Why is Fascism is Considered More Evil Than Communism

We have all seen it happen and some of us may even be guilty of doing this ourselves. If two individuals are having a particularly nasty argument about politics it is almost inevitable that somebody is going to get called a fascist. Quite what that means exactly is hard to ascertain. Those on the political left call fascism’s authoritarian strong state tendencies. Yet, whatever your preferred political stance happens to be. We all seem to be able to agree that being a fascist is a bad thing.

Aside from a handful of deranged individuals the default ideological staring point of pretty much every person that opens their mouths to expresses a political opinion today is that they are definitely not a fascist. And this is for a good reason.

The brutal fascist regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were responsible for piling up dead bodies on a scale unknown to humanity before that point. This is before we begin to count the tens of millions more who died on the battlefields of the second world war that was fought (among other things) to bring down fascism.  But there is a puzzling fact here. There were not one but two murderous ideologies from the twentieth century that have the blood of millions of people on their hands. The first being fascism, the second being communism.

This presents us with a puzzling state of affairs. Fascism is rightly regarded as taboo. As I mentioned above, calling yourself a fascist or even harboring empathy for fascism bars you from entering any meaningful civilized political discourse.  And yet the same rule does not apply for communism.

In fact there are a great many people today who openly express their sympathy for the ideals of communism. The rather shocking sentiments that are expressed in this article  in The Guardian are quite common place in socialist circles.  This is even more difficult to explain when we compare the body count of the two ideologies. Nazi Germany killed six million Jews during the Holocaust. This increases to around ten million if we include Soviet POW’s, Poles, Gypsies and Homosexuals.

On this metric communism is by far the worse ideology. During the terrible reign of Joseph Stalin the estimated death toll ranges from around 15 million all the way to 25 million. And that was at the behest of just one leader. If we include Chairman Mao: 45 million, Pol Pot: around 2 million, Kim Jong Un & Kim Il Sung: around 3 million the loss of life at the hands of communist regimes becomes truly staggering. And this is far from an exhaustive list of the communist leaders of the twentieth century. Moreover, while fascism has only been put into practice in two countries communism has been tried in over 20; all with grimly predictable results. Nor has communism been a fantastic economic success. Communist countries have traditionally lagged behind their capitalist and mixed economy counterparts to put it mildly.

So why is wearing a swastika generally understood to be grounds for making somebody a pariah while communism or an affiliation with communism is for the most part accepted?

There are some plausible theories for why this may be the case. The first is the idea that because the allies won the Second World War fascism is discredited whereas communism was the ideology of one of the victors. There is some logic in this. The fact that so many of our countrymen lost their lives fighting Hitler and Mussolini makes fascism not only a barbaric ideology but thoroughly unpatriotic. But this ignores the events that took place straight after Hitler unloaded the contents of his pistol into his cranium deep inside his Berlin bunker. The cold war began as soon as world war two ended. Where WWII lasted for six years the Cold War simmered for just under five decades. Add to this the fact that a nuclear armed USSR was just as much an existential threat to the western world as Hitler’s Wehrmacht was. I reckon that we have a fairly convincing case that fascism is no more unpatriotic than communism.

Another possible explanation for why communism is still deemed morally acceptable is that our count

ry is awash with genuine communists. Perhaps such a large number of people endorse what Mao, Stalin and Khrushchev did that it would be impossible to paint communism with the same stigma as fascism. There might be some more mileage in this. Indeed, last year when the centenary of the Russian Revolution rolled around people described Lenin and his fellow Soviets in fawning terms as ‘revolutionaries’.

But despite the obvious appeal communism still has for many I don’t find this explanation particularly convincing. To give credit where credit is due apart from the small die hard cadres of the  hard-left (useful idiots to use Stalin’s term for them) the savage realities of life under Soviet rule lost the USSR its appeal to western left wingers somewhere in the 1960s. After this the left adjusted itself just enough so that the charge of “Soviet lackey” wouldn’t stick. An endeavor in which they were largely successful. Even today very few left wing people profess to be dyed in the wool communists. As I write this article the Communist Party of Britain has just over 700 members… This is hardly enough comrades to sway national opinion.

I believe the real reason that the hammer and sickle does not convey as much dread as the death head should leave us feeling much less comfortable. But first we need to understand a little bit about both ideologies.

