Editorial by Marcus Garvey
in the Black Man

[London, July/August 1936]


        Mussolini of Italy has conquered Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, but he has not conquered the Abyssinians; nor Abyssinia.  The Emperor of Abyssinia allowed himself to be conquered, by playing white, by trusting to white advisers and by relying on white Governments, including the white League of Nations.
        We can remember in 1920 inviting the Government of Abyssinia to send representatives to the International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the world in common with other Negro Governments, institutions and organizations.   Whilst others replied, and most of them sent representatives to that greatest of all Negro Conventions, the Abyssinian Government returned the communication unopened.2  Its policy then, as during the Italo-Abyssinian war, was no doubt to rely completely on the advice and friendship of white people.  They ignored Negro relationship[s] from without and throttled Negro aspirations from within.   The result was that they dragged along without any racial policy, except that of the ruling classes, believing themselves white and better than the rest, with a right to suppress the darker elements which make up the tremendous population.
        When Haile Selassie departed from the policy of the great Menelik, and surrounded himself with European advisers, he had taken the first step to the destruction of the country.  It is true that he became heir to the very bad conditions prevailing in Abyssinia, but he had an advantage over previous Emperors.   He travelled to Europe and America, he saw what European civilization was like.   He saw the freedom of the peoples of the different countries, and must have been impressed with their high social, educational and cultural developments.  A wise monarch, like Peter the Great, would have gone back to his country, if he were patriotic and humane, with a programme to lift the standard of his people and push forward the status of his country.  This Haile Selassie did in a small way, but too small to be effective, to the extent of saving himself and his country from the designs of the very European sharks whose representatives were advising him.  He inherited a vendetta from Italy.  He knew that Italy one day would strike.  Why he kept the majority of his countrymen in serfdom and almost slavery is difficult to tell.  Why he refused to educate on a large scale, thousands of the youths of his country, so that they would be able to help him to carry on the Government and lead the masses in a defensive war against Italy, cannot be understood.


        If Haile Selassie had educated thousands of his countrymen and women,3 and raised them to that status of culture and general knowledge necessary to our civilization, the Italians never would have dared an offensive against Abyssinia, because Abyssinia would have found leaders on the spot competent and ready to throw back the invader.   But that is not all.  If Haile Selassie had negotiated the proper relationship with the hundreds of millions of Negroes outside of Abyssinia - in Africa, in South and Central America, in the United States of America, in Canada, the West Indies and Australia, he could have had an organization of men and women ready to do service, not only in the development of Abyssinia, as a great Negro nation, but on the spur of the moment to protect it from any foe.  But he had no consulates, he had no Foreign Ministers, he had no Diplomatic Agents among Negroes anywhere and the few that he did appoint were to the courts of white nations, and they were chiefly white men or Abyssinians who were married to Italians and had great leanings toward the whites whom they tried to ape.


        When all this is considered it is not difficult to understand why Mussolini defeated Haile Selassie.  We gave all the support that we possibly could during the Italo-Abyssinian war to Abyssinia.  We tried our best to influence the British Government at home by our speeches and writing, so as to secure the Government's support for Abyssinia, not only at the League of Nations but independently.  This support, at the very start, was given by Great Britain, but the conditions prevailing in Abyssinia, created by the Emperor himself[,] defeated the possibility of immediate success.  Italy was attacking Abyssinia from the presumptive high morality of freeing the slaves and developing the country for the good of the people.   Everybody knows that this was a lie, that the real motive was to create Abyssinia as a part of the new Italian Empire and to exploit it for the good of Italians.   Nevertheless the appeal of Italy, for the cause of humanity arrested the attention of humanitarians the world over and gave Mussolini allies that he never would have had if there were no such conditions in Abyssinia to cause him to pretend as he did.


        One cannot really understand the inconsistency of the Emperor, being a devout Christian who adheres to the practice of the Christian religion, and observes all the feasts thereof and the treatment to Abyssinians by his Government for the five years of his Regency and eight years of his regime as Emperor.  We are not criticising the Emperor, we are only stating the truth for the sake of the Negro world.  We must know why we have lost the battle in Abyssinia for the time being.  We cannot flatter and fool ourselves about the truth of it, because it is by the very truth of things that the present situation exists.


