THE BREAKDOWN OF COLLECTIVE SECURITY
World War Two became possible as soon as the system of collective security definitely broke down; that is to say, as soon as a potential international gangster could, with a sufficient degree of certainty, count on going to war without finding arrayed against him the massed forces of all the countries associated in the League of Nations, and could even reasonably expect the active connivance or friendly neutrality of some major League member.
Thus the first step towards World War Two was taken in the autumn of 1931, when President Hoover and the British "National Government" permitted the dissolution of the system of collective security in the Far East. With the Italo-Ethiopian War, the system collapsed in Africa. With the German reoccupation of the Rhineland, itself precipitated by the Italo-Ethiopian War, the system collapsed in Europe. Then came the so-called non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Then the rape of Austria. Then the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. And finally Armageddon.
During the Italo-Ethiopian war, a fact that until then had lacked definite proof became evident to all—namely, that the two most powerful European countries belonging to the League—let us speak here of "countries"— Britain and France, lacked the determination to enforce the Covenant of the League. Both Governments had announced their willingness to curb any aggressor who disturbed the peace. But the British were interested in the Mediterranean, and were therefore concerned with Italy; while the French were interested in the Rhine, and were therefore concerned with Germany. The French considered it unreasonable to let an affair in Africa stand in the way of Franco-Italian understanding, and urged moderation on the English in dealing with Italy. The English considered the French to be unreasonable in standing in the way of Anglo- German understanding and urged the French to be moderate in dealing with Germany.
It was said that Mussolini, by refusing to abide by the treaty of arbitration with Ethiopia and by violating the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Kellogg Pact, destroyed the fabric of international good faith. This is not true. Mussolini acted as a gangster. The fabric of good faith is not destroyed by gangsters. It is destroyed when the policemen and judges are in connivance with the gangster. It was destroyed during the Ethiopian war, not by Mussolini, but by those British and French politicians who posed as the
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Publication information: Book title: Prelude to World War II. Contributors: Gaetano Salvemini - Author. Publisher: Gollancz. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1953. Page number: 486.
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