I agree with Johnathon Meades. Fascism is now a meaningless term. This is in part because it has been used as a catch-all political slur rather than an objective statement of fact. Surely the sight of black clad, masked thugs assaulting political opponents whilst somehow claiming to be ‘anti-fascists’ is proof enough that fascism is a rather loose term to say the least.

But even during its heyday fascism was a mess of contradictions. Let us focus solely on Nazi Germany for a moment. It was radically modernist whilst steeping itself if folk tales and ancient Germanic lore. It was an aggressive expansionist country while at the same time being isolationist in its outlook. Hitler spent a decade establishing a strong centralized state that ultimately proved chaotic and ineffective when confronted with the challenge of invading an almost pathetically unprepared USSR. These sorts of contradictions are even present in fascist Italy. Mussolini commissioned some of the most monumental modernist architecture in Europe by drawing heavily on ancient Roman themes. Anyway, you get the idea.

Admittedly this does not give us much to work with and I am by no means an expert on the subject. Sure enough any attempt to make some kind of sense out of the historical morass of fascism is bound to fall foul of some factoid hidden in the endless pages of literature that have been devoted to fascism in the decades following the second world war. And yet I believe one thing does go at least some way to helping us understand what made Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy tick- fear.

If we look closely at the history of the two fascist regimes I believe fear is a common factor. This is not to paint the twin fascist dictators as merely frightened children, far from it. Powerful and violent emotions are born out of fear; hatred, revulsion, anger, misanthropy etc. Mein Kampf is a book filled with a terrible fear. Fear of betrayal by the Weimar elite, fear of the international ‘Jewry’, fear that the fabled fatherland will be lost at the hands of foreign powers.

It has been said that fascism constitutes a ‘conservative revolution’ and I think this is at least party right. The iconography of Nazi Germany speaks to this negative emotion by restoring order, promoting safety and traditional hierarchy. The photograph of the Reichstag fire, propaganda posters showing the ideal German family huddled together, terrible anti-Semitic pictures of Jews depicted as monsters and films like The Triumph of the Will all played on the fears of ordinary Germans. This is echoed in Fascist Italy where the cult of Il Duce who will keep Italy safe and rally the nation behind him was extremely effective.

So to summarize my view is that at least to some extent fascism owes its success to the ability of the leader to play on the fears of their citizens.

We could perhaps say the same of communism. Communist dictators have never been strangers to using fear of an external enemy or the capitalist class to whip up violence. Fear of the vengeful bourgeoisie has played an important role in communist propaganda around the world.  Yet, I think the thing that really drives communism is different. The imperative element of communism is hope. Once again, this is not to make communism seem benign. Like fear, hope can be a potent all-consuming impulse that has an abundance of negative outcomes. People who are excessively hopeful can scorn those who try to stand in their way, distrust people who do not share their ambitions and openly ignore evidence that may prove their desires impossible. This subtle but crucial difference goes some way to differentiating the two monster ideologies of the twentieth century.

 

If we compare the propaganda of the Soviet Union to that of the Third Reich this difference is clear to see. The outpouring of art that followed the ascension of Vladimir Lenin to the upper echelons of the Russian Empire is awash with bountiful fields, smiling peasant girls, rose cheeked proletarians and well-fed iron jowled soldiers. The propaganda looks very different because the emotion that the USSR’s leaders played on was very different. You only have to compare the Nuremberg rally to the Soviet Parade of Athletics. Even as the capitalist countries enjoyed the economic prosperity brought by the post war boom the Soviets were almost certain that it would only be a matter of time before the standard of living in the USSR would outpace those of the USA, spoiler alert- they never did.

 

It is this hope that has helped communist regimes stagger on for so long after political fratricide and economic disaster. Commitment to the illusion that things were ‘getting better’ defined the public facade of the Soviet elite from the 1960s onward. In Bill Curtis’ brilliant documentary Hypernormalisation he describes a bizarre state of affairs where everybody in the eastern bloc knew that the old communist economies were failing and yet, nobody was allowed to state this out loud. They were living in a sort of alternate reality where the only permissible sentiment one could express was faith in the communist system.

I believe this hopeful aspect of communism explains what is arguable one of the strangest political phenomena of our age: the firm belief by many that “communism has never really been tried.” Or “it wasn’t real communism.”

How can we have a state of affairs where a political system has been tried and failed miserably in a wide variety of different nations across almost every single continent but people still cling to the belief that it might actually work? The answer has to be hope. Ultimately communism is draws sustenance from following formula:

If we can just get people to do X then Y will follow. If Y is a positive or necessary goal then any amount of coercion to make people do X is justified.

