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The Year Ahead 2019

The Second Coming of Fascism?

It is not hard to understand why political commentators have become increasingly fixated on the “f” word as an explanation for the success of populist and nationalist parties across Western democracies. But to focus on the threat of fascism is to miss what is really afflicting the modern right.

LONDON – Throughout 2018, analogies between today and the 1930s became alarmingly commonplace. Hortatory books such as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Fascism: A Warning and Yale University historian Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny are proliferating, and there certainly does seem to be a menacing odor of racism, violence, and despotic intrigue in the air.

In the United States, anti-Semites now march openly in the streets, and pipe bombs have targeted former President Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the financier George Soros, and eight other prominent people singled out for attack by President Donald Trump. In Germany, leaders of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) think that Germans should be “proud” of the Wehrmacht’s service in both world wars. In the United Kingdom, the right-wing thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has been canonized as an “English” martyr, and a supposedly reputable Sunday newspaper recently published talk of Tory Brexiteers “knifing” British Prime Minister Theresa May in the “killing zone.” The list goes on.

Moreover, insurgent populists are not just marching. They are organizing a pan-European movement in the run-up to the May 2019 EU parliamentary elections. Rivals to lead this effort include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. Its would-be coordinator, though, is Steve Bannon, the burly American agitator who, together with the obscure Belgian politician Mischaël Modrikamen, has formed “The Movement.”

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