Why was Italy allowed to invade Ethiopia in 1935-1936? Laura Kolehmainen Tikkurilan lukio Historia Abstract The topic of this work is the reasons why Italy was allowed to invade Ethiopia 1935–1936. Both Italy and Ethiopia were members of the League of Nations when the invasion took place. Both countries had signed the Covenant of the League and hence committed to respect each other’s sovereignty. The sanctions if the Covenant was violated should have been dismissal from the League, economic isolation and a declaration of war from all members against the violator. Italy was, however, allowed to invade Ethiopia and occupy her until 1941. So, it was definitely a political decision from Britain and France to give in to Italy, because these two countries practically held the power to make decisions in the League. The aim of the work is to find the reasons in the European political situation that allowed Italy to carry out her expansionist and imperialist policies as late as in the 1930’s. The materials used are the works of a selection of historians, from the viewpoint of Ethiopia, Italy or Britain. Also, the analyses of contemporary British historians about the situation, its causes and the best possible procedure are used. The historians represent a very wide variety of political views, which gives more material for interpretation. The material was obtained from libraries and internet. It divides nicely below three subheadings: the impact of imperialism, appeasement policy and the League of Nations. The results of the work show that Ethiopia’s role in the conflict was very subjective and that the fate of Ethiopia was resolved in the European negotiation tables. During the era of imperialism, the common practice was that European powers decided the matters of the colonized nations without consulting the governments of these countries or making a treaty with the colonized party but underminingly not obeying it. In the light of the work it seems, that the principles of imperialism were still in the background in the 1930’s. Also, the appeasement policy played a big role, because Italian cooperation in politically and economically unstable Europe was seen more important than the protection of such a faraway and unimportant country as Ethiopia. By 1935, the League of Nations had become an instrument of war, not peace-keeping; the leftist view is that it was an instrument of power of the victors from the WW1 in the first place. Conclusively, the rights of small countries often are second to the benefit of the “greater” countries and the common good. In my opinion, this hasn’t remarkably changed, and it would be interesting to study, how imperialist thinking shows today. Tiivistelmä Tutkielman kysymyksenä on, miksi Italian sallittiin hyökätä Etiopiaan 1935-1936. Italia ja Etiopia olivat kumpikin Kansainliiton jäsenmaita invaasion tapahtuessa. Näin ollen kumpikin valtio oli allekirjoittanut Kansainliiton sopimuksen ja sitoutunut näin kunnioittamaan toistensa itsenäisyyttä. Sanktiona sopimuksen rikkomisesta olisi pitänyt olla Kansainliitosta erottaminen, taloudellinen eristäminen ja sodanjulistus kaikilta jäsenmailta hyökkäävää osapuolta vastaan. Italian kuitenkin sallittiin hyökätä Etiopiaan ja pitää se miehityksen alaisena vuoteen 1941 saakka. Kyseessä oli siis nimenomaan poliittinen päätös Britannian ja Ranskan taholta, koska nämä valtiot käytännössä pitivät päätöksentekovaltaa Kansainliitossa. Tutkielman tavoite on etsiä Euroopan poliittisesta tilanteesta ne syyt, joiden takia Italian annettiin toteuttaa ekspansionismia ja imperialismia niinkin myöhään kuin 1930-luvulla. Aineistona ovat eri historioitsijoiden teokset joko Etiopian, Italian tai Britannian näkökulmasta sekä aikalaisten brittihistorioitsijoiden kirjoittamat analyysit tilanteesta, sen syistä ja parhaasta tavasta edetä. Historioitsijat edustivat hyvin erilaisia poliittisia näkemyksiä, mikä antoi osaltaan aineistoa tulkintaan. Tieto jakautui kolmen alaotsikon alle: imperialismin, myöntyväisyyspolitiikan ja Kansainliiton, osallisuuteen tapahtuneessa. Tutkimuksesta selviää, että Etiopian rooli tapahtuneessa oli hyvin subjektiivinen, ja että päätökset Etiopian kohtalossa tehtiin eurooppalaisissa neuvottelupöydissä. Imperialismin ajalle oli hyvin ominaista, että eurooppalaiset vallat päättivät kolonisoitavien valtioiden asiat kyseisen maan hallitusta konsultoimatta tai alentavasti tekemällä jonkin sopimuksen, jota sitten jätettiin noudattamatta. Näyttäisi siis, että imperialismin periaatteet olivat vielä voimissaan 1930-luvulla. Myöntyväisyyspolitiikan osuus oli myös suuri, koska Italian yhteistyö poliittisesti ja taloudellisesti epävakaassa Euroopassa nähtiin tärkeämpänä kuin niin kaukaisen ja epätärkeän maan kuin Etiopian itsenäisyyden puolustaminen. Kansainliitosta oli vuoteen 1935 mennessä tullut sodan eikä rauhan väline; vasemmistolaisen näkemyksen mukaan se ei koskaan ollut mitään muuta kuin ensimmäisen maailmansodan voittajien vallankäytön väline. Johtopäätös on, että usein pienten kansojen oikeudet jäävät suurempien ja ”tärkeämpien” kansojen sekä niin sanotun yhteisen edun jalkoihin. Mielestäni tämä asia ei ole merkittävästi muuttunut tähän päivään mennessä, ja olisikin mielenkiintoista tutkia, kuinka imperialistinen ajattelu näkyy nykypäivänä. Table of contents WHY WAS ITALY ALLOWED TO INVADE ETHIOPIA IN 1935-1936? ................................... 1 1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................ 