Fascism Vs. Communism: The Difference Between Communism and Fascism
Both Communism and Fascism can be similar in practice in their authoritative forms, but the two are very different ideologically.
An Introduction to the Difference Between Communism, Fascism, and the Other Forms of Socialism
Communism and Fascism are both conformist and collectivist evolutions of socialism that generally reject liberalism, democracy, capitalism, and all other forms of socialism.
Despite the similarities between Communism and Fascism (and all the confusion that arises from them both having a history of acting militant and authoritarian in practice after raising up “strong men” to power), they are none-the-less very different in terms of their stances on a number of issues, including social issues specifically. Consider:
- Communism is a socially left-wing “egalitarian” evolution of socialism focused on class equality, a planned economy, the elimination of bourgeois property, and inclusive social equality in general. In other words, on-paper, Communism is “left-wing socialism” focused on social equality. On-paper they are globalists and internationalists who call for a workers’ revolution to overthrow an oppressive class of capitalists that arose during industrialization. They reject the idea of classes and nations generally, aiming for a classless global society where all are equal. The general problem with this is that the extreme central planning and the focus on equality tends to lend itself to a despotic military state devoid of liberty (where all are equally under the rule of a despot). One who wants to understand Communism in theory should read Marx and Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party (or see our page on Marx’s class theory). One who wants to understand it in practice should study the history of figures like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Chavez, and Castro.
- Fascism is a socially right-wing “hierarchical” evolution of socialism focused on exclusive social hierarchy and nationalism, which may or may not implement a socialist economy. In other words, on-paper, Fascism can be thought of as “right-wing socialism” focused on social hierarchy and nationalism. On-paper they are anti-globalists and nationalists who call for a totalitarian hierarchical state based on merit and race. Fascism, unlike Communism, seeks to destroy its enemy (Communism, on-paper, wants their enemy to assimilate; in practice, Communists also tend to also be aggressive and militant). The general problem with this is that the forced hierarchy lends itself to a despotic military state devoid of liberty, and the aggressive exclusiveness leads to fascists making more enemies than friends. One who wants to understand Fascism in theory should read Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism (or see our page on Hitler, Mussolini, and fascism). One who wants to understand it in practice should study the history of figures like Mussolini and Hitler and groups like the KKK.
TIP: Both Communism and Fascism can technically be democratic or not. In WW2 they both started out democratic, and then became “not.” Likewise, both can be authoritative or not, in WW2 they started out as revolutionary and then became authoritative once they got in power. Just like there are many forms of socialism or liberalism, there are also many forms of Communism and Fascism in practice. So keep all of that in mind. These ideologies had very nasty results historically, but try not to form a bias that has you painting these ideologies with a broad brush. To know why we don’t Communism and Fascism, we must understand them for what they are.
TIP: In the modern west, the average citizen is a type of liberal who rejects kings and embraces the liberal state (from a center right or center left vantage point). Thus, most westerners are not “exactly the same” as Communists or Fascists. With that said, In terms of modern movements, Communism is closer to left-wing populism and social liberalism, and Fascism is closer to right-wing populism and social conservatism. That isn’t a judgement call, that is a comparison of planks. Certainly the issue is clouded when both factions dress in black and trade blows, but 1. a look at Charlottesville 2017 shows that we can still tell the left from the right, and 2. one could argue that in those cases both the populist left and right are actually being “Anarchists” (consider, Antifa is more an Anarchist group than a Communist group; although one can also be an Anarcho-communist)… Anarchism is yet another extreme and related reaction to liberalism, but lets not get bogged down with it here… as anarchy too has a left and right wing.
The Main Similarities Between Communism and Fascism
Both Communism and Fascism are collectivist and conformist, as noted above, both also generally reject liberalism, individualism, democracy, capitalism, and republicanism (specifically rejecting the political, social, and economic inequalities of the liberal state born in the era of industrialization). Consequently, both can require a high level of centralized state control.
That state control of both has historically led to despotism and tyranny in practice, which makes the two appear even more similar than they actually are, but here one must realize that socialism comes in many forms (just consider the many socialist parties of the Weimar Republic), and not all those forms have the same effect (for example, social democracy is pretty far from a Stalinism in terms of its stance on authority and liberty, both in on-paper ideology and effect).
In truth, it is important to note that even the most statist forms of Communism and Fascism only “lend themselves to despotism”, they aren’t “necessarily despotic” on paper (well by many measures at least). Furthermore, even when they are despotic in practice, they both tend to be despotic in different ways (they both tend to “purge”, but who they “purge”, how, and why differs by ideology).
