Italy and Abyssinia (1926)

Italy and Abyssinia (1926)

! [1935 edition maps of Abyssinia] (,0.493,0.388,0.335,0)

Italy wants to become more imperial. By so doing she will distract the attention of her citizens and direct it toward the glories of ancient Rome. When Mussolini looks for territory in which Italy may expand, whither does he cast his eye? Let no foolish person think that he is going to war in order to seize territory from France in Africa or in Syria; or that he has any idea of threatening the British Empire; or that he is going even to attack Turkey unless he can get some foolish little country like Greece to do it for him.

What Italy wants is Abyssinia. She has wanted Abyssinia a long time. When the Mahdi overthrew the English in the Sudan, the English with great generosity gave Italy the chance to seize Abyssinia and Italy foolishly attempted it. But at the great Battle of Adua, March 1, 1896, the Abyssinians, under the leadership of Menelik and the Empress Taitou, killed four thousand Italians and captured two thousand prisoners. Since then England, France and Italy have been content to draw a cordon around Abyssinia and bide their time. They have tied up her economic resources, taxed her exports and imports and mortgaged her railroads and such other tangible assets as they could get hold of. It is time now for a further step.

In the secret Treaty of London which induced Italy to desert her allies, Germany and Austria, and to take active part with England and France, Italy was promised not only increase of territory at the expense of Austria, but the right to extend her possessions in “Eritrea, Somaliland and Libya”; and since these extensions could not be into the ocean, they must be into Abyssinia. With a number of fine flourishes, Italy is now demanding cash for this check and although the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations and the Peace of Locarno stand straight across her path, there is every reason to believe that England would be delighted to have Italy in Abyssinia and that France would offer no great objection. Indeed, the only country that is offering any open objection to this high-handed program of theft, lying and slavery is Soviet Russia.

Yet the world has seen the path preparing for many a day. First there was the righteous horror of England against “slavery” in Abyssinia. Then there was the problem of allowing arms to be “smuggled” into Abyssinia. And then there was the unexpected and unwelcomed and yet effusively received visit of Ras Tafari to Europe. Only America with blunt boorishness refused him hospitality.

Here then is the problem and the program and already Italy is beginning actual aggression by putting down, with world applause, a “rebellion” in Somaliland.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1926. “Italy and Abyssinia.” The Crisis. 32(2):62–63.