On the Origins of Fascism (1932)
In what direction is Fascism tending in Central Europe today? The answer, by one who was associated with the birth of Corporatism in 1916, is that Fascism in the future will develop and fulfill its purpose exactly in accordance with the character it has acquired in its genesis and building up. It will not be militaristic or demagogic as is Nazism, which is a form of Fascism willfully perverted so as to capitalize on the latter’s success as a counter-revolutionary movement. Neither will it be anti-labor, anti-Semitic, nor anti-Christian.
It will, in the sense that true Fascism enfranchises all the orders and classes of society, be democratic, with a small “d.” It will be radically anti-Marxian, anti-Liberal, and anti-parliamentary. These things have been written by the finger of history with the entelechy of the Fascism movement.
The only question that may not be answered with absolute certitude is whether the Corporative State will develop into an over-State in which the citizens exist for the realization of the objective aims of those leaders who sway the State’s destiny. If it develops in this direction then it will have parted company with its original inspiration and its present Catholic trends. For the first principle laid down for it, in 1916, the year of its genesis, was that, in contrast to the super-State of German Kultur, the citizens were to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”
In the New York Public Library there has been since 1923 a book of mine entitled the “The Unseen hand,” (second edition) in Part IV of which the “gospel” of “The New State” was expounded. Exactly what is original in the Corporative New State, as it first was published in 1916? Both its doctrine and its content are original. Its content is threefold. First, the organization, on a basis of their functions, of all the economic, social, and religious interests of the State into Corporations, and their political representation as such in free mutual interaction. Second, the substitution by these corporative representatives of demagogic representation and all that it stands for. Third, the authoritarian principle or the political guidance of the State by a sovereign grand council, assisted by the representatives. It is not the guild system enlarged. It is true that in European governments, usually local, there have sat, and yet still sit, occasional representatives on the basis of their functions, but not because such instances expressed a doctrine or system, but rather a privilege. Most original of all in this conception of the New State are the state of mind, whose thought patterns are not woven from the threads drawn from the rostrum of forum or from the academy, and the intention, which is to make the idealism of today which cannot comprehend its message of Realism incomprehensible in turn to future generations of men.
Except that Mussolini “synthesized” the corporative plan on to a Fascist Syndicalist State in 1923, there is no difference at all between this New State plan of corporatism and the set-up of Fascism. In the New State of the above book, the “categories” were termed “Interests,” and for the term Corporation the terms corporation, guild, (trade) union were given more specifically the term “Sub-Interests.” In this New State plan the political structure was also to be synthesized on whatever native material to hand that was suitable.
What “The New State” had to do with “The Unseen Hand” was this: The New State was planned so that the unseen hands of the lobby of party backers, and of foreign powers particularly, should not, by acting through the politicians, betray the interests of the State and its people.
The word “corporation” occurred in by book only three times, and the words “fu
nction” and “values” repeatedly. In theory, the plan called for “a balance of the forces of a new democracy of social and economic power and a new sovereignty of political power.”
After January 1917, the next appearance of the corporative idea was in the program of the Fasci di Combattimento in March 1919. September 12, 1919 saw D’Annunzio with a paper “Constitution of Canova” for Fiume. Full provision was made in its Section 8 for “The Corporations.” April 1923, according to the Popolo d ’Italia of Milan, saw Mussolini undecided between “syndicates or corporations…probably…a synthesis of both types.” By December 12, 1923 however, he had definitely nailed the Corporative plank into his platform.
From Washington, D.C. in June 1932 I sent a copy of my book to Leon Daudet of the Action Francaise in Paris through a friend. A great meeting of 20,000 in Paris was held soon after. In April 1923, a French Corporative movement was launched and is still smoldering. In that year, too, the Federation of German Industries drew up a Corporative program. An article by Siemens and another by Hugenberg, both in Current History for September 1924, show plans for a corporative State that was to function when the Republican regime ceased. Hence, the many people who proclaimed their disappointment that the Nazi “revolution” did not usher in corporatism, or real Fascism. In 1931, the Encyclical of Pope Pius XI gave a broadcast endorsement – albeit in a higher form – of the Corporative State, taking exception only to local trends toward the over-State.