10.3 Fascism Today?

Gregory Millard

As observed in the introduction to this chapter, fascism as a mainstream movement blazed dramatically and then blinked out within a generation. In the postwar era, no significant party or movement called itself “fascist.” Nostalgic fascists and neo-Nazi skinheads skulked in an obscure twilight far from mainstream politics, and far-right parties that achieved some sort of political relevance did so by “taking pains to ‘normalize’ themselves … distinguishable from the center Right only by their tolerance for some awkward friends and occasional verbal excesses” (Paxton, 2005, p. 175). Nonetheless, concerns about neo-fascism and whether fascism might be re-emerging invite us to consider whether it lurks among us still and, if so, what form it takes.

More excitable critics have called every U.S. Republican president since Nixon a fascist. Even Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Canada was so labelled. So we want to be careful here, lest we indulge in a uselessly broad understanding of the word. Even being illiberal and authoritarian are not enough to make one a fascist. Nor is being racist. Some combination of the core themes outlined earlier in this chapter – even if modified for new times and places – is required.

Leading candidates for charges of “fascism” in the 21st century have included:

  • Religious fundamentalists;
  • Politicians and activists of the “far right” of the political spectrum; and
  • Populists and activists of the right-wing populist movements of the late 2010s.

Let us consider each of these in turn.


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