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Author Topic: Socialism, Fascism and Communism  (Read 958 times)

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Offline AndyZTopic starter

Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« on: May 24, 2012, 01:35:01 PM »
I see these terms thrown around a lot and often intermixed.  I'm a little iffy on the specifics, though, and where one ends and another begins.  Since I know we have a lot of socialists on the site (and I don't mean that as an insult) I was hoping someone could explain the differences.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2012, 08:41:22 PM »
Well, that's a tall order. Not because these are terms that are impossible to define, but because they've evolved a bit over time and their meaning depends on context. And because many different branches and theories exist. As I write this, I realize I don't feel qualified at all to do anything but give a very superficial introduction.

If you're talking about the fascism of early - mid 20th century Italy, then that's a specific political ideology, generally placed on the extreme right of the spectrum. That's apparently disputed by some. Now, I'm no authority on the subject, but I believe the core principles are basically totalitarianism and nationalism, and a corporatist economy. The bit about the economy is especially interesting to me, because I've been listening to a lot of talks by Chris Hedges recently, who argues that America is actually becoming a fascist state, in that corporatist sense of the word. But that's neither here nor there.

The way it's commonly used nowadays, though, "fascism" basically just means "totalitarian". It certainly has lost a lot of its meaning, which I guess it has in common with socialism and communism.

The way you hear words like "communism" and "socialism" thrown around on Fox News and the likes, you'd think the words were synonymous. You'd also probably think they meant something like the opposite of "democracy". Which is utter nonsense, because they're economic systems, and socialism and democracy are not mutually exclusive in any way. Far from it. You can be a democratic socialist - which is not necessarily the same as a social democrat. Just to give you an idea of the labels floating around.

Now, again, my understand of socialism and communism is fairly superficial. As I understand it, communism is a subset of socialism. Socialism is essentially about social ownership of the means of production. Just how you arrange your system would depend on your specific branch of socialism, of which there are many. Communism would be one of those, I believe, but then you have different branches of communism, too.

I hope that clears up at least some of what you were wondering about. I freely admit that I'm quite ashamed of my own lack of knowledge on the subject, but right now my head is spinning from even the little reading I did to get my terms more or less straight here. The bottom line, and perhaps the only thing I feel perfectly confident in saying, is that the terms communism, fascism and socialism as they're used by less-than-honest media types have nothing to do with the actual ideologies. To say that a particular healthcare bill is socialism makes hardly any sense. It's a sad bit of irony, too, as it seems to me that the vast majority of Americans would benefit greatly from a bit of socialism - or social democracy, at least.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2012, 09:33:52 PM »
Well, as Hemingway is on to socialism, fascism and communism have evolved, adapted and changed quite a bit over the last 150 years. Both in terms of how those who are working within those traditions may define them, think about them or put them into practice, and as to how those terms are used by people in general and by the media. That makes it easy for anyone who wants to argue from some invented association, or through strawmen ("if you say you're a communist, or even a socialist, then you must be a sympathizer with Pol Pot's tyranny and Stalin's massacres and persecutions - everybody knows they were communist leaders, don't they? And the Soviet Union was called a Socialist Union!" etc).

Nazism was originally called national socialism, okay (and Hitler never used the term "nazism" in any official way, the shortened form we use was a slightly spoofy term from the start). But that kind of "socialism" tag was essentially political triangulation, a means of selling a set of ideas that didn't have anything very definite to do with socialism as it was understood in the early 20th century or later. Socialism stresses that the economy - a sound economy of the society - is generally vital to what people are able to do with their lives and that it can't just be left to make up a "race for survival" or a wish for a few lucky breaks, with no intervention from the state or from ordinary people as a group (on the other hand, New Labour in the UK, and some socialist movements inspired by it, did buy rather deeply into the "trickle-down" gospel, plainly because they thought it was the only way to win an election and get into power). Nazism/fascism mostly wants to protect monopolies - privately owned monopolies or state owned, even confiscated ones - and sees it as the duty of the workers to carry the weight of the companies and the state on their backs, though selling this as idealism.

Fascism is geared towards war, it sees war and attack as the ultimate expression of fitness in a nation; socialism doesn't really indulge in the need for war like that (before 1914, in the 1930s and after 1950, social democratic parties in Europe would mostly oppose major wars, and this is still visible today). Fascism is essentially tribalist, it tells you that the nation is a blood unity and that this bond of blood is the real and essential framework of a useful society, bound together by a racial mystique. Socialists typically take an internationalist outlook and don't see it as preordained that a few nations are meant to be the leaders of "lesser tribes without the law" (Kipling). Socialism mostly sees democracy and free participation of the many as a value in itself, fascism looke to the leader, denies the value of democracy and tries to coerce all opposition into silence. Yes, it's a rough sketch, and of course socialists can be patriots too, but it's really rare to meet a fascist who also thinks differences in nationality and ethnic origins are just contingent and shouldn't be of any real consequence, or a Nazi who will champion freedom of speech as a matter of principle.

