I know the obvious answer of Nationalism but I'm looking for a more detailed, comprehensive answer of the differences between the two.

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    Are you using the second term in its correct political context (Mussolini's system) or a generic circa 21st century "everyone bad" political label? Please remember that Mussolini's system differed even from Germany's.
    – user4012
    Jun 5, 2018 at 19:12
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    There are as many differences between them as there are between any other two political systems; even Hitler's fascism and Mussolini's fascism have significant differences, or Marx's/Engel's ideas on socialism. If you narrow the question down to two example implementations you'd likely get better quality answers.
    – Giter
    Jun 5, 2018 at 19:24
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    @Giter: Not to mention Franco's Spain, which departed from Hitler and Mussolini so much, that some scholars classify it as another ideology altogether.
    – hszmv
    Jun 5, 2018 at 19:28
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    Have you looked at the Wikipedia articles on the two topics? Jun 15, 2018 at 8:27
  • Can you give us one historical example for each of the two expressions you wish to compare? I have this feeling that when you say "socialist" you actually mean something like the soviet union. And that comparison would likely leave a great number of social democracy parties in the EU (in fact the great majority) a bit disappointed.
    – armatita
    Jun 15, 2018 at 12:53

3 Answers 3


It's hard to pinpoint specific differences if you assume generic ideology as conceived by Mussolini, and compare it to generic ideology umbrella broadly labeled "socialism" - in part because Mussolini was a "reformed" socialist and brought a lot of socialist influences into his thought.

  • The main difference is that socialism is an economic system (that naturally tended to gravitate towards specific totalitarian political structures when applied in practice due to its nature times human nature), and another one is an ideological system (which even easier gravitates towards specific totalitarian political structures due to underlying ideology, and can arguably be asserted to be incompatible with anything but authoritarian politics).

    In theory, you could construct a socialist society which politically isn't authoritarian/totalitarian, at least in small scale - although it would not stably work in practice in a large self-contained country assuming pure socialism, especially of Marxist variety.

    On the opposite end, fascism does not directly oppose private ownership of property/means of production as a whole, although under such regimes a lot of industries ended up either wholly nationalized, or under very strict state control although in theory privately owned. Mussolini explicitly noted that the only feasible implementation of socialism was corporatism, as noted in his quotes in my answer here comparing Communism to Fascism.

  • Adding to that difference is vagueness.

    There's no firm, narrow, definition of what socialism is (look at Wikipedia's definition - it's basically "social ownership of means of production" - without even defining how said ownership is implemented).

    As such, a rather wide swath of things can be labeled "socialist" (including, though incorrectly, blended mostly-capitalist societies like modern Nordic system countries).

    By contrast, Mussolini's system was fairly firmly specified, bust still rather vague (compared with, for example, Nazism which was far more narrow and rigid).

  • Please note that the main typical critique of differences, often from the left side of the political spectrum, is "Nationalism".

    However, we run smack into that previous issue of vagueness. Yes, socialism in theory, as a general vague idea, does not imply nationalism, and some forms of it explicitly oppose nationalism (the word "Internationale" does have a reason to exist").

    But the most common implementations of socialism at a country level (USSR, Cuba, China, Iraq) ended up fiercely nationalistic in practice.

  • On a similar note, a typical answer of racial prejudices of various sorts aren't correct either - the original Italian version of Mussolini's ideology didn't have a strong racial superiority tones, and only later morphed under influence of Germany; whereas again mainline Marxist states ended up either generally racist, or at the very least heavily antisemitic .

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    Overall fair, but it should be pointed out that Franco's Spain was a third variety of Facism that contended that there were racial differences, but that these differences brought new strengths to the table and thus most prejudices in his system were not racial but religious. Hitler would have a problem with an ethnic Jew as an impure threat to the Ayrian Race. Franco had no problem with the an ethnic Jew... so long as they were a practicing Roman Catholic ethnic Jew.
    – hszmv
    Jun 5, 2018 at 19:56
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    I think the term which might describe what you are referring to in the comment above is ethno-centric nationalism. The ethno-centric part is often forgotten and a strong nationalism often gets accused of being fascist-like. Of course, if you eliminate enough details from consideration and make everything as abstract as it can be, all social orders will seem the same.
    – grovkin
    Jun 6, 2018 at 4:29
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    It is very strange: the word "Internationale" does have a reason to exist". Really? Do you have any reasons to claim it? Isn't it just lie? Jun 7, 2018 at 8:03
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    We can give hoard of examples of nationalism in capitalistics countries - for example in the US before 80th. But socialism is just clear of it. You may wish it not, but it is) Jun 7, 2018 at 8:05
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    @user4012, Imperial Japan and Facist Spain didn't have large Jewish populations like Germany did at the time of Facism. Spanish Facism downplayed a lot of racist elements by defining races each as having unique strengths and weaknesses that should be mixed in with Spanish people to improve on their weaknesses. Imperial Japan's Showa Statism is comparable to Facism, but also adopted nationalistic romantization of former periods of greatness of the nation (Japan's Samurai obsession during World War II, Mussolini's use of the Roman Empire, and Hitler's use of the First Reich).
    – hszmv
    Jun 7, 2018 at 16:05

I am tempted to say, "socialist is something you call yourself, fascist is something you call others".

