NOTE: to narrow down the question, I will make the following narrowing:

  • Nazi symbols: salute and the swastika used in clear connection to Nazi (i.e. not this one)

  • Communist symbols: hammer and sickle on red background clearly associated with totalitarian communist regimes

According to this article, several countries made efforts towards banning communist symbols:

  • Indonesia - "Communism alongside Marxism-Leninism are officially banned in Indonesia"
  • US - "many states passed laws forbidding the display of red flags [...] United States Supreme Court held that such laws are unconstitutional.
  • Moldova - "the law came into an effect in 2012. The Constitutional Court of Moldova found it unconstitutional"
  • Ukraine - "the corresponding law was introduced in 2015"
  • Estonia - "government signed the draft law to ban politically motivated display of Soviet and Nazi symbols in public place [...] it eventually failed the parliamentary committee on the grounds of the freedom of speech"
  • Lithuania - "banned Soviet and Nazi symbols in 2008"
  • Latvia - "Parliament has approved the ban of the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols at all public events"
  • Albania, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovakia - "general bans on totalitarian ideology and its symbols"
  • Poland - ban "fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbols" unless used " as part of artistic, educational, collecting or academic activity.". Constitutional Tribunal of Poland found this ban unconstitutional due to the violation of freedom of expression.
  • EU - "In December 2013, a group of MEPs including Landsbergis addressed a letter to the President of the European Parliament, in which they requested a ban of symbols of totalitarian regimes."

According to this article, Nazi salute is not legal (or severely limited) in several European countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Sweden.

Regarding Nazi flags, this Wikipedia article states:

in several European countries the display of flags associated with the Nazi regime (see: Nazi flags) is subject to restriction or an outright ban.

Other arguments for the association between communism symbols and criminal acts:

  1. Declaration on Crimes of Communism (source)

The Declaration on Crimes of Communism is a declaration signed on 25 February 2010 by several prominent European politicians, former political prisoners, human rights advocates and historians, which calls for the condemnation of communism.

  1. Council of Europe resolution 1481 (source)

In the resolution 1481/2006 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) issued on January 25, 2006 during its winter session, the Council of Europe "strongly condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes".

  1. Condemning the Communist Regime in Romania (1945-1989) as Illegitimate and Criminal (unofficial report) - this report comes in response to the appeal by the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, that the communist regime in Romania should be condemned on the basis of a report elaborated by a scientifically validated commission.

  2. Death toll - according to this source many people died under communist ruling in many countries: Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cambodia, Africa, Afghanistan, Vietnam and many others

Question: Given above arguments why banning of communist symbols seem to be harder to obtain than banning of Nazi symbols?

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    The reasons Nazi symbols are banned in some places is due to a very particular and specific Nazi and what he did...which is very specifically awful on a scale above and beyond most human atrocities. "Communism" is a much fuzzier concept and therefore not as easy of a target. – user1530 Feb 23 '17 at 0:40
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    There is quite a lot wrong with this question, least of all it is comparing apples and oranges, both in comparing Naziism and communism and in comparing laws in various countries. And it also severely misrepresents and vilifies communism. Why no discussion about capitalist symbols? Capitalism is also associated with plenty of totalitarian regimes and many horrible atrocities. And finally, it cites quite a lot of evidence that contradicts its own premise! "Why is it so hard to ban communist symbols? Here's a long list of bans of communist symbols." WHAT – J Doe Feb 23 '17 at 19:42
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    Most European countries have big leftist (e.g. socialist, social democratic) parties; many have sizable communist parties. They are very different from the Leninist-Stalinists, but they too are successors of the legacy of Marx and Marxist thinkers like Bernstein and Kautsky, so I'm pretty sure parties like PCF, Die Linke, Syriza, and PCE - or even mainstream leftist parties like PS (France), SPD, PD (Italy), and Labour - will be really welcoming about banning communist symbols and denouncing communism. Should we also shut down Marx House, since he's the source of all evil? – xuq01 May 14 '17 at 2:37
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    @blip "'Communism' is a much fuzzier concept and therefore not as easy of a target." Seriously? Lenin and the Red Terror, Stalin's purges, Mao's Great Leap Forward, Kim Jon-Un's North Korea, Castro having political prisoners murdered. Communism is directly responsible for millions of deaths at the hands of various dictators. The list goes on. – Andy Aug 18 '17 at 23:17
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    @blip Communism itself an inherently flawed ideology; the only way it can come to be is brutal suppression of people's rights, which is why that's all we have ever seen. I'd say communist governments to date have been spot on. You don't even need to believe me, go reread Karl Marx's own words. The result of his philosophy is that anything society wants is fine, and if some individuals need to be crushed to accomplish whatever goal, that's fine. – Andy Aug 20 '17 at 15:38
up vote 73 down vote accepted

