International Communist Party Against Capitalist War


The “Fascist” (?) Adventure in Abyssinia
(Prometeo, issue 120, 21st July 1935)

 


Introduction
(From Comunismo, n. 38 of 1999)

What’s so remarkable in the following article are the rigorous assessments of all the aspects, social, political, economic, class-based, both nationally and internationally, that concurred in determining the need for Italian imperialism to first lay down its arms; but the article acquires even more importance if we take into account the time in which it was written: July 1935. Thus it is not a cold, albeit lucid, a posteriori analysis but a materialistically based, and subsequently factually substantiated, prediction of what would punctually happen in the following months and years.

The title, consisting of only three words, represents a formidable synthesis of the revolutionary communist position that our Fraction held toward what, by traitors of all stripes, was called the fascist adventure.

The article, with a crystal clear and straightforward study, shows how as early as the last century the major European imperialisms had their eyes, and even their hands, on the so-called Ethiopian empire, and not so much because of its mineral wealth or the fertility of its territories, but especially because of the strategic position it held.

If Abyssinia had been able to remain independent for such a long period this was, exclusively, due to the fact that the contrasts between the various imperialisms had ended up neutralizing each other. But this relationship of equilibrium, which had held for half a century, suddenly collapsed when all the objective conditions for the unleashing of the second imperialist massacre matured. And if it was Italy that broke the subscribed pax imperialista, it was not because of the bellicose and warmongering spirit of the fascist regime, but because Italian capitalism, weaker than its competitors, more than others had felt the blows of the giant economic crisis and, before the others, had to resort to the medicine to which all agonic capitalisms must resort to: war.

If the Ethiopian adventure had been solely and exclusively the result of the politics and ideology of fascism, one would have had to explain what reasons had induced the various Italian governments, which were not fascist, to undertake the conquest of Eritrea, to attempt already more than once that of Ethiopia and, above all, to carry out that of Libya. It should have been explained why the whole operation had started with the assent of the democratic French republic, after the historic Laval agreement. It should also have been explained why the United States (home of all freedoms) and the Soviet Union (home of socialism in one country), in defiance of sanctions, had supplied Fascist Italy with the war materiel and especially oil that allowed it to carry out its war.

Defining the Ethiopian campaign as a fascist war, however, served the socialists and Stalinists to carry out their counterrevolutionary function consisting of diverting the international proletarian class from its revolutionary goals and to tie its fates to the fates of national capitalism. What social-democracy had done in 1914, in the name of defending democratic principles and against the dangers of the victory of reactionary regimes, now, in 1935, Stalinism flaunted it as a defense of proletarian achievements, of the Russian revolution, of socialism.

On that occasion, too, only a small nucleus of comrades, educated in the school of the Communist Left, served as the voice of international solidarity between proletarians and the exploited, of the rejection of all kinds of imperialist war and its transformation into class war.

Our comrades had no illusions that they could force historical events, which were now hopelessly compromised, but, on the other hand, they were always aware that our voice, “stifled today”, would be heard “tomorrow, giving consciousness to the violence of the masses that will be once again thrown into the arena of revolutionary struggles for communist victory and the liquidation of all traitors”.

 


An article by one of our comrades published in issue 20 of Bilan will enable comrades to rediscover, in detail, the antecedents of the current conflict pitting Italian imperialism against the semi- patriarchal, semi-feudal regime of Ethiopia. The persistence of an area not directly controlled by either European imperialism is by no means due to the fact that France, England or Italy (to limit ourselves to the capitalisms most interested in this region of tropical Africa) did not come up with plans to conquer Ethiopia. Between 1860 and 1900, from time to time, each of these three powers attempted to occupy the highlands of Abyssinia, and if they renounced this was solely because of the impossibility of reaching their goal without having to face a war against competing imperialism. If England had at first let Italy take possession of the maritime outlet of Massawa, this was solely because this action weakened the resistance then being put up by the Dervishes in the Upper Nile to the victorious British conquest. But afterwards, when it was not possible without a world war to proceed with a change in the spheres of influence established in Africa, Italy and France especially had to abandon the adventurous conquest each time: in 1898 the Marchand mission at Fashoda in the Upper Nile had to give in the face of British threats, and if in 1896 Italy was able to venture toward Ardua this was possible solely because England was already certain of the defeat of the Italian army, a defeat that represents an exception in the entire history of imperialist colonial banditry. Everywhere military reverses of principles were followed by a victory that the bourgeoisie could achieve because of the possibility in which it found itself of arming its “civilizing” armies to the teeth.