TIP: Consider, many who died under Communism died from war and starvation. Communists tend to take workers off the farms and put them in the factory or battlefield, and thus they tend to experience food shortages and cause mass famine. Yes, they also purge, even committing genocide like the fascists, but one should consider that starvation is a major theme of both Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. Critics of Communism like to leave that detail out when they tell you about the countless people who died “because Communism” (a number they sometimes add all general WWII deaths too for impact), but that is where many of the deaths actually come from. See Mass killings under Communist regimes. If I told you that people treat Fascism and Communism unfairly due to bias, it wouldn’t even begin to clue you in to the story. This doesn’t mean they are “good” ideologies, but one should note that reality and propaganda aren’t the same thing today, nor have they ever been in any nation.
TIP: Both Communism and Fascism can be said to be types of timocracies classically speaking. Both are reminiscent of the timocracy of Sparta (a military state, with a planned economy, focused on specific “virtues of state“, mixed with aspects of collectivist equality for the in-group).
The Main Difference Between Communism and Fascism
With those similarities in mind, the main difference between Communism and Fascism is:
Communism is an inclusive socially left-wing ideology focused on a planned economy, classlessness, and global social equality, and Fascism is an exclusive right-wing ideology focused on nationalism, social hierarchy, and the state as a civil religion.
With that said, there is a world of difference between the different types of Communism and Fascism.
On-paper Marxism (a mostly non-authoritative philosophy), Leninism (a radical Bolshevik evolution of Marxism), Stalinism (a Despotic form of post-Leninism and an example of Nationalist Communism), and Maoism (a unique, Nationalist, Chinese take on Marxism and Stalinism) are all very different, and Luegerism (a Christian Socialist Anti-Semitic right-wing socialism), Mussolini’s National Fascism (a more republican form fascism that wasn’t as xenophobic), and Hitler’s National Socialism (pure xenophobic tyranny, despite its understandable rejecting of the inequality in the liberal state in the Weimar Republic) were all very different as well.
Again, extreme authoritarianism always looks rather despotic, and often produces similar effects, but that only speaks to the “liberty vs. authority” left-right paradigm, not the social issue paradigm of “social equality vs. social hierarchy” (the main way in which Communism and Fascism differ).
The Main Problems With Communism and Fascism
The main problem with these ideologies isn’t their virtues, such as equality or nationalism (as those are virtues even in a Republican democracy).
The main problem is the aggressive, collectivist, and totalitarian nature each lends itself too, because [to paraphrase Mussolini] “if liberalism spells individualism and liberty, fascism and communism spell collectivism and central planning”… and that creates a world of problems (especially when fascism’s exclusive ideology translates to “purging” a race or communism’s inclusive ideology starts excluding everyone who won’t conform).
Below we explore more differences and similarities between Communism, Fascism, and Socialism in various forms to show the general difference between Communism and Fascism.
NUANCES: Credit where credit is due, socialism comes in many forms and some of those forms don’t call for the level of central planning that communism does, and some actually seek simply to create a more socially equal liberal state through democratic means. Meanwhile, some forms of fascism also seek to exist within the liberal state (although quasi-fascist groups like “Right-wing Populists” and “the KKK” tend to want to “deconstruct the liberal state from within“… which is a little different from say “social democracy.”)
WW2: Not only do both forms generally reject the western values of our modern western democratic and liberal republics, but both forms generally reject each other’s “solution” to global inequality. This is true to the extent that they are willing to fight over it, as one might remember from history where the Allies (which contained the Communists like Russia) and the Axis (which contained the fascists) were the main factions of WW2.
Ways in Which Fascism and Communism are Different
With the introduction covered, below we will look at different aspects of Communism and Fascism in general and in their different iterations.
Two Different Evolutions of Socialism that Generally Reject the Liberal Democratic State
Fascism and Communism are both an evolution of socialism, and a rejection of liberalism and democracy.
Both see the world through an empirical lens (generally rejecting religion alongside democracy, liberalism, and capitalism; but with fascism being more nihilistic in general, but both generally being somewhat non-religious in Jacobin fashion).
However, as noted above, Communism is socially left-wing, inclusive, egalitarian, and focused on class equality and a planned economy, and Fascism is socially right-wing, exclusive, nationalist, and focused on the state as a Civil Religion (offering a right-wing evolution of socialism to its in-group only, and in Hitler’s cases, “purging” others by violent means).
Both Communism and Fascism are conformist, anti-individualist, and collectivist ideologies.