        Abyssinia has been reputed to be one of the richest sections of Africa.  In fact, it is so.  With such a rich country at its disposal a patriotic and sensible Government would have sought its development.  It is true that the prejudice against the Negro is great, and that foreign states would not readily give a loan to an Abyssinian Government for its development, but the proper manipulation of the financial affairs of the Abyssinian Government could have brought it to a state of independence whereby it could have developed the country wi[t]hout humiliating itself, wi[t]hout having to beg for foreign loans.  With twelve million people in Abyssinia, the Abyssinian Government could have issued a domestic paper currency, backed up by the wealth of the country for local use, and with such a currency labour could have been paid for the exploitation of the country's resources.  With the production of that wealth, markets could have been found all over the world ready to accept the productions which not only to stabilize its own domestic currency but to give it a proper credit with other nations.  But the Abyssinian Government never even sought a substantial loan.  The first time an effort on a loan was made was during the war, when it was too late to raise money.


        That the country could stand a tremendous loan is well demonstrated by Mussolini now seeking to raise a loan of more than eighty million pounds for the development of the country.  If Mussolini can borrow eighty million on the resources of Abyssinia, the Abyssinian Government could have in thirteen years borrowed twenty or thirty million pounds for civilising purposes.   Mussolini has charged the Emperor and his Government with brutalising the blacks, and at the outset of the war he stated that he was not fighting the blacks, but that he was fighting to emancipate them.  That, no doubt, had an appeal to the Askaris,4 whom he really used as shock troops, and who really conquered Haile Selassie and took not only Adowa but Addis Ababa.  It is not [Marshal Pietro] Badoglio5 who conquered, it is not the Fascist Army of Italy either, it was the Askaris and the native troops of Italy who temporarily won the war.  The same Negroes who have won the war for Italy, can, in co-operation with others, win it back for Abyssinia.


        As far as we can see, the Emperor's term of usefulness is at an end for the present in Abyssinia.  We say this, because if he returns he will find great trouble with the Abyssinians themselves, and Italy will be spurred on to continue the fight more ruthlessly.  Abyssinia must be saved by the Abyssinian youth, and the Abyssinian patriots who are now fighting in the West.  They must continue their guerilla Warfare.  It will harass Italy.   It will ultimately beat Italy.  But to continue the fight there must be real patriotism.  There must be a real recognition of the Negro Abyssinian.  He must not be ashamed to be a member of the Negro race.  If he does, he will be left alone by all Negroes of the world, who feel proud of themselves.  The new Negro doesn't give two pence about the line of Solomon.  Solomon has been long dead.  Solomon was a Jew.  The Negro is no Jew.  The Negro has a racial origin running from Sheba to the present, of which he is proud.  He is proud of Sheba but he is not proud of Solomon.


        There is always a willingness on the part of certain people to shun the Negro.  The Negro is no dog, neither is he a convenience for anybody.  The Negro is a man, proud and honourable and willing to bear his share of civilization.  Abyssinia or Ethiopia offered a chance for the Negro to show himself, and if Haile Selassie had only the vision, inspired with Negro integrity, he would have still been the resident Emperor in Addis Ababa, with not only a country of twelve million Abyssinian citizens, but with an admiring world of hundreds of millions of Negroes.


        Abyssinia has no complaint against the Negroes of the world in this last war, because from Africa to America, from America to the Central American countries, and to the West Indies and Canada, there was an appeal that found a ready answer among the hundreds of millions of Negroes.  They were ready to help, not only with the little money that they have, but with their lives and with their blood.  But because the Abyssinian Government heretofore had done nothing to organize them, and to treat with them, there was no knowledge of how they could really assist.  The Italians had ambassadors, ministers, plenipotentiary consuls and agents in every part of the world, feeling and testing out the tempers of other governments and races of the world.  The Abyssinian Government had none.  Do we wonder therefore, why Italy succeeded and Abyssinia failed?


        The Emperor's reliance on the League was unfortunate, but more so was his reliance on his white advisers.6  Would one imagine the cats advising the rats?   Would one imagine the lions advising the sheep?  Can you imagine the English advising the Japanese, or can you imagine the German advising the French?  Yet Haile Selassie having his hand in the lion's mouth allowed the lion to advise him.  What else, but be swallowed by the lions as he has been swallowed by the League of Nations.   It is too sad, brutally sad, to see the hopes of a people dashed to pieces by bad diplomacy, by bad leadership; but, as stated, Abyssinia is not yet conquered.  She will not be conquered.  She shall be free.  It will take time, for Italy is only stirring up trouble for herself in the future.  The spirit of the Negro will never go to sleep.  In fact, the Negro will never die.  He has learnt too much.  He knows too much.  The day will shortly come with the blessing of God, when he will stretch forth his hands.  Probably it is through Italy in Abyssinia that "Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God and Princes shall come out of Egypt."