This was not the case in Abyssinia for two essential reasons: first, the awakening of the Italian proletariat that broke Crispi's hands, and then the sure entry of British imperialism into the field should the latter not feel sufficiently guaranteed by the resistance of the army commanded by Menelik. We’re not putting forth a mere hypothesis here, but rather noting the historical fact that right afterwards, in the following year at Fachoda, England directly intervened when France, a power far stronger than Italy and assured by favorable internal conditions to not be upset by strong proletarian agitations, went on the attack.

Ethiopia on the other hand had a geological and economic constitution that was to allow what came to be called its independence. Lacking large mining basins, and extending over infertile lands, it had been able to preserve an economic structure where not only had industry been unable to make its revolutionary intervention, but even the serf economy had been able to make little inroads; the primitive elements of the tribes' formations had been able to persist to give birth to an empire that was in reality just a confederation of states where the land was subjected to distributions in common in correspondence with the turn of the seasons.

But from a strategic point of view, much more than from an economic point of view, Abyssinia always awakened the appetites of three competing imperialisms that could not win its conquest without a war between them. The fact that in the last slaughter France, Italy and England participated in the same constellation probably explains why even today Ethiopia is the only State not under direct control in imperialism (we don’t mention Liberia as it is of extremely secondary importance and of little strategic value).

We wanted to bring up these precedents solely to make it clear that we are by no means dealing with a special need of fascism, or with a manifestation of that militaristic spirit which, according to the socialist and Stalinist traitors who seem to want to convene in Basel, would be the exclusive prerogative of the fascists. The liberal Giolitti was at the head of the government when Italian capitalism went on to conquer Tripoli, and from that moment the premise of the present events was set; to extend the conquered areas with a view also to their connection. At Versailles Italy could not achieve this because of England's possessions in Africa, later it tried to get there by peaceful maneuvers tending to draw Ethiopia under its control to finally arrive at the frontal attack of today. If in Mussolini's place had been Nitti, Sforza or perhaps a government of the type that the Stalinists in France demand, the problem would have changed only formally. We would not have had the imperialistic bacchanalia of fascism, but the salutations about the need for civilization that would have accompanied the saturnalia of capitalism as, for example, the English arch-democrats did when they massacred the Boers.

Thus it’s not a matter of a “fascist” war but of a capitalist war against which only the Italian and international proletariat can rise up to support the oppressed masses of Abyssinia who, because of an extremely backwards economy, have not yet come to the consciousness of the need to break the regime that oppresses them.

On the other hand, even a quick analysis of the concrete conditions under which the Italian expansion plan is currently being carried out enable us to see clearly confirmed the position which we defend and which concludes with us opposing the conclusion that this is a “fascist war” instead of a “capitalist war”. It’s perfectly correct, socialism and Stalinism are in Italy in conditions almost analogous to those traversing the Italian proletariat, that is, they cannot affirm their political positions, nor can they determine political movements of opposition to the present government. But what about elsewhere, then? In Russia, for example, no doubt is possible: Stalinism dominates unchallenged and is not only capable of violently breaking up any opposition movement, but can go so far as to set examples for democratic or fascist governments in all other countries by legally murdering political refugees who don’t want to bend over and become instruments of Stalinist politics. In what positions does the Russian proletariat come to find itself? In those of enthusiastic support for the “proletarian victories” consisting of the entry of the USSR into the League of Nations, the conclusion of the Franco-Soviet pact. Did a single voice go forth from Russia to stimulate international action by the proletariat to counter the plan of Italian imperialism? None, but on the other hand mighty mobilizations of the masses to applaud Litvinov and Stalin who evidently go from victory to victory when it comes to boldly and shamefully entering the arena of world capitalism.

