The Fascist House of Work

Updated: Jul 10

Rossini, Edmondo. “The Fascist House of Work.” Graphic Survey LVII, no. 11 (March 1, 1927): 706–7.

To have a clear idea of the situation into which Italian life had fallen we must borrow a definition from the socialists: “The middle class had lost every power of leadership while the proletariat had not the capacity of staging its revolution and taking command of the situation.” Who can deny that fascism solved this impasse, and that a new method of government, of social order and leadership, an entirely novel conception of national life was born with the March on Rome? Defeated Socialism affirms that fascism enacted a restoration, not a revolution; in other words, that Fascism with a new party and new men restored leadership to the very middle class which was about to be ruined. If this were the case we might ask why the liberal and democratic middle class opposed the Fascists to the very last and still lends somewhat doubtful support to our program.

We are particularly interested in being understood by those who have grasped the general idea of fascism, without however realizing that the reestablishment of order and national discipline is only one of its aspects and insufficient in itself to give fascism the historical value which the movement claims and y which it has opened an entirely new epoch in the history of the Italian people. For the fascists Corporation idea has ruck the death-blow to dying parliamentary and democratic institutions. If fascism had not entered upon a course of syndicalistic reforms with new principles and new methods, it would not have gone beyond the simple functions of a party organization. A new and vigorous party it might have been, but inadequate for its mission and lacking in that power of expansion ad vigor which fascism has assigned to Italy. On the one hand, it was important to strip of their functions the old bourgeois parties whose main planks were law and order. On the other hand, this would not have been sufficient to supplant socialism, which had a raison de etre and definite functional programs as alternative to the liberal state. The fundamental strength of socialism lay in the organization of labor, and the liberal parties floundered helplessly in the face of the syndical problems raised by these organizations. Fascism would have fallen into the same error as liberalism if it had remained outside of the field exploited by the socialists. Five years ago it would have been impossible to enter into subtle discussions as to the theory of fascist syndicalism. Action was far more necessary than theory. And as the predominant syndicalistic movement at the time was the socialist one, it was necessary to demolish it not so much by violence as by putting forth a few fundamental ideas which would convince the masses. Our ideas were expressed by very simple methods and in a manner which rendered them understandable to the workman.

Once socialistic syndicalism had been overcome, however, and we stood alone in the field of the representation of labor, the problem of leadership became even more pressing and serous. The fact that besides the workmen we had been able to organize the technicians and the intellectuals gave the fascist syndicates a special character which greatly increased their power. It may be that the syndical organization of labor can in Italy attain the highest planes and face the task which as yet the undefined national destinies assign to it. Notwithstanding this possibility the duty of fascism was to foresee and attempt a form of syndicalism radically different from any known and practiced in other countries. For this reason the fascist conception of syndicalism materialized in what we term the integral corporation.

Now an integral corporation is not easily achieved. The greatest obstacle to the integral corporation is found in the opposition of the employers. At this we can hardly wonder. In the beginning they considered fascism as an anti-socialistic movement, as it had destroyed both the political and syndicalistic forces of socialism. Once the law on fascist syndicates was enacted, the economic world was faced with the dilemma of being either entirely fascist in name and substance or decidedly anti-fascist. Naturally in this moment. Of overwhelming fascist power they were left but little choice. As a result, today, no fascist organization comprising workmen and employers can be considered as a separate entity. On the part of labor, only a class mentality no longer in harmony with the present day can return to the old and abandoned position of syndicalism. Under the old system it was not only the labor organizations which escaped the control of the state or that put themselves outside the state. The capitalistic organizations were far from going under state control. It is true that in the old days through parliamentary and cabinet compromise and with the help of some officials, both socialist and catholic syndicalism succeeded in influencing and even determining political questions, but it is even more evident that capitalistic organizations exercised an enormous influence on government.

When we speak today of syndicalism, of syndicalistic discipline and of economic coalition, one must finally understand that these terms apply not merely to the powering masses, but also to capitalistic organizations. Every branch of Italian activity is rationally organized in a specific national corporation which in three distinct sections comprises labor, technical work and capital. This is not a mixed organization, but a system of organization, which, while leaving the necessary autonomy to every category and class, organizes them all under a single superior authority. The nation corporations, so organized, will form together one great body, formidable expression and synthesis of Italian economy. The law on the confederations provides for a special cabinet devoted to their interests, the portfolio of which is held by Benito Mussolini, who is also head of the Fascist Party. The Fascist State has now attained its complete sovereignty by recognizing the economic organizations, which on their side recognize the sovereign state and are identified with the State. Our syndicalistic unity is intact. The mezzadri have remained in the great family of agricultural organizations. The intellectuals, for the first time organized under our corporations, will be the most distinguished part of the General Confederation of the Syndicates.

We sometimes hear the question: has fascism really created a different from of state? The answer is decidedly: “Yes.” All the reforms enacted by the Fascist Government prove it, but none more so than the establishment of our National Confederations. The syndicalistic revolution accomplished by fascism is not sufficiently understood by those who still reason according to the old political standards. I shall not recapitulate the twenty-three articles of the law establishing the National Corporations, nor quote this most arduous legislative experiment of the fascist revolution. Revolutionary laws have to be judged according to the spirit which inspired them. They must be considered not as products of parliamentary programs or bureaucratic thought, but of the young and willful energies which emerge in exceptional times, and overcome class legislation which has provoked lacking in vitality.

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