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Georges Sorel was a Marxist, who later developed Sorelianism, which later became Fascism.

To quote Benito Mussolini himself:

I owe most to Georges Sorel. This master of syndicalism by his rough theories of revolutionary tactics has contributed most to form the discipline, energy and power of the fascist cohorts.
Benito Mussolini, as Quoted in The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism, Arthur Versluis, Oxford University Press (2006) p. 39.

Does that mean that fascism is ideologically descended from communism?

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    I think there's enough of a tie in where this can be answered. If Sorel credits Marx for much of his work and Mussolini credits Sorel that's certainly a relation and arguably a desendence. That said, it seems Mussolini had some ideas that were flat out opposite Marxist communism (so did Stalin), so we should be careful when we draw a relation. Pay attention to the big differences. – userLTK Oct 8 '17 at 22:53
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Prior to developing fascism, Mussolini was a socialist in the Marxist sense.

During WW1, Mussolini recognised that it wasn't class that drew people together most strongly, it was cultural, historical and linguistic identity. This cultural identity drew people together from across class backgrounds; from aristocracy to capitalists to workers.

As such, he abandoned the Marxist idea of a class struggle and developed, what became known as, nationalism. The complex political picture at the time, with parts of Italy being used as political footballs by empires for centuries, meant that the idea was more about culture than nationality in the political sense.

What Mussolini retained, however, was the socialist idea of everyone working for the good of a strong, central state. So, class aside, the practical aspects of fascism were not dissimilar to those of Marxist socialism. Analogously, where socialism had class enemies, fascism inevitably had cultural enemies and this, over time, morphed into racism.

Now, although fascism can be seen as an intellectual development from Marxist socialism, it most definitely isn't a development of communism. In Marxism, communism is what was meant to happen after there was a socialist state run by and for the proletariat. Essentially, the state would disappear and everyone would be equal (ok, it's more complicated than that but that should suffice for this narrative). There is nothing in fascism that speaks to anything like this idea so there is no obvious way that fascism can be said to have developed from communism.

So, in summary, fascism can be seen as directly influenced by Marxist socialism, with class identity replaced by cultural identity. It was not influenced by communism proper.

Edit: Mussolini's wikipedia entry is a reasonable summary of his life and political motivations. As with much literature past and present, it does sometimes confuse Marxist socialism and communism. As such, I've tried to pick out the salient pieces to answer the question directly.

  • I generally agree with this, but crediting Mussolini with having "developed what became known as nationalism" is rather off-base. Nationalism existed well before him. It would probably be better said that he blended nationalist ideas with a few socialist ones (and with a few capitalist ones for that matter.) And en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… does a pretty good job currently. – Fizz Sep 16 at 3:14
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It is not uncommon for ideologically motivated people to jump ships. A Communist can very well turn 180 degrees and become a Nazi and a Nazi can become a Communist. A liberal can become conservative, a nationalist an internationalist, an islamophobe can convert to Islam and so on.

Claiming that the development of a persons ideological thought reflects a connection between the ideologies is a fallacy. A person inflicted with a certain disease can later in life be inflicted by a different one, without there being a connection.

There is also a difference between the manifestation of an ideology and the political content of that ideology. Communists and Socialists in the early 20th century, organized mass rallies and protests. Fascists and Nazis adopted that method of political struggle and staged their own rallies, because they found it to be an effective tool. That does not mean we can infer a connection between the ideologies.

The answer to your question is no. Fascism is not ideologically descended from Communism.

  • People growth up and stop being communists. Most of them become socialists. – user14816 Oct 10 '17 at 12:52
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    So you proved that Musolini being a former socialist is not a valid point to claim that Fascism descends from Communism. However you didn't prove that Fascism indeed does not descends from Communism. – Bregalad Oct 13 '17 at 14:28
  • Not just individuals changing, but shifting alliances over time. Common enemies make for strange bedfellows at times. – Jared Smith Dec 3 '18 at 20:25
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Georges Sorel was a Marxist? Yes, albeit certainly not a mainstream one. His theories about "myth" do not sound Marxist at all; they are at most a deviation from Marxism. His idealisation of violence may be rooted in Marx's famous quotes about violence being a necessary part of historic change, but it is also something different: for Marx, and most Marxists, violence is a tool, albeit an inavoidable one; for Sorel (as for Mussolini) violence seems to be something good in itself.

His biography includes cooperation with Maurras' Action Française; how many other Marxists have cooperated with Maurras, or even failed to decry Maurras' actions and aims?