        We are not condemning the Emperor.  Probably he was only an innocent instrument of God's Will in bringing home to the Abyssinians a consciousness of themselves, and in impressing the Negroes of the world with their true responsibility and duty.  Probably his misjudgment was from the best of heart.  If it is so, let us be sorry for him.  Let us not curse him, but let us hope that he will spend his days in peace in a monastery, and will do the best he can for his country and his race's country.  We hope the Emperor will forget that he is from Solomon and realize that the world looks upon him as a Negro, and it was because he was a Negro why they treated him as they did.  His cause was as good as that of Belgium's, but they treated Albert of Belgium7 differently because he was a European.  He was part of the assimilable flock of Europe.  The Italians and other Europeans felt their superiority over the Negro Abyssinians and so nothing would be done to save the country and its autonomy.


        The Emperor's advent into England again revealed the great love he has for the white race and his belief in their sincerity.  When he landed at Waterloo Station, in London, he was, no doubt, advised by his Minister to receive the white delegation that waited on him: but a black delegation that was led by an Association known as the Negro Federation was ignored8 and the address that the delegates had to present to him had to be handed in by the holder, by running after one of the ordinary officials of the Ethiopian Embassy.  His first reception in London was to the white people, some of whom refused the invitation.   He extended his invitation even to the Salvation Army.  No invitation went to representative Negro Institutions, organizations or individuals.  Probably the Emperor is not to be blamed for this.  That must have been the work of his advisers, and if so, it is consistent with the advice he has received, which has caused his defeat.
        He has separated himself from the Negro peoples of the world and he fell into the jaws of the lion who was waiting to devour him.  We feel sure that the Emperor is a sadder but wiser man, and if he had to live his life over again as Emperor, resident in Abyssinia, his policy would not be that of upholding the oppression of [his] own race in Abyssinia, because they are black, nor of ignoring the Negro peoples of the world, but co-operating with them to build a Negro nation worthy of the race of which he is a member,
        If Haile Selassie had borrowed substantially from other Governments before the war to develop Abyssinia, making it the Abyssinians' instead of holding it as his own, and be satisfied with what he has, he would have found many of the nations that refused to carry out sanctions doing so aggressively, to secure their investments in Abyssinian Bonds, but while all the Governments had risks in Italy they had none in Abyssinia, and so they pretended sanctions against Italy but really made it effective against Abyssinia, because they had much to lose with Italy and nothing to gain from Abyssinia, except the delivery of its territory to Italy, to enable Italy to liquidate their bonds.  It was the fault of statesmanship that caused Abyssinia to be so deficient.

Printed in BM 2, no. 2 (July-August 1936):   4-6.

        2.  African-born delegates who attended the 1920 UNIA convention included Gabriel Johnson, mayor of Monrovia, Liberia; George O. Marke, of Freetown, Sierra Leone; and Prince Madarikan Deniyi, of Lagos, Nigeria (whom Garvey accused of being a fraud) Garvey Papers 2: 524 n. 4, 525, 563, 650).

        3.  Before the reign of Menelik II, education in Ethiopia had been restricted to religious training for boys.   Secular education was established under Menelik II, and although intended to reach a broader base (including girls), it still extended primarily to the sons of the privileged.  Under Haile Selassie, "an embryonic system of secular education and a concept of national indoctrination," was established.  Government-operated Amharic-language schools opened in towns and a parallel system of mission schools operated in the rural areas.  The Teferi Mckonnen School was founded in Addis Ababa and supported by a special education tax on exports and imports; a national military academy was also founded in 1934.  "By the time of the Italian invasion in October 1935, twenty government schools enrolled perhaps five thousand children, and another two thousand went to denominational schools."  Under the reform plan, even mission schools that had previously conducted lessons in local languages were directed to teach in Amharic in the name of national unity.  The educational reform movement received its strongest support from young Eritrean intellectuals who embraced Haile Selassie's vision of a modern, westernized, state.  Many of the young men educated in the new school system were killed during the Italo-Ethiopian war (Harold Marcus, Haile Selassie: The Formative Years [Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1987], pp. 136-137; see also Chris Prouty and Eugene Rosenfeld, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia [Metuchen, N.J., and London: Scarecrow Press, 1981], p. 55).

        4.  The askaris, or black Eritrean soldiers, were members of the regular Italian Colonial Infantry who "provided the army's spear-point."  They largely "belonged to the same race and had the same religions and customs as their Ethiopian brothers."   Regarded by Italian officers as more expendable, more highly trained, and more experienced in guerilla-style warfare than their Italian counterparts, they "bore the brunt of every action," so much so that "in many of the actions the white toops would seem to have been little more than spectators of the askaris' gallantry."   As a result, their casualty rates were far higher than those of white troops (A. J. Barker, The Civilizing Mission: The Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-1936 [London: Cassell, 1968], pp. 141-142, 215).

