Critical Analysis of National-Populist Rhetoric of Mihail Ralea,

Labour Minister, about Guilds and Corporatism


Florin GRECU

“Hyperion” University, Bucharest


Abstract: Corporatism, in the Romanian variant, under the monarchical authoritarian regime in 1938, was synonymous with Statism consisting in “unifying” the syndicates’, by means of a new institution called “guild” (meaning “breasla” in Romanian). The purpose of the guild law was to exercise the best control over the activity and life of the syndicates’ union, because it was considered that the workers were exposed to the ideological influences of that period of time. The guild was nothing more than a reproduction of the corporate law in fascist Italy. Moreover the Guilds, together with the single party, the National Renaissance Front, were the instrument, through which the state reorganized the syndicate unions resorting to nationalist and populist rhetoric. The latter one was used to disputing the former democratic regime’s institutions and to simplistically promoting collectivist values ​​by means of the Government’s members. The guilds had the political role to replace the political parties by sending their representatives in a new legislative body made ​​up from professional categories structured as corporations. The message of the new regime was centered on denying the ancient multiparty political regime and inducing political resentment. Ordinary citizens were misled by promoting enduring distrust related to the former democratic political class.


Keywords: guilds, syndicates, corporatism, populism, State, Mihail Ralea.







This article aims to analyze the populist rhetoric advocated by the Romanian authoritarian monarchy regime using Mihail Ralea’s ideas. Ralea was a sociologist and Minister of Labour. In this matter, the proposed scientific methodology is grounded on primary sources such as archives as well as parliamentary speeches published in the Official Gazette. There will be quoted critical seminal writings of the authors having studied the populist phenomenon specific to the authoritarian regimes. The work hypothesis of our article argues that the populism promoted by the elites of the regime and the high-ranked officials of the single party were not just ideologically-doctrinaire but also economic. Thus, the economic corporatism principles are to be found in the syndicate’s new form of organization bearing the name of “guild”.  Otherwise, this is to be analyzed from legislative and discursive perspectives as well as by critical analyses compared to the economic liberalism and individualism principles characterizing democratic societies. Therefore, can the ideological principles of the guild be considered as populist through its speeches and promises? This is the primary question that this paper seeks to answer in the following pages.

The analysis is grounded on the deconstruction of the ideological clichés of the rhetoric of the time and the reason why is due to the reality of the fact that the collectivism introduced the ideological monopole of elites. In 1938, for example, the populist speeches of the regime’s representatives were focused on the critics of the parliamentary regime, the political parties and democracy which were demonized and seen as the scapegoat[1] for the generation of political disorder and endangering the state’s existence. Populism as a general type of political speech comes from the nostalgia of the past, the gold ages, presenting the former democratic order as compromised and decaying. On the contrary, it praises the present and the future as representing the authoritarian order established by the new regime. The messages of the époque and the rhetoric of its representatives were impregnated with nationalist and populist metaphors and epithets against democracy and the principles of freedom and in order not to let one seduced by this type of speech it is a logical thing that one critically approaches the parliamentary and governmental speech of the times. The analysis of ideological elements from the guilds and National Renaissance Front (NRF) puts into light collectivist, statist and corporatist concepts strongly promoted by the new regime and by its representatives in order to modify people’s perceptions. Therefore, the authoritarian regimes with military valences control the governing act which thus misses any specific ideology and react on pragmatic bases in the limits of bureaucratic mentality of military and civilians in the presence of a single mass party sponsored by power itself. They act together with the goal to occupy the political space in order to reduce the population’s participation to the political life rather than for the purpose of a popular, even controlled mobilization”[2].


The institutional architecture of the new authoritarian regime was completed by the promulgation of the Law for recognition and functioning of workers, particular clerks and employees guilds, published in the Official Gazette no. 237 in October 12, 1938. The guilds law abolished the syndicates’ law of 1921 restraining the democratic liberal rights and liberties proclaimed by the 1923 Constitution as the right to associate and gather. The Law of May 26, 1921 conditioned the organization of syndicates for solving professional, economic and social problems of the member and particularly of the syndicate leaders and forbade the syndicates to undertake political activities, precisely specifying that the leaders could not be members of a political party. The new guilds law conferred to the new authoritarian regime the right to dismantle syndicates, and gave the cabinet the right to interfere in the organizational issues of the guilds and patronages as well as in their functioning. All the guilds were subordinated to the Labor Ministry and the juridical statute was granted only by Royal Decree to the proposal of the Ministries Council. The guilds law introduced the corporative organization of syndicates identifying with the state. The Romanian state organized on economic corporatism principles rallied to the fascist ideological principles which contradicted the principles of current economic liberalism in the Old Kingdom until the installation of Carol’s authoritarian regime in February 10/11, 1938. Therefore, the new constitutional principles advanced the doctrinaire orientation of the new regime by means of the corporatist way. From an ideological perspective, the corporatist state was meant to be “total” in the sense of fulfilling all the roles in the society, such as the economic ones, which were to direct the national economy and harmonize the relation between labour and capital. Also, from a political perspective, the corporatist state militated for the installation of a single party reuniting all the society’s elite.

