Love it or hate it: Stephen Harper’s Government is not Fascist

By Valerie Deacon

No matter which way you spin it, Stephen Harper’s government is not fascist and making comparisons between the current Canadian government and fascism in the 1930s is both disingenuous and dangerous. This Huffington Post article about the government’s decision to close major scientific and environmental libraries and destroy much of the data contained therein was weakened by the rather ludicrous claim that the Harper government might be akin to the fascist regimes of the 1930s. The article noted that:

“Many scientists have compared the war on environmental science to the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe. Hutchings muses, “you look at the rise of certain political parties in the 1930s and have to ask how could that happen and how did they adopt such extreme ideologies so quickly, and how could that happen in a democracy today?”

These questions are still very important to ask, because fascism most certainly is still a danger. And the decisions that Harper’s government are making – particularly with regard to science and the environment – are also dangerous. But the dangers are not the same. As I have written elsewhere on Active History, the overuse of the term “fascist” to identify our political enemies actually has the unintended effect of blinding us to the true dangers they represent. In our current political climate, the real danger comes when movements or political parties of the extreme right legitimize their ideology to the point where it seems anodyne to a large section of the population. This leads to electoral victories and then to the manipulation of civil society that has the potential to be irreparable. But perhaps that is a post for another day. Today I want to dig a little deeper into why the Canadian Conservatives are not fascists, as much as we might disagree with their ideology, actions, or governance.

Fascism, as an ideology and a political expression, has been notoriously difficult to define. Decades of scholarship has attempted to find a way to outline the boundaries of fascism, while allowing for its different manifestations, in different places, at different times. Robert Paxton’s book The Anatomy of Fascism remains one of the most accessible and rational explorations of fascism and his most important contribution to the general discussion was to highlight the fact that the face of fascism changes over time. As an intellectual exercise (in other words, a purely theoretical expression), fascism looks one way. Once fascists recognize the need to mobilize (say, in a political party), their fascism changes appearance. Once a fascist group is in power or becoming entrenched in power, they might be unrecognizable from their earlier, ideological selves. So, Paxton argued, an investigation into fascism should never take fascists out of context.

Harper’s government does not resemble fascism at any of its stages. Why not, you might ask? Well, because fascism – or so most scholars agree – seeks to mobilize passions of the masses. Harper’s conservatives do not want a mobilized nation, but a complacent one. Fascism is violent, both in ideology and in practice. It seeks to create a mass, militarized party, led by a charismatic leader. While Harper’s conservatives have certainly emphasized Canada’s military history and have tried to animate a distinctly more militarized nation, this is not a literal militarization. Fascism’s development involves pseudo-armies – the creation of large groups of armed young people, modeled after traditional army hierarchies, but vowing loyalty, not to the nation, but to the leader. We see these developments most clearly in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, with the development of groups like the SA, the original paramilitary organisation of the Nazi Party. Fascists sing the virtues of violence and see it as a redemptive, purifying force. Science in Canada is certainly being muzzled, but scientists are not being beaten and murdered. And by no stretch of the imagination is Stephen Harper a charismatic leader in the vein of a Mussolini or a Hitler.

Stephen Harper is a traditional conservative with authoritarian leanings and it is worth remembering that all fascists are authoritarian, but not all authoritarians are fascist.

Fascism attempts to create a state that controls all elements of life. In this state, traditional authorities – like the army, the church, traditional elites – are eradicated, subsumed, or otherwise tightly controlled. Harper’s government is made up of traditional authorities and relies on them to govern. The danger? Now, as in the 1930s, is when traditional conservatives make fascists their political bedfellows, thinking that they can be controlled. It won’t be Stephen Harper leading a fascist regime, but some currently obscure person. Watch out for anybody obsessively harping on themes of collective humiliation, community decline, and regeneration through violent action – there you might find your fascists.

Dr Valerie Deacon is the Elihu Rose Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow at New York University. She researches  the participation of the extreme-right in the French Resistance during the Second World War and teaches European and Military history.

