Is Fascism “Capitalism” In Decay?

Is Fascism “Capitalism” In Decay?


Contrary to the portrayal of Fascism as ideologically incoherent, it is underpinned by the contributions of intellectuals like Giovanni Gentile, Alfredo Rocco, Carl Schmitt, and Heidegger. Ideologically, Fascism and Nazism have roots in both syndicalism and nationalism. I seek to dismantle the leftist claim, and my analysis aims to extend beyond Keith Woods and Cultured Thug’s videos to conclusively demonstrate that Fascists are not mere “bourgeois reactionaries.” For further insight, the book Mussolini’s Intellectuals by A. James Gregor is recommended, as it challenges prevailing misconceptions and even suggests that fascism evolved from Marxism, particularly from national syndicalism. My intention is to scrutinize the beginnings, ideology, and actions of historical fascist movements, considering their influences, rhetoric, appeal to the proletariat. I will also use Marxist thinkers and documents from Marxists to question communist perspectives and substantiate the anti-capitalist characteristics of fascism. This thorough investigation is designed to confront leftist interpretations and reveal the genuine essence of authentic socialism.

To start, we must define Socialism clearly. It is generally understood as a socio-economic system that advocates for the community’s control or regulation over the production, distribution, and exchange of goods. This can manifest as either worker or state ownership, with the term “community” being subject to a wide range of interpretations. While Marx occasionally used “Socialism” interchangeably with “Communism,” Lenin and Social Democrats differentiated between the two, considering Socialism as a transitional stage towards full Communism, as elucidated in Lenin’s The State and Revolution. Marx sometimes used the term “socialism” pejoratively, describing certain factions as “reactionary” or “feudal socialists.” It also represented a political agenda. Conversely, Lenin and his peers within the Social Democrats treated socialism as the initial phase of a communist society. This phase, as outlined by Marx and Engels, is characterized by the absence of commodity production’s value form, a feature observed in several historical socialist endeavors.

Engels, in Anti-Dühring, explains how communal ownership transforms society by ending both the commodity production and the product’s control over the producer, leading to a society that is organized and systematic. The competitive struggle for survival is replaced by a collaborative effort where humanity consciously controls the forces of nature and overcomes the conditions that previously dominated them. Marx, in his Critique of The Gotha Programme, expands on the cooperative society based on common ownership, where the exchange of products ceases, and labor transcends its value measure. The concept of “proceeds of labor,” significant in capitalist societies, becomes irrelevant under this cooperative framework. Another critical aspect of communism, including its preliminary phase of socialism, is the dissolution of the state and class divisions, indicating that nations typically labeled as “socialist” are in fact still transitioning toward socialism. Engels, in Anti-Dühring, speaks to the revolutionary potential within capitalism, as it not only creates a proletarian majority but also sets the stage for a revolutionary overhaul. Upon seizing political power, the proletariat initially turns the means of production into state property. This move is the first step towards the eventual disappearance of class distinctions, including the proletariat itself, and the state apparatus. Lenin, in The State and Revolution, reiterates Engels’ point that a state becomes obsolete in a truly communist society with no classes to suppress. In a 1921 address, Lenin further emphasizes this by pointing out the contradiction in the notion of an indefinite rule by workers and peasants; the persistence of distinct classes prevents the realization of genuine socialism. As long as workers and peasants remain separate classes, the full realization of socialism is out of reach.

As I was coming in through your hall just now, I saw a placard with this inscription: ‘The reign of the workers and peasants will last forever.’ When I read this odd placard, which, it is true, was not up in the usual place, but stood in a corner-perhaps it had occurred to someone that it was not very apt and he had moved it out of the way when I read this strange placard, I thought to myself: there you have some of the fundamental and elementary things we are still confused about. Indeed, if the reign of the workers and peasants would last forever, we should never have socialism, for it implies the abolition of classes; and as long as there are workers and peasants, there will be different classes and, therefore, no full socialism.

— Vladimir Lenin, All-Russia Congress of Transport Workers in May 27, 1921

In his work Economics and Politics In The Era of The Dictatorship of The Proletariat, Lenin articulates that the goal of socialism is the elimination of class distinctions. He acknowledges that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a means toward eradicating class differences, but this process is not immediate. Therefore, the existence of classes and the dictatorship are intertwined until classes can be fully dissolved. The dictatorship is crucial for the eventual disappearance of classes. Some might argue that Lenin suggested the state only begins to wither away when classes no longer exist, rather than it already being in that process. In The State and Revolution, he mentions the state’s dissolution in a classless society where there is no suppression of one class by another. However, this view may conflict with earlier theories of the state due to translation nuances. The term “state machinery” or Marx’s original term “staatwesen” refers to the state’s diminished role, reduced to coordinating administrative tasks and overseeing production, especially where labor vouchers remain in use.

The debate surrounding the economic systems of the USSR and related states frequently raises the question of whether these can be more accurately described as forms of pure Marxist socialism as they professed. This viewpoint challenges the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of socialism as simply a transitional stage to communism. Eduard Bernstein’s concept of an “economy of association” marks a pivotal step in socialist thought. Advocating for evolutionary socialism, Bernstein proposed a pragmatic, incremental approach to achieving socialism within the capitalist framework. This approach, emphasizing cooperative associations and active participation in economic activities, contrasts sharply with the traditional socialist focus on state or worker ownership of the means of production. Expanding Bernstein’s idea beyond democratic participation reveals a broader application, encompassing various organizational structures of the economy. This includes not only cooperatives and collectives but also state-controlled economies and corporatist systems characteristic of fascist regimes, where economic sectors are organized into associations without democratic governance. Even capitalists who collaborate for mutual benefits, could fall under this widened definition.

To this would correspond the definition of Socialism as a movement towards — or the state of — an order of society based on the principle of association. In this sense, which also corresponds with the etymology of the word (socius — a partner), the word is used in what follows.

— Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism

This expanded understanding of an “economy of association” challenges traditional economic classifications, suggesting that without the democratic criterion, a diverse array of systems, some not typically considered socialist, could be included. Applying Marxist criteria to label countries as socialist reveals inherent contradictions. Adhering strictly to the definitions set by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, it becomes problematic to categorize fascist states as “capitalist” since nations claiming socialism by Marxist-Leninist standards might not meet these criteria themselves. Proposing a broad definition of socialism as an “economy of association” sidesteps these inconsistencies, focusing instead on collective ownership and organizational structure rather than state apparatus and value systems. However, this approach renders the distinction between state socialism and state capitalism somewhat irrelevant. Virtually no nation, with the possible exception of Cambodia under Pol Pot, has attempted to do away with the value form. Market elements have persisted even in economies that attempted barter systems.

The assertion that fascist nations are merely state capitalist rather than socialist lacks conviction, given that self-described socialist states fail to meet their Marxist benchmark. The distinction between state capitalism and state socialism blurs, especially since market activities have been present in socialist states. This broader perspective urges a deeper investigation into the essence of socialism and its manifestations, fostering a dialogue about economic organization, democratic participation, and the core values distinguishing different socio-economic systems. Through this lens, the intricate connections between socialism, fascism, and broader Marxist interpretations become clearer, highlighting a complex landscape where economic and political ideologies intersect and evolve. Without commodity production, the plan is for social planning to eliminate the value form. Yet, all planned economies continued financial accounting, showing that market features lingered, and profit motives still existed, as acknowledged by Stalin. Engels, in Principles of Communism, describes the anticipated outcomes of abolishing private property, including collective management of productive forces, meeting everyone’s needs, and the complete eradication of class divisions. Subsequently, the distinction between state capitalism and State Socialism becomes apparent in the way the bourgeoisie are incorporated into the state apparatus through nationalization in the former, versus the incorporation of the proletariat in the latter. These nuances will be explored when examining the policies and foundations of fascist regimes. A key difference lies in the presence of wage labor in state capitalism, with the state becoming a new capitalist entity. Notably, the Soviet Union did not abolish wage labor, using a piece-rate system that Marx deemed highly capitalistic, further illustrating the complexities within these economic systems.

“Given piece-wage, it is naturally the personal interest of the laborer to strain his labor-power as intensely as possible; this enables the capitalist to raise the normal degree of intensity of labor. It is moreover now the personal interest of the laborer to lengthen the working-day, since with it his daily or weekly wages rise. This gradually brings on a reaction like that already described in time-wages, without reckoning that the prolongation of the working-day, even if the piece wage remains constant, includes a fall in the price of the labor.

Piece-work has, therefore, a tendency, while raising individual wages above the average, to lower this average itself. But where a particular rate of piece-wage has for a long time been fixed by tradition, and its lowering, therefore, presented especial difficulties, the masters, in such exceptional cases, sometimes had recourse to its compulsory transformation into time-wages. Hence, e.g., in 1860 a great strike among the ribbon-weavers of Coventry. Piece-wage is finally one of the chief supports of the hour-system described in the preceding chapter. From what has been shown so far, it follows that piece-wage is the form of wages most in harmony with the Capitalist mode of production.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital 

This investigation into socialism’s core principles and its manifestations, encourages a discourse on the organization of economic structures, the significance of democratic participation, and the principles distinguishing different socio-economic systems. Such a conversation reveals the connections between socialism, broader interpretations of Marxism, and even fascism, particularly when viewed within the context of an economy of association. This comparative analysis uncovers shared elements among seemingly disparate ideologies, such as Marxist-Leninism, Italian Fascism, and German Nazism, once the nuances are fully understood. The exploration of the transition from capitalism to socialism reveals a critical examination of capital’s role in societal development and highlights the limitations imposed by capitalism’s focus on individual profit. Capitalists, in their pursuit of personal gain, inadvertently drive societal progress through efficiency innovations.

Yet, this progress stalls at the monopolistic stage, where innovation wanes and the effort to retain power leads to the suppression of competition to cut costs. This creates a significant contradiction: the majority’s labor benefits a wealthy few, turning capitalism into a barrier against further societal development. In response, socialists recognize the necessity of managing capital to advance society and aim to realign social relations with productive forces. Advocating for continuous and accelerated progress, their focus shifts from individual profits to meeting social needs, a shift driven by the understanding that society’s well-being requires transcending the capitalist framework. The promotion of the socialization of the means of production, particularly through an economy of association, aims to transfer capital control from private hands to a collective, addressing capitalism’s inherent contradictions. As these contradictions become more evident, the proletariat’s demand for a more equitable distribution of labor benefits grows, setting the stage for a reformed system guided by socialists who leverage their understanding of capitalism to rebuild societal structures for the common good.

The Origins of Fascism

Understanding fascism hinges on grasping the concept of syndicalism, a form of socialism which views labor unions as the primary economic unit and rightful owners of the means of production. In contrast, Marxism outlines a two-stage process, comprising lower stage communism and upper stage communism. Lower stage communism entails state ownership of the means of production and central planning on behalf of the proletariat, falling short of true socialism. The ultimate goal is to progress to upper stage communism, marked by the absence of a state and the collective ownership of all means of production, representing true socialism without social classes. It’s important to note that Marxists don’t exclusively own socialist theory, and syndicalism doesn’t neatly align with these two stages. Syndicalism advocates for individual unions to own their respective industries, akin to Proudhon’s industrial associations. The philosophy of syndicalism emerged in France in 1895, drawing early supporters such as Georges Sorel, a heterodox Marxist who originally aligned with social democracy but began to question its reformist goals and would after go to the camp of revolutionary syndicalism.

In The Birth of Fascist Ideology by Zeev Sternhell, a Jewish historian, it is contended that fascism sought to dismantle existing political orders and undermine their theoretical and moral underpinnings. Sternhell explains fascism’s opposition to bourgeois values such as universalism, humanism, progressivism, natural rights, and equality, vehemently rejecting the philosophical and economic theories of liberalism. According to Sternhell, Sorel embraced integral nationalism in the summer of 1909, expressing admiration for Charles Maurras, the founder of Action Francaise, after reading the second edition of Enquete sur la monarchie in April of that year.

Three months later, on July 10th, he published a fervent tribute to Maurrassism in Enrico Leone’s Divenire sociale, the leading journal of Italian revolutionary syndicalism. This article, titled Anti-Parliamentary Socialist, announced a convergence between integral nationalism and Sorelian revolutionary syndicalism — a convergence to be achieved by the younger generation of French and Italian Sorelians. This sheds light on the origins of Italian and French fascism within extreme nationalist and socialist circles, where proto-fascist movements laid the groundwork for a new revolutionary socialist nationalism, achieved through the synthesis of Sorelian myth, syndicalism, and nationalism. This fusion sparked a revolution aimed at uprooting the theory of natural rights and dismantling the utilitarian and materialistic foundations of democratic culture, introducing a fresh vision of socialism.

Placing itself under the authority of Proudhon, it also took inspiration from Sorel—the two great thinkers who had prepared the meeting of the two French traditions that opposed each other throughout the 19th century: nationalism and authentic Socialism uncorrupted by democracy represented by syndicalism.

— Zeev Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology

Édouard Berth, an early syndicalist, exerted a significant influence on early fascist theorists. The fusion of revolutionary syndicalism with  nationalism, evident in the writings of Giovanni Gentile, the Italian Fascist philosopher, and others such as Enrico Corradini, mirrors the shared ideals and objectives of these movements. Mussolini, in particular, echoed the language of revolutionary syndicalism and nationalism. The influence of Proudhon can also be observed in this development, as his rejection of democracy and parliamentarism resonated with the Maurrassians, shaping their perspectives on nationalism and tradition. It’s worth noting that in its early days, nationalism was not exclusively linked to reactionary ideology. Initially, it was associated with French Jacobinism and resistance against imperialism, as seen in nationalist movements in Ireland, Poland, and the Balkans, which found support from Sorel.

Even thinkers with anarchist tendencies, such as Bakunin, did not entirely reject nationalism, recognizing a natural affection among people for their homeland. As socialism began to diverge from its liberal roots, nationalism started to merge with it, creating a division between anarcho-syndicalists, who opposed nationalism and the state, and national syndicalists, who saw the state as a moral entity. This perspective sheds light on Mussolini’s Fascism, which Gregor describes as fundamentally a form of syndicalist nationalism underpinned by the philosophy of Actual Idealism. Mussolini’s use of “fasci,” which translates to “corporation” in English and signifies trade unions in Italy, illustrates the incorporation of trade unions into the state apparatus, a concept known as national syndicalism or corporatism. The adoption of the “fascio” symbol by trade unions to denote their cohesion was later repurposed by Mussolini to symbolize the syndicalist and corporatist state. Mussolini’s pivot to nationalism was propelled by the Italian Revolutionary syndicalists’ advocacy for war, viewing the national myth as a vehicle for class struggle, in contrast to Italian Marxists who remained anti-war and adhered to class reductionism. This ideological divide prompted Mussolini to abandon Marxism, disenchanted with socialist discourse that, in his view, lacked the vigor and determination necessary for revolution.

Sternhell highlights an interesting aspect regarding the revolutionary leaders’ departure from Marx’s revolutionary model, which emphasized the proletariat’s attainment of class consciousness. Many of these leaders emerged from bourgeois-socialist circles in the southern regions, bringing with them a tradition of rebellion and a desire to include the agricultural workers in the Mezzogiorno in the revolution. To achieve this, intellectuals such as Labriola and Leone began to revise Marxism, realizing that Marxist determinism had not unfolded as expected. In Italy, the collaboration between reformist socialism and the liberal bourgeoisie not only reinforced the existing social order but also deepened the division between the industrialized north and the agricultural south, leading to widespread emigration, particularly from the underdeveloped south. This became a concern for both revolutionary syndicalists and radical nationalists by the end of the first decade of the 20th century. The struggle against a system perpetuating underdevelopment and promoting emigration, resulting in the loss of essential national elements, became a shared objective of the socialist nationalist synthesis. Around 1910, both the nationalist and revolutionary syndicalist movements harbored a strong aversion towards Italy’s existing political system. They viewed the liberal parliamentary democracy represented by Giolitti as a fatal illness afflicting the nation, seeing war as a potential new solution. Radical nationalists and revolutionary syndicalists, particularly by 1914, concluded that war could serve as a potent remedy to eliminate the malaise afflicting Italy if administered in sufficient measure. This departure from the mainstream left is precisely why, as noted in Farrell’s Mussolini: A New Life, Italian Fascism was labeled as reactionary.

Immediately the Italian left branded Fascism as a reactionary force in the service of the bourgeoisie. It would keep on saying so. History by and large has accepted this definition of Fascism but Fascism was anything but a right wing movement.

— Nicolas Farrel, Mussolini: A New Life

In The Faces of Janus, Gregor argues that Italian Fascism and Nazism, unlike Marxism, were more successful in achieving their goals. This led Marxists to dismiss them as reactionary, as they opposed the proletarian revolution and the progressive unfolding of history according to Marxist ideology. Despite the significant number of industrial workers in the ranks of fascism during the march on Rome, it was still considered reactionary, and its workers were viewed as having false consciousness. In contrast to Marxism’s failure to bring about social change, Italian Fascism promoted industrialization and modernization, posing a real threat to the socialization of the means of production. Marxists rationalized their failure by portraying fascism as a symbol of capitalism in decay or a force of finance capital. According to Gregor, Italian Fascism was labeled irrational because it contradicted the course of history, and the means it used to achieve its goals were seen as barbaric and inhuman. However, Gregor challenges this view, suggesting that it was propagated by Marxists who sought to discredit Italian Fascism after being defeated by it. He argues that Marxists overlooked the importance of myth and the fact that people prioritize nation, tradition, and religion over class. Mussolini, influenced by syndicalism and thinkers like Sorel, incorporated a Nietzschean and aristocratic myth into his ideology, promoting a socialism based on quality rather than quantity.

