Pierre Elliott Trudeau [1919-2000]
The New Treason
of the Clerics
by Kathleen Moore
13 April 2013
FOR The legal research purposes of Habeas Corpus Canada
The Official Legal Challenge to North American Union
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This English translation was prepared from a scan of the original article in the April 1962 issue of Cité Libre magazine. Cité Libre was founded and run by Communist Gérard Pelletier, who invited his Communist friend, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, to join him. Cité Libre also employed two men who left the magazine to launch even more radical publications, and to lead one or more cells of the F.L.Q. terrorists: Pierre Vallières and Charles Gagnon. [KM]
Article Source: Pierre Elliott Trudeau, “La nouvelle trahison des clercs“, Cité libre, 46 (April, 1962)
The French article was scanned & PDF’d and is available here:
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RECOMMENDED: READ THE “RED-STARRED” QUOTES FIRST, THEN THE ARTICLE
||Footnotes are Trudeau’s and are boxed like this and inserted as they arise. Their placement therefore differs from that in the 1962 print article. Memorable quotes have been highlighted with Red Stars.
Men whose function is to defend eternal and impartial values, such as justice and reason, and whom I will call the clerics, have betrayed this function for practical interests… The purpose for which the clerics consummated their treason was above all the nation.
(Julien Benda, La trahison des clercs1)
||FN 1 Julien Benda, La trahison des clercs, Paris, 1927 and 1946.
I – The Geographic Perspective
It is not the idea of the nation that is retrogressive, it is the idea that the nation must necessarily be sovereign.
To which the Quebec Independentists rejoin that an idea is not retrogressive which has permitted India, Cuba and a multitude of African states to obtain their independence.
This reasoning posits the equation: independence equals progress. Independence, they say, is good in itself. And to confound the enemy, they turn upon him the aphorism: Good government is no substitute for self-government.
The frequent recourse had to this old lampoon (which is invariably misquoted – but, must everybody know English?) indicates the extent to which our Separatists are confused in spirit. Self-government does not mean national self-determination. (This is not a question of linguistic brilliance: it is a question of knowing what one is talking about when one demands the independence of Quebec.) Let us therefore distinguish between the two notions.
That self-government is a good thing, or more precisely that the tendency toward a system of government called “responsible” is generally a trend towards progress, I wish to concede at the outset of this article. I have too often denounced the autocracy of the Union Nationale in Quebec, and the paternalism of the Liberals and the Socialists in Ottawa, to be suspect on this point. I have always maintained that the population of Quebec will never progress toward political maturity and the mastery of its own destinies, until they themselves give true responsible government a try, at the same time rejecting ideologies which preach blind submission to “the authority which comes from God”, and those who yield with confidence to Ottawa for the solution of our difficult problems.
But, I called for “freedom in the City” said G.C.2 What they are demanding today is “freedom of the City”, which is the absolute independence of the French-Canadian nation, the full and complete sovereignty of Laurentie. In short, national self-determination.2
||FN 2 “Lettre d’un nationaliste”. [Letter from a nationalist] Cité Libre, Montréal, mars 1961, p. 6.
“Since the end of the Second World War,” writes Marcel Chaput, “something above thirty nations, former colonies, freed themselves from foreign tutelage and acceded to national and international sovereignty. In the course of the 1960s alone, seventeen African colonies, of which fourteen were of the French language, had thus obtained their independence. And voilà, today, it is the French-Canadian people who begin to rise up and who also now claim their place among the free nations.”3
||FN 3 M. Chaput, Pourquoi je suis séparatiste, [Why I am a separatist] Montreal, 1961, p. 18.
Certainly, Mr. Chaput rushes to recognize that French Canada possesses more power than those peoples ever possessed. But it does not have total independence and “its destiny resides, in very large measure, in the hands of a nation that is foreign to it.”
The ambiguity remains total.
Because, the quasi-totality of these “thirty countries, former colonies” are States, as Canada is a State; they have acceded to full sovereignty, as Canada did in 1931. These countries in no way constitute nations in the sense in which the French-Canadians would be a nation. In consequence, the operation which consists of placing the independence of Quebec into the historical current so as to find spiritual sources within it, is pure sophistry.
The State of India is a sovereign republic. But there, 4 languages are officially recognized (which doesn’t include English or Chinese, or Tibetan, or the innumerable dialects. There exist eight principal religions, of which a number are irreducibly opposed to one another. Where is the nation? And what independence does one intend to cite here as the example?
The State of Ceylon counts three principal ethnic groups and four religions. In the Federation of Malay, there are three ethnic groups. The Burmese Union contrasts within it a half-dozen nationalities. The Indonesian Republic includes at least a dozen national groups, and there, twenty-five principal languages are spoken. In Viet-Nam, in addition to the Tonkinois, the Annamites and the Cochinchinois, eight major tribes are counted.
In Africa, the multi-ethnic character of the new States is even more striking. The borders of these sovereign countries are nothing but the former boundaries of the colonialists, the random tracings of conquests, explorations and administrative fancy. In consequence, members of one and the same tribe, speaking the same language and having the same traditions, have become citizens of different States, and these States are often hardly more than conglomerations of distinct and rival groups. We see a little of what this gives in the former Belgian Congo. But we find practically the same ethnic complexity if we look at Ghana, the Sudan, Nigeria, or almost anywhere else. In Western French Africa, for example, the population is composed of some ten sparse tribes; France found it convenient to clip it into eight territories. History transformed these territories into sovereign States. One would search in vain there for Nation-States, which is to say Nations whose borders obey ethnic or linguistic imperatives.4
||FN 4 We find most of these facts in the Statesman’s Year Book, London, annually.
As to Algeria under the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, which our Independentists always cite as an example, it is not hard to see in what sense it wishes to be a State. In addition to inhabitants of French, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Greek and Levantine origine, in this country there must be distinguished Berbers, Kabyles, Arabs, Maures, Negroes, the Touaregs, the Mzabites5, and several métis nations. In particular, we have not heard the last of the Kabylian-Arab confrontation.
Finally, as to Cuba, which always comes up in separatist discussions as an example to follow, this is avowedly a pure deceit. That country was sovereign under Batista and it is sovereign under Castro. It was economically dependent before, and it still is now. Self-government
||FN 5 The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
did not exist there before, and it still doesn’t exist there today. Good, and what does that prove? That Castro is not Batista? Certainly; but Hydro-Quebec under René-Lévesque is not Hydro-Quebec under Daniel Johnson. Here, we are quite advanced towards separatism….
The upshot of all this is that in posing independence as a good thing in itself, an affair of dignity for every “normal people”, we launch the world on a strange war-ship. It has been claimed that any sincere anti-colonialist who wants independence for Algeria must also want it for Quebec. This reasoning contends that Quebec is a political dependency, which is to be ill informed of one’s constitutional history; but even if that were the case, to be logical one must rather say that any Quebec Separatist must advocate the independence of the Kabyles or, to give a more striking example, the independence of the some 25-million Bengalis comprised in the Indian State… If the Separatists, to confuse me, reply that they do advocate this independence for Bengal, I would ask them why stop there: in Bengal, they speak 90 different languages; and then, again, there are the Bengalis of Pakistan … And there we have a lot of prospective secessions!
