Turati, Filippo

   Turati was the most prominent reformist voice in the early days of the Italian socialist movement. From 1891 onward, he was editor of the review Critica sociale. In 1892, he was the author, together with his companion, the former Russian revolutionary Anna Kuliscioff, of the newly formed Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party’s (PSI) political program. He became a parliamentary deputy in 1896, a role that did not save him from arrest and imprisonment in 1898 during the indiscriminate repression of the socialist movement ordered by the government of Antonio Starabba di Rudini in that year.
   Despite the Italian state’s heavy-handed treatment of the workers’ movement, Turati was no revolutionary. In November 1900—at his behest—the PSI committed itself to a gradual transformation of Italian society via parliamentary institutions and gave parliamentary backing to the liberal government headed by Giuseppe Zanardelliin 1901. Although this approach was criticized by many in the PSI, it remained the primary strand of thinking within the PSI until the 1912 party conference. In that year, the so-called maximalists, led by Benito Mussolini, became the majority voice in the party, while the reformists of the right, who wished to turn the PSI into a labor party on the British model, were expelled. Turati, who subscribed to neither group, was left in the middle.
   Turati bitterly opposed Italy’s entry into World War I. He foresaw that the war would heighten Italy’s class divisions and block the economic modernization that was a precondition for a peaceful transition to socialism. After the disaster of Caporetto in 1917, however—to the disgust of many in the PSI—he did support the defense of Italian territory.
   The PSI entered the Third International created by the Bolsheviks in 1919, and one of V. I. Lenin’s explicit conditions for the party’s continued membership was the expulsion of Turati and his fellow moderates. Many even of the maximalists balked at this demand, but by 1922 Turati’s studied moderation and defense of parliamentary institutions were in any case anathema to the PSI’s militants. On 1 October 1922, Turati was expelled by the narrow margin of 32,000 votes to 29,000. Undeterred, he organized a new leftist party, the Partito Socialista Unitario/Unitary Socialist party (PSU), which attracted many of the bravest young socialists in Italy. Following the murder of his friend and comrade Giacomo Matteotti by the Fascists, Turati joined with Alcide De Gasperi and Giovanni Amendola in boycotting Parliament. The failure of the boycott left Turati in personal danger, and he escaped to Paris, where he continued the resistance to Fascism and sought to reunify the PSI into a single antifascist force. He died in exile.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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