Melanesian Socialism vs. Fascism

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the form of socialism promoted in the Pacific Island nation of New Hebrides in the 1980s and 1990s. We'll highlight its central characteristics and contrast it with fascism, an extremely authoritarian form of government.

Opposing Views: Melanesian Socialism and Fascism

Many of us are probably familiar with the concept of socialism. Furthermore, many of us probably know about the history of the Soviet Union, which is typically regarded as the most famous example of socialism. Some of us may have learned about the Russian Revolution in 1917, Joseph Stalin's authoritarian rule in the 1930s and 1940s, and Soviet-American relations during the Cold War. But how many of us are familiar with Melanesian socialism? Probably not many.

Similarly, many of us are probably familiar with the term fascism. Recently the word has gained renewed use. Some of us probably know that Nazi Germany was a fascist regime. However, some of us may not be aware of the precise meaning of the word. In this lesson we will learn about two very different political/economic systems: Melanesian socialism and fascism. Let's go!

What Is Melanesian Socialism?

Melanesian socialism was a form of socialism implemented in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu during the 1980s and 1990s. Before we discuss the specific features of Melanesian socialism, let's explore some geography and context. Located east of New Guinea, the island of Vanuatu did not become independent until 1980. Before this it was a colony called New Hebrides. Control was divided between the British and French. Home to a group of people known as the Melanesians, the Republic of Vanuatu sought to preserve the culture and tradition of its people and avoid the influence of outside governments.

Located south of the Solomon Islands and East of New Guinea is the island nation of Vanuatu.

Vanuata's first prime minister was an Anglican priest, Father Walter Lini. He favored a form of socialism that was different from European socialism. He believed socialism as a philosophy was compatible with both Christian teachings and traditional Melanesian culture. Based on the philosophy of Father Lini, Melanesian socialism was not necessarily revolutionary, but a way to preserve the Melanesian ''way of life.'' Unlike European socialism in which communist countries were closely tied to the Soviet Union and fell under Soviet influence, Melanesian socialism embraced neutrality and non-alignment. Instead of forming alliances with important European communist countries like the Soviet Union and East Germany, Father Lini believed Vanuato should seek unity with its regional neighbors.

Surrounded by pro-Western capitalist countries like Australia and Japan, Father Lini and proponents of Melanesian socialism were often critical of the U.S. and preferred to establish relationships with countries like Cuba and Nicaragua. Lini's form of socialism was partly inspired by the African socialism of the 1950s and 1960s. The Postwar Era was a time of tremendous change on the African continent. Decolonization proceeded rapidly as independence movements prompted counties like Great Britain and France to relinquish their colonial holdings. Faced with newly-won independence, many African countries embraced forms of non-European socialism. This form of socialism with its emphasis on culture, tradition, and non-alignment served as a model to Father Lini when Vanuato gained independence in 1980.

What Is Fascism?

Most of you are probably more familiar with fascism than with Melanesian socialism. Fascism is an extreme right-wing, authoritarian form of government. Fascism usually contains elements of nationalism, which is basically extreme pride for one's nation or the belief that one's nation is superior to others. Fascism is often associated with dictatorship, a form of government in which absolute power is consolidated in the hands of one leader. Fascism is opposed to democracy, regarding the will of the people as prone to blunder.

Under fascism, industry and commerce are usually controlled by the government. Capitalism can exist in a fascist state, but it is a form of capitalism under the authority of the state. In a fascist state, the government typically controls almost everything, including education, healthcare, aspects of culture, etc.

The most famous example of fascism is Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party rose to power throughout the 1920s and, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, effectively established a dictatorship by 1933. Under this fascist government, basically everything was nationalized, even aeronautics (flying) clubs for children! The Nazis suppressed basic civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and freedom of press. Those who dared to oppose Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, were sent away to concentration camps. Nazi Germany was defeated in by the Allies in 1945, bringing an end to what was supposed to be a 1,000 year ''reich'' (empire).

Nazi Germany, ruled by dictator Adolf Hitler, is a famous example of a fascist government.
nazi germany

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