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Post Mussolini's Foreign Policy: A Gangster Regime
Created by John Eipper on 03/19/19 3:49 AM

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Mussolini's Foreign Policy: A Gangster Regime (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 03/19/19 3:49 am)

With regard to the discussion on Mussolini and his role in the greatness or smallness of Italy I would like to add a point.  (See Luciano Dondero and Eugenio Battaglia, 17-18 March.)

In the serious historiography there's been a lively discussion about the motives behind Mussolini´s foreign policy. For many historians it seems clear that the turning point was his association with Nazi Germany.

I would like to make an additional point which has been disregarded, so far as I know, in Italian and foreign historiographies. Well before the fateful invasion of Abyssinia (difficult to understand under any rational point of view) Mussolini had been in cahoots with Spanish Monarchists bent upon overthrowing the Spanish Republic set up in 1931.

Historians familiar with this thesis have pointed out that the famous agreement of 30 March 1934, with representatives of the two monarchist branches, had no effect whatsoever. This is an illusion nurtured by such distinguished historians such as John C. Coverdale and the famous Mussolini expert professor Renzo di Felice. It has been upheld until today.

Contrariwise, the agreement provided for an intensification of clandestine operations along a straight line leading to the signature of four contracts on 1 July 1936. The Fascist state (i.e. Mussolini) agreed to provide modern aircraft destined to the uprising to take place two weeks later.

Some distinguished American historian, not particularly known for his love of documentary research, has poured scorn over my thesis. In application of the adage "s/he laughs best who laughs last," I hope to have the last laugh.

For the discussion above: how can a political system be characterized which conspired to overthrow the Government of a neighboring country such as Spain while entertaining the fiction of friendly diplomatic relationships? My answer is very simple. It was a gangster regime. After Abyssinia came Spain.

JE comments:  A thug yes, but was Mussolini acting any different from the way "world powers" behave(d)?  Britain and the US for starters have overthrown their share of governments--Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Ghana 1966, Chile 1973...

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  • Mussolini and Arming Franco (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/20/19 3:29 AM)
    Captivating points from Ángel Viñas (March 19th) and excellent comments by JE.

    I have, however, some doubts as to whether Ángel will have the last laugh, as according to well-documented information I offer the following:

    The meeting between Mussolini and the monarchists of Renovación Española and the Carlists on 31 March 1934 was held at the request of the latter. At the time the Spanish right-wing government was in power.

    Mussolini did not have a liking for the monarchists, and of course he had even less affection for the left. At that time he only wanted a Spain not under the influence of France. During the meeting some promises were made to the Spaniards but the economic help was dropped soon after due to the Abyssinian war. For instance, the requested machine guns were never delivered (see J.F. Coverdale).

    The famous airplanes for troop transport were requested by Franco to the Italian military attaché in Tangier, Major G.F. Luccardi, on 20 July 1936. But Mussolini refused to ship them, scrawling a large NO with a blue pencil on Luccardi's telegram.

    On 22 July Franco personally met Luccardi, and again asked for planes.  Franco stated that the same request was presented to Nazi Germany, and following the Italian refusal the Nazi influence would spread in Spain. This was anathema for Mussolini at that time.

    On 25 July Franco increased his request from eight to twelve troop transport planes. He also asked for 12 reconnaissance planes, 10 fighter planes, 3000 aerial bombs, 40 antiaircraft machine guns and 4 or 5 ships.

    On 26 July Colonel Gabrielli from Madrid informed that French planes had arrived for the Republican government. At that point, Mussolini finally gave the green light to send 12 planes.

    Antonio Goicoechea had confirmed that the planes would be purchased for one million British pounds cash, therefore, on 30 July the planes moved to Spain. Ciano who personally was in favour of supplying Franco, confirmed later to Cantalupo that Mussolini initially was against it and only later changed his mind, in order to balance out the German supply. The Germans planes were already operational for the insurgents on 29 July 1936. So as General Roatta had foreseen when he supported the no of Mussolini, the Spanish quicksand had begun: "Spain is like quicksand, if we put a hand in, everything will go under. If things go wrong it will be our fault, if it goes well we will be forgotten."

    During WWII Franco forgot the Italian help and appreciated the British gold, as Ángel has reported.

    Six days after the insurgence Italy sent the passenger ship Principessa Maria to Barcelona, to rescue 1600 Italians and foreign refugees who wanted to escape the civil war.

    JE comments:  Eugenio, we tend to see the Mussolini-Hitler-Franco coalition during the Civil War as monolithic and harmonious, but you suggest it was not.  Can you cite specific moments when the Germans and Italians clashed in (or about) Spain?

    Ah, the Spanish quicksand.  Might Roatta's maxim apply to all interventions, everywhere?

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    • Franco Meeting the Italians in Morocco (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/21/19 3:30 AM)
      Well, I thank Eugenio Battaglia for his information of March 20th. He should have assumed that I would be aware of it. It's after all the old standard version.

      Coverdale wrote in the 1970s. The contacts between Franco and the Italians in Morocco can be read about on-line. However, there were other things behind. To uncover them requires two things: firstly, to do research in Italian archives (I have visited five of them), and in Spanish archives (another five), with documents both from British and French archives to top it up. Secondly, to dismantle old interpretations in view of new evidences.

      I hope Eugenio will enjoy reading my book.

      JE comments:  The central question here:  how eager was Mussolini to get involved in Spain?  And at what time?  Eugenio Battaglia argues that Franco in effect duped the Duce into providing weaponry, by triangulating with similar requests to Hitler.  Ángel Viñas sees Mussolini as a far more willing participant.  Either way, it seems to me that the "craftiness prize" goes to...Franco.

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      • Mussolini Loathed the Spanish Republic from the Beginning (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/24/19 5:01 AM)
        Some thoughts about Italy and Franco Spain.

        First, Franco was not the moving force in contacting the Italians prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Second, Franco played a relatively marginal role in the 1936 conspiracy with limited, although important, aims. Third, Franco was not predestined by any means to become what he became later on.

