Fascism and Socialism

From Karl Polanyi
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Fascism and socialism are poles apart. There can be no doubt as to the reality of the conflict which is going on between their extreme forms. On the other hand in many instances one cannot tell the difference between them. On cannot say when a proposal or an attitude is Fascist or Communist. In many instances there is doubt about the character of Fascism and Communism. The same difficulty is felt if we try scientifically to interpret their idea of the State. Their social philosophies have so much in common that it is very difficult, unless we resort to prejudice or to the tracing of historical differences, to distinguish fascist policy from communist. What is common to both these great movements and what are the differences which separate them? To answer this question we must start with consideration of the situation from which both arise. There is no doubt the reality of the crisis in modern society. Communism and Fascism agree in declaring the two main causes of the crisis to be political and economic.

The political institutions of modern society – Democracy and Parliaments – are undergoing a crisis of the first order, and are, in fact, refusing to function. Nobody doubts that the economic system is not working in the ideal way. That the political system is not working as it should also beyond doubt.

Both the Fascist and Communist schools of thoughts maintain that the political and economic systems cannot function in modern society because these two systems are kept separate. Fascism would say that a universal system must be found by which society is made a totality. Communism will not deny that the time of separation of politics and economics is over. They agree that a society as a totality in needed. Not only is it true in that the economic and political systems do not work but the cause is found, both by Fascists and Communists in the separation of the two systems. This is the common basis of both Communism and Fascism. If we look at the two movements from an aesthetic or sentimental point of view, we think them so different that they can hardly be made to look similar. But in our present study we are looking at these two great movements of our times in their essence.

We must first study what is meant by Fascist thought. This is not difficult. It is quite a series of ideas. It has nothing to do with anti-semitism, nor has it characteristic of Italy, nor is Imperialism bound up with Fascism can be anti-capitalist. But there is a series of ideas which may be characteristic of Fascism. We may explain the characteristics of Fascism by saying that they are essentially opposed to the ideas of democracy, representative government, equality, freedom in the political sphere and as value in itself. Fascism maintains the value of discipline and leadership. Is stresses the importance of the whole over its parts. In the economic field it is opposed to Marxism, proletarianism, socialism, but anti-capitalist elements may be found in it, and even the idea of freeing society from exploitation. Most important of all I the value it puts upon the nation, upon events, upon the reminiscence of anything unique. It is the negation of every general value, value of what is normal, the value of the reign of justice and reason and everything which is normative, comprehensive, general in character. It is very strongly rational. It is opposed to the value of legal or moral or ethical principle as being applicable to everybody.

The problem is to discover from what these phenomena are produced.

Once we have accepted that the common ground between Fascism and Communism is the idea that a totality of society may be realised, so that the independence of different spheres should not exist, then it is easy to find what alter divides them fundamentally. Fascism believes in realising the total unity of society by doing something to the political sphere in the special meaning of that term………………

This field of political equality and liberty must go. It has no basis which Fascism can recognise. The rest of Society, regarded as a real thing, is made absolute. This real life of society must be made the totality of society. Of course political functions must go on, like the administration of justice, the representation of courts with regard to foreign countries, but these could be developed out of the economic sphere in an organised way. If that is the sphere in which society really lives, a state in which the economic body is superior and absolute, the functions which we call political disappear. On the other hand, Communism is a state in which political power is supreme. The state takes possession of the productive plant, and in doing so realises society as a totality. In this case it is the political state which is absolute, and the economic goes once for all. Communism is in this way the continuation of the democratic state, and really a further development of the (?love) of political state growing always so as to absorb the whole field of economic activity. The metaphysics of Fascism become understandable. Communism will be a further development of the same ideas which underlies democracy. The point at which Communism in its integral sense, and Fascism too, are in negative accord, and the attitude both take to individual life.

Society as totality is the most important thing, there can no second absolute. Whence came the idea of the totality of society? It arises out of the crisis of modern society, and out of the problems which must be solved. It is not difficult to find a solution………

There is also a moral crisis which runs parallel to the political and economic. The meaning of individual life and the freedom of personality, has become a problem. In modern society the one-ness of individual life is a problem and is something to be realised. The difficulty of so realising it becomes greater and greater. What are personal responsibilities? We cannot link up the effects of our life and our actions. We seem to lose control of the social effects of our individual life. It is no use trying to be responsible for your own life if you do not know what are the effects of your own decisions and attitudes. Fullness of individual life is impossible. The life of individual life is impossible. The life of the individual, as a sphere in which the responsibilities are real, becomes unreal. This leads at once to the demand for society as a totality. Nothing prevents personality from realising itself more than the fact the two important spheres of action – political and economic – have no relation which can be clearly stated. We do not know how political action influences real life in the economic sphere, and vice versa. The evidence which goes with the statement that society should be a whole, relies on the thesis of the whole-ness of individual life.

Text Informations

KPA: 18/07 (3 p.)
Other Languages:

Lge Name
DE Faschismus und Sozialismus
FR « Fascisme et socialisme »