ITALY possesses scanty quantities of iron, coal, copper, and potash and must import from abroad her whole supply of petroleum, cotton, rubber, and phosphates. She is almost self-sufficient as regards chemicals and nitrates. But she is really self-sufficient only in sulphur, mercury and aluminum.[i] She can reduce her imports of coal by turning her water power into electricity. But electric power is economically profitable only when the price of coal is high. As soon as coal drops in price it becomes preferable to electricity. In the present state of technique, Italy is handicapped in comparison with those countries which can obtain raw materials without paying heavy freight charges. She is and must remain first and foremost an agricultural country.

Even so she cannot nourish her entire population. On a total area of only 120,000 square miles, she must support 42,500,000 inhabitants. Yet one-third of Italy's land is unfit for cultivation. Consequently she must import large amounts of foodstuffs, as is indicated by the following table:

Cattle Frozen Meat Salted and smoked fish
(number of head) (tons) (value in lire)
1930 265,000 66,500 232,000,000
1931 176,000 54,890 180,000,000
1932 81,000 48,840 107,000,000
1933 121,000 46,200 120,000,000
1934 141,000 48,620 128,000,000

How does Italy pay for her imports? In three ways: she exports her own products and services; she sells services and goods to tourists; and she receives remittances from her emigrants. If any of these sources of international income decline, her imports undergo a parallel decline and her population must sink to a lower standard of living. In recent years all three of these sources have been curtailed. As a way out of this impasse Mussolini proposes to conquer Ethiopia, where he expects to find for his people raw materials to exploit and an abundance of lands to colonize.


Would the conquest of Ethiopia help Italy to solve her population and raw materials problems? The area of Ethiopia -- 350,000 square miles -- is about three times that of Italy. It is divided climatically into four zones: the highlands above 8,000 feet; the temperate zone, between 8,000 and 5,000 feet; the tropical zone, between 5,000 and 2,500 feet; and the desert lowlands, under 2,500 feet. The cold climate of the highlands is not suitable to labor of any kind; not even in Italy are high mountains cultivated. Neither are the desert lowlands suitable for any sort of labor. The tropical zone is in general very fertile. It can grow coffee, cotton, sugar, but its climate is deadly for white labor. Italians might form a dominant class exploiting the natives, if exploitation were economically profitable. But masses of Italian emigrants could never be absorbed by a country with such a climate.

There remains only the temperate zone, the so-called plateau, which enjoys an excellent climate. But its altitude makes steady manual work impossible for men from lowlands. The rarefied air does not supply the body with the oxygen necessary for sustained work. The body must compensate the deficiency of oxygen with a more intense respiration, which tires the lungs and the heart. Only quite robust individuals succeed in acclimating themselves.[ii] It is significant that in Italy only one percent of the population lives at an altitude of more than 3,300 feet.[iii] The correspondents accompanying the Italian army in northern Ethiopia naturally try to avoid cabling anything displeasing to the Italian military censors. Nevertheless, one of them (New York Times, Oct. 21, 1935) felt obliged to report that the labor for the construction of roads in the occupied territory was being carried on "under physical conditions which the natives themselves cannot stand . . . The strain on the heart is very noticeable, and fatigue comes almost immediately upon exertion."

Italian labor is aware that African highlands do not suit it. Thus it has always fought shy of the plateau of Asmara, a continuation of the Ethiopian plateau which for forty years had been under Italian political control. In 1931 there were living on the Asmara plateau only 84 Italian farmers.

