The Corporate State

Mosley, O. (1932). The greater britain: By Oswald Mosley. In The greater Britain: By Oswald Mosley (pp. 34-48). London: (Printed by Richard Clay & Sons).

The main object of a modern and Fascist movement is to establish the Corporate State. In our belief, it is the greatest constructive conception yet devised by the mind of man. It is almost unknown in Britain; yet it is, by nature, better adapted to the British temperament than to that of any other nation. In psychology it is based on teamwork; in organization it is the rationalized State. We have rationalized industry and most other aspects of life, but we have not rationalized the State. Yet the former makes the other the more needful, lest the economic power of man should pass beyond the power of his control.

Sir Arthur Salter has said that “private society has developed no machinery which enables industry as a whole to contribute to the formation of a general economic policy, and secure its application when adopted.” It is this machinery of central direction which the Corporate State is designed to supply – and that, not as a sporadic effort in time of crisis, but as a continuous part of the machinery of government. It is essentially adaptable; no rigid system can hope to survive in a world of quickly changing conditions. It envisages, as its name implies, a nation organized as the human body. Every part fulfils its function as a member of the whole, performing its separate task, and yet, by performing it, contributing to the welfare of the whole.

This does not mean control from Whitehall, or constant interference by Government with the business of industry. But it does mean that Government, or rather the Corporate system, will lay down the limits within which individuals and interests may operate. Those limits are the welfare of the nation – not, when all is said, a very unreasonable criterion. Within these limits, all activity is encouraged; individual enterprise, and the making of a profit, are not only permitted, but encouraged so long as that enterprise enriches rather than damages by its activity the nation as a whole.

But as soon as anybody, whether an individual or an organized interest, steps outside those limits, so that his activity becomes sectional and anti-social, the mechanism of the Corporate system descends upon him. This implies that every interest, whether Right or Left, industrial, financial, trade union or banking system, is subordinated to the welfare of the community as a whole, and to the over-riding authority of the organized State. No State within the State can be admitted. All within the State; none outside the State; none against the State.

The Producer as the Basis of the State The producer, whether by hand or brain or capital, will be the basis of the nation. The forces which assist him in his work of rebuilding the nation will be encouraged; the forces which thwart and destroy productive enterprise will be met with the force of national authority. The incalculable powers of finance will be harnessed in the service of national production. They will not be fettered; but they will be guided into the channels – which are now the channels of opportunity rather than of habit – which serve the nation’s ends. This is the true function of finance, intended, as Sir Basil Blackest has insisted, to be “the handmaid of industry.” There will be no room, in our financial organization, for the unorganized operations which have led to such enormous complexities, and have rocked the structure of British industry to its foundations. In our labor organization there will be no place for the trade union leader who, from sectional or political motives, impedes the development of a vital service. But there will be an honored place for the financial organization which joins in the work of British reconstruction, and for trade unions which co-operate with such reconstruction in the interests of members who are also members of the international community.

Class war will be eliminated by permanent machinery of government for reconciling the clash of class interests in an equitable distribution of the proceeds of industry. Wage questions will not be left to the dog-fight of class war, but will be settled by the impartial arbitration of State machinery; existing organizations such as trade unions and employers’ federations will be woven into the fabric of the Corporate State, and will there find with official standing not a lesser but a greater sphere of activity. Instead of being the general staff of opposing armies, they will be joint directors of national enterprises under the general guidance of corporative government.

The task of such industrial organizations will certainly not be confined merely to the settlement of questions of wages and of hours. They will be called upon to assist, by regular consultation, in the general economic policy of the nation. The syndicates of employers’ and of workers’ organizations in particular industries will be dovetailed into the corporations covering larger and interlocking spheres of industry. These corporations in their turn will be represented in a national corporation or council of industry, which will be a permanent feature in co-operating with the Government for the direction of economic policy.

The idea of a National Council was, I believe, first advanced in my speech on resignation from the Labour Government in May 1930. The idea has since been developed by Sir Arthur Salter and other writers. A body of this kind stands or falls by the effectiveness of the underlying organization. It must not consist of casual delegates from unconnected bodies, meeting occasionally for ad hoc consultation. The machinery must be permanently functioning and interwoven with the whole industrial and commercial fabric of the nation.

The machinery must not be haphazard, but systematic, and continually applied. Sir Arthur Salter envisages such machinery in the following passage:

“In industry and trade, banking and finance, in the professions, there are institutions which are capable of representing more than merely sectional interests. They may have been formed primarily for defense of a common interest against an opposing organization or against competitors or the public; but they have, or may have, another aspect: that of preserving and raising the standard of competence and the development of traditions which are in the general public interest.”

This latter is precisely the aspect which the Corporate system develops into a smoothly working structure of industrial government. To this end, no other concrete policy has yet been developed. The first principle is to absorb, and use, the elements which are useful and beneficial. In this respect Fascism differs profoundly from its opponent, Communism, which pursues class warfare to the destruction of all science, skill and managerial ability; until, when it begins to find its feet, it has to buy these same qualities at enormous cost from foreign nations. This precisely describes the course of events in Russia. The first task of Leninism was to destroy, to root up every tree in the garden – whether good or bad – merely because it had been planted by the enemy. Then, when destruction had brought chaos on the heels of famine, there came a five-year plan of American conception, implemented by a nucleus of German and American technicians hired at immense expense.

Such is not the method of Fascism. Its achievement is revolution, but not destruction. Its aim is to accept and use the useful elements within the State, and so to weave them into the intricate mechanism of the Corporate system.