Both Communism and Fascism call for some degree of authoritarianism (especially Fascism which demands it on-paper as a virtue of their Civil Religion; although I admit, not every form of fascism requires it).
Both reject other forms of socialism despite themselves evolving from it, both reject liberalism and democracy despite evolving from them.
Both are populist, both want revolutionary action and dominance in the state, both reject economic liberalism and capitalism (they reject liberalism in the political and economic sphere), both are anti-bourgeoisie and anti-elite, and both have become despotic in practice.
Despite their shared roots, their similarities in theory, and their similar despotic and militaristic WWII forms, their left-right ideological differences, their differences of class and economy, and their differences of how inclusive they are make them two very different “civil religions“.
FACT: In Plato’s Republic, he describes a timocracy as a militaristic state (using Sparta as an example). In-practice many Communist and Fascist states end up being “tyrannical”, but speaking in classical terms, both the historic Communist and Fascist states have what we can call “timocratic” features. Communism also notably shares a “love of equality” with Democracy, while both ideologies reject the pure liberty Democracy offers. Both Communism and Fascism can be said to be rejecting the inequality that arose from the Western Republics which used a mix of Democracy, Oligarchy, and Monarchy / Aristocracy to create their “classically liberal” Republics.
Understanding the Differences Between Communism and Fascism in Historical Terms
Communism and Fascism both have features we can trace to much older governments (for example, Sparta). With that in mind, their modern forms both arise as a response to social, political, economic inequality in the modern liberal West, starting in the mid 1800’s with Marx (whose socialist ideology eventually becomes the basis of Communism).
Fascism comes after WWI, evolving from Mussolini’s rejection of liberalism and socialism (while retaining a few liberal and socialist planks, as we can see evidenced well in Hitler’s party name: “the National Socialist German Workers’ Party”).
Although Fascism and Communism share similar socialist roots and some similar features, their response to social, political, economic inequality in the liberal democratic capitalist state couldn’t have been more different.
To express the differences between Communism and Fascism again in more detail:
Communism is a socially left-wing ideology that denotes social equality, a planned economy, and the elimination of the class system in order to create a more equal global society (a globe without states or classes). It can become authoritative in its means of achieving a revolution and planning the state, but its underlying qualities are focused on social equality, as can be confirmed by Manifesto of the Communist Party. Anyone can choose to become a Communist if they submit to the ideology.
A Brief Introduction to Marxism. Marxism on-paper is pretty interesting and admirable, but the devil is in the details (its excess of equality and call for revolution is ripe fruit for despots). In-action Stalinism (for example) was pure despotic tyranny. So on-paper most sane people would prefer Marx over Hitler, but in-action both Communism and Fascism produce very similar results.
Fascism denotes intense authoritarian “totalitarian” nationalism, is often militaristic, and can be seen as an evolution of socialism (often offering aspects of socialism to its in-group). It is meant to be authoritative and expansive, it is a purposely aggressive civil religion. It is an ideology of “action and thought”. Although it is not specifically prejudice on paper in Mussolini’s writings, it was in Hitler’s writings, and history shows that Fascism’s focus on Nativism, Nationalism, Authority, Aggression, Progressive Militarism, and Totalitarianism is primed to lead xenophobic policies like those of NAZIs in practice. As can be confirmed by Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism. One must be part of a Fascist’s in-group to join a fascist movement, Fascism is exclusive in any form, but it is especially exclusive in forms like Hitler’s National Socialism (which had racial requirements).
Fascism and Mussolini | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy. Hitler and Mussolini’s fascism is fairly despotic on paper, but if you can look through an unbiased lens IL Duce’s attempt to create a timocracy in the style of Plato’s Republic and Sparta is almost tolerable (read his doctrine, it is pretty aggressive on-paper). Still, if we look through an unbiased lens we can really see the socialist roots and detect that the nationalist virtue at the heart of the corrupted right-wing populism of Mussolini and Hitler. We do no justice to either WWII ideology if we can’t sort out its roots and what it was that attracted a frustrated people to each.
BOTTOMLINE: Both Fascism and Communism can be seen as left-right populist anti-bourgeoisie proletariat movements, each with its own unique solution for battling inequality, and each with its own sticking points on-paper and in-action. Fascism does this by being exclusive to a smaller group (offering aspects of socialism to its in-group, but generally mainly offering nationalism and state-based authority), and Communism does this by being inclusive to a larger national, and sometimes even international, group (offering social equality and a planned economy for all). With that said, despite their positive on-paper qualities, both have a tendency to become despotic in-practice (as we saw in practice with the WWII Communist and Fascist governments), and it is in this despotic form that the two begin to seem less-and-less different (as despotism generally will always look like despotism no matter what it calls itself). Despite any similarities, these two distinct evolutions of socialism have historically considered themselves fully at odds with each other and attracted two very different types of followers.