Even were there not this difficulty of adaptation to altitude, Italy would still have to overcome another obstacle in Ethiopia, the economic one. Italian emigrants do not as a rule leave Italy in order to become farmers in undeveloped and uninhabited countries. They seek employment in rich countries where wages are high. Colonial agriculture requires capital and the Italian emigrant seldom possesses capital; nor does he find that colonial agriculture affords him the quick profits he wants. In this respect the experience of the Asmara plateau is decisive, as can be seen from the following paragraph written in 1930 by Signor Zoli, former Governor of Eritrea, a hundred-percent fascist:

Ever since the first days of our occupation various attempts have been made to utilize the agricultural resources of Eritrea to the advantage of our national economy. Colonizing the plateau with Italians at first seemed a satisfactory solution. This experiment was based on the erroneous idea that small agricultural proprietors with a capital of thirty or forty thousand lire would spontaneously and easily betake themselves to the colony, attracted by the low cost of the land. As a matter of fact our emigration has always been the result of two factors: unemployment connected with our lack of capital, and the hope our emigrants cherish of finding wages higher than those prevailing in Italy in order to amass that small capital which can assure comfort and economic independence. When the dream of importing farmers with a small capital into the colony proved illusory, recourse was had to subsidized workers. But since the subsidies were not kept within proper limits they led to a complete paralysis of private activities. When this experiment failed a new attempt was made at creating small farms of around 25 hectares [62 acres], entrusted as a rule to people who did not have to live exclusively by the products of the land but exercised some profession or trade. These new farmers lacked not only the technical assistance of government experts, but also that capital which in a new country, especially one so undeveloped and difficult as Eritrea, the government should provide in the form of protective measures and loans. This state of things spread the conviction that the colonization of the plateau, or at least the agriculture carried on by Europeans on the plateau, was uneconomic. This conviction led to the establishment of the present system by which the plateau and the slopes of the mountains are reserved to the natives and the lowlands in the east and the west, at least in those parts susceptible of irrigation and therefore worth the investment of capital, are reserved to Italian concessionaires.[iv]

In the temperate zone, as in the torrid zone, a more intense cultivation of the soil would undoubtedly be possible through the work of natives directed by European technical experts. But this would not solve the problem of Italy's surplus population.

The Ethiopian plateau, on the other hand, is but a chaos of mountains, canyons, peaks and cliffs piled helter-skelter on a high table-land. How many billions of dollars will be necessary to construct roads and bridges and break the ground in such a country? To furnish the huge capital necessary for large-scale developments the Italian Government would have to bleed the mother country dry. The conquest of Ethiopia, far from remedying the lack of balance between population and resources in Italy, would aggravate it.

Only 52,419 Italians resided in Italy's African colonies in 1931.[v] If one subtracts soldiers, civil servants, tradesmen and workers employed on public works, one finds that during forty years there emigrated to all the colonies not more than 1,901 Italian farmers, divided as follows: 1,361 to Tripolitania, 256 to Cyrenaica, 200 to Somalia, and 84 to Eritrea.[vi]

This phenomenon is universal. England, with the greatest colonial empire in the world, has 2,000,000 unemployed. Holland is trying to solve her population problem, not by sending her workers to the East Indies, but by draining the Zuider Zee. Belgium finds that the Congo in no way serves as an outlet for her dense population. France has built her colonial empire with her capital and her bureaucracy, not with her workers. In all Africa (total area 11,500,000 square miles) there are scarcely 3,500,000 Europeans, of whom 1,200,000 are in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco where the climate is very similar to that of southern Europe, and 2,000,000 in South Africa, which belongs to the temperate zone. The remaining 300,000 Europeans are dispersed over regions analogous to those which Mussolini wants to conquer in East Africa: 104,000 in the English colonies; 40,000 in the French; 65,000 in the Portuguese; and about 60,000 in the Italian. After one has subtracted troops and civil servants, what remains of those 300,000 white men? Germany in the twenty-five years which preceded the World War, in spite of her high birth rate, sent annually to her 1,030,150 square miles of African colonies on an average only 1,500 persons, and in 1911 her colonial empire contained only 15,891 Germans.


Italy would be condemned to hunger, war or anarchy if there were no solution to her population problem other than colonial conquest. Fortunately, colonial conquest is not the only solution.

It is not true that the population of Italy "increases at the rate of 450,000 a year," as Senator Forges Davanzati wrote in Current History, October 1935 (page 14), or "by 400,000 and 500,000," as

Mr. Cortesi zealously reported in the New York Times of October 20, 1935. The census of 1921 gave 38,710,000 inhabitants.[vii] This figure was given in Italian statistical documents, except for slight modifications, until 1931.[viii] In the "Annuario Statistico" for 1932 (page 27), we find that in 1921 there had been only 38,033,000 inhabitants in Italy. What had happened to 700,000 souls?

