Canteen through the Prism of Industrial Paternalism. Food and Consent at the factory of Dalmine (Lombardy) between Fascism and the Republic

By Ferruccio Ricciardi

The canteen of the factory of Dalmine opened in 1934 and has to be considered as a fundamental element of a social welfare policy, celebrated by the official propaganda. The transformation of the former industrial paternalism under the influence of fascism was linked to the need to control the working population by suppressing any manifestation of opposition but also by creating the necessary consensus to accept the rationalization of work, lower wages and the removal of trade union rights. During the war, working in a large company became a guarantee of survival while the sense of belonging to the company grew stronger. In the immediate postwar, the factory became a propitious space for the emergence of a new workers’ power. At Dalmine, poster factory for the spirit of collaboration and mutual aid claimed by the corporatist ideology, the canteen had become both an economic and political focal point. It provided for food security in a context of scarcity and, at the same time, reinforced the dependency / recognition relationship among workers. Thus, the canteen can be seen as the mirror of the social relations in the factory workspace, a useful way to capture industrial relations and their evolution over time.

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