Comparison of Nazism and Stalinism

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A number of authors have carried out comparisons of Nazism and Stalinism, in which they have considered the issues of whether the two ideologies were similar or different, how these conclusions affect understanding of 20th century history, what relationship existed between the two regimes, and why both of them came to prominence at the same time. The answers to all these questions are disputed. During the 20th century, the comparison of Stalinism and Nazism was made on the topics of totalitarianism, ideology, and personality. Both regimes were seen in contrast to the liberal West, with an emphasis on the similarities between the two, while their differences from each other were minimized.


  • Between the misdeeds of Hitler and those of Stalin, in my opinion, there exists only a quantitative difference... I don't know if the Communist idea, if its theory, already contained a basic fault or if only the Soviet practice under Stalin betrayed the original idea and established in the Soviet Union a kind of Fascism.
    • Margarete Buber-Neumann, Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler, London: UK, Pimlico, (2008), p. 300. First published in 1949.
  • To understand this relationship we may start with what has become an accepted observation: Stalinized Bolshevism and National Socialism constitute the two examples of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes. Not only were they comparable, but they form a political category of their own, which has become established since Hannah Arendt.
    • François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion, The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press (1999) p. 180
  • The monstrous evils of the twentieth century have shown us that the greediest money grubbers are gentle doves compared with money-hating wolves like Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, who in less than three decades killed or maimed nearly a hundred million men, women, and children and brought untold suffering to a large portion of mankind.
  • It was in Nazi Germany that Bolshevism was perfected; there political power truly absorbed all spheres of existence, from the economy to religion, from technology to the soul. The irony, the tragedy, of history was that both totalitarian regimes, identical in their aim for absolute power over dehumanized beings, presented themselves as protection from the danger presented by the other.
    • François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion, The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press (1999) pp. 205-06
  • In Fascism, as in Communism, the idea of the future was based on a critique of bourgeois modernity… It rose from a variety of currents and from authors of very different origins, all of whom demonized the bourgeoisie. The doctrine was cast as post-Marxist, not as pre-liberal.
    • François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion, The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press (1999) p. 175
  • The parallels between fascism and Communism as ideologies are significant.
    • Mark Lilla , “An Idea Whose Time Has Gone," July 25, 1999, The New York Times Book Review [1]
  • The ‘totalitarian’ label is part of ideological warfare in another way as well – in so far as it covers both Communist and Fascist regimes, and is thereby intended to suggest that they are very similar systems. More specifically, the suggestion is that Communism and Nazism are more or less identical. This may be good propaganda but it is very poor political analysis. There were similarities between Stalinism and Nazism in the use of mass terror and mass murder. But there were also enormous differences between them. Stalinism was a ‘revolution from above’, which was intended to modernise Russia from top to bottom, on the basis of the state ownership of the means of production (most of those ‘means of production’ being themselves produced as part of the ‘revolution from above’); and Russia was indeed transformed, at immense cost. Nazism, on the other hand, was, for all its transformative rhetoric, a counter-revolutionary movement and regime, which consolidated capitalist ownership and the economic and social structures which Hitler had inherited from Weimar. As has often been observed, twelve years of absolute Nazi rule did not fundamentally change, and never sought to change fundamentally, the social system which had existed when Hitler came to power. To assimilate Nazism and Stalinism, and equate them as similarly ‘totalitarian’ movements and regimes of the extreme right and the extreme left is to render impossible a proper understanding of their nature, content and purpose.
  • Hitler had a red flag. And Stalin had a red flag. Hitler ruled in the name of the workers’ class, his party was called the workers’ party. Stalin also ruled in the name of the workers’ class; his power system officially bore the title of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’ Hitler hated democracy and struggled against it. Stalin hated democracy and struggled against it. Hitler was building socialism. And Stalin was building socialism. Under the title of socialism Hitler saw a classless society. And Stalin, under the title of socialism, saw a classless society. In the midst of the classless society built by Hitler, and in that built by Stalin, flourished slavery in the truest sense of the word.