To end with the original aphorism, I would thus be tempted to conclude that good government is a damned good substitute for national self-determination, if one means to invoke by this latter term the right of ethnic or linguistic groups to afford themselves absolute sovereignty. It even seems sufficiently urgent, for world peace and the wellbeing of new States, that this form of “good government” which is democratic federalism be perfected and spread, in order to resolve to some degree everywhere the problems of ethnic pluralism. To that end, as I will suggest further on, Canada could be called to play a role as mentor, provided that it knows how to opt for grandeur … John Conway wrote, concerning TRUE FEDERALISM: “Its successful adoption in Europe would go a long way towards ensuring the survival of TRADITIONAL WESTERN CIVILIZATION. It would be a pity if, in Canada, so young, so rich and vigorous, and plagued with so few really serious problems, the attempt should fail.”6
||FN 6 In the Catholic Historical Review, July 1961.
Speaking of federalism, it seems well established that President Wilson – the great apostle of the “principle of nationalities”—had no intention whatsoever of advocating nationalist secessions, but that he rather wished to affirm the right of nationalities to a certain autonomy inside States.7
|7 S. Wambaugh, “National Self-Determination”, Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, New York, 1950.
Moreover, it is false to affirm, as do so many of our Independentists, that this principle of nationalities is recognized at international law and sanctioned by the United Nations. Rather than borrow the ambiguous expression used by Wilson – and to find themselves – as after the first Great War, faced with a new wave of referendums and secessions — they have preferred to speak – according to Article 1 of the [UN] Charter – of the right of peoples to self-determination. “Peoples”, is quite another thing than “ethnic groups”.8
||8 The obstacle-strewn political language will have been noted. The word nation, or nationality, from the Latin nasci (to be born), most often points to an ethnic community having a common language and customs. The Japanese nation. It is in this sense that one speaks of the principle of nationalities as leading to a national State or to a Nation-State. But the inverse also happens, that it is the State, originally formed of several ethnic communities, which gives birth to a nation: the word is then heard of a political society long having a territory and interests in common. The Swiss nation. In Canada, as I will explain below, there is not, nor will be, a Canadian nation unless and as long as the ethnic communities succeed in excorcizing their respective nationalities.
If a Canadian nationalism is born, it would have to be excorcised in turn, and demand that the Canadian nation abdicate a part of its sovereignty in favour of some superior order, as it is asked today of the French-Canadian and British-Canadian nations.
(For a discussion of the vocabulary, see the remarkable essay by E. H. Carr, in Carr et al. Nations ou fédéralisme, [Nations or Federalism] Paris 1946, p. 4).
II — The Historical Perspective
If it is difficult to base the idea of the Nation-State on the anti-colonial evolution of recent years, then what of History in general?9
||FN 9 Among others, see M. H. Boehm and C. Hayes “Nationalism”, E.S.S.
From the dawn of time, there has been man, and also undoubtedly – given the nature of man – this other reality which is called the family. Then, very soon, the tribe appears, a kind of primitive community, founded on common customs and an idiom.
Now, the history of civilization is the history of the subordination of tribal “nationalism” to broader memberships. Without doubt, clan loyalties and regional attachments always existed. But thought developed, knowledge spread, inventions became known and humanity progressed wherever there was interpenetration of tribes and exchange among them, under the influence of the division of labor and of trade, in the grip of the great conquests (from Egypt and China up to the Holy Roman Empire), and beneath the dust of universalist religions from Buddhism to Islam, by way of Christianity.
Finally, after more than 65 centuries of history, with the break-up of the medieval order, the regression of Latin as the language of the well educated man, and the birth of the individualist mystique, the modern notion of the nation began to develop in Europe. The replacement of the Catholic Church by national Churches, the rise of the bourgeoisies, mercantilism the protector of territorial economies, the outrages committed against certain ethnic groups such as the Polish, the Jacobin Revolution, the Mazzini fervor, the domination of poor nations by industrialized nations such as England, were some of the factors which contributed to giving birth to national aspirations, these then leading to the setting up of successive national States. The countries of Latin America revolted against Spain. Italy and Germany had their wars of unification. The Greeks and the Slavs rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, Ireland rose up against Great Britain. In short, all Europe and a large part of America, went up in flames. The era of national wars, begun at the time of Napoleon, knew its apogee with the two World Wars. And we are ergo entering the epoc when nations pride themselves on the possession of nuclear arms, while waiting to defend themselves by using them.
Some seven thousand years of history in three paragraphs is obviously a bit short. I will speak of the rest a little longer, below. But it is enough to reflect now on three observations.
The first is that the nation is not a “biological” reality, I want to say a community which ensues from the very nature of man. Except for a small fraction of its history, humanity lived and civilization progressed without membership in a nation. This, to reassure our young people who see the least breach in the sovereignty of a nation as an apocalyptic event.
The second is that the little particle of history which is marked by the emergence of the Nation-States, is also that of the most devastating wars, the most numerous atrocities and the most degrading collective hatreds of the whole human epic. Up to the end of the XVIIIth Century, it was generally the sovereigns who made war, rather than the nations; and while their sovereigns made war, the civil populations continued to call on one another, the merchants crossed the borders, men of letters and philosophers went freely from one court to another, leaders of armies took scholars under their protection in the conquered cities. In this era, war killed the military, but she respected the civilizations. Whereas in our time, we have seen nations mobilized against Germany refuse to listen to Beethoven, others estranged from China boycott the Peking Opera, still others refuse visas or passports to scholars wishing to attend some scientific or humanitarian convention in a country of a different ideology. Pasternak could not even go to collect his Nobel Prize at Stockholm. The concept of nation, which gives so little priority to science and to culture, cannot place truth, liberty and life itself above itself on the scale of values. It is a concept which putrefies everything: in times of peace, the clerics become propagandists of the nation and the propaganda makes the lie; in times of war, democracies slide toward dictatorship, and dictatorships drag us into the world of concentration camps; and ultimately, after the massacres in Ethiopia, there were those of London and Hamburg, then those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and maybe so on until the final massacre. I well know that the idea of the Nation-State is not the sole cause of all the evils of war: modern technology is good for some of it! But the important point is that this idea has been the cause of wars becoming more and more total for two centuries: it is therefore this idea that I am fighting here. Moreover, each time the State takes as its foundation an exclusive and intolerant idea (religion, nation, ideology), this idea has been the mainspring of wars. It has happened, in times past, that religion ceased to be the foundation of the State, so as to put an end to the horrifying religious wars.
International wars will not be finished except in similar conditions, the nation ceasing to be the basis of the State.10 As for inter-State wars, they will not cease unless the States renounce that attribute which renders them exclusive and intolerant: sovereignty.
||FN 10 See Emery Reves, A Democratic Manifesto, London 1943, p. 43. Read as well, by the same author, The Anatomy of Peace, New-York 1945.
So – to get back to my intention – what troubles me in the fact that five million Canadians of French origin cannot come to share their sovereignty with seven million Canadians of British origin, beside whom they live, and who they know generally do not have fleas, it’s that this gives me little hope that some thousand million Americans, Soviets and Chinese, who have never seen each other and one of whom is not sure the other is not scabby, consent to abdicate a particle of their sovereignty over nuclear arms.
