PERIPHERY AND CROSSROADS:
ETHIOPIA AND WORLD DIPLOMACY, 1934-36
Ethiopia in Broader Perspective: Papers of the XIIIth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, 3 vols., K. E. Fukui and M. Shigeta, eds. (Kyoto: Shokado Book Sellers, 1997), 1: 699-712.

http://users.ju.edu/jclarke/wizzi.html


In the twentieth century, events in the Third World have impacted the more developed countries which, in turn, have interjected themselves for reasons irrelevant to the localities involved. For all, the results have seldom been benign. As one example, in 1935 and 1936, Italy invaded, conquered, occupied, and thoroughly abused Ethiopia. From the perspective of the developed countries and the world war to come, the events swirling around the Italo-Ethiopian War helped forge the international combinations which went to war after 1939.(1)

From today's vantage, however, the war's importance is difficult to keep in focus, given what followed in Spain, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and elsewhere. Much has been written on the Italo-Ethiopian War, most of it centered on Italy, Britain, France, the League of Nations, and even the United States. The historiography has not served other powers so well. Much has also been misunderstood.

For their part, apologists for the USSR have long-trumpeted Russia's principled position defending Ethiopia's sovereign rights against Italy's colonial predations, and this siren's call continues to seduce.(2) The truth is more complex. State interests, communist ideology, and legacies of earlier Italo-Russian confrontation in Northeast Africa whipsawed Soviet policy. Before the turn of the century, both the Russian Empire, allied with Paris, and the Italian Kingdom, allied with London, had struggled to increase their respective influences in Northeast Africa, a choke point astride Europe's route to India and East Asia. The two frequently butted heads--most dramatically in 1896, when the Ethiopians beat the Italians at Adwa. French and Russian arms had aided Ethiopia's victory.(3)

As for the Italians, Benito Mussolini and his Fascists came to power in 1922 after the First World War. Beyond the rankling memories of Adwa and the Duce's personal and political needs for imperial prestige, many other motives went into creating and sustaining an aggressive policy in Northeast Africa. Economics played a role, including the need for raw materials and a place to dump surplus population. Another purpose also loomed large.


Collective Security in Asia and Africa

Frequently forgotten today, but often cited in the 1930s, was Italy's supposed need to blunt Japan's commercial and military advances into Northeast Africa, advances abetted by a sense of racial solidarity between the two "colored" peoples. Japan had long criticized Europe's African colonialism. Spurred by the rapid modernization of its economic, political, and military institutions following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, some Japanese sought a united Orient under Japan's leadership to free the world of Europe's domination--the maximalist vision of the "Orient" included everything from Japan to East Africa. Reacting to these ideas and to Japanese success in the Russo-Japanese War, Europeans began to prattle about a "Yellow Peril." Equally provoked, young Ethiopians, "Japanizers," openly admired Japan's achievements.(4)

Already pressed by Japan in Manchuria and Korea, and contrary to what might be expected from its history and anticolonial rhetoric, communist Russia used the threat of Japanese expansion to justify fascism's military preparations as legitimately defending Europe, Africa, and Italy itself. By early 1935, the Soviets were frankly supporting fascist and imperialist Italy, the press editorializing that Rome had wanted Ethiopia's peaceful economic penetration, but now wished to seize Ethiopian territory because of increased "Japanese economic and political influence in Abyssinia."(5)

Clearly, after 1933 the USSR was fishing for allies and was willing to use any bait, no matter how scurrilous or ideologically cantankerous, to hook them. Other than Great Britain, Italy was the sole power, a much weaker one to be sure, which could be brought to serve directly against the USSR's two enemies, Germany and Japan; and Moscow could not count on Britain, unlike Italy, to risk for long the diplomatic quicksands of East and Southeast Europe. Although the Kremlin could not suppose that Italy's navy could threaten the Japanese in the Pacific, if Rome and London could be brought to cooperate, Italy could patrol the Mediterranean, and Britain, freed from that chore, could more effectively oppose Japan in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

This diplomatic need helps explain the hackles raised among Comintern officials when a Japanese trade delegation visited Ethiopia in 1932 and signed a commercial treaty. An American communist and editor of the Negro Worker, George Padmore, drew wide implications: "European powers with African colonies are all anxiously watching the new developments between Japan, the most aggressive imperialist state in the world today, and her new African ally." On the surface, Padmore saw a natural racial affinity uniting the two peoples, both "independent" and "jealous of their national freedom." Japan's press, he reported, had touted the new alliance and claimed that it was "in the interest of both . . . colored nations to establish the closest ties against white imperialism." Noting "the blood of millions of Koreans and Chinese," Padmore warned Ethiopians, however, that ruthless, Japanese imperialists did not respect "race, color or creed," even as they posed as "the 'defenders' and 'champions' of the darker races."(6) Padmore had described the sort of penetration into its African sphere of influence that upset Rome.(7)