Nazis are a specific group of people who have committed atrocities in Europe. It is directly linked with the idea of Racial Superiority and Antisemitism.

We can agree that Nazism is morally bad. One who subscribes to being a Nazi is suggesting that the holocaust was justified.

Communism is a political and economical theory. It describes a supposedly idealistic society where all property is communally owned, among other things.

Regimes that are supposedly communist or strive to be communists have indeed committed atrocities. However, communism does not suggest that we do these atrocities.

We cannot agree that Communism is bad. We definitely cannot say that Communism is morally bad. One who subscribes to communism does not suggest that he agrees with the purges of Stalin.

Regarding the Hammer and Sickle Exclusively

  1. It is indeed banned in the several countries you've mentioned. It is important to note that Nazi symbol isn't banned universally either. In many countries (USA/Canada), they are allowed.

  2. Banning a Symbol is a violation of Free Speech. This article suggests that even in Germany, the ban on Nazi symbolism is soft.

  3. The Hammer and Sickle is a universal symbol of the communist revolution, rather than a specific symbol. While it is associated with totalitarian regimes, it is not only used for those regimes. The flag of Japan is not banned because it was used by the Japanese during World War II.

  4. To ban a symbol despite the Freedom of Speech is a show of extreme disapprobation. It suggests that any association with the symbol is an act terrible enough to be criminalized. The Soviet Union is not hated that much, despite the atrocities they've committed, especially in Russia.

  5. The Hammer and Sickle is a symbol for many communist regimes. To ban this symbol is to show extreme disapprobation to all these countries. It is questionable whether many people even though some of these regimes.

  6. Things that affect people personally have more effects. Western Europe was not subjected to Stalin's purges. As such, they do not harbour a hatred for Stalin as much as they do for Hitler. It is telling that most bans on the Communist symbolism are in countries that were Communist.

  7. Politics triumphs over justice. The Communists did not lose a major World War.

In response to "But history tells us that many communist regimes failed on multiple levels (politically, economically, morally)."

That is indeed correct. However, I would like to answer this with several arguments.

  • History have shown that many communist regimes failed when implemented at a state level (a large scale). It has also worked on small scales (village level).

  • History have shown that many capitalist regimes failed on several levels. It has shown that many democracies failed (and are failing) on several levels. It has shown that many of all form of government fail on several levels eventually. Communism have failed quicker than many though. Can communism work on a state level? History cannot prove that it can't. Economic and political systems continues to grow and adapt. What was considered to be the pinnacle of government 500 years ago is considered barbaric today. What is considered to be an ideal democracy today will be considered hilariously outdated in 100 years.

  • It is irrelevant whether communism will ultimately lead to failure. Consider the following eco-political theory, which I will dub the Pigeon Theory:

    • All properties should be owned by a single person between the age of 50-57 who is judged to be the best at economics. When this person has reached the age of 57, we cut off one of his legs.

    The theory's symbol is a pink pigeon.

    I do not need history to tell me that the Pigeon Theory is a terrible theory, and would fail at multiple levels if implemented. However, we should most definitely not ban the symbol of the pink pigeon, or criminalize the support of the Pigeon Theory.

