In the current rightwing populism many see a danger for a return to fascism.
But seen apart from small groups like the German NPD, this danger is probably not real, at least not in the developped world. We are in another phase in history, a phase characterized by other political manifestations than we saw in the last century. We are no longer in what I have called mature modernity, but in late or declining modernity. See my post "Decline of Modernity". Mature modernity was characterized by long standing ideologies like Liberalism, Communism and Fascism. It may sound strange to call Fascism a sign of a "mature" modernity. But the word does not imply something good or bad. It is just a name for the fully developped part of modernity with all its good, neutral and bad phenomena.
The character of the three phases of a modernity of a civilization are determined both by the general tendencies of modernities and by the character of the civilization. I have earlier talked about the tendency for certain civilizations to invert to the opposite certain parts of their character during their modernity, typically mostly in the late declining part. We see old China and the West loosing their otherwise typical historical consciousness, dynasticism and elitism. And the Greco-Roman world in its modernity turn toward exactly these traits, which this civilization otherwise does not possess. After modernity the normal old traits come back.
The West like old Egypt and old China were politically and in other respects characterized by long term thinking, and planning ahead. The Greek-Roman civilization was more random with short-sighted decisions only serving the here and now purpose. This is part of the explanation of the somewhat chaotic picture of this civilization with a history marked by an infinite number of internal and external conflicts and wars.
It looks almost like it is the destiny of the Western civilization to approach the traits of this predecessor civilization more and more toward its late modernity: anti-elitism, anti-dynasticism and lack of historical sense. And in addition we see the same chaotic democracy and lack of long term thinking and planning.
These developments are one of the reasons why we cannot view Trump, Marine Le Pen and Orbán as new Hitlers or Francos. Even Hitler had his frightening grandiose very long term plans for the future. Franco's rule was stable for decades.
The new populists, right or leftwing, are opportunists and only thinking and acting for the immediate. The worst is that thiese traits infect the whole pilitical spectrum. Old respectable political parties with proud traditions also begin to behave like this. Politicians are only fighting for short term gains: winning over the public oppinion and catch voters. A media campaign or a shit storm can change politics. And worse, such politicians often promote and abuse degrading and xenophobic sentiments.
A functioning bureaucratic administrative system can to a certain extent secure a degree of continuity. But more and more we see politicians interfering with or abusing such systems. Often in the form of incessant changes and reforms or ad hoc measures after public outcries over single cases of bad treatment of a citizen.
It is in this light the new populist parties must be seen. The main danger is not new fascism, but the fact that the inconsistent short term oriented behavior is taking over main stream politics and this even more when populist parties are allowed to take part in governing. And politics conducted this way can have detrimental consequences. Limited planning, ever changing initiatives, crazy measures. Countries that are able to avoid this will have an advantage both internally and in relation to other countries. Perhaps, as said in the last post, a USA ruled by changing populists could in a random way through adventurous actions take over countries. But confronted with a determined well organized big power the United States could lose the competition for world leadership.