The third observation that I derive from the unfolding of history is that the very idea of the Nation-State is absurd.
To affirm that nationality must hold the plenitude of sovereign powers is to pursue a goal which which self-destructs at the moment of its achievement. Because every national minority which would be liberated will discover almost invariably within itself a new national minority which will have the same right to claim liberty. That way, the chain of revolutions must continue until the last-born in the descent of the Nation-States uses force against the same principle to which it owes its own existence. This is why the principle of nationalities has brought to the world two centuries of wars and revolutions, but not a single definitive solution. France still has its Bretons and its Alsacians, England its Scottish and its Welsh, Spain its Catalans and its Basques, Yugoslavia its Croats and its Macedonians, Finland its Swedes and its Laps, and so on for Belgium, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the USSR, China, the United States, all the countries of Latin America, and still what do I know? With regard to States that are more or less homogeneous as to nationality, or those which have not had enough of their problems of secession, they create problems of accession: Ireland wants its six counties of Ulster, Indonesia wants New Guinea, Mussolini’s nationalist Italy, once it had finished with its irredentas, had imagined reconquering the Roman Empire. Hitler would not be satisfied with anything less than the conquest of the whole non-Aryan world – As to the Quebec Separatists, they too will have bread to slice: if their principles are just, they must push them up to the annexation of a part of Ontario, of New Brunswick, of Labrador, and of New England; but, on the other hand, they must let go certain regions at the border of Pontiac and Témiscamingue, and make of Westmount the Dantzig of the New World.
So therefore, the concept of the Nation-State, which has succeeded in delaying the march of civilization, has not even been able to resolve – if this were not absurd – the political problems that it came to create.
And when civilization nonetheless managed to get by, that is when clerics were found capable of placing faith in man above membership in a nation: Pasternak, Oppenheimer, Joliot-Curie, Russell, Einstein, Freud, Casais, and how many others who have answered: Epur si muove to the national interest.
“Man,” said Renan, “belongs neither to his language, nor to his race; he belongs only to himself, because he is a free being, which is to say, a moral being.”11
||FN 11 Cited by Benda, op. cit., p. 143.
Listen as well to Father Delos: “The question is to know if man is made to abound in his historical being, if history is above man, if the human does not constitute a reserve which overflows all culture, all civilization achieved by history and carrying the name of City, if this is not to deny the value of man by reducing him to identifying with a people.”12
||FN 12 J. T. Delos, La Nation, Montreal 1944, vol. I. p. 196. See also an excellent article of Professor Maurice Tremblay of Laval, “Réflexions sur le nationalisme”. Les Écrits du Canada français, vol. V, Montréal 1959.
III — Genesis of Nationalisms
Absurd in its principle and retrograde in its application, the idea of the Nation-State has nonetheless enjoyed and still enjoys extraordinary favour.
Where does it come from? That is what I would now like to examine.
The birth of the modern State takes place toward the end of the fourteenth Century. Up till then, the feudal structures had sufficed to maintain order in Europe where the means of communication were limited, where the economy and commerce had an essentially local base and where, as a consequence, the political administration could be greatly decentralized. But, as commerce gradually spread and diversified, as the economy required a larger and better protected plate, and as the kings were able to give free rein to their ambitions, the rising bourgeois classes allied with the reigning monarchs to replace feudal power and the free cities with a strong and unified State. In 1576, Jean Bodin understood that the new and essential characteristic of such States was “sovereignty”, and he defined it as the “supreme power” over citizens and subjects, not limited by law.
Absolute monarchy ruled for several centuries over these sovereign States. But these were not yet the Nation-States; because the borders were always family affairs, in the sense that these borders still moved at random according to marriages and wars between the diverse reigning families. Nationalities were of such little account that Louis XIV, for example, after having annexed Alsace, in no way forbade the use of the German language; only twenty years later would French language schools be introduced there. 13
||FN 13 Benda, op. cit. p. 268, citing Vidal de la Blache, La France de l’Est.
Individualism, scepticism and rationalism continued, however, to undermine the traditional powers. And the moment came when the absolute monarch himself had to abdicate to the bourgeoisie, his former ally. Before the disappearance of the dynasties induced a weakening of the State, a new agent of cohesion was in the works: popular sovereignty, or democratic power.
Democracy opened first to the bourgeois classes, then much later to the popular classes, the routes by which all could participate in the exercise of political power. The State appeared then as the instrument by which eventually all the classes, which is to say the whole nation, could assure itself of peace and prosperity. And naturally, all wished this instrument to be as strong as possible vis-à-vis the other Nation-States. It is thus that nationalism is born, from the union of liberal democracy with the egalitarian mystique.
But alas! this nationalism, by a singular paradox, rapidly distanced itself from the ideas that had presided at its birth. Because, as soon as the sovereign State was placed at the service of the nation, it is the nation that became sovereign, which is to say, above the laws. It mattered little that the prosperity of some signified the ruin of others. Nations historically strong, those who were the first to industrialize, those which had inherited strategic or institutional leads, soon understood the advantages of their situation. The rulers allied with the ruled, the possessors with the dispossessed, and this whole mob -– in the name of the nationalism which bound them -– went to enrich themselves and to plume themselves at the expense of the weak nations.
National egoisms then decked themselves out in the required labels: political Darwinism, Nietzschean mystique, the white man’s burden, civilizing mission, pan-slavism, magyarization, and all this other trash which authorized the strong to oppress the weak.
But in every case, the result was the same: the nations dominated, cut off, exploited and humiliated conceived a hatred beyond measure for their oppressors; and united in this hatred, they invented against this aggressor nationalism a defensive nationalism. Thus were ignited a chain of wars which have not finished inflaming the planet.
It is inside this global nationalist phenomenon that the sub-sub-Quebec case of the Canadian sub-case must be considered. The Seven Years’ War, through a complicated system of alliances and interests, pitted against each other five great European powers. France and Russia fought beside Austria, while England aligned with Prussia. But when Louis XV came to the aid of Marie-Therese with his armies and his supplies, in the hope of expanding the French presence in Europe, Pitt sent a large sum of sterling to Frederic II but few soldiers: these boarded English fleets to go and bring defeat to France in India and in America, and to lay the foundations of the most formidable empire the world had known. We know what happened next: by the Treaty of Paris, Canada amongst others – became English.14
||FN 14 Read a passionate chapter of J. Dalberg-Acton, Lectures on Modern History, London 1906, p. 274.
At this time, the English were already the most nationalist of men. The whole country, proud of its political and economic superiority, was in accord to go and plant its flag, its commerce and its institutions in the most remote lands. This nationalism was inevitably also cultural, and the English were convinced that the countries they colonized enjoyed an absolutely unmerited blessing: that of being able to communee in the language and under the customs of the anglo-saxons. Soon enough, the English who put such ingenuity and political genius into developing at home the cult of civil liberties, never had the idea of protecting the rights of minorities.
||FN 15 By 1759, “English public law had not worked out any theory of minority rights guaranteed by law”, writes Dean [of Law] F. R. Scott in Mason Wade ed., Canadian Dualism, Toronto 1960, p. 100.