    • Viktor Suvorov, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II, Annapolis, MD, Naval Institute Press (2008) p. ix
  • By the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Marxist theoreticians had begun to evaluate fascism in a totally unanticipated fashion . . . More than that, as Marxist theorists were compelled to reinterpret fascism in the light of empirical evidence and political circumstances, the fundamental affinities shared by Marxist and fascist regimes became apparent.
    • A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century, Yale University Press (2000) p. 13
  • Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism have in common that they offered the atomized individual a new refuge and security. These systems are the culmination of alienation. The individual is made to feel powerless and insignificant, but taught to project all of his human powers into the figure of the leader, the state, the ‘fatherland,’ to whom he has to submit and whom he has to worship. He escapes from freedom and into a new idolatry. All the achievements of individuality and reason, from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century are sacrificed on the altars of the new idols. ...built on the most flagrant lies, both with regard to their programs and to their leaders.
    • Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, New York, NY, Rinehart & Company, (1955), p. 208
  • Russia was the example for fascism... Whether party ‘communists’ like it or not, the fact remains that the state order and rule in Russia are indistinguishable from those in Italy and Germany. Essentially they are alike.
    • Otto Rühle, “The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism” essay, American Councillist journal Living Marxism (Vol. 4, No. 8, 1939)
  • [T]he totalitarian states, whether of the fascist or the communist persuasion, are more than superficially alike as dictatorships, in the suppression of dissent, and in operating planned and directed economies. They are profoundly alike.
    • Walter Lippman, The Good Society, News Brunswick: NJ, Transaction Publications (2005) p. 89. First published in 1937.
  • Born of war, both Bolshevism and Fascism drew their basic education from war. They transferred to politics the lessons of the trenches: familiarity with violence, the simplicity of extreme passions, the submission of the individual to the collectivity, and finally the bitterness of futile or betrayed sacrifices.
    • François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion, The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press (1999) p. 163
  • What the Nazis have introduced in Germany is a form of graduated Bolshevism, directing their first attack not against the capitalist class as a whole, but against Jewish capitalists, excoriated on racial rather than economic grounds…Nor is there reason to expect that the Nazis will stop at this point.
    • Vera Micheles Dean, Europe in Retreat, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York (1939 revised edition), p. 207
  • The modern State claims all of these powers, and, in the matter of theory, there is no real difference in the size of the claim between communists, fascists, and democrats.
    • Walter Lippman, A Preface to Morals, News Brunswick: NJ, Transaction Publishers (1982) p. 80. First published in 1929.
  • Marxism has led to Fascism and National-Socialism, because, in all essentials, it is Fascism and National Socialism.
  • Some of the similarities and parallels include: Frequent recognition by Hitler and various Nazi leaders (and also Mussolini) that their only revolutionary and ideological counterparts were to be found in the Soviet Union . . . [and the] espousal of the have-not, proletarian-nation theory, which Lenin adopted only after it had been introduce in Italy . . . Hitlerian National Socialism more nearly paralleled Russian communism than has any other non-Communist system.
    • Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914-1945, University of Wisconsin Press (1995) pp. 210-211
  • From the point of view of fundamental human liberties there is little to choose between communism, socialism, and national socialism. They all are examples of the collectivist or totalitarian state … in its essentials not only is completed socialism the same as communism but it hardly differs from fascism.
    • Ivor Thomas, in The Socialist Tragedy (1951), p. 241.
  • [F]ascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory—both are variants of statism, based on the collectivist principle that man is the rightless slave of the state.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, New York: NY, Signet Book from the New American Library (1967) p. 180
  • Fascism was the shadow or ugly child of communism . . . As Fascism sprang from Communism, so Nazism developed from Fascism. Thus were set on foot those kindred movements which were destined soon to plunge the world into more hideous strife, which none can say has ended with their destruction.
    • Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 1, The Gathering Storm, Mariner Books (1985) pp. 13-14. First published in 1948.

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