Professor Gini, president of the Italian Central Institute for Statistics, had arrived at the conclusion that the census of 1931 would give Mussolini 41,979,000 subjects.[ix] Gini had obtained this figure in the following manner. Using the 1921 census as a basis, he each year subtracted the losses (deaths and emigrants) from the gains (births and repatriations), which left a net gain to add to the previous total. Thus would have been fulfilled the prophecy of Mussolini, who since 1926 had made out that Italy had 42,000,000 inhabitants,[x] whereas the official calculations for the middle of that year gave a figure of 40,200,000.[xi] Gini, however, did not take clandestine emigration into consideration. As far back as the census of 1911 it had been discovered that the country had 400,000 inhabitants less than there should have been.[xii] It was thought that this discrepancy was due to clandestine emigration. In the decade 1921-1931 clandestine emigration was certainly quite intense, for several reasons: because the restrictions of the United States, Canada and Australia obliged many to enter those countries without a regular passport; because under the fascist régime many thousands of political outlaws left the country secretly; and because the Fascist Government, beginning in 1925, imposed limits and restrictions on emigration which were contrary to the interests of the emigrants, thereby compelling an ever-increasing number of them to leave clandestinely. A fascist journalist in 1929 calculated that from March 1926 to December 31, 1928, 80,000 foreigners had entered France clandestinely and that of this number the Italian element had "a good share."[xiii] The real figures must be much higher. It appears that in 1930 there were in France at least 200,000 Italians without passports. It is no wonder, therefore, that in the census of 1931 Professor Gini, contrary to his cherished hopes, found that the population was only 41,179,000, a deficit of 800,000 persons. According to this, then, the population had risen from 38,700,000 in 1921 to 41,200,000 in 1932, an increase of only 2,500,000, that is to say 250,000 a year. In order to do away with this scandal, Professor Gini caused 700,000 souls to disappear from the census of 1921, thus bringing the ten-year increase up to 3,200,000, or an annual increment of 320,000. Professor Coletti (Corriere della Sera, May 6, 1932) commented on this elegant arithmetical operation in the following terms: "The figures of the preceding census have probably been reduced and thus there has resulted an increase." It was known as long ago as 1924 that there had been errors and frauds both of excess and of deficiency in the census of 1921.[xiv] In the census of 1931 there likewise were irregularities, which in the case of Catania led to the dismissal of the Prefect of the province and of the Mayor of the city.[xv] However, it seems incredible that in 1921 there could have been an error of 700,000.

In any case, one fact is sure -- that the annual increase of 450,-000 or 500,000 is a sheer invention, that the probable increase is 250,000, and that even if we accept the conclusions of Professor Gini we have an increase of only 320,000.

A factor in slowing down the increase of population was the noticeable drop in the birth rate. Mussolini himself, in his speech of May 26, 1927, deplored this fact:

We are wont to say that Italian population is overflowing. This is not true. The river is no longer too full; it is rapidly receding to its normal channel. From 1881 to 1885 we had our highest birth rate. During this period an average of 38 babies were born for every 1,000 inhabitants. The maximum was reached in 1886, with a birth rate of 39 per thousand. Today we are down to 27. In several sections of Italy the birth rate has already fallen below 27 per thousand. It is time to tell you these things and to destroy false and treacherous deceptions which can only lead to a dreadful awakening. In order to be of importance in the world, Italy must begin the second half of the present century with at least 60 million inhabitants . . . If our number decline, gentlemen, we shall not found an empire, we shall be degraded to a colony.

