Nazism, Fascism, Communism – the unholy trinity of the 20th Century. Apart from their rather standout traits, they had differing political and economic ideas, which will be explored in this essay. But what were these standout traits? Famously, each of the three acquired a reputation of atrocity to its name through mass murder and genocide, often of its own people. The Holocaust and the systematic murder of various other chosen scapegoats was brought about by the regime of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and his fascist counterpart Benito Mussolini, while, most prominently Joseph Stalin, created the Red Terror under the banner of Communism. One way a historian might measure which was worst is to assess the intentions of each ideology, life under it, now documented, and to analyse the effect on each country which carried it and on the world in both the short and the long term.
Perhaps, it is reasonable to start with an ideology that I consider to be the least evil out of the three – Fascism. First of all, summarising the intentions of Fascism, we can see that this is a very simple political formula – love your country above all others, fear and loathe all perceived enemies and be ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the good of the nation. This, of course, leads to extreme militarism, anti-Marxism, contempt for electoral democracy and cultural liberalism. While this does obstruct democracy and advocates authoritarianism, as an overview we can see that these intentions would be less harmful than those of Nazism, or even Communism, as will later become evident. It is, however, important to differentiate Fascism form National Socialism, and therefore Mussolini’s Italy from Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the life under each. For example, anti-Semitism was officially rejected in Italy by 1934, with several anti-Semitic measures enacted in 1938 in order to solidify an alliance with Germany. Therefore, it would be unwise to attribute the pure evil of the Holocaust to Fascism, rather to its German counterpart, Nazism. But this is not to say that Fascism was completely innocent under Mussolini. That Italy of 1922 – 1945 was not thought of as a free place, and its leader being a dictator, democracy was severely harmed in a totalitarian state. Moreover, thinking simply of the death toll under this most prominent Fascist regime, Mussolini’s ambitions of reinstating an Italian Empire led him to desire lands outside of his own. He invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, with soldiers dropping 280kg1 of gas-bombs on Ethiopian villages in direct violation of rules set out by the Geneva Conferences. It is estimated that 7% of Ethiopia’s over- 9,000,000 population perished due to Italy’s forces. Moreover, 20% of Italy’s Jewish population was deported to Nazi-occupied Europe’s concentration camps, while the ethnic cleansing ideology of this Fascist regime led to up to 80,000 of Cyrenaican population dying during the occupation of Libya, bring the total death toll up to 900,000. Overall, the dictator Benito Mussolini and his regime were a separate entity to Adolf Hitler and National Socialism, albeit that the latter ideology is a derivative of Fascism. Over his two decades in power, this movement became to be regarded as almost dogmatically parallel to Nazism, which perhaps leads to confusion over the two. But there is no denying the harm this particular government brought to democracy, and the warning it creates against militant nationalism. Benito Mussolini has and will go down in history as a bloody dictator, driving everyone else to be weary of Fascism, and rightly so. But it is also important to remember the effects that Fascism had on Italy. The country’s role in WWII is often effectively forgotten, especially as its economy Italian atrocities in world war two boomed in the 1950s and 60s , die to an integration into the European market. Yet again, as you can tell, the effects of Fascism on Italy in the long term are not particularly detrimental, especially when compared to Germany’s tumultuous recovery from WWII, mostly due to the way the country was split by the Allie as a pre-emptive measure. Or when compared to the consequences of Communism, which will be examined later on. But importantly, Fascism always has the ability to spiral into its extreme territories, leading to Nazism.
The definition of Nazism, like its Italian counterpart is not one to have a universally accepted version. As a consequence, we have based our understanding on the only case in history of a fully implemented Nazi state – Nazi Germany. One thing, therefore, is clear: Nazism is an ideology of horrific intentions and horrendously unparalleled implementations of those intentions. Right from the start, the election of the NASDP into the Reichstag on March 5, 1933 spelled danger. What Nazism and Adolf Hitler brought to the world is World War II, the most devastating conflict in the history of the world, which decimated Europe and touched countless other countries. Estimates range from 75 – 80 million deaths worldwide , over half of which were civilian deaths. 6 or so millions of these deaths signify the closest anyone has come to pure evil – the Holocaust. The systematic gathering and murder of every Jewish man, woman and child on the continent was unparalleled and forever justly deemed Nazism an abomination and a nightmare to bury, but to remember and say, “Never Again”. In fact, several genocides were initiated across the globe during the year of 1939-1945. Almost all of these 80 million deaths can be attributed directly to Nazism, as these crimes were committed in its name. It seems that there is no surpassing the evil witnessed in life under Nazism. No other Fascist state even came close to such a level. But other states with another ideology did, and in some ways even surpassed this evil.
