In the first two parts of this series, we looked at the 14 defining characteristics of fascism and the 10 measures outlined in the Communist Manifesto, and analyzed their presence in the United States of America in 2015. The results are that America is roughly 74 percent of the way toward fascism and 64 percent of the way toward communism. But historically, the rulers who governed under these two ideologies were mortal enemies, causing tens of millions of deaths in both war and democide. How can a country be both fascist and communist? Let us see.
First, there is the historical explanation. Of the two, communism has the earliest historical origin, with elements of communist thought being present from antiquity. But modern communism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, first achieved power in the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. While fascism arguably had a precedent in the Roman Empire, modern fascism grew in large part as a reaction against communism, which partly explains the common placement of fascism on the far right. However, this is not entirely accurate because the fasci in Italy were similar to guilds or syndicates, and most of them were on the political left. It was only with Mussolini’s formation of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919, which would later become the National Fascist Party in 1921, that the ideas of syndicalism would be blended with ultra-nationalism to create what is now considered a right-wing statist ideology. In America, the closest analog to fascism at that time was the progressive movement under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Democratic Party, and Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover from the Republican Party. State power grew enormously under the leadership of these presidents, and most of the government programs and laws that make America’s communist and fascist scores so high were enacted with their signatures. After World War II, the progressives sought to hide their similarities with fascists. They denounced the eugenicist positions they had formerly embraced and redefined nationalist socialism as right-wing while continuing to define their more international socialism as left-wing.
Next, there is the horseshoe theory proposed by Jean-Pierre Faye. It says that the far left and the far right share an authoritarian outlook and call for expansions of state power, and therefore have much more in common than adherents of either would care to admit. Despite being commonly considered to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, fascism and communism are actually quite similar in their results. This is because the common aspects of both are the most influential ones; both ideologies reject individualism, free markets, absolute private property, democratic voting, and religions that oppose the state, while promoting centralized government, one-party totalitarian rule, a planned economy, cronyism, government as the agent of change in society, the use of rallies and propaganda to promote the establishment, and the use of force to achieve political and social goals. As such, a country can be 60 to 80 percent in line with both communist and fascist ideology without completely falling into one or the other.
Finally, there is the political bell curve model proposed by Thomas Knapp. (My version of his diagram of this serves as the picture for this article.) In this model, political ideologies are positioned on a bell curve based upon their left-right position as well as their level of support for initiatory force. In this diagram, fascists and communists find themselves together at the top of the curve, as both have no qualms with the use of force to enact their ideologies. Rather high on each side of the curve are the mainstream Republicans and Democrats in America, with classical liberals and mainstream Libertarians residing lower on each side. The tails are occupied by classical anarchists and anarcho-capitalists, each of whom are completely opposed to state power, though for much different reasons.
All of these explanations are plausible, and together they create a convincing case that a nation can be both communist and fascist.