Red fascism

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Soviet Communism portrayed in a Nazi German propaganda poster (1943)

Red fascism is a pejorative term used to describe Stalinism as being similar to fascism. Accusations that the leaders of the Soviet Union during the Stalinist period acted as "Red Fascists" were commonly stated by Trotskyists, left communists, social democrats, democratic socialists and anarchists, as well as among right wing circles.

In the first half of the 20th century, a number of socialists in America began to hold the view that the Soviet government was transforming into a species of Red fascism. One such leader, Norman Thomas, who ran for U.S. President numerous times under the Socialist Party of America banner, accused the Soviet Union in the 1940s of decaying into Red fascism, writing “Such is the logic of totalitarianism," that “communism, whatever it was originally, is today Red fascism.”[1][2] Bruno Rizzi, an Italian Marxist and a founder of the Communist Party of Italy, claimed as early as 1938 that “Stalinism [took on] a regressive course, generating a species of red fascism identical in its superstructural and choreographic features [with its Fascist model]".[3]

Many leftists in the 1930s and 40s became disillusioned and estranged by the Soviet Union, and condemned it for its rigid authoritarianism. Otto Rühle, a German left communist, wrote that "the struggle against fascism must begin with the struggle against bolshevism," noting the possible influence the Leninist state had on fascist states by serving as a model. Otto Rühle further professed in 1939 that “Russia was the example for fascism... Whether party ‘communists’ like it or not, the fact remains that the state order and rule in Russia are indistinguishable from those in Italy and Germany. Essentially they are alike. One may speak of a red, black, or brown ‘soviet state’, as well as of red, black or brown fascism.”[4]

In a September 18, 1939 editorial, The New York Times reacted to the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact by declaring that “Hitlerism is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism.”[5] The editorial further opined that “The world will now understand that the only real ‘ideological’ issue is one between democracy, liberty and peace on the one hand and despotism, terror and war on the other.”

During the period while the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was in force, Benito Mussolini positively reviewed Stalinism as having transformed Soviet Bolshevism into a Slavic fascism.[6] Despite ideological differences, Adolf Hitler admired Stalin and his politics and believed that Stalin was in effect transforming Soviet Bolshevism into a form of National Socialism.[7]

However, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries heavily criticised fascism in their official documents and finally attacked the fascist regimes. Marxist theories of fascism have seen fascism as a form of reaction to socialism and a feature of capitalism.[8] In addition, several modern historians have tried to pay more attention to the economic, political and ideological differences between these two regimes than to their similarities.[9] Although Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick, in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared (2009), noted similarities between Stalinism and Nazism, they have also stated that “when it comes to one-on-one comparison, the two societies and regimes may as well have hailed from different worlds.”[10]


  1. ^ Norman Thomas, “Which Way America—Fascism, Communism, Socialism or Democracy?” Town Meeting Bulletin, XIII (March 16, 1948), pp. 19-20
  2. ^ Les K. Adler and Thomas G. Paterson “Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930's–1950's,” The American Historical Review, (April 1, 1970) 75 (4): p. 1046, footnote 4
  3. ^ A. James Gregor, The Fascist Persuasion in Radical Politics, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1974, p. 193
  4. ^ Otto Rühle, “The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism,” the American Councillist journal Living Marxism, (1939) Vol. 4, No. 8
  5. ^ “Editorial: The Russian Betrayal”, The New York Times, Sept. 18, 1939
  6. ^ MacGregor Knox. Mussolini Unleashed, 1939-1941: Politics and Strategy in Italy's Last War. Pp. 63-64.
  7. ^ François Furet. Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century. Chicago, Illinois, USA; London, England, UK: University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN 0226273407. Pp. 191-192.
  8. ^ E.g. Dave Renton. Fascism: Theory and Practice. London: Pluto Press, 1999.
  9. ^ E.g. Henry Rousso. "Stalinism and Nazism. History and Memory Compared". Historische Zeitschrift. 286:3, 2008. Pp. 795-796.
  10. ^ Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick. Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared. New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. 33-37 and 21.