After the Duce had issued his order that Italian women should breed him 60,000,000 subjects by 1961, the Italian birth rate dropped even more precipitously. From March 1928, that is to say from exactly nine months later, when the imperial command should have begun to bear fruit, to December of the same year, Italy had 23,000 fewer births than in the corresponding months of the preceding year. Here are the figures of births since 1927:[xvi]

Births Per 1,000 inhabitants
1927 1,093,772 27.5
1928 1,072,316 26.7
1929 1,037,700 25.6
1930 1,092,678 26.7
1931 1,026,197 24.9
1932 990,995 23.8
1933 995,979 23.7
1934 992,975 23.4

A general and permanent strike seems to be going on in Italy. Mussolini owns his subjects' working hours; but he cannot control what they do in the privacy of their homes. One is tempted to guess that the speeches and writings of the Duce and other Fascist chieftains and the noisy journalistic campaign against the "horrible crime" of birth control has had one paramount result, that of spreading knowledge about it among many innocent souls. In 1901 when the population was 32,500,000 the births amounted to 1,057,000. Last year, with a population of 42,500,000, there were 64,000 births fewer than in 1901. In the next quarter of a century the drop in the birth rate is likely to become more pronounced. The decline in the death rate will reach a limit that cannot be exceeded, while official and clandestine emigration will continue to drain off a certain number. The population will cease increasing.


Even if it is not so desperate as Mussolini would have us believe, a population problem will nevertheless exist in Italy until the decline in the birth rate establishes a balance between the population and the means of subsistence. For many years to come the problem of finding work for the newcomers will have to be solved. How can it be solved? I do not know the date when chemistry and agrobiology will succeed in revolutionizing agricultural production in such a way that all countries become self-supporting. But it is a fact that even without waiting for science to perform the miracle of multiplying the loaves and the fishes, much can be done to augment production and extend a higher standard of living to a greater population even in a country naturally as poor as Italy.

As long ago as 1882 Parliament passed laws providing for the reclamation of swamp land. By 1915, a total of 820,000 acres had been reclaimed for agriculture; 1,007,500 more were ready for the plow but were awaiting the draining of adjacent lands; while on 1,096,600 acres work was still in progress. The province of Ferrara furnished a striking instance of what can be done by applying human intelligence and labor. Agricultural production in this province during half a century shows the following increases:

(1862-1871 average) 1912
Wheat 25,495 tons 63,130
Corn 1,373 tons 9,300
Hemp 7,503 tons 16,250
Sugar beet -- 68,735
Cattle 70,325 head 110,323
Population per sq. mile of cultivated area 259 402

The expert who published these figures in 1924 wrote: "The example offered by the province of Ferrara is an exceptionally good one in that 250,000 acres out of the 500,000 which composed the entire arable surface of the province have been reclaimed since 1870. Not a few Venetian provinces could be cited to equal if not greater effect."[xvii]

The reclamation of the island of Ariano (30,000 acres), completed in 1906, cost the state only 2,829,722 lire. In 1922 the state received in various forms of taxation from this area a sum five times as great. The population of the district rose from 15,538 in 1901 to 25,572 in 1921, and the head of cattle from 3,695 to 8,557. In 1924 production was valued at seven times what the production had been previous to reclamation.[xviii]

In the years 1919-1922 work was begun in Italy on 1,037,000 acres.[xix] According to the official statistics published in 1923, an area of 752,641 acres had not only been drained by the end of 1922 but had also been "reclaimed in an integral sense, that is to say, effectively put under cultivation with economic and social results of the highest importance;" 1,475,328 acres had been reclaimed but not yet put to intensive cultivation; and work was in progress on 1,537,710 acres.[xx] Since the reclaimed area amounted in 1915 to 1,773,460 acres, and since during the war the work had been almost completely suspended, it follows that in the post-war quadrennium -- the last before fascism -- reclamation had been completed on about 380,380 acres, i. e., on 98,800 acres a year.

