Red Week (Italy)

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Red Week was the name given to a week of unrest which occurred in June, 1914. Over these seven days, Italy saw widespread rioting and large-scale strikes throughout the Italian provinces of Romagna and the Marche.

Map showing regions affected by the Red Week riots: Emilia-Romagna, and Marche (below)

Origins of the 'Red Week'[edit]

The rioters were protesting in response to a series of reforms introduced in 1914 initiated by Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti which aimed to 'consume' the working class into Italy's liberal system. Despite a widening of suffrage and a change in the government's policies concerning industrial disputes (in favour of workers), a general strike was called in support of large demonstrations in many major industrialised towns, which in turn had been caused by the shooting of three socialist protesters. However, due to the nature of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), the strike was uncoordinated and rioters were headed off by government troops before any real harm could be done.

The Effects[edit]

The Red Week frightened the lower middle classes, and proved that Italy's problems of unification were more than just the growing pains of a young nation. Italy's Wars of Unification (Risorgimento) and following trade measures had failed to iron out inequalities between its industrialised North and agricultural South - the needs of both could not simultaneously be satisfied by Giolitti's liberal politics.

Following the events of June 1914, editorials in Benito Mussolini's political journal Avanti! urged that more drastic measures be taken against the Italian government, and Italy's joining of the First World War subsequent to the Red Week gave huge credence to Mussolini's rhetoric against the sycophantic government, which had presented itself as an easy target for its entry into the Great War.