We have an intense discussion going on between the fact of whether the Soviet Union was a fascist state or not.

Our doubt lies in fascism as an opposite to communism and we wonder if the Soviet Union is, or technically was, defined as a fascist state, communist state, or something else.

If you could clarify the response to this with some background sources, and even opinions on the definitions of fascism and where it stops, and begins, that would help clear our doubts.

Any definitions you have that were made before the Cold War would be wonderful.

Thank you for your time.

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    That's a invitation for a debate, and on wrong premises at that. Fascism is a political system in Italy. – Jos Jun 19 '18 at 3:44
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    BBC history magazine did an article five or six years ago. Turns out nobody can really define fascism except by example. I will migrate to politics if requested, but there is probably no answer to your question that won't generate more argument than it resolves. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 19 '18 at 10:44
  • I agree with you all about the matter of opinions, although the answers have honestly been perfectly undistorted, but the question is quite honestly just factually based, I understand typically there are spectrums, but A is A and B is B and idependently of opinion regimes are defined one way or another. Good or bad ? thats something else entirelly. Can it be called A according to our definition of A ? I wouldn't think there is opinion there. – Mixone Jun 20 '18 at 15:00
  • See also politics.stackexchange.com/questions/8209/… on the "horseshoe" theory of the far left and far right. – Paul Johnson Oct 14 '20 at 12:57
  • Consider the tenets of fascism en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Tenets against those of communism. marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm – Paul Johnson Oct 14 '20 at 13:03

We have an intense discussion going on between the fact of whether the Soviet Union was a fascist state or not.

Our doubt lies in fascism as an opposite to communism and we wonder if the Soviet Union is, or technically was, defined as a fascist state, communist state, or something else.

I can see where the confusion would come from. As they were implemented, especially late in the war; there were many similarities in the two states. Both were essentially totalitarian dictatorships, both committed mass murders even genocide, and both had state ownership of war materials / production. However we don't categorize the ideology based solely on how they administered authority; we use the end goals for such classifications.

First definition of terms

Communism in the Soviet Union was a political party. Fascism was also a political party from Italy. The Fascists in Italy predate the Nazi Party in Germany. The Germans and Italians equated the two parties, due to their common ideology/goals.. However; equating communism and fascism is not done because the goals of the two philosophies clash with each other as I will discuss be low.

What determines whether you are on the left or right is not good vs evil. What determines your political leanings on the most common used political scale (right center and left) is whether you look to the future for your answers or you look to the past. Conservative solutions are by definition those which have previously existed. They are typically safer and better understood because they previously existed. The problem with relying on conservative solutions exclusively is their was a reason those solutions were abandoned previously, so while safe they tend to be imperfect and ultimately are compromises. Also if you are always looking to the past for your solutions their is no social progress. Liberal solutions are typically more dangerous. New ideas which have never been tried before are more apt to fail outright. On the positive side sometimes with systemic problems, no suitable solution existed in the past and sometimes new ideas can be great ideas. Without new ideas societies do not advance.

So typically most successful political parties in the west are moderate left leaning or right leaning. They coexist with either left or right coming to power intermittently such as the United States. This is because you need Conservative ideas because they make things work consistently, and you need liberal ideas because systemic failures sometimes can only be addressed by new ideas.

These are literally the definitions in the dictionary of the terms.

Conservative by the Cambridge Dictionary
The moderate right position. tending to emphasize the importance of preserving traditional cultural and religious values, and to oppose change, esp. sudden change


Liberal by the Cambridge Dictionary
The moderate left position. tending to emphasize the need to make new laws when necessary because of changing conditions


My interpretation of your question:
If they were so similar in implementation, why is communism associated with the extreme left (radicalism), while fascism is associated with the extreme right (reactionary) on the traditional left right political scale?


Because while at the extremes right or left the implementation may be similar, fundamentally the organizations were trying to accomplish entirely different goals. It is the Goals we use to classify the regimes, not just the implementation.

The Fascists in Italy and Nazis in Germany were trying to recreate their ideal states which both believed had previously existed. They were looking to the past. Mussolini was trying to return Italy to the greatness of Rome. Hitler was trying to return Germany to the greatness of it's past empires. Hitler was creating the third reich. The first reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, and the second reich was German Empire which ended with WWI. This obsession with history and looking to the past for a solution, trying to preserve, conserve, or return to the solutions which have worked previously brands the Fascist movements on the right of the political spectrum. Their intolerance of coexisting with other political philosophies and their actions as a party brand them extremists.

Now the Communists on the other hand were trying to create something which had never existed in history before. A peoples state. Looking to create something entirely new marks the Communists on the left. Again that they demanded complete control of the state and their methods brand them extremists.