Considering the Different Types of Fascists, Communists, and Socialists
As one may have gleaned from the above, there is actually a good deal of difference between different types of fascists, communists, and socialists in general.
For example, Mussolini’s fascist doctrine doesn’t mention anything about race, but a main plank of Hitler’s fascism (which was inspired by Mussolini) was based on anti-semitism. Likewise, although Hitler was in the Nationalist wing of his NAZI party, after he took over the party they still retained some socialist aspects in-practice well into WWII (unlike Mussolini’s fascists).
Consider, the KKK in America is a liberal, and in some cases democratic and capitalist, group that is “nationalist” in its own unique way. Despite all this, the KKK can still be considered fascist due to sharing key planks with the fascist doctrine.
The KKK’s brand of fascism is different than Mussolini or the National Socialists, but despite the differences all these groups are fascist in terms of their stance on their in-group, “others”, conformity, and “nationalism”.
Meanwhile we can point to different communist groups who use varying degrees of authority from true Marxists, to Leninists, to Maoists, to Stalinists. Here we can note their commonalities of a planned state and conformity despite the militaristic, authoritarian, and even nationalist position of extreme figures like Stalin.
All the aforementioned ideologies are generally opposed to liberalism, classism, the establishment, socialism, and capitalism, but as we have already illustrated, that is not always the case.
TIP: Confusingly some Fascist and Communist ideologies can share more in common with each other than they do with other Communist or Fascist factions. For example Hitler and Stalin both favored about the same degree of Planned economy, and Mussolini and modern Communist China both ended up relying on capitalism and classism.
NOTES: Are you seeing a pattern? If not I’ll spell it out, it is that the statist nature of fascism and communism both lend themselves to rule by militaristic authoritarianism in-practice. Fascism sets out to be this way, but Communism lends itself to despotism and tyranny in practice with its acceptance of a planned economy. Few are going to “enjoy” reading Marx or Mussolini, but if we don’t understand how these ideologies started philosophically and where they ended up in-action, and if we don’t understand their relation to the wants of the left and right, then we risk not learning important lessons from history (and thus risk “being doomed to repeat them”).
More Differences Between Communism and Fascism
Above we covered some basic differences between the two ideologies which we saw in their extreme forms in WWII, below we’ll cover some more details.
- Both Fascism and Communism can be described as socialist, in that they want a state-based social system and economy (aka protection for their in-group). With that said, one should consider: both ideologies generally rejected most forms of socialism, in practice all systems tend to be “mixed”, in-practice”socialism” tends to be code for authoritarian state-based control, and fascism specifically doesn’t tend to be fully socialist in practice.
- One should not confuse communism with socialism or think that just because an ideology is not socialist it can’t be fascist. Fascism’s rejection of individualism and focus on national identity and the state are more its doctrine than its socialist roots.
- Consider, most militaries are socialist, because it makes little to no sense to have soldiers pay for their own guns, training, healthcare, etc (although it is not unheard of). Despots typically run their country like a military, regardless of what they call their ideology on paper. This is one reason both ideologies get confused, despotism and tyranny always looks like despotism and tyranny in extremes.
- Both Fascism and Communism generally arise in a democratic liberal capitalist environment and seek to push back against these things. So neither is generally liberal, democratic, or capitalist (once they get in power; like Hitler they may “arise” in this democratic environment, but they arise to change it). One can argue that Lenin arose in a rather authoritative state, but like with any generalization we make, there are nuances (so lets not get bogged down with those details yet).
- Both these ideologies can be authoritative or not, their authoritative forms are far more similar and offensive (speaking from the position of a democrat, liberal, or republican) than their non-authoritative forms. It would be hard to follow Mussolini’s doctrine without being authoritarian, but as noted above, but technically one could be a non-authoritarian fascist. NOTE: Whenever an ideology is authoritarian, we can generally say it is “to the political right” of a liberty-minded ideology in terms of authority vs. liberty.
- Both types also generally tend to be populist, arising from a peoples’ movement.
- Communism (being partly a statement on economy) and Fascism (being partly a statement on Nationalism) aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They are almost always at odds in-action do to their left-right differences. However, Sparta is historic proof that a state can have both fascist and communist elements (notably without becoming fully tyrannical communist or fascist).
