The Register ADELAIDE: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1923.
ITALIAN IMPERALISM AND EUROPEAN PEACE.
The eruption of Mussolinism into Bal- kans politics has imparted a new uncer- tainty to the never very stable equili- brium of that part of Europe. The Corfu crisis has nominally ended. Italy must evacuate the island this week,
and Greece has made full amends for the Janina murders, for which the blood of a few orphans on Corfu had already atoned. But nobody who has studied the sequence of events believes that the Greco-Italian dispute was a mere isolated incident, to be ended as quickly as it arose. The overawing of Greece was not due to a sudden and transient ebullition of wrath. It marked the first step along the path of Imperialistic expansion which Fascismo had mapped out for the new Italy. The Signor Mus- solini who ordered the warships to Corfu, was the same fiery leader who had written, less than 12 months earlier, that 'it is not an Italian interest to con tribute to the maintenance of the Bri- tish Empire; Italy's interest is to col- laborate in demolishing it;" who had proclaimed 'the Mediterranean for the Mediterranean peoples;'.' and who had indicated the resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, at the expense of exist- ing States. It is true, as a close student of Italian politics observes in The Contemporary Review, that "once in power the demagogue became a diplo- matist," and that, while raising Italian
prestige abroad, he pursued for a few months a conciliatory policy towards the neighbouring nations. The expansionist ambitions, however, had not been aban- doned. They were merely allowed to remain dormant while Signor Mussolini was consolidating his internal authority. He achieved that aim, not only by the real excellence of his domestic reforms and his own patriotic example, but by
the passage of an Electoral Bill which "looks like an attempt to maintain the Premier permanently in power.' ' Having justified itself at home, and with an election approaching in Novem- ber, the time was ripe for Fascismo to show its strength abroad. In no other direction was such popularity to be won as by a forward policy in the field of foreign relations. Nationalist Italy had smarted since the Paris Peace Confer- ence under a sense of defeat in diplo- macy, which had robbed the country of its rightful share of the fruits of vic- tory. It was Fascismo's mission to re- store Italy to the rank of an equal among the Great Powers, to assert her dominating influence in the Balkans, and to revive ancient dreams of con- quest and Empire. The preliminary intimation that Premier Mussolini was turning his attention from internal ad- ministration to foreign affairs was the virtual ultimatum to Jugo-Slavia on August 8. Before the time limit had
expired the Albanian outrage occurred and Greece became the object of the "strong man's" anger. There seemed little risk in thoroughly terrorising and humiliating the Greeks, and such a de- monstration would have its advantages in impressing other Balkan nations. The League of Nations hardly appeared a factor worthy of entering into the dic- tator's calculations. Accordingly, Greece, who had merited a measure of punish- ment, was humbled to the dust, amid a unanimous chorus of Italian appro-
val. At one stroke Signor Mussolini had established the popularity of his Government. His mistake was in arousing the active opposition of the Great Powers by the occupation of Corfu. That expedition is still being represented as a "pacific reposal," but it was more in the nature of an experi- ment in Imperialism. Signor Musso- lini desired to test how Europe would regard the practical application of the annexationist doctrines which Fascismo had preached. The reception was not encouraging and Corfu is to be eva- cuated on Thursday. But, though de- prived of a base which would have made her control of the Adriatic more secure, Italy is not to be baulked of her ambi- tions in Fiume. On the Jugo-Slavian frontier a situation is developing not less menacing, to the peace of Europe than was the crisis over Corfu. The Versailles Treaty denied Fiume to Rome. D'Annunzio seized it with the acclamations of his countrymen, but he could not hold the port. What d'Annunzio did informally in behalf of Young Italy, Mussolini is now doing officially in the name, of the Italian nation. Although the Treaty of Rapallo assigned an independent status to Fiume, that document is to become a scrap of paper; and Jugo-Slavia must either yield to superior force or fight.
Signor Mussonnrs methods in the new theatre, if no less forceful, are more cautious than his dealings with Greece. He has extended the ultimatum to Bel- grade, but has sent a military governor to Fiume, which is now virtually an Italian port, and— according to cable messages today— is concentrating troops on the frontier. Jugo-Slavia is a much more formidable adversary than Greece, but she may decline 'to fight without allies, more especially in view of the Bulgarian threat to Macedonia. Nor are the Powers likely to intervene as they did at Corfu. Fiume under the Rapallo agreement has languished to the point of decay, whereas under Italian rule its prosperity and importance would at least revive. But Italy, even if she should succeed in annexing the coveted port without a war, is pursuing an ex- ceedingly perilous policy in the Bal- kans — a policy which, however it may accord with the dreams of Fascismo, is calculated to have serious conse- quences for Europe. When a firebrand like Mussolini goes adventuring among the combustible materials with which the peninsula is thickly strewn, an ex-
plosion is inevitable, and its conse- quences are incalculable. He has already affronted the public opinion of Europe over his contemptuous treat- ment of the League of Nations, and he is in a fair way to create a Balkan alliance against Italy. It is a pity that the undoubted reforms achieved by Fas- cismo at home should be imperilled by the violence of its policy abroad, and it is still more regrettable that the peace of Europe should be gravely endangered at a time when pacification and recon- struction are its imperative needs.