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Post Mussolini's Justification for the Ethiopian War
Created by John Eipper on 03/25/19 3:07 AM

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Mussolini's Justification for the Ethiopian War (Carmen Negrin, -France, 03/25/19 3:07 am)

In Eugenio Battaglia's explanation of Mussolini's Ethiopia war (March 25th), there was no colonial fascist expansionism involved of course! Mussolini was the Ethiopian Deus ex machina!

As the saying goes: love is in the eyes of the beholder.

JE comments:  Point well taken.  We haven't addressed Mussolini's other justification, to abolish slavery in Ethiopia (which he did).  Doesn't this sound (gulp?) Lincoln-like? Or viewed from a different perspective, how can we view the Selassie regime with sympathy when it perpetuated slavery into...the 1930s?

Did Ethiopian slavery function more or less the same as we understand it in the West?  Who can enlighten us?

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  • Ethiopian Slavery (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/27/19 4:21 AM)
    The Abyssinian-Italian war started on 3 October 1935. Just 11 days later, the commander of the Italian army, General De Bono, abolished slavery.

    From the most ancient times, slavery in Abyssinia was practiced in a kind of feudal sense.

    Most of the slaves came from the subdued ethnic groups. For instance the Semitic Tygrais were defeated by the dominant Amhara, despite the fact that they were also mostly Christians (it is reported that the disappeared Ark of the Covenant is preserved by them). After being subdued their name was changed by the Abyssinian Amharas to Tigre, which in Amharic means "under my feet." In 1987 their endemic rebellion caused the fall of the Derg communist military regime and the eventual independence of Eritrea, which for many years longed for its previous relation with Italy.

    Other oppressed groups may number as many 70 with 83 different languages. The larger groups are the Oromo-Galla, Karo, Mursi, Borana, Konso, Afar. The Oromo are found also in Kenya. The Azebo Galla immediately joined the Italian forces then during the war.  Other ethnic groups and the Ras left the Negus for the Italians. Some of these groups saw the Italians as "liberators."

    About slavery you can still find books on eBay such as Horror and Miseries of Slavery in Abyssinia (1933) by Lady Kathleen Simon. Lord Noel Buxton on 17 July 1935 stated at the Commons, "Ethiopia is still the main center of slavery in the world," while according to the Secretary of the British Parliament John H. Harris, "The Emperor of Ethiopia each year receive presents of slave children of both sexes."

    The League of Nations refused to accept Ethiopia because of its practice of slavery.

    JE comments:  This is a controversial topic.  That the Italians abolished slavery in 1935-'36 is true, but to say so somehow justifies the conquest.  It also clouds the image of Haile Selassie, who is revered by many as a semi-god.  See for example this article from the African Holocaust Society, which not only claims the Emperor abolished slavery in 1924, but also that slavery was rather benign in the first place.  Enslaved Ethiopians, we learn, were more like unpaid members of the family:


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    • Modern-Day Slavery (John Heelan, -UK 03/31/19 4:43 AM)
      In this discussion on slavery, we should not forget that it still exists in practice.

      Consider the implicit but relatively gentle slavery-by-choice of Saudi Arabia. Incoming slaves need to surrender their passports to their employers: the employers of outgoing slaves have to advertise their imminent departures in newspaper adverts and can withhold exit permission just in case the slave owes somebody money.

      JE comments:  Whose choice is it?  I suppose the idea is that the Saudis do not capture and export the victims from their countries of origin.  But the enslaved's experience "on the ground" is anything but gentle.

      Adrian College has a very active chapter of Not for Sale, a 501 non-profit foundation dedicated to ending exploitation and forced labor.  Its mission is a noble one:


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