THE ITALIAN PROBLEM IN THE
AN ADDRESS BY MAJ.-GENERAL EMILIO
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
March 6, 1919.
MR. ARTHUR HEWITT, Vice-President, presided in the absence of the President through illness, and in introducing the speaker said: We have had presented to us one side of a disputed question. We are glad to welcome so many citizens, who I am sure will give our distinguished speaker a good hearing when he presents the case on behalf of the problem he proposes to discuss.
MAJ.-GEN. GUGLIELMOTTI: Gentlemen, I never before have spoken in public in any language but my own, the Italian, but from the very moment I arrived in America I was asked to speak in public in English. I will do my best, but I am doubtful of my success; but after all I think you can understand very much better my poor English than my most splendid Italian. (Laughter.) I begin by thanking you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of the Empire Club for their kind invitation. I regret the absence of your President, and I hope you will give him my thanks, and my best wishes for his recovery.
I have been invited to speak here about a thing that of course is very much on my heart-Italy's war and Italy's claims.
As to Italy's war, Italy is very modest and knows so little about advertising that the great part, and sometimes the necessary part, played by her in the war is not very
Major General Guglielmotti, is a veteran of the war, having been present at the capture of Gorizia as well as serving with distinction in other engagements at the front. He has for some time been attached to the Italian Embassy at Washington.
well known, and for that reason perhaps not very much appreciated. In the beginning of the war she was bound to the Central Empires by a treaty of alliance, but I must say that that treaty, a national treaty imposed on her by special conditions of boundary, was only of a defensive character, and when the Central Empires-Germany and Austria-started a war of aggression, of conquest, Italy saw at once that the treaty was null and void and refused to join the Central Empires in that war. (Loud applause.) Italy could not defy France, her sister; Italy could not defy England, to which she had been bound for centuries. (Applause.) Italy was not bound to remain neutral; but before England declared war on the 1st of August, 1914, she declared to France that Italy was never going to take arms against her. You must rely on the importance of Italy, the courage of Italy, in not joining the Central Empires, but especially to improve her position for the great common cause and for France. (Hear, hear.) I do not wish to insist on my word for this; it is too important a thing, and I have here a pamphlet and can read something in it about this matter. This was written on his own account by a very well-known American professor, Mr. Whitney Ware, who is a member of the Institute of France. In this pamphlet entitled "Just Claims of Italy," and published two years ago, not now, he writes these few words
"I will pause here a moment to address myself to my friends in France. For several months I have been publishing much on the merits of Italy in this war, on the magnificence, of her effort, on the loyalty of her attitude. It must not be concluded from this that, after being one of the most fervent admirers of France, I have suddenly transferred my affections. I do not know of any country that could replace France in one's heart. My faithfulness to France, on the contrary, compels me to laud the qualities of a people who, in 1914, saved France from the greatest of dangers, perhaps even from death itself. It is not sufficiently recognized that without the neutrality of Italy the battle of the Marne would have been lost. Let us not forget the inestimable value of the service Italy then rendered in liberating, for service elsewhere, the French troops employed in guarding the Gallic side of the Alps. Moreover, Italy's attitude prevented, at this moment, the Austrians from withdrawing their garrisons from their southern frontier. Again, later, Italy created a new battle front, from Switzerland to the Ariatic. For these reasons France owes a debt of lasting gratitude to Italy."
As a matter of fact I can tell you that 'our ambassador presented himself in Paris on the very night from the 31st of July to the 1st of August, and on the same night orders were given to send to the Marne about half a million men to help the French artillery who were on the Alps. (Applause.) Again, a great service was rendered by Italy at the very moment she entered the war. You must remember that in May, 1915, the fire of Central Empires seemed to be very near. England was not ready, and Austrian and German armies were pushing back the Russians and the Allies. They relied on crushing Russia, and soon after to come back to France. and crush her. In this vital moment Italy declared war, (Applause.) and now they say that Italy declared war for business reasons. At that moment it was a very poor business indeed. (Hear, hear and applause.) For two and a half years following, years of victory, Italy alone scored over the central armies, fighting very often in the highest mountains, in the intense snows, and pulling at a very great height guns, ammunition, everything, because in the beginning we had no roadways, and we lived in snows, always fighting bravely, and always giving an example of endurance, of valor, and of military discipline.
