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292 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 Bob Hesketh. Major Douglas and Alberta Social Credit University of Toronto Press 1997. 316. $21.95 'There is ... at the present time in full operation an international government of the world operating through the economic system of every country, not elected, not subject to removal by any of the ordinary mechanisms which we apply to political government.' No, the quote is not from the latest rant against the dark forces of globalization. It was written in 1933 by Major Clifford H. Douglas, the ideological founder of social credit, whose ideas are the subject of Bob Hesketh's interesting and provocative book. It has generally been assumed that Alberta Social Credit premiers William Aberhart and Ernest Manning did not fully understand the intricacies of Douglas's bizarre monetary theory and that, even if they did, they soon concluded that Douglas's ideas were of little relevance to the practical business of running a government. Hesketh argues quite convincingly that social credit was more than a monetary theory - it was a philosophy of life, a world view. Aberhart and Manning embraced it and never ceased in their efforts to build a society based upon social credit principles. Douglas believed in the existence of an international conspiracy of financiers who were plotting to enslave the world. They had orchestrated the Russian Revolution, the rise ofHitler, the League ofNations, the Second World War, the International Monetary Fund, the cold war, and, in their spare time, social welfare legislation in Canada. Douglas's wild imaginings and paranoid delusions were modelled on The Protocols ofthe Learned Elders of Zion. Despite its exposure as an anti-Semitic forgery in 1921, he said it reflected 'the facts ofeveryday experience.' The remedy was at hand. Social credit would defeat Finance and deliver a new civilization in which common people would have both material security and individual freedom. Hesketh maintains that while Aberhart quibbled with Douglas over some minor points (their arcane disagreements over such concepts as Jthe unearned increment of association' will test the reader's patience), he adopted Douglas's beliefsystem and conspiracytheory. However, Aberhart added an important twist - he identified Finance with the Antichrist and saw the world locked in a life-and-death struggle between Good and Evil, th~t is, between social credit and Finance. He differed with Douglas on his identification of the conspiracy with Jews. Both Aberhart and Manning publicly disavowed anti-Semitism, but, as Hesketh points out, the question of anti-Semitism in Alberta Social Credit cannot be so quickly resolved. Attributing all negative events and influences to an anti-Christian conspiracy had the effect of contributing to anti-Semitism, as did some of Aberhart's fundamentalist beliefs about how the world will end. He and MaIU1ing in 1931 coauthored a play entitled The Branding Irons ofAntichrist in which Jews assisted the Antichrist to ascend to the throne of Russia. HUMANITIES 293 Hesketh gives a detailed analysis of how Aberhart tried to implement his beliefs from the time he became premier in 1935 until his death in 1943. The sincerity of his commitment to social credit ideals was not diminished by his 'gradualist' approach, although the thesis that Manning was equally committed is less convincing because less rigorously argued. There are eight chapters on the period 1935 to 1945 and only one on the post-Second World War era. The book is vague about how pervasive Douglas's ideas were and how far they extended beyond Aberhart, Manning, and the Alberta Social Credit party elite. There are a few hints that many party supporters had their doubts. When in 1937 the extreme Douglasites were seeking to spread their paranoid view of history and educate the masses in the principles of 'social dynamics,' the party's local groups-had the good sense to resist indoctrination. However, Hesketh omits a systematic, comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the ideology of the Social Credit elite and the concerns of ordinary members. One of the consequences of moving Douglas's ideas to the centre of our understanding of Alberta Social Credit is that it makes the Social Credit phenomenon more troubling. We cannot be comforted by the assumption that Aberhart and...


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pp. 292-293
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