I'd agree with Hemingway that the word fascism has become badly overused, and the political left is mostly the guilty party here. It's often just hauled in as a smear for anything that's vaguely to the far right or unpleasant and a bit violent ("fascist cops"). And fascism-tinged parties today don't always behave like the fascists of the 1920s and 30s; they don't want to come across as "movie Nazis" of course. Le Pen's party in France is definitely fascist I would say, but they're not going to run around and shout "get the Jews out!" or even "drive away the Boche! /Germans/" - there are much more contemporary targets about.

« Last Edit: May 24, 2012, 11:04:38 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Vekseid

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2012, 11:14:18 PM »
'blood unity' - that's a good way to describe fascism.

Mussolini described it as 'the union of government and corporate power'. Corporate in the sense of corporate bodies - which includes things like trade guilds, etc. The Doctrine of Fascism is also pretty telling. Describing it as 'socialism in reverse' seems pretty apt - businesses that ally with government get more benefits than those that don't, and they become effectively unified.

Fascism has a set of behaviors associated with it
- Patriotism is the core virtue, at least while they are in power. "My country, right or wrong." and other jingoistic phrases like that.
- As mentioned, fascists are heavily militaristic.
- Fascists have an ends-justify-the-means attitude about attaining power. As the Doctrine states, fascists don't believe the mere fact of being in the majority should accord one any rights. This gets taken to an extreme.
- Like many totalitarian regimes, they are highly anti-intellectual. They will attack and demean scientists, teachers, education in general.
- A major difference between fascism and governments that can collapse into totalitarian regimes (e.g. communism) is that fascism is at its core totalitarian - the philosophy is in and of itself totalitarianism. The citizen is to be subservient to the state while they are in power.



Communism is built on the idea of the common ownership of the means of production. As described by Marx, it cannot exist until technology and production progresses to a point where labor is so productive that it's possible for a few people to support millions. It's not meant, per Marx's original declaration, to be something that is technically feasible at the current moment.

You can think of Elliquiy itself as a microcosm of this concept, although Marx never could have envisioned it. You take advantage of the services it provides, and the volunteered labor and resources of several dozen people supports entertaining four thousand. And I'm working on making things an order of magnitude more efficient and then some.

That is to say, Marx took technological and industrial progress to a very logical conclusion, even if, in order to apply his precepts now, they'd need to be re-thought.

Serious actual attempts at communist governments are limited by a few factors. Until the rise of computing power, efficiently allocating resources on national scales was impossible. This was Ludwig von Mises' argument, and it still holds true, somewhat, but it was always far less relevant compared to the bigger problem - which all governments face. The Soviet Union didn't collapse for a lack of capitalism, it collapsed because it was overspecialized in heavy industry.

In order to have an honest government, you need transparency, and an ability to act on the transgressions revealed by that transparency. When 'the government' owns everything meaningful, one or frequently both of these requirements can become extremely fragile. While the US government has major issues with lack of transparency, corruption, and means of redress, we have a fairly strong constitution, even by western standards (not all countries are granted the right of free speech), and capitalism, while it certainly sees abuse, means that it's really hard for one body to obtain 'all of the power'. Somewhere, somewhen, a person can rake in a few billion and go on a moral crusade of their choosing.



As for socialism... you'll really need to be more specific, I'm afraid.

Offline Lord of Shadows

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2012, 01:48:00 AM »
Socialism is as I see it as the overlaying idea in which Communism is one of the branches to implement this idea. The Idea in itself is rather simple really - to removal the class struggle of the society the ownership of things has to go to the state and the common people.

As said there are several branches of this idea in which each branch has their own view how to accomplish this. In the most extreme cases like in Mao's China or in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime they took this to the letter and tired to reeducate the entire population, killing of highly educated, drove people out on the country side so everyone should become farmers.

Then there are the Communists of former Soviet union that took a more... pragmatic view and even if Stalin did kill off like 30-40 million people in his attempt to create the perfect nation it wasn't as absolute as what was later coming in China, Cambodia and other countries. Also a reason why Soviet Union didn't totally ruin their production either and in its first decades was a very thriving country. I will not go into the a discussion on the spiral down during 70s and 80s as I know too little of that but one could rather easily speculate that without the cold war Soviet Union would most likely had been developed quite well.