How accurate were these fears? Some "logical thinking" Ethiopians, as one self-styled patriot put it, did want the Japanese to reduce Europe's influence in their country by introducing capital and workers.(8) For its part, Japan did have some limited economic ambitions. As one example, in September 1933 Tokyo asked that Ethiopia authorize the firm of Nikkei-Sha to send an investigation party to search out 500,000 hectares of waste land for reclamation.(9)

Although the Japanese consistently denied that their penetration of Ethiopia was cause for alarm, and despite their protests over Italy's antagonistic stance, Rome, sometimes prodded by Moscow, was unmoved.(10) Alessandro Lessona, undersecretary of colonies, charged, that the Japanese "birth rate, energy and spirit of sacrifice" and their "imperious necessity for always seeking new markets" made Japan dangerous for Europe—as Japan's activity in Ethiopia proved. Lessona ominously added, "To draw the Dark Continent into . . . [Japan's] orbit would . . . [deprive] Europe of the possibility of using Africa for the defense of her civilization."(11)

Meanwhile, 1933 was a busy year for Moscow's relations with Rome and for its newly declared policy of collective security designed to contain both Adolf Hitler and the Japanese. In May, Italy and the USSR signed an economic accord and in September, a Treaty of Neutrality, Friendship, and Nonaggression. A series of military exchanges and favorable press comment punctuated their good friendship.(12) In October, Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Potemkin told Deputy Foreign Minister Fulvio Suvich that Germany was trying to conclude an agreement with Japan at Soviet expense. Distrusting Britain in East Asia, the Soviets wished to forge a pact among themselves, the French, Italians, and Americans to defend China against Japan.(13)

Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov consummated rapprochement in December with a visit to Rome while on his way home from the United States. There he had signed accords of mutual recognition designed, Moscow hoped, to check an aggressive Japan.(14) In his talks with Litvinov, Mussolini acknowledged that Japan threatened Italy's interests by competing in the Mediterranean basin and in Ethiopia, where Tokyo had received economic, territorial, and immigration concessions. He promised to oppose Japanese aggression--East Asia, however, was not a vital interest. Some argued that Litvinov's trip to Rome signified a vast European solidarity facing Japan.(15)

Descriptions in Soviet newspapers of Italy's antagonism toward Japan suggested Italy's union of interests with Russia.(16) Certainly, Rome's representatives there closely followed incidents threatening relations between Russia and Japan.(17) Although acrimonious articles also sparked occasional tensions between Italy and the Soviets,(18) recrimination in truth lay on the periphery of their relations. Confirming this, in mid-May 1935 when Mussolini complained about the hostility expressed in the Soviet press toward Italo-Ethiopian incidents, Ambassador Boris Shtein denied any official antagonism: "It is something which does not regard Russia."(19)

In 1934 and 1935, then, Italy believed that the Kremlin would pose no problems to its coming adventure. And Moscow could suppose that Italy was prepared to work in harness with the USSR not only against Japan in East Asia and Northeast Africa, but also against Germany in the Austrian and Danubian region.(20)


Collective Security in Europe

For Moscow, collective security in Europe was to ensnare Germany by stitching together a net that would include France, Italy, and their respective allies in Eastern Europe--Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia on the one hand and Austria and Hungary on the other. Building upon the agreements of 1933, in mid-1934 Ambassador Shtein assured Rome that the USSR wanted to see Paris and Rome solve their problems as part of the Soviet rapprochement with France and the Little Entente.(21) If Moscow could bring Italy and France together, then the countries of the Little Entente would have to cooperate with Austria and Hungary. This grouping would encircle Germany and stop the Nazis in their aggressive tracks by preventing Anschluss against Austria. France and Italy worked toward these goals in the Rome Accords of January 1935, and they were joined by Britain in the Stresa Agreements of April. Along with the Italo-Soviet agreements of 1933, Soviet entry into the League of Nations in 1934, and the Franco-Soviet and Czecho-Soviet pacts of May 1935, the Rome and Stresa agreements formed more bricks in the wall being raised against German expansion. In exchange for his participation in collective security, however, Mussolini demanded and received concessions in Africa.(22)

The Soviets understood the strategic necessities driving France to sacrifice Ethiopia--to buy off Italy "with Ethiopian coin."(23) Italy was, after all, the one power which could act quickly, directly, and significantly against any German move on Austria. Beyond pandering to a Paris increasingly bound to Italy after Stresa, the Soviets had their own anti-German stake in Southeast Europe which, they admitted, was more important than were any revolutionary interests in Northeast Africa.