Fascism itself was a variant of Sorelian syndicalism which advertized itself as voluntaristic, neo-idealist and elitist socialism. This current of socialist thought neither Fascism nor Gentile ever rejected. ‘Fascism,’ Gentile insisted, as a consequence of its Marxian and Sorelian patrimony… conjoined with the influence of contemporary Italian idealism, through which Fascist thought attained maturity, conceives philosophy as praxis.

— A. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism: The Rationale of Totalitarianism

Gregor notes that the key thinkers behind Italian Fascism were primarily syndicalists who embraced nationalism or nationalists who took on syndicalist economic stances. This merging of nationalism and syndicalism was rooted in a shared opposition to liberalism, with the goal of supplanting the bourgeois elite with a new moral renewal-focused proletarian elite. The fascists viewed the state as a legal embodiment of the nation. In 1919, the National Fascist party campaigned on the Fascist manifesto, which was written by F. T. Marinetti, a prominent figure in the Italian Futurist art movement, and Alceste De Ambris, a revolutionary syndicalist. The Futurists rejected tradition and sought to dismantle institutions like museums, libraries, and academies, while supporting economic syndicalism.

We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.

— F. T. Marinetti, Manifesto of Futurism

Marinetti emphasized the necessity and beauty of violence, hero worship, and the use of force to further the aims of the state. He also stressed the importance of myth, similar to Sorel. The principles outlined in the programs and statutes of the National Fascist party in 1921 reflected these ideas and were comparable to the National Socialist synthesis in France. From the early days of Italian Fascism to its downfall, the influence of integral nationalism and a synthesis developed over time through the revision of Marxism by various European thinkers. Italian Fascism can be seen as a heretical revision of Marxism or even as a post-Marxist ideology of social revolution that moves beyond Marxism while retaining certain elements.

Mussolini was a well-informed and convinced Marxist. His ultimate political convictions represent a reform of classical Marxism in the direction of a restoration of its Hegelian elements.”

— A. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism: The Rationale of Totalitarianism

For the origins of Nazism read this:

The Origins of Nazi Ideology

MAY 6, 2023
The Origins of Nazi Ideology

Introduction The idea that National Socialism lacks any rational basis is a common but mistaken notion. In reality, National Socialist thought was the culmination of a long intellectual journey, influenced by significant figures whose impact extended beyond Germany. Regardless of one’s views on their foundational principles, it is undeniable that the arc…

Fascist Theory: What Did They Say and Why Should We Read it?

Analyzing the roots of fascist thought, it becomes evident that its philosophical basis is deeply linked to an extreme form of syndicalism. However, a comprehensive understanding of Fascism requires delving into its political theory as well. Critics, among them online voices and leftist authors like Umberto Eco, argue that Fascist theory is not worth examining. I argue differently. Fascism operates on two levels: its theoretical foundations and its practical implementation. Ignoring its theoretical aspects to focus solely on its practical effects is, in my view, a significant mistake. By studying the works and interpretations of Fascist theorists, we uncover the intricate power dynamics inherent in any ideology. These dynamics involve compromises, adaptations to the political environment, and strategic maneuvers within the existing system.

Some dismiss the study of fascist principles on the grounds that they were never fully implemented. However, this argument doesn’t detract from the study of Marxist or Marxist-Leninism, despite the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution deviating from and later only partly adopting these theories. We study communist ideology for their deep insights. It’s particularly contradictory for such criticism to emerge from the left, which experiences its own ideological divisions and faces charges of “revisionism” and “opportunism.” One can see this in the diverse views within communist groups or in the criticisms leveled by figures like Stalin, Hoxha, Khrushchev, and Mao against dissenting theorists. Similarly, in the U.S., both Republican and Democratic candidates with different platforms are elected, acknowledging the role of these platforms in reflecting the candidates’ and parties’ beliefs and values, thus influencing public opinion. Dismissing fascist theory as irrelevant or void because it wasn’t fully realized overlooks cases like Germany, where fascist ideology was extensively enacted, even leading defeat. The study of fascist theory is vital for understanding its core and the contexts of its application, regardless of its full realization.

The worlds of the right and the left go together and cannot be separated. Both of them spanning all classes, they form part of the political economic system of capitalist democracy. The people of the left and the right were all hell to be equally attached to the system to the democratic parliamentary regime, to the freedom of the press and of opinion which meant that in defending democracy they were also defending capitalism.

— Pierre Rochelle, Fascist Socialism

The fascist critique extends to both left and right political spheres, as they are seen as facilitators of capitalist interests, a notion underscored by Mussolini in Italian Fascism. He launched an offensive against socialism not merely for its socialist character, but because it stood in opposition to his nationalist agenda. His goal was to sway the proletariat away from the mainstream Socialist party, with aspirations of forming a decisive minority force. Moreover, Mussolini was forthright in his stance that Fascists had no intention of joining forces with the capitalist bourgeoisie in the battle against communism. He saw them as unreliable partners who would only seek to use Italian Fascism for their own gains. Edmondo Rossoni, another proponent of Italian Fascism, resonated with this perspective. He pointed out that workers suffered exploitation and disregard not just at the hands of capitalists, but also from supposed revolutionary allies abroad. Consequently, Italian Fascism regarded internationalism as a hollow and insincere notion. Nonetheless, nationalism alone did not drive the Italian Fascist agenda. They sharply criticized the conventional bourgeois nationalism, setting it apart from what they considered to be a true, revolutionary nationalism. Fascism perceived this superficial and imprecise form of nationalism as akin to the misleading binary of left versus right, a view that is plainly articulated by Rochelle.

A vague nationalism is a form of capitalist defense. Capitalism uses the patriotic hype of nationalism even though nationalism as an ideology is outside the realm of capitalism as well as being separate or independent from any and all materialistic political and social manifestations inherently speaking.

— Pierre Rochelle, Fascist Socialism

The statement emphasizes that not all nationalist movements are synonymous with fascism. Indeed, fascism would dismiss certain nationalism’s that lack the requisite radical fervor, explaining why Keith Woods and Richard Spencer, were critical of Donald Trump’s version of nationalism. They perceived Trump’s approach as too entwined with classical liberal values and not sufficiently transformative to align with a true nationalist philosophy. Fascists recognized the potential harm that could stem from nationalist groups that embraced capitalist ideals, making it a flawed argument for Marxists to assert that fascism catered to the agendas of financial capitalists. Mussolini’s political journey also illustrates a complex relationship with socialism. In 1917, he voiced support for the Bolsheviks’ October Revolution and even called himself the “Lenin of Italy.” During the 1919 elections, Mussolini’s admiration for the socialist revolutionary Georges Sorel was evident, further highlighting his socialist inclinations. Notably, even in his Last Testament, penned shortly before his death, Mussolini maintained his identification with socialism. These instances reflect a consistent thread of socialist ideology in Mussolini’s political identity throughout his life.

As the natural development of society proved more and more of Marx’s predictions to be wrong, true socialism retreated from the possible to the probable. The only feasible socialism that can be truly implemented is Corporativism—a merging point, a place of equilibrium and justice, with respect for collective interests.

— Benito Mussolini, Last Testament

In his 1928 autobiography, Mussolini sharply critiqued liberal principles, emphasizing that under Italian Fascism, the idea of the citizen as an independent being with rights against the state’s collective decisions is entirely dismissed. The global economic crisis triggered by the Great Depression intensified Mussolini’s critique of capitalism, particularly its emphasis on individual economic freedoms and laissez-faire policies. In “The Doctrine of Fascism,” he clearly stated that the individual’s significance is recognized only when their personal objectives align with the state’s. This stands in stark contrast to the individual-centric philosophy of classical liberalism, as Italian Fascism advocates for the supreme power of the state, making governance its primary focus. It’s important to address a widespread misconception among many communists and right-wing individuals who often mistake fascist corporatism for a system of close cooperation between private corporate monopolies and the state. This is a profound misunderstanding. Fascist economic policy, in fact, orchestrates economic management through state-owned unions, presenting a form of syndicalism.

The Corporate State is based upon industrial and occupational organization, as opposed to the regional or geographical methods of government in place in today’s society. This feature will be common throughout the entire system, both of Government and representation, and must be grasped as an absolute fundamental principle of Corporatism. This idea proposes that the society and economy of a nation should be organized into major interest groups called Corporations that function similarly to a medieval guild system. Workers would be organized along profession and industrial lines, and representatives of those interest groups would settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement with State oversight. Under corporatism, the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization such as a guild, syndicate, or corporation. Representatives of the groups are elected into an Assembly of Labor and Management that settles issues through collective negotiation. The duties of these Corporations can be divided into three core categories; the Regulative, Planning, and Social aspects. Each Corporation must regulate the relations between the various factors of production in the industry it controls through negotiation; it must also plan the development of the industry or the closing down of redundant plant by working with the state and various entrepreneurs; finally, it must take heed of the social amenities of those engaged in the industry, their industrial insurance, superannuation, etc.

— Alexander Thomson, The Coming Corporate State

This provides a thorough account of the defining features of fascist economic systems. Guilds, corporations, or syndicates — sometimes consolidated into a single national trade union — bring various economic activities under state control. These organizations negotiate collectively on matters such as salaries, pricing, and production limits. Essential services, including banking and infrastructure, are nationalized to ensure the supremacy of state power over private interests. Evidence of this can be found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, particularly in the chapters “Personality and The Conception of The Völkisch State” and “The Trade-Union Question.” Historian Ian Kershaw observed that the Nazi support for strikes led to a significant abstention from voting among the rural electorate, who had been a reliable source of support for the party since 1928.

Gottfried Feder’s exploration of the Social State reflects similar ideas. The Origins and Doctrine of Fascism goes further, elaborating on how unions merge with the state apparatus in the Corporative State section. It articulates that Fascism borrowed the syndicalist vision of the syndicate’s role in education and morality, aiming to harmonize syndicates with state-supervised corporations. This process was designed to display the state’s inherent unity and to engage with individuals not as theoretical constructs of classical liberalism, but as actual, skilled workers part of a collective national economy. Sergio Panunzio, an important figure in Italian Fascism, shed light on the rationale behind Italy’s syndicalist laws of 1926, asserting that bolstering economic development was essential for a syndicalist system to realize its production zenith, a crucial step towards a socialist revolution. Rossoni, a notable syndicalist and trade unionist, played a pivotal role in defining syndicalism in Italy, significantly shaping the Italian Corporate model through his efforts. Benito Mussolini, in his newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, proclaimed that “the completion of the revolution was contingent upon the actions of Fascist syndicates.” During the early 1920s, the strength of Rossoni’s trade unions posed such a threat to industrialists that some considered enlisting communists to counteract the Italian Fascist forces. The tension between industrialists and fascist syndicalism is discussed:

Salvemini continued: ‘now the industrialists are no longer content with Mussolini. They are not as manageable as they wished.’ At the end of actual, referring to information passed along to Donati, editor of the Catholic newspaper Il Popolo, Salvemini noted: ‘An industrialist of Turin told Donati that in his circle people are beginning to ask themselves if it might now be wise to pay the Communists to fight the Fascists!’ In early May, the future Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti wrote to Gramsci in Moscow that ‘The Industrial classes are rather wary of the new regime, fearing unpredictable developments in the class struggle with Fascist syndicates.’”

— Franklin Hugh Adler, Italian Industrialists From Liberalism to Fascism

This highlights a distinct anti-capitalist element in Italian Fascism and Rossoni’s views. The irony of communists pointing out that industrialists feared fascists, while typically accusing fascism of being pro-capitalist, is noteworthy. Rossoni had a deep-seated opposition to capitalism; in 1926, he denounced industrialists as vampires, viewing them as temporary figures until workers could take over the economy. This perspective was integral to the goals of the corporate state, which aimed to transfer economic power to the workers, effectively undermining the capitalist system. Rossoni’s influence on Fascist thought was considerable, and his eventual alignment with the communists in 1943, expressing his dissatisfaction with Mussolini, could be interpreted as highlighting the socialist undercurrents in Italian Fascism or as challenging the inaccurately perceived notion of Italian Fascist “capitalism.” Notably, Nicola Bombacci, the Italian Communist party’s founder, had such a strong conviction in Mussolini’s policies and corporatism that he maintained Italian Fascism had sparked a significant social revolution. Bombacci saw parallels between Mussolini’s Italy and Lenin’s Soviet Union, believing both were motivated by a common objective: the elevation of the proletariat.

Fascism made a great social revolution, Mussolini and Lenin. Soviet and corporate fascist state, Rome and Moscow. We had to rectify a lot, nothing to forgive us for, because today as yesterday we are driven by the same ideal: the triumph of labor.

— Nicola Bombacci, quoted in Revolutionary Fascism by Erik Norling

This was the very individual who crafted the economic theory of Fascist socialization at the 1943 Verona Congress, who the bourgeoisie derisively called “the Red Pope.” In a 1945 gathering in Genoa, Bombacci boldly proclaimed that “Stalin will never achieve socialism; Mussolini will.” His involvement in the Fascist movement from 1943 to 1945 was not the opportunism of a traitor at the movement’s zenith; rather, he committed to the Fascist cause during its downfall, ultimately facing execution beside Mussolini. Bombacci’s final words were reportedly “Long Live Socialism!” In The Doctrine of Fascism, Mussolini and Gentile challenge the core tenets of classical liberalism, emphasizing a critique that spans both its economic and political dimensions. They admire Bismarck’s rejection of economic liberalism, arguing for a more interventionist role of the state, especially in light of capitalism’s failings exposed by the 1929 recession.

Their analysis extends to condemning the passive nature of liberal states which, in their view, neglect to actively foster societal well-being. The text articulates a vision where the state’s interests supersede individual rights, advocating for a collective identity over personal ambitions. This perspective is part of a broader skepticism towards globalization and its capitalist underpinnings, which are seen as enriching a few at the expense of the many. Ultimately, Mussolini and Gentile’s discussions culminates, in them proposing a model where the state assumes a central, guiding role in shaping the nation’s destiny. This is extremely similar to the anti-capitalism found in Gottfried Feder’s works:

Only when the groundlaying demand for abolition of interest-slavery is fulfilled, is the path cleared for the first time ever for the social state. This must be clearly recognized, and it must be accomplished in spite of all Mammonistic powers. The cry for socialization [while interest-slavery persists] is nothing more than the attempt to bring about the formation of a trust of all industries and to create giant conglomerates everywhere, over which big loan-capital, in spite of all wealth- taxes, will naturally also have the deciding influence again in the future. A socialistic state on a Mammonistic foundation is an absurdity and leads by nature to a compromise between Social-Democracy, already strongly contaminated with Mammonism, and big capital.

We, by contrast, demand radical rejection of the Mammonistic state and a reconstruction of the state according to the true spirit of socialism, in which the ruling basic idea is the obligation to nourish — in which an old basic demand of Communism can find its rational and useful satisfaction — in the form that every member of the folk shall receive his assigned entitlement to the soil of the homeland through the state’s allocation of the most important foodstuffs.

We further demand, as a skeleton for the new state, a representation of the people through the Chamber of People’s Representatives, which is to be elected on the broadest basis, and next to that a permanent Chamber of Labor, the central council in which the nation’s workers have a voice in proportion to their distribution by profession and economic class. Finally we demand the highest accountability for the directors of the state. This new construction of the state on a socialist-aristocratic basis will be treated in an additional work that will appear soon from the same publisher. The prerequisite for all this construction however remains the abolition of interest-slavery.

— Gottfried Feder, Manifesto For The Abolition of Interest-Slavery

The concept of a Nazi corporate state was earnestly pursued by figures like Max Frauendorfer, Feder, and Otto Wagener, who were staunch proponents of corporatism. Many in the Nazi party embraced some form of corporatism, including Hitler, as evidenced in Mein Kampf. In his memoirs, Otto Wagener discusses the challenge of transitioning from individualism to socialism without engaging in violent tactics. He critiques Marx and Lenin for identifying the right goal but choosing a path that, in his view, led to the unnecessary suffering and homogenization of Russian society. Wagener contrasts this with his belief that the Nazi regime could improve living standards beyond what capitalism achieved. Interestingly, Wagener recounts conversations with Hitler, where the latter reflected on socialism as an ancient concept, echoing the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Hitler felt that despite centuries of Christianity, these social principles had not been fully realized. He whimsically suggested that Nazism was, in fact, a true realization of Jesus’s socialist ideas, portraying Jews as antagonists to this vision and Jesus as a socialist martyr.

