Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
~ Benito Mussolini
With the announcement by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) of formal complaints against the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for illegally spying on environmental groups opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, should we ask the question: are we there yet?
But it is instructive to reflect once in a while on Mussolini's musings about the true character of fascism. The word itself has become almost unusable given that for years it has been applied to the guy who cut you off in traffic or your neighbour who refuses to silence his dog. And, absent of goose-stepping soldiers and brown-shirts breaking down your door in the middle of the night, people simply don't think much about fascism. The last infamous Western fascist was the murderous Augusto Pinochet (best buddy of Margaret Thatcher's).
But while a fascist system may be a long way off, fascist attitudes and behaviour are clearly not. And if we shy away from using the term to describe genuinely alarming and unprecedented trends in that direction then we effectively declare that any new anti-democratic measure, any incremental assault on our rights, is still somehow within the bounds of normality.
Until it isn't, and then it's too late.
While media owners, editorialists, journalists and academics periodically rise to the occasion and decry Stephen Harper's brazen attacks on our institutions, it seems to me that they doth protest too little. The day after the BCCLA announced its formal complaint the media response was generally a big ho-hum. Harper business as usual. Old news.
Harper's general list of assaults, as bad as they are (and columnist Lawrence Martin has compiled a pretty thorough one here), is different from our prime minister's genuinely frightening decision to enlist the country's security apparatus in the direct and immediate service of the oil industry. Nothing like this has ever happened before in Canada.
Paranoid governments in the past have used the RCMP and CSIS to spy on political enemies, infiltrate activist organizations and have even sent in agent provocateurs to tarnish the image of political protest. But to arrange to have intelligence and police agencies, government representatives, a government agency supposedly responsible to Parliament and the Canadian people (the NEB) and corporate executives all sit around a table to explicitly violate not only our democratic rights but the law of the land is a grotesque step beyond.