The Significance of Fascist Syndicalism

Updated: May 24

Barnes, J. S. (1928). Pp 148-153 A survey of fascism, the year book of the International Centre of Fascist Studies. London: Benn.

In asserting that the fascist revolution will have a decisive influence on the politics and ideas of the twentieth century, we mean that it truly represents a new reality and that it is a revolution with not merely a national, but also a world significance. The choice, indeed, lies between Rome and Moscow, although democratic countries laugh at the idea. They keep Moscow at a distance, and yet seem unwilling to borrow anything from Rome. They are convinced that Democracy, as now practiced, is the best means of government yet tried. But, meanwhile, the pressure of destructive forces continue, and it is clear that Democracy must end in Socialism – that is, in a system more or less akin to that adopted by Moscow. On the other hand, however, there is in many countries a new spirit of political and economic inquiry; and many are now turning their thoughts to Rome, even though they fail to understand the real meaning of Fascism. This want of understanding is shown by the fact that so many purely conservative elements regard Fascism merely as a conservative force, and quite fail to grasp the whole body of ideas and life-giving principles which have grown out of the revolution of October 1922.

It is only quite recently that a few foreign writers and journalists have succeeded in giving a satisfactory explanation of fascist phenomena. The greatest interest has certainly centered on the corporative organization of society, not only as a new and more fruitful system of relations between the industrial classes, but also as a basis for the reorganization of the modern State. It is interesting to note that, although the first investigations of foreigners were limited to the technical structure and legal framework of the syndicates, the spirit and ideas of the corporation are now becoming understood.

In England, for example, not only is Trade-Unionism changing its objective and turning towards truer and more responsible methods of group action, but, even in the opposite social camp there are men who are trying to co-operate with this new and saner outlook, and are thus adopting a theoretical and practical standpoint closely approximating to the principles of fascist syndicalism.

Immediately after the opening meeting of the Trades Union Congress, discussion did in fact concentrate on the need for industrial peace. In the past, industrial peace has been a somewhat vague conception; but a few have now grasped the ideas that peace and co-operation in industry cannot be achieved merely by wising for it or by making speeches on the subject. Labour unions cannot be expected to give up their class position or the weapon of the strike, unless employers change their traditional attitude of sheer resistance to labour Captains of industry must undergo a change of heart and even relinquish some of their despotic power, which is incompatible with modern ideas and with the dignity of labour. Whether one likes it or not, the birth of Syndicalism in the world results from the improvement in the conditions of the salaried and wage-earning classes; a new will, strictly controlled and disciplined, is intervening in regulating production and in determining the relations between classes. The aim of fascist syndicalism is unity and collaboration: it does not oppose, but conforms to the needs of production; it does not deny the conscious aims of labour, but harmonises them with the aims and with the industrial experience of the managers. This is the true and fundamental difference between fascism Syndicalism and Trade-Unionism, based as the latter is on class warfare. If this is understood by the capitalist class, the whole position changes, and collaboration finds a fertile soil for development. But, if this is not understood, it becomes futile to cry out for a collaboration which is doomed to die before birth, like seed cast upon stones.