On the other hand, Sorel vehemently opposed WWI, while Mussolini broke with the Italian Socialist Party exactly because he wanted Italy to take part in the war.

So neither the connection of Sorel to Marxism is straightforward, nor is his connection to Mussolini as solid as the latter would have us believe (Mussolini, by the way, was quite the liar; did he really owe anything to Sorel, or did he just found it useful to attribute some of his ideas to someone of higher intellectual reputation?)

Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, Hilferding, Kautsky, Labriola, Gramsci, Talheimer, Bukharin, Bela Kun, Clara Zetkin, etc., were also Marxist - and each of them more clearly associated with the most important trends and controversies between Marxists in the first post-war. Are there any quotes of Mussolini aproving of these people? Has Mussolini ever recognised any debt to Rosa Luxemburg or Labriola?

And the Nazis claimed to be in intellectual debt to Nietzsche. Does this make Nazism descended from Nietzscheanism? Would such association even make Nietzsche happy? Or, as hinted by his controversy with Wagner, he would have repudiated Nazism as just another kind of vulgarity?


There is a difference between filogenetic connection and functional similarity. A bat is a mammal, not a bird, but a bat flies like most birds and unlike most mammals.

These questions about fascism and communism tend to confuse those things: if someone was a Marxist but then turned fascist, then fascism must be rooted in Marxism. If one is rooted in the other, then they must have similar functions and consequences. If both fascists and Marxists are adept of political violence, they are similar; if they are similar, then one must have taken the idea from the other, or be descended from the other.

This line of reasoning is usually reserved for things we dislike. Jim Jones obviously drank from the Bible and from Christian tradition - however we don't expect the Pope or Ted Cruz to lead a collective suicide just because they have those common roots with the People's Temple. We would rather speak of a corruption of Christianism, or Protestantism in Jones' case.

Small d democrats often decry Stalin's (or Ataturk's) forcible relocation of entire ethnicities, but a liberal democracy did something very similar before (the Trails of Tears) without we concluding that Stalinism is ideologically descended from liberal democracy.

In the case in discussion, I would say that there is double corruption: Sorel's Marxism is an already corrupted version of Marxism, and Mussolini's use of Sorel's decontextualised phrases and sentences are even more transparently a corruption of Sorel's thought.

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1) THEORY

Fascism is an extreme form of nationalism, characterized by military & authoritarian government, ruling by few & oppression of society. It appeared in the early 20th century in Europe (Italy & Germany) was implemented via far-right political forces. It was the basis upon Nazism was built, with all the catastrophical results of WW2.

Communism, on the other hand, in a socio-political system, which aims at abolition of private property, common social ownership of means of productions, absence of classes, money and state. In a few words, "to each according to his need from each according to his ability", as Marx puts it.

Obviously, not only the two ideologies are NOT similar, but one can easily deduce that they are on the exact opposite sides.

2) IN PRACTICE

In WW2, the Allied BIG Forces, i.e. Communist Soviets, US & UK fought against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

WW2 Casualties
US-->419.000
UK-->450.000
France-->600.000
Soviet Union-->around 20.000.000

Communists together with the allied forces, defeated the monster of fascism and made it up until Berlin, where WW2 was finalized.

In the battle against Fascism, in the most terrible war the world has ever seen, in WW2, Communist Russia sacrificed 20 million of its children and led to the allied anti-fascist & anti-nazi victory.

That is the relationship between Fascism and Communism in practice. A relationship of blood, the most blood ever shed in the history of the world.

“Anyone who loves freedom owes such a debt to the Red Army that it can never be repaid.” — Ernest Hemingway

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    Two ideologies waging a war against each other doesn't mean that they are unconnected. See e.g. almost all wars in feudal Europe. – Sjoerd Oct 13 '17 at 22:39
  • For sure, but that's not what I claim. Communism & fascism have a very clear and distant range of ideological profiles. On top of that, through history, fascist regimes target communists as a primal target and communist & democratic powers are the core resisting forces against fascism/Nazism. Bear in mind that WW2 is not an average war. It was the greatest battle the wolrd had ever seen against the Nazi beast. The anti-fascist powers won and communists,as I presented, together with the rest of the forces of course (US,UK,France,etc) gave their blood for it. – koita_pisw_sou Oct 16 '17 at 6:22
  • I think the worst part of your answer is arguing that Communism and Fascism are ideological adversaries because they fought on opposing sides of WW2. For one thing, Capitalism and Communism (or some warped flavor of them), fought as allies in WW2, and that doesn't mean these ideologies are compatible. Also, Germany and USSR were nearly allies in WW2 until Germany betrayed USSR. The allied lines of the war were nearly the opposite of how they turned out. I would focus on the ideological facts and the origins, rather than WW2 alliances. – John Dec 3 '18 at 19:57
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They have much in common ideologically (especially Marxism as opposed to general communism).

