“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” God is reported to have said to Nietzsche, years after reading Also sprach Zarathustra. (He was of course plagiarizing Mark Twain, who was plagiarizing himself.)
Lately, Fascism (now called “neo-”) appears to be shouting the same thing from the balconies and stairways of Rome. “It never died!" cry the excited Alemanno supporters with their stiff-armed salute. But I think it's an illusion. Fascism, at least in its classic Mussolini sense, did indeed die, even before the Republic of Salo (1943 -- Benito Mussolini's last stand after he'd been dismissed, arrested, and then rescued by German forces). Fascism as a revolutionary force expired almost as soon as it was born, when its egalitarian pretensions were overtaken by its Blackshirt thugs in 1918 and 1919. Fascism as a “corporatist” system of government remained a fantasy even after the Fascisti came to power in 1922. But as a populist and popular movement, imposing its slogan Credere, obedere, pugnare -- “Believe, obey, fight” -- it lasted for more than 20 years before it exhausted itself.
Then, as now, Fascism presented itself as a simple and direct solution to overwhelming social problems. And as usual with such, it was simple, neat and wrong. Today, it's not even plausible: How is a coalition of the Liga del Norte, Alemanno's neofascism, and Berlusconi's media empire going to get the garbage picked up in Naples? Or stem the wasteful gush of public resources in corruption and bureaucracy? Or provide living wages? Oh, I get it: By beating up on Rumanian Gypsies. It's all their fault! Credere, obedere, pugnare.
“The past is never dead. It's not even past," says a character in William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. But its ghosts come back as players in farce, to plagiarize another 19th century author.
See my 2003 blog, “Flirting with fascism”; also recommended:
What Have We Learned, If Anything? by Tony Judt