I never understood why people were treating Nazis and Communists differently. After reading this, you will wonder too.

Nazism and Communism

Similarities

What are the differences between Nazism and Communism? There are some. Still, there is a list much more impressive, that of similarities.
Although incomplete, this is my attempt:

Both have followers denying their crimes.
Both have followers defending their crimes.
Both have success because they exploit the suffering of people.
Both have support from convenient idiots, people who quite seriously believe their politics will give us a more just and caring society.
Both appeal to solidarity with the under-privileged.
Both claimed they were acting for the people. To both, their enemies were enemies of the people.
Both put the collective above the individual.
Both have followers defending their support with their wish to fight the other.
Both associate the other with Capitalism. To the Communists, Nazism is a branch of Capitalism. To the Nazis, Communism and the International Capital are two branches of the international Jewish World Conspiracy.
Both want to free the workers from Capitalist extortion (the Nazis also want to free them from Communist extortion).
Both thought they had the right to kill the extortioners, that is the Capitalists or the Jews.
Both claimed they were socialists.
Both have been accused, by each other and by others, of not being true socialists.
Both think they are morally higher standing than others.
Both Hitler and Stalin were uninterested in personal luxury.
Both had high ranking officials very interested in personal luxury.
Both had big differences between ruling and working classes.
Both believed in inequality. The Nazis in racial inequality. The Communists in the supremacy of the Communist party.
Both murdered people they saw as inferior, by race or by class.
Both claimed "scientific" support. The Nazis had their Race Science. The Communists had Lysenkoism and Materialist Dialectics.
Both despised the weak Western democracy.
Both started the Second World War with their agreement to partition Poland.
Both worked together (for a while) fighting the Capitalists.
Both claimed, when it was tactically convenient, that they wanted peace and that those who opposed them were warmongers.
Both were inhuman mass murderers.
Both thought it was right to do revolution.
Both thought the state should provide a livelihood for its citizens. *
Both thought all citizens have the duty to work for the general good. *
Both were against incomes unearned by work. *
Both wanted expropriation without compensation. *
Both wanted general old age insurance. *
Both wanted to forbid child work. *
And of course we have this similarity between Nazism, Communism and a lot of other beliefs: they are all the Only True Belief.

*: From the Nazist 25 point program. For the Nazis, citizens do not include Jews and other inappropriate people.
Besides, the Nazis are for profit-sharing for large industrial enterprises (Nazis permit privately owned large enterprises, Communists don't).
Some of the Nazis' 25 points seem almost verbatim taken from the 10 point program in the Communist Manifesto.

Freezing and starving people can be attracted by the promises of Nazis and Communists; perhaps they just want a change, perhaps they seriously believe what they are told. That people are freezing and starving does not prove that Nazis or Communists are right. Understanding that poor people are attracted by Nazis and Communists is something very different from supporting Nazism or Communism.

Differences

In spite of all the similarities, there are differences:
Formal Ownership: The formal ownership was different. With the Communists, most business was owned by "the people". The Nazis permitted owners to keep their business if they did as told; the owners did not have the same right as the owners in a Capitalistic state to make their own decisions. If the question of left or right is the question of public or private control, the Nazis were somewhere between Social Democrats and Communists. Like the Social Democrats, they permitted private ownership. Like the Communists, they demanded full control.
Name Calling: Nowadays, it is easier to find out about Communists than about Nazis, Communists are much more eloquent. For example, to them a very important difference is that they call the Nazis but not themselves Capitalists. They believe that by calling themselves anti-fascists they say something. To many Communists, this is the real difference: not what they do but what they say.
Magic Mystical: Communists can say it is an enormous difference between Nazis and Communists, without elaborating. There seems to exist some magical, mystical, undefinable difference.
Racism: Of course, if you compare with Hitler, Stalin's persecution of Jews is not much to talk about. Is Nazism the same thing as Communism plus racism? Is Communism equal to Nazism minus racism? Although maybe oversimplifying, these are designations as good as any other. This is not a difference between Communism and Fascism, Mussolini was not a racist until he got involved with Hitler. Stalin's victims were people who did not have the right Communist belief; they were victims of religious persecution. And although himself a Jew, Marx is known for his antisemitic outbursts.
We Good, You Bad: Sometimes I get the feeling the real difference is this: while the Nazis think they are good and the Communists bad, the Communists think they are good and the Nazis bad.

