We will begin by a definition, not our onn but quoted from a document carrying some authority. It runs as follows:— "The corporative order is a method of social organisation which has as its basis the grouping together of men in accordance with their common natural interests and their social functions, and, for its necessary completion, the public and separate representation of these various organs. The re-establishment of professional corporations would be a partial application of this system."
It is taken from a report, dated 1893, of the conclusions reached by a group of catholic sociologists and submitted to Pope Leo XIII (the group was one that met annually at Fribourg). The definition itself, its source and its date are all worth noting.
It states quite simply the essence of all true Corporativism, namely, that it is based upon natural and functional groups and that its political or governmental aspect is he consequence, not the source, of this economic and social reality. At the same time it makes it clear that the corporative order is only partially achieved if it does not develop this political aspect.
Its authors were Catholic sociologists meeting with the approval of the Holy See. Its date was only two years after the issue of the encyclical Rerum Novartem and nearly thirty years before the triumph of the fascist tevolution in Italy.
It is well for anyone tempted to identify Faticism and the re-Vival of Corporativism to get facts and dates such as these into his head. There is no question of haggling over copyright in ideas. The issue lies much deeper. Corporativism has been commended by the popes. It is becoming more and more generally accepted by Catholic sociologists as something to be supported and promoted. Fascism has put Corporativism on its programme. Therefore (so runs the argument) Catholics should support Fascism.
Now, if the revival of Corporativism had been due to Fascism and only to Fascism, so that when the popes praised it we could assume that they were praising Corporativism as understood by the fascists, then the argument so often heard would be weighty. But since in actual fact the revival of Corporativism was being recommended a generation before Fascism existed, and Fascism itself existed before it took up Corporativism, it is well within the bounds of possibility that Corporativism as praised by the popes and Corporativism as promoted by fascists are two quite different things.
We wrote last week of the need to bring back an organic character to the State. The present pope in Quadragesimo Anno condemned the modern State because it is reduced to a mob of individuale and a central government, and contrasted it with the corporative State in which there lies between the individual citizen and the central government a hierarchy of natural groups each exercising some administrative functions and prov:ding organs through which every oe*.izen can take a real share in the public 1,fe of the community.
Now, this solution of our political dis orders has two aspects. In the first place it is clearly opposed to the disintegrating individualism of the liberal State, and here it is at one with Fascism which, as Mr. Christopher Dawson shows so well in his new book. reviewed in our columns last week, is part of a world-wide movement of reaction against Liberalism. But the corporative solution is equally opposed to the other eetrerne into which the kind of State described by Pope Pius XI tends io fall. It rules out on the one side the anti iocial individualism that eliminates all or;ans of political life except the central eos ernmeet. which it reduces to police funct:ons. It rules out on the other side the despotic centralis.ition that abolishes all organs of political lie that could hinder the direct hold of the centrel government over the indiv idual citizens. It rules out bath of them because it preserves or restores the intermediate organs of political life.
ism, both in practicc and in theory, becomes important, and it is here that, for once, we find Mr. Dawson scarcely a safe guide. There are passages in Religion and the Modern State which seem to treat Corporativism as of the essence of Fascism and, furthermore, to identify the Corporativism set up by Fascism with the Corporativism that, as he says, follows from Catholic principles. But, as a matter of history. Fascism, in all its varieties, has stressed first the need of seizing and then exalting the central authority of the State. Nor is this an accident, for. as Mr. Dawson himself points out, Fascism is part of a larger movement towards the centralised State. Nor has the delay in promoting corporative re-organisation been due simply to the need of getting a firm hold on power first. Corporativism was not even part of the original fascist programme. It was taken over from Catholic sociologists who had conceived of it as a barrier equally against excessive individualism and excessive centralisation, and used to consolidate an already over-centralised, if not totalitarian regime. And what happened in Italy has its counterparts either in practice or in proposals elsewhere. But it is only the outward forms of a corporative order that can be made to fall in with this conception of political reintegration. We have no space to work this out in detail now—there is a passage towards the end of Quadragesinto Attno concerning corporations that are merely the creatures of the State which should be a sufficient warning. The ultimate purpose and direction is all-important. So long, therefore, as fascists give reasonable ground for suspecting them of a totalitarian philosophy and a totalitarian goal, it will be necessary to be as cautious concerning their corporativism as concerning any other method or instrument they may adopt for their ends. The fact that a weapon is in itself a good one does not justify one in allying oneself to whoever may happen to take it up. If two men pursuing opposed purposes catch sight simultaneously of a good sword lying between them, and both stoop to grasp it, their hands may meet on it, but the result will be to precipitate a struggle for the possession of the sword.