Investigations into Fascist and Non-Fascist Corporatism

Bogumil,

I recently revisited my own research, looking back at what I had written regarding “Corporatism.” There was something else which I did not mention in my original comment. Yes, there was once a time when the Catholic Church did in fact espouse Corporatism, and this was before the Second Vatican Council, even though not everyone in the Church supported it. Not sure if you are aware of this or not, the Church was also open to the possibility of “Distributism” as an alternate model of economic governance, which has turned out to be the case in some circles after Vatican II. Another proposed alternative, especially among those who are from Latin America, is “Liberation Theology” and its favorable views on Marxist Theory. But the topic of Corporatism among Catholic circles is an interesting case since I do not encounter Catholics describing Corporatism in the same sense as the Fascist model.    

Meanwhile, in the Social Sciences, it is suggested that there are fundamental differences between the Corporatism of the Catholic Church and the model which was attempted by Fascist Italy. Unlike the Fascist version, the Church’s Corporatism did survive for a time after 1945 among the various “Christian Democratic” parties throughout Western Europe, the parties advocating for some kind of Welfare Capitalism alongside their Social-Democratic counterparts. I say “Christian Democratic” because these parties are essentially a coalescence of Roman Catholic and Protestant parties influenced by Catholic Social Teaching, allowing them to easily cooperate with Social-Democrats under Parliamentary Democracy. If they were once parties representing the political interests of Catholics and Protestants before 1945, then their post-1945 decision to merge into “Christian Democratic parties” was done on grounds that were more ideological (as in a commitment to Parliamentary Democracy and Liberal Capitalism) than theological.

The question on whether any form of Catholic or Protestant politics is driven by their theology or by another ideology per se does matter in the context of Corporatism. If the motive was theological, their model of Corporatism will be closer to Fascist Corporatism or even National Syndicalism like in Franco’s Spain. Similar to my own arguments about the Mormon Church of Utah being an American model for non-Soviet Command Economy, I can also cite the Puritans of New England as an American model for Corporatism. The most interesting aspect about the Puritan version is that it bears a closer resemblance to the Fascist model, including its basic premises and goals. That was the topic of a recently released book, entitled, “The Puritan Ideology of Mobility: Corporatism, the Politics of Place, and the Founding of New England Towns before 1650.” The implications are promising since New England was historically the same place where American Council Democracy, American Nationalism and American Socialism made their debuts within the old Federalist Party.

Moreover, to further distinguish the Fascist model, some social scientists over the years adopted “Tripartism” as the formal designation for the Catholic Church’s Corporatist model. Under a Parliamentary Democracy, coalition governments are supposed to act as the intermediate between the Labor Unions and the Business Community.  As part of its purpose in resolving class disputes between the Labor Unions and Business Community, the Parliament is expected to create a “Social Safety Net” designed to deter anyone from making any serious efforts at realizing either National Communism, Marxism-Leninism, Pan-Germanic Socialism, Fascist Corporatism, National Syndicalism, Hamiltonianism or State Capitalism. Basically, any ideology which does not conform to the established dogmas of Liberal Capitalism. The Social Safety Net consisted of the usual array of Welfare Capitalist programs like insurance, childcare and educational assistance grants, subsidized housing, retirement pensions, and so forth. These important factors should account for why I concluded earlier that Catholic Social Teaching also tends to justify a Social-Democratic Mixed Economy as well as other economic models like State Capitalism.

Thus, I can conclude that when some Catholics speak or write favorably of “Corporatism” nowadays, they are not at all referring to Fascist Corporatism but Tripartism. They are trying to justify the Social Safety Net along similar lines as the Social-Democrats, implying that there are “Incentives” in keeping these “Public Goods” around. As for why the Catholic Church lost interested in Tripartism after Vatican II, this cannot be due to Corporatism’s own historical relationship with Fascist Italy. What caused Tripartism to eventually fail was the Social Safety Net being too expensive to maintain some semblance of practicality, hence the waves of privatizations and the gradual dismantling of the “Welfare State” in European nations around the end of the 20th century. Similar conclusions were also being made among the European Social-Democratic parties as well, except in their case they used the economic problems of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries as the pretext.  

What instructive lessons could be from the Catholic Church’s stances on Corporatism and its attempts at creating its own version? The Church prefers a balanced approach to economic life, which is similar to its own stances on political life. Economically, that approach involves making some reservations for the Church to operate its educational and social systems, respecting ecclesiastical ownership of the Church’s own means of production. But politically, the State must be able to cooperate with the Church, tolerating its presence and activities in the Socialist Nation. Tripartism was only an attempt by the Church to integrate itself into the framework of a Liberal Capitalist Parliamentary Democracy. Under a different set of circumstances, it is possible that the Church could find ways of tolerating a National Socialist Council Democracy. How the Church intends to integrate itself in those circumstances remains to be seen as a topic that continues to be relevant in Socialist countries with Catholic populations like Cuba.

Signed,

-DAH



Categories: Philosophy

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