From the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the intention to completely assimilate the French Canadians was obvious. And in 1840, Durham –all the while “far from wishing to encourage indiscriminately (these) pretentions to superiority on the part of any particular race” — still considered that assimilation was nothing more than a “question of time and mode”.16
||FN 16 Reginald Coupland, ed., The Durham Report, Oxford 1945, p. 153. See also p. 179.
Throughout this whole period, Canadians of British origin had considered it to be an indignity that their race might be in an inferior position; also, they invented all sorts of stratagems thanks to which democracy came to signify government by the minority.17
||FN 17 I continue the story in a chapter in Mason Wade ed., Canadian Dualism, Toronto 1960, p. 252 et seq.
Generations passed. The hope of assimilating the French Canadians finished by being sidelined (although the laws continued up to 1948 to favor immigration from the British Isles, as opposed to that coming from France). But the sentiment of superiority was never renounced and has never ceased to characterize the attitude of English-language Canadians vis-à-vis the French Canadians.
In Ottawa, and in the other provinces, this nationalism could wear the pious mask of democracy. Because, to the extent that English-language Canadians became more numerous, they set out to hide their intolerance under cover of majority rule: thanks to this rule, they could “democratically” suppress bilingualism in the legislative assembly of Manitoba, violate acquired rights in the separate schools of the sundry provinces, ferociously impose conscription in 1917, and in 1942 break their word.18
||FN 18André Laurendeau recently recounted with much lucidity how, during the plebiscite of 1942, the State was placed at the service of British-Canadian nationalism and how it abused the numerical weakness of the French Canadians to renege on its promises to them. (La crise de la conscription, [The Conscription Crisis] Montreal 1962). A story of even greater dishonor could be written concerning the oppression exerted by this same State against the Japanese-Canadian minority during the same war.
In Quebec, “where they had not the numbers but they had the money, our fellow citizens (Britanno-Canadians) often yielded to the temptation to act disproportionately with the means which they had.”19
||FN 19 P. E. Trudeau, “Réflexions sur la politique au Canada français” [Reflections on politics in French Canada], Cité Libre, Montreal, December, 1952, p. 61.
In politics, British-Canadian nationalism thus took the forms that André Laurendeau admirably christened with the name “theory of the nigger king “. As to economics, this nationalism essentially consisted of considering the French Canadian as “un cochon de payant” [a pig who pays:KM]; but sometimes magnanimity was pushed so far as to place straw men — whose names came “clearly from among us ” — on the boards of directors, these men were all alike in that: primo, they were never sufficiently competent and strong to be able to rise to the top, and secondo, they were always sufficiently “representative” to please the nigger king and to flatter the vanity of his tribe. Finally, in social and cultural matters, British-Canadian nationalism expressed itself quite simply by contempt: whole generations of anglophones have lived in Québec without managing to learn three sentences of French. When these audacious individuals seriously affirm that their jaw and their ears were not so made that they could adapt themselves to French, they want in fact to make you understand that they refuse to debase these organs, and their small spirits in placing them at the service of a barbaric idiom.
The British-Canadian nation will engender, as was inevitable, French-Canadian nationalism. As I write this, speaking of the genesis of our nationalism at the same time as characterizing it as a futile orientation: “For a conquered people, occupied, decapitated, evicted from the commercial arena, pent up outside the cities, reduced little by little to a minority, and diminished in influence in a country it had withal discovered, explored and colonized, there existed few other attitudes which might allow him to preserve that which had made him who he was. This people created for itself a security system, but in exaggerating it, perhaps attached a value disproportionate to all that distinguished it from others, and viewed with hostility any change (even if it was progress) which was proposed to him from outside.20 And I would add: “Alas! It is the very idealism of the nationalists which undoes them. They loved not wisely but too well.”
||FN 20 P. E. Trudeau, ed. La grève de l’amiante [The Asbestos Strike], Montreal 1956, p. 11.
IV— Interaction of the Nationalisms in Canada
One must take History as it is. However retrogressive and absurd may be the idea of the Nation-State, it remains that this idea inspired the essence of the policy of the British, then the British-Canadians, with respect to the Dominion of Canada.
Roughly speaking, it was a matter for them of identifying the Canadian State as much as possible with the British-Canadian nation.
Since the French-Canadians had the poor grace to refuse assimilation, this identification could never be perfect. But the British Canadians nonetheless gave themselves the illusion in isolating the French Fact as much as possible in the Quebec Ghetto – and whose powers they often trimmed through centralizing measures – and in fighting with a stunning ferocity against all the symbols which might destroy this illusion outside of Quebec: the use of French on stamps, coins, cheques, in the public service, the railways and the whole bazaar.
Against this aggressor-nationalism, what alternative – let’s say for a Century – was open to the French-Canadians? On the one hand, they might confront the idea of a British-Canadian dominatrix of a Nation-State with the idea of a sheared-off French-Canadian Nation-State;
on the other hand, they could disconnect from this concept of the Nation-State and drag Canada down the road to a multi-national State.
The first choice was, and still is, that of the Separatists or Independentists. An essentially emotional and passionate option – as it is of the rest of the cause she is fighting – I could never see the wisdom in it. Because, either it is destined to succeed; and this would be proof that the nationalism of the British-Canadians was neither intransigent, nor vigorous, nor armed, nor very dangerous for us: then I ask myself why are we afraid to confront these people within a pluralist State, and why would we renounce our rights to be at home a mari usque ad mare. Either the Independentist option is doomed to fail, and the final condition of these people will be worse than the first: not because a conquering and vindictive enemy had deported a part of the population and left to the other reduced rights and a despoiled heritage – this eventuality seems to me hardly probable; but because the French Canadians once again would have channeled all their energies into (hypothetically) futile battles which ought better to have been spent in rivaling the excellence, the audacity and the stubbornness of an (hypothetically) dangerous enemy.
The second choice (that of the multinational State) was, and remains, that of the Constitutionalists: it consists in repudiating the warlike and self-destructive idea of the Nation-State and substituting therefor the civilizing idea of polyethnic pluralism.
– I recognize that in some countries in certain eras this option might not have been possible, and notably when the aggressor-nationalism enjoyed a crushing superiority and refused all compromise with national minorities. Was this the case at the time of Papineau and the Patriotes? I doubt it. But in any case, this independentist adventure was sealed by an Act of Union which –- on the plane of minority rights –- was a retreat compared to the Constitutional Act of 1791.
As a question of fact, this second choice was, and remains, possible for the French Canadians. The multi-national State could have been dreamed of by Lafontaine, carried out by Cartier, perfected by Laurier, and enfranchised by [Henri] Bourassa. Because British-Canadian nationalism never enjoyed a crushing superiority, nor had been in a position to refuse all compromise with the principal national minority; in consequence, it could not have followed the policy that its haughtiness might have preferred, and would have had to accept whatever events imposed upon him.
First, it was The Quebec Act, passed under threat of the American revolution. Then it was the terrible long night – some three-quarters of a century – during which the British Canadians were less numerous than the French Canadians; as Mason Wade notes with respect to the Loyalists: “They were badly scared men, who had lived through one revolution in America and dreaded another in Canada”.21 Finally, it was the perpetual threat of American domination which obliged Canadian nationalism –- willy nilly –- to take account of the French-Canadian nationality: because otherwise, it would have been practically impossible to link together the different colonies of British North America.
||FN 21 Wade, The French Canadians 1760-1945, Toronto 1955, p. 93.
