Historical Far Left

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Historical Far Left
Estrema Sinistra Storica
Historical leaders Agostino Bertani
Felice Cavallotti
Andrea Costa
Filippo Turati
Ettore Sacchi
Founded 4 November 1867 (1867-11-04)
Dissolved 27 May 1904 (1904-05-27)
Preceded by Action Party
Succeeded by Radical Party
Headquarters Palazzo Montecitorio, Rome
Ideology Republicanism
Political position Far-left
Colours      Green

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 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 latter 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 PR 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 the Extreme became the left-wing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and, more, 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 Rightists MPs, 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, the PM 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

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

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1867 unknown (#3) 2.7
0 / 493
Decrease 15
Agostino Bertani
1870 unknown (#3) 1.9
0 / 493
Agostino Bertani
1874 unknown (#3) 1.6
0 / 508
Agostino Bertani
1876 unknown (#3) 1.5
0 / 508
Agostino Bertani
1880 unknown (#4) 1.8
0 / 508
Agostino Bertani
1882 unknown (#3) 8.6
44 / 508
Increase 44
Agostino Bertani
1886 73,621 (#3) 5.2
45 / 508
Increase 1
Felice Cavallotti
1890 101,924 (#3) 6.9
42 / 508
Decrease 3
Felice Cavallotti
1892 182,256 (#3) 11.0
56 / 508
Increase 14
Felice Cavallotti
1895 224,879 (#3) 18.5
62 / 508
Increase 6
Felice Cavallotti
1897 201,120 (#3) 16.2
82 / 508
Increase 20
Felice Cavallotti
1900 333,945 (#2) 26.3
96 / 508
Increase 14
Ettore Sacchi


  1. ^ Francesco Leoni, Storia dei partiti politici italiani, Guida, Naples 2001
  2. ^ Massimo L. Salvadori, Enciclopedia storica, Zanichelli, Bologna 2000
  3. ^ David Busato, Il Partito Radicale in Italia da Mario Pannunzio a Marco Pannella, 1996
  4. ^ La Stampa historical archive
  5. ^ See here (it.)
  6. ^ Including Milan and Bologna
  7. ^ Italian Liberal Party, Britannica Concise
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