It is foolish, in my opinion, to suggest that communism has never existed in a true form, as it has been, according to apologists, mangled by the actions of dictators. But when you have numerous countries adopting the same ideology to the same effect in just one century (in fact in the space of 50 years), this argument becomes redundant. A commitment to full communism and inter-social hatred like Karl Marx himself imagined infected and enslaved several countries, spawning the same results everywhere and making the life under the ideology miserable. The pioneer of communist terror Vladimir Lenin mercilessly pushed the masses to kill the perceived ‘class enemies’ in the recently formed USSR. After his death, Joseph Stalin took over in 1929, and installed a regime of oppression and a planned economy that prioritized quantity over quality and human life, which still economically and infrastructurally harms Russia. As a low-end estimate, 20 million of his own citizens, his own people, perished – 8 million were worked to death in brutal concentration camps known as Gulags, 5 million starved, and were likely starved by Stalin himself, while the rest were shot for a differing opinion to the state. Countless were innocent. Furthermore, the even bloodier communist dictator Mao Zedong, after taking power in 1949, has been attributed with 40 to even 70 million deaths in the name of communism. This is not even mentioning the prime minister of Cambodia Pol Pot, who between the years of 1976-79 ended the lives of one-in-four Cambodians  in a genocide. Yet again, his ideology was Marxism-Leninism. The overall death toll attributed to Communism worldwide falls in the hundreds of millions.
The above makes deciding, which was worse very hard indeed, and I don’t think a decision made by numbers can go very far. Therefore, a judgement needs to be made based on the other criteria which have been set out – effects and historical reputation, and intentions. As mentioned previously, the actions of the Wehrmacht in the world made Germany’s recovery much harder, as the country was split and therefore severely punished by the allies. But as only a decade passed under full Nazi rule, the people were not severely indoctrinated, and understood what Nazism was responsible for, which is not the case for Communism. Nazism’s unique evil in a diabolical attempt to wipe out a whole race are countered by communism’s own distinct wrong doing in, for example, Joseph Stalin’s random strikes of terror and disregard for human life. One argument which could be used is an examination of the ends of the ideologies. As Orlando Figes argues in his 1997 book ‘A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924’5, the aims of communism represent “humanity’s historic striving for social justice and comradeship”, and therefore communism itself attracts some sympathy, while we can naturally only be repulsed by the mere goals of Nazism. But just how important is that distinction? As the aforementioned numbers show us, oppression was always a part of the USSR, even in the relatively ‘liberal’ times of Brezhnev and Gorbachev. What is valid, however, is the state the carrier countries have been left in. The German People immediately realised the horrors that have been attributed to their country after Nazism, and there was an equally immediate national striving for atonement. Russia, however, never apologized to the families that were affected by the Purges, and Stalinism stands strong there still. I would argue that this is exactly what’s holding Russia back from being a progressive state. Moreover, what is often forgotten is Communism’s ability to destroy social bonds and separate institutions, for example its long-standing effect on education, which I have experienced first-hand. Children are branded by their strengths, their options limited from an early age. Intellectual discussion in schools is practically non-existent, with students expected to memorise, but not to question. And this is not the only country which has found recovery from communism hard. Such a wide- scale indoctrination, as in Russia, China, Cambodia and a whole slew of others will deem progress tough. Finally, the sheer repulsiveness of Nazism made it impossible to be duplicated anywhere, whereas Communism’s ‘good intentions’ allowed it to spread, and have a greater effect. For me, therefore, the means are not justified by the ends in this case. While the intentions of Communism may have been more noble, both the life under it in significantly more numerous countries and the long-term effects on them surpass those of Nazism. The consequences of it are far greater, as is the terror enacted.
In conclusion, Fascism, Nazism and Communism and a full commitment to them should be feared and remembered across the world. While WWII has pushed many to believe that Fascism and Nazism are synonymous, as you can tell, there are clear differences which, in my opinion, deem Nazism and the regime which carried it under Adolf Hitler to have been much worse than that of Benito Mussolini, in the view of all of the criteria used. However, when coming to Nazism vs. Communism, the choice is truly difficult. But while Nazism may seem like the answer, responsible for, as previously mentioned, the greatest crime against humanity ever committed, Communism has shown to have a deeper, long term effect on all countries which it has controlled, and to be an easier-acquired and more treacherous poison of the 20th  century. For this, and for the higher death toll, I believe Communism to have been worse than Nazism, and therefore the worst out of Nazism, Fascism and Communism.
1. Carroll, R | (2019) | *Italian atrocities in world war two* | the Guardian | Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/jun/25/artsandhumanities.highereducation
2. 'Italy - The Economic Miracle' (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019)<https://www.britannica.com/place/Italy/The-economic-miracle> accessed 30 July 2019
3. 'Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths In World War II | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans' (The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, 2019) <https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war>accessed 30 July 2019
4. 'Pol Pot' (HISTORY, 2019) <https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/pol-pot> accessed 30 July
5. Figes O, A People's Tragedy (Pimlico 1997)