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Many politicians and social groups use "fascism" and "nazism" synonymously, and this has confused me (and maybe others) for a long time. Is there any big difference between them, or are the differences so minimal that it's ok to use them as synonyms?

  • Well, the name. Both are bigot ideology. Most people simply hypnotize by the frame of "national-socialism" , which in fact, is pure conservative-nationalism with ZERO socialism ideology. – mootmoot Apr 4 at 7:54

11 Answers 11

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Fascism is the regime/ideology of anti-democracy. The state is absolute and totalitarian and all citizens must follow the state. Whether this applies just to a regime or also to an ideology advocating this form of regime, may be debatable.

National-Socialism or Nazism is a racist and antisemitic ideology which holds that the Aryan race is superior to all other races, and that the government must actively promote the perfect race.

Nazism tends to be fascist, but fascism is not necessarily national-socialist.


Edit: Some comments mention communism. In theory, communism is supposed to be democratic in the long run (the dictatorship of the proletariat is supposed to be just a phase), and many nominally socialist or communist countries pretended to be so (for example, the German Democratic Republic). The fact that in practice it became totalitarian and at times hard to distinguish from fascism (such as under Stalin) is an illustration of its failure. Fascism, on the other hand, is anti-democratic by design.

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    The expression "Nazism tends to be fascist" is tantamount to something like: "communism tends to be capitalism" or vice versa, or even: "a chair tends to be a table" or "Germans tend to be Italians" which is a bit nonsensical. They are unique and typical for the nations and countries they were developed in and resemble their social, economic, political, and many other characteristics. – Ziezi Jan 28 '16 at 21:58
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    @simplicisveritatis No, it isn't. The most clearly nazi regime history has seen was clearly fascist. – gerrit Jan 28 '16 at 22:09
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    @simplicisveritatis, Any ideology of supremacy (racial-supremacy=nazism, class-supremacy=kommunism, religious-supremacy=khalifate, etc.) requires some oppression system. When it grows to a size of entire state, the regime turns into a fascism. «The state is a machine for oppression of one class by another» — Lenin. Some regimes may, however, have oppression systems without any ideology of racial/class/religious supremacy, but it is rather useless. – bytebuster Jan 29 '16 at 15:38
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    So if I understand you correctly, if the Gestapo kicks in my door because I'm rumored to be harboring Jews; they're nazis for wanting to incarcerate all the Jews, but they're fascists because they kicked in my door? And a non-fascist nazi state would rather take me to court instead of kick in my door? – Flater Nov 17 '17 at 10:00
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    @Chupacabras Communism has many different meanings. If we're talking about the reality of Stalinism, then I don't think it's unreasonable to consider it similar to fascism in practice. If we're talking about the utopia described by Marx, Engels and co, then it's quite different (worker council democracy), but that utopia has never come to pass. Note that communist countries pretended to be democratic (such as the German Democratic Republic) because in theory, communism is supposed to be democratic. That it in practice became totalitarian and at times fascist illustrates its failure. – gerrit Dec 10 '18 at 17:43
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Fascism is a less broad ideology, and Nazism is more or less a superset of it (in other words, someone following Nazism as an ideology would likely subscribe to all the ideas of fascism, and a few extra ones that other non-Nazi fascists may not.

As a typical example, racial superiority ideas were part of Nazism, but not strictly speaking a major foundational part of fascism.

Please also note that scholars frequently distinguish fascism (a generic ideology) and capital-F fascism which was a specific variant of it as practiced by Mussolini's regime in Italy.

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    While those two comments are good and I've hence upvoted them, the actual post states pretty much the opposite of what it should: AFAIK fascism is used as a superset of nazism which is a specific implementation of it, not the other way around... – o0'. Dec 20 '12 at 18:21
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    @Lohoris - you are confusing an ideology being a superset (containing MORE ideas), and holders of ideology being a superset (everyone holdnig X also holds Y). Those two statements result in 180 opposite wording for the same result (Fascism is held by a superset of adherents, while Nazism is a superset by amount of ideas - which is what the answer used). If you aren't familiar with what superset means, formal definition is here. If you want programming terms, fascism is a parent class and nazism is inherited one. – user4012 Dec 20 '12 at 20:30
  • oh thanks! Could you somehow clarify that in the answer itself? – o0'. Dec 21 '12 at 10:40
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    I think you confused something because the fiirst sentence contradicts the rest. – Anixx Mar 27 '14 at 12:08
  • I would see it the other way: fascism as the superset, of authoritarian regimes coming up in parts of Europe after WW1, with special subsets, such as Italian fascism, Spanish Falange and German Nazism. Common feature (IFascism or AbstractFascism in C# syntax) was the nationalist, authoritarian and violent attitude, social roots in the military and militarized civil societies, a base in mass movements instead of traditional elites. Nazism:AbstractFascism added racial ideologies and eugenics. – Erik Hart Nov 26 '17 at 15:02
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The main difference between Fascism and Nazism is rooted in the socioeconomic and sociopolitical climate of their country of origin, at the time they were developed, Italy and Germany respectively, which is deeply imprinted in both of them. fact that makes them unique

Both ideologies were developed to oppose currently dominant political or economic systems, in the case of Fascism: liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism and in the case of Nazism: communism, capitalism. Moreover, to provide a backbone to both nations and facilitate mobilization and militarization.

