Fascism and Marxism are often confused because they appeared as political philosophies at roughly the same point in history and some 20th century governments mixed socialist and fascist rhetoric. In a way, though, fascism and Marxism are opposites. Both philosophies call for a strong central government but fascists believe that the role of the people is to serve the state while Marxists believe that the state exists to serve the people.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica fascism is a political philosophy that "stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent." Under a fascist government the role of the individual is to serve the greater glory of the state. Military and political leaders are celebrated and revered and military action is seen as a prime function of the state in advancing its power and prestige. A fascist government sees the class system as natural and as something to be preserved and individual dissent is not only discouraged but frequently criminalised.
Marxist philosophy sought the elimination of class in society. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Marx believed that "people are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labour but are prevented from doing so in a capitalist economic system." Marx believed that a company's profits should be distributed to the company's workers and not to investors or "capitalists". Marxism put great emphasis on the role of the individual in society including democratic government and democratic control of the workplace.
Left or Right
In the "Mystery of Fascism" author David Ramsay Steele points out that the word "fascism" has become more of a slur than a philosophy. "The term can even be extended to any dictatorship that has become unfashionable among intellectuals." Steele points out that through the 20th Century the term fascist was used to describe both leftwing and rightwing governments, governments backed by big business as well as communist governments that did not accept any notion of personal property. Steele also shows that while many socialists of the 1890s later became fascists, most of them no longer called themselves socialist after the switch.
The Nazis while undeniably fascist were also called the "National Socialist" party. This too causes a great deal of confusion as to the difference. Just as any political party can change its stripes over time, the Nazi party also appears to have changed over time. The Nazi Party was originally the German Workers Party before changing its name to the National Socialist Party in 1920. Adolph Hitler took over leadership of the party in 1933 and appears to have abandoned the party's socialist underpinnings. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica "Fascists made no secret of their hatred of Marxists of all stripes, from totalitarian communists to democratic socialists." Just as Mussolini used squads of armed "Blackshirts" to suppress unions and left-wing movements, the Nazi SA, also known as "Brownshirts", were used to violently suppress leftwing movements in Nazi Germany.