It is often alleged that a grand part in the success of the Nazi and fascist movements in Europe was their hard-line anti-Communism. Thy used anti-Communist sentiments to gain popularity and even many people who did not share their views in general, still supported them due to their anti-Communist stance.

So I wonder what was the reason why anti-Communism gained such popularity in Europe.

It should be noted that the criticism of Communism of the late 20th century is not applicable to the first half. The major Cold-War era critcisms included human rights violations, deficit of democracy, inefficiency of planned economy and lack of economic freedom.

But in the first half of 20th century many anti-Communists would support authoritarian government, state regulation and restrictions on political rights to even greater degree than in communist countries.

There are several theories why anti-communism was so popular.

  • The communists themselves claim that the wealthy classes oppose communism because they want to keep their wealth and social inequality.

This theory does not explain why anti-communist movements (such as the Whites) included many people who were ready to sacrifice not only their wealth but also their lives to the fight against communism and that it included many of those who did not belong to the wealthy classes or belonged only formerly without any hope to return the possessions.

It should be also noted that in many cases the anti-communists employed extreme and difficult to explain cruelty to captured bolshevicks, such as freezing them alive, driving nails in their heads and the like, which is not normally observed in any economically-motivated wars such as wars for resources or colonies.

  • Sometimes it is argued that the hatred towards communism was motivated by religion. That the people just fought against atheism rather than an economic system.

This idea also does not explain why those anti-communists themselves supported regimes that were sometimes hostile or indifferent towards religion or even concluded alliances with states which worshiped non-Christian faith such as Islam or Buddhism, and why they were equally hostile towards left-leaning clerics (counting them as traitors).

So what are the reasons of the widespread hatred towards communism in the first half of XXth century?

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    "But in the first half of 20th century many anti-Communists would support authoritarian government, state regulation and restrictions on political rights to even greater degree than in communist countries." There wasn't a moment after 1917 when for the most antihuman non-communist regime there didn't exist even more non-human communist regime. The very premises of your question are false.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 17, 2012 at 14:49
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    @Anixx: No, that' not true. If you hate Communism and hate Fascism, then you support neither of them. Or must one always support one of them? Dec 17, 2012 at 15:42
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    @Anixx: Now, that's polemics, not historical inquiry. The White Russians were one thing, the Nazis another, misguided sympathizers with right-wing totalitarianism a third. Putting all them into one basket creates a mess. Dec 17, 2012 at 15:51
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    @Anixx: I am sorry, I can only answer a question that I consider well-formed. You have here (at least) two different questions and I can't answer them together. Dec 17, 2012 at 15:54
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    @Anixx Here you have tried to raise simultaneously several questions. I think, that if you would ask them separately, it could be very interesting. Anyway, it is a pity, that the question was closed.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 18, 2012 at 12:53

6 Answers 6


I think you have mostly answered your own question here. Your answer seems to presuppose a sort of "binary logic", a belief that only one of your theories can be completely correct or is completely incorrect. I would also note that the only difference between the first half of the 20th century and the second half are the relative power of the actors involved and the ensuing history. In the second half of the 20th century the Soviet Union was able to protect an encourage those that preached its so-called "communism", likewise those who opposed the Soviets could point to any number of logical inconsistencies and fallacies that Soviet actions spawned. Prior to this socialists of all stripes were an embattled minority, on the rise in Europe and whose growing popularity increased social, economic, and ethnic divides. Not only was there less protecting this group, but the social uncertainty lead to increased fear of this group, and stronger counter-reactions than in the comparatively more stable second half of the 20th century. At that point there were two well defined "poles", the communist east and capitalist west, and thus a lot less uncertainty than the tumultuous and very uncertain beginning of the century.

Much of the anti-communist sentiment came from various places. Members of the monarchy and the status-quo in numerous European powers saw the communists as a threat to their wealth and status, although they might not have been entirely conscious of this, and may have likely been motivated by religious sentiment as well. In addition, members of the traditionalist elements of the proletariat and the peasantry definitely joined ranks with the bourgeois against the communists on religious grounds. The petty-bourgeois, which ranged in wealth from powerful merchants to small family run businesses, had both influences working on them and it did lead a number of that group into the reactionary ranks.

Classic socialist theory would say that the ideology of the ruling class (ie. religion, morals, world-views, etc.) are formed by the bourgeois to form the "superstructure", essentially the justification of their control over the "basis" element of society (ie. control of the means of production and capital accumulation). The traditional Marxist would say that your theories are not conflicting, but actually working in tandem.

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    I am sorry, I got confused. Can we have a translation from Marxist to English, please? ;) Dec 17, 2012 at 15:36
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    I agree with this answer, but think it is worth mentioning that the ruling class made consistent efforts to mobilize an anti-communist front, especially propaganda. Namely associating Communists with a Jewish plot, Satan, betrayal of the Nation and so on.
    – astabada
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:33

Communism was an extremely polarizing influence in the first half of the 20th century, precisely because it claimed to produce equality between people (while failing to actually do so). Hence many "reactions" to Communism (e.g. Nazism), were equally polarizing and extreme.