        On Mussolini: he hated the Republic from its inception (his Aforismi reprinted by De Felice and Heiberg are testimony to this), he abetted the conspirators against the Spanish Government, he saw in Spain the possibility of winning an ally for his upcoming confrontation with France, he did not waver in this aim, he provided the conspirators with aircraft, ammunition, pilots, software and so on prior to the coup. All this is on the basis of both Spanish and Italian primary evidence which had remained unknown until now.

        The relative weight of war matériel sent by Hitler and Mussolini to Franco is well known.  Mussolini tried in vain to win Franco over. Franco preferred Hitler. The rest is history.

        JE comments:  Ángel, in a nutshell, did Franco admire Hitler's greater strength?  His greater ruthlessness?  His Germanic "efficiency"?

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        • Did Franco Prefer Hitler over Mussolini? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/25/19 3:46 AM)
          It's very difficult to prove with documents whether Franco felt greater affinity with Hitler or with Mussolini.

          I personally think that Franco's admiration for ruthlessness, efficiency and military prowess played a big role in favor of Germany. In my book La otra cara del Caudillo, I documented how Franco worked in favor of strengthening relations with Berlin in spite of the words of caution of his diplomats, while he was rather unresponsive to the greater signs of friendship shown to him by Mussolini. One should not forget that the Duce consented to a big decrease in the debt incurred by Franco towards Italy at the end of the Civil War.

          JE comments:  More proof:  Franco sent troops to fight alongside Hitler in Russia.  Did he (Franco) ever lift a finger to repay the military debt he owed Mussolini?

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          • Made in Germany: Franco Preferred the Germans to the Italians (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/26/19 9:54 AM)
            Ángel Viñas (March 25th) is right, as usual, and the feelings that Nazi Germany and the Wehrmacht created in Nationalist Spain were warmer and deeper than those towards Italy.

            Germany was seen as a powerful, efficient and noble friend while Italy was considered almost the opposite and not very different than Spain itself. German soldiers always conveyed an impression of military perfection while Italian soldiers were seen as ineffective and not up to the task of supporting and helping the German war effort.

            The performance of Italian military during the Spanish Civil War was considered very poor. After Guadalajara, a lot of jokes about Italian soldiering, courage and the effectiveness of Mussolini's soldiers were current throughout Spain.

            The trademark "Made in Germany" was preferred over "Made in Italy" all over, not only among Franco's cronies but generally among the whole population.

            Not only during the war but many years after, I noticed that Volkswagen, or Mercedes certainly were considered far better than Fiat or Alfa Romeo, and even superior to Cadillac or Chevrolet. This applies to home appliances, even today. If they were German they were considered reliable, solid and durable. Preferred photo cameras were Leicas and Voigtlanders, and not Kodak. Fridges should be Bosch or Siemens rather than Kelvinator or Westinghouse. Italian appliances were not appreciated.  An exception was motorcycles such as Ducati.

            And a similar feeling took place regarding Japanese-made items.

            Perhaps related to the repayment of the debt was the establishment of an Italian car maker, FIAT, that in Spain became SEAT, making almost all the Italian models of the brand--the 600, 124, 1500, etc. SEAT stands for "Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo," while FIAT was "Fabbrica Italiana de Automobili Torino", and being owned by the Spanish government. Today SEAT is a private company owned by Volkswagen!--e.g. Germany.

            As far as I know the debt with both Mussolini's Italy and Germany was paid back. It is my understanding that Spain made payments to Italy until the mid-1960s, in spite of the fact that Mussolini applied a discount of almost 50 per cent.

            To Germany the debt was equally paid under different forms, through the export of food and wolfram to Germany almost until 1945, supplies to German U-Boats, and so forth. I also understand that after the war a substantial amount of the debt still pending was paid as well, but this time it went to the tripartite powers in occupied Germany. But I don't really know.

            However, what about the debt incurred by Franco with the US--e.g. Ford and Texaco?

            Certainly Franco won the Civil War thanks to military aid from Germany and Italy, but he wouldn't have won without fuel and trucks, and those were provided by Texaco and Ford. Did Franco pay his debt to both companies? I suppose Spain did but I don't know for sure. I'll appreciate if Ángel (or Paul Preston) can elaborate on this a bit more. This is an episode that's worthy of another book: "American and British Aid to Nationalist Spain during the Civil War." Now that soon the 80th anniversary of the end of SCW will take place it's about time.

            A big hug to y'all!

            JE comments: We hug you back, Tony! So glad you checked in.

            WAIS often discusses national "characters," which can be enlightening as long as we're careful about stereotypes. Antony Candil brings up a subset of this concept: perceptions of products made in different countries. Assumptions of quality (or lack thereof) last far longer than realities. I can think of only one nation that has remade its reputation: Japan. I'm just old enough to remember when "made in Japan" was shorthand for shoddiness. Korea seems to be going through a similar process in recent years.

            Oh, and I'd like to know more about Franco's Ford trucks (Michigan connection).

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            • Franco's Strained Relationship with the Italians; In Praise of Italian Design (Roy Domenico, USA 03/27/19 3:05 AM)
              I've been following the WAIS discussion of Mussolini, Spain, etc. and Anthony Candil's post (March 26th) prompted a couple of responses.

              First, it's odd that even in 1937 or '38, many people would consider Germany a "powerful, efficient and noble friend." As our friend Paul Preston has shown, Franco had a sometimes strained relationship with Mussolini, but this was in large measure because Italy was providing the lion's share of foreign support--to the extent that Málaga and Santander were taken by the Italians (not to mention that they effectively ruled the Balearic Islands through much of the war). The Italians were always breathing down Franco's neck and he thus wasn't too sorry for the defeat at Guadalajara--although many of the victors at that battle were anti-fascist Italian exiles.

              As far as the quality of Italian manufacturing products goes--Anthony can't be entirely correct. Italian finely crafted goods go far past the Ducati and perhaps if their record on manufacturing can't match the Germans', their record on design certainly outdoes them.

              JE comments:  No quarrel from me, Roy!  Sports cars and fashion immediately come to mind--but we could include almost anything high-end. The Italians particularly excel in luxury goods.  Any speculation as to why?

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            • Texaco and Franco (Henry Levin, USA 03/27/19 3:44 AM)
              The book on the Lincoln Brigade pays special attention to the purported "neutrality" of Texaco, which was actually supporting only the Nationalists. Perhaps one of our experts can say more about this and the role of Roosevelt and his government.

