3 / YEARS OF CRISIS,
1935–1938

MUSSOLINI AND ETHIOPIA

Since 1921, when Poland and Russia made peace, there had been no war involving major European powers. But the peace came to an end in October 1935, when Italian armies sent by Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. Mussolini originally had been an elementary schoolteacher, but his early career also included lecturing on atheism, dodging the draft, and often getting himself thrown into jails for advocating class warfare. His career advanced in 1912 when he became editor of Avanti, the official Socialist newspaper, but after he advocated Italian intervention in World War I, he was forced to resign the editorship. He started a new paper, Il Popolo d’Italia, and accepted subsidies from the Allied governments, industrialists, and agrarian interests. When Italy went to war, Mussolini was no longer able to avoid the draft. His army record lacked distinction, and he was finally invalided out of the army because of a slight wound from a mortar.

Forsaking socialism in 1919, he founded the Fasci di Combatti mento (Fighting Group), the Fascist party, which would later terrorize northern Italy. In the fall of 1922, Mussolini, with the help of his party, threatened to overthrow the government. To avoid a civil war, King Victor Emmanuel III surrendered the country to Mussolini. The new dictator was a figure who appealed to businessmen fearful of communism, to frustrated veterans, and to angry nationalists. However, he had no program for government, finding it advantageous to choose his ideology as needs arose.

Mussolini actually lacked physical courage, though he tried to appear to be a superman. He was a notorious lecher and he was also vindictive and cruel, driven by selfish ambition. Musso

-47-

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The Origins of World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The European History Series *
  • The Origins of World War II *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface - To the Third Edition ix
  • 1: Peace, 1918–1933 1
  • 2: The Uneasy Peace, 1933–1935 25
  • 3: Years of Crisis, 1935–1938 47
  • 4: The Road to War, 1938 80
  • 5: War, 1939 128
  • Bibliographical Essay 175
  • Index 191
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