By Mark Christensen
One of the results of North America’s security between two oceans has been a lack of geopolitical thinking. There is even a school of thought – encouraged by Alexander Dugin and similar writers – that America and the Anglosphere receive cultural traits like individualism and ideological thinking from their oceanic existence. On the flipside, Russia and other land civilizations think religiously and geopolitically, analyzing in terms of power and not ideology. But let’s dig beyond that. In fact, Canada has always by necessity thought more geopolitically than its southern neighbour. This is to no small extent because of the proximity of said neighbour – we are Pierre Trudeau’s mouse in the shadow of the elephant. Our whole policy from the American Rebellion, through the Imperial era, up until the turning focus on Pacific relations, has been forwarded with the fact of our continental neighbourhood in mind. Unfortunately, geopolitics in the Canadian mind has been reduced primarily to military and economic matters. Since the end of the cold war, the latter has dominated. But in this age of strife across global borders, we must increasingly consider a more civilizational approach to geopolitics. In this piece, we will consider Canada’s position as an opportunity.
Much of European political thinking has taken as its starting point the essence and structures of power. Its goal has been to determine the nature of power and how it operates in the world. This is true both of pre- and post-liberal schools of thought. For example, the 17th century English author Sir Robert Filmer sees power as being integral to human societies and not established by rights or contracts. It is also scaleable, with the power of fathers having a macrocosm in the power of kings. Thus, the will of the ruler is the source of law and political decision. Marxist thought, conversely, saw power as founded primarily on economic control and driven by dynamics of exploitation. Against both of these we have the Western liberal tradition, which has taken multiple rhetorical and political forms. However, there are several unifying themes. In its most developed forms, it states that the governed populace are also the ultimate source of power and that political institutions should be democratic representatives of this populace. It also holds that the sovereign individual is the important unit within this populace, and that such institutions are more or less applicable to all of global humanity.
The United States and the world order which it has built are infused with the latter ideology. Let us consider that Canada’s foundations differ. Without a doubt, huge segments of its governing classes embraced the liberal worldview (19th century editions) even at its founding. Today, it is dominant among all political parties. However, Canada’s founding traditions also include a significant inheritance from traditions predating this one. Some of these are reflected in our laws and institutions. Our policy of multiculturalism and acceptance of “distinct societies” like Quebec show that we view the human as more than sovereign individual, but also has a cultural being. The Crown which forms the sovereign head of the state is a fundamentally illiberal institution. It is occupied by familial inheritance and as an institution it is descended from the ancient monarchies which include William the Conqueror and Alfred the Great. Its power is not to represent the people, but to give unity and coherency to the exercise of sovereign power. The fact that she is crowned and anointed by an Archbishop reveals a fundamentally religious view of the world, and not a secular or relativistic one. The human is not simply economic man but also cultural man, ethnic man, social man, familial man, and religious man.
For the purposes of this piece, let us propose that these traditions are fundamentally necessary to overcome our crisis of disintegration. The liberal order realizes that cultural and class conflict are rising. They realize that there is polarization not only between parties but also between regions, cultures, and even the sexes. However, their solutions have always returned to the economic. Neither tax cuts nor tax rises alone will rescue us. Both the desperate working class and the alienated upper class have seen sons leave to join terror groups, daughters succumb to mental illness, and both share in the demographic crisis. While we will not use this space to detail every application and solution, let us take as a general principle that these traditions have much to offer in solutions. The question now becomes, how do we transmit these traditions in an effective way to those with the power to transform our world order? Additionally, how can we build the alternative to which such people can rally around (and dare one say, defect to)?
This is where Canada has a unique position. While not by any means the source of military might or international clout, Canada is an integral member of the American alliance. Moreover, our institutions are highly integrated with those south of the border. Canadian and American centers of government and education are tightly linked and exchange human and intellectual resources. If Canada is not the most visible country of the alliance, its reputation remains large positive. This is our institutional position. Canada also maintains powerful ties to the European and Western world. First and foremost we turn again to our monarchy. The Crown as an institution is shared by the UK and other countries in the Anglosphere, and it retains a special relationship to numerous others. These countries share in the British Imperial inheritance, which expands into philosophies of politics and government and is not only institutional. The British traditions are engrained are in the memories and subconsciouses of these countries, even if we are long past the days which James Anthony Froude described in his accounts of the West Indies:
The British race dispersed over the world have celebrated the Jubilee of the Queen with an enthusiasm evidently intended to bear a special and peculiar meaning. The people of these islands and their sons and brothers and friends and kinsfolk in Canada, in Australia, and in New Zealand have declared with a general voice, scarcely disturbed by a discord, that they are fellow-subjects of a single sovereign, that they are united in feeling, united in loyalty, united in interest, and that they wish and mean to preserve unbroken the integrity of the British Empire.