- Technically speaking, both Communism and Fascism can be right-wing (when authoritarian) or left-wing (when not) in terms of authority or even in terms of social policy for the in-group (even when when one is always left-wing in terms of in-group and the other right-wing).
- Both ideologies can be fascist in terms of sameness and conformity (and at a Stalinist extreme, even in terms of nationalism). Communism wants conformity to classless equality, Fascism wants conformity to the structure that best suites the needs of the state.
Here we can note: It makes sense as to why people confuse these ideologies in general when they become militaristically aggressive nationalistic and authoritative.
Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are great examples of figures taking anything defensible about either ideology and casting it aside to become essentially the same thing: despotic, tyrannical, militaristic, and authoritarian statists.
With that said, below we seek to understand not only tyrants, but the ideologies which bred them. We know Sparta worked alright even if it was no Athens, so why did all the WWII extreme ideologies go to heck in their attempts to reject liberalism? A simple answer is “extremes are corrupting“, but perhaps there is more to it than that.
TIP: As you can see in the left-right chart below, despite left-wing and right-wing qualities of an ideology, when they become militaristic, despotic, statist, and authoritarian they look very similar. Everyone on the left is “more like a Communist” and everyone on the right is “more like a Fascist”, but when it comes to the extreme versions, Fascism and Communism are more like each other than anything else (minus the in-group / out-group on-paper difference). They are like each other because they are both “Tyrannical” and “Statist”.
Understanding Communism and Fascism By Looking at their WWII Forms
Above we discussed the WWII ideologies in general, below we look at their WWII forms specifically.
The simplest way to understand the WWII versions of Socialism, Communism, and Fascism is to look at NAZI Germany in the 20’s and early 30’s. This is because almost all parties were either socialist, nationalist, or communist (thus it shows clearly that these forms are not “the same”; but rather “opposed” to each other).
In the Weimar Republic the left consisted of the Communists (KPD) and the Social Democrats (SPD). The Center consisted of the Democratic party (DDP), the Catholic Center Party (Z) and the People’s Party (DVP). The right consisted of the German Nationalist Party (DNVP) and the National Socialist Party (NSDAP-Nazi).
The most important of the radical anti-Republican parties were the communists on the left and the National Socialists (Nazis) on the right.
These two extreme forms of socialism disagreed violently, and looking at what they didn’t agree on is this the clearest way to understand that they are very different.
The difference revolves around the argument over what extreme socialism should look like, should it be inclusive and global (Communism) or exclusive and nationalist (Fascism).
The divide is between left-wing and right-wing versions of extreme quasi-socialism, not between other political ideologies (like liberalism and its left and right wings).
In these comparative terms, Fascism is the extreme right-wing and Communism is the extreme left-wing, because even though they are both authoritative, one favors a bigger group (which is “more left”).
During WWII, Mussolini, an ex-Socialist fascist, and Hitler, a Nationalist in the Nationalist wing of his party, were fascists in practice… but, so are some American groups like the Know-Nothings, KKK, and even the ex-Democratic and later Republican Senator Joe McCarthy and his House un-American Crusade against Communism (who ironically headed a committee to prevent Fascism and Communism in America).
As one can note above, socialist communism and fascism aren’t inherently left or right, militant, authoritarian, or aggressive in every setting, but they are in their extreme forms and are absolutely slippery slopes away from liberalism in practice.
Putting aside centered shades of each found in liberal figures and factions like FDR or the Tea Party, the extreme totalitarian versions of fascism and communism are almost always ugly in practice.
It is no wonder people confuse the two authoritative ideologies that demand conformity, especially when fascism adopts some planks of a socialist platform of nationals… but despite this, there is a key difference in the size of in-groups and policy toward out-groups, and other key differences like from which ideologies both arise (with fascism specifically rejecting Marxist Communism).
Given the complexity, and the fact that they almost destroyed the world, both terms merit a closer examination. Below we explore further differences and similarities between the two WWII era conformist ideologies that attempted to push back against globalization and economic inequality (each in its own unique way), but ultimately ended up looking similar in practice due to their authoritarian and militant nature.