And in France? Just read Populaire or L’Humanité: “Fascism does not pass”, “The Popular Front inflicts a defeat on fascism every day”. For us (our readers know this) if these socialist and Stalinist victories are possible and real, this depends solely on the fact that the political function that capitalism has entrusted to fascism in Italy and Germany, this same function can be entrusted in France to radicals, socialists and Stalinists: the only capitalist goal is that of the destruction of the proletariat, and on this path socialists and Stalinists have worked wonders since Stalin's declaration and hosanna to the Republic that murdered tens of thousands in the Commune and ruthlessly crushed every attempt of the exploited in the colonies. But if these are actual victories, how is it possible that they have no influence on the events in Ethiopia? What is the demeanor of the French government, of this same government that must yield to the influence of the “Popular Front”? More, if it is “fascist war”, why not set up an action of the French proletariat with a view to workers' agitation in all countries? The answer is very simple: such an action would be contrary to the interests of French capitalism which gives a free hand to Italian capitalism hoping to have in return its support in the policy directed against the revenge plan of German imperialism. It is not ruled out, in fact in the opinion of the writer of these lines it’s certain that Italy won’t enter the war on the side of France, but the problem is this: the French government on which “formidable” pressure can be exerted by the Popular Front which has numerous ministers in the form of Radicals who have recently entered the alliance with centrists and socialists, this government has blown up the Eden Project, through which British imperialism was trying to contain the Italian plan of expansion. If we go a little further we see that the Franco-Italian agreement of last January is the one that allowed the Italian offensive to be unleashed: now this pact has been approved by the French Socialists who militate in the same Social-Democratic International where the Italian “anti-fascists” who took the initiative to summon sportsmen, schoolchildren, women, fighters and proletarians to the Basel Congress sit.

Recently, at the League of Nations, the Abyssinia question was raised and England hoped to be able to reach a compromise that would prevent the development of Italian action. Laval, who was returning from Moscow, took the initiative for the compromise. Litvinov presided and the problem was as follows: Italy admitted the arbitration procedure on the condition of maintaining mobilization and continuing to the send armies to Africa. An agenda consecrating this Italian demand at the same time as leaving Abyssinia the possibility of appointing non-Ethiopian delegates, was voted unanimously, under the chairmanship – we repeat – of the one whom L’Humanité always refers to, with good reason moreover, as “our comrade Litvinov”.

This quick analysis allows us to see the situation in which the working masses find themselves: influenced by Stalinists and socialists who link the proletariat around positions that correspond to the interests of world capitalism. This explains why Italian capitalism can proceed undisturbed in its plan to expand into Abyssinia. The only opposition it can encounter is that of another country’s capitalism. We have already indicated how at Rome in January and later at Stresa, Italian capitalism bought French acquiescence. With regard to England it could offer nothing immediately while there are profound reasons preventing a compromise between two brigands. But problems of this sort are resolved on a plane in which the interests of the Italian proletariat as well as those of the exploited Abyssinians come into account but in the sense of a fight to the death against the workers. Ultimately these problems arise on this basis: if you go too far I will prevent you by force, which, in concrete terms, means that Ethiopia could become the prodrome of the next world war. Will history repeat itself? The slaughter of 1914 was preceded by the warnings that were represented by the Libyan and Balkan adventures of Italian capitalism. In the current brazier of world contrasts, will Italy still have this role of leading patrol of world capitalism?

Apart from these considerations on which, moreover, any prediction is a gamble, the fact remains that at the basis of the Italian adventure lies the Laval-Mussolini pact which is established in accordance with the revenge plan of German capitalism which, moreover, has already given an initial response through the naval pact with England. The proletariat of all countries has been wedged into the League of Nations plan by Stalinism and socialism while the Basel Congress is being prepared. This bacchanal will swell the wineskin of the drunken traitors, who’ll have no limits in their hangovers of demagoguery that world capitalism will exultingly admire, to the point of exasperation: never before will its cause have found so much enthusiasm as now; to better prepare the scene Litvinov will perhaps still be called to preside over the session of the League of Nations where the rights of the proletarians to be massacred for the interests of the fatherland will be consecrated.

The Left Fraction, because it poses the problem on the basis of the interests of the Italian proletariat and of all countries, as well as those of the exploited of Abyssinia, must expose its militants to the danger of potentially being beaten up in the meetings where the Stalinists and socialists want to uncontrollably develop their work of corruption and betrayal. Our voice will probably be stifled today but it will ring out tomorrow, giving consciousness to the violence of the masses that will be once again thrown into the arena of revolutionary struggles for communist victory and the liquidation of all traitors.