A Review of The Canadian Fuhrer: The Life of Adrien Arcand

Adrien Arcand is an interesting, yet marginal figure nearly unknown in Canadian politics and certainly a persona non grata in today’s political climate, except as an object of curiosity–a P.T. Barnum exhibition brought out of the dustbins of history to be gawked at and prodded by the politically vindicated. Jean-Francois Nadeau’s treatment of Arcand in The Canadian Fuhrer: The Life of Adrien Arcand is one such handling, as a quote plastered on the back of the book cover attests, “we forget too easily that a germ of madness exists in all societies.” Although the book is generally acknowledged as a reasonable treatment, this is in part because there is scarcely little written about the “Canadian Fuhrer,” but one must be mindfully vigilant when confronted with obvious instances of condescending and moralizing language applied to historical research that imagines or implies itself to be objective. Still one can glean a bit of objective history from this otherwise tacit liberal hoopla.

Arcand was an integral part of not only the underground post-war fascist international (Francis Parker Yockey even stayed at his house in Lanoraie for a few days in the 1950s), but also for the prewar advocates of “the Cause.” Arcand cultivated relationships with leading, and marginal far-right figures and organizations. The infamous anti-Semitic novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine had come to visit Arcand’s movement in 1938, Le Parti National Social Chrétien (PNSC), whose emblem and members bore the swastika surrounded by a sea of French blue. The PNSC would merge with the Canadian Union of Fascists, headed by Toronto-based fascist leader Joseph C. Farr and William Whittaker’s Winnipeg-based Canadian Nationalist Party, to form the National Unity Party of Canada (NUPC). Throughout his life Arcand was a prolific man of letters, keeping correspondences with such notables as Arnold Leese and Henry Hamilton Beamish of the Imperial Fascist League. Along with Beamish, Arcand agreed in the post-war years, that “people are still far too wealthy” for a fascist revolution. This was in the era of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, with a post-war economic boom and liberal cosmopolitan values in ascendency against the church and the land. Arcand was also an early mentor to Ernst Zundel “who had helped him eradicate his belief in the Holocaust” (297).

Brought up in the strict Catholic setting of Quebec at the time when the Church had a prominent role in education, Arcand developed a strong sense of “belonging to Christian civilization shaped by old France.” Like Charles Maurras, Arcand never saw a disjunction or paradox between his religion and his politics. However, for Arcand faith was a sincere expression of his convictions and not just about the maintenance and conditioning of order, hierarchy, respect, community, and tradition as it was for Maurras, although certainty all these elements were present in Arcand as well. Arcand was no mere Francophone nationalist, but instead supported English Imperialism and viewed Canada as the political manifestation of its two founding nations, the French and the English, capable of assimilating only other Europeans into its constitution. In the 1960s when the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) would emerge and demand separation for the province of Quebec from Canada, Arcand would have nothing to do with these youths who were engaging in terrorism inspired by the likes of Franz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh. This left-wing and progressive nationalism was sickening to Arcand, who at this point was veteran of the game and was an anglophile who identified with the federal constitution of the nation, and not just Quebec. In this, Arcand was an ardent European nationalist.

In 1940 under the War Measures Act, Arcand and members of his party were imprisoned at Petawawa camp in northern Ontario. Also imprisoned was Montreal’s Mayor Camillien Houde, who was fiercely against conscription and had told an audience, “French Canadians in the province of Quebec are fascists in blood if not in name, and if England were to go to war against Italy, their sympathies would lie with the Italians” (238). Indeed, since the end of the Seven Years’ War (1754-63), many French Canadians had felt as though they were an occupied people. Such, a feeling of national alienation and concession would later fuel the formation of the nationalist Parti Québécois (PQ) who would seek independence from Canada and Ottawa–coming within less 1% of a ‘yes’ vote in the 1995 Referendum–while the ruling Liberal Party played very dirty tricks to turn the tide in their favor. The loss of this referendum is when Jacques Parizeau famously blamed “money and the ethnic vote.”

Indeed it is the dismal science of homo economicus which is presiding over what a Canadian poet recently called “The death of Quebec”. Quebec, like everywhere else in the Western world in which modernism and secularism have taken hold, is faced with a dwindling population–therefore, the dismal science decrees that immigration is key. This is the logical outcome when true patriots like Arcand are ostracized from the establishment, when advertisers do not want to associate themselves with opinions that the owners of the product may actual share for fear of reprisal and a loss of portion of the market–basically when that dismal science rules over all. Instead, we get academic panels wherein minorities who should be kissing the ground for being allowed to enter the country and ingratiating themselves to the foolish Europeans that welcomed them to their community, they lecture about shaming them, about “intersectionality” and about how the host population is “racist” and “privileged” and deserves to be replaced.