              Also, Tony Candil fails to repeat the slogan heard around the world when FIAT is referred to: "Fix It Again, Tony." We rented a Fiat in Bello Horizonte, and Brazilians uttered this many times when we had a problem.

              JE comments:  I wonder if our own Tony (Candil) has ever had to fix a Fiat!  On Ford (Fix or Repair Daily/Found on Road Dead), Pat Mears has a comment (next).

              Adam Hochschild is one of the most entertaining of the popular historians.  See this great 2016 piece in Mother Jones on Texaco's support for Franco:


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            • Ford and the Third Reich (Patrick Mears, Germany 03/27/19 3:58 AM)
              I enjoyed reading Anthony Candil's post and John E's comments. Some time ago (in 2009-2010), when researching while writing a chapter for one of the Collier on Bankruptcy publications on the topic of automotive insolvencies, I came across quite a bit of material on the connections between Ford Motor Company and the Third Reich and spent some time digging into this material (although it was not really pertinent to the topics addressed in my chapter). I suspect that John and many other fellow WAISers are aware of this learning already.

              In any event, here is a link to an article (one of quite a few published over the years): https://www.thenation.com/article/ford-and-fuhrer/ . There are also some fairly recent books that address this subject, e.g., an anthology entitled Working for the Enemy: Ford, General Motors and Forced Labor During the Second World War, The Politics of Industrial Collaboration During World War II: Ford France, Vichy and Nazi Germany by Martin Horn and Talbot Imlay (2015), Big Business and Hitler by Jacques Paulweis (2018), and Max Wallace's The American Axis (2018), to name a few.

              JE comments:  I've never had a clear idea of what happened to Ford and GM's German operations during the war.  Were the Ford and Opel plants simply confiscated?  We do know of Hitler's great admiration for Henry Ford, whose sentiments were apparently reciprocated (at least prior to 1941).

              I am reminded of the IBM-Nazi collaboration, which we discussed at length on WAIS several years ago.

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            • Mussolini's Military Capacity was Severely Weakened in Spain (Paul Preston, UK 03/27/19 2:14 PM)
              The Ford Motor Company provided the fleet of trucks that enabled Franco to move reinforcements rapidly to where the Republic had managed surprise breakthroughs. They were fueled with gasoline provided by Texaco.

              The arrangement about the trucks came through the cousin of the exiled King Alfonso XIII, Prince Alfonso de Orleans Borbón, one of the creators of the Spanish air force. He had gone into exile with the King in 1931 and, almost penniless, had got a job sweeping floors in bars. Energetic and resourceful, remembering that he had once met Henry Ford, he wrote and asked him for a job. The American magnate replied quickly and instructed him to report for work at the Ford factory at Asnière, outside Paris. He did so first as a cleaner, then as a salesman. Then he was soon transferred to the Ford headquarters at Dagenham in England where he worked variously, under the pseudonym Mr Dorleans, in stock control, accountancy and public relations. Within four years, his dynamism and initiative saw him made director of the company's European operations.

              BTW, on Mussolini and Spain, two points. 1) Ángel Viñas's research, which I have read, completely turns on its head, what we (me included) previously thought about his role in aiding the conspirators who started the Spanish Civil War. 2) My research on Mussolini's role in the Spanish Civil War saw him duped by Franco into providing aid on a scale that seriously diminished Italy's military capacity in the Second World War. Drawing on the work of the great Lucio Ceva, I concluded that, if the Italian equipment that was left behind in Spain had been available to Graziani in North Africa, things might have been somewhat different.

              In September 1939, Italy had ten relatively well-equipped divisions and 800 functioning combat aircraft. By May 1940, there were 19 divisions and 1600 relatively modern aircraft. If what was used up in Spain had been available in September 1939, Italy would have had 30 divisions. 764 aircraft were left in Spain, including one hundred Savoia-Marchetti SM79 trimotors--a quarter of those available for bombing, air-torpedoing and reconnaissance. An additional 442 modern artillery pieces and 7,000 vehicles might have made a decisive difference in Albania or in Libya where Graziani complained that he could not attack Egypt for the lack of 5,200 aircraft. Similarly, had the 373 Fiat C.R.32 fighters left in Spain, condemned as obsolete, been available in North Africa, they could still have dominated the even more antiquated British aircraft in use there.

              JE comments:  Fascinating.  At least once before his demise, Il Duce must have regretted the Spanish adventure.  And the meteoric rise of Mr Dorleans merits a book in itself.

              So good to hear from Sir Paul Preston for the first time in 2019.  We're honored to welcome you back, Paul!

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              • Ford and Texaco's Aid to Franco (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/29/19 3:07 PM)
                My thanks to Sir Paul (not Paul McCartney but our own Sir Paul Preston; March 27th), but I am curious: Were those trucks and oil paid for by Franco's Spain or were they provided for free? Do we know how much that aid was worth?

                Another question:  I understand Ford provided no fewer than 12,000 trucks; is that right?

                JE comments:  At first glance the number sounds high, but perhaps not.  The US supplied some 375,000 trucks (and 50,000 jeeps) to the Soviet Union in WWII.  That's a heck of a lot of mobility by any measure.

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                • Ford Trucks Provided to Franco (Paul Preston, UK 03/30/19 9:21 AM)
                  To answer Anthony Candil (March 29th), I think Ford provided Franco the trucks on tick and 12,000 is the number that I have seen. I have no idea about cost.

                  JE comments: Gosh, I had to look that up. "On tick" is British for on credit.  Does a day go by without learning something on WAIS?

                  Of the 12,000 trucks, a few hundred at least must survive on the Peninsula.  Can anyone enlighten this antique car enthusiast?


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        • Franco's Marginal Role in the 1936 Coup? (Enrique Torner, USA 03/31/19 3:53 AM)

          Ángel Viñas’s statement that Franco only had a marginal role in the coup that started the Spanish Civil War is shocking. He mentions primary evidence unknown until now.

          Ángel, could you please reveal to us what this new evidence is and where to find it? This is indeed fascinating!

          JE comments:  A book (from Ángel) is coming soon!  But perhaps he'll send an "appetizer" for WAIS.

