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Post Was US Social Security Inspired by Italian Fascism?
Created by John Eipper on 08/13/21 4:09 AM

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Was US Social Security Inspired by Italian Fascism? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 08/13/21 4:09 am)

It has been said that the excellent institution of Social Security has a socialist inspiration.

Frankly, I believe that US Social Security got its inspiration from the visit of Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Mooley to Mussolini in 1934 (see Roosevelt Library), and the Italian Finance Minister Guido Jung's visit to FDR.

Of course in Italian Fascism there were a lot of socialist elements, especially at the beginning and at the end of it.

JE comments:  Even the staunchest haters of the "S-word" (socialism) defend Social Security, although there are those who would privatize it.

Entitlements (or freebies or what have you) have a way of normalizing themselves over time.  What starts our as a radical measure eventually is taken for granted.  Ever notice that the debate over the Affordable Care Act is now rather subdued?  If only, alas, it were actually affordable...

Returning to the historical roots of Social Security:  Eugenio, can you walk us through the old-age pensions offered in the early Mussolini years?  Was there no such thing in Italy prior to 1922?  And how were the pensions paid for?

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  • Mussolini's Socialist Programs (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/15/21 4:31 AM)
    Following the request of our esteemed moderator, let me present the situation in Italy encountered by the two members of the FDR "Brain Trust," Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Moley, on their visit to Rome in 1934:

    Italy's Social Security started in 1898 with voluntary insurance for invalidity and old age by a free contribution by the employees and private employers.

    In 1919 there was a tentative correction but it was only in 1923, one year after Mussolini became prime minister, that saw the founding of the "Cassa Nazionale Fascista della Protezione Sociale," creating a compulsory pension for invalidity and old age (60 years).

    Its payments required a sharing by both the employees and employers.  At the same time all hospital treatments became free.

    In the same year, the working day was reduced to a maximum of 8 hours.  Some years later the work week was reduced to 40 hours. The free Saturday came to be known as "Fascist Saturday."

    The year 1926 brought the creation of the "Opera Nazionale Maternità ed Infanzia," by which the state gave complete assistance, medical and otherwise, to mothers and children, especially for working mothers. Free kindergartens were established. The attached "Ente Opera Assistenza" was responsible for organizing summer and winter holiday camps for the kids. Special schools and residences were also organized for those suffering from tuberculosis or thalassemia. The tuberculosis residences were built on mountains in the forests.

    Great care was also given to the orphans and abandoned children.

    The "Carta del Lavoro" of 1927 sought to create parity status for both employers and employees according to a project of collaboration and solidarity, an attempt to transcend the materialistic philosophy of class warfare.

    The "assegni famigliari" (family allowances) came in 1928. These were payments to families with children plus a wedding bonus and family loans which could be gradually reduced according to the number of children, up to nil with four children.

    Further, 1929 brought the law for compulsory insurance against work-related illness and accidents.

    The reconstruction of the country was making giant steps.  Just see the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes while Arnaldo the brother of the PM, an excellent agrarian scholar, worked to improve agriculture and complete the full reforestation of Italy.

    Such achievements inspired Tugwell to write in his diary on 22 October 1934: "They tell me that this afternoon I will have to meet with Mussolini. His strength and intelligence are evident as his efficiency of the Italian Administration. It is the cleanest, more linear, the most efficient example of a social machine that I ever saw."

    If Tugwell came back now to Rome, he would be horrified by the present conditions of the city--lay, democratic, antifascist--submerged in moral and material refuse.

    Oh, by the way, I assume that Bernie Sanders would support some of Mussolini's programs.

    JE comments:  By way of a comparison, it was not until the 1960s that the US offered Medicare to its seniors, although Social Security was established in 1935.  The US was one of the first nations to "socialize" education in the 1800s, but in every other area it lagged behind.

    Eugenio, why does it seem that Italy's social progressivism stopped in the 1930s?  Is it because there was nothing new to add, or because Mussolini become distracted by militarism and empire-building, which ultimately led to his downfall?

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    • More on Mussolini's Social Programs (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/18/21 3:51 AM)
      The great social programs of Mussolini did not end with those indicated in my post of 15 August. However, some of the others, even if I liked them all, may have had a light political smell.

      There were excellent education reforms prepared in 1923 by the great philosopher Giovanni Gentile, later killed by partisans. Now the Italian schools are in a mess, especially my alma mater, the Nautical School.

      Another great institution of 1926 was the "Opera Nazionale Balilla" (ONB) for the assistance plus moral and physical education of youth. In 1937 it became the "Gioventù Italiana del Littorio"(GIL). Practically all youth were organized by the regime, a fact which annoyed the Catholic Church which immediately forgot the great privileges received up to that point under Fascism. The Catholic Church through its organization Azione Cattolica had a great influence on many young people. Fortunately, a compromise was reached, and the Azione Cattolica continued but should have been involved only in the service of the Church. The Church soon cheated and the Azione Cattolica became the basis for building the future political party of the Democrazia Cristiana.

      If the OB/GIL was for youth, the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (After-Work Organization, 1925) was for adults.

      Such an organization brought culture, sports, and entertainment to the workers. It created 1227 theaters, 801 cinemas of which 40 were mobile, 6427 libraries, 994 schools for dancing and singing, 11,159 new amateur sports associations, 2700 amateur dramatic societies, 3787 musical bands, 2130 orchestras, and 10,000 cultural associations.

