Raw Materials and World Peace

October 11, 1935

Report Outline
Italy, Germany, and the Struggle for Raw Materials
Distribution of Raw Materials Among Great Powers
Commercial Policies Affecting Natural Resources
Demands for Redistribution of Colonial Territories
Special Focus

Italy, Germany, and the Struggle for Raw Materials

Italy's Invasion of Ethiopia constitutes the latest manifestation of the struggle for possession and control of essential raw materials that has been waged with increasing intensity during the last century by the world's principal nations and by powerful commercial interests. Italy is the poorest of the great powers' in natural resources. Her population is dependent, for support upon trade with other nations. During the depression foreign markets for her products have withered away, and the decline of exports in turn has made it more and more difficult to obtain foreign exchange to pay for imports of foodstuffs and of the raw materials necessary to maintenance of industrial operations. This situation has emphasized the fundamentally precarious nature of the national economy and has been the impelling force behind Mussolini's determination to proceed with his East African venture no matter what the opposition from abroad. Basically, there is little difference between the economic position of Italy and that of Germany. The Reich, though somewhat richer in natural resources, is subject to many of the same pressures as is Italy. Her demand for return of the colonies of which she was deprived in 1919 has been as persistently nurtured as the Italian lament over failure to receive a larger share of the spoils divided at Versailles. Realistic observers therefore fear that if Mussolini is successful in his resort to force, Hitler may in his own time be tempted to take a similar defiant course. In any event, the economic problem remains as an underlying threat to future peace. Those who recognize its implications stress the urgency of seeking an alternative to the solution now being tested by the Italian dictator.

Proposed League Study of Raw Materials Problem

Foreign Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare brought up the question at Geneva on September 11 in the address in which he assured the League Assembly of Great Britain's full support of the Covenant. He asserted that it was “not enough to insist collectively that war shall not occur or that war, if it occurs, shall be brought to an end.” It was his conviction that “something must also be done to remove the causes from which war is apt, to arise,” and that “the members of the League must address themselves to this as well as to other aspects of security if the rule of law in international affairs is to be established and confirmed.” Taking up the specific problem of raw materials, he declared that “the wise course is to investigate it, to see what the proposals are for dealing with it, to see what is the real scope of the trouble, and, if the trouble is substantial, to try to remove it.”

The view of the British government [he added] is that the problem is economic rather than political or territorial. It is fear of monopoly—of the withholding of essential colonial raw materials—that is causing alarm. It is the desire for a guarantee that the distribution of raw materials will not be unfairly impeded that is stimulating the demand for further inquiry. So far as the British government is concerned, I feel sure we should be ready to take our share in the investigation of these matters.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Dec. 09, 2011  Water Crisis in the West
Jan. 18, 2011  Disappearing Forests
Aug. 2008  Race for the Arctic
Feb. 2008  Looming Water Crisis
Oct. 28, 1988  The Battle for Natural Resources
Mar. 21, 1951  International Control of Essential Materials
Oct. 11, 1935  Raw Materials and World Peace
Regional Political Affairs: Europe