“… the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, April29, 1938
In 2003, the American political scientist Laurence W. Britt published in the magazine Free Inquiry an article entitled “Fascism Anyone?” (Free Inquiry, Spring 2003-Volume 23, No. 2) After studying the political system of seven countries that have experienced periods of political dictatorship (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Spain under Franco, Portugal under Salazar, Greece under Papadopoulos, Chile under Pinochet and Indonesia under Suharto) the political scientist concluded that despite some differences, all these regimes have 14 common characteristics: Powerful and continuing expression of nationalism, Disdain for the importance of human rights, Identification of enemies/scapegoats as unifying cause, Supremacy of the military/avid militarism, Rampant sexism, A controlled mass media, Obsession with national security, Religion and ruling elite tied together, Power of corporation protected, Power of labor suppressed or eliminated, Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts, Obsession with crime and punishment, Rampant cronyism and corruption and Fraudulent elections.
Let me add one more characteristic of totalitarian regimes to those identified by the author: The contempt for democratic institutions which are nevertheless used for the establishment of the totalitarian regime.
What struck me the most after reading the article was the resemblance to the characteristics of Canadian politics since January 2006 and even more since May 2011, when the Conservative government became a majority government with less than 40% of the votes cast. It is not difficult to find concrete examples for each of the 15 characteristics mentioned. I will content myself in mentioning a few, leaving readers the opportunity to complete the list as they please:
Two times prorogation of Parliament to avoid votes of non-confidence and loss of power; changing the operating rules of the Committees of the House of Commons; overspending to exalt nationalism celebrating the War of 1812; budget cuts and the elimination of organisations dealing with human rights, identification of socialists, liberals, progressives and environmentalists as enemies of the nation and the national interest; reckless spending, in times of economic crisis, for military equipment and military interventions abroad; control of the mass media and access to information and retaliation against those who criticise the government; excessive laws justified by the need for national security; close relationships with leaders of various religions and their use for electoral purposes; anti-union legislation and the weakening of the legislation protecting workers; many legislative changes in favor of companies and corporations and against the common good and the environment; illegal elimination of the Wheat Board in favor of big landowners and big US grain companies; control of scientific information produced by government employees and the elimination of many scientific and cultural organisations; adoption of several laws relating to criminal offenses in a context where crime rates are down; legislation addressing judicial independence by requiring judges to award predetermined sentences; thousands of partisan nominations and corrupt behaviour by government officials (among others ministers Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Tony Clement and Christian Paradis); concentration of decision-making in the hands of the Prime Minister and Cabinet members to the detriment of the Members of Parliament; a unique lack of transparency in Canadian political history; fraudulent electoral behaviour (suppression of votes with illegal phone calls, illegal voting, financial opacity).
The majority of Canadians identify democracy as being the opportunity to vote freely and choose among candidates nominated by various parties, those who will represent and speak on their behalf for a period of time, usually four years. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures a wide range of other rights which are taken for granted and considered immutable. We are convinced that those to whom we have delegated our power to decide are worthy and defend the common good and the general interest of our country. Unfortunately, the reality is very different and we risk having a rude awakening. History is full of examples but we still think that this can only happen elsewhere, not in Canada.
Nevertheless, since 2006, Canada has entered a period of profound political and social changes. These changes have been very gradual and they have been supported by an extraordinary propaganda machine that would be the envy of any totalitarian regime. Under the influence of this propaganda and overwhelmed by our daily problems (job security, consumption and debts) we are convinced that those to whom we have temporarily delegated our powers are defending our interests and those of our country. The reality is that since 2006 the opposition parties, each in turn and for partisan reasons, have been accomplices in these changes. Since the Conservative Party has had a majority in Parliament (with only 40% of the votes) the progressive forces, representing over 60% of the population, have continued their division and internal fights and thereby fostered the changes.
Under the Conservative government, Canada is formulating and implementing an all-new form of dictatorship, the democratic dictatorship. The lack of leadership and unity of progressive forces makes even sadder the establishment of the new Canadian political regime.
For now, the only good news is that all the dictatorial regimes have eventually failed and democracy has triumphed over tyranny.
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