 

35 thoughts on “Love it or hate it: Stephen Harper’s Government is not Fascist

  1. a

    THE HARPER GOVERNMENT HAS ALLOWED FOREIGN (ALTHOUGH ONCE THEIR PLANE/BOAT LANDS THEY LOVE TO CALL THEMSELVES “CANADIAN”) TERRORISTS/EXTREMISTS AND THEIR CORRUPT DISGUSTING WHITE TRASH FRIENDS TO TORTURE, KILL AND DISABLE INNOCENT REAL CANADIAN CITIZENS- JUST LIKE E. CAMERON OF MCGILL UNIVERSITY DID. ARRESTING, DRUGGING, HARASSING, TARGETING AND KILLING CANADIAN CIVILIANS- GOVERNMENT PAID. UNLESS YOU WERE EMPLOYED AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST/ECOLOGIST FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA OR ONE OF THE PROVINCES- YOU REALLY HAVE NO EXPERIENCE AND NO KNOWLEDGE OF HOW THE TRAITOR TREATS CERTAIN EXPERTS IN CANADA- AS I HAVE. HIS GOVERNMENT HAS VIOLATED ALL BUT THREE ARTICLES UNDER THE UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION- FOR ONE PERSON ALONE- AND SNOWDEN COMPLAINS ABOUT 1 ARTICLE VIOLATION- JUST TO SILENCE EXPERTS. HE DESERVED THE FLOOD THIS YEAR, HE WAS WARNED- AND IT CAME, JUST LIKE PREDICTED. SO DID HIS “FREAK FIRE”. THE MAN IS SO DISCONNECTED FROM GOD AND EVERYTHING HOLY THAT IT SCARES ME THAT HE WOULD ATTEND HOLY SITES- HOPEFULLY HE DOES NOT CONTAMINATE THE REGION WITH THE PRESENCE OF HIS SOUL.

    HITLER AND HARPER ARE SIMILAR. SORRY THAT YOU HAVE NOT WORKED IN A POSITION TO SEE THEIR HANDIWORK FIRST HAND.

  2. Queenie Archibald

    All you have to do is look at his treatment of Native People.and the treatment of Native People by all the Gov,ts since the Colonizers came to our Country.. The Gov,t is riddled with Apartheid doctrine. The Inuit People were Tattooed with their number on the forearm. Native People were sterilized, surgically and with X-rays …Genocide in Canada….Didn’t Hitler do the same thing to the Jewish People? He is over there, in Israel giving them $66 million dollars while Native People live in 3rd world conditions and in dire Poverty.

  3. nadinelumley

    ‘You Should’ve Stayed at Home’

    CBC The Fifth Estate: G20 The Untold Stories – 44 minutes

    It’s been years since the 2010 Toronto G20 and the iconic images are still with us — burning police cars, rampaging mobs, the massive security presence that according to the official story is all that stood between Canada’s largest city and chaos.

    But that’s not the whole story of Toronto’s G20.

    Astonishing new images caught on camera are now emerging and they expose a troubling new picture of what happened to hundreds of ordinary citizens caught in the huge police dragnet during those three highly-charged days last June.

    http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2010-2011/youshouldhavestayedathome/

  4. Pingback: Lessons learned (or not) from the 1930s | Valerie Deacon, PhD

  5. Mathieu Brûlé

    Great post Valerie!

    As someone who identified as both an antifascist and an opponent of the Conservative government, it irks me that other opponents of Stephen Harper sometimes throw around the term ‘fascist’ to describe him and the Conservative government. Harper may have an authoritarian streak in him, but that does not make him a fascist any more than Obamacare makes Obama a communist. We all like to get a laugh at the expense of Tea Partiers who accuse Obama of being a Marxist, but if we continued to slap the ‘fascist’ label onto everything we oppose, then we (the left) aren’t necessarily any better.

    This was a much needed post. I’m glad that somebody said it (and that it was said so well).

  6. Jason Ellis

    Val, your post is good history and good political science. Some of the responses I think are also indicative of a problem with how history is used and abused rhetorically. You imply, quite correctly I think, that it would be presentist to compare Harper to Hitler in absolute terms. You back up this solid historical argument about one point in time (the 1930s) with a solid political science argument about fascism’s characteristics at any point in time.