TIP: It is a mistake to assume both Hitler and Stalin (or Mussolini and Lenin) were purely left-wing (or right-wing for that matter). I strongly suggest not trying to scapegoat political terms here, as each ideology comes in many forms (see the many types of socialism and nationalism Germany in the 1920’s alone). Zeroing in on term like socialism or nationalism can really confuse the conversation and make us think social liberal policy or nationalist policy (and not extreme nationalist nativist fascist policy and extreme communist policy) is the key here. It isn’t. Loosely speaking, from a modern frame, Stalin is like Bernie Sanders on evil steroids and Trump is like Hitler on evil steroids. If you think both Hitler and Stalin are like modern centered social liberals (or modern centered conservative nationalists), you’ll miss many of the lessons WWII taught us… And that sounds like the beginning of a sentence that ends in, “and are thus doomed to repeat it”. Socialism and Nationalism are slippery slopes, but the real red flag here is extremes, not any specific broad ideology. National Fascism/Socialism and Communism are the extreme forms, and each has a lesson to teach about the extremes of left and right respectively from this frame. It is a lesson for all, not just left-wingers or right-wingers. Learn more about why Hitler was a right-wing fascist and not a left-wing socialist… despite the NAZIs being the National Socialist party and fascism being born from ideologies like socialism and nationalism if you need more clarification on this complex but vital point.
Communism and Fascism. Socialism is the ideology that comes after liberalism and conservatism. It is a mix of both. Fascism and Communism are complex systems that combine aspects of liberalism and conservatism. If you aren’t clear on this, understanding WWII era terms will be challenging. See a history of liberalism here to explain the story or see our page on liberalism vs. conservatism.
TIP: When looking at WWII, it’s important to realize that Marxist Communism (as in a system structured as suggested by Marx) was never truly implemented. Meanwhile, Hitler implemented what I would define as Fascist National Socialism. If you were the perfect German, you saw a pure form of fascism, nationalism, and socialism. Hitler loved Germany; he was an imperialistic bloodthirsty tyrant as well. This isn’t true for Stalin, who took power after Lenin. Lenin died before he could create the system he envisioned. Stalin was a paranoid tyrant who cared nothing for philosophy. He used Communist ideology to justify the forced labor that industrialized Russia and helped defeat Hitler at Stalingrad. As many as 60 million Russians died, possibly an overestimate, under his watch, with as many as 50 million, again probably an overestimate, directly linked to Stalin. For Stalin, Communism was just an excuse for totalitarianism. Both Hitler and Stalin are widely considered to have brought great harm to the world; these negative versions of Fascism and Communism serve well for comparison. Of the three rulers, only Hitler implemented the system he promised as Lenin, not Stalin, was the one who admired political philosophy.
Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler Full Documentary. Stalin and Hitler aren’t “the same,” and neither are Stalin and Lenin. If you can see the difference between Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Marx, you can understand the concepts on this page.
TIP: The debate over political correctness is related to these two terms. Being overly PC is a type of “cultural Marxism” (an intolerance of intolerance), but being anti-PC can be either a type of “cultural fascism” (roughly an intolerance of tolerance) or “cultural laissez-faire-ism” (a tolerance of intolerance). The PC debate is a modern take on the debate surrounding tolerance. See more on that theory on our “tolerance as a form of intolerance” page.
Is Socialism the Same as Communism or Fascism?
It is vital to understand that communism and socialism are different as are socialism and fascism.
Just as there is more than one type of democracy or more than one way to structure a republic, or more than one type of capitalism, there is more than one type of socialism. Learn more about the forms of government or the ideologies that all parties are based on.
It’s also vital to understand these are socio-economic systems and not just economic systems. China is a communist state with a capitalist subsystem. In the sense of taking absolutist position and demanding conformity, Mises was a bit of a fascist when it came to his absolute dedication to capitalism and individualism; and I can’t think of anyone less of a socialist.
These terms are broad, but that is exactly why we are analyzing them.
Below we look at the commonalities and differences between Fascism and Communism in theory and practice, using the very well constructed diffen.com chart as a starting point and (heavily) editing.
The main goal of this page will be to point out that nationalism and socialism can be good, but they are ripe fruit for authoritarians and totalitarians. In this, they show their weakness, as dictators are almost always harmful to their countries and there is nothing they love more than a centralized one-party state.
Nazi and Communist posters: a comparison. Both Fascists and Communists have very similar ideologies. Each a form of intolerance is advocated for in a different way. As you can see, differences aside, the propaganda was very similar.
A Comparison of Communism and Fascism
Communism and Fascism are both systems based on conformity. The main difference is Communism is an ideal utopia for all and Fascism promises a militaristic utopia for nationals only. Either way, they can both be described as a type of centralized national socialism. Despite core differences, their conforming nature makes them a favorite of authoritarians, especially in countries where the average citizen is suffering economically and is thus easily dominated.
