MUSSOLINI'S REAL FEELINGS
How It Affected Schuschnigg
Every day proves that there was no exaggeration in the CATHOLIC HERALD'S head-line last week: " THE MOST IMPORTANT WEEK SINCE THE WAR."
A sudden change for the better has come over Europe.
In Paris, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, the change is as marked as elsewhere.
Everything fits in very exactly with the impressions of Mussolini's mind and feeling gained by the writer of this article in an interview with the Duce in 1933.
ITALY WILL BREATHE MORE FREELY
From a Diplomatic Correspondent A sudden change for the better has come over Europe.
Why, and how? Notice the significant collection of events.
What is the reason for the marked plucking up of her spirits and courage and willpower by Austria? Whence the bracing of opinion in Czecho-Slovakia? Why the firm action against extremists in Hungary and Rumania!
Because by the telepathy of diplomacy "a little bird has told them " that Britain, France and Italy will be interested in their independence and future.
That phrase of Schuschnigg's, " thus far and no farther," I understand did not originate with him. The time has not come to say who first used the phrase, which has incidentally (with the accompanying actions) made a sobering impression in Berlin.
Mussolini Was Prepared Up to a point, Mussolini was ready to countenance Germany's intervention in Austrian affairs—largely because Italy is involved in the Rome-Berlin axis, and has to keep some sort of common front. That axis was created by us—by our failure from 1932 onward to weld our relations closer with Italy. Mussolini himself insisted to me, in urgent words, that "your country, France, and my country are the tripod on which European peace should rest—and then we three must bring Germany in by patient effort." He told me that in 1933. At the same interview, he was very critical
of some of Hitler's colleagues. So critical that 1 marvelled he let me publish this reproof of the Nazis.
Even then I saw Mussolini—and men at the Rome Foreign Office—and Italians as a whole, would feel happier with a RomeLondon-Paris axis. That would have suited the history and genius of the new Italy better than a Germany which now and then is rasher incalculable, and rather near the Brenner Pass!
That terrible Hitler-Schuschnigg interview made many fear that all was lost, including Austria's honour. But—an invisible " wireless " went forth, at the stune time that Mr. Chamberlain demanded prompt talks with Rome, to Austria that Vienna could safely be calm. And we see what has happened since: a tremendous closing of the ranks, a stiffening of the Fatherland Front, and the surprising and fine patriotic stand of Hitler's appointee, Dr. von Seiss-Inquart (a loyal friend of Schuschnigg—and Dollfuss), when he warns Nazis not to indulge in illegalities.
Nobody need be surprised if time shows that this is partly a British diplomatic victory.
Depends on the Reckless These talks with Italy will be a blessing and a success if the irresponsibles can hold their tongues. Already they have spread the invention that Italy will "demand " a share in patrolling the Suez Canal. Rome has had to deny this canard. Sensationmongers know nothing whatever about it. Italy most probably will be quite moderate in her suggestions. Too much hangs on them for any " try-ons " or excesses. In the Mediterranean, in Eastern Europe, in Arabia and Africa she is a neighbour and potentially a useful friend. Friendship will ease the tension also with France, who at every movement will be informed and consulted. Let us discount the stormy scenes in the French Chamber by the enormous applause evoked by the Radical M. Mistier, calling for " a balance of power including agreement with Britain. . . The world is horrified by France's internal differences. Is it not possible to accept voluntarily the discipline that is imposed by the dictatorships? France is an old nation of tillers,
of workers, and soldiers. Cannot she sacrifice her domestic quarrels to the cause of human dignity and liberty? "
It is quite on the cards that France will make a strong internal effort for greater unity and compactness, without waiting for a threat to do it (as it always does).
I would not go the length of the M.P. who told me this week, " The Berlin-Rome axis is all moonshine; Italy does not like the idea of a German army on its northern frontier." But I do know Mussolini's inner preferences, as he told them to me, are fundamentally the same today. There are things in Nazism which perturb Italians as much almost as they do the Vatican. Italy will breathe more freely when she has the goodwill of France and Britain, as she already has that of Hungary, Jugo-Slavia, and Austria. It is not healthy for her to be bound exclusively to Berlin, and the axis is not what it was, quite, a month ago, Chamberlain Can Do It Mr. Neville Chamberlain is a bang upto-date Prime Minister. He has been clever already—or let me say, rather, honest and wise. There is relief in Rome and southeastern Europe at his move, behind which, it is felt, eighty per cent. of Englishmen stand. And the appointment of Lord Halifax too will show Germany that we are not forgetting her in the scope of any talks. He made a good impression there, and may get more than Mr. Eden could have done.
By the way, let no one he surprised if the Spanish war is decided for the Nationalists before the Non-Intervention Committee can effect anything useful, beyond keeping the fire from spreading (its main function). The four Powers can come to terms among themselves independently meanwhile, and it will keep them well occupied in the next few months.