Hitler’s aversion to communism was rooted in his perception that it created uniform societies lacking in individual distinction, following the Soviet example. He advocated for a “socialism of nations,” contrasting with the international socialism espoused by Marx and Lenin. He identified the main challenge of the time as the emancipation of labor, seeking to reverse the prevailing hierarchy that saw capital dominating labor, aiming instead for labor to govern capital. Through Wagener’s memoirs, Hitler emerges as a figure who, while knowledgeable about Marxist theory, diverged significantly in its application, resembling Mussolini’s heretical approach to Marxism. Hitler positioned himself as a revolutionary socialist, looking to correct what he saw as the failures of both Christianity and previous communist endeavors, proclaiming his regime capable of achieving what Marxism did not. Ironically, terms like “late-capitalism” and “super-capitalism,” now commonly used by the Left, originated from Nazi-affiliated thinkers. “Late-capitalism,” a term with anti-Semitic connotations, was popularized by Werner Sombart, and “super-capitalism” was introduced by Alfred Brunner in an early German Workers’ party manifesto.

The emergence of supercapitalism derives from the previous liberalization in sale of, and yield capacity of, the soil. With free land there is no supercapitalism.

— Alfred Brunner, Outline For The Founding of a German Socialist Party on a Jew-Free and Capital-Free Foundation

In his speech “Capitalism in the Corporate State: State Capitalism in Decline” delivered in November 1933, Mussolini scrutinized the evolution of capitalism, observing the rise of agreements, syndicates, corporations, and trusts across Europe and America. He noted the resultant collapse of free competition, as capitalist enterprises preferred alliances over rivalry, dividing markets and sharing profits rather than battling for domination. The doctrine of supply and demand was undermined by these industrial conglomerates’ ability to manipulate the market. Capitalism, now consolidated and trustified, increasingly sought refuge in the state, seeking tariff protections and other forms of state intervention. The advent of liberalism — considered an extension of economic liberalism — faced its demise. Mussolini highlighted nations like the United States, which erected substantial trade barriers, and the United Kingdom, which abandoned its traditional economic policies for protectionism. The post-World War economic landscape saw capitalist enterprises ballooning to unprecedented sizes, resulting in a materialistic dominance over the spiritual and the physiological becoming the pathological. Mussolini warned against the rise of what he termed “super-capitalism,” a system that aimed to homogenize humanity, standardizing everything from cradles to coffins. This vision of super-capitalism sought a uniformity in desires, consumption, and lifestyle, reducing individuality to a series of utilitarian demands.

At this stage, supercapitalism finds its inspiration and its justification in a utopia: the utopia of unlimited consumption. Supercapitalism’s ideal is the standardization of the human race from the cradle to the grave. Supercapitalism wants all babies to be born exactly the same length so that the cradles can be standardized and all children persuaded to like the same toys. It wants all men to don the very same uniform, to read the same book, to have the same tastes in films, and to desire the same so-called labor-saving devices. This is not the result of caprice. It inheres in the logic of events, for only thus can supercapitalism make its plans.

— Benito Mussolini quoted in Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy by Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi

Ernst Jünger, a key figure in the German Revolutionary Conservative Movement with ties to the National Bolsheviks and the Strasser brothers, noted that large trusts had essentially become autonomous entities within the nation. He proposed that under Prussian socialism, these economic giants should be assimilated into the national framework. This idea echoed Mussolini’s belief in an all-encompassing state that brooked no opposition or independence from its authority. In this envisioned corporate state, unity and cooperation were crucial, with no room for internal discord that might disrupt its operations. The concept was for the state to function as a cohesive organism, with every component acting in unison. Henry Ashby Turner’s book Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power amusingly highlights aspects of this ideology, emphasizing its unique approach to economic and political control.

Kurt von Schleicher, a conservative figure, endeavored to control Hitler by proposing a role as vice-chancellor while simultaneously threatening to forge an anti-Nazi coalition, the so-called “cross-front.” Hitler rejected any subordinate position, insisting on the chancellorship, and thus Schleicher’s strategy crumbled. Goebbels mocked the idea of Hitler serving under a bourgeois government, stating, “The notion of the Führer as Vice-chancellor of a bourgeois cabinet is too grotesque to be taken seriously.” In a 1931 interview with Richard Breiting, Hitler rejected the idea that Nazism supported capitalism, clarifying that his party’s economic plan included the nationalization of public companies, akin to socialism. He emphasized the authority of the state and the precedence of community welfare over individual interests. The state was to oversee property owners, who should act as stewards for the common good. Hitler showed no concern for the bourgeoisie’s concern over private property rights, criticizing them as morally bankrupt and self-serving, and accused the bourgeois press of being hostile to him and his movement. Hitler’s rhetoric showcases a blend of nationalism and socialism, and to further illustrate this point, one can reference the party program crafted by Feder, which advocated for the nationalization of trusts, profit-sharing, uncompensated agrarian reform, and the communal operation of large department stores. Perusing Die Tat by Hans Zehrer would also reveal the socialist threads woven into the ideology. Goebbels himself, in his publication The Little National Socialist’s ABC, emphasized this sentiment, underscoring the party’s socialistic and nationalistic foundations.

Stock-exchange capital is not productive but parasitically hoarded capital. It is no longer tied to the soil but rootless and internationalist; it does not produce but has infiltrated the normal production process in order to drain profits from it. It consists of movable assets, i.e. raw cash; its chief carrier is Jewish high finance, whose goal is to put the producing populace to work, then pocket the proceeds from their labor.

— Joseph Goebbels, The Little National Socialist’s ABC

In 1941, during a session at the Reichstag, Hitler delivered a speech regarding Nazi ideology and was quoted as follows:

We chose a path between two extremes. The one extreme was holding our people. It was the liberal individualist extreme which made the individual not only the center of interest but also the center of all action. On the other hand our people were tempted by the theory of universal humanity which alone was the guide to individuals. We on the other hand saw the people as a community of body and soul formed in the will by Providence. We are put into this community and with it alone we can form our existence. We have consciously subordinated all consideration to this goal, I have shaped all interest according to it and all action. Thus the national socialist world of thought arose which has overcome individualism. The common interest regulates and orders if necessary curtails but also commands.

— Adolf Hitler quoted in Hitler’s National Socialism by Rainer Zitelmann

Taking everything into account, my conclusive evaluation is that fascism fundamentally embodies a variant of socialism. This perspective is reinforced by the Croatian Ustasâ, whose ideology blended socialism and nationalism in a manner echoing the Marxist-Leninist advocacy for a patriotic proletarian socialism.

True socialism cannot even be imagined outside the national framework. Without a sense of community, and the people represent the ideal of community – socialist results cannot be realized.

— Aleksandar Seitz, The Road to Croatian Socialism

The argument that the Nazi party lacked socialist components often references the expulsion of Strasserism. However, examining Gregor Strasser’s works shows a deep congruence with Nazi ideology and its overarching principles. Peter Stachura, in his biography of Gregor Strasser, highlights discussions between Strasser and Hitler about Strasser’s potential role in the government around late 1933 to early 1934, a claim supported by Alfred Rosenberg’s memoirs and writings by David Irving. This evidence suggests that the purge of so-called socialists from the Nazi ranks was not as clear-cut as often portrayed, resembling more a political power struggle akin to that between Stalin and Trotsky, rather than a systematic removal based on ideology. The continued influence of Joseph Goebbels within the Nazi leadership further challenges the notion that the party distanced itself from socialist ideas. Otto Strasser’s role mirrors Trotsky’s as a political outsider within the broader context. The execution of Ernst Rohm during the purge does not necessarily indicate a pro-capitalist stance by Hitler, much like Lenin and Stalin’s socialist credentials were not diminished by their actions against the Mensheviks or the assassination of Trotsky. The analysis presented in Hitler’s National Socialism argues against interpreting the purge as a rejection of socialism by the Nazi party, suggesting a more complex dynamic at play.

The conflict between Hitler and Rohm was not a conflict between reaction and revolution but more between the representatives of different models of revolution. The historian H. Mau probably gave the clearest description by saying that the conflict was between a revolution of the old school and the representative of the modern revolution.

— Rainer Zitelmann, Hitler’s National Socialism

Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda and a close confidant of Hitler, offers insights into Nazi ideology through his propaganda work. In Nazi-Sozi: Questions and Answers for National Socialists, Goebbels argues against Marxism, claiming it has failed German workers and is distinct from “true socialism.” He asserts that Marxism is harmful to nations and the working class, and that German workers were misled into embracing it due to a lack of alternatives. Goebbels encourages workers to reject Marxism in favor of a different interpretation of socialism, Nazism. This highlights the distinct anti-Marxist stance within Nazi ideology, emphasizing that Nazism does not inherently reject socialism. Instead, Goebbels differentiates between Marxism and other forms of socialism, stating that German workers should not doubt socialism, but should reject Marxism specifically. In the chapter “Our Program,” Goebbels claims that unlike other parties that make empty promises, the Nazi party’s goal is straightforward: to liberate and reintegrate the German worker into the nation. He suggests that the party is prepared to undertake a social revolution if necessary for national freedom and to break any chains that hinder the provision of basic needs for German workers. The Nazi party promises to fight for the worker’s right to exist, framing this struggle as a battle for freedom and prosperity.

These arguments present a decidedly pro-labor and seemingly socialist narrative by Goebbels, which is well-defined and deliberate. For those who remain skeptical, Goebbels further elaborates in the chapter “Production and the Social Problem,” where he states:

“To this end, we demand:

1. Everything that nature gave to the people: territory, rivers, mountains, forests, treasures under the earth and the air above, everything belongs in principle to the people as a whole. Should a people’s comrade own these goods, he must feel obligated to the state as the administrator of the people’s possessions. If he administers them poorly, or to the harm of the community, the state has the right to take these possessions from him and make them once again the possession of the community.

2. Production, in as far as it requires human strength, abilities, inventiveness, entrepreneurship, and genius remains the possession of the individual. The state guarantees that those contributing to production, whether physically or mentally, share in the ownership and profits.

3. Production that is essentially completed, which no longer requires strength, ability, inventiveness, entrepreneurship and brilliance (e.g., the transportation system, trusts, conglomerates) will be brought back to state ownership.

This closes the great circle of production, and it once again includes all productive workers. In implementing this demand, we free labor from the chains of wage slavery. The result will be a free people with a free economy on free land: the people’s community.

— Joseph Goebbels, Nazi-Sozi: Questions and Answers for National Socialists

The socialist undertones in Goebbels’ message become more pronounced here. Specifically, he advocates for profit sharing and employee stock ownership, and he also supports the nationalization of industrial trusts, conglomerates, and key infrastructure. His concluding remarks about freeing labor from the binds of “wage slavery” resonate with Marxist critiques of capitalism. Even his assertion that “everything belongs in principle to the people as a whole” aligns with socialist principles.

Views on The Soviet Union

It’s important to contextualize Goebbels’ seemingly communistic stances within the Nazi party. His close relationship with Hitler and his influential role in the Reich lend weight to his statements, confirming their significance within the broader context of the party’s ideology. It’s noteworthy that Goebbels had pro-Bolshevik leanings, which occasionally put him at odds with Hitler. This complexity is further explored in Ralf Georg Reuth’s biography on Goebbels.

On the question of social justice, so crucial to Goebbels, Hitler did not share his view that Bolshevism was the heir to Russian nationalism. According to Goebbels, no czar had understood the Russian people’s nationalist instincts as well as Lenin, who, in contrast to the German Communists, was not an internationalist Marxist.

— Georg Reuth’s Goebbels

In National Socialism or Bolshevism by Goebbels, as referenced in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, Goebbels critiques the perception of Soviet Russia as a beacon of international solidarity. He argues that what is perceived as Bolshevik internationalism is actually a form of Russian nationalism or pan-Slavism. Goebbels asserts that the Soviet system survives not because of its Marxist ideology, but because it embodies Russian nationalism. Lenin, according to Goebbels, succeeded where the Tsar failed by connecting with the Russian populace, particularly peasants, by granting them what they perceived as the essence of Bolshevism: freedom and land ownership.

Goebbels then contrasts the German communist’s idealistic view of Bolshevism, which he sees as impractical and disconnected from reality, with the practical nationalist evolution occurring in Russia. He suggests that Lenin prioritized Russian autonomy over Marxist theory, and implies that German Communists are making the opposite choice, sacrificing German freedom for Marxist ideology. Furthermore, Goebbels comments on the Jewish population’s integration into the Soviet system, suggesting that they have adapted to the nationalistic turn in Russia, whether for strategic reasons or otherwise. He accuses the West of harboring animosity towards Soviet Russia due to its nationalistic stance, which he claims is incompatible with capitalist interests. Finally, Goebbels confronts the reader with an accusation of shared anti-Semitism, claiming a common understanding that a Jewish presence is contradictory within a National Bolshevik state. He challenges the reader’s reluctance to openly acknowledge this sentiment. In Hitler’s subsequent writings, Hitler is cited as reiterating a similar observation regarding the emergence of a nationalist strain within Bolshevism in Russia.

However it is conceivable that in Russia itself, an inner change within the Bolshevik world could take place. Insofar as the Jewish element could perhaps be forced aside by a more or less Russian national one. Then it could also not be excluded that the present real Jewish capitalist bolshevik Russia, could be driven to nationalist anti-capitalist tendencies.

— Adolf Hitler, Second Book

We can observe the influence of Goebbels’ affinity for Bolshevism infiltrating the official propaganda of the Nazi party, a stance he had held since at least 1926. In an article he penned for the Nationalsozialistische Briefe in January 1926, entitled Orientation: West or East, Goebbels clearly articulated his support for aligning with Russia. Peter Longerich, in his biography, quotes him stating:

That is why we place ourselves alongside Russia as equal partners in the struggle for this freedom which means everything to us.

— Joseph Goebbels quoted in Goebbels by Georg Reuth

This declaration of Goebbels’ pro-Bolshevik leanings is notable, given his early and influential role within the Nazi party and his overt pro-Soviet expressions. Although subsequent Nazi propaganda seemed to conflict with these initial positions, it’s plausible to speculate that the change in rhetoric was a response to shifting German geopolitical strategies and the eventual confrontation with the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, Goebbels’ comments remain a significant reflection of his views within the party. Goebbels was not alone in his pro-Soviet outlook. Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister and architect of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a strong advocate for a German-Soviet alliance against the Allies. Another figure sharing this sentiment was German Ambassador Friedrich von Schulenburg, who saw a German-Soviet conflict as disastrous for Western civilization. Schulenburg, though not a Russophile, echoed Otto von Bismarck’s belief in the necessity of German-Russian peace to maintain Germany’s power and prosperity. However, such an alliance was contingent upon the Soviet acquisition of Romania and Bulgaria, a concession Hitler was unwilling to make, ultimately rendering the alliance unfeasible.

There was a degree of mutual respect between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, as evidenced by historical accounts. Vyacheslav Molotov, as quoted in Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, acknowledges that Stalin recognized Hitler’s effectiveness in rapidly organizing Germany and eliminating the substantial German Communist party. Similarly, Hitler, in his recorded Table Talks in 1941, described Stalin as an extraordinary historical figure, noting his rise from a modest clerk to a ruler who commands through a responsive bureaucracy, without the need for rhetoric. These quotes suggest both leaders appreciated each other’s capabilities in consolidating power and transforming their respective countries. Sternhell, contributes more to this view:

Because he is a revolutionary, the combatant can be only a fascist or a Bolshevist. In the opinion of the founder of the first fascist movement outside Italy, fascism and bolshevism were “one and the same reaction against the bourgeois and plutocratic spirit. To the financier, the oil tycoon, the pig breeder who consider themselves the lords of the earth and wish to organize it according to the laws of money, the requirements of the automobile, and the philosophy of pigs and to submit the people to the philosophy of the dividend, the Bolshevist and the fascist reply by raising their swords. Both of them proclaim the law of the combatant.

Georges Valois was one of the first political thinkers in France to insist on the common basis of the left- and right-wing revolutionaries, of “those two inimical brothers, fascism and bolshevism, brothers because of their mutual contempt for the bourgeois regime, enemies because they occupy the two opposite capitals of Europe-fascism that of the sacred lake (the Mediterranean], bolshevism that of the land of barbarism.

All authentic fascists in the following twenty years behaved similarly. Up to the Second World War, and often during the war years themselves, their hatred of bourgeois Europe was stronger than their opposition to communism.

— Zeev Sternhell, Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology In France

Leon Degrelle, a notable Nazi, expressed that their battle in Russia was not to preserve capitalism but for their own revolution. He stated that they would rather see communism destroy everything than witness a return to a decadent capitalist Europe. The true aim, according to Degrelle, was the socialist revolution that would inevitably follow the war. Additionally, Russian National Bolshevist Nikolai Ustrialov, in his 1927 work Pod znakom revolutsi, observed that Russian Bolshevism and Italian Fascism share similarities as products of the same era. He described their mutual animosity as brotherly and identified both as harbingers of “Caesarism,” suggesting a shared destiny. Shortly before the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, on June 16, 1941, Goebbels noted in his diary a confident expectation of triumphing over Bolshevism. His vision for post-conquest Russia excluded the revival of the Tsarist system; rather, the goal was to dismantle Bolshevism and instate “real socialism.” Additionally, the official stance of the Communist party of Germany during the era of Soviet-German diplomatic cordiality, as presented in the political platform drafted by the German Commission of the Communist International on December 30, 1939, despite its criticism of National Socialism, labeled the Nazis as a national liberation movement opposing French and British capitalist imperialism, which sought to undermine German-Soviet relations and disintegrate Germany.