After two and a half years of victories, the misfortune of Capovetta came. No, I don't speak about defeat; it was not a defeat. (Hear, hear and applause.) Everybody has spoken about the German propaganda that was the cause of that misfortune. Well, as you know, the general propaganda has been working everywhere, and German propaganda was so treacherous, so dangerous, that everywhere they have found weak minds, weak hearts that yielded to it; and so, perhaps, there were in the Italian army some soldiers that yielded to the German propaganda. But the real reason is not that. Now, after our common victory, we can speak frankly. We were obliged to go back because we Italians were alone, fighting against an army superior in guns and ammunition. We were along a front longer than French, English, and Belgian fronts together. The French front from Switzerland to the North Sea was 450 miles; our front was 485 miles. We were alone on a very dangerous frontier. We were alone without ammunition and very sparse artillery-without ammunition because after two big victories we had exhausted our ammunition, and we had no coal or raw material to replace what we had used. Moreover, we were very often fighting on two fronts.
Italy felt the great danger from the fact that her southern frontier was quite undefended, and she saw that a crushing victory by Austria, meant a defeat for her. The southern frontier of Italy was quite open to the Austrians, and the Austrian commander collected all the forces he could, owing to the condition of Russia, and allowed them to go to the Italian frontier and launch the big offensive of the Germans, Austrians, Turks, and Bulgarians together. We withdrew, because the shape of the frontier imposed on us by Austria in 1866 is such that, if pierced in a single point, it is possible to take by attack all the rest of the frontier. In this position we were quite obliged to go back in order to save the situation.
We fell back, and we went on a larger front. You speak about demoralization by German propaganda. Well, it is at least wonderful that the morale of the troops was so good that they could fight and die to the last man, as we did. Our regiment of cavalry was left behind in order to protect our retreat. It is really wonderful that the morale of the troops was such that they could remain on a very weak line, and fighting alone, without trenches, without ammunition, could stop the enemy's command. As a matter of fact, our gallant Allies, England and France, as soon as they realized the danger, sent troops to Italy to help, but these did not arrive upon the weak line of the Piave. They stopped behind at the Piave River, a very strong line at the back, and told the Italians to hold on for a week or so to give them time to fortify this line, and then the Italians could fall back to that line. The Italians did that. (Applause.) After that we came to the sunny side of things, and had the great and splendid victory of last June on the Piave. (Applause.) This was the second time we stopped the commands at the Piave.
It is necessary for you to realize what a successful offensive against Italy would mean. They wanted to crush Italy as soon as possible, to put the Italian army of about four million men out of the question. This would not only release for German use the entire Austrian army of five million men, but it would open another door, another road, opposite to the very heart of France, on the back of the other line. You remember that at the last of June, just a few American troops were there; and the enemy hoped to crush Italy and to go to France before America could come. Luckily for Italy, luckily for all the Allies, and you might say for the Italian bravery, they did not succeed. (Loud applause.)
After our victory on the Piave we went on from victory to victory. The Allied army on the western front scored a repulse and were quite ready to go right into the heart of Germany. The Italian troops scored a great decisive victory the last of October. Let me speak with personal pride of that victory. It was undoubtedly the biggest military victory of all historynot only of this war, .but of all history. Never before was such a strong military power as Austria's so utterly crushed and defeated. After ten days of fighting, 800,000 prisoners, 7,000 guns, 250,000 horses, were there to give evidence of a real, decisive victory. (Applause.) I must say, too, that from a purely military point of view the victory was a signal tribute to the valor of the Italian. We had not more than 55 divisions, whereas the enemy threw in 73 Australian divisions and 60 German, Turkish, and Bulgarian divisions; we had with us two French and three British divisions. You see that only one-eleventh of our force was supplied by our allies. I cannot speak very much about the American, because we only had one American regiment-splendid boys, but only one. I do not want to be misunderstood. The presence of our Allies on our front was really inspiring, and of course we felt the moral support given to us. Not only that, but it was a splendid way to defeat German propaganda, because the form of German propaganda was that the Allies did not care for Italy, or what Italy was fighting for. Well, the three British Divisions, the two French Divisions, the American regiment, were a good military support, because, especially, they brought through our front their glorious flags to show the enemy our unity of faith, and to tell him what our Allies thought of Italy and Italy's aims. (Loud applause.)