And then you have countries as Sweden and main Scandinavia... well most countries of Europe. During the 20s the socialist party split into two - the Communists and the Socialists. The big difference what the view of how to accomplish the class free state. Communists saw it as an armed struggle while the Socialists wanted a political change. In the end the Socialists won and I can easily say that due to that we had Socialist rule from the 30s till mid 70s  Sweden developed into the high developed country it is today. We flourished after 2nd World War due to we could take advantage of not taking part of the war and suddenly entire Europe needed our wood and iron. On that we surged and created a strong state which main idea was to take care of its citizens. Free education, free health care, a well funded social network all grew during the 50s and 60s. We were one of the first countries in the world that got women out in the work place giving us even more advantage from the rest as suddenly our entire adult population was working. As an answer to manage this free child support was given during the 70s and... well here is when the idea from the Socialist started to run out... Not going into details they failed their political transformation to turn Sweden into a non class society and in the end Sweden was forced to accept that we where no different from other countries in the world and in the 90s much of what had been built up was razed and slowly changed. Today's politics are more pragmatic than idealistic. We are today not much different from countries like Germany or Holland when it comes to welfare and state constructions.

Hope my rambling helped.

Offline AndyZTopic starter

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2012, 06:06:36 AM »
Thank you, everyone.

Offline Darius

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2012, 08:09:53 PM »
One of the real issues I see today is the use of 'socialism' describing the actions of people who want government to take actions that will better society as socialists. That of course brings up the old connotations of it when that does not truly describe what they are attempting to do.

What a lot of people describe today as 'socialism' is I believe better described as Secular Humanism.

Offline AndyZTopic starter

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2012, 08:49:31 PM »
Let's try to keep this on definitions and not judgments.

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Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2012, 09:41:28 PM »
I'd think that making sure people are using the correct definition wouldn't be a judgement, would it?  As you mentioned earlier in the thread, people throw these words around (when I was young, the 'word-du-jour' was 'Communist') with an idea in their head that doesn't match up with what the system - be it economic, governmental, or societal - actually is.

Offline Lord of Shadows

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2012, 05:10:03 AM »
This is nothing you really can fight on your own unless the general media stops using words as they feel fit themselves.
Communist, liberal, socialist and pedophile are all strong words that are easy to put on people without being at risk of having to defend your statement, instead you put it on the labeled person or organisation to fight to get rid of the blasphemy. Most often people use these labels without a clue to what they really mean. Communist and pedophile I would say is those two that are miss used  the most.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2012, 06:29:35 AM »
One of the real issues I see today is the use of 'socialism' describing the actions of people who want government to take actions that will better society as socialists. That of course brings up the old connotations of it when that does not truly describe what they are attempting to do.

What a lot of people describe today as 'socialism' is I believe better described as Secular Humanism.

Quote from: From Wikipedia
The philosophy of secular humanism (alternatively known by adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, and justice while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.

That secular humanism?

The most striking example of "people who want government to take actions that will better society" is the whole Occupy movement, which I think could be rightly labeled as socialist, or even anarchist in some regards. It's hard to say, of course, as it's not really an organization with specific goals set in stone.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 09:32:08 AM »
As Vekseid was on to, it seriously matters to discern between what a political movement (or a single citizen) has as their goals, their long-term objectives, and what they are bringing in as methods, perhaps because it's been forced by circumstances or a strong man doing the wrong (but tactically effective) thing at the wrong moment. I mean, no serious person would claim that because the U.S. put Japanese citizens in detention camps during WW2 (a deplorable act) the U.S. was "really" just like its enemies. But if actions or strongly-worded statements are pulled out of their context it becomes easy to make that kind of description of a supposed common heritage, common roots, common delusions or "common practices" between two movements, two historical forces (democratic socialism and stalinism, etc).


A guy such as Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass shooter, could describe himself as fighting for a society of free men and truthful politics, and that is actually what he seems to have been saying in his "manifestos" in video and in writing. He labeled the enemy he was striking at as "cultural Marxists" within his own race/nation and then another, larger group: muslims, on the wider arena; so in his eyes the latter were guiding the CMs. The first label would be (in his eyes) equal to a slippery mixture of communism and multiculturalism, the second bunch - muslims -.he saw as evil and dictatorial in themselves no matter what its individual members were thinking. So he judged it was imperative and right to kill off both groups to repel them.

It's not an argument that has a very strong claim to being "humanist" of course, but it makes sense to some people (mostly conservative or far-.right wing, I'd say) on the condition that this proposition has been added to their understanding of liberty: some wide segments of people really can't handle democracy if they are given it, they will pervert it, because in effect they are subscribing to other, murky values, and then they can't really be allowed to influence the free societies they live in. The "islam is islamofascism" line of argument (where all muslims are supposed to support Ahmadinejad, Mullah Omar and the like, unless they are expressly saying at request, any day, that they don't support dictatorship) is a neighbour of this I would say, but there's some kind of general trend in political talk these days - not limited to right or left - that some groups and strata of a society are spoken of as not belonging, not being fit to have a say in the democratic public field.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2012, 09:34:52 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Occident

Re: Socialism, Fascism and Communism
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2012, 09:33:36 AM »
Specific examples for this would probably be necessary, as terms differ between languages. Also the issue of changing positions of people. Mussolini was a socialist during the Great War, after all.