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ASPECTS OF FRENCHCANADIAN NATIONALISM Ilean-Marc Leger Nationalism in the presentday world bas fared badly at the hands of tbe press, at least in the Western world. Countless are the theorists who bave voiced their unreserved condemnation of it, and their judgment is repeated in the most varied modes by a large section of the press which sees in nationalism a harmful attitude and an "outworn" mode of behaviour. However, these very people, whom I shall call in a general term liberals, are paradoxically enough the staunchest supporters of the young Asian and African nationalisms whose aspirations to independence they automatically approve, and whose refusal to comprontise they excuse with indulgent benevolence. They explain their seemingly contradictory attitude by maintaining , that this nationalism functions at two different levels. While being worthy of admiration in young states in gestation as an expression of a legitimate will to escape domination and "exploitation" from outside and to enjoy their being to the full, it calls for reproof in states long since independent as an exhibition of racialism and a more or less confessed aspiration to hegemony, in short as a factor of totalitarianism within the state and of imperialism without. This is an attractive explanation in theory but fails to encompass the infinitely complex reality of political life. As a matter of fact, this effort at a justification a posteriori of a contradictory attitude is another sign of the confusion that reigns in the present day, when highminded sentiments leave an ever slenderer margin to healthy ideas. In French Canada this same phenomenon, this same condemnation of nationalism, is naturally to be found in a large fraction of the young intellectual ,Wte. Here the contradiction is flagrant and the confusion all the greater since French Canada from several points of view occupies the very situation which would "justify" Asian and African nationalism. What exactly is being thus condemned? And what do those peple defend who, rising against this denunciation, claim to be partisans of nationalism ? One can reasonably meet these questions only with an analysis of 310 FRENCH-CANADIAN NATIONALISM 311 the evolution and prevailing state of French-Canadian nationalism, today at the height of a crisis. However, before coming to the heart of the problem it is important to stress that we in North America are generally the victims (in nationalism as in many other matters) of an inclination to transfer to our home ground the ideological quarrels of Europe, and when confronted with such-and-such a doctrine or concept to take up our stance in positions which various European schools of thought have adopted, and to use arguments which cannot apply to our own situation. This is striking in our case among those who never cease to criticize nationalism: as often as not they adopt the very terms used in the condemnations uttered in Europe. The justifiable repulsion brought about by the fascist and Nazi adventures and their aftermath has a good deal to do with it. Nationalism has emerged both as the basis of neo-militarism, pitiless racialism, and the will to dominate and as the sign of a social conservatism which takes on the complexion of either paternalism or domineering corporatism. So by reason of the dress it had assumed at a certain time in certain countries, nationalism in every form was condemned. With a like indignation , what Malraux termed "la droite virile"-a fascist style-and "la droite epaisse"-in the style of the paternalist bourgeoisie-were also denounced. Strangely enough, nationalism was being unhesitatingly identified with the right wing at a time when in several parts of the world (for example, in Indonesia, Indochina, and more recently in the Middle East) it was taking up its position on the left. On the other hand, it must be said that the majority of nationalists were laying themselves strangely open to this identification, and wantonly helping in the confusion. One clerico-conservative train of thought (in no way connected with the true French-Canadian nationalist tradition) had made Franco into a "Father of the Church," warmly passed on the most fragmentary pronouncement of Marshal Petain, and found it difficult to hide a tendency to sympathize with the fascism...


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pp. 310-329
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