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          • Spanish Coup: Mussolini and the Monarchists' Role (Paul Preston, UK 03/31/19 11:19 AM)

            Ángel's Viñas's forthcoming book is awash with new evidence about the long-term genesis of the military coup of 17-18 July 1936. However, the most novel part is not that Franco played a relatively minor part. That is something that I examined twenty-five years ago in my biography of the man. What is sensational about Ángel's research is what he has unearthed about the role of Spanish monarchists and Mussolini.

            JE comments:  Ángel's new book is going to break open some long-held shibboleths.  Ángel, if you're reading this, can you share the title with us?

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            • Was Mussolini Duped into Entering Spain? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/02/19 4:05 AM)
              Mussolini was partially duped into entering the Spanish Civil War, pushed by a number of forces including the Pope (it is taboo to talk about this) and the king of Italy. But he was not so foolish as to get really involved with the divided monarchists with few followers, especially in 1934 when a right-wing Spanish government was in power.

              Mussolini already had enough problems with the Italian monarchists, who were a tremendous brake to his social reforms. However we cannot say the same about the snobbish Ciano. In spite of being intelligent and brilliant, he was fascinated by nobility, the high life, women and what he saw as the British way of behaving. This became useless and self-defeating. In Ciano's defense we may say it was his duty to be informed, but nothing more, on what was happening in Spain. In any case it is very difficult to call Ciano a fascist, not to mention his unprofessional actions with reference to the war against Greece.

              By the way, Pavolini made the right choice in not presenting to Mussolini the request for clemency by Ciano when he had been condemned to death on 10 January 1944. For sure the good-hearted Mussolini would have spared him and the others, which would have been the wrong decision in such a controversial moment of history.

              Probably the Court should have been wiser and found a way of delaying the execution of the sentence for an indefinite period, but this was impossible. Even as a child I remember the general contempt against Ciano, who was later brave when facing the firing squad.

              JE comments: Is it possible for a dictator to be duped into going to war?  Perhaps "partially" so, as Eugenio Battaglia phrases it, but the buck (lira?) stops with the Duce.  It's just a few days until Ángel Viñas's new book on the subject hits the stands.

              Eugenio has long argued that Mussolini was something of a softie with his inner circle, and even with his enemies.  I would agree, but only if you compare him to his unsavory contemporaries in Germany, Russia, and Spain.

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              • Mussolini and Spanish Intervention, Revisited (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/01/19 5:00 PM)
                I wholeheartedly disagree with Eugenio Battaglia's assessment of Mussolini (2 April). What he says does not stand up to the scrutiny of primary sources.  I'm leaving soon for Athens. If I may be bold enough, I would recommend that Eugenio look up my Tuesday posts in my blog over the next few weeks. He will perhaps learn a few new things. So have I last week. At a conference in Zamora a young Spanish historian drew my attention to a curious coincidence. This doesn't usually happen when a government is behind a conspiracy.

                Likewise, it won't be surprising if I beg to disagree with Nigel Jones (also 2 April). In general, I prefer to comment on subjects I know a little bit about. I write now in haste, because I'm going to bed soon having to get up very early tomorrow, but I would recommend to Nigel the following books: Cifras cruentas, by Eduardo González Calleja and some other books by the foremost expert on political violence in Spain in the early 20th Century.  My Mission to Spain, by Claude G. Bowers, gives a witness account. He was the US Ambassador and his well-known memoirs have been republished in Spanish. I may add with a new preface by Yours Truly. For the Franco story, the Dragon Rapide flight I think I've contributed to dispel the surrounding mythology in La conspiración del General Franco and El primer asesinato de Franco.  In the coming days he can also read ¿Quién quiso la Guerra Civil? [Who Wanted the Civil War?] due to be published on April 9.

                In all of these books he would find numerous references to the kind of history which is being written by academic historians in Spain. All of them contain suitable criticism to a very small number of other authors who claim to write in the wake of a "new political history." Perhaps Nigel would learn something, as he seems to maintain the kind of mythology upon which the 1936 uprising was predicated. Nigel is right however in stating that Calvo Sotelo's murder had nothing to do with the uprising. In effect, it had been in preparation since 1935. Probably he overlooks, I don't know, that Calvo Sotelo was the primer civilian engine of the coup and an extremely canny conspirator in cahoots with the gangster Mussolini.

                JE comments:  Best of success on the Athens trip, Ángel.  And when time permits, I hope you'll tell us about the curious coincidence you heard in Zamora.  Finally, I'll be looking for ¿Quién quiso la Guerra Civil? in a week's time.

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            • Who Wanted the Spanish Civil War? Response to Paul Preston (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/15/19 2:19 PM)

              In response to Paul Preston's post of March 31st, I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that he uncovered the exact role played by Franco in the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in his extensive Franco biography. What I have added is Franco's own posturing playing up his role with his exact version of events. The book title is ¿Quien quiso la guerra civil? Historia de una conspiracion. Not everything in it is new, but the most important part relating to the organization of the coup since 1933/34 and the role played by Fascist Italy is. I hope that this will go some way in clarifying the real origins of the 1936 coup.

              JE comments:  Here's a very exciting intersection of my two careers:  Ángel Viñas will be "visiting" my Spanish literature and culture class this Wednesday (April 17th), via Skype.  The 13 students are delighted to have the chance to speak with a world-famous historian.  I asked them to spend the next two days practicing their questions!

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          • At What Point did Franco Join the Coup? (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/31/19 3:32 PM)
            I don't know what new evidence our friend Ángel Viñas will bring regarding Franco's role in the 1936 Coup, but I believe that for many of us who have studied the Spanish Civil War in depth, it has been always clear that Franco took a marginal role in the military uprising.

            The real brains behind the coup was always General Emilio Mola Vidal, who was much more brilliant intellectually speaking than Franco, in spite of Franco outranking him, just because he got some promotions during the war in Morocco. Franco was always a lucky man but he wasn't brilliant and certainly didn't plan the coup.

            It is well known already that Franco didn't join the conspiracy until the last moment, July 13 or 14 (the killing of Calvo Sotelo was probably the ultimate reason why he joined the rebellion), but certainly the fact that he took over the command of the Spanish "Army of Morocco" made him the most relevant among all the rebel generals.

