I’ve been very slowly working on a post about whether reactionary populism is a form of fascism. Well, it’s more about the debate itself — and particularly “things I find annoying.” One of them is when participants make arguments based on their theoretical priors about the causes of interwar fascism. “It can’t possibly be fascism because fascism was a response to World War I” or “It can’t possibly be fascism because big business doesn’t support it.”
There are all kinds of problems with this line of argument. It conflates cause with effect. It ignores the possibility of equifinality. It often relies on an implicit functionalism — and a deterministic one at that. It begs the question. That sort of thing.
The argument is particularly poorly suited to ideologies and beliefs, which routinely outlast the conditions of their production. The circumstances that produced Christianity and Islam no longer exist, yet that doesn’t mean that there are no Christians or Muslims. Sure, modern variants of both differ in significant ways from their original forms. But no one who supports the “it’s fascism” position thinks that reactionary populism is identical to, say, Nazism.
While this kind of reasoning clusters on the “it’s not fascism” side of the debate, that doesn’t mean the “it’s fascism” crowd is famous for making airtight arguments.