TIP: Communism is a socio-economic system, not a purely economic system. China is a Communist state but has a capitalist sub-system. It’s hard to argue that China doesn’t work when we look at the top ten companies in the world. It’s also hard to argue Fascism doesn’t work when we look at Sparta or aspects of Rome. Socialism is a successful social strategy; it comes in many forms, these are the two most extreme forms:
|Philosophy||The philosophy of Marx, a peace-loving socialist who believed Communism could only work in enlightened post-industrial societies.
Communism is a socio-economic system that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production. An ideal utopia where everyone is equal, whether they like it or not.
|A radical form of nationalism, as old as Sparta (an early national socialist state), but resurfacing as a term after WWI.
Fascism is a social system that favors sameness to promote nationalism. It’s all about empowering a nation through conformity. It is essentially communism for nationals, but isn’t a comment on a type of economic system and is almost always militaristic and imperialistic as the core group of nationals is implicitly so great that it must rule all.
|Ideas||All people are the same, and therefore classes make no sense. The government should own all means of production and land and also everything else. People should work for the government, and the collective output should be redistributed equally. The ownership of property and capitalism is the root of all the worlds evils. Thus this society protects against that.||All national citizens are the same, and a central authority is best suited to lead them. There is no need for economic systems or class. The government should own all means of production, land, and everything else. People should work for the government. The collective output should be redistributed equally. Civil liberties aren’t needed; the government knows best, and thus laws are pointless. The only thing that matters is “making X country great again.”|
|Key Proponents||Type A: Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels were both philosophers and both co-creators of Communist philosophy. FDR increased income taxes to expand the New Deal programs related to banking and social welfare.
Type B: Vladimir Lenin was a radical revolutionary and idealist inspired by the German Marxists. Joseph Stalin was a tyrant who took Russia into the industrial age by brutal force. After his leader Lenin had died, he used Lenin’s Communism to ensure his dictatorship. TIP: Stalin shows us why communism is dangerous; it can be pivoted into totalitarianism. Stalin doesn’t show us what Marxism looks like. Marx would probably have hated Stalin and cursed his name. Marx didn’t think Russia was industrialized enough to become communist; Lenin knew this and made up his own version of the Communist philosophy.
|Type A: Abraham Lincoln felt that you must be part of the Union economically and politically and can’t own slaves; slavery was un-American. He felt that he needed to make America great again.
Type B: Benito Mussolini was an ex-socialist who wanted to make Italy great again after WWI. He inspired Hitler. Adolf Hitler felt that people should be German nationals or die. His view was that the Jews and other Europeans destroyed the economy after the war, but the German is great and deserves to rule the world. He was determined to make Germany great again.
|Key Elements||Centralized government, planned economy, the central organization of the “proletariat” (working people, the wage earners), common ownership of the tools of production, no private property. Equality between genders and all people, international focus. Usually anti-democratic with a 1-party system. Its pitfall is not its core ideology, but its central planning, which is almost always exploited by the Stalins of the world. It is radical socialism.||Idealism, centralized government, social Darwinism (and negative eugenics), planned economy (typically anti-capitalist), anti-democratic, meritocratic, extremely nationalistic, militaristic, racist (Nazism). Traditional and exaggerated gender roles. One party system. Its pitfall is not the core ideology of national pride and making X country great again; it is the central planning, which is exploited by the Hitlers of the world. It is radical national socialism.|
|Definition||International theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, with actual ownership ascribed to the community or state. Rejection of free markets and extreme distrust of Capitalism in any form. A propaganda machine in practice.||An extremely nationalistic, authoritarian state usually led by one person at the head of one party (a dictator). No democratic election of representatives. No free market (a social market or pure communist economy). No individualism or individual glory. The State controls of the press and all other media. A propaganda machine by nature.|
|Political System||A communist society is stateless, classless and is governed directly by the people. This, however, has never been practiced.||One charismatic leader has absolute authority. Often the leader is the symbol of the state. Advisers to Government are picked by merit rather than election. Cronyism is common.|
|Political Movements||Leninism, Trotskyism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Left-Communism, Stalinism.||National Socialism, Falangism, Nazism, Strasserism, neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, national-Bolshevism.|
|Private Property||Abolished. The concept of property is negated and replaced with the concept of commons and ownership with “usership.”||Nominally permitted. Contingent upon service, obedience, or usefulness to the State. More like a carrot on a stick than a natural right. The state owns everything, and rewards are given, including property.|