The incompatibility of corporatism with liberalism represented the project itself of authoritarian state construction and promoted by the populist rhetoric of the regime’s representatives. The centralized and authoritarian leadership of the economy by the creation of the Superior Economic Council was compatible with the social-political regime of corporatism. The goal was to fulfill new economy directed by the state in order to reach the general interest by offering illusions to the individuals and workers organized in syndicates as well as their leaders. The institution of planned economy by state policies highlighted the regime’s intention to suppress liberal democracy and economy and the plan of installing a new tough policy over the political parties and syndicates. Nevertheless, from a liberal perspective, the failure of market did not justify the governmental intervention but represented the main source of economic disturbances due to arbitrary policies. “Therefore, there was no reasonable guarantee for the conventional opinion according to which the economic planning could have better results than on the free market”.[3]

Concerning the guilds law, the regime’s representatives supported the idea that it was no plagiarism of foreign ideologies, peculiarly of the Italian fascist one. The Minister of Labour, the sociologist Mihail Ralea, argued that the guilds law was not an imported ideology; today, he contended to say that “we do not import directly ideas from the times spirit but we adapt them to our manner of being”[4]. By the same token, Alexandrescu Roman, professor of public law, argued that the guilds law took into account the realities and spirit of Romanian life by settling professions. In conformity with it, “the professional conception confined by the 1938 Constitution imposed to the lawmaker a first and necessary measure: revision of the syndicate juridical system and the framing of professions in the spirit of the new Constitution”[5]. The “novelty” that the guilds institution wanted to introduce grounded the corporatist idea of Statism.

The Constitution of February 27, 1938 installed the corporatist state principles by introducing the profession, as a principle of selection and election of the new parliament, supposed to be corporatist too. Although it was copied from the Italian law of corporations, the law for guilds settlement was to be adapted to the Romanian realities, the common denominator being represented by the surveillance of syndicates, presumably exposed to the ideological communist danger and the partisan influences of political parties. If the old regime of political parties did not encourage the work but the political fight with consequences on both syndicates and workers’ life, then the populist corporatism promoted by the new regime intended to revive the syndicate spirit. It was considered that the workers did not know what it was like in the old democratic regime of political parties considered by the new exponents as being “private enterprises[6]”, in the opinion of Andrei Bentoiu, the general secretary of the single party – the National Renaissance Front. From this perspective, the Ministry of the Interior and the Prime-Minister built their parliamentary speeches about the new regime through a virulent and populist critic against the democratic regime, on the one hand, and the system of political parties, on the other. Armand Călinescu stated at the Guilds’ Congress that “all that the pretended democratic regime could not do for the workers, it is today fulfilled by an authoritarian regime. What the old Constitution did not accomplish, it was released today by a new Constitution the target and sign of which was, more than anything else, the labour”[7]. The liberal democracy and the system of parties were considered a factor of instability, the source of which being the 1923 fundamental law itself on which was built the edifice of the democratic regime. The apparent fixing of democratic malfunction consisted in the introduction in the constitutional text of the principle of the effective labour[8].

The parliamentary populist speech of the Minister of Labour against democracy and fight for power of the political parties highlighted the corporatist ideology with collectivist valences of the Romanian authoritarian state in-between 1938-1940. The guild was intended to be the workers’ institution of professionals effectively fulfilling a job. On the other hand, the politicking, the electoral agents of political parties were meant to be eliminated from the new syndicates’ architecture. This was the reason why the new institution was introduced, namely the guild, “often, the politicians used the workers and whenever the fight conditions worsened, they should offer themselves as victims. [...] Therefore, the leaders’ election should not be done from among the unprofessional leaders but from among the best elements of the guild”[9]. Vilification of parliamentary democracy, decay and immorality of political parties represented the main type of speech offered by the regime to those enrolled in the new forms of state syndicalism and without economic solutions the regime used ideological formulas with empty and populist content. 

The composition of the corporative parliament reflected the elitist nature: social, political and cultural of interwar Romania. The election of the nation’s representatives in the new corporatist parliament was strongly related to their enrolment in the National Renaissance Front which proposed the candidates conferring to the one enrolled in the guild a parliamentary position. The profession effectively exercised should reflect a minimum ethic from which the candidate got officially and legally their income by practicing a profession. The goal of this measure was represented by the fact that it was tried in a demagogical and populist manner to eliminate politicking. By exercising a job the guild wanted to be the institution controlling the candidates to parliamentary functions. The corporative organization of the parliament was grounded on the constitutional principle of exercising a profession. The candidate and future parliamentary was sent in the corporation in which they professionally participated: agriculture and manual work, commerce and industry and intellectual occupations. Labour was the constitutional term on which the new regime tried to support. The labour represented the definition of the regime offered to the workers but also to parliamentarians of the authoritarian monarchy. At this concern, Paul Negulescu considered in his public law courses that “it was the constitutional law that put the Labour at the basis of the State grounded the Labour-State and intends to encourage the individuals, to show them that their labour product belongs to them and their property right is guaranteed. Thus, the lawmakers in 1938 especially inspired from the organization of the Portuguese state which considered that property and capital must be used in collective property, for the new organization was grounded on both economy and the social interest as well as on individual interest which needed to be harmonized”[10]. The duality of these two concepts, property-collectivism, represented one of the ideological aspects of the regime because either the property or the capital were not submitted to the collective property. The individualist conception on property of liberal inspiration was not in accordance with the vision of the regime’s representatives on collective property. The latter did not even exist in the form of organization of the Romanian state in-between 1938-1940. Moreover, it was even criminally condemned.