    When many people invoke the past, however, they often engage in a great deal more presentism than most historians would be comfortable with. While we historians grimace (or worse) at the quick comparison between Hitler and Harper, or the Holocaust and (whatever modern political event you wish to place here), most people do not grasp why these comparisons are historian’s fallacies. This doesn’t just represent in the form that it does in some of the responses here. It happens in remarkably similar ways in parliamentary discourse, in policymaking, and at times in journalism as well.

    To me, this indicates that historians need to do two things. We need to advocate for basic history in the schools that will teach people to think historically, to give them the capacity think through problems such as presentism. There is an ongoing need in other words for history teaching that focusses on the historical method as well as historical narrative. As historians, I also think we need to more clearly name and make clear our beliefs about how studying the past can and cannot inform the present. There is great heuristic value in your piece; you use history to illustrate tests of how fascism does and doesn’t happen. This an entirely appropriate and common use of history to inform the present, an approach “active historians” often engage with. But it’s tricky business because historians on the other hand cringe at the expression “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” because we are trained to recognize that the past and the present will forever be different, in their basic conditions, value systems, social relations, etc., no matter how eerily similar they may seem.

    It’s a real highwire act for us as we try to use history to inform the present while skirting dangerous presentism. You balance quite well here. Don’t let anyone drag you down.

  7. Dave Turchynsky

    The scientists are only one group of many who are under assault by this “government”. Isolating your refutation of the charge of fascism to only one targeted group without taking into consideration all the other things they’ve done weakens, or dare I say dismantles your position.

    PS… how do you like these new election laws?

  8. R Davies

    In response to Valarie Deacon’s article, she herself offers the explanation of the changing face of fascism. Right wing ideological and authoritarian dogma are the basis of all fascism. Harper doesn’t need to be Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini to still foster a fascist agenda. Very few people are of an age now to have witnessed this 1920’s rise of European fascism. This type of fascism is now confined to the history books. Harper ‘s fascism is less radical, but still represents the underlying desires of fascism. Fascism has practitioners of various degrees. What makes them fascist is there intolerance of other’s ideas, their determination to marry corporate authority with government powers. To marginalize those that disagree with their far right ideological views. To enrich and empower the political and corporate elite. Recent practitioners of these policy’s on the international level in Western countries would be Mrs. Thatcher, Ronny Reagan, both Bush presidents and Brian Mulroney, who was an absolute disgrace to Canada. Don’t let yourselves be dissuaded by comparisons to earlier dictators, the new ones just use different methods.

  9. Dave Turchynsky

    @ R Davies: It’s good to read comments from someone who is better able to articulate what I’ve been saying all along. If Harper were a fascist of the 1920-30’s mold, he wouldn’t have lasted long. Today’s fascists have learned from history. It’s sad that their opponents haven’t done likewise.

  10. bubby kettlewell

    Just read your post. Brings to mind a book by Sheldon S. Wolin: Democracy Inc – Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. It makes the comparisons between what we now see in governments worldwide and fascism. Wolin is an emeritus at Princeton and I think that status gives him possibly the best credibility; he doesn’t have to work about perishing in any way and he’s certainly no slouch when it comes to political history. He make the point that we don’t need a charismatic leader anymore to take us down the road to hell, in fact we barely even need a political leader at all. We simply need a purposely misinformed and (as you even note) complacent electorate.
    I would hazard a guess that the current government and Stephen Harper are simply darlings, poster children for the “new perversion of democracy” as they clearly work for business interests and not the good of the people or even the country that elected them. This so called conservative government has pushed through legislation to reduce all sorts of government power (originally in the public interest) and to deregulate the country to make it a proper host for corporate interests. It’s hardly surprising Mr Harper is a bit of a one note johnny on this point with the love of his life being the oil industry, however it is tiresome and one wonders if some of the other corporate players (like insurance companies) aren’t starting to feel a little miffed.
    Interestingly Mr. Harper differs from most of his contemporaries by openly displaying his own personal authoritarian tendencies; his controlling and manipulation through the PMO are legend and everybody knows he uses spin doctors and muzzles of all kinds to great and devastating effect. Then there is his pernicious use of fear tactics, creating little diversionary villains and bugaboos everywhere that must be addressed by getting tough on crime, getting rid of the fat in the civil service, stopping fraud in social services, stopping environmental terrorists, and so on and so forth. Very Goebbels-like don’t you think? Add to that vindictiveness, mean spiritedness and a creepy right wing social ideology, and you have not a good old fashioned dictator perhaps, but a very nasty little prick indeed. Possibly made even nastier by the occasional glimmers seeping through to his consciousness that he really isn’t in power at all.