This is the classical view of the political spectrum. I often hear folks conflate good and bad with conservative and liberal especially in the United States. Among these people both the Nazi's and Communists are put on the extreme left because they were both bad. The obvious problem with this interpretation of the political scale is all extremists land on the left, and there are no real world examples of extreme right ideologies. Which should give pause to anybody who argues this point of view.

Addressing Comments

My interpretation of the comments..

@PieterGeerkens How do you explain the Nazi party in Germany was called National Socialist Party.

Socialist is the moderate left leaning ideology. It's antonym in the Oxford Thesaurus is conservative, the moderate right leaning philosophy. Most Democracies today such as Canada, Israel, Britain, France and Germany use socialist as the moderate left leaning ideology.
Nobody would claim the Nazi's were moderates although it worked to their favor to use common language to paint themselves as moderates as they were coming to power.

What you call yourselves might define how people perceive you but it isn't particularly determinative, 80 years after the fact with 20 / 20 historical hindsight. Communist China and the Soviet Union both called themselves socialist republics, but they were never envisioned as moderate left leaning republics. Republic is the form of government Plato invented to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Both China and the Soviet union were designed as one party communist dictatorships. As I'm sure you are aware the Nazi's openly brawled on the streets with German Communists as they were emerging and brutally cracked down on the German Communist Party before and after coming to power. Hitler also spent much of the pages of both his books (Mein Kampf, Zweites Buch) talking about how communism was the mortal enemy of National Socialism.

It is true that Nazis supported large government works projects as Hitler tried to heal the crippled German economy after the Great Depression. The German autobahn was one example of such a program. Ultimately though the Nazi's purged itself of it's left elements in mid 1934, the night of the long knives. The SA, brown shirts with their people's army was crushed. Their leadership was murdered and their large membership was placed under Hitler's hand picked leadership. This was actually the price of Hitler's accession to power. The military hated the SA, and in exchange of cracking down on them Hitler gained military support for his joining the government.

According to Speer, "the Right, represented by the President, the Minister of Justice, and the generals, lined up behind Hitler ... the strong left wing of the party, represented chiefly by the SA, was eliminated."

Speer, Albert (1995). Inside the Third Reich. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-84212-735-3.

Government works do not define the Nazi's. Today we think of the Nazi's "socialist" flirtation, as a form of camouflage. The Nazi's trying to appear moderate when they were coming to power. Trying to suggest they were interested in power to better govern the people. I think it's pretty well understood today the Nazi's wanted power for their own reasons and courting political power in Germany by hiding their true intentions was necessary prior to their consolidation of power.

@andejons I do not believe that communism ought to be labelled "liberal"

Communism is no more Liberal than Fascism is Conservative. Communism is an example of an extreme left wing ideology, and does not resemble the moderate left(liberal) any more than Fascism resembles the moderate right(conservatism).

@andejons A better word to use would be "progressive" rather than "liberal" relative to communism.

Liberal and progressive are synonyms.

@Jean..in the Communism perfect world everybody is equal, works and earn equally and got the same rights and duties. In the Facism perfect world everybody praises the elite, the elite duty is to reign over the rest and has more power and in many ways resembles the monarchy the communist considers heinous

True but in order to come up with classifications which stand the test of time, which is what left and right are, you don't rely on issues so much as underlying motivation. The issues change, but motivations are more constant. The Roman Senator Cato, Alexander Hamilton, and Edmund Burk were all considered conservatives not because they agreed on any particular issue, but because for their time they were all men interested in defending the status quo, or returning to the status quo. The Roman Cato was conservative for defending the traditional roman republic and opposing an emperor. Alexander Hamilton is considered a conservative while proposing a traditional monarchy over a new untested form of government called a Republic favored by Jefferson. Thomas Pain, Julius Caesar, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson were all men who looked to try something never before done as solutions to the problems they faced. Thus the classification stands even if the issues change.

@ClintEastwood In America, at least, I would disagree that liberal/conservative is based on the novelty of the ideas. Rather it is more based on the responsibility of the government to address problems.

The political scale which relies on left and right classifications predates modern American politics. It dates back to the French Revolution. It predates any of the issues which the parties use to define themselves as right of left today. What I’ve described is the source definition which transcends transient contemporary political disputes.

Also as moderate parties neither Democrats nor Republicans are entirely wedded to the left or right.

