Free Men or Automats?
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Apr 1946, p. 340-353
Harvey, Jean Charles, Speaker
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Item Type
Reasons for, and events leading up to, the foundation of the UNO. The continuing danger of nationalism. The fight between the individual and the domination of the State. A detailed discussion follows regarding totalitarianism and democracy, with many lessons to be learned from recent history. Topics addressed during this discussion include the following. The step from dictatorship to totalitarianism. A discussion of individual rights. The fight against totalitarianism from 1939-1945. The faith which inspires so-called Marxists. The weapons of propaganda and falsehood used in ideological warfare. Invention due to free enterprise. Retaining essential liberties. Democracies as organisms of evolution. The free exercise of individual reason and security for the weak through the great love which comes from Christian morality that will ensure our future society.
Date of Original
11 Apr 1946
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Full Text
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, April 11, 1946

MR. THOMPSON: The Empire Club of Canada today has the privilege of welcoming to its platform, one who has favoured us on several previous occasions and one whose speeches, each time, have left a lasting impression with our members.

Our guest of honour, who was born at Murray Bay, Quebec, is of Scottish ancestry. His forbears came to this country in 1760 and have since all married into families of French descent. He is a staunch Canadian, with a true sense of loyalty to the British Crown.

Educated by the Jesuit Order in Montreal, he selected journalism as his occupation, commencing his career as a reporter, serving on two of Montreal's French language newspapers, La Patrie and La Presse. Later, he held the post of Chief Editor of one of Quebec's leading papers, Le Soleil and, in 1937, founded his own weekly, Le Jour, which is published in Montreal.

A leading proponent of inter-provincial good will, our guest speaker, through the medium of his paper, is perhaps doing more in the interests of Canadian unity than any other man in this country.

Gentlemen, it is with pleasure that I now present to you, jean Charles Harvey, who has selected as the title of his address "Free Men or Automats".

MR. JEAN CHARLES HARVEY: Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen: Some years ago, when I started out on a crusade in favor of Canadian unity, I came here in fact to outline to you the dangers of excessive nationalism. We were on the eve of that great cataclysm which, from 1939 to 1945, has thrown the world into an undescribable chaos. Of those who here seated around this table, there are some who have come back today whereas there are others who have passed forth from the sight of man. The majority of us were then convinced that war would break out sooner or later and we were right in supposing that one of the determining causes of the catastrophe was precisely that spirit of nationalism which I was at that time denouncing. We were for ever reading in the newspapers or hearing over the air the declarations and speeches of the Fascist leaders who invariably relied upon racial pride to inspire in the hearts of youth the hatred of foreign powers and the taste for battle which would ensure the triumph of the so-called superior race.

In September 1939, and thereafter throughout the years that followed until the victory of our arms, we believed that one result of the sacrifices undertaken for the cause would be the destruction of that parish-pump mentality, that xenophobia which caused the spilling of so much blood and so many tears. We dreamed of the day when, once the Nazi-Fascist States were conquered, a world power would be established, one which would be free from all racial prejudice and capable, through a system of democratic education and by the agency of a world police-force, to suppress for ever, among all the nations, the spirit of aggression, of conquests and of domination. That is why, at the end of last summer, millions of men and women from every race and of every color had their eyes turned towards San Francisco where the foundations of that new society on which the future of the world depended, were to be laid. The UNO was founded. Everybody devoted to peace, freedom and unity applauded that generous initiative.

Since then, we have been following with the most lively interest the doings and discussions of this world society. We place our confidence in it because. indeed, we do not see anywhere else in this troubled world another organization on which we can rely to remedy the accumulated disasters and to bring about the material and moral reconstruction of human societies.

Unfortunately, several times during the last five or six months we have had to doubt the goodwill of certain men invested with an important responsibility in the very heart of the United Nations Organization. Nationalism is not dead. Too often it supersedes the interest of mankind. It manifests an appetite for conquests and for domination of every kind which makes one fear that the germs of new conflicts are being nourished in the very sanctum of the temple of peace.

But nationalism forms only one element of disturbance in the present state of affairs. It is perhaps not our worst enemy, for there is room to suppose that the nation, emerging from the worst evil of all history, will hesitate for a long time yet to take those decisive steps which make war inevitable. We may indeed wonder how Heads of States, well aware that we have entered in the atomic era and that well-nigh total destruction of the civilized world can be accomplished in a few days, can decide on such an appalling and useless crime. Because of this, we may well believe that armed warfare has through its very horror ensured its own end. For the moment, there are other conflicts looming into our view.

