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Difference between socialism and fascism

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The world of politics is complex, multilayered and continuously evolving. Historians, social scientists, economists and political scientists have attempted to differentiate the countless types of policies and political thinking into different categories – which are referred to on a daily basis. Yet, the sinuous nature of the matter makes it complicated to identify unique and immutable features that would undoubtedly situate any theory into a given, specific box. Moreover, different historical contexts shape politics and policies in unpredictable manners, and, therefore, theories need constant adaptations.

The most striking example of the miscellaneous nature of national and international politics is the interesting argument – supported by many – that theories that apparently oppose and contradict each other might, in fact, be surprisingly similar. This is the case of fascism and socialism.

For decades, the two terms have been used to identify two opposing political, social and economic theories that have dramatically marked human history during the XX century. To date, fascism and socialism as such no longer exist (besides in some rare cases), and have been replaced by “neo-fascism” and “neo-socialism”. Yet, modern thinking remains strictly intertwined with the originating paradigms.

Let us proceed with order: to understand the differences (and the similarities) between fascism and socialism, we necessarily need a clear idea of the main features pertaining to both theories.


Fascism is a far-right nationalistic movement first born in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century[1]. According to one of its main exponents – Benito Mussolini – the fascist philosophy is based on three main pillars[2]:

  1. “Everything in the state”
  2. “Nothing outside the state”
  3. “Nothing against the state”

A fascist government is supreme, and all institutions must conform to the willing of the ruling authority. Moreover, opposition is not tolerated: the fascist ideology has primacy and supremacy over all other perspectives, and the ultimate goal of a fascist country is to rule the world and spread the “superior ideology” everywhere.

  • Fascism exalts nation and race over the individual
  • Centralized, authoritarian, and often dictatorial government
  • Strong and charismatic leader
  • Strict governmental control over opposition, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly
  • Severe social regulations
  • Crucial role of heroes
  • Strong attachment to moral, nationalistic values
  • Glory of the state over the individual
  • The individual is required to put the interest of the state before his personal goals/needs
  • Unique economy
  • Strong governmental involvement in economy an production
  • The State has strong influence over investment and industries
  • In order to receive the support of the government, businesses need to promise that their main interest is the enhancement of the country
  • Opposed to free market economy
  • In some instances, international trade is opposed (because of the primacy of the nationalist feeling)

In Europe, the fascist movement largely expanded throughout the XX century, and played a crucial role during World War II. In fact, the fascist Italian thinking paved the way for the emergence and the strengthening of German Nazism. Both Mussolini and Hitler engaged in aggressive foreign policies and territorial expansionism, and strived for the establishment of totalitarian dictatorships over the controlled territories. Today, there is no nation openly and completely fascist; however, in some cases, far-right neo-fascist/neo-Nazi movements have obtained the majority (or, at least, a large support).

For instance:

  • The British National Party is strongly influenced by Fascist ideals – made clear by the anti-immigration tendencies
  • Many suggest that Trump’s policies have fascist connotations, in particular as far as immigration stance and national superiority are concerned
  • Emergence of Neo-Fascist parties in Bolivia from 1937 to 1980[3]


Socialism is often collocated in the opposite end of the spectrum compared to fascism; if fascism pertains to the group of far-rights movements, socialism is, then, located to the far-left[4]:

  • Socialism is an economic and social theory advocating for social ownership, and democratic control of the means of production
  • Strong governmental involvement in production and redistribution of goods and wealth
  • Abolition of private property
  • Means of production are controlled and owned by the state
  • None (besides the state) has personal control over resources
  • Production is directly and solely for use
  • Emphasis on equality rather than achievement
  • Primacy of the community over the individual

Moreover, there are many variants of socialism, such as:

  • Religious socialism
  • Libertarian socialism
  • Democratic socialism
  • Liberal socialism
  • Progressive socialism
  • Communism (when socialism is exasperated)

Socialism is, to date, more widespread than fascism. Moreover, socialism can exist within countries as main overall economic and social system, but can be also present within segments of a country, such as in education, health care, and corporation systems. If a country has not declared itself as socialist in the national constitution, it cannot be labelled as socialist by third parties. To date, a number of countries have chosen to define themselves socialist nations:

  • Republic of India
  • Republic of Angola
  • Portuguese Republic
  • Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
  • People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

…among others…

Where is the difference?

Clearly, fascism and socialism differ on many fundamental aspects.

  • Far-right vs far-left
  • Primacy of the nation vs protection of everyone’s rights
  • Private property vs public/social ownership

The socialist paradigm is based on the assumption that private property and free market inevitably lead to social and economic inequality. As such, the state has the moral and social duty to intervene to protect workers’ rights and to ensure that wealth is equally and harmoniously distributed. Socialist societies prevent economic competition within the country and with other countries.