1 2. IMPERIALISM AS THE BACKROUND ........................................................................................ 2 2.1 The history of Euro-Ethiopian relations from the 19th century ................................................ 2 2.2 Italian imperialism: Mussolini’s road to war ........................................................................... 5 3. APPEASEMENT AT ANY PRICE: ITALY AS THE BALANCE-KEEPER IN EUROPE AND STRESA FRONT ................................................................................................................................. 7 4. THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS LACKING THE POLITICAL WILL TO ACT ............................... 9 4.1 Ethiopia in the League: demand for development ................................................................... 9 4.2 The League of Nations as an instrument of power ................................................................ 10 4.3 The challenges in peace-keeping in Europe in 1920’s and 1930’s ........................................ 11 5. CONCLUSION: THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF THE INTERESTS MADE ETHIOPIA THE VICTIM .............................................................................................................................................. 12 BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................................... 14 APPENDICES ........................................................................................................................................ 1 WHY WAS ITALY ALLOWED TO INVADE ETHIOPIA IN 1935-1936? 1. INTRODUCTION The Italo-Ethiopian war in 1935-36 is often discussed by the name of Abyssinian crisis 1. The war and its consequence, a five-year Italian occupation in Ethiopia, are closely related to the League of Nations, because Ethiopia pleaded to the League in the event of Italian invasion in October 1935: hence the name Abyssinian crisis.2 When studying the history of the war, the context is often European. It has been seen i.a. as a failure of the League of Nations or as an example of Italian imperialism3. Some historians argue that the consequences of the admission of Ethiopia to the League and of the crisis itself on European relations can be considered as ‘contributory causes’ to the outbreak of the WWII: Mussolini was alienated from his former allies, Britain and France, because of their ambiguous foreign policies, complicated by their leading roles in the League of Nations and their simultaneous desire to unite with Italy in the Stresa Front to sustain aggressive Germany. 4 This essay attempts to handle the war in a slightly different context: as an example of what happened, when countries were in a transitional phase between imperialism and collectivism. This point of view was chosen, because no sources from directly this point of view could be found, and the writer feels that this aspect should not be left undiscussed. The context has been connected to the discussion of the ethical considerations arising from the handling of the issue in the League of Nations, in the light of the history of imperialism. The era of imperialism was said to have ended by the end of WW1 and the foundation of the League of Nations in 1920: the Article 10 of the Covenant of the League obligates the members to “respect and preserve… the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members”.5 However, the Abyssinian crisis shows the hypocrisy and double morals followed in reality, which led the British and French, Foreign Secretary Hoare and Premier Laval, to 1 Thomas, Jo; Rogers, Kelly. History. 20th Century World. Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars. Pearson Education Limited. Britain. 2010. Pages 103-105. Marcus, Harold. Haile Sellassie I. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. 1987. Page 148. 2 Lamb, Richard. Mussolini as diplomat. Fromm International. New York. 1999. Page 129. 3 Burns, Emily. Abyssinia and Italy. Victor Gollancz Ltd. London. 1935. Page 9. 4 Lamb. Page 3. Morris, Terry; Murphy, Derrick. Europe 1870-1991. Second edition. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London. 2000. Page 345. 5 See Appendix 1 for the Articles of the Covenant of the League of Nations. 2 propose a plan to trade Ethiopia’s sovereignty in attempt to keep peace in Europe. The plan was not carried out, but no effective measures to stop Italy were used, either. 6 The general discussion of imperialism is still topical, since many of the problems the developing countries are facing today can be traced back to the exploitation of the colonized countries during the era of imperialism. In addition, in the views of some researchers studied there is a strong racist motive that justifies the invasion in the name of Western, white superiority. If these views resemble the views of the contemporary decision makers, the relatively harmless consequences with which Italy got away seem understandable.7 Ethiopia herself had very little say in the whole dispute, and her fate was worked out in European negotiation tables. Accordingly, this essay focuses on the discussion of the topic among the Europeans concerned; Britain, France and Italy. 2. IMPERIALISM AS THE BACKROUND 2.1 The history of Euro-Ethiopian relations from the 19th century8 The European countries that have a history of relations to Ethiopia relevant to the research question are Britain, France and Italy. Each developed an imperialist interest in Africa, and by 1899 all Ethiopia’s neighboring countries were under the rule of Britain, France or Italy. 