  • 4
    Aren't forms of the hammer and sickle also used for syndicalism? – Tirous May 5 '17 at 23:17
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    'communism does not suggest that we do these atrocities' of course it does, any collectivist, supremacist ideology has violence, oppression and atrocities baked in. The reason why communism is not treated the same as Nazism is the moral vanity and ego of the leftists makes them believe that if they were running the revolution then things would be different. – user1450877 Nov 3 '17 at 10:59
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    @user1450877 "has violence, oppression and atrocities baked in". Well that's just plainly untrue. – Rob Nov 16 '17 at 0:08
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    @Rob clearly it is true. if you are going to seize the means of production so it can be controlled by the state what happens to the people that currently own the means of production and resist the seizure ? – user1450877 Nov 16 '17 at 8:55
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    @user145 - Communism is certainly a collectivist philosophy, but hardly supremacist. And, anyway, there are plenty of people who believe that communism will not be imposed through violent revolution, but gradually. It didn't take violent revolution to get the ACA passed, did it? ;) – Obie 2.0 Nov 16 '17 at 11:02

The difference is that Nazism is malicious, whereas Communism isn't. Not everything that is bad is also malicious.

For example the deaths in China's Great Leap Forward were mostly a result of sheer stupidity, and not malice. Mao declared that sparrows should be eradicated, the rationale being that sparrows eat seeds and that eradicating the sparrow "pest" would increase harvest yields. The people of China spent four years killing millions of sparrows.
Turned out that sparrows eat locusts and other insects which were now given free reign. Harvest yields dropped dramatically and tens of millions of people died. It would almost be funny if the consequences hadn't been so serious.

But these deaths are not the same as the Holocaust deaths, as the Holocaust deaths were intentional and malicious, whereas the deaths from the Great Leap Forward were accidental, which is considered to be "less bad" in the ethics of most people, which is why there is a wide and long-standing distinction between the legal concepts such as "murder", "voluntary manslaughter", "involuntary manslaughter", and "negligent homicide".

Nazism is a specific brand of fascism with core tenets such as Rassenkunde ("racial science"), Lebensraum ("living space"), and Lebensunwertes Leben ("life-unworthy life") that make it fundamentally malicious. It is important to realize that the Holocaust was not some accidental side-effect of Nazism that could have been avoided, but a logical and natural consequence of its core tenets.

Communism on the other hand is a fairly broad concept with many different installations. Some of these have been malicious in roughly the same way the Nazi regime was – the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia is probably the best example of this – but in many other Communist governments things are less clear-cut than that. There are certainly no core tenets that make Communism fundamentally malicious.

It is also important to maintain a distinction between Communism and Dictatorships. Stalin sending people to the Gulags was due to the fact that Soviet Russia was a Dictatorship, not because it was a Communist state.

That being said, it is probably true that Communism is likely to lead to dictatorships based on observational evidence, but it still doesn't make Communism fundamentally malicious in the same way that Nazism is.

  • 6
    This is an interesting perspective. In order to reduce the confusion and make the question more answerable, OP explicitly reference totalitarian communist regimes' symbols, not the communist regimes in general. Unfortunately, for those being sent to Gulags, this difference is very subtle. – Alexei May 13 '17 at 17:07
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    Unfortunately, for those being sent to Gulags, this difference is very subtle: Indeed it is, just as it is for victims of premeditated murder and negligent homicide ;-) The human sense of ethics is funny like that. – Martin Tournoij May 13 '17 at 17:11
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    "There are certainly no core tenants that make Communism fundamentally malicious." there is, people have some properties and ownership, you have to take it from them by force. – user14816 Aug 15 '17 at 12:46
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    @Tlen That's an issue with human nature and culture, not communism as a theory. If you can convince your population to give up the concept of ownership then no force is needed. – JAB Aug 17 '17 at 4:46
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    Stalin's examples are also more complicated. Last I recall the gulags were never intended to be death camps... they just turned out that way due to negligence, because the government didn't care about the conditions. The same however cannot be said for the likes of the Katyn Massacre, and there's increased interest in considering Stalin's famine part of a systemic genocide against nationalist elements rather than just due to incompetence (Holodomor). It may be worth mentioning that Marxism split into communism and anarchism, and that the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship is not quintessential. – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '17 at 11:20

Because banning Nazi symbols equals banning Nazi German state symbols that was destroyed at the heights of its evilness and no one can or should argue that Germans during WWII were anything else than brutal murderers.

It is more difficult with communism because when Soviet Union was falling in 1991 it was not a genocidal country anymore. It was a dictatorship that imprisoned thousands of people not murdered millions. The bloody soviet union ended in 1956 when its leader admitted that Stalin was criminal. You can't use soviet symbols in the same context as Germans, because its history is different.