The guild represented the instrument through which the control over the workers and syndicates was fulfilled in the new regime. Mihail Ralea, using a populist and nationalist rhetoric in his speech of July about the new corporatist parliamentary, considered: “Through this law the Romanian country lives a revolution by installing a new party, the profession is the single social means to send away class fight and the fight among individuals by creating a common field of collaboration, by professionalizing people being bound to work and fight”.[11] On the other hand, George Alexandrescu considered that:

“The law aimed the simplification of syndicates’ life into a single organization. While in democratic countries, the syndicates concentration was fulfilled by the majority confederation, in authoritarian countries the concentration was done by the State. In the Italian corporation, the federations and the national syndicates are grouped in confederations regarding the criterion of the main branches of economy: agriculture, industry, liberal professions, to which are added the branch of credit and insurances. There are two confederations: workers and employers and the free professionals”.[12]

The elimination of syndicate life and the creation of a single syndicate organization were the expression of the dictatorship behind. The syndicate leaders were assigned by royal decree in order to exercise a better control. The government by decrees represented the main characteristic of Carol’s regime. The members of the National Renaissance Front and all the leading elites were named by royal decree from among the trusted persons of the king or from among those faithful to the new regime. The political life focusing on a single state organization, the monism of syndicate life by a syndicate organization called Union shed light on the political and syndicate dictatorship, conceived by the authoritarian populist regime coordinated by its patron, Carol II.


Corporation, in conformity with Delsol, could be defined as an organization having a monopolist character and dependent on the state because behind each corporation is hidden the dictatorship. The main characteristic of the corporatist system consists in the impossibility for many corporations to exist in the same branch[13]. The Corporations Council’s president, echoing the Italian law, was the Prime-Minister himself, who was supposed to harmonize interests, discipline and conflicts. The Commissar for war industry was present in all the corporations[14]. The corporation’s council in conformity with the Italian law of corporation was conditioned by three main elements: the syndicates, the State and the party[15]. In order to fulfill its mission, the corporation was actuated by an agenda set by the President, which was previously submitted to the attention of the interested ministers. The goal was that they should make comments and let the agenda be approved by the chief of the government. The agenda provisioned the elements discussed by the corporation’s council and set the date for the meeting of this Council[16]. This description reveals that the government acted similarly to a corporation managing ministries, which in their turn directed the industries that they controlled. The state was the corporation itself and the corporation was the state itself.

The corporation’s intension was to have a collective and unitary character in order to offer better economic solutions. The deliberation and the adopted solution were the result of a fusion between the wills of collegiums’ members into the single will of the corporation itself, supposed to be the depositor of the general interest. Thus, the corporation appears to be as a kind of a laboratory and a regulatory of the state’s economic life, whose diverse elements know and particularly interpret the general interest ending by tutoring collectively and unitarily the superior interests of the national economy[17]. From one case to another, the application of the corporative will had the purpose to meet the needs of the state, through special instituted bodies, syndicates and more than that, directly to the producers and consumers, meaning the co-operative economy[18].

The regime installed on February 11, 1938 had no intention to be associated with the Italian fascist corporation. In this regard, the regime’s doctrinaires tried to offer populist explanations. In respect to Alexandrescu Roman, by the adoption of guilds as the new definition of the syndicates, “the authors of the law of October 12, 1938, far from aiming at the resettlement of corporations rather wanted to revive the spirit of Romanian solidarity around the department, to remake the professional group as an instrument to protect Romanian labour”[19]. Furthermore, the justification of legality for the new institutions represents the theme developed by Alexandrescu Roman, professor of public law. In this sense, “the law was not meant to suppress the syndicates’ freedom and neither is police law because the present Constitution of February 27, 1938, by Art. 26, recognizes the liberty to associate. In this concern, the juridical personality was given to a single guild”[20].

Juridical personality was given to a single guild in each administrative county. There could get recognition only the guilds able to group together at least a tenth of the workers from the respective craft of that county because it was only in this way serious and representative syndicates could consolidate. The guild with juridical personality could have sections in counties. The guilds in the counties could have a union in the county’s capital. The impossibility for all the other professional associations to gain juridical personality and to benefit from all the rights resulting from the recognition seem to lead to a sensitive diminution of the liberty of association proclaimed in the new Constitution[21].

In the corporatist regime, the individual freedom disappears but, in conformity with all the classical liberal thinkers, the engagement related to the individual freedom involves the adoption of private property institutions and the free market[22]. In exchange, in the corporatist-fascist order, the individual is connected to a common group which offer protection but to which he owes obedience[23]. The individual initiative is considered a generator of injustice and conflicts in the corporative order.

Accordingly, the liberal order is suppressed and replaced with a corporatist order where the dominant role is played by the state which is considered to be the exponent of superior overall interests. Thus, Chantal Millon Delsol, while analyzing the corporatist state, reaches the conclusion that corporatism is considered to be the only normal form of organization related to the voluntary systems. From the doctrinaire perspective, corporatism rejects liberalism and socialism but wants to synthetically recover the positive aspects of one or another. Corporatism promotes solidarity and equality inherited from socialism but without the omnipresent state. It guarantees the liberty of initiative of liberalism but without the injustice generated by the unlimited competition. By institutionalizing social bodies, it was thought it could evade the perverse effects of one or the other, materializing the wish for freedom and solidarity[24].