9 The interest of Italy seemed the strongest already then, in the 1890’s, given that Italy’s only colonies, the Italian Somaliland and Eritrea located on different sides of Ethiopia, 6 Hoare-Laval plan in December 1935 confirmed Italian gains, giving Italy parts of the Ogaden and most of Tegre in addition to an economic protectorate over Ethiopia. In return, Ethiopia would gain an access to sea in Aseb. Zewde, Bahru. A history of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1974. Addis Ababa University Press. Addis Ababa. 1991. Page 166. See the Appendix 2 for a map. 7 Economic sanctions over Italy were posed in six weeks after the invasion had begun. Three member countries did not carry out the sanctions, and vital materials such as oil were not included. History Learning Site. Abyssinia 1935 to 1936. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/aby1.htm , accessed in 20.8.2012. 8 The relations of Ethiopia and these European powers were initially friendly and respectful starting from the first encounters in the first half of the nineteenth century, Ethiopia being the “island of Christians in the middle of the sea of pagans”. Both Britain and France, the later main colonizing powers, recognized the existence of an Ethiopian state with which they “took for granted that they should deal on the basis of equality.” Pakenham, Thomas. Scramble for Africa 1876-1912. Abacus. Great Britain. 1992. Page 470. Rubenson, Sven. The survival of Ethiopian Independence. Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. London, Ibadan, Nairobi, Lusaka. 1976. Page 409. 9 Pakenham. Pages 681-689. 3 inconveniently separate.10 Italy had difficulties to develop her colonies because “they consisted only of arid stretches of coastline”.11 Ethiopia would be a corridor combining these two and providing an economically stronger hinterland.12 The first Italian attempt to conquer Ethiopia diplomatically took place in 1889.The content of the Treaty of Wechale was different in the Italian and Amharic. In Italian, the Treaty obliged Ethiopia to handle his foreign affairs through Italian officials; thus, creating a de facto protectorate over Ethiopia.13 In the original Ethiopian version the consultation was optional, which in this case made a huge difference.14 Furthermore, in 1891 Anglo-Italian protocols “almost all the eastern part of this area of north-east Africa [Abyssinian Empire] [was assigned] to Italy”.15 This describes the spirit of the imperialist time well: the sovereignty of African countries or the Treaties made with African rulers were not considered valid and obliging. In the words of historian Rubenson: “By the end of the century, it was an axiom in Europe that Africans have no fatherland.”16 Ethiopia protested against the 1889 and 1891 agreements, and the continued Italian ambitions led to the Battle of Adowa between Italy and Ethiopia in 1896.17 The Italian trial to conquer Ethiopia militarily for the first time surprisingly ended to the victory of Ethiopia. The peace treaty of 1897 killed the Italian dreams of an Ethiopian colony for a while; the treaty cancelled that of Wechale and admitted “the complete independence of Ethiopia.”18 On the other hand, Italians were left with a will for revenge and a need to restore the prestige that was lost “at the hands of an African chief and his warriors”.19 Ethiopia remained nominally independent, but the European imperialism cast its shadow economically and politically on Ethiopia, too. 20 After 1905, the Bank of Abyssinia became a 10 See the Appendix 2 for a map. Lamb. Page 199. 12 Marcus, Harold G. A history of Ethiopia. Berkeley. Los Angeles, London. 1994. Page 126. 13 Rowan-Robinson, Maj-Gen H. England Italy Abyssinia. William Clowes and Sons, Limited. London. 1935. Page 139. 14 Zewde. Page 75. Rubenson. Page 386. Lamb. Page 55. 15 Lamb. Page 55. 16 Rubenson. Page 410. 17 Marcus. 1994. Pages 97-99. 18 Rowan-Robinson. Page 139. 19 Rubenson. Page 404. 20 Zewde. Page 85. 11 4 part of international finance by an affiliation with the National Bank of Egypt.21 In 1906, France, Italy and Britain signed Tripartite Agreement that defined the interests of each country in Ethiopia “as if the country was a transitory phenomenon or less than sovereign”. France got a French-administered railway and an economic zone of influence, Britain obtained the recognition of her interest in the Nile basin and Italy gained “vague acknowledgement” that she might exploit western Ethiopia and build a link between Eritrea and Ethiopia.22 In 1908, the Franco-Ethiopian Klobukowski Treaty set a 10 percent limit ad valorem duty on most imports. 23 At this point, it was still unclear, which of these countries would acquire domination over Ethiopia, and the Agreement shows that the Europeans would have wanted Ethiopia to be governed by a European, like other African states.24 Italy joined the Triple Entente25 and took the side of the Allies in the WW1 by the secret Treaty of London in 1915. Italy was promised “unspecified colonial concessions after the successful conclusion of the war” in the article 13 of the treaty. 