In April 1923 a group of Dutch farmers visiting the reclamation works of Ferrara and Chioggia were surprised to discover an "Italian Holland." On the plain of Catania the Costantina estate, which on the eve of the war was a pasture of 741 acres, was in 1923 covered by 100,000 citrous fruit trees, 300,000 grape vines, etc., with a value fifteen times that of ten years before.[xxi]

In the four years that followed the "March on Rome" (October 1922) reclamation work notably slackened. In May 1923 Signor De Stefani, Minister of Finance in Mussolini's cabinet, wrote:

The necessity of restricting within the smallest possible limits expenditures for reclamation works has kept the administration from beginning new projects, limiting its activities to the completion of those works already undertaken and often even to the mere maintenance of that part of the works completed, inasmuch as the restricted means do not permit our completing these works rapidly.[xxii]

The expenditures on reclamation which had been 209,000,000 lire in the fiscal year 1921-22 dropped to 179,000,000 in 1922-23, to 119,000,000 in 1923-24, to 187,000,000 in 1924-25, and to 164,000,000 in 1925-26,[xxiii] while the cost of reclamation works rose from an average of 603 lire an acre in 1923 to an average of 1,053 lire an acre in 1926.[xxiv] Of the 173 reclamation works which were in progress in June 1926 scarcely 38 (covering an area of 88,920 acres) had been begun after 1922.[xxv] In addition to continuing work already begun, these 88,920 acres represented the dictatorship's contribution in its first four years.

Beginning in 1926 work was again intensified. In the fiscal year 1926-27 expenditures rose to 253,000,000 lire, in 1927-28 to 282,-000,000 and in 1928-29 to 311,000,000.[xxvi] Altogether between 1922 and 1928 reclamation projects were completed on 805,180 acres of land. (This figure is obtained by subtracting the 2,225,510 acres completed by 1922 from the 3,030,690 acres drained by 1928. The latter figure was given by Signor De Stefani, in the Corriere della Sera, July 29, 1928.)

In December 1928, an act was passed whereby the government pledged itself to spend during the next fourteen years 4,300,000 lire (one half billion a year), on marsh reclamation and the general improvement of land. The idea was excellent. But the major part of that money was absorbed by the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes which cover only 64,220 acres. By concentrating a great expenditure of money and labor on a small area at the gates of Rome, regardless of cost and economic results, it is easy to organize a spectacular show to impress foreigners. In the meantime the reclamation works which do not serve publicity purposes are slowed up or neglected entirely. In the fiscal year 1929-30 the administration was authorized to spend 244,000,000 lire to start new works; in 1930-31 the amount dropped to 74,000,000; and in 1931-32 to 33,000,000.[xxvii]

Concerning the results obtained throughout Italy by the law of 1928, the government has maintained a dignified silence. Everything that the foreign correspondents have reported from Rome in these last years concerning the miracles performed by Mussolini in reclaiming and improving land all over Italy must be considered as evidence of what could have been done and not of what really has been done, aside from the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes and a few other undertakings personally favored by some high fascist personage.

It is in land reclamation and improvement, and generally speaking in domestic economic development, that Italians must seek one of the solutions of the Italian overpopulation problem. Sardinia, one of Italy's two large islands, has 973,000 inhabitants, i. e. 105 inhabitants per square mile, whereas the average density in Italy is 344 inhabitants per square mile. Sardinia may thus be regarded as sparsely populated. Only thirty percent of Sardinia is cultivated. Only 56.32 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture. In spite of the abundance of uncultivated land and the sparseness of population, even Sardinia suffers from the plague of unemployment. Why go to Africa to squander billions on war? With the capital which is being thrown away in Ethiopia work could be given for many years to Italy's surplus population.


Another solution of the Italian population problem must be sought outside of Italy. Before the present depression not all countries had closed their doors to Italian immigration. France was very liberal, South America also. The world is wide. Some gates are closed, but others open. As long as the present depression continues Italian labor will be in the same terrible condition as the labor of all other countries. When the depression has become a thing of the past, emigration will start again.

If Mussolini had been a sensible man, he would have sought to keep before the moral conscience of the entire world the injustice which the Anglo-Saxon countries are committing against the Italian people with their laws excluding immigration. No assembly of the League of Nations should have taken place at which the representative of Italy did not take the floor to tell the Anglo-Saxon countries that it is ridiculous to talk cant about peace and international justice while ruthlessly excluding Italian labor from the United States, Canada and Australia. Unless the Anglo-Saxon countries face the problem of Italian immigration in a spirit of understanding and good will, a crowded and restive Italy will always be tempted to join with other discontented peoples in order to break down the barriers which pen them in.