However, much of the Anglosphere has separated itself from this heritage politically. Others have retained it but lack the specifically North American context. Canada alone of the Anglosphere consciously maintained not only Anglo political traditions, but Anglo-American ones. English Canada is tied by blood and culture to English America. The borders of 1776 and beyond were ones of ideology and geopolitics, but not of blood and culture.
However, Canada is not only tied to the Anglosphere. By virtue of the French heritage in particular, as well as migration more generally, it has significant ties to continental Europe. Unlike America, which was at that time more homogeneously English, Anglo- and French communities in Canada’s predecessor states had to deal with continental conflicts spilling over into the New World. Because of this, political authorities had to devise settlements between different ethnic and linguistic groups. These mirrored the continental approach more than America’s cultural melting pot and unified expansionism. America’s moment of division would of course come during its civil war.
The continental approach to geopolitics was mirrored in both English and French Canadian Prime Ministers. Even Pierre Elliot Trudeau, renowned as the arch-liberal Prime Minister, took a strong statist and nationalist view against French separatism. His willingness to use military force revealed (perhaps ironically) a very French view of the Canadian state as being more than a sum of its parts. While part of this is due to his progressive democratic views (as opposed to nationalist or separatist), one must recall his early Jesuit education. According to those around him, such as Trudeau advisor Marc Lalonde, the Jesuit schools of the time retained strong sympathies for the states of Franco and Salazar, and even to an extent that of Petain. The strongest English Canadian example of continental geopolitical thought was, of course, Sir John A. Macdonald himself. His state-driven securing of the Dominion’s western territories reveals an approach which would likely be familiar to a European statesman such as Bismarck.
In the midst of the current crisis, there are two errors which we must confront. One is an error built into the systems which have caused much of the crisis. The other is one which confuses escapism for solutions. These two errors are internationalism and petty nationalism. By internationalism, we mean the globalist conception which imagines a universal humanity which can be ruled by homogeneous, multilateral, liberal institutions. By petty nationalism, we mean a nationalist response which forgets to think on the civilizational level. It seeks to retreat to a small state and protect itself from the fray. In Canada, we might think of the sort of barely self-conscious civic nationalism which knows it’s suspicious of Islam but understands nothing of our own history. We must consider how Canada’s ties to Europe and America enable it to effectively confront both errors.
The British and European roots we have described above make it clear that institutions are rooted in unique histories and populations. This also holds true for international or imperial institutions, which develop through the specific challenges faced by particular empires. British North America ruled diverse but predominantly European populations; meanwhile, the African territories or India had institutions which were also uniquely British but which evolved differently due to the different challenges they faced. The People’s Republic of China includes many ethnicities beyond the Han, but its fundamental institutions were created by its dominant and majority population. The American empire rests on institutions created by an individualistic populace which preferred to think of itself as free and sovereign, which is why it calls itself the “international community” rather than admitting its true nature.
Canada’s experience in the American order has let it see firsthand the dominance of states which can operate across international great spaces. The wealth and power of nations is one of the guarantors of political sovereignty. Those which have secured powerful and loyal ties to allied states or populations have seen their own power grow. It is for this reason that Russia, China, and Iran have put decades of diplomatic and military effort into avoiding or overcoming isolation. The responsible ruler understands that sovereignty demands technological and economic capability. This is not because economics is the source of values, since to make economics supreme is one of the fundamental errors of conservatism. Not all wealth is created equal. But there can be no question that countries which have no control over their sources of food, media or technology are not sovereign. Since no country has universal access to all the resources it requires, they either become dominant powers or are allied to a greater dominant power. Thus, political orders operating on vast continental and cross-oceanic scales have appeared. In the literature of Dugin and the European New Right, this concept is called the “great space” and is defined around a foundational geopolitical “pole”.
Canada’s pole is without question the United States. Canada’s ethnocultural and historical cousins in Western Europe and the Anglosphere are integral fellow members of this great space. At this time, there is no alternative pole or great space which Canada can realistically consider itself to be part of. And for this reason, we must confront that it is precisely the governing elite of this space which is the cause of much ideological and political turmoil.
But the great space of global liberalism is not a reality cemented by the fates. It is men who have built it, and it is men who can remake it. The idea of Restoration is one which imagines a new and better order arising in this space. It believes that the traditions which we possess have true and valuable knowledge. It believes that this idea can animate the thoughts and actions of those who govern, or who can build the power to govern. Finally, it believes that with a class of able governors animated this idea, the great space of our civilization can use its great wealth and technology to secure a far better world.
Canada’s unique position is that it ties together older traditions with our world order. An opportunity exists for our country to build this vision and bring it forward. What is needed, first and foremost, is able people and a willingness to unlearn and learn anew. By allowing our traditions to unveil the idea of Restoration, we can take the first step in a new geopolitical vision.
Published on Northern Dawn, 18 December 2017.