Ambassador Bernardo Attolico from Moscow sympathetically explained the contradictions the Rome Accords had imposed on the Kremlin's policy. Despite Moscow's claims that it alone could be impartial in struggles between the white race and others, in February 1935 he noted that for some time the Kremlin had maintained reserve toward the brewing Italo-Ethiopian conflict. According to their communist verbiage and ideology, Attolico continued, the Soviets should have been enjoying the fight of a colonial people against a great power. But they were not.(24)

In truth, Moscow's inaction toward the Italo-Ethiopian imbroglio had become terribly obvious. Litvinov, as president of the Eighty-Sixth Session of the League's Council and Assembly sessions, on May 21 carefully avoided any statement condemning aggression committed by League members. He clearly preferred that the USSR retain Italy in the front against Germany rather than protect the rights of small nations.(25)


Black Reaction to Soviet Visions of Collective Security

Litvinov's inaction outraged officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the United States. One on May 22 cabled him demanding that he explain his silence. The telegram concluded, "Does your anti-imperialism stop at black nations?"(26) The next day, the NAACP told the New York branch of TASS, the Soviet news agency, that the, "Negro people of America . . . naturally expected that the Soviet Union spokesman in the League of Nations would speak out against this aggression."(27) Another put it more bluntly: "Russia is showing increasingly a tendency to dump the Negro overboard whenever Russia's interest in the Negro conflicts with Russia's interests."(28) Although the Soviet press sympathetically described the anti-Italian attitudes of America's blacks, the paper did not tell its readers of their disappointment in the USSR.(29)

In May 1935, Padmore, now expelled from the Comintern, analyzed the increasingly serious diplomatic situation. In tones different from those of several years before, he now thought that the Italo-Ethiopian conflict merely reflected world politics and new groupings among European powers preparing for a new world war. Germany, he wrote, was trying to break its diplomatic isolation forged by France, Britain, Soviet Russia, and the Little Entente. Noting the Italo-German conflict over Austria, Padmore accused the League of bribing Mussolini with African territory to stand in Europe. Given this "free hand to grab as much of Ethiopia" as the Duce could, the Rome Accords were "the most glaring example of the united front of white Europe against black Africa." The Duce had correctly calculated that France would have to come to terms with Italy, and because of the Franco-Soviet Pact, and fearing to offend Pierre Laval or antagonize Mussolini, "Litvinov dares not raise his voice in protest. . . . The League is no more than a farce."(30)

Padmore blamed many of Ethiopia's difficulties on its friendly relations with Japan, quoting Affairi Esteri which had asserted that Italy was defending not just its rights, but also racial prestige: "Abyssinia is a gander to the white race. The young Abyssinians are inspired with the idea of 'Africa for the Africans,' and are already combining with Japanese immigrants in the country to combat the white man's influences in Africa."(31)

Padmore continued that Ethiopia's emperor realized that his country was surrounded by colonies controlled by Britain, France, and Italy and that these powers wished to see Ethiopia backward and reduced to colonial status. The emperor, who had been trying to modernize his realm, was unable to get capital from white nations because they did not want to see destroyed the myth that blacks could not govern themselves. To carry out his reforms, the emperor had given some preferential privileges to Japanese who needed markets for their textiles and other commodities, as well as lands where they could cultivate raw cotton--the Japanese too were seeking independence from the white powers, Britain and America, from which Japan was buying most of its cotton lint. Britain and France, too occupied by their own problems to antagonize the Japanese, had "assigned" Mussolini the task of intervening in Ethiopia and breaking its ties with Japan.(32)

Padmore's charge, that Moscow would willingly sacrifice Ethiopia if this served Soviet interests, was accurate, at least according to information from Italy's representative in Moscow. In late June, Ambassador Shtein again reassured Suvich that the USSR did not intend to interfere in Italy's plans for East Africa; Moscow only wanted that war be avoided.(33) Japanese newspapers picked up on the burgeoning Italo-Soviet friendship.(34)


Collective Security Puts Ethiopia in the Middle

Giving force to Italy's new role as a defender of the status quo against Germany, Mussolini promised a "million bayonets."(35) By the end of June, Rome and Paris had signed a pact of general military cooperation over Austria, and these good relations permitted the French army to plan for withdrawing seventeen divisions from southeast France and North Africa to reposition them above the Maginot Line. All this drew favorable comment from Moscow, and the Kremlin had good reason in the summer of 1935 to hope that collective security could continue to work as in the summer before, when Italy had moved its troops to the Brenner Pass and forced Germany to back down over Austria.(36)

Behind the closed doors of the League Council, Litvinov pressed hard to settle the brewing conflict in Italy's interest. Among other favors, when told that London wanted a Council meeting for July 29 to discuss the dispute, the commissar instructed Shtein to warn Palazzo Chigi and to suggest that Italy request a delay, which he would support. The Italians thanked Shtein for the friendly gesture.(37) In midsummer, the Japanese ambassador in Rome, Yotaro Sugimura, reported to Tokyo that Litvinov at first had intended to use the League to restrain Italy as well as Japan and Germany, but now he was hesitating to discuss the Italo-Ethiopian conflict in the League Council. The reason: the deterioration in Italo-Japanese relations.(38)

Another indication of the Kremlin's desire not to let increasing tensions over Ethiopia interrupt good relations with Rome was the series of economic negotiations begun in 1934 and concluded in June 1935.(39) And as Italy aggressively mobilized for war in the Autumn, some forty Greek freighters hauled Soviet wheat, oats, barley, coal, timber, coal tar, and petroleum for Mussolini's war machine building up in Mas'uwa and Mogadishu.(40)

