Domestic influence had a major influence on Mussolini’s decision to invade Abyssinia. However, in light of the political situation at the time, and the subsequent wars, one would be mistaken to analyse these influences in a purely domestic way. Mussolini invaded the Ethiopian empire to further the cult of the Duce, to fuel favour for the fascist regime, to bring the ever in-cohesive Italian people against a common enemy, and economically to ensure Mussolini’s much eluded Autarky, and ultimately popular consensus for fascist regime.
Yet, Mussolini’s actions in 1935 was not merely to strengthen his people or his regime for that matter, rather he wished to ensure a resilient, militarized, healthy, warring nation for the inevitable wars which he planned. Thus, all the domestic gains Mussolini had considered were in fact strengthening Mussolini’s hand in foreign policy. Ironically, while it was Mussolini’s war with Abyssinia that propelled him into his ‘golden age’ of popular consensus, it was a much larger war that eventually enabled the Italian people to separate fact from fiction, and overthrow their Duce.
“We are now burying economic liberalism,” Mussolini proclaimed in 1933. The end of laissez-faire had been by this stage accepted by most people. Mussolini’s economic recovery was now to be fueled by the military state. Fascists liked to turn ‘economic problems’ into ‘questions of will,’ which was often another way of saying the leadership had no idea what to do next. Was Abysinnia another test of what Mussolini called ‘La nostra feroce volunta totalitaria’ (Our fierce totalitarian will).
Fascism certainly brought its own style to the management of the economy – activist, heroic, militaristic: Mussolini’s “Battle for wheat” was followed by a “Battle for Lira” a “campaign for the National Product,” etc. As is often the case with fascism, the Italian State saw force as the solution for the majority of their problems. Mussolini was no longer willing to sit back and let the market dictate the progress his country was making.
Abyssinia was hoped by many as a way of solving the country’s autarky problems, and for Mussolini as a way of speeding up the country’s preparation in becoming a war economy. A Marxist historical view on Mussolini’s early expansionist invasion of Abyssinia would have concluded that the need for capitalist expansion, and the exploitation of the new territory as the sole reason for such a belligerent action. It would be quite easy to include Italy’s motives for expansion in a broad sweeping generalization.
Indeed, other great powers such as Britain and France had supplemented their economies on mercantilist exploitation for years. It was merely the lateness of Italy’s unification which had kept it out in the cold in relation to colonisation. So, it would be easy to say that Italy finally consolidating internal issues was caught up in a ‘scramble’ for a thicker slice of the African pie. Indeed reports of the time such as one found in the “Black Man” in 1936 reported that “Abyssinia has been reputed to be one of the richest sections of Africa. ”
At the eve of the invasion of Abyssinia, Mussolini’s fascist Italy had almost recovered from the economic recession that followed 1929. Unlike Br light industry . . . Italy used military state to recover. In many ways Italian life had improved, drainage of marshes, trains, wheat up . . . all positive shit. The consumer led recovery that took place in Britain in 1930a, based around growing employment in light industry was essentially incompatible with the kind of recovery pursued in Fascist Italy. What, moreover, kept recovery going there was not the consumer but the military state.
The Ethiopian War was seen by businessmen in Italy as a lucrative investment, that Italy was sure to win. No doubt, businessmen were looking forward to a sharing of the spoils in Abysinnia. Abyssinia was seen as vital for helping Italy out of a recession. Italy must be an expanding power and that “imperialism is the basis of life for every people which tends to expand economically and spiritually. ” Mussolini “Italians will not remain prisoners in the Roman Sea. ” Corporation state a failure, only proper corporation was that of the artists and intellectuals.