            Why he became the military leader and also the head of the Nationalist Spain later on, is another issue that I think has been explained already not only by Ángel, but by many other historians.

            I recall having been told that Franco was even nicknamed "Miss Canary Islands" by some of the rebel generals--especially by General Queipo de Llano, who always disliked him--just for the way he was acting and for the fact that he was delaying continuously his adherence to the coup, to the point that they were asking "Has Miss Canaries made her decision yet?" (I think we all know that at the time Franco was the commander-in-chief of all Spanish forces in the Canary Islands.)

            Franco apparently had even been thinking about leaving the Army and starting a political career and was approached in that sense by some close friends.

            No matter what, I'm looking forward to seeing the new evidence Ángel Viñas will present.

            JE comments:  WAIS has discussed the Spanish Civil War for a very, very long time.  Here's one of the first in our archives:  Ronald Hilton in June, 1998.  Note one of the classic RH turns of phrase:  "García Lorca and his ilk":


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            • At What Point did Franco Join the Coup? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/01/19 1:14 PM)
              I'm between conferences (last week in Zamora, tomorrow in Athens and next week in Madrid).

              In reply to Anthony Candil, I'd say that Franco was always in the coup but with a certain status. He had tried a legal coup in February. He found in March that the Santa Cruz garrison had tried to stage another one. He was aware of what being discussed in terms of another coup in April. He was meditating on how to stage his uprising in the Canaries in May. He crossed the Rubicon in June.

              All this can be proved with documentary evidence. His role was to dominate the Canary Islands and to go to Morocco to take over the Army of Africa with which he was in standing contact.

              In my book ¿Quién quiso la guerra civil? (Who wanted the Civil War?) I outline the course of the conspiracy since 1932 counting on Italian assistance. In my previous book El primer asesinato de Franco (Franco's First Murder) I outlined Franco's actions. Both are interrelated.

              Sorry to be so brief. These last weeks have been very busy.

              JE comments:  This is no April Fools...although the more I look at the WAIS Watch, I think we should order some.  Any interest?

              Ángel, what a hectic schedule you've had lately.  Thank you for taking the time to check in, and best of luck with the book launch!

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            • Coups in Spain...UK? (Nigel Jones, UK 04/02/19 7:05 AM)
              As one of the few WAISers who believes that the Spanish army was completely justified in rising against what Ronald Hilton rightly called the "anarchy" engulfing Spain in July 1936, can I say that I totally agree with Anthony Candil (March 31st).

              Franco's hesitation in joining the revolt is well known, based on his innate caution, and it exasperated Mola, who, as Anthony says, was the real brains behind the coup, as its chief planner.

              Where I part company from Anthony is over his suggestion that the murder of Calvo Sotelo was the decisive factor in getting Franco to join the rising. Calvo Sotelo was killed in Madrid on July 13th. On July 11th the Dragon Rapide aircraft that was to fly Franco from the Canaries to take command of the Army of Africa had taken off from Croydon airport in London. That flight was organised in London by Luis Bolin, UK correspondent of the ABC newspaper, and future chief of Franco's propaganda. Bolin had hired the aircraft on July 9th after receiving instructions to do so from Spain, so Franco must have been committed to the coup at the latest in the first week of July.

              It was very interesting to read Ronald Hilton's 1998 recollections of meeting Lorca, as retrieved by John Eipper. I have always thought that evidence from eye-witnesses is much more valuable and likely to be "true" than dusty documents found in archives decades later by historians. Therefore it is significant that Hilton, who was there, should testify to the anarchy which prompted the responsible officers of the Army to rise against the Republic. I believe they were right to do so, and it is a tragedy that the coup was not immediately and swiftly successful all over Spain.

              Two further observations: I have just returned from Andalucía on a book research project. I was struck by the fact that despite Spain being a month away from a general election, I did not see a single election poster nor any other evidence of a closely contested campaign. How very different from the passions of 1936!

              Finally, the chaos engulfing my own country's politics over Brexit has given me a pale glimpse of the bitterness and hatred dividing Spain in 1936. It is no exaggeration to say we are in a state of undeclared civil war, though fortunately fought so far with words rather than weapons. And the pathetic and treasonous performance of our politicians has made me wish that our Army had the vigour and determination to act as the Spanish army did in July 1936.

              JE comments:  Nigel, I trust your last sentence is hyperbole born of frustration.  Is a military coup ever justified?  I cannot think of a single situation when it could be, except to get rid of a bloodthirsty dictator (and then followed by proper elections).

              John Heelan has researched Prof. Hilton's interactions with García Lorca, and sends a comment (next).

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              • Can Military Coups Ever Be Beneficial? (Nigel Jones, UK 04/03/19 6:10 PM)
                John Eipper (April 2nd) thinks I was joking when I wrote supporting military coups in certain circumstances, such as the breakdown and betrayal of democracy by unrepresentative Parliaments. On the contrary, I was being quite serious.

                John added that he could not think of a coup that benefitted anyone, or that he could support. Well, here are a few examples:

                --April 1941: Coup in Yugoslavia deposed pro-German regent Prince Paul, causing Nazi invasion of Balkans. This delayed planned invasion of Russia and arguably saved Moscow and led to Nazi defeat in WW2.

                --Coups that prevented Communism in Brazil '64 and Chile in '73. If these had not happened these countries would have become second Cubas or Venezuelas.

                --Coup in Portugal in April '74 ending Salazar/Caetano regime and colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau.

                --Repeated military interventions in Turkey in 1960s and '70s that kept out Islamist dictatorships like the Erdogan regime we see today and preserved Ataturk's secular state.

                --Coup in Indonesia in '65 preventing Communist takeover.

                --Military interventions in Algeria and Egypt foiling Islamist parties who would never have held another election.

                And so on.

                In circumstances when the alternative is Communism or Islamism or anarchy, as in Spain in 1936, I am an unashamed golpista or putschist. Armies are frequently the last defenders of democracy and unlike Marxist or Islamist rule, they usually return to the barracks.

                Speaking of Spain, Ángel Viñas's preferred modus operandi is to quote the titles of his own or others' books as though that settles arguments. It doesn't. My view is that Spain from February 1936 onwards was increasingly in the throes of murderous anarchy and that the Army were right to intervene to attempt to restore order. Tragically the coup was not successful everywhere, and the irresponsible government arming of Communist and anarchist organisations led to a bloody Civil War.