Drawing upon this press report, in October the NAACP charged the USSR with aiding the fascist war effort, and The Crisis denounced Soviet hypocrisy.(41) American Communist Party leaders denied duplicity, pointing to worldwide demonstrations against Italian aggression and assuring African-Americans in December that Russia and communists were exerting "all energies to build a mass movement in defense of Ethiopia against a bestial fascist assault."(42) Remembering earlier gyrations, many black rank and file fled the Party in disgust.(43)

Meanwhile, a grateful Italy barely protested the activities of the Seventh Comintern Congress of August, which itself clearly played down the onrushing war. The Italian communist, Palmiro Togliatti, alone raised the Ethiopian issue at any length, and even he carefully gave his call to battle solely in the name of the Italian Communist Party, not the Comintern.(44)


Crisis in Italo-Japanese Relations

During the summer of 1935, increasing tensions between Japan and Italy over Tokyo's support for Ethiopia further justified the Soviet Union's tilt toward Italy. For example, General Kazushige Ugaki, Governor General of Korea, spoke about the possibility of Japanese aid to Ethiopia in case of an Italo-Ethiopian war.(45) Tokyo meanwhile blamed rumors of excessive Japanese interference in Ethiopia on Soviet sources.(46)

According to Japan's representatives in Rome, in early July many Italian papers were arguing that, although Japanese interests in Ethiopia had included imperialism and protection of economic interests, Japan was now interested in the conflict as one between white and colored peoples. Japan was the sole country which could lead the latter. The basis of a tragic racial war was ripening, one which, Italy's papers warned, European countries had to prevent.(47)

In mid-July 1935, Italy and Japan plumbed the depths of their dispute. Ambassador Sugimura on July 16 assured the Duce that Japan did not intend to intervene in the coming conflict because Japan had no political interests in Ethiopia. The Italians publicized his remarks as showing improvement in Italo-Japanese relations. Although what Sugimura had said was not much different from what foreign ministry spokesmen had been saying, a popular storm engulfed Japan, and Tokyo added to its list of complaints Italian aid to anti-Japanese groups in China.(48)

Foreign Minister Koki Hirota's inept attempts to qualify Sugimura's statement shocked Rome. The Giornale d'Italia insisted,
Japan is now trying to deny this statement and to demonstrate a complete and hostile solidarity with Abyssinia against Italy. The Japanese have less right than anyone to refer to the justice and rights of peoples. Japan should not think that the system of conquest and violence over nations which have a much older and finer civilization than the Japanese will not be correctly evaluated by the civilized world. Let not Japan believe that her policy of aggressive expansion, undermining the independence of Korea and a considerable part of China, menacing Australia, and trying to penetrate into Soviet territory, sending military and commercial agents to all parts of the world, will nowhere meet with resistance.(49)

Italy tried to enlist the sympathy of those who had "not yet lost all sense of dignity of the white race,"(50) and wished to present a united front against the colored races, which, especially in Asia, undermined European civilization. By gaining control over Ethiopia, Italy would forestall Japan, which planned to make that corner of Africa its base for a vast economic offensive against Europe. The situation deteriorated to the point where guards had to be placed around Italy's missions in Japan and Japan's in Italy.(51)

The newspaper Tevere provocatively wrote: "One has the sensation of finally learning why so many races have been created with only one in the image and likeness of the Creator and why, among other variously colored ones, one is of the color of betrayal. The Japanese believe the scandalous European inertia will permit them to enlarge their circle of expansion so as to touch Africa. But Africa is contiguous to Italy, the country of a white race and the champion of the race."(52)

Italy's press campaign denouncing Japan began to calm down after July 24, and by July 27, the guard around the Japanese Embassy was reduced to only six carbonari. Italy's press now began to take aim at Britain.(53)

In late July, Sugimura continued to promote friendly relations between Italy and Japan by revising his minister's provocative attitude.(54) He also criticized Japanese for raising the racial issue: "Japanese public opinion naturally sympathizes with a weak country and tries to help Ethiopia. However, as Japanese military and political power is not as strong in faraway Africa as in East Asia, it is unwise to stiffen Japan's attitude toward Italy . . . by asserting its right to supply weapons and ammunition. . . . [I]t is not wise to attempt to extend our commercial rights based on the racial argument, which directly puts us into a confrontation with England, France, and Italy."(55)

Meanwhile, even into August Japan's representatives in Central Asia were commenting on the continuing interest of the Soviet press in the Sugimura Affair, Italy's antagonism toward Japan, and Japan's threat to the Soviet Union through Korea and China. Moscow sought to justify Italy's position as defending its economic interests and argued that Japan intended to use Ethiopia to force a compromise from the great powers in China.(56)

A wonderful example of the tempermentality of public diplomacy, the ultimate significance of the Sugimura Affair was that, in smoothing over this contretemps, Rome and Tokyo built the foundation for their later alliance in World War II.(57)

