Posts Tagged ‘Augusto Turati’

Let’s Get Fascist with Neoliberal Corporatism

August 1, 2016

By which I certainly don’t mean supporting racism, xenophobia, genocide and the destruction of democracy, or vile, strutting dictators.

British and American politics are now dominated to an overwhelming extent by the interests of corporations and big business. Corporations in America sponsor and donate handsomely to the campaign funding of congressmen and -women, who return the favour, passing legislation and blocking other acts to the benefit of their corporate sponsors. I put up a piece a little while ago from the radical internet news service, Democracy Now!, reporting on how funding by the Koch brothers has resulted in policies that massively favour the oil industry, against the Green movement and efforts to combat climate change. Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is also part of this corrupt web. She sits a number of leading American companies, and was paid something like a quarter of a million dollars for speeches she made to Wall Street. This has had a demonstrable effect on her policies, which strongly favour big business and, naturally, the financial sector. This corruption of American democracy ultimately goes back to the 1970s, when a court ruled that sponsorship by a corporation constituted free speech under the law, thus undermining the legislation that had existed for over 150 years against it. After about forty years of corporate encroachment on the res publica, the result is that America is no longer a democracy. A recent report by Harvard University concluded that the nation had become an oligarchy. This is reflected by the low rating of Congress in polls of the American public. These have shown that only about 14% of Americans are happy that their parliament represents them.

This situation is no different over here, although the corruption has been going on for much longer. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymous author of the 1944 book, Your MP, detailed the various Tory MPs who were the owners or managers of companies. Earlier this evening I posted piece about the recent publication of a book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which revealed that British MPs have about 2,800 directorships in 2,450 companies. It’s blurb states that MPs are not working for the general public. They are working for these companies. Nearly a decade or so ago, George Monbiot said pretty much the same in his book, Corporate State, as he investigated the way outsourcing, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative meant that the state was increasingly in retreat before the encroachment of corporate power, which was now taking over its functions, and official policies were designed to support and promote this expansion. This has meant, for example, that local councils have supported the construction of supermarkets for the great chains, like Sainsbury’s, despite the wishes of their communities, and the destructive effects this has on local traders, shopkeepers and farmers.

In America, there is a growing movement to end this. One California businessman has set up a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’, demanding that Congressmen, who are sponsored by corporations, should wear sponsorship logos exactly like sportsmen. In my last blog post, I put up an interview between Jimmy Dore, a comedian with The Young Turks, and David Cobb, the Outreach Officer with Move to Amend, a campaign group with 410,000 members across America, working to remove corporate sponsorship.

As I’ve blogged before, we desperately need a similar campaign in Britain. But it would be strongly resisted. Tony Blair’s New Labour was notorious for its soft corruption, with Peter Mandelson’s notorious statement that the party was ‘extremely relaxed about getting rich’. The Tories are no better, and in many ways much worse. When this issue was raised a few years ago, a leading Tory dismissed it with the statement that the Tory party was the party of business. David Cameron pretended to tackle the problem of political lobbying, but this was intended to remove and limit political campaigning by charities, trade unions and other opposition groups, leaving the big lobbying companies and the Tories’ traditional corporate backers untouched.

This corporate domination of politics and the legislature has been termed ‘corporatism’. This also harks back to the corporate state, one of the constitutional changes introduced in Italy by the Fascists under Mussolini. This was partly developed from the Italian revolutionary syndicalist tradition. The corporations were supposed to be a modern form of the medieval guilds. They consisted of both the employer’s organisations and the trade unions for particular industries, and were responsible for setting terms and conditions. Parliament was abolished and replaced with a council of corporations. Mussolini made much of this system, arguing that it had created social peace, and that it made Fascism a new political and economic system, neither Socialist nor capitalist.

In fact, the corporate state was nothing more than ideological camouflage to hide the fact that Fascism rested on brute force and the personal dictatorship of Mussolini. The power of trade unions was strictly subordinated to the control of the industrialists and the Fascist party. The Council of Corporations had no legislative power, and was really just there to rubber stamp Musso’s decisions.

But if the Tories and big business want a corporate state, perhaps they should get a corporate state, though following the more radical ideas of Fascist theorists like Ugo Spirito. Spirito was a philosophy professor, teaching at a number of Italian universities, including Genoa, Messina, Pisa and Rome. At the Ferrara Congress on Corporative Studies, held in May 1932, he outraged the Fascist leadership and conservatives by arguing that the Corporate state had resulted in property acquiring a new meaning. In the corporations, capital and labour would eventually merge in the large corporations, and their ownership would similarly pass from the shareholders to the producers, who manage it based on their industrial expertise. It was attacked as ‘Bolshevik’, and Spirito himself later described it as ‘Communist’. Despite the denunciations, it was popular among university students, who wanted the Fascist party to return to its radical Left programme of 1919.