In sum, poor British-Canadian nationalism has never had very much to crow about. Those who were clairvoyant enough to understand this, among the French Canadians, those whom I call the Constitutionalists, naturally wagered on the multi-national State, and called upon their citizens to work on it with boldness and with hope. Those who on the contrary did not understand it have never ceased to fear an adversary largely imaginary. These are composed: Primo, of the assimilated and the “bonne-ententists” who would accept that the Nation-State be built upon the cadaver of the French-Canadian nation; but they had neither the numbers nor the weight, and I eliminate them as a factor in the problem. And, secundo, the Separatists, the Independentists and the Nationalists of every stripe, who put their courage and their talent into raising up against the British-Canadian nationalism a contrary nationalism. These people have never ceased to communicate to our people what Gérard Pelletier has quite accurately called “the siege mentality”. As I wrote one day, “the siege has long been over, the human caravan has forged a hundred leagues ahead, nonetheless, we implacably are cooking in our own juices not daring to cast a look over the walls. 22
||FN 22 In (eh! oui) Notre Temps, [Our Time], Montreal, 15 Nov. 1947.
If the Canadian State gave so little room to the French-Canadian nationality, it is above all because we didn’t make ourselves indispensable to the pursuit of its destiny. Today, for example, it would seem fine that a Sévigny or a Dorion might leave the federal Cabinet, as Courtemanche left it, without causing irreparable damage to the machinery of government or the country’s prestige. And if we exempt Laurier, I don’t see a single French-Canadian for over a half a century whose presence in the federal Cabinet could be considered as indispensable to the history of Canada such as it has been made – except on the electoral plane evidently where the tribe has always had its enchanters.
Similarly, at the level of high functionaries, I doubt that one could name even one who had happily inflected the course of our administrative evolution, in the sense for example that an O.D. Skelton, a Graham Towers or a Norman Robertson had done.
||[NB: Trudeau is praising suspected Communist subversive Norman Robertson; and a pretty much known agent of the Comintern, O. D. Skelton, who infiltrated Canada’s federal level a few years before the Statute of Westminster, 1931. KM]
Consequently, if one examines the few nationalist “victories” which have been won at Ottawa after long years of battle, one could probably not find even one which had not been won in one Cabinet session by one of our representatives, who had the calibre of a C.D. Howe. It must be said, all the French-Canadian ministers together have hardly ever been able to weigh as much as a bilingual check or the name of an hotel.
||[NB: C.D. Howe: Rhodes secret society for world government. KM]
At bottom, the British Canadians have never been strong but in our weakness. And this was true not only in Ottawa, but in Quebec itself, a veritable charnel house where half our rights were lost through dilapidation and decrepitude, while the other half was devoured by the worm of civic dispirit and the microbe of venality. In these conditions, can one be too surprised that the British Canadians have not wished that the face of this country comprise a few French features? And why would they have wanted to learn a language or participate in a culture that we took such pains to degrade at all levels of our own system of education?
It is without a doubt true that if English-language Canadians had applied to learning the French language a quarter of the diligence that they have employed in refusing to do so, that Canada would have been effectively bilingual ages ago. Because that is one of the laws of nationalism, that it always consumes more energy to fight disagreeable realities than it takes to invent a happy solution. But those whom this law serves most are apparently those whose nationalism is the littler nationalism, in the present case, us. That is what I would now like to explain.
That is what I would now like to explain.
V — The Misfortunes of French-Canadian Nationalism
All the time and all the energy that we employ in proclaiming the rights of our nationality, in calling upon our providential mission, in clarioning our virtues, in bewailing our avatars, in denouncing our enemies, and in declaring our independence, has never made our workmen more adroit, a functionary more competent, a banker more wealthy, a doctor more progressive, a bishop more learnèd nor one of our politicians less of an ignoramus. However, if some gruff originals are excluded, there is probably no French-Canadian intellectual who has not discussed separatism at least four hours a week for a year; that makes how many thousands of times two hundred hours used exclusively in self-flagellation? Because who can say that he had heard before now a single argument that had not already been debated ad nauseam for twenty years, for forty years, and for sixty years? I am not even sure that we have exorcised even one of our demons: the Separatists of 1962 that I have met, believe me, are generally likeable; but on the rare occasions when I have had the honour of talking a little longer with them, I have almost always run up against the totalitarian spirit of some, the anti-semitism of others, and, among all, the generalized cult of economic incompetence.
Now, that’s what I call the new treason of the clerics: this incredible frenzy of a broad sector of our thinking population to put itself — intellectually and spiritually — on the side tracks.
A few years ago, I tried to show that the adherents of the French-Canadian nationalist school, despite their generosity and their courage, had for all practical purposes set themselves at odds with progress: for more than half a Century “they had formulated a social thought impossible of realization and which for all practical purposes left the people without effective intellectual guidance.”23
||FN 23 La grève de l’amiante, [The Asbestos Strike] p. 14.
Now, I discover that a number of them who thought at that time as I do, have become separatists. Because their social thought is to the left, because they militate in favor of secular schools, because they are unionists, because their culture is open, they think that their nationalism is the way of progress. They don’t see that it is politically that they have become reactionaries.
Reactionary, firstly, because of the forces at play. Even a rough count of faithful nationalist institutions, networks and individuals, from the village notaries to the Order of Jacques Cartier, from the small employers to the Leagues of the Sacred Heart, would undoubtedly establish nothing but an alliance among nationalists of the right and those of the left would play inevitably — by the law of numbers — in favor of the former. If this left tells me that it will enter no alliance until after it has become a majority, I permit myself to tell him that it never will become, in dissipating as it does a large part of its meagre forces. All effort oriented essentially toward reinforcing the nation must renounce dividing this nation.
Such an effort is automatically lost on the social critic and tends moreover to consolidate the status quo. In this direction, alliance already plays against the left even before it is concluded.
Secondly, the nationalists — including the left — are politically reactionary because in giving very great importance to the nation idea on their scale of political values, they are unfailingly brought to define the common good in terms of the ethnic group instead of in terms of all citizens, without excluding anyone. That is why a nationalist government is in essence intolerant, discriminatory and in the final account, totalitarian. 25
||FN 25 Lord Acton had already written in 1862: “The nation is here an ideal unit founded on the race … It overrules the rights and wishes of the inhabitants, absorbing their divergent interests in a fictitious unity; sacrifices their several inclinations and duties to the higher claim of nationality, and crushes all natural rights and all established liberties for the purpose of vindicating itself. Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State … the State becomes for the time being inevitably absolute.” John Dalberg-Acton, Essays on Freedom and Power, Glencoe 1948, p. 184.
A truly democratic government cannot be “nationalist”, because it must pursue the good of all the citizens, without regard to ethnic origin. The virtue which a democratic government requires and develops is thus public-spiritedness [civic-mindedness], never nationalism; without a doubt, such a government would make laws from which ethnic groups would profit, and the majority group proportionally to its number; but that comes as a consequence of the equality of all and not as a right of the strongest. In this sense, one can say that the province of Quebec has always had a rather democratic education policy than nationlist; I wouldn’t say as much of all the other provinces.