Clearly Italian emigrants have no right to pour pell-mell into any country and throw its labor market into confusion. The receiving country has the right to control the current of immigration from the physical, intellectual and moral point of view, and even to arrest it entirely in time of depression. Every measure which countries importing labor take to oblige immigrants to raise their personal values, should be gratefully received by all Italians who intelligently desire the progress of their country. Before the World War, on the news that illiterates were to be excluded from the United States, many thousands of Italian peasants began to learn to read and write. Furthermore, immigrants should not be allowed to crowd into those quarters of large cities which are a disgrace to those inhabiting them and to those who permit others to inhabit them. But to supervise the quality of immigrants and direct their flow according to appropriate plans is one thing; it is quite another to stop entirely and forever any kind of emigration while wide areas remain unoccupied. And it is even worse to set up between the different peoples a capricious hierarchy in order to exclude en bloc all the workers of certain countries as if they were lepers.

These ideas the Italian Government should have diffused in 1924, as soon as the United States, Canada and Australia closed their doors to Italian immigration. Instead, in 1925 Mussolini began to create obstacles to emigration. In that year the farmers in southwest France were forced to import Spaniards and French Canadians because Italian laborers were no longer able to leave their country.[xxviii] In November 1926 to emigrate without permission from the authorities became a crime punishable by three years' imprisonment; the Italian frontier guards were ordered to shoot anyone trying to cross the frontier at any except authorized points. In the fall of 1927 the government adopted a policy of reducing the emigration of workers to a minimum.[xxix] Accordingly, only those workers who promise to return to Italy in not more than three years may emigrate. The emigrant is not allowed to take his family with him during those three years and if at the end of that time he does not return "he loses the right to have his family join him."[xxx]

The advocacy and practice of birth control became a crime under the terms of article 113 of the law of November 6, 1926. Bachelors were subjected to a heavy personal tax (law of November 19, 1926), doubled at the end of 1928. Furthermore, a complicated mass of regulations, the most important of which is the law of June 14, 1928, sought to multiply marriages through cash premiums and railway reductions for couples on honeymoon, and encouraged procreation by granting considerable tax exemptions and other privileges to large families.

At the same time the slogan that colonial conquest was the only way of solving the problem of Italian overpopulation became one of the best ingredients of fascist propaganda in Italy and abroad. "Italy," said Mussolini in an interview in the Deutsche Tageszeitung, November 14, 1926, "demands from the other Powers the recognition of her incontestable need for sun and earth." And in another interview with the London Daily Express on January 24, 1927, he developed this thought: "Italy must find an outlet for her ever-increasing population. No power has a right to stand in the way of her legitimate effort to find territories suitable for her people. She must either expand or explode."

The growing population provided him with a reason for demanding colonies. At the same time he sought to promote an increase in population in order to have a stronger reason for demanding colonies. The explosion has taken place in 1935 in Ethiopia.


Even if it is not suited to solving the Italian overpopulation problem, would Ethiopia solve Italy's problem of raw materials? Is Ethiopia really rich in minerals: platinum, gold, coal and oil?

The platinum production of Ethiopia has oscillated from 22,355 to 24,946 grams per year between 1926 and 1933, i. e. three percent of the world's total production. As far as gold mines are concerned, nobody has ever been able to locate them. We may safely assume that neither the Foreign Office or the Quai d'Orsay would have left Ethiopia to Italy if there had been gold in the country in any great quantity.

The existence of coal and oil deposits in Ethiopia is as problematic as those of gold. But even if coal and oil deposits do exist in Ethiopia, one must consider whether the cost of developing the country and of transporting those raw materials through deserts would be commensurate to their value on the world market. Why should Italian industry import coal from Ethiopia if English coal be cheaper? Why carry oil from Ethiopia to Italy while oil from Rumania, Russia or Mosul could be obtained on better terms?