26 Italy hoped to ”acquire French and British Somaliland from its former allies and thus encircle and throttle the one remaining independent African state [Ethiopia]”.27 In practice, this would have meant “a de facto protectorate over Ethiopia”.28 This did not, however, happen, and Italy had to keep seeking other ways to gain influence on Ethiopia. Ethiopia joined the League of Nations in September 1923.29 Two important agreements concerning Ethiopia were formed in 1925 and 1928.30 The first one of these was the AngloItalian exchange of notes in 1925, where Britain supported Italy’s right to construct a railway from Somalia to Eritrea through the western parts of Ethiopia and where Italy supported Britain’s right to build a dam on Ethiopian Lake Tsana in return.31 Both countries referred to the Tripartite Agreement of 1906.32 The agreement shows the unchanged attitudes: even though Ethiopia was a member in the League of Nations and theoretically equal with Italy 21 Egypt was under British influence and would become a British protectorate in ten years, and the affiliation with the Egyptian Bank meant British economic influence in Ethiopia, as well. Pakenham. Pages 140 and 683. Marcus. 1994. Page 107. 22 Marcus. 1994. Page 108. 23 Marcus. 1987. Page 128. 24 Burns. Pages 30-31. 25 The alliance between Britain, France and Russia from 1907 onwards. Rogers et al. Page 16. 26 Marcus. 1987. Page 45. 27 Lyttelton, Adrian. Liberal and Fascist Italy 1900-1945. Oxford University Press. New York. 2002. Page 119. 28 Marcus. 1987. Page 45. 29 Marcus. 1994. Page 121. 30 Marcus. 1994. Page 259-260. 31 In order to regulate the flow of river Nile to Sudan and Egypt. Zewde. Page 152. See Appendix 2 for a map. 32 Marcus. 1994. Page 124. 5 and Britain, the equality was not true in reality. This can be seen in the unchanged way the European powers made decisions over Ethiopia’s territories without consulting her. The second agreement was the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship and Arbitration in 1928. This obliged both countries to refer to the League of Nations if problems would arise. 33 The 1928 Treaty was renewed in September 1934.34 2.2 Italian imperialism: Mussolini’s road to war Italian imperialism got continuation and enforcement, when Benito Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in October 1922.35 The Italian fascism, according to historian Dahl, was particularly related to the war experiences.36 The eagerness for war and expansion can be seen throughout the 1920’s. Italy was an original member of the League of Nations, but continually sought ways to around the Covenant of the League. In 1923, Italy had two international disputes that were handled in the League: a dispute over the Greek Dodecanese islands with Greece and the Corfu incident.37 Italy was the aggressor in both disputes, but got away without any consequences by simply threatening to leave the League, if it opposed her expansion.38 Similar to Hitler’s road to war in Europe from 1933 onwards, Italy went through a road to invasion in Ethiopia starting from the 1928 Arbitration Treaty. Mussolini was already planning the invasion and wanted Ethiopia to remain unprepared and friendly during the preparations: the 1928 Treaty would keep Ethiopia unsuspecting. 39 Fascist propaganda had convinced the Italian people of Italy’s right to an Empire in Africa.40 The 1929 Wall Street 33 Also, Ethiopia gained a free zone in the port Aseb and Italy was allowed to construct a road from Eritrea to Dese, which seemed “a natural invasion route” to the Ethiopians. Italy regarded the whole treaty as a mean to penetrate the Ethiopian economy through the road-building and never sought any interpretation of its relations to Ethiopia through the League. Also, both the railway connecting Somaliland and Eritrea and the road from Eritrea to Dese can be interpreted as means of penetration and preparations for further operations, whether military or non-military. 34 Rowan-Robinson. Page 77. 35 Lamb. Page 28. 36 Dahl, Ottar. Syndicalism, Fascism and Post-Fascism in Italy 1900-1950. Solum Forlag. Oslo. 1999. Page 14. Lamb. Page 129. 37 Lamb. Page 42. Thomas et al. Page 93. 38 Lamb. Page 45. 39 History Learning Site. Abyssinia 1935 to 1936. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/aby1.htm accessed in 20.8.2012. 40 Lamb. Page 28. 6 Crash created more pressure to find a solution to the economic problems facing Italy among the others.41 Mussolini was convinced that the solution to the Italy domestic problems lay within the war and conquest of the Ethiopian empire. The “surplus population” could find living space there, and the unused Ethiopian resources would be valuable solving the economic problems.42 Italians saw Ethiopia as a fourteenth-century barbarian state with traditions of slavery and cruelty failing to develop her resources; they were told that it was Italy’s responsibility to go and civilize. 43 A successful war with Ethiopia would, in addition, return the national prestige that was an important element of nationalism, and lost in Adowa in 1896.44 Italy submitted a “Memorandum on the Situation in Abyssinia” to the League of Nations in September 1935, which viewed Ethiopia as the troublemaker.45 The memorandum as a whole can be interpreted as Italy’s attempt to justify the shortly beginning invasion, and seem like Ethiopia’s benefactor and civilizer. In other words, Italy tried to appeal to the still imperialistic-minded sides Britain and France. And, actually, the contemporary British historian Rowan-Robinson saw Ethiopia undeveloped and barbarian.46 According to same historian, this caused the impression of a clash of cultures and colours, where the opponents were not Italy and Ethiopia but Europe and Africa.47 In his speech on 2nd October 1935, a day before the Italian attack begun, Mussolini declared that “the wheel of destiny...moves towards its goal [and] cannot be stopped.” The destiny argument is very similar to earlier British and French justifications for colonization.48 From the European point of view, it is difficult to argue against Mussolini’s justification for his aims: “I think for Italy like the great Englishmen who have made the British Empire, like the great French Colonizers have thought for France.” 