I do not need to say any more about what Italy has done, but it is very important for me to tell you something about Italy's immense fortitude and immense sufferings. You know that Italy is very rich in blue sky, in sunshine, in very beautiful landscape. For centuries Italy has been called the Garden of Europe, and for that the barbarians came to see this garden (Laughter.) but as a matter of fact Italy is very poor in what is necessary not only to fighting but to life. Italy has no coal in her soil, and we are obliged to bring all of it from abroad. Very often we have been obliged to shut up our ammunition factories at the very moment that we needed them most, because we had no coal. We have been obliged to cut our railway traffic for lack of coal. Do not ask how we warmed our houses; for more than three years we did not warm them at all. Do not ask how we cooked our food; usually in the towns we cooked food with gas. In some towns they had four hours of gas, but in many towns, Rome for instance, they had gas two hours a day, only one hour at lunch time, and one hour at dinner time. During the war it was impossible for us to have a single cup of warm water. We were obliged to allow our business to go down, and to cut our beautiful forests; and while our Italian landscapes are very glorious indeed our country is now not beautiful at all.
In peace time we are obliged to import a great deal of our wheat, of which we have not enough to feed all our population; but in war times we could not have coal or wheat because we had not enough ships. Not only that, but practically all our men were called to the colours and could not cultivate the fields. The women everywhere did their best, in every province, in every field, but of course it was not enough. As to our men, at the beginning of the war Italy had a total population of about thirty-six million inhabitants. Of these, less than seventeen millions were males, from babies just born up to old men; out of this a number less than nine millions were men of working age, fit men. That is very easy to explain, because we have a very high emigration; there are so many Italians everywhere. I think there are altogether about twenty millions in the country, more or less, but there are six million Italians in the United States, and the emigration is made up of fit men, workmen, while boys and sick and old men are left behind in Italy. But out of less than nine million fit men, we drafted for the army five and a half millions. (Applause.) We have had a little less than four millions permanently attached to the colors. About two millions are casualties, and out of these half a million were killed, and the balance were mutilated, blinded, permanently disabled, etc.
Speaking about suffering, the situation is not very good even yet. We have had a little more than three pounds of bread a week. You must understand what that means, because our peasants live almost exclusively on breadbread for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. I have observed in the United States that they have had one meatless day a week; but in our country we have had one or two meat days a month. (Laughter.) The allowance of meat is about one and a half pounds of meat a month, including all kinds, not as it was in the United States, for there, apart from the meatless days, they could have veal, pork or chicken; they had a porkless day, but they could have beef, veal or chicken. You can see from these statements that Italy really has suffered altogether. I don't say that by way of complaining, for Italy glories in her sacrifice. (Applause.) Italy knows that by superior law, in order to have a victory it is necessary to deserve it; and Italy feels that she has deserved the victory. (Loud applause.)
I want to say only a few words about Italy's co-operation in the other fronts. As you know, Italy had troops on the western front in France, troops in the Holy Land, and in Mesopotamia. Italy contributed a great deal to the advance in Mesopotamia by sending troops into Albania. Moreover, Italy was required to have troops in the Baltic, and where German propaganda was going on; and German leaders with Turkish troops were continually raising a revolution against us. The co-operation of Italians on the western front is not very well known, but we had about 200,000 men in France-100,000 as workmen ark! territorial soldiers, attacking men, gave very good cooperation in enabling France to free for service in the trenches very many French poilus. The fighting Italian soldiers behaved very well, and General Mangin, who had the Italian soldiers, testified to the proficiency of Italian troops. Bleni and Rheims were defended by Italians; our soldiers cooperated very valiantly in attacking the important position at Chemin des Dames; and just three days before the Armistice, the Italian flag waved upon Roqueloi, taken by Italians. (Applause.)
