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DE·MOCRACY AND' POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN CANADA ESCOTT REID O· 'F late, Capitalists and Socialists in Canada have . agreed in a fear of the menace of anti-democratic '. forces, the Capitalists seeing Communism in every Liberal" utterance and the Socialists detecting Fascism in every reactionary remark. ",That is no doubt much more significant, the veteran of Canadian politics, Henri Bourassa,. has from his 'seat in the House of Commons prophesied· that, unless the two old parties mend their ways, disillusionment with parliamentary democracy will grow ·to·such proportions that it will cause a violent overthrow of our traditional system of government.i. To attempt. to assess the menace which anti-democratic movements may' constitute in Canada in the near future, it will be best to start with a simple proposition with which almost 'everyone will agree. It is that our traditional system of government might very well break down if a Canadianpolitical party secured considerable supporffora programme which made it clear that, when the party got into power by constitutional means,.it would makeit impossible for its opponents ever to get back into power. Or if, in other words, it said: ."vVe are a constitutional party in that we seek a majority in parliament by co.nstitutional means. But once we have control of parliament) we will pass legjshttion abolishing all other parties, abolishing freedom of mind, of discussion, of the press, abolishing adult franchise; once we are returned to power we are going to stay in power until we are dis1DebateJ oj the House oj Commons oj the Dominion oj Canada, January 3D, 1934, p. 105; January 22, 1935, p. 118. 534 DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP lodged by 'force." Such a programme would be quite legal. I t would constitute a frank avowal of the inten tion to use the machinery of democracy in order to accomplish the dow'nfall of democr~cy. If such an attempt succeeded , it 'would mean that democracy had con1mitted suicide. This is in effect what the Nazi party said in Germany up to January, 1933, and what'they did after January, 1933. The Nazi promise to abolish the party system and democracy was accompanied by a promise that "heads ~hall roll in. the sand," but executions are not an indispensable feature of a Fascist revolution accomplished by' democratic means. What are believers in democracy to do when COllfron ted with such a situation? If they remain true to their democratic principles and allow freedom of discussion to such a Fascist party, they 'make it possible for onehalf of the population to take a'way the rights of the other half, and to abolish democracy. Their adherence to democratic principles betrays democracy into the po\ver of its enemies. On the other hand, if they declare the Fascist party illegal, they have abolished "free competition of different political ideas"2-they have abolished demo,cracy. And since they will probably not abolish the Fascist party until it constitutes a real threat, this means that they will declare illegal a party having the support of, say, thirty per cent. of the people. They will drive that party ,underground; they will have to pu~ in force repressive measures against' it; they ,may provoke it to armed uprising. I t wo~id appear, therefore, that as soon as there arises the possibility that' a Fascist party may 2See International Affairs, December, 1934, p. 766, for Sir Ernest Barker's defini tion of democracy as "government by the free competition of different political ideas." ' ' 535 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY attain office by constitutional means, democratic government becomes almost impossible. The same situation will arise if a substantial measure of public support is given to a Communist or any other party which declares th'at it intends to attain office by constitutional means, but that having attained office it is going to stay in power until dislodged by force. The justification for democracy's giving up democracy in o~der to fight such Fascist or Communist parties is that, if it permits these parties to progress unhampered, they may succeed in obtaining office and will proceed to abolish democracy and make it impossible for the people by constitutional...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 534-549
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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