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Post My Doctoral Research
Created by John Eipper on 10/21/19 6:15 AM

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My Doctoral Research (Bàrbara Molas, Canada, 10/21/19 6:15 am)

John E asked me off-Forum to tell WAISers about my current research.

I am interested in the impact of corporatism as a political ideology on the formation of modern plural states--and supranational states. My hypothesis is that Christian corporatism had a role in establishing a "common cultural framework" defined in religious terms that integrated a "restricted" diversity which implied a hierarchized understanding of beliefs and consequently of different ethnic groups.

My case study is a small group of ethnically diverse intellectual Catholics who in 1930s Montreal and up until the 1960s mobilized for the establishment of a Canadian Christian "plural" state. By studying their early theorization of pluralism (inspired by European corporatist "experiments" such as that of Mussolini and Franco) and by assessing their impact upon the formation of postwar ideas on integrated diversity, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the role of the Right in defining modern notions of multiculturalism based on a set of common values that depend upon exclusion as much as nationalism does.

For more information on my work-in-progress insights, please visit my posts on the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right (Oslo University) website (https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com/ ).

These insights are product of my ongoing dissertation, which is to be finished in the summer of 2021 for the obtainment of a PhD in History (York University).

JE comments:  A very important (and timely) topic.  Christian "corporatism" did not take hold in the United States, if I understand the concept correctly, because there was never a sanctioned or monopolistic Church.  But wouldn't this also be the case for Montreal?

Barbara, have you seen the WAIS discussions on the Mondragón Catholic cooperative experiments in the Basque Country?  Our colleague Henry Levin researched this topic extensively.  Here is one of his several posts:


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  • Mondragon Cooperatives Revisited (Henry Levin, USA 10/22/19 3:47 AM)
    In re-reading my 2012 WAIS comment on the Mondragón Cooperatives, I see a short addendum is needed. (See Barbara Molas, 21 October.)

    Almost all agricultural cooperatives are marketing cooperatives or in a few cases, sharing of labor and equipment by independent entities. While the marketing arm is owned by its membership, the production side usually remains owned by individual farming enterprises. The marketing arm gives that combined regional production an identity, brand recognition of output of multiple farms, and other benefits for advertising and distribution. The Mondragón firms are actually owned by their worker-members who follow a unique set of employment and pay arrangements and are aided by supportive institutions that are members of the Mondragón Cooperatives (banks, research and technical centers, schools, etc...). The Mondragón institutions are well-represented on the Internet and have overcome the mule designation of traditional producer cooperatives.

    For those who have a deeper interest in this subject and their history in the US (and Mondragón), they might want to look at our book: Robert Jackall and Henry M. Levin, ed. Worker Cooperatives in America (University of California Press, 1984).

    JE comments:  Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to have workers fill 40% of corporate board positions could be viewed as a form of cooperativism.  The Germans have a similar system, known as Mitbestimmung (codetermination).

    Cooperativism, corporatism, and codetermination:  I may be guilty of conflating concepts (conflatism?).  And we should probably throw in the "classical" fascist model of corporate governance.  Barbara Molas (next) further clarifies.

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  • More on "Christian Corporatism" (Bàrbara Molas, Canada 10/22/19 4:10 AM)
    On John Eipper's comment on "Christian corporatism":

    Christian corporatism believed in the "organic" nature of society and, inspired by the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), argued for the forced integration of interest groups into corporations as a way to combat both class conflict (i.e. communism) and extreme individualism (i.e. liberal capitalism).

    These interest groups were to cooperate within and between them for the "common good" under the protection of the state, which made of this "third way" a very useful tool for autocrats to establish totalitarian regimes. Catholic circles in particular supported corporatism as a way to specially combat the socio-economic crisis triggered by the Great Depression. They believed that social reconstruction inspired by medieval Christian societies and their "guilds" would protect modern nations against the threat of revolution.

    But even when a sanctioned or monopolistic Church was absent, corporatism helped shape the idea that a Christian-based cooperation between different Christian groups (and Churches) was possible and could allow for a new nation-building process. This idea was present in Europe as in "the Americas," including the US, and fueled radical right discourses for the establishment of what I call "restricted multicultural states" or plural states defined in religious (Christian) terms.

    JE comments:   Barbara, in your research did you come across the figure of the Canadian-born Detroit priest and "father" of hate radio, Charles Coughlin?  His church/broadcast lair is just down the street from WAIS/Royal Oak.  Coughlin's National Union for Social Justice closely follows the Christian Corporatist model you describe above.


    And of course, anti-Semitism was a cornerstone of the Coughlin message.  Have you found this to be part of most Christian Corporatist thinking--the oxymoronic "restricted multiculturalism"?