On the other hand, if Hydro-Quebec expropriated the hydroelectric industries for national rather than social reasons, we would already be embarked on the road to fascism. The right may nationalize; it is only the left that socializes and establishes state control.
Thirdly, all thought which tends to claim for the nation the plenitude of sovereign powers is politically reactionary because it wants to give a total and perfect political power to a community which could not constitute a total and perfect political society.
It is doubtful that in 1962, any Nation-State, or even any multi-national State, however strong, could constitute a total and perfect political society 26: the economic, military and cultural interdependencies are a sine qua non condition of the life of States in the XXth Century, such that none is truly sufficient unto itself.
||FN 26 Consult Jacques Maritain, Man and the State, Chicago 1951, à la page 210.
Treaties, commercial alliances, common markets, free-trade zones, cultural and scientific accords, all this is as indispensable to the progress of States in the world as are exchanges among citizens in the State; and just as each citizen must recognize that his personal sovereignty is subjected to the law of the State — which, for example, obliges him to respect his contracts — likewise States cannot know peace and progress unless they accept to submit relations among them to a rule of law superior to the State.
In truth, it is the concept of sovereignty itself which must be overcome, and those who claim it for the French-Canadian nation are not only reactionaries, they are ludicrous.
The French-Canadians cannot constitute a perfect society, any more than can five million Sikhs of the Punjab. We are not sufficiently knowledgeable, nor rich enough, nor above all numerous enough in men to do so and to finance in money a government endowed with all the organs necessary to war and to peace.
To this third argument, on anachronistic and inapplicable sovereignty, the separatists sometimes reply that a Quebec become independent could very well renounce a part of its sovereignty, by entering into a Canadian Confederation, for example, at which time its choice would be free… —
The per-capita costs would crush us. But I decline to explain these things to people who already see without displeasure that Laurentie will open its embassies just about everywhere in the world to “shine our culture”. Above all, the same people claimed, last year, that our society was too poor to finance a second university — the Jesuit — in Montreal!
To this third argument, on anachronistic and inapplicable sovereignty, the separatists sometimes reply that a Quebec become independent could very well renounce a part of its sovereignty, by entering into a Canadian Confederation, for example, at which time its choice would be free… — That is theoretical to the tenth power. Undoubtedly, it would be serious enough to invite the French-Canadian nation to embark upon several decades of privations and sacrifices, in order that this nation might eventually treat itself to the luxury of choosing “freely” a destiny nearly analogous to that against which it would have fought. But the unforgivable tragedy would be not to see that the French-Canadian nation is too culturally anemic, too economically disadvantaged, too intellectually backward, too spiritually sclerosed, to be able to survive for one or two decades of stagnation during which it would have expended all its energies in the sewer of vanity and in national “dignity”
VI — The 20-Something Generation
What French-Canadians in their twenties would have a hard time, in a few years, forgiving to people of my generation, is that we would have assisted with such complacence at the rebirth of separatism and of nationalism. Because, in a few years, these young people would have understood the appalling lag which characterizes the evolution of French Canada in all domains. “What!” they will say to the intellectuals, you published and you thought so little, and you had time to ask questions about separatism?
“What!” they will say to the sociologists and to the politicos, the same year when the first men were put in orbit you replied seriously to questions of independence which, in your view, perhaps, yes, one day, without doubt, possibly… “What!” they will say to the economists, the Western world – arrived at the era of mass production –applied its wits to recreating by all sorts of economic unions the market conditions which existed in the Soviet Union and in the United States, you viewed with interest a movement which began by reducing to zero the common market of Quebec industry? “What!” they will say to the engineers, you didn’t even succeed in building roads which could have resisted two Canadian winters, and you were clever enough to raise up a dream of borders all around Quebec? “What !” they will say to the judges and to the lawyers, civil liberties had not survived in Quebec but thanks to Communists, unionists and Jehova’s Witnesses, thanks to English and Jewish lawyers, and thanks to judges of the Supreme Court in Ottawa, and you had nothing more pressing than to applaud the arrival of the sovereign French-Canadian State? 27
||FN 27 In one decade alone commencing in 1951, the Supreme Court in Ottawa seven times overturned the Court of Appeal in the province of Québec which had rendered seven judgements damaging to civil liberties: the Boucher affair (seditious libel), the case of l’Alliance (loss of union certificate), the Saumur case (distribution of leaflets), the Chaput affair (religious assembly), the Birks affair (religious holidays), the Switzman affair (the padlock law), the Roncarelli affair (arbitrary administration). — As we go to press, we learn that we can add to this count an eighth case: the matter of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
“What!” they will say finally to the men of the parties, you, the Liberals, you have for twenty-five years chiseled the sovereignty of the provinces, and you, the Conservatives, known as the Union nationale, you have endowed Quebec with two decades of retroactive, vindictive, discriminatory and backward laws, while you, of the CCF/NDP, you have – in the name of who knows what national interest of the federal State – sabotaged, with the Union of democratic forces, the only chance the left had in Quebec; and you all, all of a sudden, discovered that more independence had to be given to Quebec, a number among you even becoming renowned separatists?
I dare to predict that among these young people asking the harsh questions, there would be one named Luc Racine, who would somewhat regret having written in Cité Libre: “If the youth of today attacks the problem of separatism, it is not through indifference to the great problems of humanity, but in hoping to orient its action on that which it is able to change”. 28
Because he will then understand that a given people, at a given moment in its history, never has to spare but a given quantity of intellectual energy; and that if a whole generation consecrates a large part of this energy to nonsense, this generation, for all practical purposes, will have exhibited its “indifference to the great problems of humanity”. (One piece of advice, however, to Racine: that he not think to speak of nationalist alienation in 1972, because my friend André Laurendeau will once again feel obliged to rush to the aid of his fathers and demonstrate that in 1922, Abbé Groulx was entitled to our respect).29
||FN 29 An emotional allusion to an emotional reply by Laurendeau, Le Devoir, March 3rd, 1961. This refined spirit, one of the most just that I know, and who shares with Bourassa the honor of being the favorite target of the Separatists (these — quite logically, believe me! — not admitting that nationalism is not separatist), rarely come to speak of nationalism without betraying by some detail a false perspective: thus, in an otherwise excellent editorial article (Le Devoir, 30 Jan. 1962), he tosses out the far-fetched idea of an “ethical conscription of French-Canadian society.” Another draft?
That said, how explain the favor which separatism enjoys today, among the young generation? How explain, for example, that so many young readers of Cité Libre — responding to “A certain silence” with a mass of correspondence — had taken sides with separatism?
Pelletier told me that having — at the journal — tirelessly taught methodical doubt vis-à-vis the affluent power, and having also practiced it with regard to most of our traditional institutions, we should not be surprised that a new generation attacks one of the realities that we had saved: the Canadian State.
The reply appears to me to be psychologically valid; but it remains to explain the retrogressive orientation of the revolt.