  11. Denialawareness

    Sure, you can deconstruct the literal definition of fascism (which you even say is difficult to define!), and then ‘prove’ that Harper’s government does not align perfectly. So what? Times have changed, but Harper’s brand of unilateral control, dismantling our entire social structure, takeover and transformation of formerly democratic institutions, and unyielding, unethical power-mongering is every bit as dangerous in its totalitarian result as so-called fascism. Wherever he sees any sort of weakness, he attacks, and increases his hold over our freedoms and choices. It may not align with your definition of ‘fascism’ but it doesn’t matter what you call it; it is still wrong. A rose by any other name in reverse.

  12. Warren Bell

    This is an interesting post. I am not an historian, or a social scientist, but rather a health care professional, but with an abiding interest in history and social trends (and an advocacy perspective).

    I think your point that considering behaviour in context is critical, and probably the clue to why the term fascist, despite its literal inapplicability, has come to be associated with Stephen Harper.

    In the context of a 19th or early 20th century political configuration, a fascist leader would engage physical violence, coarse propaganda, and actual destructive acts in order to achieve his ends. This would be particularly so if he (or she? – rare to see women leaders associated with this moniker) lived in a politically unsophisticated, impoverished country with no social support system.

    In the 21st century, in a wealthy country with a history of political stability and relatively (in the current context) adequate income redistribution and established middle class — and with an active and vigorous global telecommunications system — a “conventional” expression of fascistic tendencies is unlikely.

    But a person with a naturally fascistic mindset — which I believe our PM has — simply adapts to the circumstances in which he lives. He may be contemptuous of dissenting opinions (and without scanning Harper’s personal and especially his religious background, you’ll not see how he has codified that dissent in his daily life), and he may be intent — even relentless — in his pursuit of a narrow political agenda, but he cannot ignore his real life context, any more than those assessing his behaviour can.

    So Harper doesn’t advocate outright violence; he practices legislative violence (the two Omnibus bills, the closing of fisheries libraries and the destruction their contents). He doesn’t change the rules of political engagement by physical means; he intelligently employs the extraordinary powers of the Prime Minister’s Office in Canada (greater and more monopolistic than in the US, Britain, European nations and Japan, and only less, among “developed” nations, than those in Russia — a very different context!). He doesn’t outwardly militarize; he covertly militarizes (destroying the gun registry, War of 1812 ad campaign, support of the Ukrainian revolt – a very fascistic regime, F-35 acquisition campaign, harnessing national security services to constrain or even hamstring environmental and social justice groups). He doesn’t flaunt “charisma”; he legislates it (e.g. formally having all references to the federal government changed to refer to the “Stephen Harper government, or deliberately cultivating a folksy singing act). He doesn’t employ brute force to achieve his ends; he employs the massive power granted by law to the “corporation”, with its consequent massive size and profitability (in the Canadian context, this most particularly means the fossil fuel sector, whose equity value is estimated at about $4 trillion) to do his political work for him (viz. the current ad campaign in Kitimat by Enbridge in support of a plebiscite about its terminal for the Northern Gateway).