But the founder of fascism (Mussolini) was clear that it was distinct from socialism despite similarities, and he'd know first hand as he was a socialist earlier.

In short, he was taking some/most of the goals of socialists/communists, declaring that their implementation was flawed due to (1) fighting with the capital instead of collaborating and (2) being international instead of nationalistic, and adjusting his ideology to these two points; and creating what's today labeled as a "Third Position" - neither socialist nor capitalist.

Some relevant quotes from Mussolini:

I know the Communists. I know them because some of them are my children…
Speech quoted in The Three Faces of Fascism: Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism by Ernst Nolte, Henry Holt & Company, Inc. (1966) p. 154. Speech given on June 21, 1921 in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies.

For this I have been and am a socialist. The accusation of inconsistency has no foundation. My conduct has always been straight in the sense of looking at the substance of things and not to the form. I adapted socialisticamente to reality. As the evolution of society belied many of the prophecies of Marx, the true socialism folded from possible to probable. The only feasible socialism socialisticamente is corporatism, confluence, balance and justice interests compared to the collective interest.
As quoted in “Soliloquy for ‘freedom’ Trimellone island”, on the Italian Island of Trimelone, journalist Ivanoe Fossani, one of the last interviews of Mussolini, March 20, 1945, from Opera omnia, vol. 32. Interview is also known as "Testament of Benito Mussolini, or Testamento di Benito Mussolini".

Mussolini told the young man of his admiration for Communism—‘Fascism is the same thing’ [as Communism].
As quoted in The Politics of Upheaval: 1935-1936 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. III), Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., New York: NY, Mariner Book: Houghton Mifflin Co., (2003) p. 147. Mussolini’s 1931 statement to Alfred Bingham, the son of a U.S. Republican Senator.

Fascism entirely agrees with Mr. Maynard Keynes, despite the latter's prominent position as a Liberal. In fact, Mr. Keynes' excellent little book, The End of Laissez-Faire (1926) might, so far as it goes, serve as a useful introduction to fascist economics. There is scarcely anything to object to in it and there is much to applaud.
As quoted from Mussolini's review of Keynes' new book in Universal Aspects of Fascism

Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State. “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1935 version), Firenze: Vallecchi Editore, p.15.

Fascism establishes the real equality of individuals before the nation… the object of the regime in the economic field is to ensure higher social justice for the whole of the Italian people… What does social justice mean? It means work guaranteed, fair wages, decent homes, it means the possibility of continuous evolution and improvement. Nor is this enough. It means that the workers must enter more and more intimately into the productive process and share its necessary discipline… As the past century was the century of capitalist power, the twentieth century is the century of power and glory of labour.

We want an extraordinary heavy taxation, with a progressive character, on capital, that will represent an authentic partial expropriation of all wealth; seizures of all assets of religious congregations and suppression of all the ecclesiastic Episcopal revenues, in what constitutes an enormous deficit of the nation and a privilege for a minority; revisions of all contracts made by the war ministers and seizure of 85% of all war profits.

Here's what Richard Pipes had to say on Mussolini (he was Jewish so hardly pro-fascist; but highly anti-communist):

Even as the Fascist leader, Mussolini never concealed his sympathy and admiration for Communism: he thought highly of Lenin’s ‘brutal energy,’ and saw nothing objectionable in Bolshevik massacres of hostages. He proudly claimed Italian Communism as his child.
Richard Pipes, Russia Under The Bolshevik Regime, New York: NY, Vintage Books (1995) p. 252.

Given the opportunity, Mussolini would have been glad as late as 1920-21 to take under his wing the Italian Communists, for whom he felt great affinities: greater, certainly, than for democratic socialists, liberals and conservatives. Genetically, Fascism issued from the 'Bolshevik' wing of Italian socialism, not from any conservative ideology or movement.
Richard Pipes Russia Under The Bolshevik Regime, New York: NY, Vintage Books (1995) p. 253

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    Also, it's a bit less connected, but look at Congress of Verona. Large parts of it sound pretty socialist. – user4012 Oct 8 '17 at 2:09
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    The salient objective difference is that fascism permits productive facilities to remain in private hands while exercising control there over while communism puts ownership of such facilities in the government. Either form of governance affords the government complete control which can be benevolent or oppressive. Great power in the government tends towards the latter. – TomO Oct 10 '17 at 22:01

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