The most dangerous struggle which is going on at the present time in nearly all countries throughout the world is the fight between the freedom of the individual and the domination of the State. The two opposing forces are not classified exactly according to the geographical accidents of frontiers or according to different racial origins. They are differentiated by two principal ideologies one of which claims that the future of society and civilization depends on the unfettered effort of every man to make his own living and the other of which contends that the State and social community are alone capable of establishing justice, security and equality in the world. This last-named ideology may have different labels, it may be more or less complete and absolute according to the countries and the circumstances, but always and everywhere it trespasses on the liberty of the individual and in certain countries, it reduces the latter to a state of servitude as deplorable as the slavery of ancient times. Nationalism has this evil in that it opposes nation against nation and group against group, always following the nationalistic idea, but the ideological conflict is still more serious and profound in that it opposes with violence ideological groups inside the very bosom of each nation, and thus nourishes all the germs of instability, of fear, of systematic sabotage, of high treason and civil war. More serious still, it makes us dread the day when all those men who are out to defend the very principle of human liberty will be regarded as criminals.

First of all, our so-called reformers want the State to rule the whole of our economic life. Absolute rule of the State in economic affairs is only possible under a sort of dictatorship--a dictatorship more or less vague, more or less severe, more or less general, but still dictatorship. From dictatorship to totalitarianism is but a step. I do not think that it is possible to stop after entering on the slippery slope of the theory of omnipotence.

Dreamers, moderate men, the honest people who say today that we can go just so far and never further, show an equal ignorance of human nature and the logical necessities of an economic system.

In my opinion it is impossible that anyone would dominate the whole field of material activity, without at the same time dominating all political parties-that is, without abolishing political parties, and without stiffing the expression of any opinions which might embarrass the authorities in their acts.

Do not imagine for a moment that fascism or naziism or communism is something spontaneously generated, or the work of some organizing genius. They are nothing but the logical consequences of a process of domination and control, the realization of which is impossible without a total regimentation of all thought and ideas, of all reason and of the written and the spoken word.

The enemies of every form of economic liberalism boast that they abhor fascism.

They are constantly talking of "economic dictatorship" when they refer to private enterprise. They do not see that their own plans lead straight to the worst of economic dictatorship, since it would be that of the State, which must extend until it controls their spirits and their souls. At that point we should have sacrificed in vain the millions of young men who have gone out thinking that they are fighting for democratic liberty.

The individual has no right to do anything that is contrary to the interests of society, and laws have to be made and applied for this purpose, but it is equally necessary for the individual to defend himself ceaselessly against the danger of excessive power, exercised by other individuals or groups which are too enterprising, or by the government. This defence has to be incessant, unsleeping, unwavering, for without it slavery is certain. It is a law of nature that every good thing which is not defended is doomed to be the prey of some cruel greed. What has the individual to defend? His liberty of thought, so that he can go to the end which his intelligence shows him, without stopping at any barriers set up by pontificial and intolerant dogmatists; his liberty of reason, so that he can follow the linked ideas of logic to their highest development, and with the utmost courage and intellect, without concerning himself with the gloomy counsellors who advise him to place no faith in the feeble light of reason; the liberty to proclaim in speech or writing, within the boundaries of the common interest, the truths which he believes that he has discovered and the beauties which he feels he can conceive; the liberties of art, of science, of philosophy, of faith and conscience . . . even moral liberty--yes indeed. The full liberty of human conduct--within the solitary limit of the common interest. I attach just as much importance to this liberty as the authoritarians and believers in absolute rule give to the moral principles which they seek to transform into laws, defining, by amendment and sanction, what they choose to label virtue or sin. After all, sin can scarcely be a matter of legislation.

There are the privileges which the individual must now and ever defend against the excess of power, and against the most abusive interpretations of order and discipline. These liberties are, I know, admitted, desired and practised by some intellectuals of good faith, who, with a curious lack of logic, have become apostles of a system which would dominate all moral life; a system to which they have to give their entire allegiance and which they are trying their energy, as frankly as possible, to establish. That is, for these men, it is a matter of liberty for themselves, and in the things which they possess and love, but slavery in the matter of those things which they do not possess-but might love if they owned them. This is illogical and unfair.

Action of a purely material sort is as human and natural as action in the spiritual field. It is as legitimate and indispensable, even if not as lofty. I know something of the great resources of intelligence, of courage, of endurance and determination which the great conquerors of material affairs have needed for their success.

