Turati, Filippo

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TURATI, FILIPPO (1857–1932), Italian socialist.

Filippo Turati was the most significant Italian Socialist leader before the Fascist era. Turati passed from his conservative and Catholic family traditions to positivism and finally to socialism. In the 1880s Turati began to write for La plebe, an early socialist newspaper, and in 1885 he met the Russian socialist Anna Kuliscioff. This relationship was to be the most important on a personal and intellectual level in his life and lasted until Kuliscioff's death in 1925. In the late 1880s Turati began to read Karl Marx, whose theories he combined with his original positivism and democratic faith. However, Turati was never tied to ideology as an end in itself, but was much more drawn to practical results. In 1889 he founded the Milanese Socialist League and two years later launched the influential journal Critica sociale.

In 1892 Turati played a key role in creating the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 1896. However, during the repression that followed the popular protests of May 1898, he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and imprisoned. The experience of martial law and prison convinced Turati that a fundamental step to a socialist society was the democratization of Italy. He accepted the overtures of Giovanni Giolitti and Giuseppe Zanadelli to collaborate with more democratic liberals in a defense of the rights of Parliament. In 1901 Turati, Leonida Bissolati, and Claudio Treves formed the core of a reformist group that engineered a favorable vote from the Socialist deputies for the Zanardelli-Giolitti government. Giolitti, as interior minister, allowed the Socialist trade unions greater scope to organize industrial and peasant labor and to conduct strikes in the private sector.

Turati's relationship with Giolitti proved to be a complicated one. In 1903, when Giolitti succeeded Zanardelli as prime minister, he offered a position in the government to Turati. The reformist leader rejected the offer. Two issues drove a wedge between the two men. Turati was identified with the unionization of state workers, which Giolitti did not accept. More importantly, it became apparent that Giolitti's program did not entail major social and economic reforms.

Turati's control over the Socialist Party was also tenuous. His strength was in the parliamentary delegation, not in the base of the party. In 1904 the party took a turn to the left; Turati's reformist faction did not regain full control of the party until 1908. That year the Socialists adopted a program that called for fundamental reforms of the taxation system and the introduction of universal manhood suffrage. Turati never embraced universal suffrage and in 1910 accepted a more limited voting rights bill from the government of Luigi Luzzatti. When Luzzatti's government fell in March 1911 and Giolitti returned to office on a program of nationalization of the insurance industry and universal manhood suffrage, the time seemed to be right for a renewed alliance between Giolitti and the Socialist reformists. The new prime minister offered a position in the cabinet to Leonida Bissolati, a leading moderate. This time, Turati, fearing that the more radical party militants would not accept participation in a non-Socialist government, weighed in to persuade Bissolati to reject the offer. Soon after, relations between Turati and Giolitti turned sour when the government decided to conquer Libya in September 1911. Although Turati passed into opposition, more revolutionary leaders, including Benito Mussolini, took control of the party in 1912. Turati never again regained a majority, nor was his relationship with Giolitti ever fully repaired.

The years after 1914 would be frustrating ones for Turati as he sought to find a constructive role. The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution radicalized the Italian Socialist Party and blocked Turati's hopes that the PSI might cooperate with other democratic movements in a campaign for a new constitution and a democratic republic. Turati was in the minority at the 1919 party congress when the leadership set its sights on joining the new Communist International. Although the PSI won 156 seats in the November 1919 elections, Turati was blocked by party policy from using this strength constructively. Turati remained in a party that frittered away its opportunities and opened the door to Fascist reaction; only in October 1922, when the Socialist Party was completely irrelevant, did Turati's reformist faction finally break off to form the Unitary Socialist Party (PSU).

Turati watched helplessly as the Fascist dictatorship took hold in Italy. In December 1925 Anna Kuliscioff died; the next year a group of young socialists organized Turati's escape from Italy to France. Turati became active in exile politics, supporting the movement to reunify the PSI and PSU, which took place in July 1930. He died in Paris in March 1932.

See alsoGiolitti, Giovanni; Italy; Kuliscioff, Anna; Socialism.


Di Scala, Spencer. Dilemmas of Italian Socialism: The Politics of Filippo Turati. Boston, 1980.

Miller, James Edward. From Elite to Mass Politics: Italian Socialist in the Giolittian Era, 1900–1914. Kent, Ohio, 1990.

Alexander De Grand