Despite the large degree of variance existing within the socialist world, all policies implemented by all variants of socialism are based on the pivotal economic and social goals mentioned earlier. The idea of nation, race, and superiority are absent from the socialist thinking.

Fascism, instead, does not call for social equality nor cares about the equal redistribution of wealth and income. A fascist economy aims at the strengthening of the nation, at the propagation of nationalistic principles, and at the enhancement of national superiority.

Even if fascist economic policies often lead to economic growth – from which all segments of society can benefit – social equality is not among the goals of the fascist paradigm.

Socialism and fascism are based on opposite principles and values, however…

Despite their apparent opposition and the historical paths that have led to the striking contrasts between the two ideologies, socialism and fascism have important features in common.

  • They are both strong ideology
  • They both imply strong governmental involvement in economic and social life
  • They both have the power to create strong social movements
  • They both oppose free market
  • They both need a strong governmental apparatus and a strong leader

Socialism and fascism are two strong ideologies, which have been able to create cohesive and powerful social movements. Rarely, during history, have we witnessed such influential and fast-growing social involvement and participation in political life.

  1. In the case of socialism, masses mobilize and support the idea of equal development, equal share of wealth, social equality, enhancement of the community, and collective values. Socialism unites masses under the umbrella of equality, not supremacy.
  2. In the case of fascism, masses mobilize for the achievement of national and racial supremacy over all other countries, over all other minorities, and over all other nations. The idea of equality is alien to the fascism paradigm, while the concept of superiority is pivotal.

In sum

Throughout history, socialism and fascism have been portrayed as opposing and contrasting all-encompassing-theories. Indeed, our recent past provides us with several examples of fascist thinking opposing social thinking, and vice versa.

As we have seen, the two theories originate from opposing values: socialism strives for an equal society, and is based on the idea of democratic ownership, and redistribution of wealth. Conversely, fascism strives for the imposition of national and racial superiority, and advocates for economic growth fostered by national companies and corporations.

In brief, fascism and socialism differ in crucial and central principles.

However, we can also witness important similarities between the two, in particular as far as the role of the state is concerned. Both fascism and socialism require a strong state involvement in economic and social policies. The reason why the government intervenes in public affairs is different, but the means used to achieve different goals are interestingly similar.

Moreover, and more importantly, both have proved to be incredibly powerful and effective ideologies, able to bring together huge masses, and to foster large and cohesive social movements. In addition, the strengthening of socialist and fascist thinking is often enhanced by the growth of middle-class/working-class discontent. Interestingly enough: same origins and social feelings generate opposite political and economic movements that operate in similar ways.

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  1. Do they have private property in Sweden and Germany? Of course! Does the government own the means of production? Hell no!

    You need to explain that people who live under democratic socialism or a social democracy are the happiest on Earth.

    Unless, of course, your intent is to distort instead of honestly inform.

    • Many of the so-called “democratic socialist” countries are not socialist in the least, they have prominent social democratic parties, however as you mentioned they have both private property and private ownership of the means of production for the use of profit. In short these countries are not socialist but rather fluffy capitalism.

  2. Well said, Bruce.

    The same can be said for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and most other European states. Of course, there are also Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries.

    Why does the United States, or at least its political leaders, use the terms socialism and communism as if they mean the same thing. I was born in Denmark, and I can assure you that the Nordic Model is far from communism.

    The United States is probably the definitive example of Capitalism run amok. “If it cannot be monetized, and of course for a profit, it’s not worth doing.”

    For a state to flourish, it must have a healthy and well-educated populace. Therefore, universal health care and free education are not a luxury, they are a necessity. These services are not paid for by the state, they are paid for by the taxpayers. These services are not an expense; they are an investment in the future.

    History clearly demonstrates what happens in a society where the ‘rich get richer, and the poor get poorer’. When the middle class finally realize that they have little left to lose, revolution will soon be on the horizon.

    ‘Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it’, and it will not be the first time that the top 1% have ceased to exist.

    • Jan I agree with you 100%

    • Hi, can you please provide a list of ideas, services, products that have greatly improved our lives (medical, technical, food supply, etc) which have originated in socialist utopias. Also provide one of same from the “evil capitalist” country. An honest list please. One more favor, if I may? There is no such thing as free medical or education, or anything for that matter. If it were free why do you need to be taxed? Why are most folks from your part of the world “educated from birth” not to be ambitious, over-achiever, a great performer, or more successful than others? You are thought to be humble, modest, unassuming, etc. Example. If you are able to purchase an expensive vehicle, which you may desire, you do not. This shows that you are not boastful. Please explain. Thank you.

