Sarasota Herald-Tribune/September 16, 1931
The “nibbling” process on reparations, due perhaps to receive further impetus by the visit of Laval of France to President Hoover, reveals the tenacious patience of Benito Mussolini.
Ever since he rose to power in 1922 this black shirt symbol of quick, vigorous action, has bided his time on this question, acting only when opportunity gave him an opening to chip off a few more of the rough edges of the 1919 peace terms.
Debts Endanger Peace
Nine years ago, when the reparations commission fixed German payments at $582,000,000,000, his denouncement of them as too great a burden and as a danger to world peace were almost as definite as his urge for relief when the Young plan reduced them to $168,000,000,000.
He never openly advocated cancellation of debts, which would be implied by abandonment of reparations, but there is nothing to show he would oppose it. On the contrary he acknowledged the justice of America’s claim to repayment of war loans.
His theme all along has been the note sounded in Ramsay MacDonald’s election manifesto, that reparations and war debts, however well justified, bear too heavily upon the world’s economic life. He has seen them too as inflaming the sores of war into dangerous hatreds.
Is No Philanthropist
So he did not hesitate to accept instantly Hoover’s moratorium proposal, making it plain that Italy would be in the salvage squad of nations, even if France remained out.
The duce takes no credit as an international philanthropist. So long as other nations accept reparations, he wants Italy to have her share. Hence, while he pleaded for reductions, he also fought for an increase in Italy’s percentage and got 12 per cent under the Young plan instead of the previous 10 percent.
To get this 12 per cent, Italy sacrificed considerable right of indemnity from Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria. But there also Mussolini’s philanthropy was practiced in his country’s interest. Italy needs the friendship and trade of central Europe.