Loyalty to the Crown Whatever is good in the past we both respect and venerate. This is why, throughout the policy of the movement, we respect and venerate the Crown. Here, at least, is an institution, worn smooth with the frictions of long ago; which in difficult experience has been proven effective and has averted from this Empire many a calamity. We believe that, under the same impartial dispensation, the greatest constitutional change in British history may yet be peacefully achieved. The same, however, cannot be said of the House of Lords, which is one of the unworkable anachronisms of the present system. In days gone by the Members of the Upper Chamber were in some ways exceptionally endowed with the qualities of Government. Their position had secured them education and their wealth had enabled them to travel – in these, and a multitude of other, ways they had the advantage of their contemporaries. They were hereditary landowners on a large scale, in days when the ownership of land was the only serious industrial responsibility which economic circumstance had created. Thus they spoke with authority in many matters with which others were less fitted to deal; and, so long as this went on, they were a fitting and indispensable branch of the law-giving body.

Their position was derived from the social inequalities of the period; and there is no social factor which time has more radically changed. As individuals, the Members of the House of Lords are neither better nor worse, richer nor poorer, wiser nor more foolish, than their colleagues in the Commons. Their only function is interference without responsibility. They have become hereditary automata, whose powers successive governments have found it necessary to truncate.

In the Corporate State, the House of Lords would be automatically superseded by the National Corporation, which would function as an effective Parliament of Industry. Thus we should abolish one form of legislative obstruction, and replace it with a pool of the country’s industrial and commercial experience.

Occupational Franchise Further, in the main body of Parliament industrial elements would receive a more direct and systematic recognition by the adoption of an occupational franchise. As things stand at present, there is nothing to prevent the electorate, supposedly all-wise, from electing a Parliament composed entirely of sugar brokers. Each might be an excellent candidate for whatever Party he chose to represent. He might well be affluent, genial and docile; a firm supporter of charity bazaars, a pillar of local football elevens, a regular contributor to the Party funds of his constituency. If, with all this, he kisses babies with a pretty grace, and promises reforms enough to impress the electors, he may well find himself in Parliament. If enough sugar brokers did it, there is no reason at all why the whole of Parliament should not be sugar brokers: but this would scarcely fit them for the task of discussing a Bill dealing with the complexities of unemployment administration in a northern industrial town. In fact, the unemployed might expect to fare rather badly.

This is an exaggeration; but the like of it, in miniature, happens at every election. Electors vote on general considerations of policy, which they cannot understand, since the facts are not fully before them. This is no fault in the newspapers, and it implies no secrecy in the government of the day. The truth is, simply, that the issues behind every political decision are far too complicated to set before the public. The result is that elections are fought in a welter of journalistic catchwords – Three Acres and a Cow, Tax Fortunes, not Food, Safety First, and even Hang the Kaiser.

This is a travesty of democratic law-giving. The first essential is a well-informed electorate; and a man is better informed in his own job than he is in the complicated issues of politics. For this reason, the majority of Members of Parliament will be elected on an occupational, rather than a residential, basis. An engineer shall vote as an engineer; and thus bring into play, not an amateur knowledge of foreign and domestic politics, but a life-long experience of the trade in which he is engaged. He will vote in common with others of similar experience, and will give the reasoned decision of a technician in his particular trade in a choice between members of that trade.

It would always be necessary to elect a proportion of Members of Parliament on general grounds of national policy by the exercise of a general franchise; but the relative smallness of their number, and the greater size of their constituencies, would lift such national membership from the parochial to the national sphere. In such conditions, candidates could only expect to be elected by reason of conspicuous gifts, and not on the grounds of mere parochial appeal. The number of nationally elected MPs would be reduced, but their quality would be raised. Such electoral principles are designed, not to limit the powers of electors, but rather to increase their real power by enabling them to give a well-informed vote.

The danger of our present system is the fact that it brings itself too easily into contempt. Nobody, nowadays, expects election promises to be fulfilled.

Governments are elected on the strength of their appeal to passion or to sentiment. Once in office they promptly resign their effective power in favor of the great interests within the State, but yet superior to the State, who exercise their power in secret. The increasingly technical nature of all problems in an economic age has made it difficult or impossible to explain the real issues to the electorate as a whole. The division between daily politics and the reality of Government has become ever greater.

The technician has become ever more enchained by the passion, the prejudice and the folly of uninstructed politics. By such a system as we advocate, the technician, who is the architect of our industrial future, is freed for his task. He is given the mandate for that task by the informed franchise of his colleagues in his own industry. A vote so cast will be the result of experience and information. Is not this in fact rationalized democracy? Is not this system preferable to the solemn humbug of present elections, which assumes that the most technical problems of modern government, ranging from currency management to the evolution of a scientific protective system, can be settled by a few days’ loose discussion in the turmoil of a General Election?

The ordinary man would greatly resent such treatment of the facts of his daily industry and life. If someone strolled into an engineering shop and, after five minutes’ cursory examination of an intricate process which the engineer had studied all his life, proceeded to tell him how to do it, the engineer would quickly tell the intruder he was a presumptuous ass. Yet these are the methods which our present electoral system applies to that most intricate and technical of processes, the government of a civilized State.

Rationalized democracy, as well as rationalized industry, has become an imperative necessity. The Corporate State provides the only known solution to the problem. Our electoral system has become a farce, worse even than in the days of bribed elections and pocket boroughs. As it is organized at present, our system of government lacks the caliber to carry us out of trade depression and set Britain again on top of the world. As time goes on, the world crisis may possibly diminish; but even in that event we are not organized to emerge in a position comparable with our former prosperity. After the crisis of 1921 – a crisis far less severe than that of 1932 – we did not recover even the semblance of our old prosperity; government must be rationalized, if we are to avoid a repetition of the last decade of unhappy history. On the other hand, if the clouds of depression do not lift, and the State remains unrationalised, there is a very real danger that the farce will be recognized as such, and that the country will turn – and turn violently – to the catastrophic remedies of Communism.

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