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Philosophy and Philosophers

What are the differences between Fascism Communism Capitalism and Nazism?


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August 09, 2013 2:50PM

Capitalism and communism are economic philosophies- they are ideas that describe how an economy should be run. Nazism and Fascism are political ideologies- they are ideas that describe how a government should run.

First, to understand the economic philosophies, we need to define "the means of production", which is a key phrase. This phrase refers to things like factories, mines, farms, and the equipment used for those things. With that in mind...

1. Capitalism is the basic economic philosophy that allows anyone to own "the means of production". In theory, if you can get enough money, then you can buy and own a shoe factory or a gold mine or a wheat farm, and you get to decide what to pay the workers and you get to do what you want with the profits.

2. Communism is an economic philosophy that is considered one branch of Socialism. It believes that "the means of production" should be owned by society, specifically, the workers. So the people who work in a shoe factory or on a wheat farm or in a gold mine should be the ones who own that thing, and should share the profits it makes.

Now, those are just the basic ideas behind the philosophies- they are both much more complicated than just that. Both can be broken down into other sub-categories, and these all have different ways of doing things. For example, Communism can be broken into Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and many more, and each does things differently. Capitalism can also be broken down similarly. Additionally, things get a little iffy when actually tried- for example, the Soviet Union claimed to be communist, but the workers never really had any power... the communist party ran everything and lived like an aristocracy while the workers were largely irrelevant.

Moving on to Fascism and Nazism. They are very closely related ideologies, and are generally considered to be "far right" on the political spectrum, but in all honesty, they don't easily fit in the left vs. right system. Both borrowed some ideas from the left-wing, and both considered their ideologies to be "Third Position"- neither leaning towards Communist nor Capitalist based economies. Both sought to set up a totalitarian, single party dictatorship ruled by a single all-powerful leader.

Fascism is a political philosophy, originally from Italy, that emphasizes nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, anti-democracy, anti-communism, and anti-capitalism. They believe that "The State" (that is, a strong central government, completely controlled by Fascists) should take control of everything in the country, and run things under what they call "corporatism". Corporatism is the idea of splitting the economy into separate sectors, which would each be managed by their own government agencies. Labor unions get folded under the umbrella of these agencies and union actions (like strikes) are banned.

Nazism is a German version of Fascism. It shares a lot of the same basic principles (including all the "-isms" listed above under Fascism), but the Nazis strongly emphasize racist policy (most famously by hating Jews), and when they ruled Germany, did not really follow the corporatist economic model- in short, they removed as many Jews from the economy as they could, and then not only let the Weimar Republic's capitalist system mostly stay in place, they actually passed some very pro-business laws, like outlawing labor unions, reducing minimum wages, and even making it illegal to quit your job without your boss's permission. In theory, the most important thing to Nazis is helping "pure" German people (that is, people of German descent with no foreign ancestors), which they call "Aryans"; but in practice, Nazi Germany seemed more interested in taking total control of the country, building up the military, and conquering other countries- all while systematically slaughtering anybody they happened to dislike.

Things get a little murky though because of the history of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. On the surface, the two governments looked extremely similar, and it's not uncommon to see the terms used interchangeably. Then, to make things more complicated... Italy did very poorly in World War 2- their military was pretty terrible, and Germany had to keep bailing them out. Pretty quickly, Germany became the dominant partner, and forced Mussolini (Italy's Fascist leader) into accepting Nazi style racist policies. So while racism was not actually part of Fascist policy (when Hitler was coming to power in Germany, Mussolini often wrote criticisms of Hitler's pointless racism), by the time the Fascists lost control of Italy, they were carrying out Nazi-style racist policies.