialista Unitario/Unitary Socialist Party (PSU) and decided—too late—to cooperate with the Catholic Party to oppose Fascism. In November 1926, Treves, together with Giuseppe Saragat and Ferruccio Parri, fled to Paris, where Treves edited La Liberta (Liberty). By the mid-1920s, most reform socialists were to be found in Paris. Treves died there in 1933.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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