Having that in mind, they were probably developed carefully based on the specificities of the socium and the current mentality such that to resonate most with the masses, to remove polarizations, homogenise, purify (in the case of Nazism)1, morally rejuvenate, unite the nations and direct them towards a common "higher" goal.


1. Racial superiority: master race, the purest of the Aryan race was a major part of Nazism aimed, among others, to justify actions that couldn't be legally grounded.

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    Welcome to S.E. Good answer. I think, however, you are leaving out the racial element that is explicitly present in Nazism which is not necessarily a component of fascism (e.g. the Falangists). Add a brief discussion of that, and I think this deserves and upvote. – The Pompitous of Love Jan 28 '16 at 22:37
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    I think so. I would avoid assuming that people would know that means "racial purification." I believe erring on the side of completeness and specificity is always to the good. – The Pompitous of Love Jan 28 '16 at 22:45
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    Best answer clearly. Note that while Fascists command in the economic sphere they generally aren't responsible for outcomes while socialists own the economy full stop. – K Dog Nov 27 '16 at 13:04
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    Also note that both are totalitarian and are against social and civic groups that offer contrasting views or organizational capabilities. Both Italy and Germany opposed the Church and trade groups for example – K Dog Nov 27 '16 at 13:09
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    Final note. Fascism: you have $20 dollars, I am going to tell you how to spend it. Oh, spend it on me. National Socialism: You don't have $20; I have $20. – K Dog Nov 27 '16 at 20:24
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Historically, Italian fascism* precedes nazism. It took power with the March on Rome in 1922.

When, in the following years and in other countries, movements of the same kind began to gain traction and international attention, they were compared to fascism.

The most notable was, of course, Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, which leaped in the German elections of September 1930 from 800,000 to 6,400,000 votes. Italian fascism was at the time well known and its dictatorship very well established. In the eyes of international observers, Nazism was a relatively new movement with much in common with fascism: I think that that's why they interpreted the events as Fascism rising in Germany as well **.

Fast forward, Nazis have already taken over Germany and the term Fascism is used again to describe Franco's Falangism: volunteers from all over the world (like Robert Jordan in the famous For Whom the Bell Tolls) join the republican forces to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War.

And there have been many other instances again.

So we can now say that Fascism is commonly used more broadly to identify regimes, movements and ideologies while Nazism is strongly tied to Hitler's National Socialism. As Umberto Eco explained in his 1995 essay Ur-Fascism, this is probabilly not only because of historycal priority, but also because Nazism is much more coherent philosophically:

Mein Kampf is a manifesto of a complete political program. Nazism had a theory of racism and of the Aryan chosen people, a precise notion of degenerate art, entartete Kunst, a philosophy of the will to power and of the Ubermensch. Nazism was decidedly anti-Christian and neo-pagan

[...]

Contrary to common opinion, fascism in Italy had no special philosophy. The article on fascism signed by Mussolini in the Treccani Encyclopedia was written or basically inspired by Giovanni Gentile, but it reflected a late-Hegelian notion of the Absolute and Ethical State which was never fully realized by Mussolini. Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.

I would like to add that as an accuse, Nazi is usually perceived as stronger than Fascist. Partly because of all of the above: as a broader, fuzzier and less coherent term, Fascist may be considered weaker. Partly because of the different historycal courses that Italy and Germany had after WW2: Germany dealt with its past dictatorship while Italy didn't***. There were no Nuremberg trials for Italian war crimes, and many fascist administrators remained in charge after the war.

* Mussolini's National Fascist Party got its name from the former Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, best translated into "Italian Combat Leagues"

** For example, see Leon Trotsky's The fascist danger looms in Germany

*** See for instance Italy's Amnesia over War Guilt: The “Evil Germans” Alibi

3

The terms "fascism" and "fascist" are overused. Like several other words of political invective, their imprecise use stands as a substitute for thinking about the situation at hand, They are also anachronisms.

To conflate the two is a mistake leading to a grave misunderstanding of much of 20th century history. Fascism was ultra-conservative; accommodating of Church, monarchy, elites, and other elements of the ancien régime; and mindful of social hierarchy (the classes or orders of the corpus). The State was to be the beginning and end of political action, and matters such as race were secondary in importance. Nazism was radical and revolutionary. It co-opted, undermined, or defeated anciens régimes and aspired to transcend class by creating a unitary Volk. The state existed as a means to the racial end: race was all.