      In 1926 the Real Academia of Italy was founded to highlight Italian culture. science, arts, etc.

      The Ente Comunale di Assistenza was founded in 1937, to give local administrations the funds to assist individuals and families in need. Probably for these reasons, there were practically no homeless in Italy.

      The law of 5 February 1934 created Corporativism. It had several inspirations, such as the medieval Italian corporations (but those corporations were closed, replaced by the new Corporativism). Corporativism was also based on the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini, as well as national Syndicalism (Filippo Corridoni) and the Carta del Carnaro (D'Annunzio a Fiume).

      Finally, the best one was the Law for the Socializzazione of 1944, but by this time it was too late.

      Unfortunately, two reforms were not enacted:

      1) The abolition of the monarchy, really loyal only to its throne and not to Italy.

      2) Reform of the Armed Forces to eliminate the many generals and admirals who had reached such positions thanks to their class background and not because of military abilities.

      Unfortunately, Mussolini was always loyal toward the king and as a good former corporal, he was very respectful to the military high brass.

      About the cheating Church: In the final years of WWII, the Savona Seminary was emptied, with the seminarists sent inland for safety while the building was partially occupied by some armed forces of the RSI and a few priests. One of the latter joined the leaders of the group commanding the partisans' forces in the province. The smart priest found the best place to hide the commanders of the partisans inside the Seminary. The commander of the Fascist Militia was just next door.

      At the end of the war, the good priest was terribly disappointed by the criminal actions of his travel companions and his actions to save the innocent were useless.

      JE comments:  Eugenio, can you fill us in on how Italy's Nautical School has become a mess?  This educator is always intrigued by such subjects.

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      • Nautical Schools in Italy, Then and Now (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/19/21 7:06 AM)
        John E asked me to further discuss Italy's Nautical Schools, and the reasons I claimed they are presently in a mess.

        It used to be that the skill to become a ship captain was learned on board. Maybe the captain would take his son with him and teach him to become a captain too--the hard way.

        The first official Nautical Schools were in Naples in 1623, then Marseille and Le Havre 1728, Hamburg 1749, Trieste 1754. and also England. After Naples the Nautical Schools spread all over Italy: The Naples school was also the first to divide courses into navigation on the high seas, coastal trade, fishing, and ship construction. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1748 proclaimed a modern Codex of Navigation.

        Of course, the great Italian Maritime Republics: Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), and Venice had already their Codex and Navigation books, for example the Genoese Liber Gazarie of 1341.

        The Liber Gazarie takes its name from the Gazaria, the Genoese colony on Crimea, prior to the invasion by the Tatars. The Genoese remained in Crimea from 1266 till 1475.  This counters the thesis of Erdogan and scholar Sezai Ozcelik that the Tatars are the autochthonous people of Crimea.

        During the 1920s and '30s, due to its great importance for the country, the nautical school was under the supervision of the Ministry of the Seas.  Finally, it was placed under the Ministry of Public Instruction.

        Italy at present has 38 state Nautical Schools plus some private institutions, divided into four main areas--Deck, Engine, Construction, and Logistics.  Thirty-seven subjects are taught but only one foreign language, English (in my time we also studied French; one foreign language is not enough).

        To become an Officer in charge or Master required two very rigorous examinations administered by the Coast Guard.

        When I finished the Nautical School in 1954 I had an examination in 18 different subjects, now reduced to four of which only two are written and oral. This year due to Covid-19 the exam was only one conversation between the candidate and the professors.

        Now the International Convention on Standards of Training (STCW; 1995) and International  Maritime Organization have special requirements, on safety, firefighting, first-aid and medical, crude oil washing, and many other topics not covered by our schools.  This requires candidates to attend such courses privately, and paid for by them. My company Amoco paid for me.

        The Nautical School of Savona for many years was one of the very best.  Proof of this was that in the in the 1950s through '80s, the Savonese former Captain/Chief Engineers became Company Inspectors of companies like ESSO, FINA, SHELL, ARAMCO, PHILLIPS, GETTY, AMOCO, etc. and when there was an International Meeting on safety, crude oil problems, etc., we used English but we were the greatest majority and could have used the Savonese dialect instead.

        The various reforms of the new Italy from the postwar years have completely degraded the level of teaching.  Consider the various policies of "democratization" like the new belief in the US that math is racist, or the adoption of politically granted minimum passing grades.

        The last reform is shameful, as it has eliminated the grade of "candidate for the command of a ship" to "candidate for the conduction of a naval vehicle"--the ministry Mrs. Gelmini probably knew only the conduction of tramway or bus.

        Oh, by the way as geography has supposedly "nothing" to do with shipping, the teaching of such a "negligible" matter is only in one of the first years out of five years.

        There is now a private small college, said to accept a maximum of 60 people and very expensive, that in three years gives the possibility for any candidate graduate of any high school, also from agrarian school, to get an officer license. "Good free enterprise."

        In Savona, Captain (sorry, Conductor) Riccardo Roem de Rabenstein, who has been copied on this discussion, is pushing to have the local Nautical School cover all the courses required by IMO/STCW, and maybe he can write a post about such an important matter.

        JE comments:  Last year Eugenio Battaglia sent this piece on Gazaria in Crimea.  Click below.  And Eugenio, please tell us more about Captain Roem de Rabenstein.  The name alone makes him a very interesting guy...


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