Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Benito Mussolini, "A Call to Arms," Speech to His Followers, 2 October 1935

In October 1935 Italy, seeking colonies of its own, ignored the strictures of the League of Nations and invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in East Africa. Benito Mussolini, Italy's fascist leader ( Duce), argued that Italy deserved her "place in the sun," especially because she had not received her just rewards for joining the Allies against Germany in 1915. He urged France and Britain to ignore any League of Nations call for sanctions upon Italy. 

Black Shirts of the Revolution! Men and women of all Italy! Italians all over the world—beyond the mountains, beyond the sea! Listen!

A solemn hour is about to strike in the history of the country. Twenty million Italians are at this moment gathered in the squares of all Italy. It is the greatest demonstration that human history records. Twenty million! One heart alone! One will alone! One decision!

This manifestation signifies that the tie between Italy and Fascism is perfect, absolute, and unalterable. Only brains softened by puerile illusions, by sheer ignorance, can think differently, because they do not know what exactly is the Fascist Italy of 1935.

For many months the wheel of destiny and of the impulse of our calm determination moves toward the goal. In these last hours the rhythm has increased and nothing can stop it now. It is not only an army marching towards its goals, but as if 44,000,000 Italians were marching in unity behind this army because the blackest of injustices is being attempted against them, that of taking from them their place in the sun.

When, in 1915, Italy threw in her fate with that of the Allies, how many cries of admiration, how many promises! But after the common victory, which cost Italy 600,000 dead, 400,000 lost, 1,000,000 wounded, when peace was being discussed around the table only the crumbs of a rich colonial booty were left for us to pick up.

For thirteen years we have been patient while the circle tightened around us at the hands of those who wish to suffocate us. We have been patient with Ethiopia for forty years—it is enough now.

Instead of recognizing the rights of Italy, the League of Nations dares talk of sanctions. But until there is proof to the contrary I refuse to believe that the authentic people of France will join in supporting sanctions against Italy.

The 6,000 dead at the action of Boligny—whose devotion was so heroic that the enemy commander was forced to admire them—those fallen would now turn in their graves.

And until there is proof to the contrary, I refuse to believe that the authentic people of Britain will want to spill blood and send Europe into a catastrophe for the sake of a barbarian country unworthy of ranking among civilized nations.

Just the same, we cannot afford to overlook the possible developments of tomorrow. To economic sanctions, we shall answer with our discipline, our spirit of sacrifice, our obedience. To military sanctions, we shall answer with military measures. To acts of war, we shall answer with acts of war.

A people worthy of their past and their name cannot and never will take a different stand. Let me repeat, in the most categorical manner, the sacred pledge which I make at this moment before all the Italians gathered together today, that I shall do everything in my power to prevent a colonial conflict from taking on the aspect and weight of a European war.

This conflict may be attractive to certain minds, which hope to avenge their disintegrated temples through this new catastrophe. Never, as at this historical hour, have the people of Italy revealed such force of character, and it is against this people to which mankind owes its greatest conquest, this people of heroes, of poets and saints, of navigators, of colonizers, that the world dares threaten sanctions.

Italy! Italy! Entirely and universally Fascist! The Italy of the Black Shirt revolution, rise to your feet, let the cry of your determination rise to the skies and reach our soldiers in East Africa. Let it be a comfort to those who are about to fight. Let it be an encouragement to our friends and a warning to our enemies.

It is the cry of Italy, which goes beyond the mountains and the seas out into the great big world. It is the cry of justice and of victory.


Further Reading
Text of Premier Mussolini's Address to the Italian People on the War, United Press Dispatch to the New York Times, datelined 2 October 1935, official Italian government translation, published in the New York Times, 3 October 1935. .
 

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