Thoughts on Corporatism

Messner, Johannes, In Dollfuss: an Austrian Patriot, 109–14. Norfolk, VA: Gates of Vienna Books, 2004.

Our object in the sphere of Constitutional Reform is to revive corporative and vocational consciousness in the sense of the Encyclical Quadragisimo Anno which, has taught us new ways for the reconstruction of society. We want to do away with class warfare. We want to accustom our people again to the idea of vocational solidarity, vocational rights and duties. The idea that master and man, the so-called employer and employee, are in opposition to each other must disappear. They must learn that they belong to each other, that they must collaborate harmoniously in human society for their mutual good and for the good of the community as a whole. (Vienna, 29, 1933)

In the corporative organization of those days the peasant class did not receive due consideration, indeed it was neglected. Trade and industry had become stagnated in their guilds and led only a formal existence. And the reason was precisely that the priveleges of single classes were too much emphasized. So the time came when the defenseless individual became the prey of the power of others, and when finally money entered into power the poorer and the weaker section of the community was oppressed. (Vienna September 11, 1933)

Anyone who speaks of "estate" or corporation, and thinks that it means an employers organization, a new political Front, misuses the word corporation. A corporation is not only an organization of the employers, rather it is an organization of all those who owe their existence to one particular trade or profession. Evidently the corporative idea recognizes the authority of the master in the trade or craft, for it is he who ultimately bears the economic risk. But the conception also requires that the apprentice and the craftsman should be recognized as colleagues and as men, that ultimately they should also be partners in the business. Apprentice and craftsman should have an interest in the thriving condition of the business...For a man his place of work should be his home once more. For this it is before all things necessary that the employer should feel it his duty so to conduct himself as a man that his fellow-workers will feel themselves to be men in their relations with him. (Salzburg, May 8, 1931)

Evidently, we intend to use in this work of reconstruction the economic organisms already in existence. The Constitution itself will leave wide scope for the development, grouping and organization of the various vocational associations, and the legislation will establish the legal norms according to which they are to be formed. (Vienna, April 6, 1934.)

The formation and re-formation of the estates is not stereotyped by the Constitution. Wide scope is left for free development and for the building up of the various corporations. But if they are to fulfil their purpose they must be more than a mere legal framework; they must be vital organisms. Admittedly, if this is to be so there are many who will need a complete change of outlook and behaviour; many are still under the influence of Liberal or Socialist ideas, and have not yet found the way to the new State. (Vienna, May 1, 1934.)

I have repeatedly declared that there can be no real and conclusive reformation of the Constitution unless we understand the change in such a way that the whole people becomes, as it were, saturated with the new spirit which is to animate the new Constitution. It is of fundamental importance that men, associated in the first place by their common trade or vocation, should realize that they have obligations towards one another, and that over and above this all economic groups must cooperate in all things in the interests of the community. (Vienna, April 6, 1934.)

From the various trades and callings will be chosen those who are to assist in the public administration. That man will prove to be the best administrator in public life who is most conscientious in the discharge of his own business duties or office. Each must in the first place enjoy the confidence of his fellow-workers, who are in a position to form the best judgment of him. From the various groups the corporations will be formed, and these will act in the federal and provincial administration. (Klosterneuburg, March 25, 1934.)

The estates were for centuries the basis of the social structure in this country, and hardly anywhere in the world has this been the case so much as in the countries dominated by a German legal tradition. These vocational groups, which in spite of the Liberal errors of the age have remained deeply rooted in the nation, are now to receive a greater measure of autonomy and self-determination. They are to be reinstated in the position from which they have been ousted in the Liberal and Socialist state. (Vienna, May 1, 1934.)

An estate means the association of all the men who gain their livelihood in a certain calling. The corporative idea means the building up of a great family. (Salzburg, May 8, 1933.)

The corporative structure does not mean organization of employers, but the representation and cooperation of all those who gain their livelihood in the same calling. The peasantry of Lower Austria will be the first, probably, soon to assume a really corporative form which will include every employee and every domestic servant. Thus a clear answer will be given to those various groups of workers who are wondering whether they are going to receive any consideration in the new order of things. Whether the will come into their own again. Every worker, whatever be his calling, his trade or his profession, must believe that in the new form of government, which will have nothing in common with demagogical parliamentarianism, all workers within their respective vocational groups are called, and must be called to cooperate and to have a voice in the administration. (Vienna, February 2, 1934)

If we regard men's relation to one another from a purely materialistic point of view, then there can be no quarrel with the statement that life is conditioned and determined by the relation between employer and employed, by the opposition of classes. Men must be brought closer to one another by human contacts and by mutual consideration, so as to make life more worth living for them...Unless we realize that the whole economic structure is intended to serve the interests of men and that men are closer to each other than they are to things, we shall never make our people a happier one. We want to serve the cause of peace in human society, and I am one of those who believe that the association of men according to their calling, the common task, the common workshop, does more to unite men together than any external or formal bond...Unless we are able to bring masters, men and apprentices closer to each other as men, unless we are able to convince them that as men they are economically and socially bound up with one another, and that each must have consideration for the others, unless we can make workers feel once more at home in the place where they work, then the formal and legal provisions of the Constitution will remain only on the surface and we shall have rendered no service whatever to mankind or to our nation. (Vienna, October 13, 1931)

In his own trade or calling a man will not be a mere cipher; he will be considered and treated as a man. The corporative conception gives rights and duties to the master as well as to the servant... We must realize that work welds men together. In the peasant's cottage, where after working, together during the day farmer and servants sit down together in the evening as a common table, take their soup from a common bowl, you have true vocational solidarity, the corporative conception. And the relation between them is still further ennobled. If after the day's work is done they kneel down to say the rosary together. We must arouse again in us this feeling of solidarity. Only thus shall we banish from our people the Marxian idea of a necessary antagonism between the worker and the employer. (Vienna, September 11, 1933)

I hope that the time will soon come when workers and employers will organize social life on vocational lines. We want provision to be made in each trade or calling for libraries, common games, sports vocal societies and especially for common recreations in industrial districts. What they call in Italy Doplolavaro should become an institution in this country. Then we shall take not the stirring up of dissension among men, that makes everybody happy and contented. We shall not only be concerned with material rights and claims; we intend to create a State of things which the worker will have a higher dignity. (Vienna Neustadt, June 3, 1934.)

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