Fascism's relationship with other political and economic ideologies

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Fascism's relationship with other political and economic ideologies of its day was complex, often at once adversarial and focused on co-opting their more popular aspects. Fascism supported private property rights – except for the groups it persecuted – and the profit motive of capitalism, but sought to eliminate the autonomy of large-scale capitalism by bolstering private power with the state. They shared many of the goals of the conservatives of their day and often allied themselves with them by drawing recruits from disaffected conservative ranks, but presented themselves as holding a more modern ideology, with less focus on things like traditional religion. Fascism opposed the egalitarian and international character of mainstream socialism, but sometimes sought to establish itself as an alternative "national" socialism. It strongly opposed liberalism, communism, anarchism, and democratic socialism.


  • During the winter and spring of 1933, the Nazis made a strenuous effort to present themselves as in harmony with conservative German and Prussian traditions, or even as the natural result and outgrowth of these traditions. The nazis made the conservative Prussian past serviceable to their need for political legitimation to an extent hitherto unprecedented. Long before the Second World War, Prussian values became National Socialist values, judged to epitomize the German character, and help up as models to emulate: austerity, thrift, tenacity in the pursuit of one's goals, a preparedness for personal sacrifice, and a willingness to lay down one's life in the service of a higher cause that would win out in the en, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Above all, there was the concept of duty; it was imperative to "fulfill" one's duty of the Volk and the Fatherland. Among other things, Nazi propaganda made the Prussian past and the values it imputed to it palpable in the form of Grand historic films that enjoyed mass audiences. It was already during the period of the seizure of power that conservatives lost the Deutungshoheit, that is, the prerogative to interpret the great traditions and historical figures of the past, to the Nazis. From 1933 onwards, the Nazis acted as self-appointed guardians of the national heritage. And they did this with greater aplomb, audacity, and-in many instances-more skill than conservative propagandists during the Weimar Republic before them.
  • For those seeking a more rigorous understanding of 'fascism', confusion reigned, since the differences among a whole host of rightist movements and parties, and an increasing number of rightist regimes, tended to be subtly nuanced and constantly shifting. On the basis of what has been examined so far, it is clearly reasonable to confirm the existence of a distinction, at the level of ideas and movements, between the radical or 'fascist' right and the conservative right, even when the latter gave birth to authoritarian movements of its own. However, for the reasons just discussed, not merely was a boundary between fascists and authoritarian conservatives never drawn with total clarity, but it became more blurred with every year that passed. Matters become more difficult still, however, when we come to examine the fascist-conservative relationship in the context of those regimes to which fascist or national socialist movement made a major contribution or, indeed, which they actually created.
  • In April 1937 Franco, as effective head of state of Nationalist Spain, fused the Falange with the Carlists, monarchists and the rest of the right to form the single party of his regime: a process, though differently conducted, somewhat similar to Italian fascism's fusion with Nationalism and Clerico-Fascism after 1922. The product, like the Italian Fascist regime, was a compromise between radical fascism and conservative authoritarianism, in this case with unambiguous military and Church support. [...] The vital feature of all these and other regimes, whatever their provenance and outward characteristics, is that in all of them conservative interests and value-systems proved either dominant or capable of coexisting with an official 'fascism'. This is not suggest that in italy during the 1930s or Spain during the early 1940s, conservatives, whether driven by monarchism, Catholicism, or material interest, were not often irked by fascist display, vulgarity and office-holding or, indeed, anxious lest full-scale 'fascist revolution' might yet be unleashed. The fact remains that no serious conservative attempt to overthrow Mussolini occurred until wartime defeat transformed political realities, while monarchist machinations against Franco regime were both unsuccessful and dictated more by self-interest than ideology or principle.
  • It cannot seriously be denied that as movements, parties and political ideologies, conservatism and fascism occupied very different positions within the early and mid-twentieth century European right, converging at some points and conflicting at others. In certain circumstances, especially characteristic of the 1919–45 period, convergence outweighed conflict, and the uneasy coupling of fascism and conservatism spawned a new kind of political regime. With fascists often showing a tendency to succumb to a cosy conservatism, and conservatives sometimes embracing the rhetoric (or more) of fascism, such regimes exhibited a kaleidoscopic variety of tendencies of which the rarest was what might be termed 'pure' fascism. In many cases, genuine—that is so say self-consciously radical—fascists were a negligible force and any 'fascist' elements at most merely cosmetic. Elsewhere, notably in Spain, assorted conservatives proved capable of displacing radical fascism. In fascist Italy, surely the paradigmatic fascist regime, conservatives co-existed with fascists, survived largely unscathed, and when given the opportunity overthrew the Fascist regime. Only in Germany did the conservative right come close to being devoured by the tiger it had chosen to ride.