For my part, I believed in something analogous to the democratic sentiment from which were born the nationalisms in Europe one or two Centuries ago. The death of Duplessis is the end of a dynasty and of the oligarchy which it benefited. Laying the foundations of liberal democracy is the promise that from this time on all new classes may accede to power. But, in practice, these classes discovered that a number of the advance routes are blocked: the Clergy maintains its hold over education, the English dominate our finance, the Americans invade our culture. Only the State of Quebec belongs to all French-Canadians: one thus wants for this State the plenitude of powers. Democracy having made all men equal in the nation, one now wants all nations to be equal to each other, and singularly that ours be sovereign and independent. We expect that the birth of our Nation-State will liberate a thousand unsuspected energies and that, in that way, the French-Canadians may at last enter into possession of their heritage. In short, one believes in a creative energy which will add genius to people who have none, and which will bring courage and wisdom to a lazy and ignorant nation.
Again, it’s this belief which takes the place of argument among all those who are incapable of founding on history, or the economy, or the constitution, or sociology. “Independence,” writes Chaput, is much more a matter of character than of logic… more than reason, there is a need for pride.”30
This is also the attitude of all these adorable young girls and young women whose argument turns so short: “Independence is a matter of dignity. It isn’t discussed, it is felt.” Isn’t that also the position of a number of artists and poets? “The day,” writes Jean-Guy Pilon, “when this cultural minority which has been tolerated in this country becomes a nation within its borders, when this minority is independent, our literature will know a formidable leap forward. Because the writer, like every man of this society, will feel free. And a free man can do great things.”31
||FN 31 Le Quartier Latin, Montreal, Feb. 27th, 1962.
Now, it seems that Chaput is an excellent chemist. I only want to know how, by the grace of these energies liberated by independence, he will become better: he has nothing else to teach us in order to lead us to separatism. As to his book, it bears the mark of an honest and unbiased man, but it self-destructs in one of its own sentences: “To hope that by some indescribable magic, the French-Canadian people will suddenly reform itself, demand en bloc the respect of its rights, become concerned about the correctness of its language, desirous of culture and of great works, without having breathed into it an exalted ideal: this is dangerous foolishness.”32
So thusly, Chaput renounces magic, but counts on an exalted ideal as the road to salvation for our people. As if reform, the respect of rights, the correction of language, culture and great works — all things which are accessible to us under the current Canadian constitution — did not themselves constitute exalted ideals! And how is this other ideal that he proposes to us — the Nation-State — different from a magic invoked to supplement our lack of discipline in the pursuit of true ideals?
It also seems that Pilon is a good poet. I would like him to state — in prose, if he wishes — how national sovereignty will make of him “a free man”, and capable of “doing great things”. If he does not find dignity, pride, and the other resorts of the poet within himself, in the world, and in the stars, I ask myself why and how he would find them in a “free” Quebec.
Undoubtedly, bilingualism is not without difficulties. But, I do not admit that these serve as a pretext to men who represent themselves as intellectuals, especially when the language one complains of is one of the principal vehicles of civilization in the XXth Century. The era of linguistic borders is over, at least as far as science and culture are concerned; and if the Quebec clerics refuse to master a language other than their own, if they vow their faithfulness only to the nation, they may forever renounce revolving in the orbit of the world’s intellectual elites.
The argument of the energy released by national independence may seem applicable to men of spirit. Their role — above all if they belong to a people for whom sentiment is a substitute for an idea, and for whom prejudice is a substitute for knowledge — [their role] is not to stir up, it is to think, and to think again. If their intellectual efforts bring them to a dead end, they will have but one thing to do: turn back the way we came. Any attempt to escape by a shortcut is unworthy; because, as A. Miller said in l’Express: “The work of a true intellectual consists in analyzing illusions to discover their causes.”
It is true that for the people, the problem presents itself otherwise. Nationalism, as an emotive movement which addresses itself to a community, may liberate unexpected energies. History teaches us that this is often called chauvinism, racism, jingoism, and other crusades of that kind, where reason and reflection are reduced to their simplest expression. It may be that at certain historical junctures, where there was immeasurable oppression, unnamed misery and all other exits blocked, one might have had to invoke nationalism to unleash the liberating revolution. Recourse to this passion was then an inevitable last resort and one had to accept the bad with the good. The “bad” included practically always a certain despotism; because peoples “liberated” by passion, rather than by reason, are generally disappointed to find themselves as poor and as disadvantaged as before; and it takes “strong” governments to put an end to their agitation.
I was in Ghana in the months which followed its independence. The poets were not better, the chemists not more numerous, and above all, real wages had not increased. Since the intellectuals did not get the people to understand the reasons for this, they told them of I-don’t-know-what lost island in the Gulf of Guinea which had to be “reconquered”: to this end, a large part of this economically disadvantaged State’s economic budget went to the army. Which finished by being used to imprison the opposition…
A similar story took place in Indonesia. This former colony become a State, which hardly managed to govern itself, nor to enrich itself, led its people to liberate its territories from New Guinea; now, these belonged to it neither by race, nor by language, nor by geography. However, I have met in Quebec authentic men of the left who justify national sovereignty for lack of an ability to reason in other terms. The State of Quebec could count on them on the day when — incapable of improving the social situation of their citizens — it will launch them on the conquest of “their islands” in the Hudson’s Bay. The Honourable Arsenault is already preparing us for this glorious epic! And Lesage applauds him.33
||FN 33 Le Devoir, January 29th and 31st, 1962.
Quite happily, the protest wing of our people entertains fewer illusions on these subjects, and it reasons more accurately than our intellectuals and our bourgeois classes. The great labor unions of the Province of Quebec have categorically spoken against separatism: they may know the energies which are given off by collective passions; but, it happens, they refuse to set a machine in motion whose direction is false and whose breaks are defective.
To sum up, those who seek through independence (or through the idea of independence) to “liberate energies” are playing at sorcerer’s apprentice. They resolve not a single problem on the basis of reason; and on the basis of passion, they unleash the unpredictable, uncontrollable, and ineffectual. (One will note that I have spoken here, above all, of the energy supposedly liberated by independence; as to the energy which is at the origin of current separatism, I said a word in the March 1961 issue of Cité libre, at page 5. — But on that, Messrs. Albert and Raymond Breton present in the current issue a study which is far and above the most serious that has been done on the subject.)
As a final argument, some young people justify their flirt with separatism for tactical considerations: “If we scare the English sufficiently, we will get what we want without going to independence.” This tactic has gained purely symbolic advantages for the French-Canadians: a slogan (The French-Canadians deserve a New Deal), two flags (Pearson-Pickersgill), a few new names on old companies (i.e., La Compagnie d’électricité Shawinigan), a few appointments to boards of directors, and a multitude of bilingual cheques (Diefenbaker). De minimîs non curât praetor, but I swear nonetheless that the fright of the English-language politicians and businessmen is fun to see. It certainly testifies to their guilty consciences as aggressor-nationalists. But that will have its repercussions: there is nothing more petty than the poltroon with his tail between his legs. And I would like it then if French Canada could base itself on a young generation enriched by a bit of knowledge more valuable than nationalist passion.
VII — The Future
If, in my view, the nation was an anti-value, I would not have put myself to so much trouble denouncing an orientation which leads the French-Canadian nation to its ruin.