For the moment, however, Italo-Japanese tensions continued into August and September, and in the League Japan insisted that an Italo-Ethiopian war would mean a conflict between the white and black races.(58) Meanwhile, a grand public fanfare greeted a visiting Ethiopian representative, and many Japanese nationalists asserted a racial unity with Ethiopians. Although these were mostly private citizens who embarrassed the government, their blandishments lent credence to Italy's racial alarm.(59)

So did Japan's newspapers. The Kokumin of July 25, editorialized that racial prejudices guided Italy's policies toward Ethiopia and Japan. The Nichi Nichi added that Italy's attempt to wrap the Ethiopian issue in racial cloth would fail.(60) The Hochi on August 7 wrote that imperialism and a sense of racial superiority had led Italy to want Ethiopia as a protectorate. The paper concluded that the Japanese had to make whites see the error of their ways. That same day, the Osaka Asahi wrote that the Italo-Ethiopian dispute had aroused the colored peoples against Italy and whites. If racial reconciliation proved difficult, Mussolini, Italian papers, and their use of the "yellow peril" bear the consequences.(61)

Increasing the stakes involved from the Kremlin's vantage, Austria's Nazis strongly supported Ethiopia, believing that when Italy began hostilities, Germany would reopen its campaign for Anschluss. In response, on August 24, Mussolini took personal charge of military maneuvers along Italy's Alpine frontier to reemphasize that he would do his duty in preserving Europe's peace. Paris therefore continued to conclude that some latitude in Africa was a small price to pay for keeping Italy on the Brenner, ready to move against the Nazis in Austria.(62)

So did the Kremlin. For example, Ambassador Shtein on August 10, again begged that Rome would take into account "the most difficult position of Litvinov, who wants to do all possible to help Italy."(63) The greatest problem was Italy's declaration to take Ethiopia at any cost. If Italy could carry off its aggression without calling it "aggression," Moscow would be content, and a cooperative Mussolini could win from the League all concessions of practical importance he wanted. Shtein made clear the Kremlin's belief that the League's position depended on a self-serving Britain determined to make problems for Italy.(64)

Britain did fear Italy's pressure on its imperial holdings, and London dismissed Italy's ability to counter the Hitlerite threat in any case. The Stresa Front, with its implicit Soviet connection, thus collapsed after only a few months, partly because Britain concluded the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in June behind the backs of its Stresa partners and ultimately because London insisted on League-imposed economic sanctions to punish Italy for invading Ethiopia.(65)


The Soviets Modify Their View of Collective Security

Was Italy or Britain in the end more useful to Moscow in opposing Germany and Japan? The Soviets had to ask the question, especially after the breakdown on August 14 of the Anglo-Franco-Italian talks on Ethiopia.(66) The answer was obvious, and London sucked both, Paris and Moscow, into the vortex of anti-Italian League action.

As Moscow's attitude toward Italy hardened, by the beginning of September its stance toward Britain had softened. Whereas Soviet newspapers into August had stressed the "interested motives" of British opposition to war in East Africa, they now emphasized the need to assert League principles even toward a conflict "on a secondary front in world politics" because "warmongers in Europe" were counting on "the certainty that no collective action whatever" could foil their plans.(67)

Playing for high stakes at the League Council's September 5 meeting, Litvinov "took an unexpectedly strong attitude"(68) and condemned Italian aggression. Even then, he remained reticent, clearly enunciating Soviet concerns: he valued Italian friendship and would like to keep it; the Italo-Ethiopian dispute in itself did not threaten or even bother the USSR except that it portended threats to the weak and scorned, including the Soviets themselves; and Italy was a vital component in collective security, but it was that very system which was now at stake.(69)

Most then and now have misinterpreted this speech as hostile to Italy, and Rome called it "a grave blow" to friendship.(70) Yet some Italians recognized the ambivalence in the Kremlin's position. Pietro Arone, the newly-arrived ambassador to Moscow, on September 9 spoke with the deputy foreign commissar, who played down the League's ability to do anything effective and emphasized that suspicions of Britain united Russia and Italy.(71) In his September 12 telegram to the foreign commissariat, Litvinov repeated the core of his speech: "[T]he resolute application of sanctions by the League against Italy will be a stern warning to Germany as well."(72)

On September 14, Litvinov again complained with "restraint" to the League: "If we had before us from Italy, instead of a declaration on liberty of action, a formal and well-founded complaint against acts of aggression committed by a neighboring Ethiopia . . . [Italy would have obtained] from the League full justice . . . [and] the sympathy to which the noble Italian nation is entitled."(73) In other words, if Italy had but presented its case differently, then both the League and Moscow would have accepted Rome's claims. Arone understood and reported on September 19 that the USSR wanted to maintain Europe's status quo and that the Kremlin feared Italy might support Germany against the USSR. Thus, he explained, Moscow's moderate tone on the Ethiopian situation--even at this late date.(74)