  • Subjective perceptions, whether favourable or unfavourable, help us to understand the nature of the political debate bun not necessarily the nature of fascism or, least of all, any possible connections with conservatism. Discussion of their relationship is complicated by the fact that neither is easy to define. The common tendency to use the term 'fascist' as a political epithet and 'conservative' as a synonym for retrograde or reactionary does not help. But scholars who usually avoid such loose language also find it difficult to come up with generally acceptable definitions, probably because fascism lacks a clearly recognizable fountainhead in the world of ideas and conservatism encompasses attitudes and phenomena that go beyond ideology and politics.
  • 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.
  • The American people know that the principal difference between Mr. Hitler and Mr. Stalin is the size of their respective mustaches.
    • The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 1941
  • 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
  • By the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, Stalin had created a regime that had abandoned every principle that had presumably typified left-wing aspirations and had given himself over to notions of ‘socialism in one country’ — with all the attendant attributes: nationalism, the leadership principle, anti-liberalism, anti-individualism, communitarianism, hierarchical rule, missionary zeal, the employment of violence to assure national purpose, and anti-Semitism — making the Soviet Union unmistakenly ‘a cousin to the German National Socialism.’
    • A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century, New Haven: Connecticut, Yale University Press (2000) pp. 4-5
  • 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.
  • In this respect, the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Russia, a war between two essentially identical systems which were clearly growing constantly more alike in the exterior forms of rule,…
    • Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York, NY, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1951, p. 429
  • Stalinism and fascism, in spite of a deep difference in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity.
    • Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? Labor Publications, Inc., Detroit, MI (1991) pp. 237–238., Chap. 11, “Whither the Soviet Union.” First published 1937. Translated by Max Eastman.
  • 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
  • We National Socialists see in private property a higher level of human economic development that according to the differences in performance controls the management of what has been accomplished enabling and guaranteeing the advantage of a higher standard of living for everyone. Bolshevism destroys not only private property but also private initiative and the readiness to shoulder responsibility.
  • During the 1930s Romanian fascism was highly complex: it consisted of several movements and layers which varied in intensity from proto-fascism to the genuine article. By far the most important, however, was the Legion and Iron Guard, Codreanu providing the sort of charismatic leadership which was more commonly associated with Hitler and Mussolini. His ideas also had much in common with Nazism. [...] Most of this cut little ice with those in power: the monarchy, the army officers and traditionalist politicians. They were less concerned about mobilization of opinion that about the accumulation of power and about dealing with opponents; increasingly, Condreanu came to be seen as dangerous radical who would destabilize the regime. Although some observers claim that Carol was a 'monarcho-fascist', this term is not particularly appropriate. Carol was never inclined to any systematic ideology and remained traditional and conservative in his policies. This also applied to Michael and the Conducator, Antonescu. Yet, when the latter did finally succeeded in destroying the Legion, he ruled, in Payne's words as 'a right radical nationalist dictator with the support of the military'. Strangely, this was preferred by Hitler since Antonescu offered more security as a Romanian satellite. This was understandable because Hitler's main concern in 1941 was the military use of Romania rather than its complete ideological conversion. Hence, a conservative regime which had been radicalized by its contact with fascism was an ideal balance. In any case this radicalized conservationism proved to be one of the most extreme of all the European states in its policies toward the Jews
  • 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
  • Hitler never intended to defend ‘the West’ against Bolshevism but always remained ready to join ‘the Reds’ for the destruction of the West, even in the middle of the struggle against Soviet Russia.
    • Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism: Part Three of the Origins of Totalitarianism, New York, NY, A Harvest Book, 1985, p. 7
  • The only man for whom Hitler had ‘unqualified respect’ was Stalin the genius’, and while in the case of Stalin and the Russian regime we do not… have the rich documentary material that is available for Germany, we nevertheless know since Khrushchev’s speech before the Twentieth Party Congress that Stalin trusted only one man and that was Hitler.
    • Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism: Part Three of the Origins of Totalitarianism, A Harvest Book, 1985, pp. 7-8
  • 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. One may speak of a red, black, or brown ‘soviet state’, as well as of red, black or brown fascism.
    • 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 characteristic distinguished Germany and Italy, where fascism took power, from countries like France and Britain, where fascist movements were highly visible but remained far from power? We need to recall that fascism has never so far taken power by coup d'état, deploying the weight of its militants in the street. Fascist power by coup is hardly conceivable in a modern state. Fascism can not appeal to the street without risking a confrontation with future allies —- the army and the police —- without whom it will not be able to pursue its expansionist goals. Indeed fascist coup attempts have commonly led to military dictatorship, rather than to fascist power (as in Romania in December 1941). Resorting to direct mass action also risks conceding advantages to fascism's principal enemy, the Left, still powerful in the street and workplace in interwar Europe. The only route to power available to fascists passes through cooperation with conservative elites. The most important variables, therefore, are the conservative elites' willingness to work with the fascist, along with a reciprocal flexibility on the fascist leaders' part, and the depth of the crisis which induces them to cooperate.
  • Neither Hitler nor Mussolini took the helm by force, even if they used force earlier to destabilise the liberal regime, and later to transform their governments into dictatorships. They were invited to take office as head of government by a head of state in the legitimate exercise of his official functions, on the advice of his conservative counsellors,under quite precise circumstances: a deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarisation that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by the loss of their capacity to keep the population under control, often at a moment of massive popular mobilisation; an advancing Left; conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left, and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement.
  • 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.
  • Despite the relative breadth of their appeal, the Nazis, with 37 per cent of the vote in July 1932, didn't have enough seats in parliament to govern. In a new election in November, they lost two million votes. Moreover, although conservative politicians, like the business, military, and land-owning elites, were hostile to the Republic, they distrusted the Nazis as 'brown Bolsheviks', and preferred an authoritarian government run by themselves. The problem was that the elites, rightly or wrongly, felt that no government could survive without mass support. This conviction testified to the extent to which 'democratic' assumptions had penetrated even the reactionary right. It also reflected the army's fear that it couldn't maintain order against both Communists and Nazis. For want of alternatives, the conservatives made Hitler chancellor on 30 January 1933. Like Mussolini, Hitler alone bridged the gap between parliamentary and street politics.
  • How many individuals, movements, and regimes we categorize as 'fascist' depends on definition. If we define fascism simply as a desire to manipulate the mass, or a dictatorship, then a great many would qualify. If we add the criteria of racism and/or antisemitism, a different set would be included. The impossibility of agreeing on a definition means that attempts to identify 'true fascism' can never be decisive. However, this difficulty does not prevent us from examining similarities and differences between various movements or actual interactions and borrowings—'entanglements', as scholar call them. I shall ask how and for what purposes the terms 'fascist' and 'national socialist' were used. Tracing entanglements allows us to see that relation of fascists were strongest with conservative groups, dictatorial or parliamentarian.
  • What Fascism does not countenance is the collectivistic solution proposed by the Socialists. The chief defect of the socialistic method has been clearly demonstrated by the experience of the last few years. It does not take into account human nature, it is therefore outside of reality, in that it will not recognize that the most powerful spring of human activities lies in individual self interest and that therefore the elimination from the economic field of this interest results in complete paralysis.
    • Alfred Rocco, "The Political Doctrine of Fascism", (1925), Cited in Jeffrey Thompson Schnapp, Olivia E. Sears, Maria G. Stampino A Primer of Italian Fascism, University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  • Marxism has led to Fascism and National-Socialism, because, in all essentials, it is Fascism and National Socialism.
  • The Mussolini regime's inability to overcome its rightist compromises, together with its doctrine and origins dissimilar from those of the Nazis, precluded any full convergence between the Mussolini and Hitler regimes. In turn the Hitler regime, in its rejection of Marxism and materialism and the formal principle of bureaucratic totalitarianism, did not take the same form as Russian communism. in spite of theories by critics about a supposed common totalitarianism. 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.
    • 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.
  • [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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