But realistically, "socialism" covers very different political and/or social realities and proposals (even, of course, the paradigmatic fascism, which styled itself "national socialism"), which cannot be classified under the same taxon unless we intend a taxonomy that is utterly meaningless.

Scandinavian social democracy styles itself socialism; so did Stalinist Russia or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge; so does Chinese capitalism. Anarchists are socialists, so are Marxists - and all the subdivisions within them, anarcho-primitivists, anarchocommunists, anarcho-syndicalists, Maoists, Trotskyists, Titoists, and go figure out what sub-subdivisions and sub-sub-subdivisions - Morenists, Pabloites, MIMites, et caterva. Which brings to mind a quote by Ariano Suassuna - "the left divides itself around ideas, the right unites around interests".

So it would be necessary to either narrow down the concept of socialism - so that we define that Scandinavian social-democracy is socialism, but Stalinism is not, or conversely - or to find something that somehow unites the Communist Party of China to anarchist communes, and voters of Jeremy Corbin to followers of Amedeo Bordiga.

But anyway, socialism, whether we narrow its meaning down to smaller subsets of people and organisations, or whether we make its meaning shallow enough to accomodate all those sundry groups, is about ideas. It is an ideology, or a set of loosely connected ideologies.

And I would argue that fascism is not about ideas, and that it is not an ideology, even though some ideas, and some ideological elements, may be of importance to fascists and fascism[1]. I would say that fascism is a practice: more important than what fascists believe, is what they do. And what they do is the following: they seek to restore order through disorder, to enforce law through crime, to restore morality through obscenity. Fascism is always a movement, and a movement to restore something that is deemed lost due to modern ways; but it does seek to restore the past by actively engaging in the practices of the present. Thus they emulate some characteristics of their enemies (Hitler was explicit on this point: it would be impossible to fight socialism/the left/bolshevism with the old fashioned conservative and reactionary parties of the traditional German Right: to have a chance to succeed, fascism would have to organise in ways similar to those of the Communists and Socialdemocrats).

For these reasons, fascism is always engaged in what is called "politics of ambiguity": they emulate the organisation of the Bolsheviks to better defeat the Bolsheviks; they recruit heavily among the lumpenproletariat - Horst Wessel was a pimp - but claim to represent morality against the decay of costums, and law against crime; they denounce the "plutocracy" but are fine with being financed by plutocrats; and they engage in politics in order to destroy politics. Such elements are absent from most non-fascist political movements, be them conservative, liberal, or - and here we can point to your question - socialist. Those either seek to restore old orders or maintain the existing one through instruments compatible with that order, or to destroy the existing order altogether; only fascists seek to restore an older order through - what they call - a revolution.

[1] When it comes to ideas and ideology, historically all fascisms have depended heavily on nationalism, sexism, and a cult of abstract violence (violence is good in itself, not as an instrument to attain a given goal, but as mode of life).

But this might be a coincidence, or even the result of bias: the two classical fascisms, those of Italy and Germany, were built upon national resentment in frustrated Great Powers (as was the case with the Japanese right-wing dictatorship of the same period), and so it is natural that they would rely heavily on nationalism and belicism, the latter being inseparable from sexism and violence. In the limit case of Spain, where there was no realistic base for Great Power delusions, most of the belicism - anyway, certainly military expansionism (at least within Europe) - was superfluous, and because this characteristic is lacking, we exclude it from the category of fascism.

  • Mussolini in particular was a socialist through and through. He was a socialist party leader and edited the socialist rag Avanti! and others for like 20 years.
    – user9790
    Aug 20, 2018 at 17:16
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    And the Democratic party used to be the party of slavery and apartheid in the US. Until it was not. Aug 21, 2018 at 13:39
  • When did that happen?
    – user9790
    Aug 21, 2018 at 13:42
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    The Southern Realignment of 1964 is when the parties swapped positions on social issues.
    – John
    Aug 21, 2018 at 14:35
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    And WWI is when Mussolini broke with the Italian Socialist Party, to support the war and adopt nationalism and an ideological cult of violence. Aug 21, 2018 at 15:10

Socialism is an economic system. It does not take a view on social issues, except where apportioning of financial resources is used for the social good. It is not a form of government either. Socialism can be mixed with liberalism or conservatism, and mixed with Democracy or Authoritarianism to form a complete set of platforms for a national government. Maoist China and the USSR are often thought of as "Communist," or "Socialist," but they can more accurately be categorized as "Authoritarian Socialism."

Fascism has a component that deals with form of government, in that it prescribes an authoritarian state. Fascism is both anti-capitalist and anti-socialist; its economic system deals with the idea that all value should go towards the state, not to corporations or people. This is called "State Socialism" or "National Socialism," but despite the similar sounding names, these are not classic examples of Socialism. All loyalty should be to the state. Fascism is totalitarian, so it prescribes that propaganda be used to control thought and maintain loyalty to the state. Some scholars belief that structural violence (e.g. racism) is a fundamental trait of Fascism to unite a majority of citizens, but this belief is not universally accepted.

