Comparing Fascism and Communism

Speaking at Naples in October 1922, Mussolini recognized that at the heart of fascism, as at the heart of nationalism, lay a vital lie—a belief held so strongly that it had the force from truth. He referred to this belief as a myth that, if universally accepted, would become reality:

We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, it is passion. It is not necessary that it shall be a reality It is a reality by the fact that it is a good, a hope, a faith, that it is courage. Our myth is the Nation, our myth is the greatness of the Nation! And to this rrnah, to this grandeur, that we wish to translate into a complete reality, we subordinate all the rest.

This “vital lie” illustrates one of the differences between fascism and communism: The former places far greater emphasis on the nation. But there are many other differences as well. In a 1964 article in World Politics, Klaus Epstein, a professor of history at Brown University, explained the differences as follows:

It is a notorious fact that fascist regimes take on many of the features of the Communist enemy they combat (for example, the use of terror, concentration camps, single- party dictatorship and destruction of man’s “private sphere”). Yet it is important to keep communism and fascism sharply distinct for analytical purposes. They differ in their avowed aim, ideological content, circumstances of achieving power, and the groups to which they appeal.

Fascists seek the greatness of the nation (which need not exclude a racialist inter- nationalism); Communists, the world triumph of the working class (which need not exclude a strong Russian nationalism). Fascists stand in avowed revolt against the ideas of 1789; Communists pose as the heirs and executors of those ideas. Fascism has a miscellaneous and heterogeneous ideological content; communism prides itself upon the all-embracing logic of its [world view].

Fascism glories in an irrational world of struggle; communism aims ultimately at a rational world of peace and harmony (which does not preclude some pride in the violent methods required prior to the final achievement of utopia). Fascism has triumphed in some highly developed communities through abuse of the electoral process (e.g., Germany); communism typically achieves power through military occupation or successful use of violence in backward communities demoralized by pro- longed military strains (Russia, Yugoslavia, China).

Fascism has special appeal to the lower middle class and sections of the frightened upper class; communism generally finds its greatest resonance in sections of the working class, peasantry, and intelligentsia. Fascism consists, finally, of a series of national movements lacking centralized overall direction, while communism is a centralized world movement in which each member parry obeys the orders emanating from a single center.

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