This is why I think so many people are willing to give communism a pass whilst fascism is deemed beyond the pale. When most historians discuss fascism they quite rightly talk frame it as a reaction to something. Like a diamond buried deep underground, fascism is formed by the crushing pressure of powerful social forces whereas communism is something different. The political system that emerged after the Russian Revolution was part reaction to the hardships sustained by The Great War but after the gunshots of civil war died down it became a utopian project to create a better future. You can take that idea with as much salt as you feel would be appropriate. Whether Lenin, Stalin or Mao really cared much about the fate of their countrymen can be debated. However, the utopian aspect of communism is certainly how the ideology was sold to the unlucky masses who now found themselves under collectivist rule.

The real reason then why communism is not as maligned as fascism is to put it bluntly that we have learned our lesson from fascism but not from communism. The basic belief that forcing individuals to do things because the outcome would be desirable by a certain number of people (the end justifies the means if you like) is still a very important feature of our current political arrangement. Waking up to this fact would be a hugely positive step. I am not the only person to have made this point. Jordan Peterson has made an appeal to members of the political left to define ‘when the left wing doctrine has gone too far’ but to no avail. Similarly Albert Camus famously quipped that the left is really more of a religion than a political ideology.

There have been a small number of socialists who have woken up to this fact George Orwell being chief among them. But for the 21st century socialist movement moderation seems to be tantamount to treason.  We see the logic of semi-theocratic hopefulness regardless of the costs being regurgitated by the postmodernist left. The thinly veiled contempt that Theodore Adorno had for the American working class for caring about bowling, fast cars and TV more than the class war could well be interpreted as Adorno’s anger that the people he was supposed to be fighting for did not share his hopeful Frankfurt School ambitions. Indeed, when the postmodernist left talks about society being nothing more than a power struggle all sorts of violent ends become justified in the hope that they will help society reach he promised land.

This should be a sobering thought for all of us. The logic of the ends justifying the means is not limited to the radical left. Given the fact that the basic principle of forcing people to do X because Y is desirable is widely put into practise in our political system I believe that we run the real risk of brining in an ideology that looks very similar to communism. That will bring equally devastating results. As long as only a tiny few are willing to stand up for the rights of individuals to do as they wish and rely on the beauty of socioeconomic networks as agents of progress rather than resorting to  the blunt force of legislation than I see no ideological barrier to retreating back into authoritarianism.

  5 comments for “Why is Fascism is Considered More Evil Than Communism

  1. Paul Marks
    Oct 16, 2018 at 9:52 am

    First of all Adolf Hitler was a National Socialist not a “Fascist” – and the difference is not a trivial one.

    Fascism is a form of heretic Marxism (Mussolini remained an ardent admirer of Karl Marx till the day he died) – but instead of the state “withering away” (to use the term of Frederick Engels – although neither Karl Marx or Frederick Engels explained HOW the state is supposed to wither away in the “transition” from socialism to “communism” – the latter being a mythical utopia where there is “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” and people can “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and be critical after dinner, without anyone being a hunter, a fisherman, or a critic – for society will organise production”), under Fascism the total state STAYS.

    In practice the total state always stays under the Marxists – but Mussolini was OPEN about it. The total state would never wither away (this is what made Mussolini, once the leading Marxist in Italy and one of the most well known Marxists in the world, a HERETIC) it would stay for ever – this “totalitarianism” (the total state) would just go on and on – without leading to any mythical “Communist” utopia.

    Mussolini also embraced what was then known as “German socialism” or “war socialism” – under which although there would be a lot of state owned enterprises many enterprises would remain under nominal private ownership AS LONG AS they obeyed the state in everything (the idea of Hollywood celebrities that under Fascism “Big Business” controls the state is the exact OPPOSITE of the truth – it is a myth invented by the Soviet NKVD in the 1930s and spread to the United States and other places, there is no real “partnership” under Fascism, in reality the State Dictator gives orders and businessmen must OBEY in all things).

    Now Adolf Hitler also (unsurprisingly) also embraced “German Socialism” or “War Socialism” (he called, as many other people did, “National Socialism”) – again private ownership would mean nothing in practice, farmers and factory owners (and so on) would have to obey every whim of the state – or die. Even giving the Nazi Party money before they came to power was no protection – Hitler was not a man whose actions were influenced by gratitude, the moment you disobeyed one of his orders you were a dead-man-walking.