There are clear and definite principles in the syndicalist doctrine of Fascism; and, without a knowledge of these principles, it is impossible to arrive at a clear idea of the social problem which is, after all, the greatest problem of modern life. The different exponents of Socialism strenuously challenge the herd logic of Capitalism, and are mobilizing the masses against the capitalist system. The effects of this socialist movement and the great harm resulting to the workers are known, so that every reaction against Socialism becomes confused with a defence of the employers with all their old prerogatives and attributes. The same conclusions were drawn at first with regard to Fascism. In its beginnings, it was certainly a movement mainly directed against Bolshevism; but, in its recent developments, it has shown itself capable of creating new social instruments and institutions, which have succeeded in bringing the economic conflict between classes into some sort of order and discipline. Naturally it was difficult to make foreigner understand this second and more important side of Fascism, especially when European countries, struggling with Socialism, thought that they could appeal to Fascism simply as an anti-socialist force. Fortunately the efforts of foreign “fascisti” have never been taken seriously, for they have been thoroughly partisan and hurtful, rather than useful to the reputation of our revolution abroad. Of course, social-democrats have clung desperately to these pseudo-fascism efforts, with the object of belittling and opposing Italian Fascism. In the interaction circle at Geneva these parties fire whole broadsides at a puppet which actually has no existence in the Italian system. But it is well known that, behind this socialist play-acting, there is a short-sighted and stupid organization of big political and financial speculators whose interest it is to slander Fascism, and through Fascism the new Italy. These speculators and social-democrats, however can hardly hold to their position much longer. There are already defections in their camp, either because the hope of unjoining Italian unity grows fainter every day, or because the deeds of Fascism in its five years of life are more eloquent than the persistent lies of interest groups. The Mussolini method is to steer clear of polemics with the internal and external enemies of Fascism, and, instead, to emphasise all that Fascism does to heal and to discipline the life of the country, and to raise the prestige, the dignity, and the value of Italy in the world. This method is showing itself marvelously powerful in winning the admiration of all sincere men. The merely imitative fascists abroad are lessening in numbers and becoming played out, while not a few interpreters of responsible political movements in certain countries are beginning to judge the Italian achievement in a spirit of fair play, and this even when they go to Geneva. Some of them, indeed barely conceal their intention of moving towards ends which have been already worked out and realised by Mussolini in Italy, but which they would naturally adapt to the genius and needs of their own people.

Under the influence of Fascism the old political groups and characteristics are losing their value. Fascism was right to remove all meaning from the old political jargon of “right” and “left.” But what regrets were felt and what tears were shed over the destruction of the innumerable small and big parties which infested the political camp! The unanimous and relentless determination of the militant fascists seemed cruel tyranny to the various parties: the moderate and popular parties, the liberal democrats, the democratic liberals, the radicals, socialists, reformists, maximalists, communists, and so on. But now it is clear to everyone that unification and simplification are elemental necessities to a people who desire good government.

We are convinced that a similar destiny is reserved for fascist syndicalism abroad. The last Labour Conference at Geneva extended far greater sympathy to our movement than the preceding conference had done. As time goes on, those labour delegates who are hostile to us not from conviction, but from a sense of party loyalty, decrease in numbers. There are even some who admire our achievements, and yet exclaim: “What a pity the corporations are fascist!” Briefly, it has come to this, that the word Fascism still engenders alarm, although the reality is no longer despised. Later on, even the word will cease to be disliked.

The conception of fascist Syndicalism changes the outlook of all those engaged industry, and takes from Socialism all that it has of value. Even the old terminology of masters and men is changing. The word servitude of labour; a servitude which is in direct contradiction to modern progress. The Italian scheme of corporations brings about a much needed co-operation between the directors and the executors of an undertaking, and is the only present-day conception which entails equilibrium and economic justice.

It should be emphasised that it was these very fascist organisers who were the first to insist that the old expressions, “masters” and “men,” should be abolished and this because master supposes servant. Such terminology belongs to a past civilization. Nowadays we are no longer able to concur with the old absurd idea of class distinctions, nor do we hold that there is by nature any moral inferiority between men. On the contrary, it is fully recognized that all men have the same right to citizenship in the national life.

Fascist syndicalism has a definite programme and definite activities; its deep-lying principles and ideals are destined to illuminate the whole international field of labour. This is inevitable; for the future progress of civilization cannot be ensured either by means of communist negations or through the rigid individualistic system of Capitalism. A new moral, political, and economic order can only be achieved through the fascist idea of all workers bound together for the food of all, both in the world of industry and in social life. Thus the very best that Socialism can give is taken, and, at the same time, government rises to a higher perception of justice. In the light of the twentieth century, there can be no room for any government based on Absolutism, on purely material preoccupations, or on oppression.

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