CHAPTER LV
MUSSOLINI WAS ALWAYS RIGHT

When war against the Negus first began to be spoken of, the general public in Italy was hostile to such an adventure. One of Mussolini's most fervent admirers, G. Ward Price, wrote in 1936:

"This Abyssinian campaign was a personal undertaking of Mussolini's. The people of Italy felt no desire for such an enterprise until he infused them with it. The defeat of Adowa, forty years before, had filled Italian hearts with detestation for the very name of Abyssinia. The Italian General Staff believed that the conquest of that country would be a long and costly process. . . . In April, five months before the war began, I found many Italians full of anxiety about the risks and cost of the approaching campaign."1

Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick, visiting Italy early in the spring of 1935, found "a people who hated trouble" and "detested being lined up to support a campaign for expansion" ( NYT. 10.xi.35).2 In August, Starhemberg noticed that the idea of a war in Ethiopia was thoroughly unpopular. "Friends connected with Fascist Italy told me that the Duce's policy was madness; it could only end in failure and be very dangerous to Italy".3 A correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (16.ix) who visited Italy in August reported that enthusiasm for war was much in evidence among the youth of Italy:

"The lad who was a child when the régime came to power has been taught during thirteen years that war is man's highest ideal, that 'it is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for a hundred years', that life itself is battle, that the nation is everything, and that the individual does not count."

Among the older generations, however, the great majority of the people loathed the idea of a war. To be sure, there was no overt sign of opposition. Opposition would have been suicidal. "Opposition is shown only by chalked inscriptions on walls in side streets. In the narrow lanes of Venice and Genoa and in the slums of Naples, the walls are covered with anti-war inscriptions."4

____________________
1
I Know These Dictators, pp. 272, 279.
2
The two admirers of Mussolini gave out this information not in the spring of 1935, but when they could state that the situation had changed.
3
Between Hitler and Mussolini, pp. 215-16.
4
The American Ambassador to Italy reported (September 10) that "the whole population, both military and civilian" were "in complete accord with Mussolini's policies"; "the press in every issue gives additional determination to proceed to war" ( Peace and War, p. 273). All those who lived in Rome among Fascist big-wigs and the cream of the papal, royal, or new-baked Fascist aristocracy, held as an article of faith that the Italians were behind Mussolini to the last man.

-471-

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