The Fascist and Communist Conception of Private Property and Class Collaboration

In fascism, the notion of private property is often associated with smaller-scale ownership, including small farmers, craftspeople, artisans, and the petite bourgeoisie. This contrasts with the interpretation offered by figures like José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who distinguishes between property that serves individual human needs – the “property of man” – and property that is tied to the accumulation and lending of money, or “property of capital,” characteristic of bourgeois production systems. This differentiation of property concepts suggests that there is no fundamental incompatibility with socialist principles.

As you know very well, when we speak of capitalism, we are not speaking of property. Private property is the opposite of capitalism: property is the direct projection of the individual on matter; it is a basic human attribute. Capitalism has gradually replaced this property of the individual with the property of capital, the technical instrument of economic domination. With the dreadful and unfair competition between large capital and small private property, capitalism has gradually annihilated craftsmanship, small industry, and small-scale agriculture; it has gradually delivered everything — and is increasingly doing so — into the hands of the big trusts, of the big banking concerns. Ultimately, capitalism reduces bosses and workers, employees and employers, to the selfsame state of anxiety, to the same subhuman condition of the man deprived of all his attributes, whose life is stripped of all meaning.

— Jose Antionio Primo de Rivera, Selected Writings

In the communist viewpoint, private property — distinct from personal belongings — is seen as a system that separates people from their means of production, resulting in a state of alienation devoid of human qualities. It’s not about personal ownership; rather, it’s an estranged kind of property linked to usury, conflict, and societal collapse. This interpretation coincides with fascist ideology, where the property linked to capital is perceived as surpassing personal ownership and functioning autonomously, concentrating power and dominating societies. Both ideologies underscore the antisocial and dehumanizing aspects of such property and its harmful impact on communities, if one looks beyond the differing terminologies used to describe the phenomenon. Communists propose a step-by-step dismantling of private property, adopting measures that gradually make it irrelevant. Similarly, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany took a progressive approach by slowly expanding state influence and curbing private property rights, albeit maintaining personal possessions. Moreover, the 1936 Soviet Constitution, authorized under Stalin, recognized the rights of smallholders and craftsmen to own land and engage in local, private trade, indicating an acknowledgment of individual ownership within a collective framework.

“ARTICLE 10: The right of citizens to personal ownership of their incomes from work and of their savings, of their dwelling houses and subsidiary household economy, their household furniture and utensils and articles of personal use and convenience, as well as the right of inheritance of personal property of citizens, is protected by law.”

— Constitution of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, December 5, 1936

During the late Soviet era, particularly under Brezhnev, the policy promoting private farming was expanded, and these private plots contributed significantly to Soviet agricultural output, providing around one-quarter of the total production. These plots were particularly productive in certain sectors, such as potatoes, vegetables, meat, milk, and eggs. The Myth of Capitalism Reborn by Michael Goldfield and Melvin Rothenberg details the substantial contributions of private plots to Soviet agriculture, even noting higher dependency on them before the war. Some Marxists label the post-Stalin period as “state capitalist” and equate it to fascism. However, if one accepts the Soviet economy under Brezhnev as socialist, it suggests that small-scale private ownership by peasants and craftsmen can coexist within a socialist economy without undermining it or reinstating bourgeois relations. Likewise, Maoist China incorporated private plots within its three-tier commune system, allowing families to own and cultivate small farms for personal use or to sell surplus produce. Robert L. Ward’s work China: A Country Study describes how the agricultural sector was structured around a collective system, with families also maintaining private plots and the freedom to sell or consume their yield.

In Marxist-Leninist Hungary, under the leadership of Janos Kadar, the economic model followed a structure akin to what José describes. While the government nationalized all large-scale businesses and industrial machinery, small-scale farmlands and retail outlets remained in the hands of private individuals.

To paraphrase a Hungarian article:

  • Planned management, “socialism”
  • The role of the “socialist bloc” is greater
  • The role of state ownership is significant
  • The role of private enterprises is small
  • The forint is less dependent on market processes
  • The role of agriculture and industry is significant
  • The role of the banking system is less significant
  • Socialist consumer habits

Communist Poland differed from other Central and Eastern European countries in that it never fully collectivized its agriculture. As Jarka Chloupkova notes in Polish Agriculture: Organisational Structure and Impacts of Transition, the majority of Polish farmland was privately owned and operated, resisting communist collectivization efforts. Consequently, the agricultural sector in Poland remained predominantly private, even during the communist era. This private ownership allowed for real business incentives, though the small size of the farms led to inefficiencies. During communism, private farms accounted for about 80% of agricultural labor and produced more than three-quarters of the total agricultural output, making the agricultural sector’s private nature a political irony in the context of the communist regime. Glenn E. Curtis’s Poland: A Country Study highlights that from 1956, Poland’s agricultural sector stood out among Comecon nations with its predominance of private ownership. Despite this, the state maintained influence via mandatory quotas and the control over supplies until the 1970s, as well as impacting farming methods and land sales. Discriminatory resource distribution policies ensured that private farms remained small and dependent on manual labor up until the 1980s. It is also remarked that there is an absence of Marxist critique on the Polish approach to agriculture, often termed “revisionism.” This also implies that the perceived parallels between communism and fascism in relation to property rights could stem from a misunderstanding in translation. When we take into account the appropriate context, as described, a more distinct connection between the two becomes apparent.

Hitler’s perspective on property is discussed, in Table Talks. Hitler underscores the importance of protecting private property, particularly emphasizing the value of family-owned estates, being managed by family members rather than state officials, as they would likely be more efficiently run. However, he is critical of property ownership that takes the form of anonymous shareholder participation, arguing that profits from such enterprises belong to the nation, not just the individual investors. Hitler’s stance is that private property should facilitate the delegation of economic management to local authorities familiar with production conditions, rather than establishing a static property ownership relationship. His views are consistent with the policies of nationalization implemented by the Nazis and rhetoric from Goebbels, suggesting that the bourgeoisie serve merely as managers until the proletariat is ready to assume control. This approach is in line with what Rossoni suggested about industrialists retaining their roles until workers are prepared to manage the Italian economy.

The Fascist-Nazi method of transition from capitalism to socialism was obviously more humane for the capitalists and business executives and far better for the community than the communist way of sudden liquidation of one system with its managing personnel, and inauguration of the successor system without adequate experts. It is better to make socialist commissars of industry of the capitalist industrialists than to make corpses of them, both for their sakes and for society’s sake, which can use them better alive than dead. Thus the socialist state is given time to train its personnel under experts while the latter are able to end their lives in service and in comfort.

— Lawrence Dennis, The Dynamics of War and Revolution

Giovanni Gentile critiqued the determinism of Marxism, advocating for a transformative approach that emphasized Praxis. He reimagined Italian Fascism as an evolution of Marxism, incorporating a spiritual dimension to achieve a more profound social transformation. During the height of Fascist influence and in subsequent discussions with leftist groups, Gentile depicted Fascism as championing labor values and fairness, suggesting that Italian communists might have inadvertently supported a nascent form of corporatism. This interpretation seems to be consistently backed by observations of Marxist economies in action. The nuanced understanding of the relationship between Marxism and Fascism, particularly in the context of corporatism, is effectively encapsulated by the Nazi economist Dr. Hans Buchner:

The comparison of the National Socialist concept of property with the old German feudal system, the medieval form of enfeoffment, is therefore obvious. The essence of each represents a kind of fiduciary relationship which the proprietor and possessor have entered into with the folk-community. This form of property rights, profit-participation rights, and administrative rights, limited in its sovereignty through constant vigil over the safeguarding interests of the general public, prevents administrative, beneficiary, and caretaker proprietors from ruthless personal exploitation of the possessory entrusted to them, and obliges them to obedient care and maintenance of their Allodiums, over which the public sector can demand responsibility in the form of common law. It is in this sense that certain theoretical concepts of National Socialism are to be understood, which interpret the property of the individual as a kind of loan (enfeoffment) on the part of the folk-community, who are entitled to reclaim it in the event of misuse or the violation of the public interest, or to maintain it themselves in duty to the common good.

— Dr. Hans Buchner, Grundriß einer nationalsozialistischen Volkswirtschaftstheorie

Gregor also confirms this for Italian Fascism:

Thus, though the Fascist conception of property refused to countenance collective possession as such, individual ownership rights were understood to be strictly subordinate to collective discipline. It was not the individual ownership of property that concerned Fascists, but it subordination to collective control. Property was understood to perform social functions rather than to manifest individual rights. It was clear that the conception of property as a social function was broad enough to include socialization of the means of production, should that be required by the national interests as interpreted by the state.

— A. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism: The Rationale of Totalitarianism

In the dialectic of class struggle, the concept of aligning collective welfare with the interests of the state manifests a form of property relations that seeks to harmonize individual interests within a centralized state apparatus. Within the corpus of fascist ideology, there is a pronounced emphasis on forging an alliance among the proletariat, military, peasantry, and the petty bourgeoisie, systematically excluding the financial-industrial bourgeoisie, identified as the embodiments of bourgeois decadence and capitalism, and hence slated for eradication. This strategy is aimed at dismantling existing class hierarchies, endeavoring to radically transform class identities, as critiqued by Rainer Zitelmann. The objective is the creation of a classless society, transcending class antagonisms through sublation. This notion is similarly reflected in the theories of Mussolini and other fascist ideologues, drawing analogies to Lassallean State Socialism, wherein the state’s function is relegated to a supervisory role over production processes. In the context of the People’s Republic of China, the ‘Pairing Up’ initiative with State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) embodies a corporatist model, diverging from orthodox Marxism, and aimed at fortifying national solidarity to confront imperialist encroachments and preparing for potential militaristic engagements, thereby presenting a fascist-influenced interpretation of socialism.

Fascism endeavors to redirect the flow of national capital towards “productive capital,” aligning the interests of the national bourgeoisie with the state’s objectives to counteract imperialist pressures, thereby fostering a unified national front. During the 1940s, under Italian Fascism, large companies were amalgamated into state syndicates, with small enterprises remaining as the sole private entities, effectively instituting a proletarian dictatorship with production under the control of the workers, albeit mediated by the state, heralding the establishment of a socialist state for the masses. The People’s Republic of China, while adhering to Marxist-Leninist principles, has pragmatically adopted this framework, which continues to garner support from fascist elements owing to its developmental emphasis on growth, with no apparent aversion to relinquishing this model. Thus, the strategy of class collaboration and the socialized property fundamentally embody a developmentalist approach and a tactic for national unification against the backdrop of imperialist aggression.This is essentially the reason Mussolini and Robert Ley, the head of the Nazi German Labour Front, described Germany and Italy as proletarian nations in opposition to the plutocratic capitalist democracies.

The bourgeoisie was divided into the national and the comprador bourgeoisie. The national bourgeoisie formed the majority of the bourgeoisie; it was rather flabby, often vacillated and had contradictions with the workers, but it also had a certain degree of readiness to oppose imperialism! And was one of our allies in the War of Resistance.

— Lin Biao, Long Live The Victory of People’s War!

This gigantic struggle is nothing other than a phase in the logical development of our revolution; it is the struggle of peoples that are poor but rich in workers against the exploiters who hold on ferociously to the monopoly of all the riches and all the gold of the earth…

— Benito Mussolini, Declaration of War on France and England

The Socialist View on Race and Jews

Nazism and orthodox Marxism both contain elements advocating for the removal of races deemed anachronistic. Engels introduced this idea in The Hungarian Struggle. This ideology was reiterated by various socialist thinkers until the emergence of Hitler. The Marxist view of progress suggests that certain races, remnants of the feudal past, would be unable to keep pace with the transition from capitalism to socialism. These groups, seen as evolutionary dead-ends within this framework, were marked for extinction. Engels labeled such groups as obsolete and deserving of oblivion.

All The other large and small nationalities and people are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are our counter-revolutionaries.

The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes in dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.

— Frederick Engels, Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Marx’s correspondence from the mid-1850s, collected as The Eastern Question, displays a strong anti-Slavic sentiment reminiscent of the stigmatization faced by Slavs under Nazi rule.

The Scandinavians and the Germans have thus made the experience that they must not base their respective national claims on the feudal laws of royal succession. They have made the better experience, that by quarreling amongst themselves, instead of confederation, Germans and Scandinavians, both of them belonging to the same great race, only prepare the war for their hereditary enemy, the Slav.”

— Karl Marx, The Eastern Question

“We have no intention of doing that. To the sentimental phrases about brotherhood which we are being offered here on behalf of the most counter-revolutionary nations of Europe, we reply that hatred of Russians was and still is the primary revolutionary passion among Germans; that since the revolution hatred of Czechs and Croats has been added, and that only by the most determined use of terror against these Slav peoples can we, jointly with the Poles and Magyars, safeguard the revolution. We know where the enemies of the revolution are concentrated, viz. in Russia and the Slav regions of Austria, and no fine phrases, no allusions to an undefined democratic future for these countries can deter us from treating our enemies as enemies.

— Karl Marx, Neue Rheinische Zeitung

In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and The State, Engels theorized that the high consumption of meat and milk might contribute to the advanced development of Aryans and Semites, as these foods are beneficial for child growth. He compared this to the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, who predominantly adhere to a vegetarian diet and, in Engels’ view, have smaller brains than other indigenous groups that consume more meat and fish. This racial disdain also extended to society’s lower echelons, the lumpenproletariat, whom Marx and Engels regarded as subhuman. In later years, this group endured severe persecution by leaders like Lenin, who endorsed the execution of sex workers, and Stalin, who targeted homosexuals. Furthermore, during a speech to his political party in Munich in August 1920, Hitler pledged allegiance to a doctrine that melded socialist ideas with racial theories.

If we are socialists, then we must definitely be anti-semites – and the opposite, in that case, is Materialism and Mammonism, which we seek to oppose. How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-semite?

— Adolf Hitler quoted in Hitler and The Socialist Dream by George Watson

Key socialists like Bakunin and Proudhon displayed attitudes that were anti-Semitic and could be considered racist. The connection between Bakunin and Richard Wagner, a composer deeply admired by Hitler, highlights the complex interplay between radical leftist thought and the fervor of radical nationalist revival.

The socialist Pierre Proudhon said this:

Jews. Write an article against this race that poisons everything by sticking its nose into everything without ever mixing with any other people. Demand its expulsion from France with the exception of those individuals married to French women. Abolish synagogues and not admit them to any employment. Finally, pursue the abolition of this religion. It’s not without cause that the Christians called them deicide. The Jew is the enemy of humankind. They must be sent back to Asia or be exterminated. By steel or by fire or by expulsion the Jew must disappear.

— Pierre Proudhon, On The Jews

The anarcho-communist theorist Mikhail Bakunin stated:

Marx is a Jew and is surrounded by a crowd of little, more or less intelligent, scheming, agile, speculating Jews, just as Jews are everywhere — commercial and banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades; in short, literary brokers, just as they are financial brokers, with one foot in the bank and the other in the socialist movement, and their arses sitting upon the German press. They have grabbed hold of all newspapers, and you can imagine what nauseating literature is the outcome of it. Now this entire Jewish world, which constitutes an exploiting sect, a people of leeches, a voracious parasite, closely and intimately connected with another, regardless not only of frontiers but of political differences as well — this Jewish world is today largely at the disposal of Marx or Rothschild. I am sure that, on the one hand, the Rothschilds appreciate the merits of Marx, and that on the other hand, Marx feels an instinctive inclination and a great respect for the Rothschilds. This may seem strange. What could there be in common between communism and high finance? Ho ho! The communism of Marx seeks a strong state centralization, and where this exists, there the parasitic Jewish nation — which speculates upon the labor of people — will always find the means for its existence. In reality, this would be for the proletariat a barrack-regime, under which the workingmen and the workingwomen, converted into a uniform mass, would rise, fall asleep, work, and live at the beat of the drum. The privilege of ruling would be in the hands of the skilled and the learned, with a wide scope left for profitable crooked deals carried on by the Jews, who would be attracted by the enormous extension of the international speculations of the national banks.

— Mikhail Bakunin quoted in Bakunin on Marx and Rothschild 

The intertwining of anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism within Nazism is well-noted by historians who examine the anti-capitalist rhetoric prevalent in Weimar Germany. Brendan Simms, in his work Hitler: A Global Biography, provides substantial evidence illustrating this connection. Hitler’s revulsion towards the Anglo-American capitalist order was a defining feature of his political life. His formative experiences with British imperial might during World War I and the economic dominance of the United States, particularly evident at the second battle of the Marne, left a profound impression on him. Furthermore, the financial constraints imposed by the Treaty of Versailles reinforced his belief in the symbiotic relationship between Jews and Anglo-American capitalism, which he perceived as the architects of international finance and the forces responsible for Germany’s defeat. Simms suggested that discussions of Hitler’s anti-Semitism are incomplete without acknowledging his anti-capitalist sentiments, as the two were fundamentally linked in his worldview.