    However, Mr Hitler stressed something else that Mr Mussolini (at least in the 1920s and early 1930s – and really never in his heart) did not really believe in – RACIAL socialism.

    RACE was central to the thinking of Mr Hitler and other German National Socialists – it was the central feature of their movement in their own eyes – and that is why it is just silly (utterly absurd) to use the word “Fascist” to cover the National Socialist regime – these people (Hitler, Himmler and the others) were NOT just copying Mussolini – they had a distinct doctrine of their own. So using the word “Fascist” to cover National Socialist Germany just will not do.

    Hitler looked back to an elements of such thinkers as General Ludendorff and the philosopher Fichte (a century before) that were not originally a part of Italian Fascism (although the Italian Fascists later aped Hitler – when they became dependent upon the power of Germany, they never really believed in this stuff) – the central importance of RACE in everything. Whether it was nice Dr Herder (and I am not being sarcastic – personally he seems to have been a pleasant fellow) or nasty Dr Fichte RACE was a vitally important factor in German thought. It was not the casual racialism that one would find anywhere (including Britain) at the time – it was PHILOSOPHICAL racialism. Such people as Herder and Fichte were PHILOSOPHERS and they made RACE the centre of their PHILOSOPHY.

    Take the example of Richard Wagner – an ardent socialist, indeed a communist who believed that money should be abolished and all production should be in common. To say what I have just said about the thought of Richard Wagner is quite true – but it leaves out a vastly important factor in his thought, his PHILOSOPHICAL racialism. And it is this PHILOSOPHICAL racialism (not causal bigotry – which was universal in the world at that time) that is at the heart of the difference between National Socialism and Fascism.

  2. Paul Marks
    Oct 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

    As for idea that Mussolini and Hitler murdered millions of people before anyone else did.

    Even if we exclude distant historical figures (for example Genghis Khan murdered millions of people – indeed he may have killed one tenth of the entire population of the world in his time) then the claim is still not true.

    Both “Lenin” and “Stalin” murdered millions of people (mostly be deliberate Terror Famines – and having anyone who tried to flee shot, if you take the food of someone and then make clear they will be shot if they try to leave to avoid starving to death, you are deliberately killing them) – both “Lenin” and “Stalin” murdered millions as deliberate acts of state policy (War Communism under “Lenin”, Collectivisation under “Stalin”) long before the National Socialist Adolf Hitler murdered millions of people.

    It is true that few films have been made on this (a recent one was “Bitter Harvest” showing the Marxists under “Stalin” stealing the food the farmers and grown – and having the farmers shot if they tried to get away) – but there is no real excuse for not knowing that “Lenin” and “Stalin” murdered millions of people BEFORE the socialist Adolf Hitler did. As for Mussolini – he ordered terrible things in Ethiopia, but argued (as the monster Julius Caesar did before him – in relation to his own savage crimes in the conquest of what is now France) that this was a matter of war – not how he intended to rule the population after the conquest.

    For the socialism of National Socialism (the doctrine or Mr Hitler and so on) see “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek and “Omnipotent Government” by Ludwig Von Mises.

    A word of warning on economic and social statistics from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries (such as Mao’s China) – these statistics are fiction (to a great extent made up) so one can rest assured that their real performance was actually worse than their claims. The historian E.H. Carr has the dubious distinction of believing BOTH the false economic and social statistics of “Stalin” and the false economic and social statistics of Adolf Hitler.

    Still I have not answered the question about why Marxism is less attacked than Fascism and National Socialism.

    Not a difficult question – the Marxists have massive influence in the education system (the schools and universities) and the “mainstream media” (from the New York Times to Hollywood) – and neither Fascists or National Socialists have this influence.

    Why would Marxists (even if they falsely call themselves “liberals” In the United States) call themselves concentrate on attacking Marxist regimes? They may sometimes admit that the followers of “Social Justice” did terrible things in Russia and China and so on – but “it will be different in America” (or Britain or…..).

    To expect Hollywood celebrities or Harvard professors to spend a lot of time attacking Marxist regimes when they are (often) Marxists or “Fellow Travellers” themselves, is to expect too much.

    And ordinary teachers and television presenters (and on and on) are “downstream” from the Marxist (or “Fellow Traveller”) academic and cultural elite. Indeed most people are influenced by the Marxist “hegemony” in modern culture. Not totally influenced – but influenced to some extent.