These men have been trained to struggle with the circumstances which surround them, to organize, to group, to command, to combine, to dare! We owe to them, and always shall owe to them, some of the most useful creations of human ingenuity. Even from the first they have left their marks on the world-which the centuries have not erased. It, took great artists to conceive the Acropolis. It took real conquerors of matter to realize in marble and stone the creations of the artist's thought.

The day when we shall have brought under complete control, sufficiently diminished and muzzled the energies of these creators, of these men, with their great need for a reasonable field of economic liberty, we shall not only have committed an injustice, but we shall have spoiled the quality and the temper of a type of human activity as necessary as the activity of thought, of pure reason and science, and we shall have done that, believe me, without profiting the thinkers, the scientists and the artists, for it will not be long before they are all caged. When the body lies in chains and hungers, the soul languishes in weakness.

It was against this totalitarianisim that all liberal democracies were fighting from 1939 until late 1945. Millions of men have perished for this cause and the richest countries have been practically ruined. We have succeeded in subduing, at least for all practical purposes, two antidemocratic forces: the Fascism of Mussolini and the Nazism of Hitler. Unhappily, the totalitarian idea is not dead. Personally, I have no more admiration for marxist collectivism than for German Nazism. For all those who desire to conserve and improve the democratic ideal for which men have, through the centuries, made so many revolutions, it is a duty to resist with all their energy this new clanger. It would be a grave mistake for us to sleep in a false security. It is enough to have one's eyes open to know without any doubt that an occult power, traversing the whole world, is out to corrupt our civilization from within, in such a fashion as to reestablish, by means of deceptive promises, and by all the weapons of demagogy and falsehood, the age-old tyrannies of antiquity. The war of nerves which is being carried on everywhere during the last few months and which is demoralizing our Western societies is proof enough to us of the existence of a vast conspiracy to enslave individuals under the yoke of ambitious and unscrupulous leaders. The propagandists of the new movement deny and combat all the moral concepts which are at the basis of our civilization: they claim, for example, that loyalty to the mother-country does not exist if such country does not accept their political and social ideas, and that this creates a loyalty to a foreign power; they assert that any man who succeeds in creating an enterprise by his own work and his personal initiative is only a usurper in the eyes of the State; they claim that there exists a collective freedom in the face of which must be suppressed all individual liberty; they regard the given word and the oath as nothing and without value, believing that they must with impunity violate such pledges in favor of their political credo.

The events which have recently taken place in this country and the echoes of which have had repercussions everywhere in the world reveal the force and the fanaticism which inspire the apostles of this contemporaneous movement. We have lived during the centuries with a spiritual religion, and there can be no doubt that it is to this we owe our beliefs that tolerance, charity, pity, pardon for wrong-doing and the respect of the human person are virtues without which the very idea of civilization does not exist. The so-called reformers and world saviors are out to impose upon us by force, at the price of blood if need be, a wholly materialistic religion which in no way pays regard to moral and psychological factors and which has been presented to us as a society modelled on the colonies of ants and hives of bees. The faith which inspires the so-called Marxists is, in my view, more intransigent, more cruel and dominating, but assuredly better armed than the ancient credos of those epochs when religious wars devastated mankind. The experience of propaganda has been widened by all the agencies of world communication, for scientific inventions have brought all nations to the point of being neighbors to one another, even countries situated in the antipodes.

Some of you perhaps are aware of a little book which pre-war naziism had distributed widely in its struggle against Semitism. Its title was: "The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion". This book had been falsely attributed to a Council of Jews and several were naive enough to believe it. In reality, it was only a kind of fiction in which it was predicted that an anti-Christ would exist who would busy himself in deranging all men's minds and consciences and thereby arrive at the domination of the world. That book was first distributed in Russia and it was later brought and published in Germany.

The anti-Christ, who was no other than the demon, spoke thus:

"We shall talk with the people on the streets and squares," says the demon, "and teach them to take the view of political questions which at the moment we require. For what the rules says to the people spreads through the whole country like wildfire, the voice of the people carries it to all four winds.

"We"--the demon always says "We"--"shall create unrest, struggle, and hate in the whole of Europe and thence in other continents. We shall at all times be in a position to call forth new disturbances at will, or to restore the old order.

"Unremittingly, we shall poison the relations between the peoples and states of all countries. By envy and hatred, by struggle and warfare, even by spreading hunger, destitution, and plagues, we shall bring all peoples to such a pass that their only escape will be in total submission to our domination.

"We shall stultify, seduce, ruin the youth.

"We shall not stick at bribery, treachery, treason, as long as they serve the realization of our plans. Our watchword is: force and hypocrisy!