    But with respect to things like deliberate and massive control of public messaging, now recognized internationally, Harper is clearly fascistic. With respect to deliberate restructuring of the mechanisms of governance to suit his narrow agenda (getting rid of restrictions on campaign spending, cutting out marginalized populations from voting, arrogating more and more prerogatives to his Office) he is fascistic. With respect to using deceptive language in ways that would make George Orwell’s “Big Brother” blush (the recent “Fair Elections Act” is a fine example) he is classically fascistic. With respect to consistently denigrating and disrespecting those who oppose him politically (e.g. descriptions of environmental opponents) he has attracted widespread attention.

    Stephen Harper is too intelligent, and too much a student of history in general and Canadian history in particular – especially its political aspects – to crudely march into the Houses of Parliament and take over with a brown-shirt Putsch. He doesn’t need to. His is a stealth form of fascism, using 21st century tools to create fanatical followers, and to “hollow out” the structures of governance in this country. If he had lived 100 years ago — we would be saying: “Look out!”

    But he doesn’t, so what former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark called a “private interest government” inside a “public service” setting is the obvious answer.

    Journalist Paul Wells called Stephen Harper “the most right wing prime minister in my life time”. Harper has a more long term view of political restructuring – he is known as the “great incrementalist”. He is legendary for his personal hard-edged discipline, and his insistence on rigid discipline among those around him. He is also part, for a quarter century, of a hard-edged religious community that embraces the same apocalyptic perspective on history as Jimmy Swaggart and Michelle Bachmann.

    Stephen Harper’s approach, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is not fascism in the old-fashioned sense. It is fascism with a contemporary gloss – fascism in slow motion.

  13. Dave Turchynsky

    Warren Bell: Thank you for your post. Your last line sums it up nicely:

    “Stephen Harper’s approach, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is not fascism in the old-fashioned sense. It is fascism with a contemporary gloss – fascism in slow motion.”

    Yep… you can put lipstick and mascara on it – but it’s still fascism.

  14. Dave Baraskewich

    Fascism is fascism no matter which way you look at it. whether it is by oppression or suppression, when one dictates over the multitudes by sheer power, whether militarily or politically. When you put one’s values over others,(passing bills, laws, lying, deceiving) to gain power over, it’s what it is.

  15. phorbin

    That was a very good attempt to explain away the evidence.

    Of course Harper’s a fascist as is his government.

    Others have covered most of the territory I’d have remarked on.

    There is one point.

    ‘If you don’t name it, you can’t deal with it.’

    It must be dealt with.

  16. Jim Terral

    In language studies, one of the signal achievements of the (mainly) Twentieth Century was the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, but it was Webster’s Third International Unabridged Dictionary that set off the controversy between a prescriptive approach and descriptive one (in effect as a basis for linguistics). Today, the prescriptive approach survives in First Year Composition classes and in families when the discussion gets to the point where someone says, “Well, let’s see what the dictionary has to say about that.” But the authority to prescribe is no longer supported by those reference books and survives less and less in our attitudes even among the teachers of those comp classes.

    In English, intellectuals have never had quite the authoritarian mandate to dictate how the language is used that the Académie française had in France. There was a time when English writers and scholars coveted that power, but they lost the battle to Samuel Johnson and the dictionary. In English, usage is king. You may regret it. You may launch a crusade. But in the future–if there is to be a future–students of the language will see that the word “fascist” was frequently used in precisely the manner which Dr. Deacon laments. So nice try, but no cigar on that one.

    Although this post has inspired a volatile and passionate collection of replies, it seems to me that at least one point deserves some elaboration. Whatever else he and his government may be, Stephen Harper is not “a traditional conservative with authoritarian leanings.” Let’s look at his record.

    The fraudulent use of robo-calls is not a signature strategy of “traditional conservatives. Fraud makes him and his party criminals, not conservatives. There is plenty to elaborate here. Suffice it to say that a court has found his party guilty as far as the charges went.

    Further, Contempt of Parliament is unprecedented in Canada. It is not consistent with any version of “traditional conservatism.” Contempt of Parliament is a political
    analogue to contempt of court. Contempt of court is essentially the crime of
    refusing to acknowledge and respect the legitimate authority of the court, which
    is the keystone of the whole justice system. If parties to a dispute refuse to
    acknowledge the authority of the court, the system falls apart. It cannot function. By analogy, contempt of Parliament is a refusal to acknowledge and respect the
    central role of Parliament in a democratic system. Sounds like Harper. He does not act like a man who respects democracy. He acts like a man who understands democracy well enough to calculate what he can get away with. This is not a matter of simple disagreement.

