Response to “Mussolini’s Speech to the Workers of Milan”

Bogumil,

Personally, I did not know about this speech until this ARPLAN Post had brought it to my attention. I am willing to believe that an argument can be made in favor of a correlation between the current Post and the previous one where I discussed about the feasibility of Pan-Germanic Legal Theory (PGLT). Based on the speech, Mussolini was appealing to the Italian people from the standpoint of Catholic Social Teaching as one of the justifications for the emerging Corporatist economy. We can tell from Mussolini’s invocations of Social Justice that the particular term was being specifically understood within its original religious connotations. I say this because most people nowadays understand the term in the context of Social Liberalism. Thus, when most people think of “social justice” in today’s context, what comes to mind is a certain form of Liberal Capitalist opportunism in which appeals to Social Justice are promised but never acted upon.

Regarding the usage of that idea from Roman Catholicism, I should mention that when Mussolini invoked Social Justice as a reference to Catholic Social Teaching, Corporatism was not being intended to be a fulfillment of a national economy centered on the Catholic faith. That is how I would envisage it nearly a century after this speech was delivered: Corporatism is meant to be its own ideological concept. But to our average Italian at that time in 1934, they probably would not notice the fundamental difference between the two distinct concepts. After all, both Corporatism and Catholic Social Teaching do in fact advocate for an economic system that is neither Socialist nor Capitalist but as an entirely different category altogether. What most people did not know – and it is still a common misconception which I sometimes encounter among actual Roman Catholics – is that Catholic Social Teaching’s definitions are too vague and too broad. Its economic model could just as easily include a Social-Democratic Mixed Economy or State Capitalism. And while it is true that Corporatism is an alternative to both National Socialism and Liberal Capitalism, it would be superfluous to claim it could be justified on the grounds of Catholic Social Teaching.

This can be inferred from the various statements made by Mussolini throughout his speech. He advocated for State ownership of the economy, State control over scientific innovation, and that the State eliminate or at least ameliorate Wealth Inequality. He even insisted that the Corporatist economy would eliminate the Profit Motive without proposing an alternative motive to strive for in economic life. Put another way, there is an almost familiar sense of uncertainty in Fascist Italy which reminds me of the same uncertainty that would later occur in the People’s Republic of China during the Dengist economic reforms by the 1980s. In fact, Mussolini even mentioned about Wealth Inequality, a similar topic which was also being discussed by Deng Xiaoping within the context of the “Southern Tour of 1992.” But unlike Deng, was reforming China toward the readoption of aspects of Liberal Capitalism like the openings of financial markets (as it was the case in the Southern Tour), Mussolini was reforming Fascist Italy in the opposite direction. It would seem to be a logical conclusion, given the concessions that the Fascists had already made to the Italian Liberal Capitalists in the 1920s in order to rebuild Italy after World War I.

Why would I draw analogies between Deng and Mussolini, seeing how both men were governing their respective countries under different geopolitical environments? There is a peculiar tidbit of information that you had brought up regarding Ezra Pound’s response to that 1934 speech. Apparently, Pound seemed convinced of Corporatism’s potential that he was willing to proclaim that Corporatism could bring about the end of “‘Scarcity Economics.’” It is a noteworthy assertion to make because Pound was trying to direct us toward the conclusion that Fascist Italy sought to create a “Post-Scarcity Economy,” which is one of the prerequisites of Communism (within Marxist Theory). To be honest, that is an odd statement for me to make regarding somebody like Ezra Pound. My guess is that this was an unconscious remark on Pound’s part since he was certainly not the kind of person to be sympathetic to Communism.    

Signed,
-DAH



Categories: Politics

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