“Hitler violently objected to international capitalism even when it was not Jewish, but he assigned the Jews a particularly malevolent role within the global capitalist system; this remained the principal root of his anti- Semitism. In Mein Kampf, as in his earlier rhetoric, Jews were inseparably linked with money and the whole capitalist system as ‘traders’, as ‘middlemen’, who levied an ‘extortionate rate of interest’ for their ‘financial deals’. Jewry, he claimed, aimed at nothing less that the ‘financial domination of the entire economy’.”

— Brendan Simms, Hitler: A Global Biography

To provide further insight, consider the comparison between Hitler and Marx in On The Jewish Question:

It is well-recognized that German socialists in the 1930s or before never challenged Hitler’s claim to socialism based on his racial doctrine. Ludwig Woltmann, a Marxist, reinterpreted Historical Materialism to exclusively benefit the Nordic race in his work Marxism and Race Theory. This adaptation essentially birthed the Racial Theory of history, which notably influenced Chamberlain, and subsequently, Hitler, who was deeply inspired by Chamberlain’s ideas. This context enriches the understanding of these quotations, suggesting that Nazism could be seen as a variant of Marxism, particularly due to its adoption of racial theories from Woltmann. If one considers Nazism as a divergent form of Marxism, integrated with Woltmann’s racial historiography, it becomes apparent that without its racial doctrine, Nazism might closely resemble Marxism, as Hitler himself acknowledged. This suggests a deeper Marxist connection within Nazism, distinct from its racial ideology. According to Hitler, absent the racial narrative, Nazism would merely mimic Marxism.

The racial worldview is fundamentally distinguished from the Marxist by reason of the fact that the former recognizes the significance of race and therefore also personal worth and has made these the pillars of its structure. These are the most important factors of its worldview.

If the National Socialist Movement should fail to understand the fundamental importance of this essential principle, if it should merely varnish the external appearance of the present State and adopt the majority principle, it would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground.

— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

From an ontological and epistemological vantage, Hegel’s idealism was deeply immersed in the dialectics of the ideational, a realm where the unfolding of spirit navigated the course of history. Marx, transmuting this Hegelian dialectic, anchored it firmly within the material substratum of existence, positing that it is the material conditions that fundamentally shape human consciousness and societal structures. Woltmann, extending this materialist dialectic, introduced a novel dimension by positing that these very material conditions are, in turn, modulated by biological determinants. This progression intimates a philosophical continuum threading through the works of Hegel, Marx, Woltmann and the Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg. By reconceptualizing Hegel’s notion of the spirit as the material essence in the Marxist sense, and further metamorphosing this essence to embody Rosenberg’s conceptualization of a racial soul, one effectively sustains the core dynamics of the Hegelian dialectic, albeit redirecting its applicative locus. This philosophical transmutation not only preserves the integrity of the Hegelian dialectical method but also recalibrates its application, thereby continuing to justify the existence and evolution of civil society through a modified, yet philosophically coherent form.

Was Fascism Propped Up By Finance and Industrial Capital?

Marxists often contend that nationalization equates to state capitalism rather than socialism, especially when worker councils or unions become integrated with state functions. The distinctions between state socialism and state capitalism blur, as they’re organizationally identical — Mussolini noted that state capitalism is just state socialism inverted, with the key difference being the adherence to the value-form and profit motive. Despite socialist governments never fully eliminating the profit motive, or the value form, they often transitioned to a version of socialism suited to one country, as practical adaptation was necessary. Stalin, for instance, acknowledged the necessity of profit within socialism for reserves, accumulation, and fulfilling defense and social needs, as noted in his dialogues from 1941-1952. Although Stalin claimed the Soviet Union did not operate under the law of value, the existence of Soviet currency and commodities with exchange value suggested otherwise, as competition with the West required some adherence to these economic laws. Many Marxists even recognize that socialist governments have operated under state capitalist models. Nationalism, adopted by major socialist states, represents a deviation from traditional Marxism. Additionally, Eugen Weber, in Varieties of Fascism, discusses the misconception that capitalism and fascism are synonymous, suggesting that Marxists sometimes project their own attributes onto fascism.

Fascist socialism, The extent to which fascist or national socialist movements were or were not socialist or social is we have already seen a vexed one. The critics of fascism generally represent it as the vessel of nationalist ideology in the service of capitalism. A typical statement of this view appears in John Strachey’s The Menace of Fascism, which the British labor leader and future minister published in 1933, after abandoning Mosley’s New Party. For Strachey, National Socialism is simply a movement for the preservation by violence and at the cost of the private ownership of the means of production. Fascism kills, tortures and terrorizes in defense of the right of capitalists to keep their fields, factories and mines of the world as their private property.”

— Eugen Weber, Varieties of Fascism

This passage highlights a key misconception: the frequent conflation of fascism with reactionary movements. Reaction is characterized by the desire to maintain the status quo or to revert to a previous state, ideally before the French Revolution, as it resists progressive or radical change, exhibited by groups such as the Blackshirts and Stormtroopers. Meanwhile, Romanian Legionaries are mistakenly portrayed as mere hired soldiers for obscure private interests in Strachey’s work, an error not committed by true revolutionaries like Charles Maurras and the Fascist movements. Turning to a similar perspective, the communist R. Palme Dutt, in his book Fascism and Social Revolution from the 1934 edition, lists what he believes to be the defining features of fascism, which can be condensed into seven main points:

  1. Preservation of the capitalist system
  2. Strengthening the authoritarian aspects of capitalist rule
  3. Curbing and suppressing autonomous labor movements while fostering structured class collaboration
  4. Rejecting the parliamentary democratic model
  5.  Expanding the state’s monopolistic control over industry and finance
  6. Enhancing the unity of economic and political powers within each imperialist bloc
  7. Escalating imperialist conflicts that pave the way to warfare

A detailed analysis reveals that many characteristics of fascism identified by Dutt are also applicable to communism. For example, both ideologies share a distrust of parliamentary democracy, as evident in communism by the centralization of power within party structures like the Central Committee and Politburo, and Lenin’s forceful dissolution of the 1917 Russian Constitutional Assembly Election after the Bolsheviks failed to secure a majority. Additionally, both systems extend state monopolies and organization, with communism implementing state planning and cooperatives to control the economy. Similarly, the suppression of independent labor movements is common to both, as demonstrated by communism’s response to opposition during the civil war, including the suppression of the Kronstadt sailors’ uprising and Ukrainian Anarchists. Furthermore, both ideologies have sought to unify blocs into singular socio-economic units and have heightened imperialist tensions, with the creation of COMECON and the Warsaw Pact under Stalin to maintain control over Eastern Europe.

James Gregor discusses these parallels in The Faces of Janus, noting that by the mid-1930s, intellectuals allied with the Third International began to develop comprehensive analyses of reactionary, right-wing, generic fascism. The urgency of this task grew as Nazism under Hitler gained prominence in Germany, bringing the concept of fascism to the forefront in one of Europe’s key nations. It was Dutt who provided a thorough Marxist-Leninist interpretation of fascism, which would become the standard among leftist literature, framing fascism as inherently reactionary. Given the substantial similarities in practice between the two ideologies we can conclude that the myth of a fundamental difference has little basis in reality. It is, therefore, hypocritical to level unfounded criticisms at the opposition when one’s own practices mirror those very actions.

Proceeding with Gregor’s account:

The entire standard Marxist-Leninist account of fascism in the interwar years was at best a caricature of the actual political and historical sequence. To suggest that Italian fascism was financed, controlled and directed by the capitalist, Big landlords, the big industrialist or finance is so simplistic that it hardly merits analysis. However one chooses to construe the standard Marxist Leninist version of fascism, The candidate explanation remains unconvincing. We know that Italian industrialists and big capitalists interacted with Italian fascists from a position of strength. We also know that their interests and the interests of the fascist coincided at critical and broad junctures. But all the evidence we have at our disposal indicates that the industrialists were never able to control Mussolini’s fascism.

Fascism frequently if not regularly compensated the organized industrialists and financiers of Italy for their submission to control, But the evidence indicates that business and banking interests almost remained subordinate to fascist political priorities. Not only did Mussolini sometimes sacrifice business and financial interests when it served fascism’s purpose; he did not hesitate to dismiss and exile influential business leaders in whom he had no confidence. Mussolini‘s alliance with business agrarian and financial interests was always based on political considerations. This was particularly true concerning foreign policy where he operated with almost absolute independence.

Italian fascism had arisen in industrially retrograde Italy; yes it was somehow seen as the product of late capitalism. It was an industrializing movement in an essentially agrarian environment that was both modernizing and reactionary. It had violated all the norms of traditional Bourgeois society and in the end, threatened the socialization of private property in its nationalist drive to create a collectivistic greater Italy. Yet somehow or other fascism was a defense of capitalism and the enemy of the socialist revolution. The notion that fascism was nothing more than right-wing reaction to be forever distinguished from the political left-wing dominated most of the learning institutions of the west.”

— A James Gregor, The Faces of Janus

Expanding on this theme, Gregor explains in Mussolini’s Intellectuals that as Italian Fascism rose to power in Italy, Marxists and their allies were frantically seeking to comprehend the bewildering events that seemed to usurp their expected historical role. Elements they regarded as historical anachronisms or counter-revolutionary were somehow eclipsing Marxism and the progressive political change it was presumed to spearhead. It was during this time that Clara Zetkin recognized Mussolini’s triumph as more than just a military conquest; it was an ideological and political defeat of the labor movement. This did not imply, however, that Italian Fascist ideology was inherently superior to Marxism. Rather, it suggested that Marxists had failed to effectively apply their theoretical framework. Before Italian Fascism’s ascendance, Marxists had not grasped its true nature. With better understanding, there was a concerted effort within the Third International to develop a definitive critique of Italian Fascism to more effectively combat its influence. Yet, the Marxist interpretations lacked uniformity, with the sole agreement being that Italian Fascism was a counter-revolutionary force running against the presumed direction of history, and thus inherently irrational and self-contradictory.

Beyond this consensus, Marxist characterizations of Fascism varied widely and were sometimes at odds with one another. Initially, Italian Fascism was portrayed as a reactionary rural movement serving large landowners. Later, it was associated with the interests of the urban middle classes. Subsequently, it was seen as an agent of industrialists, or as a tool of finance capitalists. Some Marxists even attempted to depict Italian Fascism as the collective instrument of all these interests, despite the inherent complexities and contradictions of such a portrayal. By the mid-1930s, the prevailing Marxist depiction of fascism had solidified under the influence of Stalin’s authoritarian control. Within this framework, Italian Fascism was depicted as the spawn and instrument of finance capitalism, which was purportedly floundering in the throes of capitalism’s ultimate crisis. As capitalism faced its supposed terminal decline, Fascism sought to tighten its grip on the nation’s production to maintain monopolistic pricing.

As previously mentioned: the accusations of projection, distortion, and falsehoods. Fascism was never merely an apparatus of capitalism, and it indeed possesses its own ideological foundation. The real divergence that emerged is rooted in the philosophical debate between idealism and materialism. Fascist Actual Idealism rejects the notion of Historical Materialism, and its brand of nationalism disregards class distinctions. This is why Fascism has often garnered support from the working class, who value concepts like nationhood, solidarity, culture, and faith — all of which are dismissed by materialism, thus estranging the very workers it claims to represent. This ideological alignment is what historically enabled Fascism to succeed in seizing power.

Fascism never served the interests of Italian business… there is no credible evidence that Fascism controlled the nation’s economy for the benefit of the ‘possessing classes.’

— A. James Gregor, The Search for Neofascism: The Use and Abuse of Social Science

The same allegations leveled at Italian Fascism have been extended to Nazism, yet these charges hold little substance. In German Big Business and The Rise of Hitler Henry Turner addresses these claims by stating;

To What extent did the men of German big business undermine the Weimar Republic? To what extent did they finance the Nazi party and use their influence to boost Hitler into power? As should be evident by this point the answer in both cases is a great deal less than has generally been believed. Only through gross distortion can big business be afforded a crucial or even a major role in the downfall of the republic.

The early growth of the NSDAP Took place without any significant aid from the circles of large-scale enterprise. Centered in industrially underdeveloped Bavaria, tainted with illegality as a consequence of a failed beer hall putsch of 1923, saddled with a program containing disturbingly anti-capitalist planks and amounting only to a raucous splinter group politically, The NSDAP languished in disrepute in the eyes of most men of big business throughout the latter part of the 1920s. The major main executives of Germany proved with rare exception resistant to the blandishments of Nazis including Hitler himself, who sought to reassure the business community about their party’s intentions. Only the electoral breakthrough of 1930, achieved without aid from big business drew attention to it from that quarter. From The Development and Character of the Nazi Political Machine, 1928-1930, and the Nsdap Electoral Breakthrough; After weighing all the evidence. We must recognize that the financial subsidies from industry were overwhelmingly directed against the Nazis. Bulk of the funds in the party treasury came from membership dues.

— Henry Turner, German Big Business and The Rise of Hitler

Reflecting on the views of Peter Drucker, an American author and academic, it’s clear that the notion of big business fostering Fascism is inaccurate. In fact, in both Italy and Germany, the smallest share of Italian Fascist support came from those within the industrial and financial sectors. Moreover, it’s a misconception that big business benefits from Fascist rule; in reality, out of all the social groups, the business class likely experiences the greatest detriment under the constraints of a totalitarian economy and a wartime economy. Delving deeper into this topic, James Pool and Suzanne Pool provide a comprehensive analysis in Who Financed Hitler, where they examines the financial underpinnings of Hitler’s rise to power.

The party’s financial substance was however made possible not just by the donations of the most generous contributors but by the day-to-day income from the average members. Every member of the party was expected to pay his dues of one Mark per month and give whatever his means would permit, but since many of them were unemployed there was very little surplus income. You have no idea Hitler later told Gregor Strasser what a problem it was in those days to find the money to buy my ticket when I wanted to deliver a speech at Nuremberg.

Looking back at the financing of Hitler’s political activities from 1918 to 1923 one thing is particularly interesting. Many historians have contended that the national socialist party was financed and supported by big business? Yet as has been seen only two of Germany’s major industrialists Fritz Thyssen and Ernst von Borsig gave anything to the Nazi party during these early years. Donations came from some conservative Munich businessmen who were at the height of the communist danger as well as small Bavarian factory owners like Grandel, the Berlin piano manufacturer Bechstein and the publisher Lehmann. But none of these men despite their wealth could fit properly in the category of big business.

There is no evidence that the really big industrialists of Germany such as Carl Bosch, Hermann Biicher, Carl Friedrich von Siemens, and Hugo Stinned or the great families such as the Krupps and the leading bankers and financiers gave any support to the Nazis from 1918 to 1923. Indeed few of them knew this small party from Bavaria even existed. Most of Hitler’s donations came from wealthy individuals who were radical nationalists or anti-Semites and contributed because of ideological motivation. To a certain extent the wealthy white Russians fit into this category; they could also be looked on as the only real interest group that hoped to gain a definite political-economic objective from their aid to the Nazis.”

— James Pool and Suzanne Pool, Who Financed Hitler

In The Coming of the Third Reich, historian Richard J. Evans also noted that the Nazis’ strength and momentum was derived from its grassroots financial backing. This independence from major corporate and bureaucratic entities, like big business or trade unions, for funding, effectively dispels the notion that the Nazis were bankrolled by capitalist interests.

The Socialism of Italian Fascism

To further elucidate that the Third Position does not serve as an instrument of capitalism, I will explore the economic landscape of Italian Fascism, focusing on its defining characteristics, operational mechanisms, the Labor Charter, and various policies implemented during the Fascist period. The journey began on December 3, 1922, when Italy enacted a series of economic reforms under the guidance of the liberal finance minister, Alberto De Stefani. These reforms included overhauling tax legislation, lifting trade barriers, abolishing rent control laws, reducing government expenditure, and initiating privatization, thus ushering in a short-lived era of laissez-faire economics that lasted until 1925. Prior to De Stefani’s departure, Mussolini’s regime had already started to steer the capitalist sector towards serving the state’s interests, intervening where necessary to foster cooperation among industrialists, workers, and the state apparatus. De Stefani’s resignation marked the end of his tenure.

Once Mussolini secured his dictatorship in 1925, Italy embarked on a different economic trajectory. Echoing sentiments that would later be seen in Nazi Germany and to some extent in Roosevelt’s New Deal America, Mussolini embarked on extensive deficit spending, initiated expansive public works programs, and eventually pursued militaristic endeavors. Around this time, Mussolini even acknowledged a kinship with the economic views of Mr. Maynard Keynes, a notable economist. He praised Keynes’s work The End of Laissez-Faire, stating that it could serve as a preliminary introduction to Fascist economic principles, finding little to dispute and much to commend within its pages. This stance reflected a clear skepticism towards a free-market economy. The Fascist regime set out with two principal economic aims: to modernize the national economy and to address Italy’s deficiency in strategic resources. In the short term, the government endeavored to revamp the tax system, privatize certain inefficient state enterprises strategically, reduce public spending, and implement protective tariffs to shelter emerging industries.

