Mussolini on the Corporate State

Benito Mussolini’s resolution and speech of 13-14 November, 1933, outlining the shortcomings of capitalism and presenting the corporatist alternative

The_DuceDespite the Corporate State being the centerpiece of fascist economic ideology, its implementation in Italy occurred gradually, in piecemeal fashion over more than a decade. Mussolini’s primary concern upon attaining the Prime Ministership in 1922 was, much like Hitler’s over a decade later, the maintenance of economic and political stability. He had little time or inclination for radical economic or political experimentation during his early years in power, and until 1925 the government maintained a policy of minimal state intervention that some historians have classified as “laissez-faire”. The murder of Matteotti in late 1924 and the regime’s subsequent embrace of dictatorship and totalitarianism led to a change in emphasis, a shift towards making real the corporatist promises of fascist theory & propaganda in a fashion that was measured and would not alarm industry or the “productive bourgeoisie”. The Palazzo Vidoni Pact of 1925 and ‘Rocco’s Law’ of 1926 helped cement the official status of the various workers’ and employers’ syndicates, while the Legge Sindacale of the same period formally established the Corporate State in principle, if not in actual fact. Further impetus towards corporatism was provided through the promulgation of the 1927 Labour Charter (which, while not legally binding, set out the principles by which the government aimed to establish equal relations between workers, management, and state) and the creation in 1930 of the National Council of Corporations, intended as a consultative body representing the voices of both labor and producer. It wasn’t until the 1933-34 period, however, that the Corporate State became solid reality rather than a series of inspiring articles and decrees. The resolution and speech given by Mussolini to the National Council of Corporations in November 1933, transcribed in full below, finally provided Italian lawmakers with an official definition of the envisioned corporations and their actual functions (as well as an interesting critique of capitalism from the Duce). The machinery of the Corporate State was at last set in motion the following year, when the ‘Act of February 5th 1934 (N.163)’ legally established the 22 Corporations which henceforth were intended to direct every sector of Italy’s economic life.

ON THE CORPORATE STATE
Resolution and Speech by Benito Mussolini before the
National Council of Corporations,
November 13-14, 1933

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Resolution on the Definition and Attribution of Corporations
November 13, 1933

This resolution drafted by the Head of the Italian Government and read by him on November 13th 1933, before the Assembly of the National Council of Corporations, on the eve of his great speech:

The National Council of Corporations:

  • define Corporations as the instrument which, under the aegis of the State, carries out the complete organic and unitarian regulation of production with a view to the expansion of the wealth, political power, and well-being of the Italian people;
  • declare that the number of Corporations to be formed for the main branches of production should, on principle, be adequate to meet the real needs of national economy;
  • establish that the general staff of each Corporation shall include representatives of State administration, of the Fascist Party, of capital, of labour, and of experts;
  • assign to the Corporations as their specific tasks: conciliation, consultations (compulsory on problems of major importance), and the promulgation, through the National Council of Corporations, of laws regulating the economic activities of the country;
  • leave to the Grand Council of Fascism the decision on the further developments, of a constitutional and political order, which should result from the effective formation and practical working of the Corporations.

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Speech on the Corporate State to the National Council of Corporations
November 14, 1933

The applause with which the reading of my resolution was received yesterday evening, made me wonder this morning whether it was worth while to make a speech in order to illustrate the document which had gone straight to your intelligence, had interpreted your own convictions, and had appealed to your revolutionary spirit. Continue reading

BUF Economic Policy: Housing, Unemployment, Empire, Agriculture

‘The Letters of Lucifer’: Mosleyite economic policy in 1933, as described by ‘The Blackshirt’ contributor William Allen

