Historical Far Left

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Historical Far Left
Estrema Sinistra Storica
LeadersAgostino Bertani
Felice Cavallotti
Andrea Còsta
Filippo Turati
Ettore Sacchi
Founded4 November 1877 (1877-11-04)
Dissolved27 May 1904 (1904-05-27)
Preceded byAction Party
Succeeded byItalian Radical Party
HeadquartersPalazzo Montecitorio, Rome
Political positionLeft-wing

The Historical Far Left (Italian: Estrema Sinistra Storica), originally known as Far Left (Italian: Estrema Sinistra), Radical Extreme (Italian: Estrema Radicale), simply The Extreme (Italian: L'Estrema), or Party of Democracy (Italian: Partito della Democrazia), was a left-wing parliamentary group and coalition of Radical, Republican and Socialist politicians in Italy during the second half of the 19th century. Formerly known as the extreme wing of the Historical Left before the unification of Italy, it became a separate group when the more moderate branch of the Left accepted the leadership of the House of Savoy to build the new Italian state.


The Historical Far Left was founded in 1877 by Agostino Bertani and Felice Cavallotti as a radical-liberal party. In 1882, the Radicals formed a far-left parliamentary group with Andrea Costa, the first Socialist to be elected to the Italian Parliament. The party supported complete separation of church and state, decentralization toward municipal governments, the United States of Europe according to Carlo Cattaneo's beliefs, progressive taxation, an independent judiciary, free and compulsory education for children, universal suffrage, women's and workers' rights while opposing capital punishment as well as any kind of protectionism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism.[1][2][3]

The Extreme was mainly formed by three groups:

The Historical Far Left, supporting the republic and consequently the abrogation of the Albertine Statute, was seen as an anticonstitutional movement.[4] Under the oligarchic electoral law of newly unified Italy, there were no possibilities for The Extreme to enter the Italian Parliament, except for some national heroes such as Giuseppe Garibaldi.[5] The electoral reform of 1882 allowed the possibility to form a small opposition parliamentary group, but only after the introduction of the universal suffrage in 1913 did The Extreme become the dominant left-wing party of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the winning coalition in many municipal and provincial elections in Northern Italy.[6]

The Historical Far Left emerged as an important parliamentary force when the progressive Historical Left overthrew Marco Minghetti's government during the so-called Parliamentary Revolution of 1876, which brought Agostino Depretis to become Prime Minister. However, Depretis immediately began to look for support among the Right Members of Parliament, who readily changed their positions, in a context of widespread corruption. This phenomenon, known in Italian as trasformismo (roughly translatable in English as "transformism"—in a satirical newspaper, Prime Minister Depretis was depicted as a chameleon), effectively removed political differences in Parliament, which was dominated by an undistinguished liberal bloc with a landslide majority until after World War I.[7]

Important members[edit]

Important leaders and members of the Historical Far Left were Agostino Bertani, Andrea Costa, Filippo Turati, Napoleone Colajanni, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Giovanni Bovio, Giovanni Cantoni, Felice Cavallotti, Enrico Ferri, Ernesto Nathan and Ettore Sacchi.

Electoral results[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Election year Votes % Seats +/– Leader
1861 Unknown (3rd) 2.3
14 / 493
Increase 14
1865 Unknown (3rd) 4.9
15 / 493
Increase 1
1867 Unknown (3rd)
0 / 493
Decrease 15
1870 Unknown (3rd) 1.9
0 / 493
1874 Unknown (3rd) 1.6
0 / 508
1876 Unknown (3rd) 1.5
0 / 508
1880 Unknown (4th) 1.8
0 / 508
1882 105,251 (3rd) 8.6
44 / 508
Increase 44
1886 123,958 (3rd) 5.2
45 / 508
Increase 1
1890 101,924 (3rd) 6.9
42 / 508
Decrease 3
1892 182,256 (3rd) 11.0
56 / 508
Increase 14
1895 224,879 (3rd) 18.5
62 / 508
Increase 6
1897 201,120 (3rd) 16.2
82 / 508
Increase 20
1900 333,945 (2nd) 26.3
96 / 508
Increase 14


  1. ^ Francesco Leoni (2001). Storia dei partiti politici italiani. Guida: Naples.
  2. ^ Massimo L. Salvadori (2000). Enciclopedia storica. Zanichelli: Bologna.
  3. ^ David Busato (1996). Il Partito Radicale in Italia da Mario Pannunzio a Marco Pannella.
  4. ^ La Stampa historical archive.
  5. ^ "L'Estrema Sinistra e il movimento Garibaldino di fronte alla crisi d'Oriente del 1875-1878" (PDF).
  6. ^ Including Milan and Bologna.
  7. ^ "Italian Liberal Party" Archived 2006-11-21 at the Wayback Machine. Britannica Concise.