    Next up:  Eugenio Battaglia comments on Mussolini and corporatism.

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  • Corporatism, Fascism, and the "Right" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/22/19 4:28 AM)
    I am very interested in Barbara Molas's post of October 21st.

    However, if we want to consider the corporativism of Mussolini and of the past or present-day fascists, the use of the word "right" is incorrect, even if it is commonly used probably to denigrate or out of incomplete information.

    The Corporativism of Mussolini had nothing to do with the "Right."

    We might say that Mussolini's Corporativism found some inspiration in the medieval Italian traditions, the Pope's "Rerum Novarum," the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini, the Carta del Carnaro of Fiume by the great poet and chivalrous warrior D'Annunzio, and the earlier socialist experiences of Mussolini. This really has nothing to do with the historical right, even if Fascism (unfortunately) for a long time tolerated and respected the monarchy.

    In a very very wide sense we may even say that Fascism is more on the "left." In 1948 when six deputies of the MSI, heir of the fascist RSI, were elected to the Italian parliament, they tried to seat themselves at the extreme left but were forbidden to do so by the 183 deputies of the Communist/Socialist Popular Front. They therefore sat at the extreme right and from that time they were identified as the extreme "right."

    For instance Nicola Bombacci in his youth was a teacher and a socialist with Mussolini, but later fascinated by his friend Lenin he became one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party. However in 1934 he returned to Mussolini, not because Fascism was "left" but because he saw that Fascism was integrating and surpassing the old socialism or communism for the benefit of all people and the nation. He ended up in front of a communist partisan firing squad.

    The Corporativism of Mussolini in the 1930s became an "Italian Revolution" and then a "European Revolution," as other nations were more or less following. This was the main reason why Mussolini had to be wiped out by any means, as he could be more dangerous than the tanks and Stukas of Hitler.

    But Fascist Corporativism was imperfect until the "Socializzazione" period.

    The problem of ethnicity is extremely complicated. In the US the ethnic problem in reality does not exist, as society is doing a marvelous work of assimilation. The foreigner pretty soon becomes a citizen proud of his or her new position in the new country. Some racial, not really ethnic, feelings may circulate and the second generations may have some pride for the country of their ancestors but they will always tell you: "I am American."

    On the contrary in Europe, ethnic feelings are (were?--globalization is trying its best to erase them) the strongest possible feelings of all the various nationalities which have behind them thousands of years of history and achievements.

    JE comments:  One thing we've learned from Eugenio Battaglia over the years:  Fascism had many tenets associated with Socialism, and should not be used as a catch-all insult for the extreme Right.  I will question Eugenio's claim that Mussolini was seen as more dangerous than Hitler.  If Il Duce had merely sat on the sidelines of WWII, he most certainly could have ended his days as an old man in power, like Franco.

    In this discussion we've been interchanging "corporatism" and "corporativism."  Several 'Net sources tell us the two terms mean the same thing, with preference given to the former.

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    • Could Mussolini Have Remained Neutral in WWII? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/24/19 6:43 AM)
      Our esteemed moderator JE expressed a widely held belief when he wrote about Mussolini (October 22nd), "If Il Duce had merely sat on the sidelines of WWII, he most certainly could have ended his days as an old man in power, like Franco."

      Many in Italy and internationally would agree, but this was simply not possible.

      After Munich (29 September 1938), the winds of war started to blow even more. Mussolini instead was enthusiastic about his new role of man of peace and later tried desperately to renew this role, even to the final hour when he proposed a last-minute peace conference for 5 September.  But when he called London at 20:30 Italian time, the British had closed all phone connections with Rome. Who wanted the war? Practically everyone wanted the war. Italy remained neutral.

      Italy could not join the Western powers as it was not welcome, no matter what Churchill may have written in his memoirs. Mussolini did not want to side with the Third Reich. Already on 25 August 1939 Mussolini wrote a letter stating that Italy for at least three years could not consider joining the war, and in any case it needed 170 million tons of material for the war which would have required 170,000 trains from Germany. Mussolini was saying that he needed these supplies immediately (sic). The reaction of Hitler was, "The Italians are acting as in 1914," but officially he expressed his understanding.

      Mussolini after 1 September 1939 ordered the construction of "Vallo Alpino" defense line against the North, while in a letter to Hitler he defended the actions the Polish people.  In Vienna, the people who had not forgotten the Italian pivot of 1915 started singing, "we will go to Trieste."