The instrument used by the Italian fascist government to do away with the deficiency of liberalism and to create a strong economy working for the national interest, was the corporatism[25]. In this regard, George Alexandrescu emphasized that corporatism did not choke capitalism, nor the private initiative or the property. It does not expropriate the economy in favour of the state but neither does it become prey to an anarchic liberty. It simply organizes, arranges and leads in the state framework[26]. The new populism asks for obedience and compliance, fundamental characteristic of authoritarian regimes and under the new conditions for a guild to be recognized showed the propensity of the regime toward control. Therefore, “the condition asked for guilds calling for recognition referred to the obligation they had to protect the professional interests, moral and patriotic education of its members. The law also asked the syndicate members guarantees of honour, capacity and national feelings they had to offer to the guilds’ leaders”[27].

The body of guilds was the Ministry of Labour; this body having a general and permanent right to keep watch and control, in accordance with Art. 27 in the guilds’ law.


The conditions to exercise the right to control provisioned by the juridical entities are also acquired by the guilds law. Our lawmaker’s getting close to the Italian system is the tutorship law enactment. Certain acts of guilds’ leadership are submitted to the preliminary approval of the Ministry of Labour: the acts for patrimony disposal, the modification of statutes, the affiliation to the union, the fusion with other guilds and the elimination or dissolution of the guild”.[28]

The state chooses the corporation’s leadership and actively participates in his election, the state decides the creation or abrogation of a corporation, the state has the legitimacy to recognize or not a corporation. The corporative organization in Italy assumed attributions of supremacy, surveillance, control manifested in different forms and occasions by: the discretionary recognition of professional associations, the right to withdraw the syndicates’ juridical entity, the approval of assigning the syndicates’ exponents, the surveillance and control of syndicates’ activity management, the members’ assignment for the corporation’s council by decree of government chief on the grounds of syndicates’ assignation, the agreement of the chief of government as to the corporations’ agenda, the compulsoriness of the corporatist norms ever since they have been published, which is done on the basis of the chief of government decree[29].

Concerning the recognition or dissolution of guilds, the Law of October 12, 1938 provided similar dispositions to the ones already provisioned by the Italian law. The recognition as well as the dissolution resorted to the executive power unlike the juridical entity law submitted, for the granting and loosing of juridical entity, to the judicial instances. Article 26 from the Law of guilds’ organization stated that in serious situations the dissolution act comes from the cabinet. The recognition is awarded in the guilds’ law system by royal decree at the proposal of the Minister of Labour on the basis of the notification of the Committee for guilds’ recognition. “The withdrawal of juridical entity is decided by royal decree but on the grounds of a Journal of Ministries Council following the report of the Ministry of Labour on the basis of the same committee notification”[30].

The liberal order totally contradicts the corporatist order. For the liberal state, the government’s power and authority could be limited by a system of rules and constitutional practices through which the liberty and equality of persons before the law[31] are respected. If the corporatist order does not leave the freedom of action to the individuals because the state’s role is omnipresent in all the social life sectors, the liberal order presumes “the decentralization of making a decision process and its bringing to the individual level, as in the fully liberal system of possessions. It also allows the individuals to act in conformity with their own values and to use the knowledge being less constraint by the other individuals[32]. The corporatist order suppresses the liberty of decision of individuals by syndicate unification and exercise of absolute control over the individuals. The guilds’ law is close to the April 2, 1926 Italian law wherein “the free syndicate is replaced with the recognized association or guild. The initiative to create guilds comes to the workers because the state does not create guilds. It must have juridical entity. Thus, the guilds proving they gather by voluntary adhesion at least 1/10 of the employees in the category of corresponding profession”[33]. The guild dissolution could have been done by the decision of the general assembly or by fully right. For the dissolution, the procedure provisioned by the law is the one of the juridical entities in article 39 reproducing for the dissolution the paragraph 2 of article 33 specifying that the guild loses its juridical entity by: a) the withdrawal of recognition; b) the general assembly decision; c) of fully right. Article 34 states that  “in case it is considered that a guild carries on its activity against the Constitution and the country’s laws against the statutes of the Ministry of Labour settled on the grounds of notification of the Labour Committee it will be able to decide the withdrawal of juridical entity recognition of the respective guild, consequently confiscating its patrimony dissolution. The dissolution decision is done by royal decree on the grounds of the Council of Ministries’ journal”[34].


The first tier of syndicate architecture, which developed on a vertical plan, was represented by the “Guild”. The second tier was occupied by the “Union”, a supra organization as in Italy. By comparison, in France functions such an organization called syndicate federation which does not fit Romania’s, argued Mihail Ralea. Thus, “the authoritarian state creates a mentality and a certain balance and this is why it could be dangerous to associate many professions which can form many rival organizations, increasingly diminishing the authority of the organizations of state”[35]. Alexandrescu Roman develops and compares the Union concept. The professor of Public Law underlines that regarding the organization of guilds on groups, our law maintained the spirit of syndicate and juridical entities laws by keeping the union as opposed to the Italian law in regard to which the professional associations are commonly national, regional or confederations. “The guilds’ law recognizes a single Union per county for each category of profession or annexed professions. It enjoys certain rights of representation in justice and administration”[36]. The unions have the feature of grouping all the interests in the district in a single body. Over the Unions there is a third tier and the top of the pyramid formed by the “National Council of Guilds which is a Romanian innovation and half administrative body presided by the Prime-Minister. Here are to be found the Minister of Labour, the National Economy Minister, the Ministers of Agriculture and Communications, of National Education, delegates of the Union for Professional Chambers, representatives of industry and commerce, intellectuals and specialists in social law. The National Council of Guilds joins fourth times per year and coordinates different interests of overall social policy, assigns directives and adjusts conflicts” [37].

