Fascism and Nazism are closely related political systems that came into prominence in the 20th century. Although related, each system of governance has characteristics that make it distinct from the other.
Fascism is defined by an authoritarian nationalist rule which features the state’s dictatorial exercise of power, suppression of all political opposition, and absolute control of the nation’s economy. This political system became prominent in Europe during the early 20th century, particularly in Italy during World War I prior to spreading to other European states. Fascist ideals are opposed to that of other systems such as those of Marxism, anarchism, and liberalism. It is considered a far-right ideology.
The word fascismo comes from the Italian term fascio which means “a bundle of rods.” Similar to syndicates and guilds, political organizations in Italy were named “fasci.” With the emergence of fascist groups, Mussolini established his own “Fasci Italiani di Combattimento” in 1919. The party then changed its name to Partito Nazionale Fascista.
Scholars, political scientists, and historians do not see eye to eye on the exact definition of fascism. However, they all agree on several characteristics that exist in fascism, and these are the fascist rejection of liberalist, communist, and conservatist principles. Another common characteristic is the fascist state’s nationalist belief of gaining full control of the national economy. Fascism also upholds the value of romantic symbolism, the potency of youth, charismatic leadership, mass mobilization (e.g. political rallies and gatherings), a positive belief of violence, and placing a high value on masculinity.
Nazism, also known as National Socialism, is a form of fascism which was practiced in Nazi Germany as espoused by the German Nazi Party in the early 20th century. It is also the ideological leanings of far-right groups. Nazism upheld the theories of Social Darwinism and racial hierarchy. Nazis believed that Germans were of the Aryan racial stock and therefore were superior to any race and had the right to dominate the “lesser” races. Moreover, Nazism believed in ridding society of its inferior elements.
The German Worker’s Party, an anti-Semitic and German nationalist group, was founded in January 1919 and was the Nazi Party’s predecessor. When Adolf Hitler gained control of the organization, he renamed it the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party. The organization adopted the Nationalist Socialist Program which sought to undermine the Jews or anyone of Jewish ancestry by denying them citizenship under a unified “Greater Germany.” Hitler rose to power and became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis eventually built a one-party state. Political opponents, Jews, and other “undesirable” elements were marginalized. Several million were imprisoned and killed in what is deemed as one of modern history’s darkest days – the Holocaust.
After the Holocaust and the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, open support for Nazi ideals was prohibited. However a handful of racist groups, usually called neo-Nazis, still clung to Nazi ideals and lingered in the fringes of western politics. These pockets of neo-Nazis promote white supremacy and racial segregation, with some having overtly adopted the symbols of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Fascism vs Nazism
So what’s the difference between fascism and Nazism? While many consider Nazism as a form of fascism, there are several principles which one upholds while the other rejects.
Fascism is mainly characterized by an authoritarian nationalist rule. A fascist state wields dictatorial powers that allow government’s suppression of all political opposition and absolute control of the nation’s economy in industry and commerce. Nazism, while adhering to the totalitarian and authoritarian principles of fascism, upheld racial supremacy and antisemitism. A fascist state believes in unifying the people behind the government regardless of race, in preparation for war and nation building. Nazism believes in ethnic cleansing, racial segregation, and advancing their master race.
|The state is the most important element to advance nationalism||The state is critical in advancing the master race|
|Upheld unification of classes to serve the state||Instituted racial segregation to advance racial purity|
|Became prominent in Italy and spread to other European states||Originated in Germany|
For more about fascism and Nazism (i.e. national socialism) and a few other ideologies, watch this short YouTube video.