Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Constitution of Fiume (no, wait, come back! This is interesting!)

Found this quite by accident on Wikipedia while trawling the Wikisource list of Constitutions: A constitution drafted, for the short-lived Republic of Fiume (in northern Italy when founded in 1920; now in Croatia), by the poet and adventurer Gabriele d'Annunzio . Unlike certain other short-lived republics established in northern Italy during tumultuous post-war years, Fiume actually seems like a decent sort of polity - if only it had survived. From a lawyer's point of view it is full of professional interest. Okay, the preamble is a bit George Lucas, but that's the nature of the preamble genre (IIRC, Communist China's preamble, too, reads like a Ridley Scott screen crawl):
The Enduring Will of the People
Fiume, for centuries a free Commune of ancient Italy, declared her full and complete surrender to the mother-country on October 10, 1918. Her claim is threefold, like the impenetrable armour of Roman legend.
Fiume is warden of the Italian marches, the furthest stronghold of Italian culture, the most distant land that bears the imprint of Dante...
Hang your head, Les "deep kinship" Murray! But then we get on to the operative legal provisions, and even these are interesting:
8. The Constitution guarantees to all citizens of both sexes: primary instruction in well-lighted and healthy schools; physical training in open-air gymnasiums, [...]
Now there's some rights GetUp overlooked in its recent Bill of Rights lobbying push. In fact, looking at the typical GetUp member, "physical training in open-air gymnasiums" should be not merely a right but a legally enforceable duty. Okay, you say, but Bills of Rights are meant to have stirring, noble declarations. Surely Fiume's machinery of government provisions are dull as dishwater? Not even the renowned d'Annunzio (who eloped with his schoolmistress at fifteen and went on from there) could sex up Australia's Section 57 double dissolution procedure, could he? Not so. For a start, Fiume was meant to be a corporate state. Not in the loose, pejorative sense of Sir Peter Abeles witnessing secret succession pacts over cigars with Bob Hawke and all that, but in the specific sense (very popular in the 1930s - compare the contemporaneous constitutions of Ireland and Portugal) of organising society on the basis of occupational groups (guilds, you could say) that receive legal recognition, and even representation in government, as much as territorial divisions do:
8. Whatever be the kind of work a man does, whether of hand or brain, art or industry, design or execution, he must he a member of one of the ten Corporations [...] 9. The first Corporation comprises the wage-earners of industry, agriculture and commerce, small artisans, and small landholders who work their own farms, employing little other labour and that only occasionally.
The second Corporation includes all members of the technical or managerial staff in any private business, industrial or rural, with the exception of the proprietors or partners in the business. [...]
The ninth comprises all workers on the sea. [...]
Take that, Chris Corrigan!
... The tenth has no special trade or register or title. It is reserved for the mysterious forces of progress and adventure. It is a sort of votive offering to the genius of the unknown, to the man of the future, to the hoped-for idealization of daily work, to the liberation of the spirit of man beyond the panting effort and bloody sweat of to-day.
It is represented in the civic sanctuary by a kindled lamp bearing an ancient Tuscan inscription of the epoch of the communes, that calls up an ideal vision of human labour: 'Fatica senza fatica.' ["Fatigue without fatigue"? Huh?]
One tries to picture Sir Keith Aickin writing the High Court's joint judgment on whether, say, Milan Brych would be qualified to enroll in Corporation #10. One's imagination fails. This would become important because it is as grouped in "Corporations" that citizens vote for the upper (I suppose you would call it) chamber of the Fiumean parliament:
27. Two elected bodies will exercise legislative power: the Council of Senators; [and] the Council of 'Provvisori'.
"Supervisors?" Like San Francisco?
29. Senators remain in office ten years....
Well, so do their Australian namesakes, but usually with at least the formality of an election or two (with half a million people "voting for" them by putting a 1 in the party box above the line and sometimes as many as thirty or even forty people voting for them by putting a 1 next to their actual name below the line) between a Senator's initial appointment by the party to fill a casual vacancy and his or her eventual retirement to let another 33-year-old staffer from their electoral office have a suck on the parliamentary superannuation teat.
...They are elected in the proportion of one to every thousand electors, but in no case can their number be under thirty. All electors form a single constituency. The election is to be by universal suffrage and proportional representation.
Good stuff. Like the Israeli Knesset, except that if Israel had the same population ratio there'd be over 5,000 seats (ie, probably a couple more political parties than at present).
31. The Council of the Provvisori is composed of sixty delegates, elected by universal secret suffrage and proportional representation. Ten Provvisori are elected by industrial workers and agricultural labourers; ten by seamen of all kinds; ten by employers; five by rural and industrial technicians; five by the managerial staffs in private firms; five by the teachers in the public schools, by the students in the higher schools, and by other members of the sixth Corporation; five by the liberal professions; five by public servants; five by Co-operative Societies of production, of labor and of consumption.
Curious... The numbers are not the same for all Corporations, nor are they in proportion to a head count (why do sailors as a class count as twice the weight of public servants?). And unless my repeated re-readings are wrong, the "mysterious forces of progress and adventure", the "man of the future" represented by Corporation #10, don't get to elect any Provvisori. So where exactly is the Republic of Fiume situate[d]?
1. The sovereign people of Fiume, in the strength of their unassailable sovereignty, take as the centre of their free State the "corpus separatum," with all its railways and its harbour. But, as on the west they are determined to maintain contact with the mother-country, so, on the east, they are not prepared to renounce their claim to a frontier more just and more secure than might be assigned to them by the next happening in the give-and-take of politics...
Just getting a hint here, a very vague impression, that not everyone was a happy camper at the Versailles Conference. Not to worry, though... entrenching irredentist grumbles about its borders in its Constitution always helps a partitioned country deal constructively with its historic grievances, doesn't it? (Exhibit A: Ireland's Article 2, 1937-98). And finally:
43. When the province is in extreme peril and sees that her safety depends on the will and devotion of one man who is capable of rousing and of leading all the forces of the people in a united and victorious effort,
... we all buy copies of The Audacity of Hope as a way of donating to his campaign without breaching the US Federal Elections Act? No, wait, this was 1920...
... the National Council in solemn conclave in the Arengo [joint sitting - Article 34] may, voting by word of mouth, nominate a Commandant and transmit to him supreme authority without appeal. The Council decides the period, long or short, during which he is to rule, not forgetting that in the Roman Republic the dictatorship lasted six months.
An institutionalised Cincinnatus clause. Does it have to be Jar-Jar Binks who moves the motion in conclave?