When you choose between Nazism and Communism, racism is a niftier name for Nature before Nurture. And just to make something clear: to set nature before nurture is not always racism. Racism assumes that some races have inherited characteristics giving them the right to treat other races differently.
To the Nazis, man's nature is decided at birth. That's what behind not only their racism; it is also behind the way they look at women and at people with congenital deficiencies. To the Communists, man's nature is decided by his upbringing. Besides being a source of cheap labor, the Gulag Archipelago was a way to educate people to become good Communists.
Even should the communists be more right on this point, I cannot see that it gives them more right to kill people.

Capitalism

As Nazism and Communism are so much alike, the difference between Nazism and Capitalism is pretty much the same as the difference between Communism and Capitalism. The difference between Communism and Capitalism is the difference between North and South Korea, between former East and West Germany. The Capitalists had the will, the resources and the know-how to help.
Should some Communist be insolent enough to ask what difference there is between Nazism and Capitalism, you could always answer: the Nazis, that are those who got help from the Communists in their war against the Capitalists. The Capitalists, that are those who helped the Communists against the Nazis.

That Nazism and Communism are much worse than Capitalism does not mean Capitalism is without problems. It's a pity that some quite relevant criticism comes from groups like Communists, groups no judicious person can take seriously. That criticism comes from nutty groups does not necessary mean the critic is nutty.
It is one thing if you understand that people with a hard life are attracted by movements of violence. That they are attracted by street gangs or by those who claim they have a solution to all problems; by Nazism, by Communism or, like today, by militant Islam. To understand support for Nazism, Communism or militant Islam is one thing. To support them is something very different.

Conclusion

My comparison between Nazism and Communism is mainly a comparison between Hitler and Stalin. Communism has developed in several different ways since Stalin. I do not know how Nazism had developed, had Hitler won. I think it would be unfair to compare a real present-day Communism with a hypothetical present-day Nazism.

I never understood the difference between left wing extremism and right wing extremism. You cannot turn more than 180 degrees to the left because if you turn more you turn to the right. And you cannot turn more than 180 degrees to the right because if you turn more you turn to the left. It does not matter if you turn as much as you can to the left or if you turn as much as you can to the right: the result is the same.

Serfdom and slavery was not only about getting cheap work. Engels writes about people voluntarily entering servitude. When serfdom was abolished in Prussia, the peasants asked the king to let them stay in servitude; who would now look after them in sickness and old age? If I do not remember wrong, there were similar feelings when slavery was abolished in America.
There still are people longing for the time of Stalin and Hitler. Longing for a time with order. Longing for a time when the regime was the only criminal. Longing for a time when the regime took care of their basic needs. People feeling confused and lost, just like newly freed serfs and slaves.

Some apologies for Communism I find very contrived:
The Communists never used atomic weapons against humans. This is another similarity between Nazis and Communists: neither used atomic weapons against humans. This is not enough to make me support Nazism or Communism.
The Communists suffered under the Nazis. It is true that Russia and the Soviet people suffered enormously under Hitler. I do not know if it is true but I have read Hitler killed even more Soviet citizens than Stalin. Germany also suffered greatly. That Germans and Russians suffered more than Americans does not make Nazism or Communism better than Capitalism. And is this meant to prove some difference between Communism and Nazism? Should the difference be that while Hitler murdered many millions of Soviet citizens, Stalin... murdered many millions of Soviet citizens?
That Stalin fought Hitler proves that Communism is not like Nazism. That they fought each other does not prove they are different; it is the likeness, not the difference, that makes enemies of two rutting moose bulls. Stalin fought Hitler because he had to; had it been up to him, he would have much preferred to continue fighting the Capitalists together with his fellow (National) Socialists.

I can understand that the difference between Nazism and Communism can be very important to the believer, just like the difference between Protestantism and Catholisism Christianity or between Sunni and Shia Islam can be important to their believers. As a non-believer, I can not understand why I should care.

The really dangerous people are not those that are evil: really dangerous are those who mean well. The Nazis had never got their following, had people not known about the atrocities of the Communists. Had not people refused to believe the Nazis could be just as atrocious. And vice versa.
Nazism and Communism had never got the following they got, had they not managed to convince people they were leading them towards a better world. Many followers of the Nazis and the Communists will feel misunderstood if they are asked to answer for the crimes of the Nazis and the Communists. They do not understand that a prerequisite for the crimes was the support from people like them.

Maybe there are differences between Communists and Communists. Maybe there are differences between Nazis and Fascists. Maybe comparing Fidel Castro to Stalin and Hitler is unfair. Maybe he is more like Mussolini. A bit puffed-up.

For some reason, the Communists are often seen as more respectable than Nazis. Like religious persecution is better than racial persecution. Being on the winning side certainly helps. In the end, maybe the big difference between Nazis and Communists is not how they act towards others but how others act towards them.

© Anders Floderus