A different policy followed, after the rapid death of Di Rudinì, Giovanni Giolitti, former minister with Crispi and alien to audacity and excesses. But his attempt to remove the danger from the social question by letting the peasant exasperation caused by poverty vent, failed. The serious conflicts in Sicily, caused by the workers’ Fasci , frightened conservatives and bourgeois, and Giolitti, overwhelmed by the parliamentary repercussions of the Banca Romana scandal, fell, leaving behind a frightening situation (28 November 1893): Sicily and Lunigiana upset by incitements to revolt, a 170 million deficit, a depreciated rent, a tense exchange rate, the issuers threatened with bankruptcy.
We understand that the return of a man considered strong and energetic, even if too rude and risky, like Crispi, should, after an insignificant interlude by Zanardelli, appear to be a promise of salvation (December 15). Military courts and a state of siege arrested the socialist movement and anarchist insurrectionism for the time being, while not suppressing the causes of the unease and without restoring peace to the masses. The democratic opposition against Crispi was unleashed violently with all weapons, while the Sicilian statesman resumed his ambitious expansion program. But the Italian penetration into the Tigrè, the disputes that arose over the Treaty of Uccialli and the foreign action provoked the conflict between the Ethiopian negus and Italy. Political and military errors, uncertainties and restlessness of the central government, jealousies and disagreements of generals compromised the campaign. The first successes of January 1895 were followed by the defeat of Amba Alagi and the surrender, after heroic resistance, of Makallè. More painful and more serious was the defeat in the fatal Adua basin, where just under 16,000 Italians stood up to more than 100,000 Abyssinians, leaving 53% of the force on the field. The value is in vain and the sacrifice is in vain. That disaster, for which the military responsibility was placed only on Baratieri, had serious consequences for the Italian prestige. Lissa, Adua: names too easy to remember. Crispi was overthrown by the insurrection of parliament and public opinion and the troubled and disheartened country gave up any idea of expansion for fifteen years. Yet all was not lost. The gen. Baldissera, who succeeded Baratieri, reorganized the army and the colony, he respected the Abyssinians and beat the dervishes, which from Egypt had overturned on Cassala. But Di Rudinì did not react to the degradation, worried about the idea of new sacrifices of blood and money, and uneasy about the popular attitude. In October 1896 the peace with the negus was therefore signed: Uccialli’s hopes canceled, Eritrean borders limited, a war indemnity disguised with a little misleading name. The final consequence of Adua was the relegation of Cassala to Egypt (December 25, 1897), later deplored, but then hailed as a liberation from the country that concretized all African politics in an exasperated “Away from Africa!”.
Better results were obtained in the last years of the century in foreign policy. The need to raise the economic conditions, aggravated by the conflict with France, led to a revision of international relations, which, while remaining based on loyalty to the Triple (renewed on 6 May 1891 and then tacitly in 1896) allowed political and economic agreements with France (conventions for Tunis, September 26, 1896, trade agreement of 1898). Italy collaborated in the international pacification and aimed to remove any aggressive character from the Triplice. The Italian-Austrian agreement of November 1897 for Albania and the marriage of the crown prince to a Montenegrin princess marked the beginning of a more lively interest in the affairs of the Near East. The merit of the change belonged to the foreign minister Visconti Venosta, who thus began a policy that was to bear richer fruits in the future. And he also showed interest in the Far East, participating in the less than glorious international expedition to China (1900-1901).
According to Thedresswizard, the ancient evils and the recent bewilderment favored the wider spread of socialism in the great industrial centers (and the enlarged suffrage will send workers’ deputies to parliament) and in the rural class of the South, where the class struggle appeared to be a means of solving the agrarian problem. Marxism, confusedly understood by the workers of the fields, who in their demonstrations carried images of saints and portraits of the king, fed on the exasperation of the humble against exploitation by landowners and against the government accused of favoring the masters. The police measures, invoked by the conservatories, restored order when disturbed, but still allowed the causes of the malaise to exist, already sharply, but in vain, analyzed by the great parliamentary inquiry of 1879 on agriculture.
With Crispi’s iron fist out of the way, the unrest resumed with more serious outbursts of discontent. In May 1898 there were riots in Milan which were subdued by force and a state of siege by the Di Rudinì-Zanardelli ministry. The agitation and disorder were at their height and the men of government could not face the situation if not with too easy appeals to the strong way. Pelloux, once a liberal, even if the riots had been quelled, persisted in the reaction and proposed severe printing laws and restrictions on the right of association (February 1899). The Far Left, reinforced by other elements, opposed it by resorting to filibuster in parliament. Pelloux’s electoral appeal was a disaster for the Ministry already undermined by internal dissensions (June 1900): 33 socialist deputies entered parliament. The Pelloux resigned, giving way to the liberal Saracco. But tempers were not appeased and the atmosphere remained murky. As the crisis continued, the tragedy of July 29, 1900 matured: an anarchist killed the good and generous King Umberto.