The nation is the bearer of certain values: a cultural heritage, common traditions, a community conscience, historical continuity, a collection of mores, all things which contribute — at the present stage of the evolution of humanity — to development of the personality. Indeed, these values are more public than private,34 more introverted than extroverted,35 more instinctive and savage than intelligent and civilized,36 more narcissistic and fanatical than reasoned and generous. They cling to a transitional stage of the history of the world. But they are here today, probably useful, and in any event conceived as indispensable by all national collectives.
||FN 34 Delos, op. cit., p. 179.
||FN 35 Maritain, op. cit., p. 5.
||FN 36 Acton, op. cit., p. 188. Also see p. 186: “In the ancient world idolatry and nationality went together, and the same term is applied in Scripture to both.”
Other than to situate us in the correct perspective, it will get us nowhere to affirm that the French-Canadian nation must probably disappear one day, and that the Canadian State itself will not last forever. Benda underscores that it is one of the grandeurs of Thucydides that he had been able to envision a world in which Athens was no more.37
The future that must interest us here is the one we will build from day to day. The problem must thus be faced: how — without recourse to the absurd and retrogressive idea of national sovereignty — how can we preserve the national values of the French-Canadians?
As I said above: the concepts of State and of nation must be divorced, and make of Canada a truly pluralist and polyethnic society. Now for this, the different regions inside the Canadian State must be assured of a large measure of local autonomy, such that, by the experiment of self-government, the nationals may give themselves the laws and the institutions indispensable to the progress of their national values.
At the same time, and in a movement of retreat, English-Canadian nationalism must consent to change the image that it has made of Canada: if it wants to protect and incarnate these specific ethnic values, it must do so by means of carving out local and regional autonomies rather than by way of pan-Canadian sovereignty.
These desideratas, it is precisely that the Canadian constitution is admirably conceived to give them A FRAMEWORK. By the British North America Act, the jurisdiction of the Canadian State (federal) relates to all those questions which do not have an ethnic incidence strictly speaking, but which are linked to the common welfare of the whole of the Canadian society: foreign affairs, macro-economic stabilization, trade with other countries, navigation, the post, currency and banks, and so on.
The provinces, on the contrary, have jurisdiction over purely local or private business, and matters which affect ethnic values more directly: education, municipal and parochial institutions, the administration of justice, the celebration of marriage, property and civil rights, and the rest; in addition, no provincial border coincides completely with ethnic or linguistic borders, and consequently no provincial government is invited by the constitution to give itself laws conceived uniquely for one ethnic group*, which would tend to develop the mentality of the nation-State at the provincial level. On this point, it would be good that the past attitude of Quebec vis-à-vis its national minorities serve as an example to those provinces where large French, German, Ukrainian or other minorities are found.
[*KM: a virtual denial of the whole point of Confederation; the whole point of multiple Legislatures, one to each majority ethnicity on its own soil.]
I certainly do not hide the fact that the nationalism of British Canadians has much work to do — or rather to demolish — before the pluralist State can become a reality in Canada. But I am tempted to add that, it is “their” problem.
The die are cast in Canada: there are two ethnic and linguistic groups, each one too strong, too well rooted in the past, and too well buttressed on a mother-culture, to be able to crush the other.
If both collaborate within a really pluralist state, Canada can become a privileged place where the federalist FORM of government will be perfected, which is that of the WORLD of tomorrow.
Better than the “melting-pot” of America,
Canada can be USED as an example to all these new African and Asian States, discussed at the beginning of this article, who must learn how to govern their polyethnic populations in justice and freedom.
Isn’t that enough, in itself, to discount the supposition of a Canada annexed to the United States? … Canadian federalISM is a formidable experiment, it can become a brilliant TOOL to fashion the civilization of tomorrow.
If the Anglo-Canadians do not see that, then once again, so much the worse for them: they will sink in a retrograde, limited and despotic nationalism. Lord Acton, one of the great spirits of the XIXth Century, Catholic on top of it, described with an extraordinarily prophetic acuity, the error of nationalisms and the future that was being prepared for them. Exactly a Century ago, he wrote:
A great democracy must either sacrifice self-government to unity or preserve it by federalism … The co-existence of several nations under the same State is a test, as well as the best security of its freedom. It is also one of the chief instruments of civilisation … The combination of different nations in one State is as necessary a condition of civilised life as the combination of men in society … Where political and national boundaries coincide, society ceases to advance, and nations relapse into a condition corresponding to that of men who renounce intercourse with their fellow-men … A State which is incompetent to satisfy different races condemns itself; a State which labours to neutralise, to absorb, or to expel them, destroys its own vitality; a State which does not include them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government.
The theory of nationality, therefore, is a retrograde step in history.38
It goes without saying that if the French Canadians pit their own nationalism against that of British Canada, they are committed to the same stagnation. And Canada will become a land sterile to the spirit, a steppe open to all migrations and to all conquests.
Once again, the die are cast in Canada: neither of the two linguistic groups can assimilate the other by force. But one or the other, even one and the other, may fail by default, destroy itself from within, and die from asphyxia. Thus, as just deserts, and as a pledge to the vitality of man,
victory is promised to the nation which, having renounced its own nationalism, will have enjoined each of its members to employ his or her energies in pursuit of the larger and more human ideal.
By the current Canadian constitution, that of 1867,39 the French Canadians have all the powers necessary to make of Québec a political society where the national values would be respected, while at the same time, values that are properly human would experience unprecedented growth. (At pages 98-99 of his book, Mr. Chaput proposes sixteen paragraphs of economic reforms that could be undertaken by an independent Quebec. Except for the first, which would abolish taxes to Ottawa, all these reforms can be undertaken under the present constitution! At pages 123-124, in seven paragraphs, Mr. Chaput sets out the measures thanks to which an independent Quebec could assure the effective defence of French-Canadian minorities established outside of Quebec; none of these measures, except the declaration of sovereignty, would be more accessible to an independent Quebec than to Quebec as it is today.
||FN 39 This is the sense in which I wrote — with regard to young separatists — a phrase which has peeved off a lot of people: “They … energetically attack problems which were solved a Century ago.” (Cité Libre, Dec. 1961, p. 3).
If Quebec became this exemplary province, if men lived there under the sign of liberty and of progress, if culture there occupied pride of place, if the universities were brilliant, and if the public administration was the most progressive in the country – and nothing in all of this presupposes a declaration of independence! – the French-Canadians would no longer have to fight to impose bilingualism: the knowledge of French would become a status symbol for the anglophone. It would even become an asset for business and for administration. Even Ottawa would be transformed, by the expertise of our politics and of our functionaries.
Such an enterprise is immensely difficult, but possible. It requires more fighting spirit than talk. It seems to me to constitute an “ideal” no less “exalting” than a certain other which has been common currency for a couple of years in Landerneau.
To those who might care to work at this enterprise, who would place their hopes on the side of universal man, and who would refuse to be complicit in the new treason of the clerics, I leave a sentence from the great Acton:
“Nationality does not aim either at liberty or prosperity, both of which it sacrifices to the imperative necessity of making the nation the mould and measure of the State. Its course will be marked with material as well as moral ruin, in order that a new invention may prevail over the works of God and the interests of mankind.”40
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