    • Canada is a striking example of a well-balanced system which is quite socialist in many aspects (universal healthcare, high taxes, and elusively for most other “multicultural” societies–successful assimilation of most immigrants). Our bellicose and recently quite pushy southern neighbors think they insult us by portraying Canada as nothing but a north american Scandinavian country where we are basically ‘red’ under our majority white skins. Jokes on them whenever u look at any measure of standard of living, social cohesion, upward mobility, public education, and the real scary one for our unnamed ultra-capitalist frienemy–canada does this despite our far smaller GDP/per capita….YEAH, waaay less stuff-rich!!

      I think it’s quite clear there are no hard boundaries between political theories and only something new or a more adept recombination of the same old crappy theories until we find a way to accelerate forward

  3. This might give you a better description of the difference between socialism and fascism. Contrary to what you might think both of these ideas are to the left of center. What makes them similar is that both require a strong central government which provides for the society.


    • Wow! Thanks

    • Thank you for pointing this out. I was thinking the same thing when I read this article. The most famous socialist in history started the fascist party. Hard to think that one is that different then the other.

    • Another excellent point. Mussolini the founder of fascism was a Marxist. He did not hide this fact. Hitler was a socialist, again a fact he did not hide this. It’s also good to note a recent book by Thomas weber shows Hitler tried to join the German socialist party and it was only after refusing him entry after an argument about a loan, that he joined the national socialist worker party. Why is there a determination by academics to show fascism on the left, when economically its policies are planned economies run by the state or controlled by the state. Possibly because academics are left wing by nature (fed by the public purse) and refuse to accept this fact. It’s the national part of fascism that pains them so much. The fact they sit beside a racist theory so closely should not surprise anyone. They are often strong believers in their own superiority, it’s only a short step to the belief that they know whats best for all, and that plato had a valid point. Thereafter differentiating based on class or race is a short step, as this the choice to remove freedom and choice itself.

      Its great to see people question the traditional boxes with which economic and political theories have been placed.

      Well done the people! A statement a real socialist could not make.

  4. It seems that socialism and fascism have more in common than not. If you look at the differences you could really call them similarities. Fascism is Socialism on steroids. Socialism is just a softer form of communism as well. They are all tied up in a very similar ideology of the state over the people. These are all left wing beliefs and fascism is not a right wing ideology. This is a falsehood that fascism is right wing. While socialism calls for the redistribution of wealth so that equality is created, this calls for the government to be in control of everything.”The reason why the government intervenes in public affairs is different, but the means used to achieve different goals are interestingly similar.” Claiming doing the same thing but for different reasons is really an argument that doesn’t hold water. You could just say that when socialism is not accepted by all members of the society, it then may turn to fascism in order to establish the governments’ control over the people. Socialism is very closely related to fascism and communism, all left wing.

  5. Actually you are wrong, fascism is leftwing, not rightwing. Socialism is defined as a left wing political ideology, thus the Socialist German Workers’ Party was left, not right, and was also fascist, just like today’s progressive leftists that gave us Obamacare. That is a prime example of the fascist ideology applied to economic theory.

  6. History has proven that socialism and fascism is roughly the same thing. The most efficient state and most powerful state in the world during the 20 century was Nazi Germany they went from a collapsing state to a state of super power in under 5 years. Yes they also fell real quick but that was more the fault of the leaders then the government ideals. What this article gets wrong is Germany was fascist socialist country during this time. German citizen life during the golden years was the best in the world compared to everyone else. Unless you were one of the states listed problems… anyways what I do not understand is why people still refuse to see this. Socialism works but you need smart leadership to propel it forward like any thing else. Every nation should see them self’s as the priority over any other issue its the right of every state that is independent. The only states that cant do this are vassals to other states. The United States is a prime example of a vessel country to other interest.

    • It was great and golden because they were stealing the wealth of 5% of their society, the Jews, and redistributing it to the rest of their society. Not exactly a good model. In fact, down right evil.

  7. This site perpetrates an evil that continue among leftists and that is the idea that Fascism is on the right. By the definition given Fascism is a system of total government control. Nothing on the right meets that definition, but leftism does. Another failure of this article is to conflate Fascism with Nazism. Nazism was a sister ideology to Fascism but was called by its architects National Socialism, or NSDAP. Leaders of the NSDAP didn’t refer to themselves as Fascists, this fiction was created after WWII by Western Socialists to distance themselves from a political system they adored before the war. Socialists knew if they were tarnished with the truth they’d never be able to gain support in the United States or Europe, so they created a fiction that Fascism and Nazism were “Nationalistic” which made them right wing. This claim was also a lie as Nationalism appears on both the left and the right and is not a defining characteristic of each. The latest fiction of the left is that nobody has done socialism correctly. This fiction appeared after the publication of the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, this work demonstrated that every instance of Socialism results in inhumanity and death on a mass scale. Prior to the death of Hugo Chavez lefists pointed to Venezuela as a successful Socialist regime. Today even Sean Penn won’t defend Venezuelan Socialism but apologists again claim they didn’t do it right. The only form of Socialism that never had a chance to fail on its own was Nazism as it was defeated by the Allies in 1945.