Fascist economic ideology supported the profit motive, but emphasized that industries must uphold the national interest as superior to private profit.
Hitler stated that the Nazi Party supported bodenständigen Kapitalismus ("productive capitalism") that was based upon profit earned from one's own labour
Fascists criticized egalitarianism as preserving the weak, and they instead promoted social Darwinist views and policies. They were in principle opposed to the idea of social welfare, arguing that it "encouraged the preservation of the degenerate and the feeble."
[Fascists] favored corporatism and class collaboration, believing that the existence of inequality and social hierarchy was beneficial (contrary to the views of socialists)
Fascist governments encouraged the pursuit of private profit and offered many benefits to large businesses, but they demanded in return that all economic activity should serve the national interest.

To summarize, Socialism only deals with economics, not social issues, nor government systems. Fascism deals with economic platforms, social platforms, and a system of government. On the one system that they are both concerned with, which is economics, they disagree.

Generally Socialism philosophically yearns to achieve social equality, and an elimination of the competitiveness and violence that it believes is inherit in Capitalism. Nazism (a subtype of Fascism) does not seek to achieve social equality, because it seeks a socially hierarchical society, with some racial demographics forced into underclasses. These two concepts are philosophically 100% different.

Since I've now claimed that Nazism is a subtype of Fascism, here are a few quotes from wikipedia's pages on Nazism and Fascism to support that claim.

Nazism is a form of fascism and showed that ideology's disdain for liberal democracy and the parliamentary system, but also incorporated fervent antisemitism, scientific racism, and eugenics into its creed.
Fascism was a major influence on Nazism.
Hitler presented the Nazis as a form of German fascism.
Roderick Stackelberg places fascism—including Nazism, which he says is "a radical variant of fascism"—on the political right
One early admirer of the Italian Fascists was Adolf Hitler, who less than a month after the March had begun to model himself and the Nazi Party upon Mussolini and the Fascists.
In Germany, it contributed to the rise of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, which resulted in the demise of the Weimar Republic and the establishment of the fascist regime, Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

Here are some quotes from wikipedia which illustrate the fact that Fascism (and its subtype Nazism) are not Socialist and are opposed to Socialism and Marxism. Some quotes additionally will depict actual historical fighting between Fascists and Socialists in Italy.

Opposed to liberalism, Marxism and anarchism, fascism is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.
One common definition of the term focuses on three concepts: the fascist negations (anti-liberalism, anti-communism and anti-conservatism)
fascism—especially once in power—has historically attacked communism, conservatism and parliamentary liberalism, attracting support primarily from the far-right.
it manifested itself in elite-led but populist "armed party" politics opposing socialism and liberalism
Italian national syndicalists held a common set of principles: the rejection of bourgeois values, democracy, liberalism, Marxism, internationalism and pacifism
The Nazis were strongly influenced by the post–World War I far-right in Germany, which held common beliefs such as anti-Marxism, anti-liberalism and antisemitism, along with nationalism
Chamberlain used his thesis to promote monarchical conservatism while denouncing democracy, liberalism and socialism.
Corradini's views were part of a wider set of perceptions within the right-wing Italian Nationalist Association (ANI), which claimed that Italy's economic backwardness was caused by corruption in its political class, liberalism, and division caused by 'ignoble socialism'.
Fascists identified their primary opponents as the majority of socialists on the left who had opposed intervention in World War I.
The Fascists assisted the anti-socialist campaign by allying with the other parties and the conservative right in a mutual effort to destroy the Italian Socialist Party and labour organizations committed to class identity above national identity.
Beginning in 1922, Fascist paramilitaries escalated their strategy from one of attacking socialist offices and homes of socialist leadership figures to one of violent occupation of cities.
The Fascists attacked the headquarters of socialist and Catholic labour unions in Cremona and imposed forced Italianization upon the German-speaking population of Trent and Bolzano.
In the aftermath of the election, a crisis and political scandal erupted after Socialist Party deputy Giacomo Matteotti was kidnapped and murdered by a Fascist.
Fascism presented itself as a third position, alternative to both international socialism and free market capitalism.
While fascism opposed mainstream socialism, it sometimes regarded itself as a type of nationalist 'socialism' to highlight their commitment to national solidarity and unity.
While fascism denounced the mainstream internationalist and Marxist socialisms, it claimed to economically represent a type of nationalist productivist socialism that while condemning parasitical capitalism, it was willing to accommodate productivist capitalism within it.
They were in principle opposed to the idea of social welfare, arguing that it 'encouraged the preservation of the degenerate and the feeble.'
Fascism denounced Marxism for its advocacy of materialist internationalist class identity


  • 1
    I don't see any obvious reason why anyone would vote down this answer. I feel like it is factually correct, answers the question, and contains facts that some people may not know. Are people just mad that Socialism is being spoken about in a factually accurate light? Is there something else wrong with the answer? How have I not correctly answered the question?
    – John
    Aug 21, 2018 at 14:57

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