49 While both France and Britain held on to their vast colonial empires, they had little grounds for complaints, whereas Italy did have historical grounds for her demands based on the treaties of 1905, 1915 and 1925. Italian 41 Burns. Pages 50-51. Burns. Page 86. 43 Already David Livingstone’s “3 cs” were Commerce, Christianity and Civilization. Pakenham. Page xxiv. (Introduction) 44 Roberts, A. D.; General editors: Fage, J. D.; Oliver, Roland. The Cambridge History of Africa. Volume 7, 19051940. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1986.Page 734. 45 Burns. Page 156. 46 Rowan-Robinson. Page 73. 47 Rowan-Robinson. Page 98. 48 Lamb. Page 129. Burns. Page 23. 49 Quoted in The Times, 1st August 1935. Rowan-Robinson. Page 83. 42 7 expansionism did not cease to exist but escalated and got stronger as the Fascist regime was established in 1922. It can be argued, that Britain and France did not need to expand anymore which motivated them to take a very active role in keeping the status quo. 3. APPEASEMENT AT ANY PRICE: ITALY AS THE BALANCE-KEEPER IN EUROPE AND STRESA FRONT In the context of this essay, the Stresa Front alignment represents Italy, France and Britain as individual countries with their own interests. It can be said that the Stresa Front stood for the old world order, the ”nineteenth century point of view”, since it leaned so strongly to the treaties made during the “Scramble for Africa” and a little after it.50 The “nineteenth century” thinking and the obligations of the treaties with Italy kept France and Britain from acting to save Ethiopia, even though these countries were fully aware of Mussolini’s plans. 51 Firstly, the economic situation in the whole of Europe was relatively bad in the early 1930’s. A war so far away was very unappealing to the public in Britain and France, and as democracies, the public opinion had to be heard. Both countries had enough trouble managing their own overseas empires.52 Also, Italy’s desperation to find an answer for the economic problems was well understood in Britain and France because of their own situation.53 Second important reason for the inaction was the Treaty of London. In Mussolini’s words, Italy had joined the Allies against Germany in the WW1 to acquire” a place in the sun” but in the Versailles Treaty, Italy “got only the crumbs of that rich colonial dinner”, namely Jubaland in 1924.54 It can be argued, that the Treaty of London to some extent obliged Britain and France to give in to Italy’s colonial ambitions. The Treaty of Versailles seems to have been rather unadvantageous not only to the defeated powers of the WW1, but also to some of the victorious powers. As can be seen from the course of events 1935-1936, this fact contradicted the feeling of justice of France and Britain to the extent of sacrificing a country 50 Pakenham. Page xxvii. (Introduction) Rogers et al. Page 101. Lamb. Page 119. 52 Rowan-Robinson. Page 142. 53 Rowan-Robinson. Page 95. 54 Burns. Page 23. Lamb. Page 49. 51 8 that had namely very little or nothing to do with the Treaty of Versailles, or the Treaty of London whatsoever. The British and French moral consciousness was significantly enforced by the instable political situation in Europe. The main reason for fear was Germany, who was led by Hitler and the Nazis from January 1933 onwards. By 1935, Hitler had taken several steps on his road to war, which caused sheer horror in especially France, whose economic and military strength were notably weak at the time, partly due to the Depression.55 The long-standing French hostility towards Germany drove her to seek security from Britain and Italy. France was more than ready to sacrifice Ethiopia if that would secure her own weak position in Europe, which can be seen from her behavior in 1935. In fact, France revised her traditional competitiveness towards Italy, and traded her interests in Ethiopia for concessions in Tunisia, where both Italy and France had interests.56 Even more importantly, Mussolini “scored a major diplomatic victory” in January 1935, when the French premier Pierre Laval granted him a free hand in Ethiopia.57 This meant a guarantee of inaction from France. In the meeting of Italy, Britain and France in Stresa in April 1935 the goal was to demonstrate the good understanding and solidarity between the participants to Germany. The participants believed that together they were stronger than Germany, and Hitler would not dare to start a war. Britain and France were ready to make concessions to keep Italy on their side: there was a threat that she would change sides like two decades ago in WW1. In the words of British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, “Italy was the key to European peace.” 