765.84/4365: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Straus) to the Secretary of State

389. Before leaving for Geneva it is reported Boncour27 secured Blum’s28 support for the policy he is to pursue there; namely, close cooperation with England’s policy and no initiative for the lifting of sanctions from Italy.

That Italy’s annexation of Abyssinia has caused much dissatisfaction in official circles here is attested in a Havas communiqué informing the public that the French Government had given advance warning to the Italian Government that it made all reservations with respect of such procedure.

The French Government had been exerting all its powers of persuasion to avert such an open challenge to the League and particularly to England and France the principal interested powers. In fact it went so far as to sound a warning in Rome that annexation would make it difficult for the French representative in Geneva to resist the application of sanctions.

While the Duce’s decision was expected and therefore not surprising it has caused considerable reaction in public opinion which runs the gamut between annoyance at an act which widens the breach in the Stresa front and disgust at the Duce’s brutal manner of concluding his conquest with total disregard for League face.

Press reaction to Italy’s annexation of Abyssinia is markedly divided between the Right and Left. While the former expresses a certain reluctant resignation to facts and urges a moderate attitude toward those facts, the latter clamors for revenge on Italy and the prevention of the exploitation of her conquest by the preservation and strict continued application of League principles.

The consensus of Right opinion is that an almost irremediable blow has been deliberately dealt the League from which it will be difficult to recover and that the Geneva body will now be painfully obliged to adjust facts to principles without destroying those principles and without denying those facts.

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On the other hand, certain organs of the extreme Left press rise in indignation and press for a showdown at once in a crisis which the Geneva powers had hoped to postpone.

Mailed to London, Berlin, Rome, Geneva.

  1. Joseph Paul-Boncour, French representative on the League of Nations Council.
  2. Léon Blum, leader of the Socialist Party and of the newly elected Popular Front majority in the Chamber of Deputies.