Over time, this alliance transformed as Mussolini’s Italian Fascism evolved, particularly with the emergence of the Corporative State. This was a practical system in which economic decisions were made through collective bargaining within syndicates comprising representatives of both workers and employers from various trades and industries. This arrangement aimed to resolve the perceived economic conflict between capital and labor, thereby preventing class struggle from jeopardizing the national cause. In this Corporative State, labor actions such as strikes were outlawed, and industrial disputes were to be settled by a state-controlled agency. In The Italian Corporative State, Fausto Pitigliani provides what is arguably the most comprehensive examination of Fascist economics in Italy.

“Fascist syndicalism has accepted some of the principles of syndicalism properly so-called. Thus it adopted the principle of syndicate organization through trade syndicates, applying it however to all productive categories and not to the workers only. In so doing it did not start from the socialistic principle of the struggle between capital and labor, as if the whole political world was divided into two great categories only but recognize the other economic classes of the population have by now become distinct and independent groups.”

“Fascist syndicalism proposes to regulate the political and economic life of the state through the organization on national lines; medium of occupational associations strictly limiting their sphere of influence to the national field.”

“The state judges the collective needs of its citizens, studies and regulates the possibilities of understanding with foreign countries but does not permit the interest of the country should be subordinated to those of a class or that it should be in any way in indirect control by them.”

“It aims to put all individual producers in the position of choosing freely their own economic policy and start from the principle that everyone’s property shall enjoy ample guarantees. On the other hand the right of property has limitations in the fascist regime, when it conflicts with the interest of the national community recognized and impersonated by the state. Economic freedom of enterprise is subordinated to restrictions of various kinds whenever it interferes with the public interest.”

“The labor charter asserts the principle of considering private initiative as fundamental attributes to the private organization of production, the importance of function of national concern and declares the organizer of an enterprise responsible to the states for the direction given to production. From these quite deliberate assertions it seems already clear that the interests of the community have a fundamental importance in the policy of the state. The state does not assume the place of the organizer of an enterprise nor take from him they control nor the possibility of directing his own undertaking in the manner he deems best but proposed a place to individual in the best conditions for organizing that part of production which depends on himself. It is precisely in exchange for the guarantee which it gives that the state demands a productive use of that right. If private initiative languages or is exercised in such a way as not adequately to benefit the community or even damages then the state intervenes and takes the place of the individual. This attitude discloses a collectivist or rather a corporative tendency on the part of the state, in so far as the active supervision of the economic life of the country is entrusted to its control.”

“The intervention of the state sometimes was harmful in the sense of helping to perpetuate situations which the private initiative would have been able to resolve more rapidly and more decisively and this is one of the strongest objections that can be raised against the possibility of intervention on this part of the state“

— Fausto Pitigliani, The Italian Corporative State

The notion that Fascism’s objective is to preserve capitalism seems contradictory if one considers that Fascist policies included actions that could potentially harm businesses or employ trade unions in ways that might challenge private enterprise. This contradicts the idea of Fascism acting as a capitalist tool aimed at countering socialism. In discussing the evolution of syndicalism within the corporative system in his book, Fausto Pitigliani points out that the essence of the new form of syndicalism lies not so much in its approach to the dynamics between the classes involved in production but rather in its focus on establishing institutions that serve these classes. According to Pitigliani, two key aspects of the Fascist syndical structure stand out. Firstly, the organization of different production categories, taking into account their roles as employers, employees, and so on. Secondly, the amalgamation of these producers into state-sanctioned entities grouped by their industry sector—be it industrial production, commerce, trades, banking, etc. — resulting in higher-tier confederations that unite various lower-tier associations.

These confederations, always limited to individuals engaged in specific sectors, function as the mechanism through which the state can engage with and utilize the categorized classes for the enhancement of national production. Pitigliani sees the role of Fascism and the purpose of these syndical associations as the attainment of a balanced and peaceful social order through the organization of different producer classes and the oversight of their interrelations. The objective of these corporations is to safeguard national resources and facilitate the growth of the country’s productive capacity by harmonizing the various elements and factors of production.

“According to the principles as at present laid down by the legislator of the union and generally the syndical associations. It’s required to function in a sphere predetermined and clearly delimited wherein or included such duties as the arrangement of collective contracts, the organization of the employment offices, the settlement of labor disputes, the work of social assistance and benefit vocational training, etc. The corporation on the other hand in integrating the social activities of the syndical associations in the field of the relations between the producing categories or of measures for dealing with the problem of unemployment or in carrying out its own special responsibility for the development and controlled national production, it’s now free to work along the lines not materially restricted by definite legislative provisions

— Fausto Pitigliani, The Italian Corporative State

To address the scarcity of industrial resources crucial for modernization, Italy under Fascism pursued a dual strategy: vigorous development of domestic sources and an assertive foreign trade policy that included seeking specialized raw material trade agreements or engaging in strategic colonization efforts. Mussolini urged the Italian parliament to approve an “Italo-Soviet political and economic agreement” by early 1923, which facilitated Italy’s move to become the first Western nation to officially recognize the Soviet Union in 1924. The 1933 Treaty of Friendship, Non-Aggression, and Neutrality further solidified this relationship, making Fascist Italy a key trading partner with Stalin’s Russia—trading Italian technological expertise in aviation, automotive, and naval areas for Soviet natural resources. In the early 1920s, cooperatives were subjected to terror, looting, and destruction by Fascist blackshirts. Yet, by 1922, the cooperative movement, represented by the Lega Nazionale di Cooperativa e Mutue, managed to gain Mussolini’s official endorsement by agreeing to remove Communist members. Following these adjustments, cooperatives flourished under Fascist rule, demonstrating the regime’s support for worker cooperatives, particularly through its backing of the Lega Nazionale di Cooperativa e Mutue. In The Myth of Mondragon by Sharryn Kasmir, it is noted:

Ideologically the Italian cooperatives benefited from Fascist propaganda. Mussolini pointed to them as examples of the ideals of corporatism. They embodied worker participation, non-conflict relations between labor and management, and the withering away of class identification.

— Sharryn Kasmir, The Myth of Mondragon

The Fascist economic model was steered by an intricate hierarchy of organizations comprised of employers, workers, and joint entities representing various trades and industries across local, provincial, and national levels, culminating in the National Council of Corporations. While syndicalism and corporatism were integral to the Fascist ideology and vital for garnering support for the regime, actual decision-making lay in the hands of state bodies such as the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricosstruzione Industriale, or IRI), which mediated between the Corporate groups.

Influential leaders of large corporations played a role in shaping policy, yet the majority of small business owners found themselves essentially transformed into government workers, navigating through bureaucratic systems. These smaller entrepreneurs complied, often under the belief that such impositions were merely temporary measures. Given the state’s view on land as a critical national asset, the Fascist government tightly controlled agricultural practices, specifying crops, reorganizing farmlands, and even resorting to the threat of confiscation to ensure adherence to its directives. The regime also initiated public works projects and assumed authority over decisions concerning the construction and enlargement of manufacturing facilities. In 1931, the government established the Istituto Mobiliare to oversee credit, and the IRI subsequently took possession of all bank-held shares in sectors including industry, agriculture, and property. Mussolini’s framework was devised to prioritize the requirements of the state over those of individual consumers or financial capitalists.

Regarding the Labor Charter, it comprises precisely thirty points; however, it’s not necessary to delve into each one exhaustively. Instead, I will summarize the main elements.

  1. Insurance
  2. Paid vacation
  3. Pensions
  4. Syndical associations
  5. Labor Courts
  6. The role of labor
  7. Collective contracts

The Fascist regime in Italy viewed both strikes and lock-outs as detrimental to the national interest and, in response, established a labor court system designed to mediate disputes and facilitate agreements between workers and employers. Out of the cases brought before the courts, 11,062 were resolved, 3,432 were either abandoned or postponed, 6,050 underwent informal arbitration, and 670 were dismissed for falling outside the court’s jurisdiction. While the system had its shortcomings, it managed to reduce the level of conflict between labor and capital significantly. Moreover, business owners who initiated lock-outs were subject to legal penalties, including imprisonment for 3 to 12 months and fines ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 lire. The overarching theme of these reforms, as Mussolini would describe, was the advancement of workers through the establishment of labor courts, contractual agreements, fixed wages, and worker organizations, alongside various other worker-friendly policies.

Initially, Italian Fascism adopted an economy based on laissez-faire principles, but over time it moved towards greater centralization, a shift reminiscent of the USSR’s New Economic Policy. This transition was formalized with the codification of the labor charter, the corporative system, and syndicates into law on April 3, 1926. The full corporatization of industry was achieved in 1933, culminating with legislation enacted by Alfredo Rocco. Rossoni, one of the key figures behind these laws and then Minister of Agriculture, argued in a speech that workers should not be taught to despise factory owners and industrialists. Conversely, he stated that owners should abandon the traditional “boss” mentality. He advocated for a relationship where Italians would act not as masters and slaves but as collaborators pursuing the collective interest and national objectives. Rossoni warned that any remnants of the old “boss” mentality would face staunch opposition.

“The Labour Court is the organ through which the State intervenes in order to settle labor disputes, whether arising from the observance of contracts or other existing rules or from the formulation of new labor conditions.”

“Legally recognized professional associations ensure legal equality between employers and workers, keep a strict control over production and labor and promote the improvement of both. The Guilds (corporazioni) constitute the unitary organization of the forces of production and integrally represent their interests. By virtue of this integral representation, and in view of the fact that the interests of production are the interests of the Nation, the law recognizes the Guilds as State organizations.”

— The Charter of Labor of 1927

The social reforms implemented under the Fascist regime led to a nationwide reduction in the mortality rates from diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera, as well as a decrease in miscarriages. These policies also provided workers with better incentives. Among the initiatives worth highlighting is the establishment of the Dopolavoro, an organization that constructed recreational facilities and offered its members a variety of leisure activities, including skiing, boxing, theater, opera, and more, all over the country. Membership was open to everyone, including those who were not part of the Fascist party.

In 1939, Carl Theodore Schmidt, who was critical of Fascism, observed this:

Formally, indeed, the organization of social services is impressive. All workers are entitled to insurance benefits in the event of industrial diseases and accidents, to old-age and invalidity pensions, and to insurance against tuberculosis. A substantial number are insured against unemployment. Small supplements to the wages of laborers with large families have also been introduced. Women workers are entitled to maternity benefits. Voluntary sickness funds have been set up by business firms and the syndical organizations. Furthermore, the Government has fostered a number of social-welfare institutions. The most important of these is the Dopolavoro, or Leisure-Time Institute, which provides its members with admirable opportunities for education, sport, and recreation. By 1938 it had more than 3,000,000 members. Fascist youth, maternity, and infancy organizations are said also to have made material additions to the well-being of workers.

— Carl Schmidt, The Corporate In Action

In 1926, the regime founded a forest militia tasked with reforestation efforts, forest management, and overseeing the hydraulic organization of waterways and regions. According to a report by General Augusto Agostini of the Forest Militia, from 1928 to 1930, an impressive 79.5 million saplings and over 557,000 kilograms of forest seeds were planted. Occupations like forest-keepers and wood-cutters, previously overlooked, were now organized into their respective federations. During the Great Depression, the Italian government facilitated mergers and acquisitions, rescued failing businesses, and confiscated bank stocks, which held significant shares in various enterprises. The state took control of insolvent companies, formed business cartels, increased public spending, and inflated the money supply. It championed heavy industry by nationalizing it rather than allowing firms to fail.

Italian Fascist leaders described corporatism as “revolutionary,” asserting that the corporative state would ensure both economic growth and social justice—a slogan that was adopted by various figures and movements, including American Fascist sympathizer Father Coughlin, Adolf Hitler, and even Francisco Franco. Mussolini and other Fascists supported unionism, mandating union membership for all Italian workers. While Mussolini outlawed strikes, it’s notable that Lenin had similarly prohibited them in the Soviet Union. Within the corporate state framework, planning boards determined product types, production volumes, prices, wages, working conditions, and company sizes. Licensing was mandatory, preventing any economic activity without governmental approval. These regulations hindered the formation and growth of new businesses. Additionally, the state dictated consumption levels, and surplus incomes were collected through taxes or compulsory loans.

By 1925, the Fascist government had launched a comprehensive program that included food aid, infant and maternal care, general healthcare, supplementary wages, paid holidays, unemployment benefits, sickness insurance, insurance against occupational diseases, family support, public housing, and insurance for old age and disability. Regarding public works, Mussolini’s regime allocated 400 million lire from public funds for the construction of schools over a twenty-year span from 1922 to 1942. From 1925 to 1927, Mussolini’s regime focused on subduing the workers. Initially, the non-fascist and subsequently the fascist trade unions were nationalized and fell under state control, mirroring Lenin’s approach of abolishing independent unions in the Soviet Union. The Italian Fascist government implemented legislation that mandated union membership for all workers, reflecting the significant role that trade unions, with their syndicalist origins, played in both Italian Fascism and industry. This period saw two critical developments. The 1925 Pact of the Vidoni Palace aligned fascist trade unions with major industrial players, agreeing that industries would only recognize unions approved by the Fascist party, thereby sidelining non-fascist and Italian Socialist party aligned unions. Following this, the 1926 Syndical Laws, also known as the Rocco Laws after Alfredo Rocco, furthered this policy by permitting only one trade union and one employer’s organization per industrial sector. Edmondo Rossoni, leading the General Confederation of Fascist Syndical Corporations, initially unified labor, but his influence and the industrialists’ dissatisfaction with him led to his dismissal in 1928, with Mussolini taking his place. Despite the Syndical Laws maintaining a division between capital and labor, party officials reassured the populace that these were temporary measures, with full integration into the corporative state intended for the future.

By the mid-1930s, corporatism and regulatory consolidation brought the Italian credit system under state and quasi-governmental control, with the state managing or influencing approximately 80 percent of credit by the late 1930s. In preparation for the conflict with Ethiopia, the Italian government implemented price controls, production quotas, and increased tariffs, leading to a significant trade deficit and subsequent intensification of import restrictions, foreign exchange controls, and regulation of raw material distribution. Mussolini’s pursuit of “autarky,” or economic self-sufficiency, led to increased protectionist measures, surging government expenditures, and a budget deficit that grew sevenfold from 1934 to 1937. The 1936 Bank Reform Act transformed the Bank of Italy and other major banks into government entities, with the previous year marking the beginning of capital confiscation as banks, businesses, and individuals were ordered to hand over foreign-issued stocks and bonds to the Bank of Italy.

At the end of 1936 the long-awaited devaluation of the lira stimulated economic recovery and improved the balance of payments. At the same time, by a simple ministerial decree, all limits on State borrowing from the Central Bank were abolished. The autonomy of the Bank was at its nadir.

— Bianca d’Italia, The Bank of Italy From Its Inception to The 1936 Banking Law

In 1927, Italy transitioned to the corporative phase, with the Labour Charter of 1927 emphasizing the role of private initiative in the economy while reserving the state’s right to intervene, particularly in the Fascist-controlled process of worker hiring. By 1930, the National Council of Corporations was formed, representing the critical sectors of the economy and aiming to address industrial challenges. In 1932, the state advocated for cartelization, which led to conflict when several firms resisted the CGII’s (General Confederation of Italian Industry) directives to form cartels, prompting government intervention. Cartelization and mutual agreements became natural outcomes, given that corporations spanned all production sectors. In May 1934, as the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) began assuming control of bank assets, Mussolini made a declaration indicating the ongoing changes within the Italian economic landscape.

 “Three-fourths of the Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state.

— Benito Mussolini, May 26 1934

During the 1930s, Italy embarked on an ambitious land reclamation initiative known as the “Battle for Land” or Bonifica Integrale. By 1933, the program had employed over 78,000 individuals. The government also rolled out policies aimed at modernizing the less developed southern region of Italy, known as the Mezzogiorno, in efforts to confront the Mafia and address the stark economic disparity, where the south’s per capita income lagged 40% behind that of the more industrialized north. This period also saw the electrification of railways, extensive transport infrastructure projects, the development of hydroelectric power, and growth in key industries such as chemicals, automotive, and steel. Strategic economic areas, especially in the oil industry, experienced a degree of nationalization with the establishment of Agip (Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli—General Italian Oil Company). By January 1933, the Italian government took control of bank-owned companies, which led to Italy boasting the largest sector of government-linked companies (GLCs) in Europe. By the end of 1933, the government had rescued the Hydroelectric Society of Piemont, whose share value had plummeted, and in September 1934, the Ansaldo trust was restructured under the authority of the IRI (Institute of Industrial Reconstruction) with a substantial capital injection, effectively bringing it under state ownership. By 1939, Italy had the highest proportion of state-owned enterprises globally, trailing only the Soviet Union. That year, the Italian state held control over the majority of the nation’s maritime transport and shipbuilding, a significant portion of pig iron production, and nearly half of the steel industry.