"In our arsenal we carry a boundless ambition, burning avidity, a ruthless thirst for revenge, relentless hatred. From us emanates the specter of fear, all-embracing terror".

A gabbling demon, and self-conceited, too

"We are the chosen, we are the true men. Our minds give off the true power of the spirit; the intelligence of the rest is instinctive and animal. They can see, but they cannot foresee; their inventions are purely corporal. Does it not follow clearly that Nature herself has predestined us to dominate the whole world?

"We shall not submit the unique greatness of our ultimate plan, the context of its particular parts, the consequences of each separate point, the secret meaning of which remains hidden, to the judgment and decision of the many, even, of those who share out thoughts; we shall not cast the gleaming thoughts of our leader before the swine, and even in more intimate circles we shall not permit them to be carped at.

"We shall paint the misdeeds of foreign governments in the most garish colors and create such an ill-feeling toward them that the peoples would a thousand times rather bear a slavery which guarantees them peace and order than enjoy their much-touted freedom. The peoples will tolerate any servitude we may impose on them, if only to avoid a return to the horrors of wars and insurrection. Our principles and methods will take on their full force when we present them in sharp contrast to the putrid old social order.

"Outwardly, however, in our "official" utterances, we shall adopt an opposite procedure and always do our best to appear honorable and cooperative. A Statesman's words do not have to agree with his acts. If we pursue these principles, the governments and peoples which we have thus prepared will take our IOU's for cash. One day they will accept us as the benefactors and saviors of the human race.

"If any state dares to resist us; if its neighbors make common cause with it against us, we shall unleash a world war".

And then the demon spreads his wings, conceals the sky, darkens the world

"By all these methods we shall so wear down the nations that thev will be forced to offer us world domination. We shall stretch out our arms like pincers in all directions, and introduce an order of such violence that all peoples will bow to our domination".

Such is the plan one day outlined by a writer who thought he was making fiction but who in reality was a prophet; since he described in such striking fashion the methods used by modern tyranny to disorganize and drive to madness human societies. It is evident that the principal weapons utilized in this ideological war are propaganda and falsehood. These are not new weapons. Many times in the past the v have been used to dominate and enslave the nations, but as geographical accidents and the lack of easy communications rendered such propaganda very slow, the evil was always confined to a small portion of the world. It was therefore only a local plague. Today the transport of ideas and acts is accomplished instantaneously. Anything occurring at midday in Ottawa will be reported in Toronto, Paris, Moscow before half past twelve. An idea germinated in a brain at one hour will be, five minutes later, transported to all the capitals. A great scientific invention revealed at 2 o'clock will be known at 2.15 in the Kremlin. In this way, there exists a continuous conversation between persons separated by a distance of five to six thousand miles and more. It is this fact which propaganda agents make much play of if they do not run up against a strong resistance, and they will profit from this unprecedented advantage which science offers them, they will combat our dearest principles even before we have had time to notice what they are doing. Hence arises the unheard of strength of lies in our modern times. Never have tyrants in the past been able to manipulate as much as is done today the value of lies as an instrument of domination and corruption, I would even say, of universal madness.

It is a painful thing to note that the marvellous inventions that we owe most particularly to the activity and genius of the democratic nations have been employed much more extensively by the forces of evil than they have by the forces of good. We have not known how to Make use of them to defend in timely manner the Western civilization which rests on democratic practice, on individual liberty and on the respect for the thought, the rights and the conscience of everybody.

Our system offers so much superiority over the others that it would, it seems to us, be easy enough to demonstrate this fact. We have certainly lacked dynamism and conviction in not having been able to create among ourselves the enthusiasm for having won liberty.

Our weakness came from being generally satisfied with our life; from our innate belief in the superiority of free men; from being simply and stupidly honest; from not wanting war against any man, and from believing in the possibility of peace by disarmament. In a word, our weakness came from our unwillingness to murder our neighbours. That itself was a form of strength, as events have shown. Without any preparation we commenced the war against aggressors who for years had been mobilizing all their resources in men, labour, material, science and propaganda, to surprise us and crush us. For the first two years of war we were amateurs against professionals. Yet, we--the democrats--sapped by the cancer of economic liberalism--as they say among our enemies--have done what neither the Germans, the Japanese, nor any other totalitarians, with legions of slaves, could do. We have been able to accomplish two colossal tasks at the same moment: the actual war of splendid and stubborn resistance for three terrible years, and, at the same time, preparation for a war of offensive in due time.