The same holds good as far as coffee, rubber, sugar and other agricultural products are concerned. Would the cultivation of these products be profitable in Ethiopia? The world is overflowing with sugar, cotton and coffee which cannot be sold. Beet sugar is today produced by Italian factories which would make impossible the competition of cane sugar grown by Italian pioneers in Ethiopia. Egyptian cotton, Brazilian coffee, Jugoslav meat, Canadian wheat, will for a very long time be much cheaper than products raised in Ethiopia. What the Italian consumer needs is not to buy coal or oil or cotton from countries politically controlled by the Italian Government, but to buy them at the lowest possible prices. As long as the circulation of goods throughout the world is not hampered by war, the Italian buyer need only obey the law of supply and demand. He makes a distinction, not between English and Ethiopian coal, but between cheap and dear coal.

Protective tariffs may reserve Italy as a monopolistic market for Ethiopian products. This would oblige Italy's population to adopt a lower standard of living. In that case Italy might have conquered Ethiopia politically; but Ethiopia would have conquered Italy economically.

In order to carry Ethiopian raw materials to world markets, Mussolini plans to build a railway through Ethiopia connecting Eritrea with Italian Somaliland. Such a railway would be three times the length of Italy and would pass through a succession of deserts and very rough mountains. In an undeveloped country capable at best of being rendered profitable in the distant future, the construction and upkeep of this railway would engulf fabulous sums. And this masterpiece of economic and financial lunacy is planned at a moment when all over the world railways are struggling against the competition of road and air transport.

One may object that the problem of raw materials is not economic but strategic. It does not exist in time of peace, but becomes of vital importance in time of war. Any government which controls territories producing raw materials may, in time of war or of diplomatic dispute, establish an embargo which will deprive the other countries of those materials. A country possessing no raw materials is always exposed to a danger of this kind. However, access to Ethiopian raw materials -- if there are any -- could not in time of war be assured to Italy, for many thousand miles of sea, not to mention the Suez Canal, separate Ethiopia from the home land. If Italy and her allies control the sea, raw materials will come to Italy from all parts of the world. If they do not, then raw materials cannot be obtained, whether produced in an Italian Ethiopia or in the United States.


The division between "sated" and "unsated" countries -- in Italy they are called "capitalist" and "proletarian" countries -- is not economic but psychological. England, supposedly one of the "sated" countries, has to import from overseas half of her foodstuffs, all of her petroleum, copper, cotton, rubber, potash, a third of her iron ore, three-fourths of her sulphur, pyrites and wool, etc. Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, which have a soil even more ungrateful than Italy's, disturb no one on account of their lack of raw materials, and act as if they were "sated" countries. If the Swiss and Scandinavian intellectuals and politicians should start repeating in the schools, in books, in newspapers, at meetings, and in legislative halls, that their countries cannot live without colonies to supply them with raw materials, those countries after several years of this propaganda would likewise join the ranks of the "unsated" countries.

Mussolini is today turning the world upside down, and Hitler will do it tomorrow, by demanding colonies, because they "feel" unsated. They feel unsated because colonies are symbols of superiority and every country which wants to be regarded as powerful must possess colonies, just as every millionaire must possess a Rolls Royce and deck his wife or his mistress with jewels. For the same reasons of "prestige" -- in this case, to preserve and not to acquire prestige -- Winston Churchill would provoke another World War rather than give back to Germany Tanganyika or Southwest Africa. The problems of overpopulation and raw materials are economic afterthoughts devised to justify psychological unrest. Pareto would have said that economic derivations disguise political residues.

During the fifty years preceding the World War the population of Italy increased by one quarter, yet it did not die of hunger. Indeed, its standard of living rose steadily even though Italy possessed neither raw materials nor colonies suited for Italian emigrants. The problem was solved by peace and prosperity. The products which Italy exports are silk, wines, early fruits and vegetables, automobiles, textiles and other finished products, that is to say goods which are not indispensable and which find a market only if other countries are prosperous. Neither do foreigners go and travel in Italy unless well enough off to spend money on luxuries. Nor need other countries absorb Italian labor, if they themselves are not enjoying prosperity.