The corporations, namely the guilds in Romania’s case, play a crucial political role by providing support to the regime. Corporations have on long term the political role of replacing political parties by the creation and sending of representatives into a new legislative body composed by corporative professional categories. The corporative organization of the Parliament wanted to be consensual at political level avoiding the conflict and thus eliminating the liberalism and its legislative arm, the parliament. Corporations gain a political role, states Delsol, or at least the project of corporatist and fascist state is to determine them to play this role in the future. They must replace on long term the dismantled parties by sending their representatives in a new type of Chamber: “the chamber will give up its place to the National Assembly of corporations which will be constituted by fascias and corporations chamber, said Mussolini”[38].

Without announcing the presence of future corporations, the guilds law maintains itself at the level of Professional Statute organizing only the particular clerks, workers and craftsmen in guilds and consequently avoiding each measure effecting on the guilds’ institutionalization: “until now, the lawmaker proceeded only to a partial concentration on workers’ forces, a concentration of course more real than the one achieved by Labour Chambers”[39].On the other hand, George Alexandrescu considered that:

 “[…] corporations, as a whole, gather, contain or represent the entire economy of the unitary country reuniting al the physical and juridical persons exercising economic acts[40]. Corporations have the role to discipline the economy in all its production, distribution and consumption manifestations[41]. The tutorship of national economy is the core element of the entire corporatist system and the aim pursued.[42]

In Italy, the corporation was a mix body composed of patrons and employees classified on production units, corporations in agriculture, industries and transportations. Mihail Ralea says that certain body in our country with no tradition whatsoever, with no previous human training in approaching both patrons and employees, without the precise affirmation of economic units enrolled before in law would be an innovation if it presented artificial character and satisfied the need for coordination and solidarity between the guilds which is situated on horizontal line. In opposition to the syndicate (a recruitment group on horizontal and thus generating the class fight – workers’ syndicate against leaders syndicates), the corporation recruits vertically and reminds of the medieval body with the same name, said Delsol[43]. The corporation is responsible in its branch of all human labour problems: young people’s formation, salary conflicts, innovations, labour programs. The state plays the role of moderator, arbiter and guarantor of public interest when a corporation issues regulations opposed to the national interest[44]. The surveillance and control requested by the corporation introduced into the organizational framework the corporative discipline representing the form of state interventionism in private economy. Furthermore, the corporative discipline is totalitarian because it comprises all the persons with economic activities on the one hand and it has the possibility to know and guide all the economic manifestations and disciplines a sector on the other hand. The corporative discipline is systematic because it emanates from and is applied to institutions by using simple and quick procedures by a diminished bureaucracy[45].

The Romanization of corporation was done by the introduction of “novelty character” of the guilds’ institution, the Professional Chamber, Universul newspaper, the officious of the regime:

“Instead of corporations a series of national institutions experimented in this regard will be used which proved their significance in the economy and in the social organization of the country which will make the connection between guilds by the Professional Chambers. In each county will be created a Professional Chamber which will have five sections: 1) industrial section; 2) commercial; 3) labour; 4) agriculture and 5) an intellectual section”.[46] [The professional chambers’ goal was] “to find in each of these sections a reunion so that each economic or social field could discuss together and to reach compromise solutions and conciliations without subsisting as before that separation between different Chambers. All will be conciliated in a common committee of professional Chambers on district which will coordinate their activity. The county chambers remain in the direct competence of their respective ministries and under their control. Over the professional chambers stands the Union of Professional Chambers of Bucharest, a single one, coordinating all these efforts”.[47]

The guilds’ law endowed the guild with some prerogatives also found in the Italian law of April 3, 1926 as follows: “the monopole of representation in justice due to the damages caused to some individual rights and with collective interests; the monopole of administrative representation in the Labour Chambers, the monopole of closing collective labour contracts as well as actions born from collective labour convention or from an individual labour contract”.  împreună The guilds will be able to have a patrimony and will be able to stand in justice for the facts arising from the individual or collective labour contracts. They will assign representatives in the commissions for conciliation or arbitrage. They will have exclusive rights to assign elected representatives between their members in the Labour Chambers. These guilds have the right to assign delegates to join the inspection bodies of the Minister of Labour during inspections[48]. In the Labour Ministry’s vision,

“[…] corporatism started to dominate all the modern history of the nations and our state should integrate in the new conception of organization. This integration requires new efforts, years of detailed directing of social laws, integral revision of present syndicate system, new gatherings of professional bodies, long and sustained work of educating the masses. Theoretically, corporatism is an attractive formula yet in conformity with the new formulas of Romanian economic and social realities great problems in the future will still persist”.[49]


The idea of guild was articulated by the Minister of Labour as being in conformity with the spirit and intentions of the new regime. According to Mihail Ralea the idea of guild is the following:

“The individual cannot live alone; people cannot live solitarily and isolated; they need to be included in a group wherein to feel the need for collaboration with the other members in order to be able to accomplish the economic mission for which their profession is meant”.[50]

The corporatist order transformed the individual into a mass presumably educated. From such a populist perspective, the principles of the liberal state were diluted in front of interventionist principles of a planned economy where the free initiative is slowed down and able to be fulfilled only in the group framework, i.e. in the state. The planned economy from the liberal critics’ perspective against the collectivist systems represents “an experience of crisis, wrong investigations, black market, and the dependence on western capital, technology and food”.[51]

The second principle of the guild’s law consisted in their depoliticization principle. Thus, the syndicates were used in electoral fights for promises which never took into account the workers’ interests. Different parties created electoral cartels deceiving the good faith of workers and coopting into their fights also the syndicates’ chiefs. Through this law a concrete content it was given to the electoral law anticipations and to the direct provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution provisioned a corporatist vision. It was necessary to observe this spirit of the Constitution in order to reach an organization to serve as ground for the new constitutional settlement, demagogically and populist, argued Mihail Ralea in his exposition of the law project as to the guilds. 