                Franco was an unattractive figure and a tinpot dictator, but he kept Spain out of WW2 and his regime made Spain peaceful, prosperous and ironically paved the way for the democracy we see today--as military rule often does.

                JE comments:  I'm a pax et lux guy, and might be able to convince myself to favor a coup that stops a war, such as Portugal in 1974.  But by any measure I'm able to comprehend, Franco started one.

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                • On Coups; Steve Bannon in Brussels (Carmen Negrin, France 04/05/19 11:20 AM)
                  Nigel Jones (April 3rd) wrote about coups he supports. The problem is not only about shedding blood for the pleasure of a few (be they the church, the army or the business community, as in Spain, or even some fanatical ideologues, left or right).  It is also and in particular about stopping a democratically elected government with a coup.

                  Of course, this doesn't seem to bother those who don't care about democracy.

                  Perhaps if Brexit comes through, Brexiters might not be allowed to interfere in European campaigns.

                  Maybe Nigel can explain to us how Bannon has managed to get foreign money through to Brussels.

                  JE comments:  I have a number of Brexit-themed posts in the queue.  But for now, who can tell us what Steve Bannon did/is doing in Brussels?  Trying to dismantle the EU from within, yes, but how?  This Guardian piece from last November describes him as a caffeine-fueled whirlwind, intent on slaying the EU "vampire."  (Imagine how a European ideologue would be received if s/he were in Washington, trying to smite the American Beast.)


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                  • On Coups d'Etat: Response to Carmen Negrin (Nigel Jones, UK 04/06/19 9:13 AM)
                    Allow me to dissect Carmen Negrín's post (April 5th), in which she replied to my support of military coups d'etat.

                    Carmen says coups "shed blood for the pleasure of the few." Leaving aside the fact that many coups (eg. Portugal in 1974) are bloodless, I don't think "pleasure" is uppermost in the minds of coup-makers. Those I support are putting their careers and lives on the line in order to save their countries from chaos or worse.

                    Carmen is correct that some coups are aimed at democratically elected governments. But those I support, such as Spain in 1936, Brazil in 1964 and Chile in 1973, were all launched because those democratic governments had lost control and were letting the country slip into anarchy or Communism, under which there would have been no more democratic elections.

                    Carmen then professes to "care about democracy." This doesn't really square with her support for the EU, an openly undemocratic dictatorship leading Europe into a post-democratic future.

                    Finally Carmen writes, "perhaps Nigel can explain to us how Bannon has managed to get foreign money through to Brussels." This puzzled me because neither in this post nor in any previous posts have I ever mentioned Mr Bannon. Perhaps Carmen is confusing me with someone else.

                    JE comments: Some coups turn out to be bloodless, but without the real possibility of violence, a coup cannot happen.  And how many coup masterminds are altruistically "saving" their nations?  Many are motivated by ambition or simple greed.  Who belongs to what category?  This depends on one's point of view.

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                    • Do Coups "Rescue" a Nation from Disorder...or Cause It? (Carmen Negrin, France 04/07/19 6:48 AM)
                      In response to Nigel Jones (April 6th), disorder is often provoked before a coup is unleashed. It is part of the coup process. This was the case in Spain, in Chile (the caseroleras), etc.

                      The opposition propaganda then accuses the government of being out of control or hopeless or leading towards a dictatorship, most of the time with no objective basis for such an accusation, and thus promotes the idea of needing to replace it. This is how fake news worked in the Old Days. Then, if necessary, you get the army involved, and, often, foreign allies. I will certainly not fall for the "brave hero who sacrifices his life" narrative, as Nigel puts it, since to start with there was no need to sacrifice it nor that of any other brave person.

                      The question concerning Bannon is simply because Nigel seems to follow with enthusiasm and from close up these (extreme) right-wing movements. His "tocayo" Farage, Le Pen, Orban, have all been in touch with each other and with Bannon. Le Pen was with him just before our Gilets jaunes started their "movement," openly encouraged by her (and by Mélenchon, although slightly later), so have those from Vox in Andalucía.

                      I would presume that if Nigel supports these people, he probably has his reasons for doing so and I am curious to know how much he knows about them or their funding. It is obvious that Bannon is an intruder, it seems a priori contradictory to see how all these people who say they are such nationalists, even bother to get advice from someone from another country, let alone another continent. I thus deduce, most candidly, that there might be financial interests which come with the advice, or is it Bannon who makes his money like that? After all, not everyone can afford to just come and open a political NGO in a foreign country.

                      Brexit hasn't even started and it is already a disaster for all the reasons David Pike pointed out. And Nigel wants more of it and faster and possibly everywhere?

                      Europe might not be the best, but it's still pretty good; as for it being a dictatorship, just in case Nigel skipped it, elections are coming up soon, with maybe not the kind of results I would personally want, but don't worry, I won't try to start a coup!

                      JE comments:  Carmen Negrín points out one of the paradoxes of our times.  The Eurosceptics of different countries are working together, creating an "International" of ultra-nationalists.  And this is at a time when cooperation among the liberal democracies seems to be in decline.  Yes, it's a paradox.

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                      • Post Unpublished - please check back later

                • Two Books: Josephs's Andalusia and Luttwak's Coups d'Etat (John Heelan, UK 04/07/19 4:49 AM)
                  We have discussed Andalucía recently. I have now discovered an excellent book researched by Professor Allen Josephs of the University of West Florida at Pensacola. The book traces the history of Andalucía from Prehistory time to the Modern Day, focusing on the cultural distinctions that have set Andalucía apart throughout recorder history: its Oriental origins, its religious practices, its ancient commerce and industry and its varied expression of those practices through music, dance and toreo.

                  I learned a lot from this book!

                  "White Wall of Spain":  The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture. Allen Josephs

                  Another title of interest:

                  WAISers planning a coup might like to consult Edward N. Luttwak's book Coup d'etat: A Practical Handbook (Harvard) available from Amazon


                  JE comments:  Luttwak's book first appeared in 1968, and the author is still going strong today.  He's a scholar who prefers to tackle the big picture.  Prof. Hilton mentioned Luttwak's Turbo Capitalism:  Winners and Losers in the Global Economy (1998) in this post from August '01:


                  Anybody in WAISworld planning a coup...?  Although the first rule of coup-planning must be Don't talk about the coup you're planning.