|Economic Coordination||Economic planning coordinates all decisions regarding investment, production and resource allocation. Planning is done in physical units instead of money.||Businesses are nominally privately owned; the State dictates outputs and investments. Planning is based on projected labor output rather than money.|
|Ownership Structure||The means of production are commonly owned, meaning no entity or individual owns the productive property. Importance is ascribed to “usership” over “ownership.”||The means of production are nominally privately owned but directed by the State. Private ownership of business is contingent upon submission to the direction and interests of the State.|
|Economic System||The means of production are held in common, negating the concept of ownership in capital goods. Production is organized to provide for human needs directly without any use of money. Communism is predicated upon a condition of material abundance.||Autarky (national self-sufficiency). Keynesian (mostly). Large public works, deficit spending. Anti-trade union and syndicalism. Strongly against international financial markets and usury. In theory, it gets as close to a communist economic system as possible, but historically has just been very cronyist in practice.|
|Social Structure||All class distinctions are eliminated.||Strict class structure believed necessary to prevent chaos (Italian Fascist). All class distinctions are eliminated (German Nazi). Nazism believes in a “superior” race. Italian Fascism was not racist in doctrine originally.|
|Religion||Abolished – religion and metaphysics are rejected.||Fascism is a civic religion: citizens worship the state through nationalism. The state only supports religious organizations that are nationally or historically tied to that state; e.g., the Iron Guard in Romania supported the Romanian Orthodox Church.|
|Free Choice||Either the collective “vote” or the state’s rulers make economic and political decisions for everyone else. In practice, rallies, force, propaganda, etc. are used by the rulers to control the populace.||The individual is considered meaningless; they must submit to the decisions of the leadership. Traditional gender roles are upheld and exaggerated.|
|Way of Change||Government in a Communist state is the agent of change rather than any market or desire on the part of consumers. Change by the government can be swift or slow, depending on a change in ideology or even a whim.||The government in a fascist state is the agent of change instead of change being created by a market or desire on the part of consumers. Change by a government can be swift or slow, depending on a change in labor output or even at the whim of the dictator.|
|Examples||Ideally, there is no leader; the people govern directly. This has never been practiced and has just used a one-party system. Examples 0f Communist states are the erstwhile Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea.||Fascist governments are headed by one person: a dictator. This is not an aberration of doctrine; in fact, it is an important component of it.|
|Discrimination||In theory, all members of the state are considered equal.||Belief in one superior race (Nazism). Belief in a superior nation (Fascism & Nazism) and gender (F & N). People with mental or physical handicaps, mental illness, alcoholism, homosexuality, including LGTB population, Roma, and Jews (Nazi), as well as the ideological and political opposition, trade unions (F&N) were all actively persecuted.|
|Means of control||Theoretically, there is no state control.||Fascism employs direct force using secret police, government intimidation, concentration camps, and murder as well as propaganda enabled by State-directed, heavily-censored media, rallies, etc.|
|Earliest Remnants||Theorized by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the mid-19th century as an alternative to capitalism and feudalism, communism was not tried out until after the revolution in Russia in the early 1910s. Marx did not think an uncivilized nation like early 1900’s Russia could properly implement communism; thus one can say true Marxism was never actually tried. Lenin knew Marx’s views and re-wrote his brand of communism.||The Roman Empire, which could be argued was a fascist entity especially post-Julius Caesar. The earliest fascist theories were based on examples left behind by the Roman Empire. For example, Mussolini’s “Roman salute” is from the Romans and was copied by Hitler. Sparta, which existed before the Roman Empire, is an earlier example of Fascist National Socialism working effectively. Athens’ pure Democracy rose up next door without much fighting between the two nations. Sparta had no capitalist system and practiced eugenics.|
|View of the world||Communism is an international movement; Communists in one country see themselves in solidarity with Communists in other countries. Communists distrust Nationalistic nations and leaders. Communists strongly distrust “big business.” Brotherhood is based on ideology, not skin color or sex. Thus, anyone can assimilate, and those who share the ideology are “comrades” in theory. It tends to be a bit more like the ultra-nationalists in practice.||Fascists are ultra-nationalists who identify strongly with other Nationalistic nations and leaders. Fascists distrust internationalism and rarely abide by international agreements. Fascists do not believe in the concept of international law. More than not abide, they are almost always an imperialistic force, so they rarely have any true allies. They are nationalists so they can only at best assimilate others who fit their mold.|
TIP: Content in this table is from diffen.com. It has been edited and annotated. We typically avoid any copy-paste on this site, but the subject is complex, and this was well written. Will probably ween ourselves off their format over time, but we want to make sure due credit is given.