    The central doctrine of our time is “Social Justice” (“justice as fairness” goods “distributed” – “too each according to their needs” as Karl Marx put it) – the opposite of the traditional idea of justice as to each their own.

    One can see even “Conservative” Prime Ministers coming out with the absurd language of “Social Justice” – as that is how they have been educated. They do not fully understand what they are saying (at least I hope they do NOT fully understand it) – but they have no other belief system to judge anything by.

    Bad tempered people (such as ME) are sometimes unjust in regard to people such as Theresa May – the lady is not really stupid or evil, but the lady has no belief system other than what the person was taught at school and university, and the belief system that Mrs May was taught at school and university is just a watered down version of “Social Justice” collectivism.

    • Oct 16, 2018 at 4:30 pm

      You raise a good point about the differences between Hitler and Mussolini. In fact I did consider just talking about ‘Nazism’ rather than fascism. However, I decided to leave Mussolini in the picture.

      You are quite right to assert that there are some important differences between the two. But there are also some striking similarities. Yes Mussolini was essentially a heretic Marxist as you put it. And the reason that he was a heretic, rather than sticking with socialism was his commitment to national chauvinism. Quite unlike many communist regimes nationalism was an important part of fascist Italy. The invasion of Ethiopia was a diplomatic disaster for Italy (Italy and Britain almost went to blows over it) but Mussolini went ahead with it anyway. Why? Because being a pugnacious country was essential to Mussolini. It is not for nothing that Hitlers’ and Mussolini’s regimes are both called fascism. Playing on feas of national decrepitude was essential for both Fascist Italy and the Third Reich. National honor was a very important part of the Nazi’s appeal in the early days of the NSDAP.

      I also don’t think it was a coincidence that the two nations which went fascist were both utterly humiliated in WWI.

      As for Hitler’s racism. Yes the racial philosophy you describe was key for Hitler. But less so for the German people. The eugenicist element of the Nazi party was mostly esoteric before the late 1930s. Exoterically, fears of a ‘betrayed fatherland’ and ‘the Jewry’ were what convinced many ordinary Germans to vote for Hitler in 1933. Hitler’s Lebensborn program was something of disaster and many Nazi funded ‘work holidays’ ended in embarrassing scandals of German women copulating with non-aryan men.

      So although racism was an key part of the Nazi party it was not on a distinctly ‘racial purity’ ticket on which that Hitler gained support through the 1920s. The play on national humiliation is still an important parallel with Mussolini’s Italy in my view.

      I am also slightly puzzled about your insistence that schools are agents of Marxist indoctrination. I have worked in many schools and have not found this to be the case… But perhaps I have been lucky.

      And you are quite right about my incorrect assertion that The Holocaust being the first mass slaughter of millions in the modern world. The atrocities committed by the USSR in the 1930s were comparable in terms of deaths to The Holocaust. Although, my understanding is that the Soviet Authorities went to great lengths to cover up the bloodshed happening on their watch. But I could be mistaken.

      • Paul Marks
        Oct 20, 2018 at 6:58 pm

        I said that the schools are “downstream” from the Marxist elite – but if you have not noticed the (watered down) Marxist, presented as “Social Justice”, assumptions in the textbooks and so on, I advice you to look again.

        As for Mussolini – his central belief was in the state. Italian nationalism and culture was very much as useful “myth” (as in Sorel) for him. He did not really care that much about Italian culture, it was not central to him (it was means to an end stuff – the end being POWER).

        Italy did win the First World War – but at great cost, and only with the assistance of foreign generals sent in to save them from defeat (General Plummer and the Earl of Cavan). Nor did Italy get everything they were promised (or convinced themselves they had been promised) – France suffered more than Italy, but France had been ATTACKED, Italy CHOOSE to go to war – and then, yes, felt cheated.

        • Julie near Chicago
          Oct 21, 2018 at 5:38 pm

          Paul,

          “his central belief was in the state. Italian nationalism and culture was very much as useful “myth” (as in Sorel) for him. He did not really care that much about Italian culture, it was not central to him (it was means to an end stuff – the end being POWER).”

          Do you think this was also true of Stalin? [I’ve read that in the end, Stalin promoted Russian “nationalism” in order to entice the people to stick by him, or by his (alleged?) Communism, even though Communism was itself supposed to be international and eventually to become the world-wide system.]

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