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                • Who Wanted the Spanish Civil War? Response to Nigel Jones (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/11/19 1:37 PM)
                  I'm still traveling around. Just a short reply to Nigel Jones (April 3rd) on the Spanish military coup of 1936.

                  If I mention my own books, it is because I always combine primary evidence and an extensive analysis of relevant bibliography. Nigel's views are traditional. His knowledge of the latter seems full of holes. I recommend Eduardo González Calleja et al., Historia de la Segunda Republica Española, Pasado&Presente for an overview.

                  If WAISers are interested I can supply a short list of fundamental books dealing with violence in the spring of 1936 in Spain. However, before Nigel replies, I recommend he have a look at my book ¿Quién quiso la Guerra Civil?, published on April 9, which I'm promoting just now. It's based on the conspirators´ papers and on other primary evidence as well as several pages of bibliography. Nigel shouldn't be shy.

                  JE comments:  A big congratulations to Ángel on the new arrival--just two days old.  Here's the link:


                  And greetings from Houston--we're here through Sunday for the wedding of my niece, Kristen Simmons, (almost!) MD.

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            • "Lorca and His Ilk": Ronald Hilton and Garcia Lorca (John Heelan, UK 04/02/19 11:58 AM)
              I have always wondered why Ronald Hilton disliked the Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí set so much, blaming them for the outbreak of the Civil War.

              I suspect that RH had been snubbed by Federico in La Residencia de Estudiantes.  (I also stayed in La Resi as a base for my research in the Fundación Garcìa Lorca.)  At that time Federico was at the height of his artistic fame as a poet and dramatist and, as a result could be obnoxious to starry-eyed Brits. I questioned RH about this dislike as he was one of the few people still alive who claimed to have "known" Lorca but never did get a response from RH's notes at the time.

              (As a matter of interest, I also plotted the potential timeline during which they could have coincided at La Resi and found relatively few occasions they could have done so.)

              JE comments:  Prof. Hilton writes in his autobiography that he arrived at La Residencia in 1934.  Lorca had lived there off and on for approximately ten years beginning in 1919, so in '34 Lorca's "aura" was more present in La Resi than his actual person.  John, could you share the dates of your timeline?  Specifically, did Lorca visit the Resi often in the final two years of his life?

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    • Mussolini's Strained Relations with Franco (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/21/19 4:17 PM)
      Commenting on my post of March 20th, JE remarked: "We tend to see the Mussolini-Hitler-Franco coalition during the Spanish Civil War as monolithic and harmonious, but you suggest it was not."

      Franco was generally a pain in the neck from the beginning. He wanted to be the dictator of Spain without interferences. His cult of personality was already established in 1937 on envelopes, which were postmarked with !Viva España!  ¡Viva Franco!

      The relations with Italy were a continuous milking of supplies with attempts to limit the actions of the Italian ground volunteers who arrived in Seville on 15 January 1937. Here are a few episodes:

      March 1937: The Guadalajara debacle, in which the attacking Italian forces were not supported by the Nationalists.

      June 1937: The Italians were decisive in the conquest of Bilbao but they were forced to remain outside the city.

      August 1937: In front of Santander, Mussolini had to send a cable to Franco: "Either the Italian volunteers fight or return to Italy."

      September 1937: General Bastico, commander of all Italian forces, became a "persona non grata" because he flatly refused to hand over Republican prisoners to the Nationalists who were not treating them according the International Conventions.

      October 1938: Victory is near, and Italy started the withdrawal of its volunteers

      However, on 19 May 1939 the Italians participated in the victory parade in Madrid.

      I do not know about the German-Spanish relations but consider that German help was mostly through the Air Force and military supplies.

      Regarding Italo-German relations, Hitler was a fan of Mussolini from the beginning. In Mein Kampf he strongly supported an alliance with Italy and England while practically being the only German/Austrian to renounce the Alto Adige/Sud Tyrol.

      But Mussolini did not like Hitler. Just see his strong attack against the Fuhrer in his speech at Taranto on 7 September 1934, even if in the interest of peace Il Duce recognized the necessity of revisiting the Treaty of Versailles in favour of Germany. If France had listened to him, probably we would not have had WWII.

      The usual self-defeating sanctions against Italy 1935-36 saw the beginning of the rupture with the former Western Allies and an approach to Germany. Germany, however, was rather double-faced with Italy during the Abyssinian war, supplying arms and instructors to the Negus but maintaining vital commerce with Italy.

      Mussolini moved into Spain to keep Germany out of there, but when the Third Reich recognised the Italian Empire of Ethiopia on October 25th, 1936, the friendship opened its doors.

      Nevertheless, Italy practically kept all options on the table until 31 March 1940. See "Promemoria 328" by Mussolini to the king and then to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. But the Western Allies preferred to push Mussolini into the arms of Hitler rather then pulling him back, perhaps with a new Treaty of London as in 1915. Probably the social doctrines of Mussolini were too dangerous for the capitalist and communist systems and he had to be completely destroyed no matter what.

      JE comments:  Our own Paul Preston (per Wikipedia) is of the thesis that Franco intentionally used the Italians as cannon fodder at Guadalajara. 

      This post will raise some protests among our historians of the Spanish Civil War, especially Eugenio Battaglia's suggestion that Mussolini was forced to go into Spain to keep Franco out of a deeper relationship with Hitler.

      To change the topic, I'd like to know more about Hitler's material and technical support for the Ethiopians.  What have you learned about this, Eugenio?

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      • Hitler's Material Support for Ethiopia in Abyssinian War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/24/19 4:10 AM)
        JE asked about Hitler's material and technical support for the Ethiopians during the Abyssinian war (21 March).

        When he came to power, the new Emperor of Abyssinia Haile Selassie (1892-1975; in power 1930-36 and 1941-1974), started an energetic attempt to modernize his country, which was divided among various different ethnic and religious groups fighting each other. He even unsuccessfully thought of abolishing slavery. In the military field he invited a Belgian mission to train his army, as well as Greek doctors.