It’s often argued, particularly by left leaning historians like Grover Furr, that Fascism subjected its workers to slave-like conditions, which is a contention that does not align with historical policy implementations. Under Mussolini’s leadership, especially during the corporatist period, the Italian government enacted a suite of occupational health and safety measures and social welfare laws that were considered advanced for that era. The fascist regime brought in workplace protections for women and children, as well as medical assistance for the workers, while also introducing state-backed unemployment insurance, disability and elder insurance, mandatory tuberculosis insurance, and compulsory occupational health coverage. Additionally, the workweek was reduced to 40 hours, and credit unions were established — an initiative that provided agricultural workers and artisans with financial support. While there are many other pieces of legislation that could be noted, highlighting the most significant ones illustrates that the notion of fascism’s apathy or ill intentions toward the proletariat isn’t entirely accurate. Presenting such a view skews the historical reality and perpetuates myths.

For context, when we consider labor reforms such as the 40-hour workweek, it’s worth noting that these policies were adopted in other nations much later — for instance, in Austria in 1975 and in Canada during the 1960s—placing Fascist Italy ahead of its time in some aspects of labor legislation. Despite this, misconceptions about a slave economy under fascism persist. Although Nazi Germany’s exploitation of forced labor from concentration camps is well-documented, comparing that to the situation in Italy, where fascism originated, is misleading. The presence of “real slavery” in the Soviet Union, exemplified by the Gulag system, also complicates the narrative. Furthermore, in territories Mussolini annexed, such as Ethiopia, the practice of slavery was officially abolished, which contrasts with the accusations of Fascist Italy perpetuating slavery. Shifting focus to the realm of social policy and the blend of syndicalist and state socialist principles within fascism, we can examine the period of the Italian Social Republic (RSI). In Martin Goldberg’s work, The Truth About Mussolini and Fascism, he astutely observes that the RSI was notably effective in restoring governmental control and promoting socialist initiatives. Goldberg also highlights Mussolini’s proclamation that the reinvigorated fascists were pursuing an Italian republic committed to socialization, a stance that was at odds with the perspectives of certain German officials, some of whom regarded Mussolini’s endeavor with skepticism.In February 1944, Mussolini’s government passed a legislative measure aimed at fostering greater social justice, ensuring a fairer distribution of wealth, and enhancing the involvement of the workforce in the nation’s governance. This development underscored the regime’s intent to push forward with its social and economic agenda.

The social republic more than lived up to its revolutionary origins by nationalizing 80 companies which collectively employed 150,000 people. Notable among the firms to surrender to state control was a legendary Italian company fiat, which got socialized in January 1945. Also, Mussolini expanded the nationalization of industry and under which workers would participate in managing factories and businesses, along with land reform, and profit-sharing that was limited under the early corporatist model while also enacting a massive public housing program. Mussolini’s government devised the “socialization law”. The Italian Social Republic “obsessively emphasized” commitments to socialization and a ‘variety of fascist egalitarianism and an amplified fascist welfare state.’

— Martin Goldberg, The Truth About Mussolini and Fascism

Nicola Bombacci, a founding member of the Italian Communist party, played a significant role in shaping the policies of the period. A close ally of Mussolini, Bombacci was instrumental in the fascist regime’s social and corporatist reforms. In 1928, he characterized the Fascist reforms by declaring that “every postulate is a socialist program.” Bombacci, without salary, later led the Unified Work and Technical Confederation under the RSI, fervently advocating for the Fascist-socialist agenda. Mussolini, taking a cue from Lenin’s approach to state capitalism, instituted an economic system in Italy that was centrally controlled by the state. From its inception until its demise, Mussolini’s Fascism emulated Lenin’s “third way” – a synthesis of market principles and socialist policies, akin to the “market socialism.” This hybrid system is often referred to as State Capitalism or State Socialism. In The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, Sheldon Richman succinctly summarizes this concept, stating, “As an economic system, Fascism is Socialism with a Capitalist veneer.

Mussolini himself, before he knew who would collect around the standards of the new Fascist Republican Party, committed himself to the realization of the original syndicalist and neo-idealist program of Fascism. His original intention was to call his new republic the Italian Socialist Republic—which nonetheless advertised itself as the vehicle of an Italian socialism, a national socialism.

— A. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism: The Rationale of Totalitarianism

He argues that socialism aims to completely dismantle capitalism, whereas Italian Fascism maintains a facade of a market economy but actually depends on extensive central planning of economic activities through state-controlled trade unions. Historians Roland Sarti and Rosario Romeo have noted that under Fascism, the state exercised greater control over the economy than any other country of that time, with the exception of the Soviet Union. One of the tragic aspects of the social republic’s domestic agenda is that it was short-lived and has not been fully acknowledged for its efforts. Many scholars attempt to refute or downplay the significance of this period. Although Italian Fascism did not align with communism, it upheld socialist principles and the rights of workers. There’s also evidence suggesting that Mussolini was ready to transfer power to the left-leaning partisans, a point discussed in The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich, but his assassination prevented this from happening. Ultimately, the economic policies of Italian Fascism were deeply syndicalist in nature and arguably more socialist than communist China.

Nazi Socialism In Practice

Following an analysis of Italian economic policy, it is pertinent to explore the economic policy framework of Germany for a comparative perspective. Although there are similarities between the German and Italian economies, such as reliance on state-led cartelization, price controls, and resource allocation, the German approach exhibited more centralized, top-down characteristics akin to those observed in the USSR, deviating from the Italian model. In contrast to Italy’s Council of Corporations, which managed the economy through an occupation-based electorate, Germany implemented a sophisticated network of employer-employee organizations, including the German state trade union and the German Labor Front. These entities engaged in wage and price negotiations. Furthermore, a series of contracts between state planning boards and private entrepreneurs facilitated ongoing interaction between governmental bodies and the private sector, underscoring the significant role of state regulation and planning in the German economic mechanism.

A notable legislative action, the labor procurement law enacted on June 1, 1933, allocated 1 Billion for nationwide construction projects. This encompassed the renovation and construction of public buildings, business premises, residential properties, agricultural facilities, and infrastructure projects such as waterway regulation and the establishment of gas and electrical services. Priority in employment was given to individuals who had been unemployed for extended periods or were heads of large families, with a cap of 40 hours on the workweek and a mandate for the use of German construction materials. Additionally, the building repair law, passed that same summer, provided an extra 500 million for smaller-scale projects, offering homeowners grants for 20% of project costs, including renovations and additions, and extending eligibility to commercial property owners for upgrades and installations. The legislation also introduced mechanisms for property owners to finance construction through local financial institutions, with the government issuing coupons to cover loan interest. A tax relief law, effective from September 21, 1933, provided income and corporate tax credits for repairs, with the government subsidizing nearly 40% of renovation costs. Moreover, the company refinancing law transformed short-term loans into more manageable long-term loans at reduced interest rates, thereby preventing loan defaults and enabling businesses to retain capital for re-employment and expansion.

An innovative aspect of the policy was the provision of newlywed loans at a low-interest rate, intended to encourage domesticity among women, thereby freeing up positions for unemployed men. The program adjusted loan balances and deferred payments based on the birth of children, with the loan being fully forgiven upon the birth of a fourth child. This initiative was funded through surtaxes on single individuals. By June 1936, the government had sanctioned 750,000 marriage loans, illustrating a significant investment in social engineering through economic policy. After the introduction of the marriage law in November 1933, approximately 20,000 women left the workforce each month, leading to a surge in demand for housing as the number of newlyweds increased. This demand boosted employment opportunities in construction and related industries. The furniture sector, for instance, saw a 50% increase in manufacturing output during 1933, while manufacturers of stoves and other kitchen appliances struggled to meet the rising consumer demand. To support young couples, the state offered exemptions from property taxes for the purchase of small single-family homes. The costs associated with these initiatives, aimed at reducing unemployment and revitalizing the economy, were largely balanced by reduced unemployment benefits and increased income through corporate, income, and sales taxes.

The government also launched extensive public works projects to create jobs, such as the National Railway and the construction of the superhighway, or Autobahn. The Autobahn project, which predominantly employed manual labor, allocated 79% of its budget to workers’ salaries, thereby ensuring employment for a significant number of men. Additionally, measures were taken to support the agricultural sector, which had been severely impacted by the depression, leaving many farmers in debt and prompting rural youths to migrate to cities in search of work. In September 1933, the Reich’s Food Producers, an organization established to support the agrarian economy, implemented policies to prevent the decline of farms and the rural exodus to urban centers. Despite public dissatisfaction, the organization succeeded in increasing the purchase price of groceries by over 10% by 1938, providing substantial support to farmers.

Further efforts to alleviate the plight of farmers included significant reductions in property taxes and debt relief, offering a fresh start to heavily mortgaged farm owners. The Rural Assistance program engaged 120,000 young people in agricultural work, providing government-funded salaries, training, and housing. It also facilitated temporary farm employment for students and school graduates during summer vacations, and even allowed foreign participants, such as Poles, to join the program. Tax reforms played a crucial role in the success of these recovery efforts. The vehicle tax law of April 1933, for example, was part of the broader Reinhardt program, which replaced municipal, provincial, and state taxes with a unified national progressive tax system. This economic recovery was so remarkable that in January 1938, Soviet diplomat Cristyan Rakovsky, who had served in London and Paris and was familiar with Wall Street financiers, commented on its unprecedented nature.

Hitler, this uneducated ordinary man, has out of intuition and even despite the opposition of the technician Schacht, created an especially dangerous economic system. An illiterate in every theory of economics driven only by necessity, he has cut out international as well as private high finance. Hitler possesses almost no gold, and he can’t endeavor to make it a currency basis. Since the only available collateral for his money is the technical aptitude and great industriousness of the German people, Technology and labor became his gold supply. This is something decisively counter-revolutionary and as you know, like magic it has illuminated all unemployment for more than 6 million skilled employees and laborers.

— Cristyan Rakovsky quoted in Hitler’s Revolution by Richard Tedor

Germany’s shift away from the international gold-based monetary system to a currency anchored in domestic productivity mirrored Hitler’s advocacy for national sovereignty. This move proved disruptive to the financial hubs of Paris, London, and New York, where cosmopolitan investment and banking circles had profited from extending loans to foreign nations. Like Italy, Germany was able to conduct trade on the global market without the need to borrow, which in turn stimulated job creation within its borders due to increased foreign demand for German products. In a move to centralize control, Hitler dismantled existing unions and formed the Reich’s Institute for Labor Mediation and Unemployment Insurance, known as the RAA. The RAA implemented a right-to-work program that not only redistributed labor but also restricted workers’ ability to change jobs. It mandated that workers seeking employment in new fields, especially in urban areas, obtain approval from the RAA — a permission seldom granted to help preserve the German agrarian economy and rural communities. The RAA also had the authority to reassign underperforming industrial workers and managers to sectors where they could be more productive, such as agriculture. By contemporary democratic standards, these policies would be seen as violations of individual freedoms. However, this approach to labor allocation, inspired by Bismarck’s view of workers as ‘soldiers of labor,’ prioritized service to the common good over class or wealth as determinants of social status.

Speculation on essential commodities like food and energy was prohibited under Hitler, which significantly hampered the operations of the stock exchange, viewed pejoratively as a “gangster society” by the regime. The process to obtain a broker’s license was made more stringent, and practices by larger firms to undercut newer, smaller competitors were banned. A price oversight commission was established to prevent businesses from manipulating production or delivery to create artificial shortages, thereby protecting consumers from inflated prices. Public servants, military personnel, and Nazi party members were barred from holding stock portfolios or serving as consultants in private corporations, extending even to private citizens’ investments in stock shares. By 1937, Germany achieved full employment. It is important to address the assertion by some Marxists that Hjalmar Schacht was the architect behind Germany’s economic recovery and the real power behind Hitler. This is misleading; Schacht, who eventually faced dismissal and imprisonment by Hitler for his opposition, was a proponent of economic liberalism and opposed to state intervention in the economy. He disagreed with the state-directed measures that spurred the economic revival. As John Toland notes in his biography of Hitler, Schacht was criticized within the Nazi regime for his capitalist inclinations and resistance to the government’s revolutionary economic strategies.

I have called you in order to hand you your dismissal as president of the Reichsbank” Schacht took the piece of paper extended to him. You don’t fit into the national socialist picture it reads.

— Adolf Hitler quoted in Adolf Hitler by John Toland

This primarily suggests that Hitler harbored disdain for him, a sentiment that is reinforced in Hitler’s Table Talk, where Hitler referred to him as a freemason, a mere tool, and a hindrance. For example, in October 1933, Hitler articulated the importance of the German peasant to the nation’s well being with the statement, “the ruin of the German peasant will be the ruin of the German people.” Subsequently, new agricultural initiatives were launched, coupled with the promotion of the ideology of Blood und Soil. Richard Walther Darré, who authored The Peasantry as The Life Source of The Nordic Race in 1929, was appointed to lead the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Darré aimed to overhaul food production and marketing, with a special focus on improving farmers’ earnings. His policies were crafted with the primary goal of shielding the peasant farmer from market forces. This led to the enactment of the Hereditary Farm Law in 1933, designed to prevent the foreclosure or sale of farmland — a move that came at the cost of the farmers’ freedom. This law stipulated that only Aryans with proof of their lineage dating back to 1800 were eligible to own farmland. Farms up to 308 acres were classified as hereditary estates, meaning they could not be sold, subdivided, mortgaged, or seized for debt. Upon the death of an owner, the estate would be inherited by the closest male relative, who was then responsible for supporting and educating his family members. A farmer risked losing his esteemed status as a bauer, or peasant, if he violated the “peasant honor code” by abandoning farming.

In tandem with this, the Reich Food Estate was created to oversee and regulate farming conditions, production, and the marketing of agricultural products, led by Darré peasant leader. The Reich Food Estate pursued two objectives: to increase agricultural prices and to achieve food self-sufficiency for Germany. Darré set agricultural prices, leading to a 20% increase in wholesale prices within the first two years of Nazi rule, with even higher increases for cattle, vegetables, and dairy products. However, these price hikes also meant higher costs for consumers. During its initial year, the regime focused on stimulating the economy through government loans, public works projects like road construction and afforestation, and targeted tax incentives for businesses that expanded capital expenditure and employment. While the ownership of German farmland was ostensibly in private hands, it was heavily regulated by marketing boards that determined production levels and set prices through a quota system. Farms were grouped into cartels under the oversight of a governmental entity, the Reichsnahrstand, which dictated everything from the types of seeds and fertilizers to be used, to the methods by which land could be passed down to heirs. The Hereditary Farm Law of 1933 effectively prevented farmers from selling their land or exiting the farming sector, binding them to these quasi-state-operated agricultural enterprises. This system was extended even to Ukraine during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans maintained the Soviet collective farming model but introduced a form of “pseudo-privatization” for farms allocated to Germans. These farms, however, were encumbered with onerous SS-imposed quotas and subjected to arbitrary seizures of produce, revealing them to be anything but privately operated.

If they proved their diligence they could receive up to twenty-five hectares. The ethnic German farms were subjected to high SS quotas and random confiscations of milk and other produce. Ukrainian and Byelorussian prisoners and forced laborers tilled the reserve farmland not allotted to the German and SS farmers.

— Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Garden of Eden

Addressing the notion of privatization under the Nazis, while instances of privatization occurred, the Nazi party simultaneously intensified state oversight over trade policies, culminating in a comprehensive state-directed planning system for all production sectors. This is explored in the introduction of Corporate Freedom of Action In Nazi Germany, which critiques the oversimplified narrative of privatization.

The central, load-bearing propositions of the Buchheim-Scherner interpretation are as follows:

1. The Nazi state regulated German business in order to achieve autarky and rearmament, but did so quite unsystematically and never established anything resembling a centrally planned economy.

2. Because the Nazi state generally respected private property rights and freedom of contract, the regime rarely forced corporations to serve its objectives, but rather offered an array of inducements, which firms could take or leave without adverse consequences, to get enterprises to meet the regime’s production goals.

3. Given this context, private enterprises in Nazi Germany retained much of their autonomy over their investment decisions and production strategies, which continued to reflect managers’ estimates of long-term commercial prospects.The problem with all of these propositions is that they are half-truths. Point 1 uses the well-known improvisation and lack of central planning that characterized Nazi economics to divert attention from the fact that the interventionist spiral set in motion by Nazi trade policy in 1933-34 developed by 1938 into a full-blown, comprehensive, and state-mandated rationing and allocation system for every factor of production. That system then became more rigorous during the war and almost airtight from 1942 on. Point 2 is right that the Nazi regime preferred the carrot to the stick, for both ideological and practical reasons, but quite wrong to deny the intimidating effect of the most spectacular exceptions to this preference: the forced sale of Junkers aircraft in 1933, the conscription of private enterprises to underwrite the formation of the Braunkohle Benzin AG (Brabag) in 1934, and the virtual confiscation of the Salzgitter iron ore fields from German heavy industry in 1937 as part of the establishment of the Hermann-GöringWerke, not to mention the impact on corporate decision-making of the numerous removals of chief executives during the war, including Paul Reusch of the Gutehoff nungshütte, Willy Messerschmitt and Ernst Heinkel in the aircraft industry, and Franz Josef Bopp at BMW. Point 3 is correct that many corporate leaders recurrently imagined– indeed, longed for–an economic future that would resemble the pre-Nazi, free-market past and thus tried to sustain their traditional core operations. But Buchheim and Scherner both overstate the limited success that most large firms enjoyed in clinging to business as usual and understate the considerable extent to which many executives modified their evaluations of commercial prospects along party lines in the key interval of 1937-42.

