I have a feeling that fascism is going to be with us for a long time.
First, let’s define fascism: When a country is going through difficulties and feels threatened by outside forces, there’s a consistent reaction. People’s horizons narrow, and they focus on brutal self-interest. This means an increase in xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and general demonization of the the Other. People gravitate towards ‘strong leaders’ who talk big about how they’ll keep the people safe and keep the nation strong. These leaders tend to be fairly non-ideological. Their policies are a grab-bag of red meat for the base, and whatever practical measures the leader thinks will actually work, and thus legitimize their hold on power. In practice, this tends to mean support for a strong, interventionist state, but with sufficient attachment to traditional norms and hierarchies that no one can describe it as a move towards socialism.
While this paranoid, xenophobic style of politics is usually not great for international relations, it probably shouldn’t be quite so associated with Nazi style grasping for World Domination (TM) as it is. In large part, this is because most countries aren’t in a position to make any sort of play for global, or even regional, dominance through military force, and their fascist leaders are smart enough to know it.
Fascism seems to be a natural defensive mechanism for people who feel their countries are going to crap. They get scared, they get mad, they get suspicious, and they vote in someone they think will defend them from the big scary world.
This leads to a very interesting situation in modern Europe. There are rising fascist movements in nearly every country on the continent. The difficulties these countries are going through that gave rise to those movements are economic, as usual. The less usual aspect is that bad economic policies are being pushed on these countries from the outside, via a whole host of EU mandated or encouraged neoliberal doctrines, particularly the disastrous monetary policy resulting from staying in the Eurozone, and the disastrous fiscal policy of keeping budget deficits low when the economy is way below capacity. This means the the fascists are actually sort of right for once: sinister international financial interests are conniving to ruin things for the hardworking average people of Europe.
If Europe starts electing a lot of fascists, it could be a major blow to the ‘European Project’. Countries could start withdrawing from the Eurozone, or even from the European Union altogether. And while this would be disruptive, it would overall be excellent for those countries’ economies. Two groups will bear the costs of this transition, one who deserves it, and one who doesn’t. The first are those sinister international financial interests. They have good (selfish) reasons to support the policies they do, and the reversal of those policies will be a bummer for them. Luckily, I hate those guys, so this is a bonus, not a downside. The second group getting screwed is one I have enormously more sympathy for: immigrants and minority groups in the fascist countries. These are people who are already in a bad situation, who will be made even worse off by a bunch of racists taking over their government and deciding that while they like the welfare state, they only like it for whites, or the native born, or however they draw the line.
So as long as we have capitalist democracies going through periods of economic distress, we will see fascist parties rise up to say “screw everyone else, we’ve got to defend ourselves”. And they’ll have whatever nasty prejudices the uneducated masses of that country hold, which sucks, but they’ll also at least make some effort to improve conditions for those masses. Turns out that even fascists don’t look so bad when you compare them to neoliberals.