Italy finally attacked Ethiopia on October 2. Once the League Council applied sanctions against Italy, the Soviet Union joined the other powers, on October 17 banning the export of war materials to Italy. Interestingly, even as the League with Soviet support worked to thwart Italy's ambitions in Ethiopia, Moscow applied to Ansaldo of Genoa to purchase 75/17 mm cannon. Mussolini granted permission.(75)


At War's End

A mere half-a-year later, the League Council met in April 1936 under the dark shadow of Ethiopia's impending collapse. In May 1936, the Soviets offered to remove their sanctions, if Italy would join a tripartite accord with themselves and Paris to prevent future aggression. Apparently Mussolini studied the idea but ultimately rejected it. Meanwhile, as the League abandoned sanctions, the onset of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 dashed efforts at reconciliation. Soviet appeasement had failed.(76)

Certainly, the Kremlin's policy somersaults won few friends among the world's blacks. For example, an American journal, The Black Man, in the early summer of 1936 commented, there "is no difference between capitalistic white men and communistic white men. . . . [communist sympathy] is only a means to an end,"(77) a sentiment, Marcus Garvey shared.(78) Castigating the League, communism, and "white tomfoolery," James S. McIntyre offered one hope: let the Negro "pick a page from the book of Japan with its united and phenomenally progressive people--an answer to an impudent and degenerate western civilization. . . ."(79)

An ill-founded hope.(80) When the Japanese foreign ministry denied that Japan had sent arms to Ethiopia,(81) the Italians promised to protect those interests. Seeing an Italy determined to attack and a Britain determined to stand firm, Tokyo insisted that it wished to continue commercial relations with Ethiopia even after Italy's victory. The Giornale d'Italia on August 27, rising to the bait, asserted that Italy and Japan would cooperate because they shared the same policy and fate. Italy, reassured the paper, wanted merely to secure the safety of its workers and to trade there; Italy did not seek to monopolize profits in Ethiopia by closing the economic door or by using the racial issue. Thus inspired, the Japanese resisted imposing League sanctions and worked hard to reassure Rome that their interests in Ethiopia were strictly commercial. Without second thoughts, in 1936 Japan recognized Italy's imperium created by Ethiopia's conquest. Sugimura reported that Italy's press was announcing that Japan's press was covering Rome's position objectively.(82)

Like the Soviets, Japan's leaders had not cared much about Ethiopia's plight. Rather, they had sought advantage in their dealings with the colonial powers. Rome and Tokyo resolved their clash of interests by exchanging Italy's recognition of Japan's puppet-state of Manchukuo for Japan's recognition of Italy's annexation of Ethiopia. The rapprochement, begun after the Sugimura Affair, quickly culminated in the Anti-Comintern Pact which by 1937 had united Italy and Japan with Germany and helped pave the way to their alliance of the Second World War.

During that war, the famous fascist philosopher, Giovanni Gentile, called for racial solidarity among Italians, Germans, and Japanese "to save Europe from the double threat of stateless communists and false democrats, Hebrew or not."(83) His plea graphically reveals the cynical banality of the racial politics played on all sides during the Italo-Ethiopian War and so flippantly reversed with the Anti-Comintern Pact.


End Notes

1. New York Times, 7/27/35.

2. See, e.g., Phillips, Between the Revolution, 155-57.

3. Zaghi, I russi; Rollins, "Russia's Ethiopian Adventure."

4. The Standard, 10/10/35: RO A461 ET/I1 v. 4; Bradshaw, "Japan," 17-18, 80-114.

5. Moscow Daily News, 1/11, 2/14/35; Izvestia, 2/14, 3/1, 16/35; Journal de Moscou, 9/1/34; Attolico to Rome, 12/20/34: MAE b15

f2; Berardis to Rome, 10/31/33: MAE b11 f1.

6. George Padmore, "Ethiopia Today," 386, 391. See Journal de Geneve, 1/9/34: RO E424 1-3-1 and Lisovskii, Voina, esp. 12-30.

7. Gaslini, "Il Giappone," 99-107.

8. Adol Mar to Hanew, 3/4/34: RO M130 1-1-2.

9. Tokyo to Blatin Geta Helouí, 9/4/33: RO E424 1-3-1.

10. Sugimura to Hirota, 8/16/35, 8/19/35: RO A461 ET/I1, v. 2; New York Times, 1/20, 28, 9/9, 10/34; Times, 1/29/34.

11. New York Times, 12/2/34.

12. Clarke, Russia, 99-162; DVP, 16: nos. 144, 145, 277, 278, 409.

13. Suvich, 10/27/33: MAE b8 f4.

14. BDFA: nos. 7, 16, 25; Izvestia, 12/30/33, 1/1/34.

15. Memorandum, 12/2/33; MAE, 12/3/33: MAE b8 f4; Memorandum, 12/3/33: MAE b10 f1; DVP, 16: nos. 400, 405, 411, 412, 419; Times, 1/29/34; Sertoli, "Il pericolo giallo," 12.

