Today, Laurie came to me in frustration. With everybody throwing the word "fascist" around like they knew what they were talking about, she had went in search of what fascism IS- and like anybody seeking simple answers, came away frustrated. I boiled it down for her as best I could, but I decided to flesh it out a little bit more. Fascism is more than that skin head over there who burns crosses, although racism and violence are strong components of it. And a note to Antifa- if you were TRULY anti-fascist, you'd put away the clubs and masks that so identify you WITH fascism, and maybe read a book once in a while.
In my digging, I came across two unexpectedly great helps. One was an amazingly even-handed article from the Washington Post by John McNeill titled, How Fascist is Donald Trump? There's Actually a Formula For That (Oct 21, 2016)- in which Trump rated only a 26 out of 44 "Benitos". The other is a Diffen.com comparison between communism and fascism (which became more helpful by pointing out how communism was SUPPOSED to work vs fascism- and thus had a lot of usage of the phrase "in theory".) So let's take a look at what we have here.
First, the closest thing to a definition of Fascism- by Mussolini himself- had three parts: Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. Fascism was a lot like Louis the XIV of France- I AM THE STATE. The state is the single most important thing. Now, much of the way Communism DID work was like that, but their "pretty lie" was that there was NO state- that it was the people working together, from top to bottom. The truth was exactly this, though they made great pains of re-branding "the state" to "the people."
Now, the concept of state was a bit different. The first quality on the WaPo list was hyper-nationalism. Italy for the Italians, "Asia for the Asiatics" (a term the Japanese often used between the wars which pretty much translated to "Asia for the Japanese"), Germany's need for Lebensraum ("living space", which of course the Czechs, Poles, and eventually Russians were living on). Pride in the nation went hand in hand with another quality, which WaPo called "the lost Golden Age syndrome". Germany was to be the Third Reich, hailing the glories of Charlemagne's Empire. Italy was to bring back the Glories of Rome. Now the communist setup was basically the opposite here: Their theory was to unite the workers of the world as one people, without regard for nationality nor the past. To do that, they had to strip religion from the masses as well, and thus all the way back to Marx, communism had to have an atheist world to work. Not to mention workers dumb enough to buy that the intellectuals (their term) who were running things were "workers like them."
Hm. Perhaps that is the crux of the difference between fascism and communism. One requires a gullible populace, the other a stupid one.
Similar to the above is the differing take on economics. In communism, everyone "worked together for the common good", everyone "owned everything in common". In practice, of course, everyone worked for the communist party, and the party owned it all. You could almost switch out "party" for "state" and have the truth fascism didn't bother to hide. Industry was organized into cartels- and the state told the cartels what to do. This gave the corporations a teeny little more leeway to innovate and grow- but not much. Which brings us to a side point about how things were run on more local levels. In 1922, the Soviets came up with the brilliant idea of dividing the nations into 15 ethnic "republics", nominally independent (which was a step back from the whole "one people" thing), but in fact, ruled by the local communist party, which of course was subservient to the national party, In fascism, the geographic/ethnic entities were submerged in favor of dividing the nation via the cartels. Hence the fascists came closer to the one-people thing than the communists did.
NOTE: What I said above about the Soviet Union ties into what I have been reading about the Soviet Collapse. Gorbachev, in order to enable himself to make requisite reforms, basically broke the uniting power of the party- which left fifteen basically independent republics who then decided to STAY independent.
Fascism depended on the cult of personality- Mussolini, Hitler, Hirohito (even if he had less real power), Franco. Communism theoretically was a movement of the people, yet from the beginning was riven with personality cults- Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev- even Khrushchev. Never mind the "dead guys in waiting club" between Khrushchev and Gorby.
I found it intensely entertaining on the Diffen article a section titled, "Means of Control":
Communism:Theoretically there is no state control.
Fascism: Fascism employs direct force (secret police, government intimidation, concentration camps, and murder), propaganda (enabled by State-directed, heavily-censored media), rallies, etc.
And if you substitute "gulag" for "concentration camps" and "mindlessly boring party meetings and parades" for "rallies", you can see the non-difference here as well.
Many of the other categories WaPo touched on- militarism, swaggering masculinity, mass mobilization of the people, standing as a "bulwark against outside evils", and mass indoctrination of youth- dovetail nicely with communism's reality. One site I found described the difference between the two as fascism being "socialism with a veneer of capitalism". And pointed out that the main reason the two hated each other was that communism feared losing control to the rabid nationalism of the fascists, while fascism feared that the theory of worker ownership would seem more appealing.
Racism-wise, the fascists grabbed the headlines, mainly because like everything else, they made no attempts to hide what they were. The Soviet Union has a long history of deporting nationalities, ethnic cleaning (particularly against the Ukrainians and Poles), and Russia has an even longer history of pogroms against the Jews. If Antifa is really all about stopping racism, they would do well to stop pissing around with violent symbolic gestures against white supremacists, and look at the communists and radical Muslim sympathizers in their own ranks, who preach a much more significant and equally abhorrent racism.
Finally, There is one more of the WaPo categories that is actually different between the two ideologies- "theatricality". Fascism put on a big, shirt off, fly-unzipped show. The Soviet Union spent a day and a half marching the army through Red Square. At least the fascists were more entertaining.