In this post, OnParkStreet cited Walter Russell Mead on the similarity between communism and fascism. I totally agree that there is much similarity between these systems–in their theory, in their practical effects, and in the psychology of their supporters. I also believe, however, that there are some significant differences between communism and fascism, and I discussed some of these in the comment thread at OnParkStreet’s post.
Yesterday I picked up a book called Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, by Mark Mazower, which contains quite a bit of information and analysis relevant to this discusion.
Here’s one interesting excerpt:
In fact, fascist ideology was almost wilfully obscure on economics, partly because the leadership needed to keep both Left and Right wings of the movement happy, but partly too because it was not very interested in the subject, seeing economics as a means to an end. Hitler wanted to use “the production technique of private enterprise in line with the ideas of the common good under state control,” a formula which satisfied everyone and no one. Fascism was strongly anti-communist but also anti-plutocratic. It was opposed to international finance–often condemned as “parasitic” and “cosmopolitan”–but in favor of national “production.” Did this make it socialist? Perhaps in a special, airily non-class sense. “Our socialism is a socialism of heroes, of manliness,” declared Goebbels, who came from the left wing of the Party.
A “socialism of heroes” implied endless hymns to the Worker…But fascism stressed manual labour rather than machinery and technology as in the USSR or the USA. Fascist men wielded scythes, they did not drive tractors. “I am a socialist,” Hitler stated, because it appears to me incomprehensible to nurse and handle a machine with care but to allow the most noble representatives of labour, the people, to decay.” Posters emphasized craftsmen and artisans–a look backwards which perhaps helped draw labour away from its contemporary strong class connotations.. Even motorway workers–according to Nazi publicity brochures–were pictured above the caption: “We plough the eternal earth.”