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The four articles transcribed below were first published in various 1933 editions of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) newspaper The Blackshirt, either anonymously or under the pen-name ‘Lucifer’. Each article discusses in turn one of the important socio-economic issues facing Great Britain and its Empire at the time, along with a Mosleyite analysis and proposed solution. I was first introduced to these articles through the 1933 published collection  The Letters of Lucifer, assured by the person who provided it that the pseudonymous ‘Lucifer’ was in fact William Joyce, later and more infamously known as ‘Lord Haw Haw’. I was thus somewhat surprised to discover years later that Joyce was not the author after all – ‘Lucifer’, in fact, was instead William ‘Bill’ Allen, a man who was almost as fascinating a character as Joyce. Born wealthy, Eton-educated, fluent in Russian and Turkish, widely-travelled and a respected historian, Allen was a Member of Parliament for the Ulster Unionist Party before he defected to Oswald Mosley’s New Party in 1931. Allen followed Mosley into fascism in 1932, although he never held any kind of official leadership position in the BUF. Instead his importance lay behind the scenes, acting as an early, prolific propagandist for the Mosleyites as well as a key source of donations. Allen not only helped fund the organization from his own pockets, he was also instrumental in setting up the payment channels between Mosley and Mussolini, and additionally was involved in the complex, clandestine effort by Mosley and second wife Diana to organize a commercial radio station in Europe which could serve as a source of income. Most intriguing are Allen’s intelligence connections – there were rumors in the late ’30s that he had been ‘turned’ and was providing information to British Intelligence, rumors which have recently been substantiated. Bizarrely, Mosley was well aware of the MI6 connection at the time and seemed to view no threat in it; he kept close to Allen until the two fell out over money matters in 1940, and was happy to see his old compatriot when the two met again by chance after the end of the War. 

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HOUSING

First published in The Blackshirt, August 12-18, 1933

In the next four articles we shall show how Fascism can build within the British Empire a civilisation far higher than the world has yet known. That high standard of life will provide our people with a purchasing power sufficient for them to buy the products which modern industry can produce, and consequently to employ the labour of men now unemployed.

We shall show, at the same time, how this national, or Empire, organisation will lead to safer and more peaceful relations with the rest of the world. In this first article, however, we will take an instance of the methods by which Fascism will rebuild our own land of Britain.

The first task which there arises is the housing problem. It is unnecessary for us to stress the disgraceful housing conditions in which masses of our people have lived since the war.

Constructive Remedy

It is the habit of Socialists and others of their breed to spend hours in discussing these disgraceful conditions, and thus to avoid advancing their constructive remedy. For Fascists, it is unnecessary to stress the conditions because we and everyone else know they exist. What England expects of a revolutionary movement is a constructive remedy. We believe that the housing problem has not been tackled and will not be tackled under the present system, because the methods employed cannot possibly lead to any results. It is useless for our old politicians to talk about a great “crusade against the slums” in a palpitating peroration unless they are prepared to adopt the executive instruments by which the slums can be wiped out. Continue reading

Programme and Postulates of the Fasci di Combattimento

The founding 1919 programme of Benito Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento and the revised postulates adopted at its 2nd Congress  of May 1920

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Following on from the formal founding of the Fasci di Combattimento at San Sepolcro in March 1919, the nascent Fascist movement began to come into its own, beginning its first organized attempts at street activism and engaging in its first violent raids against the Milan offices of Socialist newspaper Avanti! (of which Mussolini had previously been editor). At this point the closest thing the Fasci had to an official platform was contained in Mussolini’s San Sepolcro speeches; there was thus a need to publish a proper statement, an actual organized platform which would clearly spell out the Fascists’ goals and worldview. The result was the famous 1919 programme, first published in Mussolini’s newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia on June 6 and later distributed to the membership in manifesto format. This programme is fairly well-known today, mostly for its more moderate and ‘left-wing’ demands – as with the San Sepolcro speeches, its content reflected that Fascism was still for all intents and purposes mostly just a political expression of national-syndicalist ideals. Two events helped shift this stance further ‘right’ over the next year: the collapse of d’Annunzio’s rule in Fiume (transferring many of his supporters to Mussolini), and most especially the devastating results of the 1919 general election, where the Fascists were almost crippled as a result of their embarrassing rout by the Socialists and the Catholic Popolari.  When the Fasci met in Milan for their 2nd Congress in May, 1920, there was thus an identified need to address and refine their existing programme in recognition of its inability to garner support. While Mussolini warned the delegates in a speech against drifting into conservatism and alienation from the workers, he and the other Fascists nonetheless voted in favor of adopting the Postulates outlined  further below, with the movement adopting a more ‘flexible’ stance on issues such as republicanism, the Church, and industry. As Mussolini put it in a speech to the Congress: “We must not sink the bourgeois ship, but get inside it and expel its parasitic elements.” This new approach would prove a tactical success – by the end of 1921 a movement which had been almost wiped out by the 1919 election loss had swelled to a vital 250,000 members. 

Programme
of the
Italian Fasci di Combattimento

Central Committee
MILAN – Via Paolo da Cannobbio, 37 – Telephone 7156

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First published in Il Popolo d’Italia, June 6, 1919

Italians!

This is the national program of a movement that is soundly Italian.

Revolutionary, because it is antidogmatic and antidemagogic; strongly innovative, because it ignores a priori objections.