— Peter Hayes, Corporate Freedom of Action in Nazi Germany

This discussion highlights the complexities surrounding the narrative of privatization, particularly as critiqued by Marxist perspectives. The reality was that privatization occurred on a limited scale, with industries that were privatized soon re-integrated into the state sector through a combination of regulatory measures and political strategies. This narrative often overlooks the broader context of economic adjustments and interventions. A notable reference that delves into the extensive regulations, state planning, price controls, and expropriations under this regime is The Vampire Economy by Gunter Reimann. It’s important to acknowledge Reimann’s Marxist perspective; despite identifying as a Marxist — which might predispose him to interpret the economy as capitalist — he acknowledges the presence of socialist policies within the German economic framework. His analysis aligns with findings in The Wages of Destruction, further challenging simplistic categorizations of the Nazi economy. To deepen our understanding of the intertwining of economic and ideological elements in this period, let’s consider insights from Antisemitic Anticapitalism In German Culture From 1850-1933 by Matthew Ryan Lange, which sheds light on the broader cultural and historical underpinnings of these economic policies.

Moreover, Nazí decrees of 1937 compelled further cartelization to streamline the chain of command and prepare for war, which had been the goal of the Four-Year Plan of 1936. The results of this massive interventionist policy were ‘complete consolidation of the entire economy, complete elimination of personal initiative and freedom of choice.’ 81 Even if a semblance of private ownership of business remained before the outbreak of World War II, with war raging on two fronts the National Socialists took the final step when they created the Amt für Zentrale Planung (Office for Central Planning) in 1942 which removed any remnants of private initiative.

— Matthew Ryan Lange, Antisemitic Anticapitalism In German Culture From 1850-1933

In The Wages of Destruction, historian Adam Tooze offers the following insights:

The German economy, like any modern economy, could not do without imports of food and raw materials. To pay for these it needed to export. And if this flow of goods was obstructed by protectionism and beggar-my-neighbor devaluations, this left Germany no option but to resort to ever greater state control of imports and exports, which in turn necessitated a range of other interventions.

— Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction

Entrepreneurs and business owners faced a plethora of bureaucratic hurdles, dictated by the state on matters such as production specifics, pricing, and quantities. They were also burdened with heavy taxation and obligated to contribute financially to the Nazi party. Businesses with a capitalization under $40,000 were dissolved, and the establishment of new businesses was prohibited if their capitalization was below $2,000,000, resulting in the elimination of one-fifth of all German companies. The practice of cartelization, which predated the Nazi regime, was mandated, with the Ministry of Economics gaining the authority to create new mandatory cartels or compel businesses to join existing ones. The complex network of business and trade associations that had lobbied the Weimar Republic were nationalized and made mandatory for all businesses. Furthermore, the Reich Economic Chamber was introduced, encompassing seven national economic groups, twenty-three economic chambers, seventy chambers of handicrafts, and one hundred chambers of industry and commerce. By February 1935, employment was exclusively managed by government offices, which dictated employment placements and wages.

On June 22, 1938, the Office of the Four Year Plan implemented mandatory employment by drafting labor, assigning every German worker to a job from which they could neither be dismissed by their employer nor change jobs without government permission. Absences from work could result in fines or imprisonment, all under the guise of job security, encapsulated by the slogan “Common Interest before Self.” This overview underscores the extensive state intervention and the suppression of private enterprise in the German economy, drawing parallels to the Italian model with its reliance on state planning boards, economic representation, and state allocation. For those seeking further evidence, consider the insights from The Nazi Economic Recovery:

Even heavy industry, that had favored some degree of autarky and state aid in the early 1930s, found that the extent of state control exercised after 1936, and the rise of a state-owned industrial sector, threatened their interests too. The strains that such a relationship produced have already been demonstrated for the car industry, the aircraft industry and the iron and steel industry; but much more research is needed to arrive at a satisfactory historical judgment of the relationship between Nazism and German business. What is already clear is that the Third Reich was not simply a businessman’s regime underpinning an authoritarian capitalism but, on the contrary, that it set about reducing the autonomy of the economic élite and subordinating it to the interests of the Nazi state.”

— Richard J. Overy, The Nazi Economic Recovery, 1932-1938

In the German economy, what was labeled as “private” initiative underwent substantial state control and guidance, marking a clear departure from the dynamics of the private sector seen in capitalist systems. This strategy was more akin to the economic methods observed in modern-day China and Tito’s Yugoslavia, rather than nurturing a true environment of private enterprise. According to insights from The Nazi Economic Recovery, the role of private businesses was essentially relegated to acting as interim managers within a state-dictated Gleichschaltung (synchronization), rather than independent entities driven by innovation and wealth creation. The economy was characterized as the die gelenkte Wirtschaft (the managed economy), where businessmen functioned more as agents of the state’s economic goals, lacking the freedom to be truly entrepreneurial. This managed economy stifled entrepreneurial spirit, aligning with the regime’s ideological goals but at the cost of economic dynamism. By 1939, the Nazi government imposed extensive controls over nearly all aspects of business operations, from production to pricing, and from investment to wages, effectively dictating the terms of economic activity. This level of control is further highlighted by statements from Hitler and his officials, indicating a readiness to completely take over business operations should private enterprise fail to meet the state’s demands. For instance, Hitler’s 1937 declaration suggests a full state takeover of business if the Four Year Plan wasn’t successfully executed by private firms, underscoring the limited autonomy businesses had under the Nazi regime. This comprehensive control over the economy illustrates a significant deviation from the ideals of free enterprise, positioning businesses as mere extensions of state will rather than independent entities driving economic progress.

In the 1936 edition of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money published in German, John Maynard Keynes authored:

The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire.

— John Maynard Kaynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

In his book, Keynes sets his approach in opposition to that of laissez-faire economics, and he also examines the similarities and differences between his theories and those underpinning Nazi economics, which were significantly influenced by the German Historical School and the economic theories of Frederick List. While Keynes did not harbor any sympathies towards Fascism or Nazism, he recognized that his economic theories were more likely to be implemented successfully within a totalitarian regime. This perspective is highlighted by the Keynesian economist Joan Robinson, who remarked that “Hitler found a cure against unemployment before Keynes had fully articulated it.” Economists under Hitler dismissed the principles of laissez-faire and held Keynesian ideas in high regard, even anticipating many of Keynes’ concepts. This admiration was mutual to some extent, as illustrated by George Garvy’s work, Keynes and The Economic Activists of Pre-Hitler Germany, published in The Journal of Political Economy. Notably, President Kennedy, as late as 1962, acknowledged Hitler’s application of Keynesian principles in a report.

The centralization under the Nazi regime extended beyond the economy into social life. The organization “Strength through Joy” regulated citizens’ leisure activities, from sports and recreational clubs to cultural pursuits like theatre and music, ensuring state oversight in all aspects. This control over social life, while intended to foster a unified community, came at the cost of personal freedom and required a vast bureaucratic apparatus to monitor and manage the populace’s private activities. The notion that Hitler fostered a laissez-faire environment or encouraged genuine private initiative is contradicted by the very structure of the German economy and society under his rule. The argument that there was privatization is misleading, as even businesses deemed “private” were often led by high-ranking party members, with the party effectively being synonymous with the state. These entities were subject to control by the German Labor Front, indicating a proliferation of regulations, economic planning, and increased state control or ownership.

“Moreover, Nazi decrees of 1937 compelled further cartelization to streamline the chain of command and prepare for war, which had been the goal of the Four-Year Plan of 1936. The results of this massive interventionist policy were “complete consolidation of the entire economy, complete elimination of personal initiative and freedom of choice.” Even if a semblance of private ownership of business remained before the outbreak of World War II, with war raging on two fronts the National Socialists took the final step when they created the Amt für Zentrale Planung (Office for Central Planning) in 1942 which removed any remnants of private initiative.”

— Matthew Ryan Lange, Anti-Semitic Anti-Capitalism In German Culture

“Even heavy industry, that had favored some degree of autarky and state aid in the early 1930s, found that the extent of state control exercised after 1936, and the rise of a state-owned industrial sector, threatened their interests too. The strains that such a relationship produced have already been demonstrated for the car industry, the aircraft industry and the iron and steel industry; but much more research is needed to arrive at a satisfactory historical judgement of the relationship between Nazism and German business. What is already clear is that the Third Reich was not simply a businessman’s regime underpinning an authoritarian capitalism but, on the contrary, that it set about reducing the autonomy of the economic élite and subordinating it to the interests of the Nazi state…

As the state extended its role in supervising or regulating all the main economic variables, they developed a more coherent economic system. German economists christened the system ‘die gelenkte Wirtschaft’, the managed economy. Under such a system businessmen were regarded as economic functionaries serving the interests of the nation rather than as independent and enterprising creators of wealth. The concept of the ‘managed economy’ suited the regime’s ideological ambitions, but stifled enterprise.”

— Richard Overy, The Nazi Economic Recovery

“Both public works and rearmament required massive deficit financing, in effect the printing of money to pay workers and stimulate demand. Although fundamentally ‘socialist’ in outlook and politics when it came to the economy, however, Hitler did not nationalize industry. In fact, there were large-scale privatizations during the first five years or so of his regime, not for ideological reasons, but to raise cash quickly by flogging off distressed enterprises. What Hitler did very effectively was to nationalize German industrialists, by making them instruments of his political will. Control, not ownership, was the key. The major German economic institutions, especially industry, business and the banks, were completely sidelined from decision-making. Unlike the Reichswehr, they were not let into any secrets about Lebensraum, at least at the beginning. They were simply told what to do, and if they jibbed were threatened with imprisonment, expropriation or irrelevance.”

— Brendan Simms, Hitler: A Global Biography

The distinction between the private and public sectors became increasingly indistinct, a phenomenon paralleled in modern-day China. This blurring of lines is further discussed in the context of Soviet and Nazi economic planning in the 1930s. In the 1920s, the Soviet Union, grappling with a shortage of administrative staff, promoted the merger of individual enterprises into trusts and the further amalgamation of these trusts into syndicates. Interestingly, the concept of syndicates closely mirrors that of corporatism, a strategy also employed by the USSR.

The Soviets had made a similar move in the 1920s. Faced with scarcity of administrative personnel, the state encouraged enterprises to combine into trusts and trust to combine into syndicates.

— Peter Temin, Soviet and Nazi Economic Planning In The 1930s

Despite some Marxist critics disputing this comparison, arguments suggesting that Nazism or Fascism as being significantly supported by industrialists or engaged in widespread privatization lack solid evidence. This observation makes a fitting conclusion to this discussion.


Otto Rühle’s involvement with Marxist groups allowed him to notice the Russian Bolsheviks’ increasing sway over global communism. He recognized similarities between the authoritarian leanings in leftist politics and the emerging fascist movements throughout Europe. Rühle highlighted common characteristics such as strict loyalty, aggression, and centralization shared by Leninism and fascism. He suggested that the Soviet Union’s political framework acted as a forerunner to the fascist governments that emerged in Germany and Italy, a linkage highlighted by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. By coining the term “red fascism” in The Struggle Against Fascism Begins With The Struggle Against Bolshevism, Rühle sparked a debate on the convergence between communism and fascism, focusing on their similar methods rather than ideologies. This comparison has been scrutinized from different angles, including critics like Rühle and libertarians, as well as supporters like National Bolshevik Karl Otto Paetel, who noted similarities. Harold Nicolson, a democratic socialist, viewed fascism as a type of militarized socialism that suppresses individualism, contrasting with the Moscow view that saw fascism as capitalism’s highest stage, a notion not widely embraced then.

In Nazi Germany, many students believed they were establishing a foundation for a new socialism. George Orwell observed that Nazi Germany incorporated socialist elements useful in wartime. Figures like George Bernard Shaw and John T. Flynn highlighted the fine line between Fabian socialism and fascism. Argentine dictator Juan Perón and his wife, who admired Mussolini and had connections with Nazi Germany, also reflect this intertwining. Che Guevara viewed true fascism as evolving from socialism, marked by a dictatorial enforcement of social democracy, nationalism, and prioritizing state needs over individual classes. Oswald Mosley supported worker control over production as part of his vision for European Socialism, and similarly, Francis Parker Yockey advocated for a Red-Brown alliance against American influence. This is akin to Franco Freda’s Nazi-Maoist aspirations, and the affinity of various fascist groups for leftist leaders and regimes around the world, such as Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, among others. Mosley’s radical proposals for Britain’s economy, including extensive public works and government-sponsored jobs, positioned him as a forerunner to Keynes’s later advocacy for deficit spending in The General Theory. Mosley’s plans were so transformative that they were rejected by the Labour party, leading to his resignation—a story detailed in A Life of Contrasts. He also challenged the established system of free trade to protect British wages from what he saw as the threat of foreign labor.

Povl Riis-Knudsen, a modern National Socialist from Denmark, further explores this:

As a Movement, we have been notably unsuccessful so far. It is time to wake up and recognize the true significance of our ideas. The first step is to become revolutionary professionals. We must leave all half-cocked right-wing attitudes behind us and realize that we are left wingers.

— Povl Riis-Knudsen, National Socialism: A Left-Wing Movement

This sheds light on why extremist neo-Nazi terrorists in America, like the National Socialist Liberation Front (NSLF), would express views consistent with this in their manifesto:

We DO NOT wish for ‘Law and Order’, for law and order means the continued existence of this rotten, rip-off, Capitalist-Jew System.

— National Socialist Liberation Front manifesto

The NSLF in America was influenced by the tactics of left-wing organizations like the Weather Underground. Their manifesto reflected a deep study of communist terrorism and a commitment to political urban terrorism, mirroring the rhetoric of figures such as Robert Matthews with The Order, James Mason in Siege, and William Luther Pierce with the Turner Diaries. Similarly, Franco Freda, a key post-war Italian neo-fascist, led the terrorist group Ordine Nuovo during Italy’s Years of Lead. He and his followers, including a student group from Sapienza University of Rome, aimed to establish a fascist dictatorship of the proletariat using Maoist guerrilla tactics. However, their efforts were thwarted after links to terrorist activities emerged.

George Valois, founder of Circle Proudhon, also recognized parallels between fascism and Marxism, despite their enmity. In 1925, with the establishment of Le Faisceau, he asserted that “Fascism had exactly the same objective as socialism.” In France, the emergence of Neo-socialism was marked by the involvement of Marcel Déat, a former anarchist and member of the SFIO, and Pierre Renaudel, co-founder of the French Socialist party. Their efforts contributed to the formation of a robust French Fascist movement. Figures such as Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler publicly criticized financial capitalism and even imperialism. Ernst Niekisch, Karl Otto Paetel, Nicola Bombacci, and Henri de Man, followed by later thinkers like Franco Freda, Alexander Dugin, and Eduard Limonov, all advocated for a blend of socialism and nationalism known as National Bolshevism. This tradition has influenced modern public figures such as Richard Spencer, who asserts his socialist leanings.

Augusto Del Noce posited that fascism was essentially a secular, idealistic variant of Leninism, representing a revolutionary wave that went beyond class divisions and evolved dialectically. He argued that labeling fascism as merely “right-wing” was inaccurate, as fascists themselves viewed their ideology as a radical break and opposition to the political spectrum. According to Del Noce, the ideological bedrock of both Italian Fascism and German Nazism were variants of socialism, yet they vehemently opposed Marxism’s democratic and materialistic aspects. While Marxism preserved certain liberal elements, fascism sought to transcend Marxism by jettisoning its liberal facets, adopting a novel, modern, and anti-liberal posture that resonated with Ferdinand Lassalle’s visionary ideals. Despite their distinct paths, both ideologies fundamentally embraced a socialist core and a collective rejection of capitalism, encapsulating an “economy of association.”

Concluding all of this, the main reason we even encounter these absurd arguments about fascism coming from communists can be traced back to the historical context of war, essentially remnants of the Soviet Union’s propaganda. In my experience, quite a few communists, when speaking off the record, will acknowledge that figures like Mussolini and Hitler adopted socialist policies. Moreover, Mussolini’s shift to describing the Soviet Union as plutocratic and capitalist only really took hold with Operation Barbarossa, marking a clear pivot in Nazi propaganda to frame the Soviet Union not as a socialist entity but as a capitalistic tyranny. Widely acknowledged as mere wartime propaganda, any astute fascist would concede that it was a tactical ploy. This is exactly why I view the dialogue from communists, and sometimes even fascists who partake in this discussion, as thoroughly uninspiring and lacking in depth. In the end, it appears that anyone depending on this line of argument is either not engaging in critical thinking or is uneducated.

Fascism… was the socialism of ‘proletarian nations.’”

— A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century

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