Since Arcand’s time, discussion about race in Canada and Quebec has degenerated into the one-way street of political correctness and white guilt. Meanwhile, any socio-political discussion has taken on a crypto indirect approach, to the point that the issue in Quebec is dwindled down to the basis of “language” and thus the issue becomes framed within the context of Francophones vs. Anglophones, or within the PQ’s introduction of the Charter of Quebec Values. Thus, Quebec sought to solve its “language problem,” by adopting English Canada’s policy of multiculturalism and point-based immigration system, with the importation of French speaking Afro-Caribbeans. Thinking that the descendants of the same people whom Napoleon once said, “My decision to destroy the authority of the blacks in Saint Dominque (Haiti) is not so much based on considerations of commerce and money, as on the need to block forever the march of the blacks in the world,” could help the economy and the language problem is foolhardy. Cleary, Napoleon was not such a homo economicus, and nor was Arcand, whose Catholicism promoted large families, such as his own.

Both prior to and following Arcand’s release from prison, Fred Rose (born Rosenberg), who was a MP under the Labour-Progressive Party, the renamed Communist Party of Canada, tried to get Arcand deported from Canada. Although rather infamously, Rose was the one tried, imprisoned, and deported from the country. Rose is the only Member of Parliament ever to be convicted of spying for a foreign country, you can guess which one. Even though, according to Nadeau, “Fascists saw links between Jews and communism everywhere, even when they had to create their own from scratch” (287), clearly all just manifestations of Arcand’s “madness.” One of Rose’s pamphlets Fascism over Canada, is available online, and is ironically filled with such pandering and soapy patriotic declarations such as: “Every Canadian who loves his country and his people, social progress and democracy is duty bound to lend a hand and nip the fascist menace in the bud.” Elsewhere in the pamphlet, Rose declares: “The fascist leaders are plotting to destroy the democratic institutions which enable the people to defend their interests against the greedy multi-millionaires.” Indeed.

Arcand saw in communism a movement that would “do away with traditions, customs and religions,” (56) the same things that Rose was decrying the Fascists of destroying. Of course, history has vindicated Arcand in this regard. Arcand proposed nationalizing private energy companies in the 1930s, which was finally implemented by the Liberal government of Quebec in 1962 and was opposed to the fluoridation of water, an idea which has received a lot of press and activism only forty years hence. Ringing a familiar cord to contemporary Canadians is Arcand’s support for the 1910 “Anti-Yellow Peril League” which stipulated that “Chinese immigrants represented unfair competition to local merchants and workers” (27). The mainstream Maclean’s magazine, for instance published an article in 2010, suggesting that Canadian universities were becoming “too Asian.” Asian overrepresentation in enrollment in Canada’s universities was said to be adding a level of aggressive and rigorous competition to post-secondary enrollment and was subsequently ruining the university experience. While mainstream publications deal with this in a round-about way, never directly engaging in the obvious critique of laissez-fare globalization coupled with racial interests that this demands. Although this subject has been recently broached by the courageous UNB professor Ricardo Duchesne, who has faced enormous backlash for his honesty: “The incoming in Vancouver of Asians and Chinese was too fast, too quick. So essentially, we had a situation in which within a matter of a few years, a very British city, took on a strongly Asian character.”

As a journalist, Arcand was part of a group pushing for free education for the poor and large families, which was formally adopted in 1963. Many of Arcand’s causes would later be adopted by the mainstream, such his advocacy for alternative natural medicines, as many ecological, sustainable, and buy local initiatives would start on the radical right. But foremost within his thoughts was the Jewish Question–which has been much less adoptable or acceptable for the common mind shaped by a monopolized media-at least before the internet. Arcand fought for the marginal viewpoints to be heard, he was an advocate of freedom of speech and launched Le Goglu, a populist paper, filled with cartoons and editorials showcasing Arcand’s anti-Semitism. Which itself launched a movement called the Ordre Patriotique des Goglus, “working ‘on general purification, on preserving our Latin character, our customs and our habits, on protecting our rights and privileges’” (49).

The hardest pill for the masses to swallow is that of the Jewish problem. Continuously and ubiquitously ridiculed and simplified, this has been Arcand’s central pivot throughout his active life. Of all the issues that Arcand fought for and were later mainstreamed and sublimated through detached language, this one facet would just not go down the collect throat of the asinine masses. Perhaps, as Arcand came to believe, it was an idea whose time is yet to come as people were just “too wealthy” in the post-war boom. However, when the poverty of this new age finally dawns upon Western man, recent movements and organizations, such as Radix, make one hopeful that voices in the wilderness like Arcand’s will not continue to be drowned out and forgotten over the dim televisual stimulus of the spectacle society.