The functioning of the Romanian state in-between 1938-1940 in regard to the ideological principles of corporatism represented a minus for the political, economic and social evolvement. The corporatist organization of guilds took effect in the fulfillment of syndicates’ centralization and their control. Thus, corporatism was just a surrogate because the political class did not believe in it as they did not believe in the organization and functioning of the single party. Therefore, in the corporatist order “the economic liberty is not respected more than in the socialist state because the innovation and competition were restricted to internal laws for each branch”[52]. The corporatist way of organization of syndicates did not represent the key to solve the Romanian economic problems as neither could plan and direct economy the Economic Superior Council together with the apparition of the institution. Still, the fights between the syndicates’ leaders continued although the dismantling of political parties and the apparition of single party presumed also the elimination of syndicate conflicts. The goal of syndicate life unification represented the fulfillment of harmony for which the old regime was dissolute even if the new regime failed to install the economic and syndicate order nor was it more successful in promoting the needed principles. Social order and professional harmony were made possible by promoting the principle of syndicates’ depoliticization intending to do away with the class fight promoted and supported by the exponents of the communist trend. The principle announced by the new organization of guilds, the fights, syndicate conflicts would not take place in the new regime of would-be corporatist authority where the overall interests passed before the individual ones. Expelling politics gave the possibility to the state to prove that it could administrate in a corporatist manner the syndicates by means of moral associations and persons selected to lead while the parties were demagogically considered as being associations representing narrow group interests.

The tutorship of superior interests which attributed the corporation from social perspective they should lead to the enhancement of the people and nation state[53]. The growth of national patrimony was requested by the corporation wishing for this growth to be equal in conformity with the social justice guaranteeing to working individuals a redistribution capable to provide a decent living[54]. The fabrication of a guild by law and governmental speech of divergent interests proved to be populist and served to the illusions of workers because the patrons did not consider themselves as being equals to workers and requested the dismantling of professional chambers alongside the Minister of Labour.

The third principle of the guilds’ law is constituted by the adaptation of workers’ organization to the new regime. The executive importance in the present regime made necessary to get the juridical entity by royal decree following the notification of Labour Superior Council proposed by the Minister of Labour and not by a simple verdict of the Court. Thus, by the corporatist-authoritarian organization, the executive power could interfere in the professional committee’s activity. The executive primacy over the syndicate organization intended to increase the political power of state over those organizations of workers and patrons. Therefore, “the political aspect of the corporative state claims a tutorship of superior interests of production to lead to a growth of political power. The political sector along it dominates the economic and social sectors combined into a whole of concrete accomplishment of its preset plans of production[55].


The fourth principle of the guilds’ law consisted in the nationalization of guilds:

“In the old organization of guilds, the professional preoccupation of workers consisted in their affiliation to international organizations from which they often received suggestions and guidance. The guild organization must be inspired from the great imperative of national solidarity. The guilds cannot take part and less to affiliate to organizations or international congresses then with the special permission of the Minister of Labour”.[56]

The guilds’ nationalization represented the method by which the state intended to eliminate the syndicate and political anarchy from the workers and syndicate chiefs’ rows. In this regard, the draft law introduced the imperative of guilds’ non-affiliation to international organizations and the goal of this interdiction was represented by the diminution of right and left extremes ideologies’ influences. The Romanian state by its law aimed to eliminate the disturbing factors able to change the authoritarian royal order.

The fifth principle considered by Mihail Ralea had as effect “the stimulation of syndicate mentality”. By “syndicate stimulation” the Minister of Labour suggested the elimination of foreign ideological trends from the workers and professional organizations thinking. The populist manner used “to stimulate the syndicate mentality” was represented by the intensification of propaganda to the new conception of the Romanian state wherein the dominant de innovative principle from constitutional perspective was represented by labour. “The syndicate mentality stimulation” signifies the labour encouragement despite the political interests. The syndicate education was encouraged into the guild not inside it but also inside the state and the state fabricated the workers’ mentality. Outside the state, the guilds were exposed to danger of being politicized as was the situation of democratic regime. The regime regarded that:

“By the depoliticization of professional interests into the nation’s framework, the guild’s prestige was considered to grow. The existent syndicates which will understand the commandment of the moment and which will join the law’s conditions, will be able to form the basis of the present reorganization”.[57]

The release of syndicates from the influences of political parties represented the new direction to be embraced by the guilds because for this were created, if not they were exposed to the danger to be dismantled. Thus, the regime promoted and practiced the political dictate by which asserted to the syndicate organizations the affiliation to the new institution of guilds. The policy of conformation was imperative for the syndicates. Thus, the interventions of the Prime Minister, Armand Călinescu, since May 1, 1939, held at the First Congress of the Guilds represents the same type of demagogical and populist speech against the former politicized syndicates as well as against the former democratic political parties before 1938. The Prime Minister’s interrogations and answers are suggestive:

“What has this law of guilds accomplished for the workers? It fulfilled the fact that instead of the yesterday divided workers, today we have united workers. Instead of workers who yesterday fought for political interests, today we have workers working for their professional interests. By this law, concrete content was given to the electoral law anticipations and to the direct provisions of the Constitution. Only persons effectively exercising a craft and enrolled in one of the third chambers (agriculture and manual work, commerce and industry and intellectual occupations) can enroll on the electoral lists of National Renaissance Front, in order to be eligible”.[58]

The critical analysis of the guilds’ law, in regard to Roman-Alexandrescu, reveals the lack of substance with which was invested the new corporatist institution because it “regarded only crafters and private clerks leaving outside the other categories of employees and intellectual and agriculture workers as well as the whole patronage which remained under the regime of free associations”[59], and Sorin Alexandrescu observes “the corporatist ideology does not get shape in the Romanian reality because the guilds and social statutes represented in its Parliament are rather similar to the Italian ones than local convincing organizations”.[60]


This study has shown that the guilds’ law represented the instrument, used by the state to influence and suppress the guilds by organizing their functioning according to Italian corporatism criteria. Thus, the guilds’ law allowed the executive intervention in shaping the new syndicate organization by asserting the state’s corporatist ideological principles wherein dominated the collectivist organization despite the individualist one, as characteristic of the old liberal regime until 1938, particularly because the syndicates’ chiefs had to be recognized by the Ministries Council and the people elected or assigned cannot deal anymore with conducting the strives for bigger salaries or for better working conditions for the workers because they were consequently employees of the regime. The same as the Ministry of the Interior and the  Ministry of Labour occupied on the surveillance and control of syndicate and professional organizations still the creation and dissolution of guild resorted to the executive power.

The functioning of the State as a corporation answered the times commandment but it was in a total contradiction with the corporation and economic body and the corporation as state construction. The corporatist state could be identified with the paternalist state since it intended to deal with all the social processes of workers-employees. The corporatist order asserted protectionist social policies and intended to direct the economy by centralist policies in the branches it manages. Corporation in the fascist vision functioned as a government because it intended to control all the state sectors, peculiarly all the economic life.

The constitutional-corporatist organization of the single party and the Parliament highlighted the intention of the regime to gather the political and economic interests in the framework of the same monolithic and state structures. The guilds’ law inspired from the fascist ideologies had the aspiration to eliminate its adversaries which were naming the syndicate leaders or exponents of different trends and political guidance. The struggle of the new authoritarian regime to organize the social, political and syndicate life according to Italian corporatism principles proved to be populist and demagogical because the old politicians of the new regime, new elites, remained with the mentalities of the old regimes wherein the political fight between the parties for power was promoted with influences in the spheres of economic syndicate life. The new politicians were elected by the regime for their past offering all the safety elements to the authoritarian monarchy. The authoritarian regime and corporatism promoted as guild represented a step back in modern Romania’s evolution and put the competition economy of liberal inspiration before the state policies promoted by Carol’s governments in-between 1938-1940.

The political institution of Carol’s regime, the guilds of workers, private clerks and craftsmen will be dismantled on December 18, 1940 by the next leader of the state, General Ion Antonescu, after the abdication of King Carol II.







ALEXANDRESCU, George P., Corporatismul mussolinian, Tipografia Ion C. Văcărescu, Bucureşti, 1940.

ALEXANDRESCU, Sorin , Paradoxul roman, Univers, Bucureşti, 1998.

BENTOIU, Aurelian, “Orientări în Ideologia Frontului Renaşterii Naţionale”, în Zece ani de domnie ai M.S. Regelui Carol al - II-lea, Organizarea Politică, Juridică şi administrativă, Vol. I, Editura Cartea Românească, Bucureşti, 1940, pp. 83-84.

CĂLINESCU, Armand, Noul Regim, Imprimeria Centrală, Bucureşti, 1939.

FISICHELLA, Domenico, Ştiinţa Politică. Probleme, Concepte, Teorii, translated from Italian and introduction by Victor Muraru, Polirom, Iaşi, 2007.

GIRARDET Raoul, Mituri şi mitologii politice, trans. Daniel Dimitru, Institutul European, Iaşi, 1997.

GRAY, John, Liberalismul, trans. Anca Gheauş, Du Style, Bucureşti, 1998.

MILLON-DELSOL, Chantal, Ideile politice ale secolului XX, trans. Velica Boari, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 2002.

MIRONESCU, G. G., “Inovaţiile Constituţiei din 1938”, în Analele Facultăţii de Drept din Bucureşti, No. 2-3, Tipografiile Române-Unite, Bucureşti, June-September 1939.

NEGULESCU, Paul, Curs de drept Român. După principiile Constituţiei de la 27 februarie 1938. Ţinut la Facultatea de Drept în anul şcolar 1938-1939, edited by Ion. I. Borşan, Bucureşti, 1939.

ROMAN, P. Alexandescu, Consideraţiuni asupa legii breslelor”, Revista de Drept public, No. 1-2, Editura Institutul de Arte Grafice „Marvan”, Bucureşti, 1939.


