Declaration Against the Sanctions
By Benito Mussolini
The proud and stirring words pronounced by Comrade Ciano, President of this Assembly, undoubtedly and nobly interpret your thought.
There is nothing to add to what he said about the superb moral, material as well as military mobilization of the Italian people, a mobilization that has been underway since last January and which culminated at the meeting of October 2nd, when 27 million Italians—men, women and children—responded with exalted spontaneity to the appeal of the Regime.
It is sufficient to declare and repeat once and for all that when the 365th day of the siege will be reached, we will have the same courage, the same determination, as on the first day. (Lively and prolonged shouts of: "Duce! Duce!").
There is no siege that can bend us, no coalition, however numerous, that can delude itself to deter us from our goal.
Our meeting, which takes place after sanctions, offers me the opportunity of making some opportune declarations of a political nature.
Within these last few hours a slight ray of improvement penetrates through the atmosphere and perhaps a mitigation of certain preconceived measures is outlined. But it is my duty to put you on your guard against premature and excessive optimism. ("Good!"). The contacts of two experts do not mean negotiations, nor the possibility of negotiations. Even when negotiations are initiated it does not mean that they will reach a happy and rapid conclusion.
We have also been publicly solicited to make our demands known. These solicitations are out of place because ever since October 16th our ideas on the subject were made known to the French Government.
But instead of concrete conversations, sanctions followed against an "aggressor" that the native populations have been expecting for a long time (lively approvals; applause) and to whom the first elements of civilization have been brought.
Someone thought to put his conscience at rest by stating that we would have accepted economic sanctions. This is not true. In my speech of October 2nd I protested even against the mere allusion to sanctions of any kind, and what I said about eventual economic sanctions and the appeal that I made, not in vain, to the inexhaustible virtues of the Italian people should have served, at least, to our friends, as a justification to disavow any sanctions (very vivid approvals) and not as an alibi to inflict four simultaneous categories of sanctions. (New approvals).
Our counter-sanctions are therefore not only inevitable, because we cannot import from nations that forbid our exports, but they are also logical and absolutely moral as a legitimate self-defense. (Vivid applause).
It would however be ungenerous on our part not to recognize that large proportions of the French people and almost all the ex-servicemen have stood together against the sanctions and their excessive applications. Nor can we ignore the protests against sanctions that took place in Belgium and in more or less official circles in other countries. To the Governments and to the countries that have stood up courageously against the application of Article 16, we send our present and future sympathy. (Very vivid and prolonged applause).
Yesterday at the House of Commons a speech was delivered which cannot but have an echo in this Assembly. Minister Hoare was explicit as regards the attitude of his government towards Fascist Italy. We take note of the fact that the Foreign Office desires a strong Italy, with a strong Government, such as the Fascist Government (very vivid and prolonged applause); an Italy capable of worthily taking the place that is due to her in the life of Europe and the world.
For the last fourteen years we have been working towards this. (Vivid applause).
Considering Hoare's premises, we are legitimately waiting for the subsequent consequences. Italy cannot be strong in Europe, as Hoare wishes, and as we want her to be, unless the problem of the integral security of her Colonies in East Africa is settled. (Lively approvals). She cannot be strong unless she can spread over backwards territories her capacities for expansion, population and civilization that Hoare clearly recognized in a previous speech.
Minister Hoare, who knew Italy during the war, has had the possibility of appreciating the qualities and the vital necessities of the Italian people. Since then many years have passed, during wich — thanks to the Victory and to the Revolution — the movement of the political conscience of the Italian people has been extraordinarily accelerated. The Italian people listen to words but judge by deeds. (Very vivid and prolonged applause).
Now the action announced for day 12, namely the embargo on oil, is such as to seriously prejudice the development of the situation.
As I have already said to the Mothers and the Widows of the Fallen, it is the moral side of the sanctions that provokes the well understood scorn of the Italian people. (Applause). Especially when in another government speech in the same House of Commons, we are told that the "application of sanctions in an possible future case seems problematic". Therefore it follows that the Penal Code of the League does not have a past, because during 16 years it was never applied in cases infinitely more serious and clearer than ours; it does not even have a future.
This Penal Code of the League of Nations, drawn up when the memory of the war was still burning, has therefore only a present, it acts only "today", only against Italy, exclusively against Italy, which is guilty of having broken the shackles of the slaves in barbarous lands, over which treaties, moral rights, sacrifices of blood, give Italy an indisputable and already recognized priority of 50 years standing. (Very vivid and prolonged applause).
This death sentence by economic strangulation, decreed by the humanitarian men of Geneva, was never applied before 1935, will probably never be attempted again, and it is being applied today to Italy because she is "poor in raw materials", which means that the punishment of the Geneva Code cannot be applied against rich nations (general and prolonged acclamations) that are armed with their wealth and with greater arms than wealth allows. (New applause).
Those who have set in motion the most explosive war machine that history knows, are mistaken in their calculations. When beyond the Alps — sitting at a table — the more or less economic vulnerability of Italy was examined, they forgot that, over and above figures and plans, allowance had to be made for the material reserves of every kind that a great Nation slowly and almost unconsciously accumulates in the course of centuries, and above all no allowance was made for the spiritual value of Fascist Italy (prolonged applause), a spirit that will at any cost bend to draw the necessary elements for resistance and for revenge. (Applause).
I have the impression that the mistake they committed is being recognized when — based on abstract principles, formalistically interpreted, a classical case of summum jus summa injuria — one of those colonial conflicts that other States, even after the war, even after the League of Nations, have also resolved by using force of arms, was expanded until it assumed the charachter of a global crisis. (Lively approvals).
I intend to reaffirm in the clearest manner that the epilogue of this crisis cannot but consist in the full recognition of our rights (applause) and in the safeguarding of our African interests. (Very vivid applause). In the meantime, action continues in Italy and in Africa where Infantry and Blackshirts, united in the will and in the faith of the Revolution, will give the decisive and well deserved victory to their Fatherland.