June 1, 2006


O come on all you Trudeau faithful: PET's reputation has shrivelled globally but you'd never know it from these adoring tomes (MARK STEYN, 6/01/06, Maclean's)

The other day, the Forward, New York's Jewish newspaper, ran a story headlined "Book offers new image of Canadian pol." Given that most New York readers don't have any old images of Canadian pols, this seemed an unlikely proposition. But the pol in question was the Canadian pol: Pierre Trudeau, who served as prime minister from 1968 to . . . well, in Vienna in 2002 a middle-aged German said to me, "Canadian? Trudeau is still prime minister?" "Of course," I said, not wishing to detour the conversation down unrewarding paths.

Anyway, the so-called "new image" derives from Young Trudeau: 1919-1944 by Max and Monique Nemni, who reveal that as a young man Trudeau had fascist sympathies, was prone to the routine anti-Semitism of mid-century Quebec francophones, blamed Britain for the Second World War, and spent it riding around Montreal wearing a German helmet. All this is the "old image" for some of us, but every few years the stories are dusted off and Trudeaupian experts are quoted professing shock and puzzlement. Morton Weinfeld, the McGill sociologist, put it down to "youthful stupidity": after all, young Pierre was in his twenties; he couldn't be expected to know any better -- though those other twentysomethings without benefit of his great intellect, the young Canadians and Englishmen and Scotsmen and Americans scrambling ashore at Normandy, all managed to figure it out. But professor Weinfeld says the new biography will "remind people how deeply entrenched in the Quebec of the 1930s those right-wing views were. Even someone who became as progressive as Trudeau was not immune to their seductive power."

"Right-wing" and "progressive" aren't terribly useful labels in this regard, and all indications are that no great seduction was required to win Trudeau over to the dreary bigotry of wartime Quebec. It would be truer to say that he evolved from the conventionally parochial statism of the 1930s to the conventionally multicultural statism of the 1970s, which isn't quite as dramatic a leap as professor Weinfeld thinks.

Does anyone doubt that if the nationalist socialists had won he'd have stayed one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2006 4:20 PM

I'll be the first to admit youthful ignorance (though as a 21 year old I'm apparently supposed to have lost that excuse), but I cannot figure out why so many people insist on calling fascism right-wing. Is it because of the big military push? Big deal; Lenin, Stalin, etc.. had a big military, but they were considered leftist/socialist. How was fascist state-dictated economy different from socialist state-run economy?

Posted by: Jay at June 1, 2006 4:39 PM

Fascism is conservative. Nazism wasn't. But it was anti-communist, so the confusion is understandable.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 4:44 PM

Nazism was "National Socialism," as in nationalist; as opposed to the internationalist socialism of the Commies. (Why do you think the Commie anthem was called "The Internationale?")

The Eastern Front was just a doctrinal dispute between different socialist factions--like the endless disputes between Trotskyists and Stalinists and Maoists, except with artillery and armored divisions.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 1, 2006 4:56 PM

The more I think about it, the more the politics of the Eastern Front seems irrelevant. More like a really big mob war. The Capone gang versus The Moran gang.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 1, 2006 5:32 PM


"I cannot figure out why so many people insist on calling fascism right-wing."

You might enjoy this recent post on that topic, over at my blog.

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at June 1, 2006 5:33 PM

Jay: Duh. Bad things are right-wing. Remember back in the final days of the USSR when the die-hard commie guys who tried to depose Gorby & then Yeltsin were "conservative" & "right-wingers"?

Posted by: b at June 1, 2006 5:44 PM

Excellent post, Ed. oj - Fascism was no more conservative than Nazism.

The essentials of leftism are secularism (opposition to God & his morality) and statism (the seeking of power over other men). Other characteristics are incidental - leftists, like chameleons, adopt the features that will enable them to win power. The seek to be the most avant garde advocates of popular prejudices.

In the late 19th century, right up to WWI, most leftists were internationalists, influenced by Marx, but many also developed a strong racialist/Darwinist component by the late 19th century. The early days of WWI shocked the left when they saw millions abandon internationalism in a jiffy and develop an intense nationalist fervor. At that time, Mussolini, quick to recognize his path to power, quit the Socialist Party (of which he was secretary and the leading intellectual) to start the Fascist movement based on a nationalist socialism.

This was extremely successful and people like Hitler copied him, bringing in the Darwinist/racialist left as natural allies and as intellectual cover. Nationalism & racism were extremely popular throughout the interwar period, and the left embraced them.

But then WWII discredited nationalism and racism, and the left became the world's loudest anti-nationalists and anti-racists.

Posted by: pj at June 1, 2006 5:46 PM

I'm with jd. It's nuts to try to parse the hermeneutics of Hitler or Stalin too finely. Hitler believed in the supremacy of Aryans, despite the fact that he was at war with some of them. Stalin believed in the supremacy of Stalin. The closest the Communist Party of the USSR got to "international" was their willingness to make a Georgian General Secretary, so long as he killed everyone in front of him.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 5:48 PM

So, Jay, fascism is "far right" because that is a label the left applies to old-fashioned versions of leftism which have been publicly discredited and can no longer help leftists obtain power.