16. See, e.g., Pravda, 1/8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 22, 27, 2/1, 23, 4/21, 5/7, 6/15, 8/13/34; Izvestia, 1/9, 18, 6/27/34; Moscow Daily News, 1/10, 11, 2/10, 11, 14/35; Attolico to Rome, 1/16/34, 1/25/34, 7/4/34, 8/16/34: MAE b15 f2.

17. See the many documents in MAE b10 f9.

18. Clarke, Russia, 185-89.

19. Suvich, 5/16/35: MAE b16 f1; Haslam, Soviet Union, 61-62.

20. Other Italian gestures into 1935 continued to encourage Moscow's hopes. See, e.g., Moscow Daily News, 2/26, 3/12/35; and Journal de Moscou, 9/1, 10/27/34.

21. Tamaro to Rome, 7/6/34: MAE b12 f3; Attolico to Rome, 9/27/34: MAE b15 f2. See Journal de Moscou, 9/15/34.

22. Clarke, Russia, 189-94; Lisovskii, Italo-abissinskii konflikt, 14-33; cf. Haslam, Soviet Union, 27-51. Also see DVP, 18: nos. 14, 16, 19, 166, 183, and n.9.

23. Salvemini, Prelude, 183.

24. Attolico to Rome, 2/16/35: MAE b17 f2; Attolico to Rome, 3/21/35, 4/11/35: MAE b18 f4.

25. Scott, Sons, 124-25.

26. "American Negroes," 781.

27. Scott, Sons, 125.

28. Ibid., 126.

29. See, e.g., Moscow Daily News, 7/11/35.

30. Padmore, "Ethiopia and World Politics," 138-39, quotes 139.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Suvich, 6/26/35: MAE b16 f1.

34. See, e.g., OM&TNN, 7/25/35.

35. Moscow Daily News, 3/24, 30/35.

36. Lowe and Marzari, Italian Foreign Policy, 255-60; Laurens, France, 51-54; Moscow Daily News, 4/10/35; Attolico to Rome, 3/23/35: MAE b16 f5.

37. Quaroni, 7/29/35: MAE b16 f2; DDI, 8th, 1: no. 630; Times, 8/1/35.

38. Sugimura to Hirota, 7/27/35: RO A461 ET/I1 I, vol. 1.

39. Buti to Suvich, 3/22/34, 9/24/34, 10/4/34; Suvich, 10/3/34: MAE b14 f1; Suvich, 2/5/35, 3/16/35, 3/29/35: MAE b16 f1; Aloisi to Attolico, 6/5/35: MAE b16 f7; Aloisi to Attolico, 1/4/35; Attolico to Rome, 3/6/35, 3/14/35, 5/24/35; DGAE Uff. 3 to DGAP, 4/17/35: MAE b17 f2; Rotterdam to Rome, 3/22/35; Attolico to Rome, 4/17/35; Odessa to Rome, 6/3/35; Hamburg to Rome, 6/25/35: MAE b18 f8; BDFA: nos. 1, 12, 31; Times, 2/9/34, 8/15, 19/35; Izvestia, 1/2, 6/17/35; DVP, 18: nos. 3, 82, n.2, n.43, n.44; Journal de Moscou, 1/5, 4/6/34.

40. New York Times, 9/8/35.

41. See "Soviet Russia Aids Italy," 305.

42. "Earl Browder Replies," 372.

43. Naison, Communists, 173-84; Scott, Sons, 125-35.

44. New York Times, 8/27/35; Togliatti, Opera, 757-62.

45. Chicago Daily News, 7/10/35: RO A461 ET/I1-2 v. 1; "About Italy and the Ethiopian Issue," Sept. 1935: RO A461 ET/I1 I, vol. 1; New York Times, 7/13/35. See Okamoto to Hirota, 8/26/35: RO A461 ET/I1, v. 2 and DDI, 8th, 1: no. 338.

46. New York Times, 7/11/35.

47. Fujita to Hirota, 7/30/35: RO A461 ET/I1-2 v. 1.

48. Japan Times, 7/18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26/35; OM&TNN, 7/18, 20, 21/35; New York Times, 7/17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25/35; Moscow Daily News, 7/21/35; Times, 7/20, 23, 25/35; Sugimura to Hirota, 7/20/35: RO A461 ET/I1-7 v. 1; Tamagna, Italy's Interests, 15-25; DDI, 8th, 1: no. 555.

49. Moscow Daily News, 7/24/35; OM&TNN, 7/21/35.

50. Japan Times, 7/24/35.

51. New York Times, 7/21, 23/35; Japan Times, 7/23, 24, 25/35; Chicago Daily News, 7/22/35: RO A461 ET/I1-2 v. 1; Sato to Hirota, 8/31/35: RO A461 ET/I1 v. 2; Sugimura to Hirota, 7/31/35; Sato to Hirota, 7/27/35: RO A461 ET/I1-7, v. 1.