If we are to have a corporate state with industrialists represented in parliament, as so promoted by neoliberal politicians, we should also include the workers and employees in those industries. For every company director elected to parliament, there should be one or more employees elected by the trade unions to represent the workforce. And as another Fascist, Augusto Turati argued, there should be more employee representatives elected than those of the employers because there are more workers than managers.

And as the outsourcing companies are performing the functions of the state, and those captains of industry elected to parliament are also representatives of their companies, these enterprises should be subject to the same public oversight as state industries. Their accounts and the minutes of their meetings should be a matter of public record and inspection. Considerations of commercial secrecy should not apply, because of the immense responsibility they have and the importance of their duties to the public, particularly as it affects the administration of the welfare state, the health service, and the prison and immigration system.

On the other hand, if this is too ‘Socialist’, then industry should get out of parliament and stop perverting democracy for its own ends and inflicting poverty and hardship of the rest of us.

Advertisements

The Fascist ‘Charter of Labour’ and Tory Attitudes to Work and the Banning and Control of the Unions

March 13, 2016

One of the institutions of the Italian Fascist state was the Corporations. This was partly developed from Syndicalism, the form of Anarchism that advocates the abolition of the state and the control of industry by trade unions. The Corporations in Fascist Italy were a type of giant trade union, based on the medieval guilds, which included both the trade unions and the employers’ organisations for a particular industry. Instead of parliament, there was a council of corporations, which was supposed to regulate the economy. Il Duce claimed that this was the cornerstone of the Fascist state, which had transcended both capitalism and Socialism, and had created social peace. In fact the Fascist corporations were a device used to break the power of the unions, and place them under the control of the state and the employers. The main ideological influence in their creation was that of the Nationalist, Alfredo Rocco, rather than radical National Syndicalists like Augusto Turati or Panunzio.

And so of the regulations contained in Musso’s Charter of Labour read very much like standard Tory screeds against welfare scroungers, nationalisation and the trade unions. The Fascists did indeed grant some concessions to the workers, like free Sundays, an annual paid holiday, extra pay for night work, and insurance paid both by workers and the employers.

It begins with the statement ‘Work in all its forms is a social duty’. Articles VII and IX also state ‘The Corporative State considers private enterprise in the domain of production to be the most efficient method and the most advantageous to the interests of the nation … The state intervenes in economic production only when private enterprise fails or is insufficient or when the political interests of the state are involved’. See Elizabeth Wiskemann, Fascism in Italy: Its Development and Influence (Basingstoke: MacMillan Education 1970) 23. As well as making work ‘a social duty’, the Charter also criminalised its withdrawal. Strikes and lockouts were banned under the Fascist state, and there were Labour Courts which were supposed to settled industrial disputes.

The Tories certainly have the first attitude, that work is a duty, and are doing their level best to criminalise strikes without making them illegal. Hence Cameron’s passing a law that makes a strike illegal, even if the majority of union members have voted for it, if less than half of the members of the trade union have turned up and voted. If this same principle is adopted for politics, then this government should similarly be in jail, as only about 30 per cent or so of the population actually bothered to turn out and vote. They have also voted to use agency workers to act as blacklegs in strikes, just as Mussolini supplied blacklegs in Italian strikes, and his British imitators, the British Fascisti did over here. Cameron also wanted strikers on picket lines to give their names to the police and wear armbands identifying who they were, but this was a step too far even for David Davies, who called it a ‘Francoist’ idea.

Thatcherism has been described as ‘Corporativism without the working class’, and there is more than element of truth in that. The Tory party has been drawn overwhelmingly from the upper and middle classes, including the heads of businesses, and makes no secret of being the party of business. This is when it suits them, of course. At other times, they’re claiming to be the party of the poor. Which is why Cameron, aIDS and Osbo are all pukka Eton-educated Toffs. The legislation they pass is designed to protect the businesses they run, including smashing the unions and keeping wages low to provide a constant supply of cheap, dispensable labour.

Interesting, the Charter of Labour also states that industry was only to use labour from the Fascist controlled Labour Exchanges. I’ve reblogged a piece today from Private Eye, about how the Tories stopped the JobCentres from finding jobs for people, because they were better at it than the private firms that have been set up, and whose directors no doubt donate generously to the Tory party. It also casts a different light on a jobs fair held in aIDS’ Chingford constituency the other year. This was held in the local Conservative Club, which tells you how close Chingford business is to the Tories, and ominously suggests the Tory determination to maintain outright political control of the Labour market.

The Tories got very angry indeed when one leading trade unionist compared their anti-union legislation with the Nazis, but as this shows, there are very strong comparisons with Fascist Italy as well.