War clouds loom in Europe

The Western Socialist
October 1935

During recent months the leading Christian nations of Europe have been quarreling over the fate of another Christian nation in Africa. At the moment a major conflict is threatening. Italy has mobilized a million men and is pouring them by the thousands into East Africa. The Mediterranean Sea is bristling with British war vessels. France is supporting Great Britain, but is afraid of Germany. Hitler looks on.

In spreading their tentacles across the surface of the earth, the capitalist nations have never seen fit to come to grips over such areas as the Sahara desert or the Polar regions. Always the areas fought over are rich in agriculture or minerals, or both. So with Ethiopia, the bone of contention in the present dispute.

Ethiopia, with a population of some ten millions, covers an area as great as that of Great Britain and France taken together. Its industries are few and only one railroad enters its capital, Addis Ababa, coming from the port of Djibuti in French Somaliland. But the country is rich in mineral deposits. Gold is washed in the streams. Coal, iron, platinum and copper are found. In addition the high plateaus lend themselves to the cultivation of grain, fruit, potatoes and tobacco, and the lower country is used for cane and coffee. Cotton is also grown.

Since 1896, when the Italians through a costly blunder went down to defeat at the hands of the Ethiopians, the country has managed to maintain its independence by astutely giving contracts and concessions to companies belonging to many different countries. These the latter have sought to protect by means of numerous treaties.

The Italian government has taken the initiative. Faced with internal dissention and declining prestige resulting from his failure to bring about the new order of plenty promised by Fascism, Mussolini, liked many a ruler before him, seeks through military glory to shine again in the eyes of the masses, and hopes, by the conquest of Ethiopia, to recover lost prestige, as well as to provide Italian capitalists with a market for cheap products, a source of badly needed raw materials, and perhaps an outlet for surplus Italian wage slaves.

But complications have set in, and while Britain and France would probably not worry about Mussolini’s designs so long as their interests in Ethiopia were protected, other factors are involved, giving them real cause for worry. A prolonged Italian campaign in Africa might easily upset the “balance of power” in Europe, so necessary to French and British capitalists in keeping Austria out of the hands of Hitler. Italian “colonial expansion” also brings up the question of the restoration of German colonies. And an Italian defeat in Ethiopia would in all probability result in increased unrest in all the colonies of Africa, necessitating great expenditures in men and munitions to maintain “order”.

Great Britain and France are opposed to Mussolini’s plans. So, too, are the United States and Japan. Here are the makings of another deluge of working class blood. And where do the alleged Labor and Communist parties stand? Already they are taking sides. Already they are howling about the independence of small nations! For solidarity with Ethiopia! For fair play! For a refusal to make or transport munitions to Italy! Already they are betraying their anti-working class character.

The stand of the Socialists is different. When we are robbed and the robbers fight over the booty, that fight is none of our business. When nations fall foul over the spoils, or over the wealth taken from labor, the fight is none of labor’s business. This is a ruling class quarrel and there is no interest at stake requiring that the workers take sides. The duty of the working class is to line up in the Socialist Party for the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Only then will wars and the prospect of wars be ended.

Peter T. Leckie