Corporatism was perhaps the most original idea to emerge from Fascism. Essentially, it was meant to include institutional devices for controlling all instruments of production—both management and labor—in the interests of an assertive national policy of autarchy, that is, the organization of the economy so as to reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign sources of supply. Management and labor were to be organized—economic sector by economic sector—into guildlike units, membership in which was to be compulsory for the practitioners of a trade or the manufacturers of a given product. These “corporations” were recognized by the state and given a representational monopoly within their respective categories in exchange for observing certain state controls on the choice of leaders and the articulation of demands.
   The Ministry of Corporations—headed by Benito Mussolini himself—required that all members of unions be “of good moral character” (i.e., loyal to Fascism) and that only those syndicates recognized by the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Nazionali Lavoratori/Italian Confederation of National Workers’ Unions (CISNAL) were to take part in corporatism’s activities. Catholic and Socialist trade unions were hence effectively excluded: Only contracts signed by Fascist unions would have legal effect. Territorial organizations of employees in a particular sector formed labor syndicates, and the employers (of 10 percent of the workforce) formed federations of employers’associations, on provincial, regional, and national levels. Labor tribunals were organized as sections in each of the 16 Courts of Appeal to hear disputes left unresolved by conciliation. Their chief criterion was ostensibly national welfare rather than either the interests of labor or capital. Strikes and lockouts were prohibited. At the national level, these territorial federations were to generate “corporations” that were to increase productivity within their sectors. This was to be syndicalism as administered by the omnipotent state through its National Council of Corporations made up entirely of Mussolini appointees and chaired by the secretary-general of the Fascist Party. Although first implemented by the Fascists, corporatist doctrine was not entirely original. Its most important doctrinal antecedent was to be found in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), which was antiliberal, antibourgeois, and supportive of the rights of the unorganized worker. State corporatism was introduced to the world almost simultaneously with the Great Depression.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

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