58 Due to French insistence, the Stresa meeting entirely ignored the developing crisis in the Horn of Africa, except for the silence following Mussolini’s question, which he presented twice, whether the statements about collective security and the inviolability of the treaties applied in Europe alone. The silence was a signal that Europe would not interfere if Italy 55 Hitler’s steps by 1935 were rearmament and conscription, and the German withdrawal from the League of Nations and Disarmament Conference. Rogers et al. Pages 114-115. 56 Later, France, loyal to Italy, refused to transport arms and other war material from Djibouti, “contrary to all relevant treaties”, which left Ethiopia quite alone. Rather surprisingly but yet logically, the only military help Ethiopia got was from Germany, who wanted to keep Italy busy in Africa in order to take Austria in Anschluss. Roberts et al. Page 734. Marcus. 1994. Page 138. 57 Zewde. Page 153. 58 It seems that Italy actually was the balance-keeper, since when the relations between Italy, Britain and France broke down after the Italian invasion of 1935-1936, it took only months for Mussolini to ally himself with Hitler and a year to join the Anti-Comitern Pact of Germany and Japan. Rogers et al. 117. Morris et al. Page 343. 9 went to war.59 Historian Marcus argues, that at that time most European observers did not believe that Ethiopia would fight a European power but rather make concessions. They were ignorant of “Ethiopia’s historic refusal to abandon its independence” and also “mostly racists who considered blacks incompetent and irresponsible”.60 Britain and Italy had traditionally very cordial relations, which Britain did not want to destroy. Thus, neither France nor Britain had the political will to turn against Italy. 61 Britain’s interest was peace-keeping in Europe, for which she felt she was responsible.62 This caused Britain to yield to the appeasement policy: she saw that was the only way to sustain Germany. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was made in June 1935, only four months before the Italian invasion.63 The atmosphere of appeasement evidently influenced the British reaction to Italy’s aggression more permissively, too.64 The last argument for inaction from the European point of view is presented by the contemporary British historian Rowan-Robinson: “...by allowing Italy a free hand, we would afford a vent in Abyssinia for volcanic forces that might explode more dangerously elsewhere.”65 The metaphor of “exploding volcanic forces” brings to mind Mussolini’s unstoppable wheel of destiny. This kind of rhetorics helped, on their part, the British to justify their inaction. 4. THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS LACKING THE POLITICAL WILL TO ACT 4.1 Ethiopia in the League: demand for development The League of Nations was founded in 1920, its objective to keep peace and the status quo obtained by the Treaty of Versailles.66 Quoting historian Iriye, “military power and expansionism were to be replaced by a rule of law in which ‘world public opinion’ rather alliances and armaments would be the key to international order”. 67 The system of collective 59 Marcus. 1994. Page 140. Lamb. Page 116. Marcus. 1994. Page 141. 61 Rowan-Robinson. Pages 140-141. 62 Rowan-Robinson. Page 143. 63 Burns. Page 132. 64 In Britain’s defense, she was the country that took the little action that was taken. As the Naval Agreement shows, the British appeasement was oriented towards Germany rather than Italy. 65 Rowan-Robinson. Page 109. 66 Rowan-Robinson. Page 104. 67 Rogers et al. Page 87. 60 10 security was to guarantee, through the Articles of the Covenant of the League, that aggression by a member state against another member state would lead to “prohibition of all intercourse” and “prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse with the covenantbreaking state”. Also, the aggressor state would be considered “to have committed an act of war against all other members of the League” and would be expelled from the League. 68 Thus, Italy’s colonial ambitions in Ethiopia became impossible to fulfill without consequences. Ethiopia was backward and far behind the European member states in development in all important areas like health care, industry, education and economy. Slavery and “blatant arms traffic” were Ethiopia’s problems in the 1920’s as well.69 Her developmental state served as a justification for the 1935 invasion not only by the Italians but also by the League of Nations. The argument was that the membership of the League had duties along with rights, and Ethiopia’s duty was to develop, because her undevelopment could be seen as bad crime as the Italian invasion. If Ethiopia failed to develop, the international body that represents “many civilized and civilizing powers must do it for her”. In other words, this means that Ethiopia’s independence was threatened not only by Italy but also by the League of Nations itself in the form of a mandate.70 A question rises, whether the so-called barbarianism and backwardness gives more developed countries the right to govern these backward countries. 4.2 The League of Nations as an instrument of power The leftist historian Burns claims, that the League of Nations was set up to safeguard the Versailles Treaty and the interests of the victorious powers, Britain, France, Italy and Japan.71 This view is highly critical of the motivation and objectivity of the League, but seems justifiable when taking account the action taken by the League in the crises it encountered: for example the resolution of the Manchurian Crisis in 1931 for the benefit of Japan, and the resolution of the Abyssinian Crisis for the benefit of Italy. 