Now I must say something about the present situation. Italy has fought for the great common cause of right and justice, but Italy thought that as it was in the line of right and justice to give back Alsace and Lorraine to France, so it was in the line of right and justice to give back to Italy her own provinces. (Hear, hear.) It would take too long, perhaps, to examine the problem entirely now, but it is very important to say that Italy having, by the blood of her sons, by her sufferings and by her merit, won the greatest victory in history, the different nationalities and empires are free to recognize the nationalities just born through the Italian victory. To try now to deprive Italy of her just pride, and prevent her from recovering her provinces and her sons, would be unjust. Her opponents do not dare to deny that the provinces just redeemed have been Italian, as acknowledged by history, by language, by legend, by temperament, by aspiration, by sentiment-I do not say by ethnography-but they say, "Now we are here in the majority, and we want to have our land because we are a majority." But are they a majority? Their claims are founded upon Austrian statistics, and you can imagine how true those statistics can be. In our country we have so many names of German or Austrian or French or English extraction, and they are splendid Italians, so the question is, is there a majority? Well, if there is, what about that? Those countries have been Italian for centuries, and have struggled against their oppressors. We have had five wars against Austria, our hated enemy, during the last century, and we have hated Austria because she has oppressed us for centuries; she has killed our women, killed our babies, in order to suppress the Italian name, and this same thing is occurring now. Austria continued to occupy the unredeemed provinces after 1866, when we won back the Venetian plains. But we are not willing to have won a solid victory and yet not to take back our provinces.
In 1866 Austria forced aggression in our countries; Austria persecuted our countrymen, many of whom were hanged, and many of our head men were obliged to go abroad. Now, suppose there is a majority; this majority is in violation of justice, and the violation cannot be right. As a matter of fact we have again Austria against us. How long have you heard them speak of Italian aspiration on this land? For centuries. How long have you heard them speak about Jugo-Slav aspiration? Perhaps just two or three years ago. The Jugo-Slavs were created as a nation by Austria against us, and they have been driven to fight us; but you can be sure if they try and they have begun to try-violence against us, you can be quite sure that all the Allies must feel that violence is a very poor argument. (Hear, hear.) But if they try upon us the right of might, we are quite disposed to make them feel the might of right; for you must remember that the Jugo-Slavs and Croatians have fought against the Allies till the last moment; they have fought for Austria, against which they have never rebelled. We must remember that the Croatians have been the instruments of Prussia against us.
But there is another thing. They lie when they speak about the situation. Two days ago I read in a New York paper an article saying that materialistic Italy was denying to a young nation an outlet on the Adriatic. That is quite false. Of course Italy wished to have all her own land, all her home lands preferred; but Italy must of course recognize that the new nation must have an outlet on the Adriatic. Italy is content to have all the ports that are especially Italian. Italy asks some recompense for the keeping of treaties, yet Italy grants the. Jugo-Slavs two-thirds of the Dalmatian coast, with eight of the best ports in the Adriatic; and that is enough. (Hear, hear and applause.)
I must complain that very often in the press the cause of those enemies is promoted-enemies till yesterday, and indeed I am not sure that they are not any more enemies. Our descent is very much more direct, because Italy has suffered and fought and has been loyal to the Allies to the last. They speak of materialistic Italy. What about the Jugo-Slavs, who want Italy-who, in fact, have asked for such and such boundaries? The same boundary we had against Austria, and they ask us something more, because they make some reservation for what is on the bank of so and so. Materialistic Italy? Let me read only a few lines
"The error is to believe in the existence of an Italian imperialism. .We deny its existence categorically. We find nothing in Italy's claims which is not in strict accord with her rights. Italy aspires to nothing beyond completing her unity. She wants to add nothing to her soil nor to her history that does not legitimately belong to her. She reclaims the heritage of Rome and that of Venice, and she has the right to reclaim them, because today she is a great nation capable of looking after her own.
The Slav world and the Balkans begin on the other side of the' Dinaric Alps. We deny the right of diplomats to indulge in experiments which, to say the least, would be unnatural and paradoxical. On the other hand, we have the fullest confidence in the judgment of the people. We ask the Allied peoples for their opinion as to whether Italy has not deserved, by her loyalty in the present imbroglio, to get back her lost provinces.; we ask them whether, in the words of Louis Blanc, the moment has not arrived for men who are engaged in the same fight to adopt "the simplest and the noblest of all theories-that of fraternity." (Hear, hear and applause.)
I say something more. Italy has had to make great sacrifices economically. She has spent in war four-fifths of her national wealth; she has been obliged to import everything from abroad; even for that she has been often obliged to pay double price for everything, because even in peace time our labor to equal one American dollar calls for five lire and three cents-until last August we paid for the dollar nine lire and thirteen cents; we have lost a lot of money only because we were poor. I tell you, Italy has not been a beggar economically, and Italy is not a beggar politically (Applause.) Italy does not appeal to the generosity of her Allies; Italy appeals to their justice. (Hear, hear and applause.) Italy has been loyal to the common cause of the Allies, and now she is quite assured that her Allies will be loyal to her. (Loud applause)