        5.  Pietro Badoglio (1871-1956) was governor general of Libya (1929-1933) before becoming marshal of Italian forces in the Italo-Ethiopian war.  He later succeeded Mussolini as premier of Italy (1943-1944).  Badoglio replaced Marshal Emilio De Bono as head of the Italian forces in Ethiopia in November 1935.  He promptly escalated the war, introducing the bombing and gassing of civilian and medical targets and ordering the befouling of water supplies, the burning of villages, the confiscation of weapons, and other acts of violence and restrictions against the general population.  Badoglio's troops entered Addis Ababa on 5 May 1936, and the marshal served as viceroy until he was replaced in August 1936 by Rodolfo Graziani (Barker, The Civilizing Mission, pp. 212-214, 221-222, 328).

        6.  Even before his coronation as Haile Selassie, Ras Tafari had "sought experts whose nationality was consonant with the goals of his administration and tended therefore to hire individuals from Europe's small powers or Americans."  When he became emperor his ministers and advisers included one American, one Englishman, two Frenchmen, "one German, one Greek, two Swiss, but no Italians."  White foreign professionals - engineers, lawyers, military experts, teachers, technicians - were also routinely employed as consultants for specific short-term projects.  By 1932, some one hundred Westerners were affiliated with the Ethiopian government (Marcus, Haile Sellassie I, pp. 100-101, 138).

        7.  A reference to Albert Leopold (1875-1934), who became King Albert I of Belgium in 1909 and set about strengthening his country's army in an effort to maintain neutrality.  Despite these efforts, his soldiers were forced into retreat by German troops in 1914.  They set up a defense at Ypres; four years later, reinforced with French troops, Albert led the Allied offensive through Belgium (WBD).

        8.  Garvey was a member of a delegation representing the black community in Britain which was spurned by Haile Selassie I when it planned a welcoming reception for him upon his arrival in London.   The emperor declined to meet with the committee, which included representatives from the British Guiana Association, the Colonial Seamen's Association, the Gold Coast Aborigines Protection Society, the Gold Coast Students Association, the International Friends of Ethiopia, the Kikuyu Association of Kenya, the League of Coloured Peoples, the Negro Welfare Association, the Pan-African Federation, the Somali Society, and the UNIA.   After the emperor arrived in London on 3 June 1936, the tone of Garvey's previously favorable editorials changed (interview by Robert A. Hill with St. Clair Drake, May 1970; see also William Randolph Scott, "A Study of Afro-American and Ethiopian Relations: 1896-1941" [Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1971], pp. 271-273; Baltimore Afro-American, 10 April 1937; Claude McKay, Harlem: Negro Metropolis [New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1940], pp. 175-176; Ras Makonnen, Pan-Africanism from Within, ed. Kenneth King [London and Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1973], pp. 115-116; Robert A. Hill, "Introduction," The Black Man: A Monthly Magazine of Negro Thought and Opinion comp. Robert A. Hill [Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus-Thomson, 1975], pp. 5-40).
        Garvey's criticism of Haile Selassie continued to grow in later issues.  In the January 1937 Black Man he accused Haile Selassie of "negligence" and called for a more forceful "Abyssinian Napoleon" (BM 2, no. 5 [January 1937]: 1; see also pp. 8-9, 17-18, 19).  He summed up his revised view of the emperor in the following issue, when he wrote that Haile Selassie was "a great coward who ran away from his country to save his skin and left the millions of his countrymen to struggle through a terrible war that he brought upon them because of his political ignorance and his racial disloyalty."  He went on to question Haile Selassie's "intellectual calibre" and to call him "a cringing, white slave hero worshipper, visionless and disloyal to his country" (BM 2, no. 6 [March-April 1937]: 8).
        In 1937, Garvey criticized Haile Selassie for hiring a white Hungarian as a cook rather than an Ethiopian refugee, describing the incident as one more example of the Amhara Emperor's "claims to be of a blood quite superior in his imagination to that of the blacks, and so he has kept himself in an atmosphere where he is regarded more as a white man than as a Negro."  Garvey went on to emphasize the divisions between the Amharic elite and the majority of Ethiopians, who, he said, "are the unfortunate blacks related to other Africans who have always been exploited" (New York Age, 28 July 1937).

The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, edited by Robert A. Hill (University of California Press 1983), vol. 7, pp. 687-692, 693-695.

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