72 Burns supports his argument by pointing out the behavior of France throughout the year 1935, starting from the promise of 68 Rowan-Robinson. Pages 146-147. See Appendix 1. Lamb. Page 51. Marcus. 1987. Pages 56-57. 70 Rowan-Robinson. Pages 98-99. 71 Burns. Page 118. 72 Rogers et al. Pages 100-104. 69 11 free hand in Ethiopia: France’s semi-official Press immediately began to assure Italy that France would not oppose Italy’s actions in Ethiopia in any way. In addition, Burns argues that the French premier Laval delayed and damped any action of the League concerning the Italian aggression in 1935: the Ethiopia question was discussed in a Conference in August 1935, but the conference was dissolved because of the lack of agreement.73 France clearly valued the newly gained Italian friendship higher than her duties as an objective decisionmaker in the League. 74 The result was that since Britain and France were in leading roles in the League, the League avoided making decisions over the Ethiopian matter to keep Italy in. 75 4.3 The challenges in peace-keeping in Europe in 1920’s and 1930’s Rowan-Robinson agrees that The League of Nations was an instrument of power and war in 1935. He describes the division of the world differently: the Have-countries and the Havenot-countries. By his definition, Italy, Germany and Japan were the Have-not-countries in 1930’s, and that caused their expansionism and aggression. The mal-distribution of wealth and opportunity was and is, he argues, the root cause of nearly all international quarrels. Thus, the only possible solution to disputes would have required all members to “make surrenders for the public good”.76 Unfortunately, the nationalist atmosphere often attributed to the 1920’s and 1930’s was the contrary to collectivism of the League of Nations. As described above, the main failure the League of Nations had was its inability to work collectively as one body, and thus it failed the task of keeping peace by the system of collective security. 77 When France showed no interest in keeping peace through the League but making separate agreements with Italy, Britain was left quite alone to deal with the aggressor.78 Historian Rowan-Robinson argues that according to the Covenant, Britain was not bound to act individually but collectively: in other words, if no other country took action to stop Italy and apply the sanctions, then Britain did not have to, either. 73 Burns. Page 56. Rowan-Robinson. Page 93. Rowan-Robinson. Page 104. 75 Rowan-Robinson. Page 93. Burns. Page 119. 76 Rowan-Robinson. Pages 104-106 . 77 Rowan-Robinson. Page 102. 78 Rowan-Robinson. Page 100. 74 12 Rowan-Robinson argues that taking action to protect the League would be foolish since the League was faulty. He goes on saying that because its faultiness, the Covenant of the League does not have to be obeyed, either.79 It is notable, that he does not talk about protecting Ethiopia but protecting the League, giving a whole new aspect to the discussion. He also seems to be talking Britain out of responsibility, which would lead to the situation where nobody is responsible and not even should be, to oppose Italy. Rowan-Robinson’s book was released a few weeks before the invasion begun and gives many reasons, the most important of which described above, why Italy should be let invade Ethiopia. This adds a new aspect to the discussion that went on in 1935. 5. CONCLUSION: THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF THE INTERESTS MADE ETHIOPIA THE VICTIM The aim of the League of Nations and the aim of Stresa Front was shared: to keep peace.80 The contradiction between these two arises from the fact the Stresa Front’s primary interest was to keep peace especially in Europe.81 Also the means to achieve the aim were fundamentally different and incompatible. The League of Nations had its Covenant and the collective sanctions that should have been used against the aggressor, whereas the Stresa Front followed appeasement policy. When these two approaches were both used, a very ambiguous message was being sent to the aggressor, Italy. The message was altered by the changing governments of Britain and France, and by individual politicians, of which some were more pro- League of Nations and some more pro-appeasement.82 This weakened the reliability of both coalitions in the eyes of Italy, and in the eyes of the British and French themselves. Also it allowed Mussolini to believe he could have both Stresa Front against Germany and his African adventure.83 The sanctions that could have stopped or slowed Italy, oil embargo and the closure of the Suez Canal, were not applied because France did not want to annoy Italy too much.84 More trouble was caused by the many treaties Italy, France and Britain had signed about Ethiopia during the years, because they were still valid. 85 However, 79 Rowan-Robinson. Page 105. Rogers et al. Page 72. 81 Lyttelton. Page 125. 82 Burns. Page 31. Lamb. Pages 115-125. 83 Lamb. Page 84 Marcus. 1994. Page 143. 85 Rowan-Robinson. Page 89. 