        When the war with Italy started on early October 1935, he desperately wanted to receive arms from all over. Greece and Sweden sent medical teams. Various nations sent arms, the UK even supplied the infamous dum-dum bullets, which were forbidden by the Hague Convention of 1899. When they were used by the Abyssinians, Italy retaliated. Germany supplied 10,000 Mauser rifles, 36 antiaircraft and 30 antitank guns, plus advisory teams to instruct in their use.

        Germany in reality was looking for friendship with Italy but rightly believed that the more difficulties Mussolini had in Abyssinia and consequently with his former Western Allies, the more he would have to seek a bond with the Third Reich.

        Do not forget: a little more than one year had passed since the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss, which provoked the strong reaction from Mussolini, who in spite of no support from the UK and France, moved troops ready to fight against Germany for the independence of Austria.

        This episode, the following Anglo-German Naval Agreement, the sanctions in spite of a previous apparent green light, not to mention Versailles--these all made Mussolini think that the Western Allies were untrustworthy. By the way, has anything changed in Europe now? It seems not at all.

        Anyway, Hitler's trick was unfortunately successful, but as I write above, the former so-called Allies helped a lot to drive Mussolini to Hitler.

        During the war many people around the world and in the US, especially among the Black Communities of Chicago and New York, talked about arranging international brigades to fight against Italy and/or Fascism, but it is reported that only 200 people made the trip to Addis Ababa, including one Italian and three Americans.

        JE comments:  Eugenio, by "green light" are you saying that Mussolini had approval from France and the UK to attack Ethiopia?  I hope you don't take offense when I see a parallel with Saddam Hussein's excuse for going into Kuwait.

        I came across this quote from Haile Selassie, who ordered the total mobilization of his population against Italy.  Imagine trying to "sell" the cooking and washing part to your spouse:

        All men and boys able to carry a spear go to Addis Ababa. Every married
        man will bring his wife to cook and wash for him. Every unmarried man
        will bring any unmarried woman he can find to cook and wash for him.
        Women with babies, the blind, and those too aged and infirm to carry a
        spear are excused. Anyone found at home after receiving this order will
        be hanged.

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        • Mussolini's Justification for the Ethiopian War (Carmen Negrin, France 03/25/19 3:07 AM)
          In Eugenio Battaglia's explanation of Mussolini's Ethiopia war (March 25th), there was no colonial fascist expansionism involved of course! Mussolini was the Ethiopian Deus ex machina!

          As the saying goes: love is in the eyes of the beholder.

          JE comments:  Point well taken.  We haven't addressed Mussolini's other justification, to abolish slavery in Ethiopia (which he did).  Doesn't this sound (gulp?) Lincoln-like? Or viewed from a different perspective, how can we view the Selassie regime with sympathy when it perpetuated slavery into...the 1930s?

          Did Ethiopian slavery function more or less the same as we understand it in the West?  Who can enlighten us?

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          • Ethiopian Slavery (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/27/19 4:21 AM)
            The Abyssinian-Italian war started on 3 October 1935. Just 11 days later, the commander of the Italian army, General De Bono, abolished slavery.

            From the most ancient times, slavery in Abyssinia was practiced in a kind of feudal sense.

            Most of the slaves came from the subdued ethnic groups. For instance the Semitic Tygrais were defeated by the dominant Amhara, despite the fact that they were also mostly Christians (it is reported that the disappeared Ark of the Covenant is preserved by them). After being subdued their name was changed by the Abyssinian Amharas to Tigre, which in Amharic means "under my feet." In 1987 their endemic rebellion caused the fall of the Derg communist military regime and the eventual independence of Eritrea, which for many years longed for its previous relation with Italy.

            Other oppressed groups may number as many 70 with 83 different languages. The larger groups are the Oromo-Galla, Karo, Mursi, Borana, Konso, Afar. The Oromo are found also in Kenya. The Azebo Galla immediately joined the Italian forces then during the war.  Other ethnic groups and the Ras left the Negus for the Italians. Some of these groups saw the Italians as "liberators."

            About slavery you can still find books on eBay such as Horror and Miseries of Slavery in Abyssinia (1933) by Lady Kathleen Simon. Lord Noel Buxton on 17 July 1935 stated at the Commons, "Ethiopia is still the main center of slavery in the world," while according to the Secretary of the British Parliament John H. Harris, "The Emperor of Ethiopia each year receive presents of slave children of both sexes."

            The League of Nations refused to accept Ethiopia because of its practice of slavery.

            JE comments:  This is a controversial topic.  That the Italians abolished slavery in 1935-'36 is true, but to say so somehow justifies the conquest.  It also clouds the image of Haile Selassie, who is revered by many as a semi-god.  See for example this article from the African Holocaust Society, which not only claims the Emperor abolished slavery in 1924, but also that slavery was rather benign in the first place.  Enslaved Ethiopians, we learn, were more like unpaid members of the family:


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            • Modern-Day Slavery (John Heelan, UK 03/31/19 4:43 AM)
              In this discussion on slavery, we should not forget that it still exists in practice.

              Consider the implicit but relatively gentle slavery-by-choice of Saudi Arabia. Incoming slaves need to surrender their passports to their employers: the employers of outgoing slaves have to advertise their imminent departures in newspaper adverts and can withhold exit permission just in case the slave owes somebody money.

              JE comments:  Whose choice is it?  I suppose the idea is that the Saudis do not capture and export the victims from their countries of origin.  But the enslaved's experience "on the ground" is anything but gentle.

              Adrian College has a very active chapter of Not for Sale, a 501 non-profit foundation dedicated to ending exploitation and forced labor.  Its mission is a noble one:


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  • on Mussolini in Ethiopia, Spain: Ellen Horup (Holger Terp, Denmark 03/21/19 3:59 AM)
    Concerning Mussolini's intervention in Ethiopia and Spain, see Ellen Hørup, "Spain, The Battlefield of Capitalism," including what she termed the "Gangster Peace":


    and "Ethiopia, Member of the League of Nations?"


    JE comments:  I'm so happy to hear from veteran WAISer Holger Terp in Copenhagen.  A few years ago we were introduced to journalist and peace activist Ellen Horup (1871-1953), whose archives are housed in Holger's collection at the Danish Peace Academy.


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