Both movements were, of course, militaristic and militantly nationalistic--and populist. We have seen hundreds of armed ultranationalist groups over the past century or more, and certainly the opponents in Ukraine fit this description. That does not qualify them as fascist. But the revolutions in Kiev and Simferopol have both been populist--and that designation is a the core of the question of legitimacy when an elected leader is ousted by popular action.

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    Fascism was not accomodating of Church at first, and it's definitely not ultra-conservative, since it's partly derived from Socialism... – o0'. Mar 25 '14 at 11:49
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    Mussolini was an atheist, who just had a non-aggression deal with church. – user14816 Jul 31 '17 at 9:17
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The descriptions for fascism here are apt however Nazism is a bit misunderstood as just being anti-Semitic totalitarianism which is only partially true.

Nazism - Nationalist Socialism (Nationalism and then Socialism), had its primary ideal as Nationalism (their definition that is) - thus requiring a pure and great nation. Which thus meant anyone who wasn't really German (i.e Aryan acc. to them) - Jews, Gypsies, other nationalities, even gays - was detrimental to the goal of greater Germany.

The Socialism part of it reflected this and instead of plain old Socialism (for equity for benefit of citizens), Nationalist Socialism though following the Socialist route of high state-control, state-run industries, housing etc. was more geared towards manufacture of goods that would primarily aid the nationalist goal - greater, stronger Germany which of course could've only been fulfilled by expansionist wars (so that Germans had more land to 'breathe').

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Mussolini described the fascism saying 'nothing outside the state, nothing against the state, everything within the state'. It was a socialism movement where the state was a new god.

Since 30s most of the democratic states evolved in that direction, so the idea that the government controls or regulate every aspect of life is not controversial. However at that point the position of the government was much weaker and many people was fascinated with Mussolini's idea of creating perfect society by forcing people to act for a common good - the state. Maybe this opinion is controversial but fascist Italy didn't commit more crimes that e.g. british empire. There are many bad things you could and should say about fascism but it is hardly the worst thing ever.

National socialism is a german implementation of fascism mixed with racist definition of a nation. One lesson learned from German history is that they can't walk the middle of the street. The German fascist state was no competing against other countries, it was fighting other races.

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Communists labeled all national or state governments as "fascist," including socialist democracies. I'm reading this in Cambridge political science professor Gareth Steadman Jones' notes in a book about the "Communist Manifesto" (Penguin, 2002).

The irony is that the communists themselves, by their own definition, were (or are?) "fascists" in that they believed in forcing all people--violently, if necessary--to become members of a global "state" or "nation," which brutally excludes all other states, nations, and political beliefs. Communists are textbook "fascists."

In other words, "fascist" is a term that the most rabidly passionate control freaks use to condemn and disparage all other control freaks.

  • While this may be true, it doesn't address the question of the difference between fascism and nazism. – Brythan Feb 4 '17 at 14:25
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Fascism is a political/economic system that is totalitarian, one-party and corporatist.

Nazism is fascism plus racism.

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    This isn't a good answer. You've made some assertions without backing them up. Can you add some links or quotes defending your position? – Machavity Aug 2 '17 at 20:57
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There were several important differences between Fascism and Nazism, and rejection of the concept of race and anti-Semitism is what differentiated the fascist ideology from Nazism the most.

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    This is a widespread mis-belief. Nazism is ideology of racial supremacy, while Fascism is a type of government, merely anti-democracy. – bytebuster Dec 16 '15 at 7:25
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    This answer is not quite up to snuff. Things that would help could be sources, examples or a more in depth discussion of Fascism vs. Nazism, perhaps including wider examples of how the Falange (for example) is a Fascist movement, but not at all Nazi, or how Nazism is specific to the Allophone nations, with some plausible migration to other Germanic countries. – The Pompitous of Love Dec 22 '15 at 17:02
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National Socialism (otherwise known as its misnomer of "nazism") and Fascism are ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum. Fascism is literally state corporatism, national socialism is... well, socialist.

National Socialism was staunchly against capitalism, and whilst it didn't oppose privately owned companies (unlike its 'cousin'/rival, communism), it did dictate that everyone (every German in "nazism's" case) was equal and was required to help one another and work for their nation and fellow Germans rather than personal gain.

I admit I am not as well versed with fascism, but it is effectively ultra-conservatism. In fascism, the state and corporations hold equal footing and the two work together to control the directions of the country. In theory this will create a very rich, powerful nation, however it is quite prone to corruption and generally has a very powerful military presence to go along with it.

Ultimately, Fascism and National socialism are not inherently evil ideologies like historians would have you believe, and they are certainly not the same. Hitler and Mussolini shared common beliefs, however, their methods of governing and priorities concerning the state were very different.

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