    A significant range of issues of a legal and systemic nature must be considered, Like proroguing Parliament 4x or the use of omnibus bills of a size and scope that make the Americans, who i believe pioneered this particular escape from democracy, look like amateurs. Like scrapping the Kelowna Accords, and his adamant refusal to initiate a federal investigation into the disappearance of more than 600 women of aboriginal
    descent. while old white men who had never missed a meal lectured on the merits of fish broth and Theresa Spence fasted bringing an offer of relationship and dialogue.

    Like his restrictive information policy, like washing his hands of health care, his emerging problem with the courts–really the list is substantial.

    In Canada the Health Act makes the federal government jointly responsible with the provincial government for health care. here you do it is not joint responsibility there is i
    would suggest a pattern of irresponsibility and even lawlessness, contempt for the law and the labour of reconciliation;

    The real question–and it is an urgent one–is this man dangerous? I mentioned to a friend born in Switzerland that he had been described as a “traditional conservative with authoritarian leanings,” and he laughed. He likes to point out figures of speech, and he was all over that one. “Euphemism” he announced. Then he went on. “I have no brief for Hitler,” he said, “but Harper is worse. Worse. At least Hitler put his people to work, built hospitals and schools. Not Harper.”

    One brief comment mentioned Harper’s questionable enthusiasm for the neo-Nazis in the present Kiev regime, but no one has said anything about his history of membership and even founding of organizations like the Heritage Front, the Northern Foundation, etc.

    Just put a wrap on it, what *should* we call him? If not a traditional conservative, maybe “antisocial” would be a better epithet. Stephen Harper’s antisocial Conservatives. We could debate about whether Harper is a criminal or a psychopath, a fascist or an agoraphobe, whether he has messianic delusions or a rational strategy for improving his charisma.

    Unfortunately, Stephen Harper doesn’t answer tough questions, which is a nice way of saying that he is secretive. That’s part of his excessively protective and prescriptive information policy. We could say that HarperCons are antisocial conservatives reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove and General Bat Guano. That sort of kicks the Hitler habit without missing the point, doesn’t it?

  17. Craig Hubley

    I tend to agree. The term “authoritarian” applies, certainly, as Stephen Harper does whatever he can get away with (legally or not) to remove checks on his own power.

    However it’s a legitimate argument whether, given the option, Harper would go further and order mass arrests of his political opponents at something other than demonstrations and protests. Or even order new “trial” procedures as he has done for environmental review, to ensure his enemies are convicted. Personally I believe that Harper *would* issue such orders, and that the only reason he does not is that respect for independent judiciary and human rights are strongly embedded in the police and judicial and military even the prison system (to a lesser degree) in Canada. Some would refuse the orders, a few might even militarily resist, leading to a quick coup against Harper as he has only the support of a popular minority, perhaps as few as 25% now.

    Given 20 years or so to appoint authoritarians or fascists or reactionaries to the bench, senior police posts, etc., that could change: Harper could get a core group of military to obey his orders and judges who would back that up domestically on the Supreme Court, and certainly lesser courts. He could put the veneer of legality on his own crimes post-facto, as he has done for electoral frauds and non-scientific pipeline pre-approvals.

    A Conservative Party of Canada member or donor in 2014 is a dangerous and sad person, to be sure, there is no bringing this ugly horror into the 21st century I expect. It will likely drop back to a few seats and then hang around undead as its members quit to take over the Liberal Party.

    Rather than re-form as a Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, I expect the CPC will dissolve as did Union Nationale and BC Social Credit, and for the same reasons: it represents an authoritarian approach to achieving a corporate power group and social clique’s goals, and it is no longer an effective way to pursue those goals. Instead, those same cliques and corporations want Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada to front for them internationally, successfully, just as the Quebec Liberals and BC Liberals are the sane-seeming right wing party in those jurisdictions.

