Mussolini's Corporate State - successes and failures



Before one delves into the extent of the idea's success, one must define what Il Duce actually meant by his ambivalent ‘Corporate State’.

The central theory of the corporate state was that the economy — or more precisely the production of goods and services — would be organised by corporations in which both employers and workers would be equally represented in a particular field of economic activity. Firms would remain in private hands but would be regulated by the corporations in order to ensure that production was directed in the national interest.

The corporations were to be state bodies and so included state and Fascist Party officials among the membership precisely in order to ensure that the interests of the state were paramount. These self-governing corporations would bring about good labour relations, provide rational plans for production, stimulate enterprise, negotiate working conditions and pay and generally encourage the production of wealth in a setting free from traditional class conflicts between labour and management, thus avoiding strikes and other labour disputes.

Much touted as a 'third way', superseding both capitalism and socialism, corporatism represented the synthesis of the nationalist ideal of a state that subsumed class division by recognizing as 'producers' all economically and socially active individuals, whatever their function or position in the productive process. Institutions such as trade unions, employer associations, committees of landlords and peasant leagues which, according to Fascism, exacerbated and institutionalized class division, were to be replaced by state agencies whose mandate was to guarantee and streamline production for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

Unlike Britain and France, there would be no bitter Industrial disputes that led to strikes and class conflict. Unlike Communist Russia there would still be a role for businessmen whose energy and entrepreneurship would help industries to prosper.

The Rocco Law of 1926 recognized seven branches of economic activity: industry, agriculture, internal transport, merchant marine, banking, commerce and intellectual work. These were formed into syndicates, under the control of the Ministry of Corporations, also established in 1926. The system was further refined by the creation in 1930 of the National Council of Corporations and the organization of economic activity into twenty-two more specialized corporations by 1934.


Dilution of Rocco’s ideas

From Alfredo Rocco's founding legislation, in each area of the economy (for e.g. mining) separate syndicates of workers and employers were gradually set up and met together in corporations, which — in theory at least — controlled their sector of the national economy. The separate nature of the syndicates represented a considerable dilution of original syndicalist ideas (in which the state played the key economic role) and confirmed the exclusion of the syndicates from any role within the workplace that had been agreed with Confindustria in 1926. It meant that the corporations became consultative bodies, largely over labour issues, and not the direct managers of industrial undertakings. This dilution, or distortion, of syndicalist theory was inevitable, given the compromises Mussolini


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