Statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Berlin
Communism and Fascism are sometimes thought to be the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum while other times the two sides of the same coin. Emerging in the 20th century, these ideologies deeply impacted our past, often scarring it with far-reaching and authoritarian policies affecting most aspects of peoples lives. In this article we will take a look at these regimes, their origins, what relates them and what sets them apart.
Fascism (from the latin word fasces meaning bundle) rose to prominence in the early interwar period following the ideology developed by Benito Mussolini (and Giovanni Gentile) and his Nationalist Fascist Party, which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943. Indeed, the origins of this ideology relate to the post-World War I attitude change, where state sovereignty and identity began to be valued differently and the total war mobilization tainted the difference between citizen and soldier.
Although the term can be controversial, as defined in various ways in the past, in general Fascism as an ideology is characterized by extreme nationalism, imperialism, deep social regulation and regimentation, economic interventionism (autarky) and protectionism and suppression of opposition, also very frequently associated with broad military mobilization. Its most well-known occurrences in the past are the Fascism regime in Italy (1922-1943), the Nazi Regime in Germany (1933-1945) and the right-wing regime in Japan (1926-1945).
Communism, as a regime, dates back to 1917 following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. As an ideology, however, it began earlier, when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published in 1848 the Communist Manifesto, the reference book of Communism. Marxist ideas would later be expanded by Vladimir Lenin, originating the Marxist-Leninist ideology. This ideology stands for a stateless society without social classes or money and where everyone is equal – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Indeed, it relates to the idea of social ownership of the means of production and consumption and no ruling body, advocating for self-governance. In a real world, the concept is almost impossible to be put in practice. Several variations of the Marxist-Leninism Communism emerged since the publication of the Manifesto, like Stalinism, Maoism or Trotskyism. In fact, these branches share plenty of commonalities, such as the criticism of capitalism, but often differ on the path to achieve the ideal communism.
Although theoretical Marxist ideology proposes a classless society without a ruling body, in practice, Communism, similarly to Fascism, has always been associated with a ruling elite and very strong state control and interventionism. Both are anti-democratic and often single-party regimes, suppressing any type of opposition and extensively using propaganda as a way to not only promote a cult of personality but also to control what the population sees and thinks, emphasizing all that is good (often falsely or in an exaggerated manner) and omitting all that is not (even sometimes outlawing its public discussion), only releasing information that will benefit the regime – free-speech is sidelined. Similarly, and since society stands above everything, individual rights are also repressed. Moreover, being extremist regimes, they tend to rise to prominence following a crisis or general dissatisfaction in the population. This was as true in the past (Fascist regimes implemented in Europe after World War I) as it is now (extremist regimes gaining momentum across Europe following, for instance, the refugee crisis).
Firstly, Fascism acts on a national level whereas Communism is a global movement. The latter regime has the objective of spreading and implementing its ideology on a global scale while the former is an ultra-nationalist regime, rejecting international order and law.
Economically, communism has no concept of private property and the means of production are socially owned. In theory, communism stands for an economy without money, where the means of production are organized to sustain all human needs. In fascist regimes, private property is not abolished but highly controlled and must abide by state guidelines, which often dictates investments and outputs. These regimes, in their nationalistic nature, also defend protectionism, self-sufficiency and reject any type of international market or economic union.
Socially, in communism there are no class distinctions as everyone is equal (in theory, at least). Fascism, however, is characterized by notable hierarchization of society, where each member has its own role. It is also associated with the belief of a superior nation and can be associated with the belief of a superior race (for example in Nazi Germany).
Moreover, when it comes to religion, it is abolished in communism regimes since it is seen as the “opium of the people”, associated with oppressive social conditions. This way, it can also be seen as contributing to the hierarchization of society. On the other hand, fascist regimes tend to be religious.
The perspectives on war are also dissimilar. Communism usually avoids war while Fascism, as a regime with nationalistic and imperialistic tendencies, sees it as a mean to achieve national prosperity and glory.
Although the cult of the leader is common in both of the regimes, only fascism embraces religion
These regimes deeply impacted our past and while their prominence has waned with time, their influence still reached our days and recent events have shown that their resurgence might not be such a implausible scenario.
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by YKW // 20 August 2022
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