Accueil » 9-2 ( 1954) » Les objectifs du syndicalisme et son acheminement vers l'organisation professionnelle

Les objectifs du syndicalisme et son acheminement vers l'organisation professionnelle

Pietro Pavan


Dans une première partie de cet article, l'auteur précise les objectifs que le syndicalisme ouvrier a le droit de poursuivre. Dans une seconde, en tenant compte des tendances actuelles de l'économie, il explique d'une façon lumineuse ce que l'on doit entendre par le « corporatisme » préconisé dans l'enseignement des Souverains Pontifes.


Unions Objectives and Professionnal Organization

The economics ends

The specific purpose of unions is to carry out that function which neither the individual members nor any other form of social and economic association is capable of accomplishing. In synthesis this is what normally constitutes the collective labour contract.

Professional ends

The union is called upon not merely to defend the interests of its members with reference to the employer, but also with regard to other professionnal classes. Otherwise the interests of workers on a weaker productive level might be sacrificed for those of the stronger. Political ends

The unions have the right to protect their liberty of action in the professional field. It is not a question of the union becoming a political party. Political action cannot be determined a priori, but depends on historical circumstance.

Related ends

The unions can engage likewise in all other activities that contribute to the welfare of the workers and the improvement of their standards: mutual aid, professional training, cooperatives, recreation, aid, moral and religious instruction, etc. Everything depends on specific conditions. There is a tendency to leave these ends to specialized groups although that does not exclude efforts on the part of the unions to encourage other institutions which may be useful to the workers.

Employers' unions

On the employer's side, comparable to the trade unions, associations have been developed to avoid competition and facilitate a greater harmony in labour relations.

Their purpose is the defence of the specific interests of the professional class of which they are composed. The mainspring of their action should be cooperation and not the class struggle.

Common interests in the field of production

If between workers and management there are conflicting interests, the facts of economic and social life force us to recognize that there are common interests also: the existence of the plant or industry, its capacity for production and its relations with the general economy as well as the protection of economic and trade union rights from the political point of view.

Does the existence of common interests demand that both workers and employers' unions be merged in a single organization within the particular productive field to which they belong?

Unionism on the basis of cooperation must necessarily be oriented in this direction, which is in harmony with the social teachings of the Church. Nevertheless union bodies should not give up their liberty of action, and it is through them that the initiative should be taken in setting up the appropriate organizations. Legal protection should cover what is an existing and functioning fact of life.


One must not be blind to the fact that in moving from theory to practice it is extremely difficult to reconcile effective trade union freedom with a corporate order that is not purely bureaucratic. Historical experience, both past and present, with the possible exception of Portugal, have produced dubious results. Everyone is familiar with the careful judgment of Pius XI condemning the Italian corporate organization.

Present day economy is in a singularly dynamic stage, and its complete integration in a corporate order is difficult if not impossible. The danger lies in the fact that the economic and social realities outstrip very quickly the legal structure of such an order, long before the corporate system attains its definite and permanent form.

It would not be proper to conclude, however, that Catholic social thought as traditionally presented is no longer workable because of the intrinsic difficulty of translating an ideal into practice. No ideal can be fulfilled a hundred per cent, and its merit consists precisely as a guide and series of sign posts. Moreover, an ideal allows for gradations in its accomplishment. There is a distinction to be made between the principle of cooperation and its organization. The principe is universal whereas the application depends on circumstances and is applicable to certain specific historical conditions. The greater the difficulty in creating the necessary institutions in the midst of a changing, complex economy, the greater the utility of universal principles.

Interests on the national scale

Resides the purely professionnal or productive class interests, those of the community are equally important, such as balance between production and consumption; channelling of economic energy toward the production of goods that the community needs; equitable distribution of the national revenue; wise exploitation of productive ressources; social and technical progress; professional training; full employment and the like. These are obviously the basic elements of the common good and it is the function of the appropriate State bodies to make them available. Nevertheless these bodies cannot be improvised arbitrarily. Technical competence and moral integrity must be taken into account. Only persons with economic experience and from the ranks of labour possess this comoetence. Since these interests are linked to the common good, such persons should possess a very keen social and political understanding.

There is a problem of harmony between two demands; that of satisfying the economic and social interests of the nation through the operation of adequate state bodies; and the avoidance of action that will stiffle the initiative of the unions