I found this quote on Stack Exchange:

Fascism is intrinsically corporatist: it allies itself with capitalists to produce a state-controlled economy. Welfare isn't really part of their agenda at all. The three historical fascist states (nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Spain under Franco are sometimes mistaken for welfare states because they undertook huge (New Deal style [sic]) public works projects to employ people had stimulate [sic] the economy, but none of the social safety nets of actual welfare systems existed.

How accurate is this characterization of fascism according to mainstream political scientists and philosophers, and why does there seem to be a radically different notion among right-leaning populists which defines fascism as a type of left-wing socialism? Isn't there only one definition of fascism?

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  • Partially, Fascism itself doesn't do welfare. National Socialism does and a system can be both. (note that under National Socialism you do need to meet some requirements depending on other ideology factors of the nation. – A.bakker 2 days ago
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    I think it'd be better to post this on the history stack exchange, since it doesn't seem to be about the philosophical underpinnings of fascism but rather about the question of what kinds of "social safety nets or actual welfare systems" existed in real fascist countries. – Hypnosifl 2 days ago
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    "allies itself with capitalists" is getting on for weasel words. If they suit a fascist state's purposes they were used, if not, or they challenged the centralised unified state power, they would be ruthlessly murdered. Is that allying? Look at Oscar Schindler. Corporatism predates modern companies, and draws more on a military model applied to business. The template, the archetypal fascist state, is Imperial Rome, & they had en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cura_Annonae which the phrase 'Bread and circuses' (attributed to Juvenal) refers as the route to gaining & keeping political power. – CriglCragl 2 days ago
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    Edited to avoid 'bad fit objection'. – J D 2 days ago
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    Hello, I do not think this question is right for this site. It would be if it asked for a conceptualisation of fascism. Instead it asks how as a matter of historical fact various fascist regimes operated with regard to social welfare. That's a question for historians, many of whom btw draw a distinction between German National Socialism and fascism on the Italian and Spanish models. – Geoffrey Thomas yesterday

The big problem with this quote lies in the opening sentence, because it's abusing the term corporatist.

Corporatism is a political ideology which advocates the organization of society by corporate groups, such as agricultural, labour, military, scientific, or guild associations, on the basis of their common interests.

After that hits the problem that they did indeed do social welfare programs. Homes for unwed mothers, loans to newly weds, enabling working class people to take actual vactions, and other activities.

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I agree that this question is better addressed on the history exchange. And while I also agree that the term "corporatist" is misused, the quote is not incorrect. It basically dispels the dangerous nonsense that equates Fascism and Communism, which is a bit like arguing that private land ownership is tantamount of feudalism and leads directly to Absolute Monarchy.

The idea that both forms of government assume totalitarian structures in contrast to liberal, market-based democracies is most powerfully argued by Hannah Arendt. While the contrast makes sense, the crucial distinctions were then elided by Austrian libertarians like Hayek and subsequently degraded into Chamber of Commerce agitprop.

In reality, all governments of advanced economies, including the United States have extensive state planning of the economy and welfare systems, which expanded enormously in response to the Great Depression. Moreover, all states at war (and Fascism seeks war as part of its innate structure) are effectively statist, in the sense of state domination of key economic sectors, at least at the "commanding heights" of the economy.

However, in socialist governments the corporate "means of production" are technically owned by the state and do not distribute stock shares or earnings to private shareholders. By contrast, the Nazis favored and pursued private ownership in a manner much closer to the United States than to the Soviets. Businesses and banks that had been publicly held under the Weimar Republic were privatized by the Nazis, and Hitler explicitly favored private markets as a way of "weeding out the weak."

Hitler could undoubtedly replace executives if he wished and exert power as the biggest customer in a war economy, while also providing slave labor. But he largely struck up bargains with corporations that retained private ownership, private management, and large private profits.

This is in stark contrast to socialists states. It is a partnership between private, capitalist industry and an authoritarian single party state. Tellingly, Hitler made it quite clear to the business elite that his own party's willingness to savagely suppress democratic elections and trade unions would protect businesses from taxation, public ownership, and other welfare measures advancing at the time.

In this sense, if I may opine a bit, the Nazi's elimination of opposition parties and its antidemocratic, antiunion partnership with private capital is closer to the GOP's revanchist ideology since the Justice Powell Memorandum and the "K Street Project" than it is to the Soviets or even Scandinavian socialism.

What characterizes Fascism, then, is not state ownership or domination of private industry, but a one-party domination of the state bureaucracy and the public sphere, which may be perfectly compatible with private capital. Arendt was correct to draw parallels between anti-liberal, antidemocratic states and the collapse of institutional divisions of power.

But the Nazis themselves were quick to round up and kill trade unionists, socialists, democrats, and even moderate left wingers. So describing Fascism as "leftist" is ahistorical, Orwellian nonsense on the part of the American right, and for the past several decades has provided talk-radio cover for what seems to be evolving at the fringes into explicit racial Fascism.

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Note that communism also banned unions.


By the Stalinist era of the 1930s, it was clear that the party and government made the rules and that the trade unions were not permitted to challenge them in any substantial way

Also, communism didnt privatize banks, but possibly russia didn't have any significant banks to privatize. It did allow foreign investment


In 1928 a Soviet delegation arrived in Cleveland, Ohio to discuss with American consulting company Arthur G. McKee a plan to set up in Magnitogorsk a copy of the US Steel steel-mill in Gary. The contract was increased four times, and eventually the new plant had a capacity of over four million tons annually.[8]

So basically there wasn't any (functional) difference between fascist and communist economic organization.

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