Facta, Luigi

Facta, Luigi
   Italy’s last liberal prime minister, Facta’s two administrations in 1922 were the culmination of the lengthy and inexorable decline of liberal institutions in Italy. Facta, who had been minister for justice from January to June 1919 under Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, was a supporter of Giovanni Giolitti. When, following the resignation of Ivanoe Bonomi in February 1922, the Partito Popolare Italiano/Italian People’s Party (PPI) vetoed Giolitti’s nomination by the king, Facta emerged as a compromise candidate for the premiership. After the longest government crisis since 1848, Facta assembled a cabinet that gave three key ministries (finance, education, and agriculture) to the PPI. Six different parties or factions participated in the government, which was approved by Parliament on 18 March 1922, with the support of even the Partito Nazionale Fascista/National Fascist Party (PNF). Facta’s first administration was characterized by huge Fascist rallies in northern Italy and by unchecked Fascist violence against socialists, trade unions, and the PPI. On 10 June 1922, Facta feebly promised the Senate that he would overcome the crisis by applying the law “impartially.” The absence of any threat to crack down on Fascist squadrismo encouraged the worst violence yet in July– August 1922. Facta’s government collapsed in midmonth after Fascist squads devastated the headquarters of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and PPI in Cremona (Lombardy) and raided the homes of two PPI trade union leaders, Guido Miglioli and Giuseppe Garibotti. In his resignation speech, Facta denied that exceptional measures were needed and blamed local authorities for not enforcing the law. Facta formed a second, almost identical, government on 1 August 1922, promising to restore the “empire of the law.” Within days, the Fascists had occupied the city hall in Milan, destroyed the offices of Avanti!, and started bloody riots in other northern Italian cities. No action was taken to punish these breaches of the law. Further unpunished acts of violence were recorded throughout the country in September and October. Facta again resigned on 27 October 1922, the day of the March on Rome, which the central government did not in any serious way oppose. Facta asked the king for emergency powers to repress the Fascist coup. The king refused and appointed Benito Mussolini as premier. How far was Facta culpable for the collapse of parliamentary democracy in Italy? In his defense, it should be said that Italian liberal opinion was demoralized; nothing could have been done to stop the Fascists without giving carte blanche to the PSI, which refused to undertake a permanent commitment to parliamentary democracy. Local policeauthorities under the command of prefects appointed in Rome could have done much more to ensure respect for the law. While all these points are true, an act of will on the part of Facta and his political sponsor, Giolitti, could have saved Italian democracy. As the Fascist writer Curzio Malaparte pointed out, the crucial difference between the liberals and the Fascists was that the Fascists were prepared to use violence in pursuit of their ends and the liberals were not. Facta died in his native Pinerolo (Piedmont) in 1930.
   See also Fascism.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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