Between 1896 and 1914 the Italy knows a phase of industrial take-off. This leap, confined to the north-western regions, accentuates the gap between an Italy rapidly changing northern region, and an Italy Southern Italy effectively excluded from any economic and social development. Looking at the experiences of the more advanced countries, Giolitti, having become the arbiter of parliamentary life, realizes that the workers ‘and peasants’ movement cannot be stopped and that the Italian bourgeoisie must also take the path of confrontation with the trade unions and the socialists. One of its fundamental objectives is to integrate the popular masses into the liberal state, freeing them from the influence of revolutionary ideologies. Minister of the Interior in the Zanardelli cabinet, Giolitti stands out from his predecessors for his attitude towards labor conflicts: he adopts a strategy aimed on the one hand at legitimizing strikes of an economic nature to allow for a rise in wages and, consequently, an increase in domestic demand and production; on the other hand, to combat strikes of a political nature in the name of protecting public order. The organizations of the workers’ movement receive a considerable boost in this context. The movement of leagues and cooperatives becomes particularly strong in the countryside of the Po Valley. Zanardelli, ill, resigned in 1903. He was succeeded by Giolitti, who formed his second ministry (November 1903-March 1905), attempting, through the offer to F. Turati to enter the government, to split the Socialist Party by attracting to himself the reformist wing and isolating the revolutionary one. But it was precisely in this phase that the intransigents prevailed among the socialists: in September 1904 the general strike was proclaimed. Giolitti does not yield to the conservatives, who frightened ask for open repression; instead he dissolves the Chamber and has the king call new elections, which mark a clear success for the government.
Contributing to this result is the fact that Pius X allows Catholics to vote, with the exception of non expedit, to prevent the victory of socialist candidates. According to itypetravel.com, the papal decision is part of an intense activity carried out on the one hand by the Catholic organizations belonging to the Opera dei Congressi, founded in 1874 to promote the raising of the working and peasant class through a network of associations among which stand out for importance rural funds and mutual aid societies; on the other hand by the current of ‘Christian democracy’ which, drawing impetus from Leo XIII’s social encyclical Rerum novarum (1891), collects the most advanced environments of the Catholic world. Giolitti, who abandons the leadership of the government at the beginning of 1905, is first succeeded by A. Fortis (March 1905-February 1906), one of his lieutenants, then the leader of the liberal anti-hygiolittian opposition S. Sonnino (February-May 1906).
During the third Giolitti ministry, the longest (May 1906-December 1909), the industrial crisis led to a greater concentration of the strongest firms; this favors a growing centralization of workers ‘and entrepreneurs’ organizations: at the same time as the General Confederation of Labor (1906), of socialist orientation, an Industrial League was born in Turin, which resulted in the Italian Confederation of Industry in 1910. In December 1908 a catastrophic earthquake hit Messina and Reggio Calabria, causing over 100,000 deaths. The political elections of 1909 saw a further strengthening of the socialists, radicals and republicans.
In 1909, following the refusal of the Chamber to approve some of his decree laws, Giolitti resigned, leaving his post first to Sonnino, who remained in office for a few months, then to L. Luzzatti (March 1910-March 1911), to then return in power by forming his fourth ministry (March 1911-March 1914), characterized by the approval of three laws: on elementary education which places primary school under state control; on the state monopoly of life insurance; on universal male suffrage which extends the right to vote also to illiterate people who have reached the age of 30 (in the overwhelming majority of farmers and laborers who thus acquire political rights for the first time). Giolitti relaunches colonial policy with the conquest of Libya; the conflict (1911-12) against Turkey, under whose sovereignty lies Libya, it ends with the Peace of Lausanne which recognizes the Italy sovereignty over Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. It is a longer and more difficult war than expected that causes thousands of deaths and injuries, consuming huge resources. In 1913 the first elections with universal male suffrage were held. The Liberals, put in difficulty by the lack of a modern party organization capable of mobilizing the masses, come to the aid of Catholics, the only ones able to contrast the network of parishes and religious associations against the branched territorial structure of the Socialist Party. The Catholic Electoral Union, in the person of its president O. Gentiloni, invites the liberal candidates to sign a pact, later called the ‘Gentiloni pact’, under which the latter undertake in exchange for the vote to oppose in the new Chamber any law that goes against the interests of Catholics. This agreement and the open collusion, especially in the South, of the car of the prefects, the police and the mafia itself, committed by all legal and illegal means to intimidate the opposition, save the liberals from a sharp electoral defeat, but do not prevent a consistent strengthening of the socialists and radicals, and a strong mortgage of the Catholic vote on liberal formation. Taking note of the change in the political and social climate, Giolitti resigns. He is succeeded by A. Salandra, a right-wing liberal from Puglia (March 1914-June 1916).