In 1936, The Herald...

mardi 10 novembre 2009 ·

...an eminent London newspaper, announced the election of the first fascist government in the history of the British Empire, that of Maurice Duplessis. Indeed, in his biography of Maurice Duplessis, Conrad Black points out that several newspaper, including Le Devoir, hailed the first fascist government. Strangely enough, that image of Duplessis has stayed in the minds of the left.

We must understand that the only difference between fascism and socialism is that fascism adheres to a strong nationalist doctrine while socialism is internationalist. However, economically they are the same in so many ways. They both seek, through differents methods, to control the means and factors of production and they hate liberalism and its attachment to free markets, limited government and individualism. In its article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Duplessis's death, Le Devoir, characterized Duplessis's reign as one of free market, limited government intervention in the economy and open invitation to foreign investment. So, in no ways was Duplessis a fascist, he was an anti-fascist as Black notes a few times.

So why did The Herald called Duplessis's first government as fascist (1936-1939)? The answer is very simple: The Action Libérale Nationale(ALN). The ALN was founded by Paul Gouin (son of Sir Lomer Gouin, a former premier of Quebec), Édouard Lacroix and Philippe Hamel. Their program was very simple: nationalize electricity, remove the trusts, a policy of planning industrial production, a policy of moving workers from the cities back to rural areas, corporativism and farm credit. All that mixed with a strong nationalist discourse mimics in so many ways what the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics defines as fascism in its economic sense.

In 1935, the ALN accepted an electoral alliance with Maurice Duplessis's Conservative Party to run candidates only against liberals and divided Quebec according to where they were more likely to win. In 1936, after a shaky year for the liberals, the Union Nationale (the result of the official merger of the ALN and the conservatives) swept into power. This is what led The Herald to qualify the UN government as "fascist". However, as I said Duplessis was not a fascist. As soon as he won the election and formed government, Duplessis excluded ALN members from influential posts. He granted ministries without portofolios (thus making them powerless) to ALN members and he refused Philippe Hamel's proposition to nationalise the Beauharnois Energy Corporation.

Duplessis actually did everything he could to crush the fascists of the ALN and maintain markets as free as possible from government intervention. On top of that, Duplessis's nationalism was not hostile to anglophones. Duplessis himself was very respectful of the english community. If we then add his "liberal" policies of the 1944-1959 era, I can confidently affirm that Duplessis kept fascists as far away from power as he could in Quebec and was not himself a fascist but a somewhat very conservative free marketeer.

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Bryan Breguet est candidat au doctorat en sciences économiques à l’université de Colombie-Britannique. D’origine Suisse, il a passé les cinq dernières années au Québec au cours desquelles il s’est engagé en politique provinciale malgré le fait qu’il ne possédait pas encore la citoyenneté canadienne. Il détient un B.Sc en économie et politique ainsi qu’une maitrise en sciences économiques de l’université de Montréal. Récipiendaire de plusieurs prix d’excellences et bourses, il connaît bien les méthodes quantitatives et leurs applications à la politique.







Vincent Geloso holds a master’s degree in economic history from the London School of Economics, with a focus on business cycles, international development, labor markets in preindustrial Europe and the new institutional economics. His research work examined the economic history of the province of Quebec from 1920 to 1960. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the Université de Montréal. He has also studied in the United States at the Washington Centre for Academic Seminars and Internships. Mr. Geloso has been an intern for the Prime Minister’s cabinet in Ottawa and for the National Post. He has also been the recipient of a fellowship from the Institute for Humane Studies and an international mobility bursary from the Ministère des Relations internationales du Québec. Currently, he is an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute.

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