52. New York Times, 7/23, 24/35.

53. Japan Times, 7/26, 27, 28/35; New York Times, 7/24/35.

54. Taura, "Nichi-I Kankei," 306.

55. Ibid., 305.

56. Kitada to Hirota, 8/21/35: RO A461 ET/I1 v. 2.

57. DDI, 8th, 1: nos. 569, 570, 571, 587; Moscow Daily News, 7/21, 24/35; Taura, "I. E. Funso," 79-83; Taura, "Nichi-I Kankei," 304-07.

58. Sakuma to Hirota, 9/23/35: RO A461 ET/I1-2 v. 1.

59. New York Times, 8/9, 13, 9/14, 19, 20, 22/35; Times, 9/20, 23/35; Moscow Daily News, 9/20/35; "Abyssinia and Italy," Aug. 1935: RO A461 ET/I1. v. 3; "Ethiopia and European War," The Military Engineer (Sept.-Oct. 1935): 356; New York Sun, 9/18/35: RO A461 ET/I1-2 v. 1.

60. Japan Times, 7/26/35.

61. Ibid., 8/8/35; OM&TNN, 7/25/35.

62. New York Times, 8/24, 25, 30/35.

63. DDI, 8th, 1: no. 710.

64. MAE, 8/28/35: MAE b16 f2; New York Times, 8/31, 9/2/35.

65. Lisovskii, Voina, 34; Lowe and Marzari, Italian Foreign Policy, 269-77; DDI, 8th, 1: nos. 134, 135, 392, 401, 429, 431, 432, 449, 452, 458, 475, 465, 539; 2: nos. 17, 31, 33, 44.

66. DDI, 8th, 1: nos. 541, 547, 548, 553, 597, 629, 684, 727, 739, 749, 753, 763, 773, 781.

67. New York Times, 9/12/35.

68. Ibid., 9/6/35.

69. DVP, 18: no. 357; Moscow Daily News, 9/6/35.

70. Mussolini to Aloisi, 9/6/35; Suvich to Arone, 9/12/35: MAE b17 f2; Pope, Maxim Litvinoff, 361-62; Sipols, Sovetskii Soiuz, 100. See DDI, 8th, 2: nos. 55, 59, 80.

71. Buti to Suvich, 7/1/35; Arone to Rome, 8/31/35, 9/8/35; MAE, 9/12/35: MAE b17 f2.

72. Sipols and Kharlamov, On the Eve, 82.

73. Moscow Daily News, 9/15/35; DVP, 18: no. 362.

74. Arone to Rome, 9/19/35: MAE b17 f5.

75. Ansaldo to MAE, 9/13/35, 10/4/35; Suvich to Min. della Guerra, 9/24/35; Suvich to Ansaldo, 9/26/35; MAE to Ansaldo, 10/10/35: MAE b18 f1; Tillett, "The Soviet Role," 11-16; DVP, 18: nos. 372, 376, 382, 384; Pravda, Oct. 5, 1935; Haslam, Soviet Union, 70-71.

76. Cerruti to Rome, 5/22/36: MAE b19 f1; Vitetti to Rome, 7/18/36: MAE b21 f5; Bonn, "How Sanctions Failed," 350-61.

77. "Communism and the Negro," The Blackman (May-June 1936): 2, in Garvey, Blackman.

78. "The Future," (July-Aug. 1936): 8-9, in Garvey, Blackman.

79. James S. McIntyre, "Abyssinia and After," (July-Aug. 1936), 6-7, in Garvey, Blackman. On black support for Japan, see, e.g., Ottley, 'New World A-Coming', 327-39 and RACON, esp. 507-49.

80. Jordan to Arita, 11/18/36: RO A461 ET/I1, v. 8; Jordan to Tokyo, 5/12/36: RO A461 ET/I1-2, v. 2.

81. See, e.g., OM&TNN, 7/11/35. Messagero praised the Japanese attitude. Sugimura to Hirota, 8/16/35, 8/19/35: RO A461 ET/I1 v. 2; New York Times, 8/30/35.

82. Sugimura to Hirota, 8/31/35: RO A461 ET/I1 v. 2; Invoices of Mishima: RO 461 ET/I1-3.

83. Gentile, "Giappone Guerriero," 12.


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Barker, A. J. 1968. The Civilizing Mission: A History of the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1936. London: Cassell.

Bonn, M. J. 1937. "How Sanctions Failed." Foreign Affairs 15 (Jan.): 350-61.

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Clarke, J. Calvitt, III. 1991. Russia and Italy Against Hitler: The Bolshevik-Fascist Rapprochement of the 1930s. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

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Lisovskii, Petr Alekseevich. 1935. Italo-abissinskii konflikt. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo.

________. 1935. Voina v Afrike. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo.

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Salvemini, Gaetano Carlo. 1954. Prelude to World War II. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Scott, William Randolph. 1993. The Sons of Sheba's Race: African-Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-1941. Bloomington: Indiana University.

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Sipols, Vilnis. 1974. Sovetskii Soiuz v bor'be za mir i bezopasnost', 1933-1939. Moscow: "Mysl'."

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Zaghi, Carlo. I russi in Etiopia. 1972. 2 vols. Naples: Guida.

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