The primary purpose of such labelling is to signal to leftists, who are conformists, that they will be destroyed if they cling to the old leftism and they should catch up with the new propaganda scheme. But of course if such labelling can also help discredit the ordinary right, that's a great bonus in the eyes of the left.

Posted by: pj at June 1, 2006 5:49 PM

It's the same reason Nixon was called conservative even though he was a socialist. His socialism was of the grown variety. It was his anti-Soviet Communism that earned him the hate of the lefties, not his conservatism.

Posted by: erp at June 1, 2006 5:51 PM

Agree with David. Stalin was in it for Stalin. Watched a two hour biography of him over the weekend. Nothing really new, but it was still gruesome and shocking.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 1, 2006 6:09 PM

Fascism was the original Third Way. The ranks of the believers were made up of civil servants, ex-military and rural folks of all classes. They were appalled at the violence shaking the cities as communism and old-line conservatism fought it out; yet they felt no allegiance to either faction. What they wanted was an end to the chaos by means of a third option. So, they took a little bit of this from the communists and a little bit of that from the old-line conservatives.

How it played out from there was dependent on the region in which it took hold. The Germans, after the Sudentenland Catholics came to power, went for the old psychotic murder option. On the other hand, the Italian Fascists killed far less than the previous Italian regime and were mild to their Jews. Finally, as OJ likes to point out, Franco did great things for his country.

Posted by: Pepys at June 1, 2006 6:38 PM

Pepys, Catholics were the Nazis? Hitler wanted to eradicate Christianity, no? I must misunderstand.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 1, 2006 7:36 PM

The Nazi leaders of the genocide were almost all from Catholic families and most were from those in the Sudentenland.

Do you think there was a huge pagan population from which the Nazis could draw their membership?

How does this run counter to anything the Nazis advocated?

Posted by: Pepys at June 1, 2006 7:56 PM

First, American conservatism is what Europeans would call liberal, at least the economic and government aspects of it. To be honest, the Goldwater definition of conservatism doesn't reallly apply before Goldwater. Traditionally, conservatives opposed capitalism because it undermined the old social order.

Second, the Nazis portrayed themselves as defenders of traditional social values - Children, Church, Kitchen - against all that dangerous, liberal Weimar era stuff like jazz music and working women.

Third, the Nazis were supported by other German conservatives. Some of it was active, most was passive. A lot was probably due to their belief Hitler and his cronies would make good patsies to keep the time until the true German conservative leader would arrive, but enable them they did.

There was certainly a "National Bolshevik" faction in the Nazi Party, certainly in the early days, but Hitler killed most of them.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 1, 2006 8:07 PM

There was a real danger that communism would take over Germany and Nazism was a preferable alternative for many conservatives.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:11 PM

No it wasn't--it was the Second Way. Statism plain and simple, just coupled with Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:14 PM

Stalin was the perfect expression of Marxism as Hitler was of Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:19 PM


Yes, it is. Fascism preserved institutions like the Church, military, etc, in places like Spain, Chile, etc. where they were threatened by Communism and, therefore, left the societies perfectly positioned to transition back to democracy. Nazism shouldn't be allowed to give fascism a dirty name.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:21 PM

Fascism pre-WWII was the leading brand of Italian socialism, and purely leftist. Post-WWII, when fascism became a curse word for the left, there might have been some Euro-conservatism in dictators called fascist, e.g. Franco, though I'm doubtful he would qualify as a conservative by American standards.

Posted by: pj at June 1, 2006 8:39 PM


Not really:


Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:48 PM

Peyps, Now I know why I don't miss Bartman. Being from a Catholic family doesn't make you Catholic. Carry on.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 1, 2006 9:32 PM

erp: Or the most famous example, so bizarre it actually cracked the shell at Newsweek: the use of "conservative" during perestroika to mean hard line communists.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 10:08 PM

David, you are so right.

For a long time I was keeping a journal of inconsistencies and gratuitous asides in print and other media. This was well before Rush and Reagan when I thought I was the only person who even noticed there was a spin, let alone that it was deliberate and always tilted left.

When we retired and had to severely winnow out the junk we had accumulated over the years, I tossed it out. Now I'm sorry because leftward spin and distortion isn't new, it's been around since my earliest memories.

What angers me is that there is seldom a coherent refutation of the received wisdom even to this day. Brit Hume doesn't let anyone get away with it on his show, but the rest of Fox News is worthless now, if it ever was really "fair and balanced" and other than blogs like this and a handful of other venues, the truth is no where to be found.

Posted by: erp at June 2, 2006 8:16 AM

Too bad you threw it away. These days you could probably publish it.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 2, 2006 7:48 PM