Indeed, there are many similarities and a political kinship between Italian fascism and German National Socialism. The common denominator of these two regimes is their anti-Marxist and anti-democratic ideologies. Both systems relied on the omnipotent and omnipresent totalitarian state as a method of resolving class hatred and the amalgamation of the nation into one. Both ideologies utilized the collectivization of consciousness as a primary path to socialism. However, the similarities do not mean equality; the differences between ideologies and regimes are as crucial as the supposed similarities.
These two regimes are distinguished primarily by the fact that they are based on completely different philosophical concepts and socio-economic constructions. The most interesting is the fascist regime of Italy, since Italian fascism inherited a rich theoretical and philosophical basis, which cannot be said of the Nazis. The theoretical baggage of revolutionary syndicalists, national-syndicalists, and fascists is tremendous and could be intellectually compared with their rivals of the Marxist current. The intellectual origin of fascist thoughts can be traced to the reactionary tendencies among some thinkers of the "Franco-Italian cultural complex" toward a political philosophy of the eighteenth-century period of the Enlightenment .
Fascism was erected on a solid philosophical foundation that could be traced to the works of the French philosopher Henry Bergson (1859–1941), the leading philosopher of his time, whose international fame had reached cult-like heights. Fascism adopted revolutionary syndicalists' philosophical platform, which they in turn borrowed from these great thinkers. Anti-Cartesian, anti-Kantian, anti-materialist, voluntarist, vitalist, and heroic elements of his philosophy can be distinctly traced in the theory of Fascism. Non-Marxian socialists enthusiastically embraced Bergson's theories of the irrational, the power of intuition, and the concept of élan vital (vital impetus).
Italian fascism was conceived as a unique philosophical and socio-economical doctrine that leaned towards neither the Left nor the right; it was supposed to occupy a unique niche in the political spectrum. In practice, fascism had produced a society with an unstable equilibrium between labor and capital and between men and the state. The balancing act between the Left and the right policies was sustained by neither the internal nor by the external conditions. It was easy to determine that the whole structure had predictably collapsed to the Left, considering the fascist regime in the dynamics of its development. Therefore, theoretically, fascism is neither the right nor the Left; in reality, it is a right wing of the Left.
As for Nazism in Italian fascism, it shall be noted that they were not internationalists, but they were not genocidal nationalists, either. Thus, there were many Jews in the Italian Fascist Party. Some estimated that their percentage in the movement was much higher than in the population as a whole. On a personal front, Mussolini's close friend was a Jew, Aldo Finzi, a militant of the Fascist Party. Margherita Sarfatti, also a Jew, wrote his first authorized biography.
The deeper Mussolini was involved in the orbit of Hitler's national policy, the more racist was the attitude of the Italian fascists, who adopted a number of racial laws from 1938 to 1943. However, it should be noted that the existence of such laws in the books was compensated for by their negligent enforcement. Italian officials were usually slow in following the Nazis' orders and sometimes even sabotaged their fulfillment. Between 80% and 85% of the Italian Jewish population survived World War II. Most other European countries under Nazi occupation could not make such a claim. Italian fascists preached traditional nationalism, which found its expression in a keen sense of patriotism, loyalty to the country, shared language, culture, history, and desire for its own well-being not at the expense of other races. That is why it is erroneous to label Italian fascists as Nazis.
German National Socialism could not boast an in-depth philosophical worldview, nor did the Germans produce an original economic theory. As newcomers to the political stage, they were merely cherry-picking existing ideas and practical solutions from other socialist movements. National Socialism was based on the doctrine of biological determinism and its derivative, eugenics. Nazis were convinced that they belong to the intrinsically superior race of Aryans. Their greatness is supposed to be completed at the expense of other races by conquest and plunder. Therefore, the main idea was to instigate racial and ethnic conflicts as an antidote to class quarrels and achieve the unity of volks in the process. Götz Aly pointed out that the ideal of the Volksstaat was a state of and for the people with the proper racial pedigree .
In the beginning, the biological delights of the Nazis provoked amazement and laughter; nobody took them seriously. At the Seventeenth Party Congress, Stalin jokingly said: "It is well known that ancient Rome looked upon the ancestors of the present-day Germans and French in the same way as the representatives of the 'superior race' now look upon the Slav races. It is well known that ancient Rome treated them as an 'inferior race,' as 'barbarians,' destined to live in eternal subordination to the 'superior race,' to 'great Rome,' and, between ourselves be it said, ancient Rome had some grounds for this, which cannot be said of the representatives of the 'superior race' of today (thunderous applause)" . Unfortunately, the Nazis were quite serious regarding their intentions. They methodically pursued a policy of genocide against non-Aryan races, which led to the unprecedented death of millions of innocent people.
The Nazi economic program did not lead to a significant intellectual breakthrough or some originality. The Nazis imitated the Italian fascists in the grouping of their industries by category but did not implement true corporatism, since they did not have the corresponding theory and syndicalist tradition. They also copied the policy of partial privatization, public works, and land recreation to combat unemployment. The Nazis borrowed an "economic plan" policy from Bolshevik Russia and implemented their own four-year economic development plan. The Nazi economy came down to the plundering of the Jews, subjugation, and exploitation of people and countries they occupied. However, the core of the Nazi economy was the continuation of the old Social Democratic policy, but on steroids.
One can trace the tradition of calling the German Nazis fascists in the dynamics of Bolshevik politics. Communists had always been hostile to any other flavors of socialism. For example, Trotsky stated that "Italian Fascism was the immediate outgrowth of the betrayal by the reformists of the uprising of the Italian proletariat" . They stubbornly insisted that social democracy and fascism were the two incarnations of bourgeoisie exploitation; the former was masked, but the latter was naked. In 1927, Stalin began a policy of open confrontation with European social democracy, hoping that the communists would gain power as soon as capitalism entered "the last stage of the crisis." The Comintern began to portray all other socialist movements as social-fascist, which betrayed the proletariat.
After the Nazis had won election into the Reichstag, usurped power, and annihilated social democrats and communists, there were no groups left except the Nazis that could be called fascists. Bolsheviks gradually faded out the policy of confrontation with socialists, stopped calling them fascists, and started using this name exclusively to refer to Italian fascists and German National Socialists. Thus, the Nazis became known as fascists. After World War II, communist political science was spread through tireless propaganda until its principles found their place in the textbooks of the West.
1. Zeev Sternhell et al., The Birth of Fascist Ideology. From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution, 1994, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
2. Götz Aly, Hitler's Beneficiaries, 2005, New York: Holt Paperbacks.
3. J.V. Stalin, Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.), January 26, 1934, from Works, J.V. Stalin, 1954, Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Volume 13.
4. Leon Trotsky, What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat, 1932, Marxists Internet Archive.