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

Corporate Economics

BUF theoretician Alexander Raven Thomson’s 1935 essay on fascist economic theory

The following essay, ‘Corporate Economics’ by Alexander Raven Thomson, was first published in Fascist Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1935. The Fascist Quarterly (renamed British Union Quarterly in 1936) was the theoretical journal of the British Union of Fascists, intended to act as a kind of counterbalance to the Left Book Club by providing a platform in Britain for the dissemination of the intellectual voices of European fascism. Raven Thomson was one of these voices – a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, he had joined the BUF in April 1933 and swiftly became the movement’s primary ideologist. A captivating speaker, an engaging writer, and deeply influenced by Spenglerian philosophy and political syndicalism, Thomson was a revolutionary, a radical opponent of laissez-faire capitalism who saw in the corporate state the key to social justice and the salvation of Western civilization. His writings, such as the essay excerpted below, provided the BUF with much of its theoretical foundations. 

A great problem has been created for the modern world by the collapse of the present economic system. We can no longer tolerate a system which condemns most of us to poverty in the midst of the greatest plenty mankind has ever known, which deprives millions of people of the right to earn their own living, and brings ever nearer the danger of war in the international struggle for contracting world markets. What is the cause of this universal breakdown. Where have we gone wrong?

Before we can fully appreciate the cause of the trouble, we must consider the threefold nature of organized society as follows:

  • A Central Government vested with authority to plan and direct the national life.
  • A Number of Social Groups with various purposes and interests.
  • A Mass of Individuals endowed with powers of initiative and enterprise.

The classical economic theory of the nineteenth century concerned itself almost entirely with the third and least organized aspect of society, resenting either state or group interference with economic affairs. In earlier times of comparative scarcity there may have been some justification for this view, as the initiative and enterprise of the individual was then of vital importance in developing latent powers of production and advancing technical invention. Obviously the individual would develop his powers of initiative and enterprise to the best effect, if granted the largest possible measure of economic liberty, and this is precisely what the economists of the Manchester School demanded, when they advocated “laissez faire” and free trade.

Whatever the advantages of economic liberty in solving the problem of scarcity, however, it has become a positive menace to social welfare in a dawning age of plenty. There is no need to condemn classical economic theory as such, but we must realize that there can be no absolute “laws” of economics independent of social organization. No doubt the individualist system was very necessary in an age of scarcity, and we have to thank the Manchester School for solving the problem of production, but the time has now come for a new economic system in keeping with the needs of a new age. Individual enterprise encouraged by complete liberty of exploitation has put an end to scarcity, but is completely incapable of distributing the plenty it has created to the people as a whole. Production is in its very nature an individual or at most a group process; distribution, on the other hand, is based upon the needs of the whole community, and obviously cannot succeed without a large measure of conscious social planning.

Socialism and the Class War

As individualism has now passed its period of usefulness and has become an actual danger to economic progress, the time has come to turn the focus of economic interest to the social group, if not to the nation as a whole. Hitherto those who have most vigorously attacked the present system, and have adopted such collective terms as “Socialist” or “Communist,” have never really risen above group considerations. Despite their grandiloquent claim to “nationalize” the means of production, the very basis of Socialist and Communist appeal lies in the exaggeration of class differentiation and insistence upon the “class war.” Clearly such a class-conscious doctrine belongs to the realm of the social group, and fails to rise to any appreciation of the whole community as a living organic entity. Indeed the stress laid by the Socialist upon internationalism, and his denial of patriotism, confirm his inability to grasp the full implications of social organization, which should rise far above class considerations to a realization of national purpose. The ultimate “reductio ad absurdum” is reached, when the Soviet regime in Russia claims that it is the “dictatorship of the proletariat” for this would imply the permanent and conscious ascendancy of a group over the national life. Continue reading