Recalling the Invasion of Ethiopia

October 2013 is the 75th anniversary of the Fascist Invasion of Ethiopia, an event which many would consider the real beginning of the Second World War.

If there is no real ideological spectrum, as I maintain in my book, Sinisterism, and if the world is divided into those of us who cherish ordered liberty and the Judeo-Christian moral values and those who seek to enslave others and debauch those values, then you expect people to behave in ways utterly inconsistent with an ideological spectrum.

That is precisely what happened in the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.  Both Nazi Germany and militarist Japan opposed the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia.  In the spring of 1935, a German documentary film, Abyssinia Today, was widely distributed within the Third Reich and it was enthusiastically reviewed by German newspapers.  The documentary was highly sympathetic toward Haile Selassie and presented his rule as one of enlightenment and modernization.  At the same time, newspapers in the Third Reich printed articles ridiculing the Italian Army and predicting its defeat if it invaded Ethiopia.

While the British and French stopped arms from being shipped through their territories to the Ethiopians, the Nazis provided the Ethiopians with a vast amount of weapons and ammunition to fight the Fascist invader.  This included 16,000 rifles and 600 machine guns, as well as many submachine guns and hand grenades.  Japan also provided the Ethiopians with weapons to fight the Fascists.  This resulted in a counter-offensive in December 1935 successful enough for German and British military analysts to believe that Italy could not win in Ethiopia. 

Hitler personally ordered that the Ethiopians receive thirty anti-tank guns with armor-piercing shells and three German aircraft to fight the Fascists.  The Nazis continued to supply Ethiopian guerrillas even after the Fascist conquest of the nation, and it was not until three months after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938 -- an action which happened only after the Fascists stopped supporting an independent Austria -- that Nazi Germany even recognized the Italian conquest of that nation.

If Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had opposed Fascist Italy in its invasion of Ethiopia -- although each was on the notional "Far Right" of the ideological spectrum -- then one might expect that the Soviet Union -- the leader of the notional "far left" -- would have acted against the Fascists in Ethiopia.  But that is not what happened.

Although the Soviet Union formally condemned the invasion, the Soviets in practice supplied Italy with huge quantities of oil and war material, as authors at the time noted.  Max Eastman, a prominent American Communist who had seen the error of his ways, in 1941 observed:  "Stalin went right on supplying him [Mussolini] with oil."  Eugene Lyons, another repentant American Communist, the same year noted:  "[the Soviet Union] had continued to sell oil and grain to Italy while pretending to oppose Ethiopian aggression[.]"  Forty freighters carrying Soviet supplies of wheat, oil, coal, tar, oats, and timber reached Italy as the invasion began.

The phony ideological spectrum was turned on its head in other ways.  Mussolini and his Fascists gave a couple of reasons beyond imperial aggrandizement for their actions.  Mussolini presented himself as "Defender of Islam" and opposed the Christian rule of Emperor Haile Selassie over the many subject Muslim areas in the Ethiopian Empire.  The Fascists also vowed to end slavery in Ethiopia, and two million of the ten million Ethiopians were slaves.  In short, the Fascists, like all other gangs that hate liberty and spit upon Judeo-Christian values, could present a reasonable rhetorical argument for their misdeeds.

The reality, of course, was very different.  The ideological spectrum -- a nonsensical invention of those who would deny us liberty and values -- is alive and well.  During the debt ceiling debates, for example, Democrats talked incessantly about the "far right" and "extremists" as if these terms were some sort of policy argument.  Think for a moment how these enemies of liberty would present their case if there was no such thing as a "far right" or a "far left."

Barry Goldwater, who as the only major-party presidential candidate of Jewish descent but who was also demonized as an acolyte of this "far right," defined quite correctly what moving "too far" in a particular political direction meant:  "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."  Goldwater, who was as much a maverick as anyone in American politics, was trying to say that liberty -- individuality un-coerced by the state -- the very heart of our political values. 

The Fascists who invaded Ethiopia seventy-five years ago were not the "polar opposites" of the Marxists who ran Russia.  Both believed in exactly the same things.  Mussolini in 1914 was one of the leading Marxists on the planet (something Trotsky noted at the time).  Once we grasp that those who hate Jews, hate Christians, and hate liberty are our real foes today, then we will begin to be able to defeat them. 

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