Similarity Between Socialism and Fascism: An Illustration
By Pierre Lemieux
Fortunately, socialism and fascism are not the only two political alternatives, for neither is attractive. Moreover, a well-kept secret is how similar the two ideologies are. Substituting socialism for fascism in many statements from fascists would bring instant approval from socialists. Many antifa agitators would be surprised to realize that they are doing fascism unknowingly, just as Mr. Jourdain was doing prose without being aware of it.
The following quotes come from The Coming American Fascism (Harper & Brothers, 1936) by Lawrence Dennis, a well-known American fascist of the time:
Fascism does not accept the liberal dogmas as to sovereignty of the consumer or trader in the free market. It does not admit that the market ever can or should be entirely free. (p. 299)
Social planning is the outstanding imperative of public order and material abundance in the present day and in the near future. (104)
Fascism assumes that individual welfare and protection is mainly secured by the strength, efficiency, and success of the State in the realization of the national plan. (p. 160)
Under fascism, private property, private enterprise, and private choice in the market, have no rights as ends in themselves. They have different measures of social usefulness subject to proper public control. (p. 180)
Light and power, transportation, and basic foods and textiles in given but limited quantities, can be assumed necessary at an arbitrarily fixed price, and State intervention can insure the production of an adequate supply of these goods within an arbitrarily fixed price range for the common good. (p. 180)
The source of the similarity between the two ideologies is that both want to impose politically-chosen ends on everybody. The main source of difference is that each system coercively favors and harms different groups of individuals in society.
Comparing moderate fascism to communism (which is extreme socialism), Dennis chooses the former. Somewhat surprisingly, he refers to Ludwig von Mises’s and F.A. Hayek’s arguments about the impossibility of calculation under communism:
In so far as property rights and private enterprise are concerned, however, the strongest argument for fascism instead of communism may be found in the regulatory functions of an open market. The strongest criticism of any socialism of complete expropriation is that it leaves no free market, no pricing mechanism and no valid basis for economic calculation. Pure socialism is collective ownership and unified central direction of material instruments of production which, sooner or later, must leave little or no freedom of choice for the individual as to consumption or occupation. These criticisms may be brought up to date and made relevant to communism in operation in Russia in the symposium of Professors Hayek, Pierson, Barone, Halm and von Mises entitled Collectivist Economic Planning, and the work of Professor Boris Brutzkus entitled Economic Planning in Soviet Russia. (pp. 177-178)
Dennis exaggerates the place of markets—of free markets—under fascism. In “Why Hayek Was Right about Nazis Being Socialists” (AIER, December 8, 2020), Richard Ebeling mentions many similarities between socialism and the Nazi brand of fascism. He is responding to Ronald Granieri who, in a Washington Post article, objected to the argument that the National Socialists were indeed socialists “The Right Needs to Stop Falsely Claiming that the Nazis Were Socialists,” February 5, 2020).
Given the logic of state power, fascism is likely to steamroll obstacles in the path of the state and thus economic freedom. Moreover, fascism’s heightened nationalism is likely to lead to war against foreign or internal scapegoats. Fascists hate different minorities (the Jews, for example) than socialists hate (the merchants and the rich). Dennis naïvely dismisses these dangers:
It is easy to draw alarming pictures of a powerful State against which the individual would have the resource of no judicial veto on government acts. Conceivable, of course, a State and government might fall under the hands of a few individuals whose every act would be an abuse. But such an eventuality seems most improbable in any modern State, least of all in the United States. (p. 160)
The other alternative besides the different forms of socialism and the different forms of fascism lies, of course, on the continuum of classical liberalism and libertarianism.