Had soviet union changed the flag and symbols in 1956 the argument would have been different or if there were some clear symbols of Cambodian or Chinese genocide, but there are none.

Nazism is a belief system based around antisemitism and "race realism". It is a racist ideology which emerges when liberalism breaks down and people are unable to realistically analyse society.

Communism is a theorised political system where there is common ownership over the means of production (not all property like the other answer claims) in a stateless society which is achieved through a socialist state which eventually "withers away".

TLDR: Despite what people think of formerly Communist or Nazi governments, Nazi ideology is horrendous. The same cannot be said of Communists.

  • Yes, the difference is clear. I was referring to symbols associated with totalitarian communist regimes (not plain communist ideology) for which there is consensus about their abuses and crimes (e.g. most of the countries beyond the Iron Curtain). – Alexei Mar 8 '17 at 8:53
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    What would you deem an example of a symbol associated with "totalitarian" communist ideologies? – Inviolable Mar 26 '17 at 3:53
  • how do you achieve that system? wait until people gave up ownership and freedom or do you take that by force? – user14816 Aug 15 '17 at 12:42
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    The problem is that any historically knowledgable person can see that a corollary of trying to implement communism in a given country is totalitarianism and massive human suffering. Given this reality, why isn't communism considered as bad as Nazism? One could argue that communists don't regard totalitarian Communist states as being "truly" Communist. Yet the Nazis could simply respond by arguing that Nazism (or, rather, their conception of what Nazism is) doesn't support mass murder. This really leads nowhere, then. – MathematicsStudent1122 Aug 18 '17 at 7:50

TL;DR: also because of Russia's influence

Today, Russia positions itself as the main contributor in the Allies' victory in WWII and as 'The Liberator of Europe'. However, many atrocities committed by the Soviet Union and its proxies before, during and after WWII, severery compromise this image, creating a villain in place of a hero in the public eye.

A bit of historical background

After WWI, Soviet Union was formed (1922). It actively undermined the European countries as part of the 'Global Revolution Doctrine' authored by Leon Trotsky (Wikipedia references it as 'permanent revolution'). The doctrine implied that the Soviet Union backed all Communist parties (effectively militant groups) globally, guiding them to overthrow local governments by force, creating Communist governments and joining the S.U. as the Global Communist super-state (similar to the idea of the global Islamic State). Although Stalin 'officially' discarded the policy, he actively supported communist insurgents worldwide, namely in Germany and Spain (they all failed). According to some historians (namely Viktor Suvorov), the Soviet Union even planned to start a global war in order to take Europe by force.

Shortly before WWII, in 1939, the Soviet Union made a pact with the Nazi Germany to divide Europe into zones of control, which effectively meant occupation. In September 1939, USSR occupied eastern Poland, after the Germans occupied Poland from the west and took their capital city of Warsaw. In 1940, the Soviets occupied the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and failed to occupy Finland. In all occupied countries, there were mass repressions against civillians.

During and after WWII, Soviet Union occupied Eastern European countries and installed their puppets as leaders, claiming they were elected by the people. These satellite regimes held only due to Russian support, and collapsed immediately when the Soviet Union became weak.

Why was it not condemned in Russia after USSR collapse

After The Soviet Union collapse, the Russian authorities of Yeltsin administration wanted to condemn the Communism and ban its symbols nationwide. But the Communist party had quite a large number of supporters, increasing with economic problems of early 1990's, and the Government did not prevail. Decommunization of Russia was never completed.

Current affairs

The current government, while it does not endorse Communist ideology, glorifies and embellishes the Russian history to create an image of a 'Shining Knight' of the world, supporting traditional moral values and opposing the 'Greedy American capitalist pigs' or 'ZOG', or 'GayRope', or insert a conspiracy theory villain of your choice. Also, with increasing authoritarianism of Putin's regime, Stalin is being frequently used as a popular role model withing the country; while abroad, communist parties (now together with far-right) still act as Russia's 'friends' in villifying the West and creating information noise that best suits Russia's interests (also here). Therefore if Communism is banned or condemned, as Nazism, Russia will lose their valuable allies and some of the reputation.

