Should we ever compare modern situations to Hitler’s fascism?

Good historians are extremely cautious about comparing problems–even very serious ones–to Nazism. Claiming that someone is “like Hitler” or “as bad as Hitler” cannot be done lightly. The enormity of the crimes committed by fascists in Europe before and during WWII is so overpowering that a slipshod or weak comparison diminishes both the horror of the Nazis and the credibility of the warning one is trying to raise in the present day.

So we were cautious when we heard about this short video by Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale, that’s been going around. But we feel it is on target, and so we link you to If you’re not scared about fascism in the U.S., you should be.

9 thoughts on “Should we ever compare modern situations to Hitler’s fascism?

  1. As a trained historian I remained baffled by the extent to which cultural Marxism has invaded academia. This is demonstrated by Jason Stanley’s reference to ‘Hitler’s Fascism’. Hitler was never a fascist, he was a Nazi whose philosophy was based on claims of the racial superiority of the so-called Aryan race over others such as Jews and Slavs. The fact that both Nazism and Fascism were authoritarian regimes seems to have blurred this fact. The question is why?

    In 1928 Stalin expelled the Left Opposition from the Comintern and declared all parties which did not support the party line were social fascists, including social democratic parties, His policy was precisely that described by Professor Stanley which Stanley falsely attributes to Trump. Stalin systematically murdered everyone who disagreed with his viewpoint as a matter of policy, Trump does not. In his recent spat with a CNN reporter it was the latter who made unsubstantiated claims, not Trump. The press was putting questions based on rumours not facts. To call such questions truth seeking is an abuse of the English language.

    Throughout the 1930’s Communist front organisations supported the Popular Front movements while Stalin conducted his great Purges which removed all his fellow 1917 revolutionary comrades. In 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union cynically signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact which secretly carved up Poland.

    Fascism was a peculiarly Italian phenomenon which can only be understood in the history of the eventual union of the country in 1870. Mussolini was a socialist who adopted the ideas of syndicalism which was an industry-based backward looking phenomenon. Had Profressor Stanley cared to examine Mussolini’s literature he should have recognised the difference between the two with fascism’s corporate state and Hitler’s psychological desire to keep himself aloof from administration.

    Notwithstanding Mussolini’s African adventures and the adoption of racial policies under pressure from Hitler in the late ‘thirties (which were rarely enforced) there is precious little evidence to support Stanley’s assertion that Fascism and Nazism had the same philosophical outlook. Ultimately, Mussolini was removed from office, Hitler’s regime did not permit that to occur.

    Finally Stanley’s status as a professor was irrelevant to the article. He did not write as a philosopher but as a social commentator from a left-wing perspective. Had he read George Orwell’s superb article from 1944 he would have realised that ‘fascism’ is simply a political swear-word to describe people with whom you disagree. In brief it can be argued that the real fascist is Stanley himself.


    1. Hello Philip; it’s good to be careful and accurate with terminology, but we feel that in this case it’s more important to focus on the larger problems of 1) Americans losing their conception of what powers the U.S. president has and, crucially, should have, and 2) the usual minority of Americans who at least believe that they would gladly trade democracy for authoritarianism (it’s very doubtful that they would actually want that) working hard to overpower the democratic majority. Fascism, Nazism, Stalin’s Communism–the end result of any of these strands is the same. Your final comment is, as the puritans would say, clean contrary to Stanley’s well-argued point, and an example of the name-calling you would seem to decry.


      1. Regrettably the Historic Past avoids answering the points raised and responds with generalities of a nebulous nature. The similarities between the regimes referred to and the American system under its current President are non-existent. With regards to your final comment I can only put it down to your inability to understand English. I did not name-call Stanley. I pointed out that by using his own criteria it can be argued that he is the real fascist not that I argued he is one. Stanley wrote as a social commentator, not in his capacity as a philosophy professor. It’s one of those inconvenient facts the Historic Present tends to ignore


      2. We drew a sharp distinction between calling anyone you disagree with a “fascist” and real fascism. Fascism is not simply a swear word; if only it were. 60 million people wouldn’t have died in WWII if it were. To respond to well-grounded concerns about a political shift with the accusation of name-calling is reckless at best. Fascism is real–that’s an inconvenient fact we do no ignore.


  2. HP’s ideological commitment to ‘liberalism’ creates its myopic view of Fascism. Those who died in World War 2 were fighting racist Nazi policies. It was Stalin who dubbed this ‘fascism’ to maintain personal control over Communist ideology. The belief that fascism has become part of the American political process is no more than liberalism’s refusal to debate issues on their merits, while to label opposing views as personal attacks is plainly dishonest. The idea that there are ‘well grounded concerns about a political shift’ exists exclusively within the American liberal mind-set. Meanwhile I’ve been looking in vain for the American contemporary equivalent of the SS, SA, subjugation of the courts to the Executive or the uninhibited power of the President to rule by decree. The checks and balance envisaged by the Founding Fathers are still intact.


    1. Subjection of the courts is underway, and even under Obama more Americans have seemed to want the president to rule by decree in the form of executive orders. Checks and balances are intact but under attack. Fascism is not built in a day. It evolves over time. If we can respond to distant early warnings we will be the better off for it.


      1. There’s a world of difference between wanting a President to lead and claiming Americans ‘seemed to want the president to rule by decree in the form of executive orders’. Presumably you can produce full documentary evidence in support of your claim.There’s no evidence that checks and balances are under attack and HP’s tendency to see everything as ‘fascism’ is myopic.


      2. Full documentary evidence is not the role of a blog. We point readers to those resources. In the same way, we don’t ask you to provide full documentary evidence of your claim that there is no evidence that checks and balances are under attack. The problems we face in this country should be seriously discussed, and attempts to do so should not be lambasted as reckless ignorance. With that, we thank you for this discussion and will move on from it.


  3. I agree the problems faced in the USA should be faced, it’s unfortunate the HP doesn’t wish to face them but prefers to rely on assertion rathan than proof. I too will move on.


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