    We may be better off turning our attention to the continuing and accelerating centralization of power and similar authoritarian tendencies in the Liberal Party. Justin Trudeau for instance reserves to himself the “right” to approve pipelines based on his own whims and feelings, having already announced his pre-approval of Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL, a power that Harper created that never existed in Canadian law before, and which not even Pierre Trudeau nor Jean Chretien claimed for himself. And he has famously imposed a uniform position on abortion on Liberal Party of Canada MPs.

    Many Trudeau supporters actually hope he intends to reverse himself on Tar Sands once he has some Alberta seats – which is absurd, of course, the Alberta MPs would just quit… damaging the fiction of a “national party” which is more important to the Liberal Party of Canada than a few coastlines and a damn silly biosphere. They’d rather risk this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian_extinction

    So, basically, if you are a science denialist who can live with only three massive Tar Sands pipelines and discarding all emissions limits already set by Parliament, and don’t care about who gets an abortion, you can comfortably shift your vote from Stephen Harper to Justin Trudeau.

    Trudeau may prove to be more of an authoritarian on some matters, allow fewer free votes of MPs and less debate of Opposition motions. His position on electoral reform is identical to Harper’s in every respect: Prior to achieving power, he floats a ranked ballot for single districts (or “alternative vote” or “instant runoff”), and then abandons that when in power.

    The difference between Harper and Trudeau on how government is run, may be that Harper actually advertises the direction of his agenda more clearly and honestly, bad as it is… while Trudeau is at least supported by many who hope he is lying through his teeth.

  18. Craig Hubley

    On how fascism ought to be defined now:

    Harper does mass-arrest opponents at protests, at demonstrations, at blockades, and spies on us all to look for other excuses to arrest dangerous opponents… this to me is enough to prove that he would abuse any additional powers that he got.

    The word “fascist”, to remain in the dictionary at all, should be redefined for current tactics and methods.

    Universal surveillance of a population, with ambiguous porn and spam laws, draconian drug and copyright laws, certainly does make it possible to selectively harass or arrest or prosecute or even jail many political opponents…

    Expanding such surveillance should accordingly be considered the modern mark of a fascist. It will be abused by somebody someday.

  19. Kent Walter

    Valerie Deacon, for all her education and titles does not live in Canada, has not lived under the Harper regime for any length of time and has made observations from a distance.

    All historians should know better than anyone else that comparing the present to the past is pure folly as both are extremely different no matter how much they seem the same.

    Her assumptions (i.e. – “Stephen Harper is a traditional conservative with authoritarian leanings and it is worth remembering that all fascists are authoritarian, but not all authoritarians are fascist.) are loaded with sophistry and reek of political siding.
    Perhaps she should stick to her discipline and leave current events to others.

  20. James Hunter

    So Harper isn’t a fascist? Neither’s Obama then.

    I think for a so-called doctor, where’d the PhD come from… the cracker box?, you haven’t a clue what fascism means with a government. I’ll give you a basic definition:

    governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism

    -.-

    Both purposely “silence” individuals that may reveal the fact that they are trying to run roughshod over their countries.

    -.-

    But let’s stick with Harper.

    Harper has eliminated Author expenses from income taxes so that AUTHORS that maybe saying negative things about him – or for that matter any small time author period – can NOT recoup losses. Looking at major publishing agencies a book can cost anywhere from 800 to 15,000 depending on what you want done. Add to that finding an agent, printing copies to give to would be agents, etc., etc. and you’re easily 25,000 in the hole which you can’t recoup cause of people like Harper.

    -.-

    The aboriginal crisis – and yeah I call it a crisis – in Canada has been widely swept under the rug. There was in Toronto a young student that asked about it of Harper’s wife. She put more concern to CATS than FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS and actually had the student escorted off the property.

    A PROFESSIONAL would have taken the 15 odd minutes to address the student’s issue and then possibly had someone of the surrounding lackies talk afterwards. Harper isn’t professional and his wife is doglike.