Official Monitors:

“Legea pentru recunoaşterea şi funcţionarea breslelor de lucrători, funcţionari particulari şi meseriaşi”, Monitorul Oficial, No. 237, (12 )October 1938.

Mihail Ralea’s speech, “Lămuriri asupra proiectului de lege pentru recunoaşterea breslelor”, în “Desbaterile parlamentare”, Deputies Assembly, Meeting – (10) July 1939, Monitorul Oficial, No. 10, Part III, Imprimeria Centrală, Bucureşti, 1939.


Universul, No. 118, (3) May 1939.

[1]Raoul GIRARDET, Mituri şi mitologii politice, trans. Daniel Dimitru, Editura Institutul European, Iaşi, 1997, pp. 47-75.

[2] Domenico FISICHELLA, Ştiinţa Politică. Probleme, Concepte, Teorii, trans. Victor Muraru, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 2007, p. 364.

[3]John GRAY, Liberalismul, trans. Anca Gheauş, Editura Du Style, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 100.

[4] Mihail RALEA, Lămuriri asupra proiectului de lege pentru recunoaşterea breslelor”, Desbaterile parlamentare”, Deputies Assembly, Meeting on July 10, 1939, Official Monitor, No. 10, Part III, Imprimeria Centrală, Bucureşti, 1939, p. 43.

[5] P. Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni asupa legii breslelor”, Revista de Drept public, No. 1-2, Edituta Institutul de Arte Grafice „Marvan”, Bucureşti, 1939, p. 238.

[6] Aurelian BENTOIU, Orientări în Ideologia Frontului Renaşterii Naţionale”, Zece ani de domnie ai M.S. Regelui Carol al - II-lea, Organizarea Politică, Juridică şi administrativă, Vol. I, Editura Cartea Românească, Bucureşti, 1940, pp. 83-84. 

[7] Armand CĂLINESCU, Noul Regim, Imprimeria Centrală, Bucureşti, 1939, p. 149.

[8] G.G MIRONESCU, Inovaţiile Constituţiei din 1938”, Analele Facultăţii de Drept din Bucureşti, No. 2-3, iunie-septembrie, 1939, Tipografiile Române-Unite, Bucureşti, 1939, p. 31

[9] Mihail RALEA, Lămuriri...cit.”, p. 46.

[10] Paul NEGULESCU, Curs de drept Român. După principiile Constituţiei de la 27 februarie 1938. Ţinut la Facultatea de Drept în anul şcolar 1938-1939, Edited by Ion. I. Borşan, Bucureşti, 1939, p. 257.

[11] Mihail RALEA, Lămuriri”...cit.”, p. 42.

[12] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul mussolinian, Tipografia Ion C. Văcărescu, Bucureşti, 1940, p. 23.

[13] Chantal MILLON-DELSOL, Ideile politice ale secolului XX, trans. Velica Boari, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 2002, p. 120.

[14] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 29.

[15] Ibidem, p. 30.

[16] Ibidem, p. 39.

[17] Ibidem, p. 40.

[18] Ibidem, p. 42.

[19] P. Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”, p. 245.

[20] Ibidem, p. 247.

[21] Ibidem, p. 247.

[22] John GRAY, Liberalismul...cit., p. 90.

[23] Chantal MILLON-DELSOL, Ideile politice...cit., p. 120.

[24] Ibidem, p. 119.

[25] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 6 .

[26] Ibidem, p. 20.

[27]Legea pentru recunoaşterea şi funcţionarea breslelor de lucrători, funcţionari particulari şi meseriaşi”, Official Monitor, No. 237 October 12, 1938, p. 13.

[28] P. Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”,  p. 255.

[29] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 45.

[30]Noua lege a breslelor”, Universul, No. 118, 3 May, 1939, p. 3.

[31] John GRAY, Liberalismul...cit., p. 103.

[32] Ibidem, p. 92.

[33] Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”, p. 249.

[34] Monitorul Oficial, No. 237, 12 Octomber, 1938, p. 16.

[35] Mihail RALEA, Lămuriri...cit.”, p. 43.

[36] P. Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”, p. 251.

[37] Ibidem, p. 250.

[38] Chantal MILLON-DELSOL, Ideile politice...cit., p. 121.

[39] Ibidem, p. 252.

[40] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 35.

[41] Ibidem, p. 36.

[42] Ibidem, p. 37.

[43] Chantal MILLON-DELSOL, Ideile politice...cit., pp. 119-120.

[44] Ibidem, p. 120.

[45] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 46.

[46] Universul, No.118, p. 3.

[47] Ibidem, p. 3.

[48] P.Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”, p. 248.

[49] Mihail RALEA, Lămuriri....cit.”, p. 47.

[50] Ibidem, p. 43.

[51] John GRAY, Liberalismul...cit., pp. 98-99.

[52] Chantal MILLON-DELSOL, Ideile politice...cit., p. 120.

[53] George P. ALEXANDRESCU, Corporatismul...cit., p. 38.

[54] Ibidem, p. 38.

[55] Ibidem, p. 39.

[56] Mihail RALEA,Lămuriri...cit.”, p. 46.

[57] Ibidem, p. 47.

[58] Armand CĂLINESCU, Noul...cit., p. 148.

[59] P. Alexandescu-ROMAN, Consideraţiuni...cit.”, p. 253.

[60] Sorin ALEXANDRESCU, Paradoxul roman, Univers, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 130.