      In such atmosphere it was expected that France and the British Empire would approach Italy for a new "London Pact" as in 1915. On the contrary, they started a kind of naval blockade in order to strangle Italy. See the "Rapporto Luca Pietromarchi." The UK wanted Italy to supply arms for 26-28 million British pounds but was not ready to give ally status to Italy. The deal failed after a strong letter from Goering to the Italian government. The British Empire strengthened the naval blockade. This was not a real blockade but all Italian ships were stopped for one month to be checked in a British port and had to pay for the stay in the port. This was not the best way to gain a friend. The supply of arms would have been a clear capitulation and would have given Germany the excuse of attacking Italy.

      US diplomat Sumner Welles's trip to Rome in February 1940 did not offer anything to Italy, only empty speeches of returning to pre-1938.

      Hitler still respected Mussolini but now the Germans were singing "Next summer in Venice."

      Mussolini on 30 March wrote the "Promemoruia 328" which considered all the options: neutrality, siding with the West, or entering the war in the Axis.  The first two options were deemed not practicable due to the geopolitical situation. Only siding with Germany was by then possible.

      On 24 April Pope Pius XII thanked Mussolini for his efforts to achieve peace. The lousy king approved the conclusions of the Promemoria 328 and even pushed for entering the war. In Italy the only person to hesitate was Mussolini.

      Just before entering in war Mussolini ordered to all Italian armed forces to assume a defensive attitude, no attacks were permitted. I believe that this was the first time in which a country went to war not to actually make war.

      On the date of the declaration of war, Mussolini in a telegram stated to the king that no actions would be taken while the enemies were informed to do the same, in the hope that Hitler's proposals would be taken into consideration by them.

      Mussolini entered the war in the hope of becoming a moderator at an expected peace conference, but he did not fully grasp Churchill's Germanophobia.

      JE comments: The "Mussolini, Man of Peace" label doesn't fly for Spaniards or Ethiopians, among others. But let's return to Italy and the Axis: Am I too orthodox in believing that the Italians hesitated in both World Wars, in order to join the side they thought would win?  Italy batted .500; great statistics in baseball but not in war. (To be fair, if I had totalitarian control of a nation, I'd probably do the same thing.)

      And what about the Italo-German "Pact of Steel," from May 1939? Shouldn't this have silenced the "on to Venice" choirs in Berlin and Vienna?

      Finally, I'd like to know more about the British request for Italian arms.  What kinds of weapons did they want to buy?

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      • Did the UK Seek to Buy Arms from Mussolini? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/25/19 7:10 AM)
        Responding to John E's question about the Italy-UK arms deal of 1939-'40, here are the details:

        Mitchell Wolfson Jr. (born in Miami Beach, 1939) founded the Wolfsonian Museum in the Palazzo Ducale of Genoa.  This museum was later donated to the Foundation Cristoforo Colombo.

        A few years ago, the unpublished dossier of the Italian Minister for Foreign Commerce Raffaele Riccardi was found in the huge archives. The actions of the Minister of Commerce were strongly supported by Foreign Minister Ciano, who though originally a Germanphile turned against Germany after the blunder of the Pact of Steel.  In contrast to the "doctored" Diary of Ciano the signature was very controversial.  Apparently there was a strong reprimand from Mussolini, but to my knowledge the details were never clear. Maybe Ciano, duped by Von Ribbentrop,  went well beyond what Mussolini wanted. Ciano was one of Mussolini's biggest mistakes.

        The documentation describes the unbelievable possible arms deal between the UK and Fascist Italy, as related by the industrialist Prospero Gianferrari, former director of Alfa Romeo and leader of the air industry.  In a document dated 17 December 1939 states that the Chamberlain and Churchill (then Ministry of the Admiralty), the arms requested from Italy were: 800 planes (8 million British pounds), 2000 large-caliber guns (6 million),  explosives and optical instruments (3 million), the charter of 5 Italian ships (5 million), and other materiel (2 million).

        At the same time Giovanni Battista Caproni was willing to sell CA 135 bis planes, while the "discriminated Jew" Cesare Sacerdoti, president of the Italian shipyards, signed a contract  for the construction of 28 modern cargo boats and 50 fishing vessels for the UK. After the fall of Mussolini and the unconditional surrender of 8 September 1943, Sacerdoti was sought by the Germans and saved himself, hiding with his family in a Florence convent.

        But in January 1940 the Germans became aware of the impending deal and Goering, as per order of Hitler, wrote a strong letter to Mussolini. Il Duce, probably due to the fact that the UK was not able or willing to give a guarantee of support for Italy in case of German reprisals, cancelled the extremely favorable deal. Thereafter the UK strengthened the naval blockade against Italy, unfortunately putting it definitively in the Third Reich's camp.

        JE comments:  Sacerdoti (priests) is not what you'd expect for a Jewish surname. Be that as it may, one question immediately comes to mind: how would Hitler and Goering find out about the arms deal?

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