A lord, newly converted to "socialism," said to his butler, "that means that you and I are equal, and you and the footman are equal." Whereupon the butler replied, "I am not your equal, sir, and the footman is certainly not my equal."

The "butler" (lower middle) class, was "more royalist than the king, more Catholic than the Pope." The anti-Communist doctrines were most popular among this lower middle class, because they felt that the had more to lose by being leveled "down" to people below them, that they had to gain by being made "equal" to the lord.

  • I wonder if you know what does "S" stand for in "NSDAP".
    – kubanczyk
    Apr 11, 2012 at 9:43
  • @kubanczyK: The "Nazis" started out as the National Socialist German Workers Party. But that was before the rise of member number 7, aka Adolf Hitler. And he drew his strongest support from the lower middle, not the "working" class.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 11, 2012 at 17:11
  • @Tom Au when Hitler joined, the party had no "socialist" in name.
    – Anixx
    Dec 6, 2012 at 7:57
  • Downvote: The plural of anecdote is not data... Dec 17, 2012 at 15:36

Communism advocated worldwide revolution, and the abolishment of private property. That seems to be sufficient reason to oppose the movement. I can't answer whether that qualifies me as an extremist or not.

  • Indeed, but on the other hand there were masses of people who sacrificed their lives rather than property to fight Communism. Also Anti-Communism was widely supported by poor people who had no property.
    – Anixx
    Dec 17, 2012 at 15:52
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    @Anixx: When you say "poor people who had no property" whom exactly do you have in mind? Dec 17, 2012 at 15:57
  • ALmost everyone has some property; most of those who don't have property would like to have property. Those who don't know that revolution is most painful for those who can't afford to protect themselves. And ultimately, if you have no property, there is very little distinction between the communist promise of property and the capitalist promise of property.
    – MCW
    Dec 17, 2012 at 16:52

The first, and "weak" dictatorship was in Italy. 5 years after devastating start of the communist regime in Russia and pairs of them in Germany and Hungaria. So, some people wanted to protect themselves. And further - agression calls for aggression, evil bears evil.

  • Do you presume that Italians and Germans were well aware about life in Soviet Russia and its negative side?
    – Anixx
    Dec 17, 2012 at 15:15
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    Of course. Europe was full of people who escaped from the war communism reality
    – Gangnus
    Dec 17, 2012 at 15:35

I have one more answer. All communistm, anticommunist and others hartreds were not reasons or consequences of each other. They all were consequences of the same common reason.

Mass Cruelty

The level of inner agression and cruelty in the European society increased during the first half of the XX century. It started by the Britain concentration camps and blockposts in the South Africa. After that - The Great War. Practice of sterilization of socially weak people in "civilized countries".

"The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life," - Winston Churchill wrote to his cousin Ivor Guest on 19 January 1899 http://www.winstonchurchill.org/support/the-churchill-centre/publications/finest-hour-online/594-churchill-and-eugenics

Reasons of Mass Cruelty of 1900-1956

Psychohistorians think that this crazy mass cruelty was the result of cruel style of pedagogics during these years. I am not against it, but the cruel style of pedagogics needs its own reason, too. And I don't believe that it is a sole reason.

I think that cruelty came from the previous times. In XVIII century the cruelty was simply the norm. During the XIX century it was considered less and less acceptable in "the society", but didn't disappeared, People mostly didn't manage really become less cruel. The cruelty merely moved to concealed places and cases: family, socially weaker stratas and colonies. I am not sure that the citation is exact, but the sense remains:

"The true gentlemen won't notice what another gentelman is doing on his backyard".

The result

And at the end of the XIX century this moral relativismus struck back, lowered the visible moral level of the society (the real one was the same) and the cruelty returned back and empowered the society, that was unprepaired and had no mechanisms against it. And it continued until some social and politicals mechanisms appeared.

  • I don't think OP was asking where the cruelty came from. OP implicitly assumes that there was an emotion accumulated but the question is, precisely, why it manifested so much pro/against communism. Your answer would apply as well to the atrocities centered around, say, rose gardens.
    – kubanczyk
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:36
  • Cruelty & hartred are realised as a dictatorship on the politics level. I think, this is obvious.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:40
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    Downvote: sorry, this doesn't address the specific question (or questions!) the OP raised. It's also a bit overgeneralized, in my opinion ("inner cities" is an anachronism, South Africa is irrelevant, etc.) Dec 18, 2012 at 10:42
  • @FelixGoldberg "inner cities" are your own invention, I don't mention them. South Africa is relevenant as the first case of genocide in the XX century.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:59
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    @Gangnus: Sorry about inner cities, I misread inner agression. South Africa is irrelevant, since there was no genocide (ertainly not by the British) and had there been it'd been largely unnoticed. Downvote still stands, I'm afraid, because of overgeneralization. Dec 18, 2012 at 11:06

So people would feel safe from a sword hanging over their heads.

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    I've received a couple of flags suggesting this is not a real answer. I would disagree with that, but I would say that this is not a very good or very complete answer. The whole reason for allowing you to downvote an answer is to send a message about the quality of the answer. That is why I have chosen to downvote it rather than delete it. Dec 17, 2012 at 14:57
  • Downvote: What Steven said. Dec 17, 2012 at 15:37

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