An Italian Government guided by men with common sense, having the real interests of the people at heart, would therefore as its first duty work for peace, develop emigration and at the same time not foster an increase in population. Instead of this, Mussolini has repressed emigration as though it were a crime, has commanded Italian women to breed more children, and when last summer a way of settling his quarrel with Ethiopia by peaceful means was offered him, declared to the French ambassador (as reported by the French journalist "Pertinax"): "If you brought me Abyssinia on a silver tray, I would not accept it, for I am resolved to take it by force."

[i] Brooks Emeny, "The Strategy of Raw Materials." New York: Macmillan, 1936, 174 ff.

[ii] Cf. R. D. Ward, "Climate Considered Especially in Relation to Man." New York: Putnam, 1918, p. 269-270.

[iii] "Annuario Statistico Italiano: 1934," p. 5.

[iv] C. Zoli: "L'avvaloramento agricolo dell'Eritrea," in Rassegna Italiana, May 1930, p. 203-204.

[v] Bollettino Mensile di Statistica, September 21, 1935, p. 707.

[vi] Popolo d'Italia, July 21, 1935. According to the "Annuario Statistico: 1934", p. 244, the 1,361 persons who in 1931 composed the families of farmers in Tripolitania had risen to 6,500 in 1933.

[vii] "Annuario Statistico Italiano: 1922-1925," p. 13.

[viii] 38,755,000 in "Compendio Statistico: 1928," p. 23; 38,724,000 in "Annuario Statistico: 1930," p. 24; 38,769,000 in "Compendio Statistico: 1931," p. 10.

[ix] Bollettino Mensile di Statistica, May 21, 1931, p. 451.

[x] Speeches of February 6 and 10, 1926, and May 26, 1927.

[xi] "Annuario Statistico Italiano: 1927," p. 14.

[xii] "Annali di Statistica," Series VI, v. III, 1929, p. 120.

[xiii] Lavoro Fascista, October 30, 1929.

[xiv] "Annali di Statistica," Series VI, v. VI, 1930, p. 63.

[xv] Official communiqué to the press, October 13, 1931.

[xvi] Bolletino Mensile di Statistica, September 21, 1935, p. 709.

[xvii] V. Peglion, "Le Bonifiche in Italia." Bologna: Zanichelli, p. 5.

[xviii] Ibid., pp. 6-7; see also S. Trentin, "Per un nuovo orientamento della legislazione in materia di bonifiche." Venice, 1919, p. 13.

[xix] Ministry of Public Works, "Le Opere Pubbliche al 30 Giugno 1926." Rome, 1927, 211 ff.

[xx] De Stefani, "Documenti sulla condizione finanziaria ed economica dell'Italia." Rome, May 1923, p. 456.

[xxi] De Stefani, "L'Azione dello Stato Italiano per le Opere Pubbliche: 1862-1924," Rome, 1925, p. 131.

[xxii] De Stefani, "Documenti" (May 1923), p. 211 and 457.

[xxiii] Ministry of Finance, "Il Bilancio dello Stato dal 1913-14 al 1929-30," Rome, 1931, p. 370.

[xxiv] Federazione Nazionale delle Bonifiche, "Le Bonifiche in Italia al 1 luglio 1927." Vicenza, 1928.

[xxv] "Le Opere Pubbliche al 30 giugno, 1926," 211 ff.

[xxvi] "Il Bilancio dello Stato dal 1913-14 al 1929-30," p. 370.

[xxvii] Serpieri, "La legge sulla bonifica integrale nel secondo anno," Rome, 1932, p. 73.

[xxviii] G. Mauco, "Les étrangers dans les campagnes françaises," Annales de Géographie, March 15, 1926, p. 107.

[xxix] Report of Deputy Torre on the foreign affairs budget for 1928-29.

[xxx] Law of October 27, 1927 and official communiqués published on August 17 and 30, 1928.

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  • GAETANO SALVEMINI, formerly Professor of History in the University of Florence and member of the Italian Parliament; now visiting lecturer at Harvard University and at the New School for Social Research, New York; author of "The Fascist Dictatorship in Italy," and other works
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