We regard the success of the revolutionary war as standing above everything and everybody.

The other problems – bureaucracy, administration, judiciary, school system, colonies, etc. – we shall consider after we have created a new ruling class.

Consequently, WE INSIST UPON:

For the political problem:

(a) Universal suffrage with a system of voting by list, with proportional representation, and woman suffrage and eligibility for office.

(b) Reduction of the age of voters to eighteen years; and that of eligibility for membership in the Chamber of Deputies to twenty-five years.

(c) Abolition of the Senate.

(d) Convocation of a National Assembly to sit for three years, its primary task to be the establishment of a new constitutional structure for the state.

(e) Formation of National Technical Councils for labor, industry, transportation, public health, communications, etc., to be elected by either professional or trades collectivities, and provided with legislative powers and the right to elect a Commissioner General who shall have the powers of a Minister. Continue reading

The BUF’s Norah Elam on Fascism, Women, and Democracy

Reflections on fascism and women’s rights by British Union of Fascists member Norah Elam, from a 1935 essay in ‘The Fascist Quarterly’

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Norah Elam, born Norah Doherty, was one of the most prominent members of the Women’s Section of the British Union of Fascists. Like many women leaders within the BUF, Elam had first become involved in political activism through the pre-WWI suffragette movement, joining the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1912 and swiftly rising to become its General Secretary by the following year. It was in the WSPU that Elam developed her skills as a propagandist and rousing political speaker. She also developed a reputation as a firebrand, someone not afraid to dirty her hands in street activism – WSPU members became notorious for militant protest actions such as window-smashing or arson, and Elam was herself arrested and imprisoned in 1914 for inciting suffragettes to violence at an open-air meeting. Her eventual transition to fascist politics was driven by a number of factors, particularly a growing sense of patriotism engendered by the War and, after women’s suffrage was finally granted through legislation passed in 1918 and 1928, a sense of disillusionment that the right to vote had not led to a significant increase in the number of women representatives. The Mosley movement, with its specific promise of women’s representation in a corporatist parliament, seemed to offer a solution that the liberal-democratic system could not, and so Elam joined the BUF in 1934. Former suffragettes like Elam found Mosleyite fascism, which presented itself as a modern and forward-thinking movement, to be a welcoming environment – 25% of the BUF membership were women, women held positions of authority and leadership in the party, and a number of women (including Elam in 1936) were put forward by the Mosleyites as candidates for election. The drive and commitment of these members was not unappreciated, as Mosley observed in 1940: “My movement has been largely built up by the fanaticism of women; they hold ideals with tremendous passion.” The article below , written by Elam and published in 1935 in BUF theoretical journal The Fascist Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 3, demonstrates some of this passion in Elam’s own words, presenting arguments for fascism not only as the true guarantor of liberty and women’s interests but also, intriguingly,  as the natural continuation of the original suffragette movement.  

Fascism, Women and Democracy
by Norah Elam

First published in The Fascist Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 3, 1935. 

“Experience shows that in all countries today democracy can develop its nature freely, the most scandalous corruption is displayed without anyone considering it of use to conceal its rascalities… Democracy is the land of plenty dreamt of by unscrupulous financiers.” – Georges Sorel, Reflexions sur la Violence. 

To a genuine cynic who lived through the struggle for votes for women from 1906 to 1914, no spectacle is more diverting than the post-war enthusiast whose one obsession seems to be the alleged danger to enfranchised women in a Fascist Britain.

This unsuspected solicitude finds its most insistent champions in unlikely places, and those who were so bitter against the pre-war struggle have today executed a complete volte face. Our new-found patrons are second to none in their determination that women shall be denied nothing in principle, even if in practice they are to be denied most things essential to their existence.

To the woman who took part in that historic fight, and, regarding the vote merely as a symbol, believed that with its help a new and a better world might be possible, this kind of patronage is as distasteful as was that of a generation ago. She thinks, and with some justification, that it is humbug that those who in all those weary years never raised a hand to help her, but on the contrary were wont to describe her as an unsexed virago or a disappointed spinster, should in the hour of success endeavour to exploit her sex in the interests of a reactionary and decadent system. Such effrontery is possible only because those who resort to it entirely misunderstood and still misunderstand the meaning of that struggle, and construed the demand for political liberty as a desire for personal licence.

The time has come when the principles which underlay that remarkable and determined manifestation for ordered change, not only in the position of women but in the accepted attitude to them, should be restated. Continue reading