Never has the superiority of individual initiative been so clearly shown. It will be said that the governments of the democracies at war clamped individual enterprise into a vice, that socialist methods were put into effect, as an emergency measure, that state restrictions without number have been necessary for the accomplishment of our colossal task. Admitted. On the other hand, the men who accomplished this miracle were men trained in private enterprise; men accustomed to use individual initiative and imagination. These are the men who have smashed the God State in its own field.

The principal inventions for use in war, since 1939, have been due, to a large extent, to the laboratories maintained by private enterprise. It is exactly for this reason that the free peoples have been able to establish their superiority in this struggle over the dictatorial States.

Yet more, in these last fifty or sixty years, the mother democracies of France, the United States and the British Commonwealth were the nations which contributed most in volume and in riches to human progress, the wealth, comfort, intellectual advancement, science, art and material production of all nations. The comparison is entirely in their favour. Anyone who knows the A B C of History will admit that. I can go further. It is to those democracies that the Germans, the Japanese and other savages, came to learn the very techniques of their material strength and also to certain models of most of their machines and their arms-even the methods of manufacturing them. Organization in particular has dominated the world since 1920.

Now come the lean and hungry economists who tell us, in their pamphlets and speeches, that we must cast aside our system of free and individual enterprise, for some sort of antiquated plan of society. We believe that democratic methods--purified, perfected, carried further towards liberty and justice, to law and the ideal of duty freely done--can and will give us the answer to all our problems, at the moment when one of the great dramas of human history has just ended.

Hitherto, the field has been left empty for all the demagogues to cry from all the housetops that capitalism alone was the cause of all the evils and the origin of all the wars. We have not known how to demonstrate the absurdity of this fundamental error. As for myself, I am well aware that our so-called capitalist democracies have shown themselves guilty of plenty of errors, sometimes of anti-social crimes, but if I make the comparison with other systems which are offered to us by the voice of propagandists and even by that of spies, I have no hesitation in saying that our democratic and capitalist regimes at their worst are still better, and much more so, than those of totalitarian States. Only, we must at all cost know how to put our own house in order so as to render it less vulnerable to the attacks of the outsider. More than ever, our political parties must be based on moral values to work hard to consolidate and aggrandize the winning of liberty; more than ever our various religions must respect the freedom of thought and conscience, for every sectarian mentality on their part would rapidly be turned towards persecution and would admit the germs of totalitarianism; more than ever the directors of our commercial and industrial life should take account of human dignity and of the sacred rights of labor; more than ever our educational institutions and universities should place at the foundation of their teaching the civic spirit, the devotion to public affairs, the cult of liberty and democratic institutions.

I still believe that, now that we have won the war and driven back the forces of slavery represented by two totalitarian states, we shall be able--in America at least--to retain the better part of those essential liberties without which neither Americans nor Canadians would find any, interest in life. I deny that liberalism has been defeated--as the pessimists and the fascits say--liberty to think, to believe, to act, to be together to work in common, is not dead. These liberties are inseparable from material progress-which is not always as material as one might imagine. The great advantage of democratic institutions is the great flexibility and quick response of the organism, which casts out all infections, and which constantly seeks to perfect, reform, cure itself of all weaknesses.

The democracies are, in their very essence, organisms of evolution. The remedial measures, which are created in them, for the improvement of the lot of their subjects, are ever increasing in number and in speed.

It is in this way that we shall find by instinct, by the mysterious operations of necessity itself, the methods of reconciling security and liberty. Democracy has a' horror of rigid formulae, which would lock every man into a pillory, and that is a very good thing for the happiness of humanity. Democracy is neither capitalism' nor corporatism, nor fascism, nor communism. Democracy alone proclaims the right of each to a share of happiness in this world and alone can accomplish the task of seeing that each obtains it.

The whole story can be summed up in two words reason and love. There will be no future in society, no progress, not even the maintenance of our present good estate, without a free exercise of individual reason; there will be no security for the weak without the great love which comes from Christian morality. Everything else is but vanity.

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Free Men or Automats?

Reasons for, and events leading up to, the foundation of the UNO. The continuing danger of nationalism. The fight between the individual and the domination of the State. A detailed discussion follows regarding totalitarianism and democracy, with many lessons to be learned from recent history. Topics addressed during this discussion include the following. The step from dictatorship to totalitarianism. A discussion of individual rights. The fight against totalitarianism from 1939-1945. The faith which inspires so-called Marxists. The weapons of propaganda and falsehood used in ideological warfare. Invention due to free enterprise. Retaining essential liberties. Democracies as organisms of evolution. The free exercise of individual reason and security for the weak through the great love which comes from Christian morality that will ensure our future society.