Editorial Note from Anthony Hall: This essay is the second installment of Robin Mathews' series reflecting on the 1960s in Canada. The series is presented as a commentary on Bryan D. Palmer's, Canada's 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era. (University of Toronto Press).
Professor Mathews' account draws heavily on his own experience beginning in the 1960s as a leader in a concerted campaign to Canadianize the staffing and research activities of Canadian universities. Until well into the 1970s US and British professors dominated the largest number of faculty positions in Canadian universities. The Canadianization campaign met with some success opening up space for post-graduates, including me, to make the transition into full-time faculty members at our own institutions of higher learning.
In the 1960s Canada was a place where the informal empire building of the United States largely supplanted the diminishing influence and role of British imperial institutions. The internal dynamics of the movement to Canadianize indigenous educational institutions unfolded in this context. The effort to assert indigenous control of our own country helped advance the ideals of Canadian sovereignty, a discourse that was especially well developed on the social democratic left of the political spectrum.
Prof. Mathews has contributed many articles over several years to the American Herald Tribune. I see his series of articles on Canada's 1960s as a kind of marker and celebration of the relocation of AHT away from the domains patrolled by censorious thought police in the US Deep State. Vive AHTribune.ca.
American Herald Tribune will of course retain its international orientation towards a wide array of issues. In the future, however, there may be a little more emphasis than in the past on Canadian subject matters.
The 1960s were marked by a genuine movement to “Canadianize” … not away from the old ties to ‘Britain and the Empire’ … but from the New Imperialism, from the visible and forceful global power of Canada’s USA neighbour. Its power was felt all along the longest border in the world between two countries: close to 9000 kilometres. And, of course, it was felt in the large degree of “foreign (read U.S.) ownership” of the Canadian economy ... and more.
Britain could be thought of warmly and with fondness, having less and less real power in Canada - as well as being across a very large ocean where it was still mending, and making up for, wounds it had received in the devastating 1939-1945 war. The USA was unscathed from that war, was the major powerhouse of “the West”, fully believed in its right “to lead the free world”, and it lay along thousands of kilometers of Canadian border.
The U.S. leaked into Canada by a thousand rivulets, affecting social and political perceptions. A very widely read publication, just for instance, was the weekly, Time (Canada), being the U.S. Time magazine with a number of pages (for Canada only) stapled in at the beginning … creating Time (Canada). Time Canada’s coverage of Ottawa was lively … and, I believe - if carefully studied by Political Scientists - might show a distinct, quiet intention to further U.S. interests in Canada. Why not?
Professor Bryan D. Palmer’s repeated assertion in his book, Canada’s 1960s, that Canadians were throwing off old and emotional British Imperial connections is, probably, a kind of false flag. For it leaks attention away from the substantial (U.S.) imperial forces that were at play… with which Professor Palmer is apparently, mostly, sympathetic … and about which he says almost nothing in his book.
That sympathy is connected to a huge movement in the USA that has crippled (some say) its political system to this day, possibly forever….
In the early 1950s in the USA a gigantic, destructive attack on “un-American activities” – called McCarthyism - was conducted against “Communists” (and by contagion… all Left political forces in the USA). It had the effect of ruining many innocent lives, of causing the flight of many U.S. people to other countries, of strangling almost all criticism of Capitalism in the USA, and importantly, strangling all Left politics. Today … most (even ‘political’) people in the USA don’t notice how denuded the USA is of anything like serious anti-Capitalist critique in what might be called its active and on-going Party structures and in political campaigning for public office. Capitalism is the unchallenged master of all activity in the USA … almost without public ‘political’ criticism.
The U.S. activities also affected Canada, (helping to make the Communist Party in Canada, for instance, … which is there … something to be ignored as completely as possible.) But Canada still has a Social Democratic party (the NDP) active in the country’s political life ... and – we must remember - the USA doesn’t even have an NDP.
A new kind of “politics” was born in the USA in the 1960s, what might be called “unpolitical politics”. When, in Berkeley, California, students rose up against the administration of the University of California … and drew attention to their militance and serious concern … they were said to be bringing critical politics back to the USA, to be the manifestation of a “New” Left… replacing the Left that had been violently erased in the McCarthy’ism years. “The New Left” that was born, however, was a political manifestation that even its admirers report was more about a criticism of power in place, of hierarchy in U.S. institutions, of ‘administration’,than of the Capitalist system which underlies it all.
That was, indeed, a serious, almost silent political turning … which, to this day, rules U.S. politics so completely it goes unnoticed ... a political system in a democratic country without a party of the Left in the active politics of the country….
As the critique by the students in California developed it was swept up by a hungry U.S. Mainstream Press and Media and offered as major politics … actually offered as a “New Left”. And, indeed, that New Left appeared in Canada as a colonial offshoot of the action in the USA. It’s politicisation – and it did develop politicisation – was to create a strongly anti-nationalist, anti-Canadian independence position in which Canadians were exhorted to abandon parochial “nationalism” and to join with a globe-sweeping international Socialism which by magic and the brilliant work of international Socialists would bring Socialism to all the countries in the world … hopefully at the same time!
As it happens, earlier, Josef Stalin in Russia believed in securing Socialism in Russia before spreading it, a nationalist position. Leon Trotsky also in Russia believed in working all at once for Socialism everywhere. And (twisted as this may seem) that is the reason The New Left in Canada (the so-called Trotskyists) expressed contempt for the 1960’s Waffle Movement in the NDP calling for Socialism and Independence for Canada…. The Trots (as they are lovingly called) cry out for the adoption of International Socialism to be sought and achieved by all nations in a marvellous signal of global unity. (That, as it happens, was the position of Leon Trotsky … who Stalin ejected from Russia and then traced to his hideout place in Mexico City … and had an icepick sunk into Trotsky’s head - in 1940 … to assure Trotsky would not continue with such nonsensical Romanticism.) Canadians, fortunately, believe the kind of action instigated by Stalin is not engaged in by civilized people.
The New Left in both Canada and the United States was/is often called ‘Trotskyism’. And it is my opinion … an unresearched opinion … that forces in the USA – the FBI, the CIA, etcetera, probably quietly supported (financed?) whatever forces resisted Canadianization (and that those same U.S. forces support all anti-nationalist forces across the hemisphere). Real independence in any country in the hemisphere is a threat to U.S. hegemony.
Observe (for instance) the endless, vicious, barely-disguised U.S. attacks on the democratically elected government in Venezuela that does not want to be a U.S. underling.
In Canada… and … just maybe … elsewhere, those U.S. interests (I believe) may fund International Socialism, ‘the New Left’, open distaste for national independence. Some Canadians wanted ‘independence’(achieved in a Socialist country), and some declared in the Waffle Manifesto of the 1960s that they wanted it fought for as a plank in the political platform of the NDP … which may be the Waffle Movement was tossed out of the NDP, at a meeting in Orillia, Ontario, in 1974.
*(Top image credit: franchising.com)