    • Mussolini was a Marxist, he always was, he simply believed socialism failed and that it should be replaced by a more nationalist marxisim, ergo fascism based on a misinterpretation of nietzsches superman and platos Republic with an emphasis on the nation state economy.

      Capitalism was and is an invention of Marx and engels misrepresentation of the free market. In all economic systems you have corruption, monopolies etc, but Smith et al rallied against this and called for regulation. Marx stated that this corruption, when you ran across it, was the system, he was a turd really.

      We do not have capitalism. America uses the term interchangeably and this is reason why fwit socialists still exist. If they used even a modicum of effort and read the road to serfdom they would wake up to were the evil of corruption sleeps easiest.

      Hitler was a socialist till the money ran out, that was pretty quick, he then did the same moving towards a more nationalist form of his chosen isim.

      • Just to make my point clear, otherwise the left will go after you, Hitler’s socialism failed very very early. He began privatising companies which had been nationalised during the depression to raise funds in 35 to pay for the incredible well fare and socialist experiments of his government.

        He used govt ious to pay companies (owned by nazi members) to pay for his armaments to avoid these appearing in the budget as well, while avoiding further accounting evidence of his masterplan.

        Incidentally its always interesting to note the companies seemed to land in the hands of banks who did not want them, or in the hands of nazi party supporters who did, or most commonly in a mixture.

        Seriously F Hayek nailed this desire for planned economies marching hand in hand with corruption so perfectly.

        Also some great comments on this site and especially this page.

  8. Nope.

    Communism, socialism, fascism, they’re not left or right wing. They’re just flavors of statism, all bad.

    It’s not left vs. right. It’s the state vs. YOU.

    Arguing over left statism vs. right statism is just a sideshow to distract the masses from the real agenda.

    • ” It’s the state vs. YOU.”

      That’s only the case when the state is acting contrary to my own wants. Otherwise it’s not a case of versus at all. Public healthcare, social welfare, etc. Those things aren’t against me. But when the state wants to start telling me that I can’t express certain beliefs according to my conscience as they’re “hate speech” or so on, then yeah I’ll call it statism.

      • DoubleFelix is wrong. I lived in socialist country, I grew up in the socialist system. Public healthcare and social welfare are not that great: it provided by government using government (not independent) employees , provides only minimum for you to survive and continue being the slave/serf of the government.

  9. Socialism is plural fascism. Individual rights are ignored in both philosophies and inefficiencies lead to lower GDP and lower standards of living for it’s citizens in both cases. The socialist experiment in the US colonies in the 1600s removed all incentives for hard work and efficiency which was the main cause for starvation. As soon as Smith introduced the philosophy of private property and individual compensation based on merit, our nation thrived. We have over a hundred years and millions of bodies to prove socialism doesn’t work. Let socialism die like disco.

  10. Like so many others, this author falls into the “left-right” trap. This paradigm arose from the French Revolution where the anti royalist republicans were on the left and those supporting the monarchy were on the right in the parliament. Note that capitalism is not part of the definition. Also note under this definition, the US is an anti royal republic on the left, while Canada in 1776 was on the right, supporting English monarchy.

    Todays politics is better analyzed in terms of the individual vs the state. Both fascism and socialism place the state above the individual, whose rights are derived from the state and not innate. The difference is that fascism uses state power to protect a nation or race, socialism uses state power to protect one class against another.

  11. Here I encounter the most popular fallacy of our times. It is not considered sufficient that the law should be just; it must be philanthropic. Nor is it sufficient that the law should guarantee to every citizen the free and inoffensive use of his faculties for physical, intellectual, and moral self-improvement. Instead, it is demanded that the law should directly extend welfare, education, and morality throughout the nation.

    This is the seductive lure of socialism. And I repeat again: These two uses of the law are in direct contradiction to each other. We must choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same time be free and not free. Bastiat The Law 1850 NOTHING NEW..

  12. This is very good. I wish you would put this article in video form (or even) in a series of videos because it’s hard to read on my phone. I think I’ll print it out for me but I thought I’d give you my 2 cents.

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References :

[0][1] Defining capitalism, communism, fascism, and socialism, available at http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/engl_258/lecture%20notes/capitalism%20etc%20defined.htm

[1][2] Fascism, Urban dictionary, available at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fascism

[2][3] Neo-Fascist, Wordl Heritage Encyclopedia, available at http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Neo-fascist

[3][4] What is Socialism? World Socialist Movement, available at http://www.worldsocialism.org/english/what-socialism


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