    -.-

    News media, etc., etc. on ANY of the major news papers you are NOT allowed to post comments which can be rather undermining to Harper. I’ve tried. I’ve been exceedingly civil and yet the post never shows up.
    -.-

    Jim Terral sums it up quite well. Everyone thought Hitler was evil, the devil, a madman. But at least there was work for his people.

    Harper is WORST than the devil himself. Undermining Canadian jobs by giving them to cheap labour so that the CANADIANS don’t have any work.

    He doesn’t do any jobs or anything to encourage jobs. My brother is in a which apparently has the WORST unemployment throughout the ENTIRE eastern area. No it’s no newfie land and it’s not PEI, etc. It’s freaking ONTARIO where he’s living. 2 hours out of Toronto.

  21. fretmaster306

    You are uninformed in your ivory tower. HARPLER. and his idiot brownshirts are fascists to their lifeless core. They are actively destroying what better humans built. You are not qualified please go back to gazing at your navel.

  22. LaVerne

    You might want to reassess whether or not Harper leads a fascist organization, they are now doing the mobilization part of your comment and C-51 begins the process of eradication and subsuming of independent organizations. As you point out, the current government doesn’t look like a fascist government but you also say that it’s hard to define one. It all goes back to ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck’!

  23. Drake

    Fascism, according to Benito Mussolini, the ONLY definition that matters. Period.

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

    Harper’s closeness with Big Business and his actions pertaining to trade deals definitely qualifies as that. They ask, he gives. If that doesn’t make him a fascist in your eyes, might I strongly suggest some glasses? Bill C-51 is another nail in his coffin. Only a fascist would attempt that kind of nonsense.

  24. Andrew Wallace

    Fascism, but without the Brownshirts or the charisma. Forgive me if I don’t find that very reassuring.

  25. Dennis Martel

    A well thought out, but too narrowly defined, article. I consider Harper to be a fascist but not a full-blown Brown Shirt smashing windows and bullying minorities – yet. He has, in my opinion, all the tendencies (manipulating voting patterns, supporting fascists in other countries, destroying libraries, abusing and getting rid of bureaucrats that simply do their jobs, rewriting history etc). I think if he gets another majority, we will see him show his true colours – kind of like Hitler once he achieved power legitimately. I will wait and see but after 45 years working with Aboriginal peoples, I do fear for me safety with this man in power.

  26. garyjustice

    Ms. Deacon,
    I feel you focus too much on history and technicalities and not enough on the fundamental intent and effect. That was then and this is now. We are in a more sophisticated era, one where systems and covert means are replacing the rousing of masses. In fact, we no longer rely on masses’ opinions, much more power is available to those shaping our world with economics and bogus but enforceable law making, in collusion with special interest and highly funded groups.

    Harper appears to be rapidly re-shaping (lessening) freedoms in our country in a step by step process, to fulfill a right-wing agenda that places low value on human rights and social fairness, prioritizing power and top-down control of every aspect of living, while propogandiz-ing every step. These are the hallmarks off fascism. One difference of this modern technique seems to be the use of free markets (which are less and less free) to undermine individual choice.

    This is the breakdown of capitalism’s purported original purpose. As for democracy – the consistent disregard of legal process, from prorogue-ing parliament to tampering with voting to passing laws that routinely undermine our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is blatant and obvious in its alignment with fascist thinking.

    cal it fascism or whatever, our only hope is true peaceful and compassionate non-violent thinking. Sure ,we are not beating scientists up or torturing them (yet) but violence in its modern understanding ranges to the current aggression we are seeing heaped on our populous which is technically guilty and criminal for behaving ordinarily – it’s just a matter of applying the now available rules against any one citizen who may be targeted. This was the fear I was taught as a child that Nazi occupied regions lived with and we were so glad not to be in that situation. Goodbye Trudeau, Hello Harper.

  27. Donald Cochrane

    At one time both of these phrases were considered evil, “Government Tax Increase”, and “Corporate Profit Increase”.
    Only one is now.

  28. Graham

    I’d love to hear an expansion of these thoughts now that the report your neighbour hot line is in effect in Canada.

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