Most people who read this website probably know where we land on this question. The two ideologies have the same father and are not really that different from one another. Both are collectivist dreams. Both venerate the state over the individual. Both are obsessed with works projects and managing the economy. Both see the ends as justifying the means.
And yet by some bizarre accident (actually it’s not really that much of an accident) of history fascism has somehow become associated with the “Right” and socialism with the “Left.” Part of the problem is that the terms “Right” and “Left” don’t really make much sense. There are those who are for more statism and there are those who are for less statism. Both Nazis and Communists are for ever more power to the state. Those with a classically liberal drift are on the other end of the political spectrum (assuming we want to be intellectually honest).
As Daniel Hannan points out below, one of the key differences between the two similar camps is that Hitler (and others) saw that it was just more efficient to keep the bourgeois factory owners and managers in place than to liquidate the entire class as they had in Soviet Russia. It wasn’t like the factory owners and other business owners weren’t under the thumb of the party vanguard post 1933, or that the industrialists even “owned” the Nazi Party. They were just kept on and co-opted in technocratic German style.
The other key factor in differentiating between the fascists and the “socialists” was that Bolshevism was widely associated with the Jewish intelligentsia and Hitler of course despised the Jews. Hitler hated the Jews (tragically) even more than he hated bourgeois liberal republicanism and democracy and that is why they were the first to meet his wrath.
(From The Telegraph)
On 16 June 1941, as Hitler readied his forces for Operation Barbarossa, Josef Goebbels looked forward to the new order that the Nazis would impose on a conquered Russia. There would be no come-back, he wrote, for capitalists nor priests nor Tsars. Rather, in the place of debased, Jewish Bolshevism, the Wehrmacht would deliver “der echte Sozialismus”: real socialism.
Goebbels never doubted that he was a socialist. He understood Nazism to be a better and more plausible form of socialism than that propagated by Lenin. Instead of spreading itself across different nations, it would operate within the unit of the Volk.