  • 1
    An interesting answer. However the last two paragraphs could benefit from addition of references to support the claims. – Alexei Nov 28 '17 at 15:56

There's some false statements I saw here. It's not true that Communism is widely loved by the people in the Soviet Union or former member states. I live in the Republic of Moldova and here even many socialists/modern communists hate what Stalin did to the world and Communism itself. The real reason why commie signs aren't forbidden or looked down upon as much as the Nazi ones is because of ignorance mostly, even here. Try ctrl+f and search for "deportations", an act as terrible as the holocaust. The difference is they sent people to the other side of the globe to die and not in concentration camps in Europe. People mostly take the side of the Jews, and don't get me wrong I'm the furthest from being an anti-Semite, if anything, I want all people to be equal, but there's just so many things related to the holocaust and so few related to deportations or famine caused by the Soviets which killed off just as many or more people as the gas chambers.

Western ignorance is the real answer. Most of the westerners never felt the "real" Communism (I make commies look bad, they're just misguided, I've been one myself :p ). In Eastern Europe Communism is "bad", the only people that vote for Communists are the old people that think Capitalism is evil, and most of them only do so because they lived in the Soviet Union and they "think" they liked it more. My dad, a former state prosecutor that lived and worked in the USSR, wrote a book about the criminal acts of the leaders, politicians, soldiers of the time, sadly it's only in Romanian.

  • 3
    Although I am too young to have significant firsthand experience of communism in my country, I know about the things mentioned in the answer (from parents, grandparents, documentaries, some books written or translated after the fall of the communism etc.). A well known reference is The Gulag Archipelago. However, in order for your answer to fit within this site, you should also include references to support the claims. E.g. Link to "some false statements", deportation related articles, link to your dad book. Thank you. – Alexei May 13 '17 at 8:03

If Nazi-ism was a philosophy or system that had taken root in a widespread way with varying implementations, actions and results, it would be much tougher to ban symbols associated with that movement.

Because there was a very narrow, specific implementation that used that moniker in a major way, under Hitler, his atrocities and actions define and have become synonymous with Nazi-ism.

While there have been horrible actions committed under the name of communism under a variety of its implementations, there have also been ruling communist regimes that have not committed wholesale purges and slaughters, and the circumstances behind the bad acts under communism are not identical and universal, so the symbols of communism are not as synonymous with specific, worst-ever actions, necessarily.

As for the banning of Nazi symbology in public in Germany, I can tell you that it is neither only affecting Nazi symbols nor does it work very well.

It is prohibited to show symbols of organizations that want to abolish or undermine the constitution. This is a legal term in Germany and has to be confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court if an organization is centered on abolishing or undermining the constitution.

That includes the symbols of the NSDAP but also includes left extremist symbols.

As for working very well, well they abolished the Swastika flag being shown. So now the Neo-Nazi movements and parties show the imperial war ensign (Military Flag of the German Empire of 1871-1918) or the normal Flag of the German Empire from 1871-1918 or - ironic and even more ridicolous - the Wirmer-Flag which was designed by one of the people instigating the resistance of the german military against Hilter during the failed July 20 plot.

So they might be banned, but everyone knows what is meant...

TL;DR -- Nazis want to kill people, commies want universal peace and harmony and individual commies have been willing to kill people to achieve those goals.

Nazis refer to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei aka NSDAP aka National Socialist German Workers Party, a very specific group. Nazis are not the National Socialist party of Italy or the US. Showing Nazi symbols can be taken as support for the group and the various crimes they committed -- accessory after the fact.

Communism on the other hand is a political philosophy, and is not specific to any one group (for instance the USSR was against the Thailand communist).

Whatever their other goals or means used to achieve those other goals, we know that Nazis had goals we find inhuman and that they used means we consider criminal in their attempt to achieve those goals.

Communism may require means we consider criminal in order to have any hope of achieving their goals, but their stated goals are not themselves inhuman.

That means that it is perfectly possible to be a communist and unwilling to advocate killing anyone, but not possible to be a nazis without advocating killing some people.

This difference between the two makes making laws against nazis symbols easier than making laws against communist symbols.

protected by Alexei Aug 18 '17 at 17:19

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