  • While I believe this answer correctly identifies the most important difference between communism and fascism, I do not believe that communism ought to be labelled "liberal", as in most of the world the word indicates politics with focus on economic and individual freedom, where both communism and fascism is focused on the collective (which is why they sometimes can be hard to distinguish). A better word would be "progressive". – andejons Jun 19 '18 at 11:34
  • +1 IMHO the core of both philosophies are in total oposition: in the Communism perfect world everybody is equal, works and earn equaly and got the same rights and duties. In the Facism perfect world everybody praises the elite, the elite duty is to reign over the rest and has more power and in many ways resembles the monarchy the communist considers heinous – jean Jun 19 '18 at 13:01
  • In America, at least, I would disagree that liberal/conservative is based on the novelty of the ideas. Rather it is more based on the responsibility of the government to address problems. – Clint Eastwood Jun 19 '18 at 13:15
  • @JMS thank you, this was a beautifully worded answer ! – Mixone Jun 20 '18 at 14:49
  • The problem with relying on "underlying motivation" is that typically means those doing the classifying have to make assumptions based on personal opinion. Politicians are known to say things to gain support without meaning a word of what they say. The person doing the classifying doesn't know if what was said/written has any truth behind it or was simply politically expedient. I think relying on actual behavior leaves far less room for opinion and is thus a far superior method of classifying political ideologies. – Dunk Jun 21 '18 at 22:58

The reason a lot of people get confused about this (IMHO, oftentimes purposely), is that they are completely ignoring the dimension of politics that truly separates the two. This would be like taking something that is way higher than another object, looking at it top-down, and proclaiming them indiscernibly close together.

The missing dimension here is Nationalism: the idea that all of politics should be geared particularly to the benefit of one's nation over every other consideration*. At the extremes, this is usually coupled with theories that the nation in question is inherently superior to all others, or should be made to be. Under this view, nation and peoples are interchangeable concepts. So of course people residing in the national boundaries who are not of the Nation (eg: don't speak the language at home, or have an unusual religion), are a problem that needs taking care of. Likewise people living outside the national boundaries who are of the Nation also pose a problem that needs taking care of.

The other extreme would be an internationalism that believes in the inherent equality of all peoples, and that one of the chief goals of a political movement should be to spread its own ideology to everyone across the world. At the extremes under this view, the feelings of said other people who aren't operating under your system on the matter may seem irrelevant. Anyone who doesn't see the inherent superiority of your system can be dismissed as either misguided or malicious. Anyone who genuinely wants to cling to some kind of historical exclusive identity is clearly a complete fascist.

When you add this in, you find that Fascism is at the complete opposite end of this spectrum from Communism. One is as hard Nationalist as you can get, the other is as far Internationalist as you can get.

I've seen some people represent Nationalism as a new dimension in the political spectrum, while some others like to consider it an inherent part of being Left or Right (right being nationalist, left internationalist). If you are one of the latter, then consider the level of Nationalism as how you tell them apart.

* - This is why we say when you see "National Socialism" in the NAZI acronym, you should pay more attention to the "National" part than the "Socalist" part.

  • What I keep wondering about in these debates is that the singularity is now apparently no longer of special importance. With that I mean Auschwitz. Which other ideology, political program or party really announced extermination in "parliament" and then built killing factories to implement this? – LаngLаngС Jun 19 '18 at 18:35
  • Anyway, my +1 is for the "on purpose" part. You can compare anything but this is mostly done for "special needs". – LаngLаngС Jun 19 '18 at 18:38

I'll try to give a short answer based on different aspects:

Economy: Communism says that the state has to control production and prices. No private sector should exist. Fascism has less direct control over the economy, because the control is on hands of corporations, even though these big companies are close to the party.

Moral: Communism is on the left because they give more rights to women, they discredit religion and the family is not the pillar of society. That pillar is the state. Fascism is more conservative, the family is more important, but it is also against religion.

Nationalism: Communism is not nationalist, is internationalist, they try to propagate their ideals to other nations, hence, they don't mind about ethnicity, they care about classes. Fascism is nationalist, only the people that belong to the nation can be part of the system, they reject any foreign culture.

The Soviet Union was not fascist because they had full control over production, had a leftist morality and, in the beginning, was internationalist.

  • The chinese also realized that if the party controls the private corporations, it still works. So the chinese are fascist? This insight (control, not own) come from the socialist side (Gransci, and Mussolini was socialist before), it is a perfectly socialist alternative. – Luiz Jun 19 '18 at 16:32
  • Indeed. China currently fulfills some requeriments of a facist state with slight differences. For example, they have abandoned the cult to the leader. – Santiago Jun 19 '18 at 17:41
  • @Santiago, Soviet Union and Communist China were not Nationalistic? Communism also relied on nationalism and Germany also tried to export their ideology abroad. Production: Germany, Russia, and the United States for that matter all nationalized their economies during the war. Moral, communism is on the left because it gave more rights to women? – user20338 Jun 19 '18 at 17:54
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    @JMS . Soviet Union in the beginning was internationalist, the purpose of revolution was to promote communism all around the globe. Later on they turned to nationalism (war can do that). About the production, even without war Russia controlled production. Finally, regarding to moral issues, Russia gave more rights to women (first allowing abortion) and reduced the power of the church, both things that conservative nations avoid. – Santiago Jun 19 '18 at 18:15
  • @Santiago, The Nazi's were ultra nationalists, I understand you meaning. – user20338 Jun 19 '18 at 20:32