80 13 the result of this half-acceptation, half-refusal policy was exactly what Britain and France had feared: Ethiopia got occupied, the Stresa Front was dissolved and Italy went to Hitler’s side. Also, the League of Nations ceased to exist in a few years’ time as the public message of its corruptibility and half-heartedness was sent.86 Italy was allowed to invade Ethiopia because of the interest of Britain and France to keep the Stresa Front together due to the unstable political and economic situation in Europe. Also, both countries were bound by still-in-force treaties with Italy to divide the Horn of Africa beneficially to all European parties. The imperialist spirit survived through the 1920’s and 1930’s, which can be seen from the sovereignty-undermining treatment Ethiopia received. Backward Ethiopia was sacrificed to benefit and appease imperialist and expansionist Italy and to keep peace in Europe, which was seen more important than peace in Africa; in the words of the British Foreign Secretary John Simon: “Italian co-operation in Europe is more precious than Abyssinia’s sovereignty”.87 The League was used as a tool to benefit the great and suppress the small. Because France and Britain had the power to determine Ethiopia’s fate, and they used it, the responsibility can be argued to be theirs along with Italy, as well. On the other hand, even though Ethiopia along with other smaller countries were sacrificed to keep peace in Europe, the motives of the countries in decisive roles were not entirely selfish. It was everybody’s, especially the small countries’, interest to avoid world war, except for those who sought expansion and a new world order. The question reads: is it justifiable to try to avoid world war at all costs? 86 Rogers et al. Page 105. History Learning Site. Abyssinia 1935 to 1936. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/aby1.htm , accessed in 20.8.2012. 87 Lamb. Page 122. 14 BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS Burns, Emily. Abyssinia and Italy. Victor Gollancz Ltd. London. 1935. Dahl, Ottar. Syndicalism, Fascism and Post-Fascism in Italy 1900-1950. Solum Forlag. Oslo. 1999. Lamb, Richard. Mussolini as diplomat. Fromm International. New York. 1999. Lyttelton, Adrian. Liberal and Fascist Italy 1900-1945. Oxford University Press. New York. 2002. Marcus, Harold G. A history of Ethiopia. Berkeley. Los Angeles, London. 1994. Marcus, Harold G. Haile Sellassie I. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. 1987. Morris, Terry; Murphy, Derrick. Europe 1870-1991. Second edition. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London. 2000. Pakenham, Thomas. Scramble for Africa 1876-1912. Abacus. Great Britain. 1992. Roberts, A. D.; General editors: Fage, J. D.; Oliver, Roland. The Cambridge History of Africa. Volume 7, 1905-1940. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1986. Rowan-Robinson, Maj-Gen H. England Italy Abyssinia. William Clowes and Sons, Limited. London. 1935. Rubenson, Sven. The survival of Ethiopian Independence. Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. London, Ibadan, Nairobi, Lusaka. 1976. Thomas, Jo; Rogers, Kelly. History. 20th Century World. Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars. Pearson Education Limited. Britain. 2010. Zewde, Bahru. A history of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1974. Addis Ababa University Press. Addis Ababa. 1991. 15 INTERNET SOURCES History Learning Site. Abyssinia 1935 to 1936. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/aby1.htm , accessed in 20.8.2012. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. The Covenant of the League of Nations. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp , accessed 18.11.2012. APPENDICES Appendix 1: the relevant Articles of the Covenant of the League of The Nations Article 10: The Members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled. Article 11: Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations. In case any such emergency should arise the Secretary General shall on the request of any Member of the League forthwith summon a meeting of the Council. It is also declared to be the friendly right of each Member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends. Article 16: Should any Member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Articles 12, 13 or 15, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other Members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenantbreaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a Member of the League or not. It shall be the duty of the Council in such case to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval or air force the Members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League. The Members of the League agree, further, that they will mutually support one another in the financial and economic measures which are taken under this Article, in order to minimise the loss and inconvenience resulting from the above measures, and that they will mutually support one another in resisting any special measures aimed at one of their number by the covenant-breaking State, and that they will take the necessary steps to afford passage through their territory to the forces of any of the Members of the League which are cooperating to protect the covenants of the League. Any Member of the League which has violated any covenant of the League may be declared to be no longer a Member of the League by a vote of the Council concurred in by the Representatives of all the other Members of the League represented thereon. Source: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp , accessed 18.11.2012. Appendix 2: a map of Ethiopia in 1930’s Source: Burns. Appendix 1.
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