CHAPTER VIII
THE CHAMBERLAIN-MUSSOLINI
UNDERSTANDING

Why did Mussolini unloose just at that moment that violent campaign against France which was destined to last nine years, up to the end of 1934?

To a certain extent, an answer to this question can be found in the fact that it was precisely in the last months of 1925 and in 1926 that he finally did away with the constitutional form of government and became an out-and-out dictator. It was not possible to uproot the powers of the Italian parliament and the personal rights and political liberties of Italian citizens without having recourse to some "scalp dance", intended to paralyse the opposition. In emergencies of this kind the handiest expedient is the staging of demonstrations against some "foreigner".

There were many "foreigners" at hand: Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, Greece, and every other country in the world. Why precisely France, and why at the end of 1925?

One has to seek the answer elsewhere.

In November 1925, while on a Mediterranean cruise in his private yacht, Sir Austen Chamberlain stopped at Rapallo and renewed the ties with Mussolini established earlier in Rome. "All my pleasant impressions of him gained in Rome", wrote Sir Austen, "were renewed and confirmed." His host was "the simplest and sincerest of men when he was not posing as the dictator".

"It is not part of my business as Foreign Secretary to appreciate his action in the domestic policies of Italy, but if I ever had to choose in my own country between anarchy and dictatorship, I expect I should be on the side of the dictator. . . . I believe him to be accused of crimes in which he had no share, and I suspect him to have connived unwillingly at other outrages he would have prevented if he could. But I am confident that he is a patriot and a sincere man; I trust his word when given, and I think we might easily go far before finding an Italian with whom it would be as easy for the British Government to work."1

A knotty question divided England and Turkey: that of the frontier between Turkey and Iraq. The disputed area was the territory of Mosul, fabulously rich in oil deposits, over which the British Government had received a "mandate" at the Peace Conference of 1919. In disputing the British rights over Mosul, Kemal Ataturk did not allow himself to be deterred by either British pressure or the

____________________
1
Petrie, Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain, II290, 295-6.

-72-

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