Some Thoughts on Corporatism and Syndicalism
“The twentieth century will be the century of corporatism just as the nineteenth was the century of liberalism ..." -Mihail Manoilesco
It is often argued that Corporatism, the economic model of Mussolini's Italy, was a product of Syndicalism. And indeed, given the influence of Georges Sorel and Mussolini's involvement with Socialism before his move to Nationalism it's not too wild of a conclusion.
Before explaining the fundamental differences between these two economic models, they should first be defined respectively.
Corporatism can be defined as a system of interest representation in which the constituent units are organized into a limited number of singular, compulsory, noncompetitive, hierarchically ordered and functionally differentiated categories, recognized or licensed (if not created) by the state and granted a deliberate representational monopoly within their respective categories in exchange for observing certain controls on their selection of leaders and articulation of demands and supports.1
On the other hand, in describing Syndicalism, Emma Goldman writes: While the old trade unions, without exception, move within the wage system and capitalism, recognizing the latter as inevitable, Syndicalism repudiates and condemns present industrial arrangements as unjust and criminal, and holds out no hope to the worker for lasting results from this system.
Of course Syndicalism, like the old trade unions, fights for immediate gains, but it is not stupid enough to pretend that labor can expect humane conditions from inhuman economic arrangements in society. Thus it merely wrests from the enemy what it can force him to yield; on the whole, however, Syndicalism aims at, and concentrates its energies upon, the complete overthrow of the wage system. Indeed, Syndicalism goes further: it aims to liberate labor from every institution that has not for its object the free development of production for the benefit of all humanity. In short, the ultimate purpose of Syndicalism is to reconstruct society from its present centralized, authoritative and brutal state to one based upon the free, federated grouping of the workers along lines of economic and social liberty.2
Given the obviously Statist nature of the first definition and the anarchic nature of the second, two paradigms which are diametrically opposed, is it possible to reconcile them or see the first as an offshoot of the second? First it is important that we absolve our thinking of the current "left-right" political dichotomy, or at least see Fascism as a Centrist movement, a synthesis of both left and right-wing concepts. While it is true that Fascism, and by extension Corporatism, are both strongly Statist in character, this does not contradict its opposition to unfettered Capitalism with its exploitation of workers and inherent decadence, which is a necessary component and result of "profit for its own sake".
Whereas Anarcho-Syndicalism seeks to completely remove labor from the state, Corporatism places the worker's guild within it while relatively retaining the autonomy of the workers and placing them in collaboration rather than conflict with their bosses. In forcing the workers and the bosses to cooperate and allowing the councils to represent themselves in arbitration via the labor courts, the class struggle is alleviated without the need for general strikes and demonstrations. Furthermore, the place of state becomes one of oversight, deciding for instance which goods are considered harmful to the nation and banning their production.
It is the belief of this author that the benefits of the above two points are self evident to any worker. Not only does conflict with one's boss and a communication gap lead to resentment and therefore lowered morale and productivity on the part of the employees, the detrimental effects of the free market in modern American society should show that the production of such goods such as junk food, pornography and corrosive chemicals which harm the environment shoot the working class in the foot. The average American cannot expect to survive while consuming bad food, ruining the family unit and polluting their minds with pornography, and killing the earth they have to live on with pollution, fracking and the like. However, in the modern ideology of laissez-faire Capitalism, such excesses should be allowed without any impediment in the name of profit. Still the question arises, what good is said profit if there is no healthy populace to enjoy them, and no land on which to do so? Should we resist all forms of regulation in the name of "freedom", even when such regulation is actually in our best interest?
I close with a quote from The Doctrine of Fascism:
The Fascist State is not a night watchman, solicitous only of the personal safety of the citizens; nor is it organized exclusively for the purpose of guarantying a certain degree of material prosperity and relatively peaceful conditions of life, a board of directors would do as much. Neither is it exclusively political, divorced from practical realities and holding itself aloof from the multifarious activities of the citizens and the nation. The State, as conceived and realized by Fascism, is a spiritual and ethical entity for securing the political, juridical, and economic organization of the nation, an organization which in its origin and growth is a manifestation of the spirit. The State guarantees the internal and external safety of the country...3
1. Schmitter, Philppe C. Still the Century of Corporatism? The Review of Politics, Vol. 36, No. 1, The New Corporatism: Social and Political Structures in the Iberian World (Jan., 1974), pp. 85-131
2. Goldman, Emma. SYNDICALISM: The Modern Menace to Capitalism. MOTHER EARTH PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION 1913.
3. Mussolini, Benito. The Doctrine of Fascism. 1932.