People often confuse communism and fascism as two similar ideologies. Communism sees state as the owner of everything while fascism regards state as an authority that controls everything. With these points of view, the borderline between these two ideologies is often blurred to those who do not give it a closer look. In fact, these two views on the state are the different roots of two completely opposite beliefs. So what is the difference between communism and fascism? To understand the contrasts between the two, let us first take separate looks at both ideologies.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, communism is derived from the Latin word communis which means “common” or “shared.” It is both a political and economic doctrine that upholds public ownership as a replacement for a profit-based economy that deals with ideas of private property. Communism aims to have communal control of a society’s natural resources and its production through mills, factories, railroads and mines. Communism, as believed by its advocates, is a higher or more advanced form of socialism. Distinctly enough, the communists abide by the revolutionary socialism, basing their beliefs on Manifesto of the Communist Party – a political manuscript written by the founder of modern communism, Karl Marx.
On the other hand, fascism is derived from the Latin word fasces which is a symbol of ancient Rome’s authority. Fascism is a government’s philosophy that stresses the authority and primacy of the state. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fascism pushes for an unquestioning submission or obedience to the leader; the subordination of an individual’s will to the authority of the state. Fascism harshly suppresses dissent and brings forth the celebration of martial virtues while values that are liberal and democratic are criticized and belittled. Fascism advocates the protection of business and preservation of the class systems. The Italian face of fascism, Benito Mussolini, has also stated that this political ideology “affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind.”
It was in 4th century BC that certain societies have appeared to be upholding the beliefs of communism. An ideal state was described in Plato’s Republic as having devout guardians in the service of the interests of the community as a whole. During this time, it was believed that private ownership of goods is the means of corrupting owners with the encouragement of selfishness. And so came the argument that a community must be like a large family sharing common ownership.
Compared with communism, fascism is a rather young principle. It was only during 1920s and 1930s that the term arose. This ideology was believed to have only risen out of fear of the working classes rising in power. So the protection of businesses, corporations and even landowning elites has begun. The preservation of class systems was also highly prioritized so as not to yield to the working classes’ steady rise in power. Since then, fascism has become one of 20th century’s major forms of government.
When there is a discussion comparing and contrasting communism and fascism, the men behind these two ideologies are also inevitably discussed. For communism, as mentioned earlier, Karl Marx is a very important name. He, along with Friedrich Engels, has pointed out structural and systemic problems that may be resolved once communism has replaced capitalism. They have identified poverty, diseases and untimely death of the proletariat (industrial working class) as endemic to capitalism. All these arguments and critiques on capitalism were presented, along with the idea of a communist society, in Manifesto of the Communist Party written in 1848. This manifesto is now considered as the bible or doctrine of communism.
As for fascism, Benito Mussolini is considered its founder, having first used the term to describe the form of the new government that he brought upon Italy. Mussolini later named his people or forces fasci, after the ancient Rome symbol fasces. Mussolini believed so much in the higher importance of the country compared with its people’s well-being. Mussolini has led the start of the fascist movement with this radical ideology in mind and has also written “La dottrina del fascismo” which literally means the doctrine of fascism.
So knowing the facts that define the parameters of communism and fascism, it is safe to say that communism upholds equality within a society and fascism stands for authoritarianism with the state bearing total control. In a communist society, the people believe that each and every one of them is equal and that every individual shares the same rights on the society’s resources and decision-making processes. This is contrary to what people in a fascist society believe. For the fascists, the state is a supreme authority with no individual or other group higher than it.
Now let’s go back to the two points of views presented earlier. Communism sees the state as the owner of everything while fascism upholds the state as the controller of everything. These two views may seem alike. But the difference really, is that state ownership is being emphasized by communists and state control is being highlighted by the fascists. State ownership is actually an idea that is leaning towards equality among the society’s members. On the other hand, state control promotes dictatorship with the society’s people as its subordinates.
Communism promotes a society without classes or divisions in status. It also promotes a society without a government; a society where the production and the distribution of goods are entirely based upon a principle of Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” With this principle, classifications of people as poor or rich have been abolished. Contrary to this, for the fascists, human values are nonexistent outside the boundaries of the state. This belief brings forth a strong sense of nationalism for the fascists. This kind of nationalism covers everything from economic nationalism and corporatism to militarism and totalitarianism.
These arguments show communism and fascism as opposite ends of the pole; their beliefs are actually contradictory. One principle is completely that of a socialist and the other is simply radical. The principal concepts from which these two ideologies are based are also conflicting, stating clearer that communism and fascism are simply different in nature.