08 Oct., 2000

Author: George Irbe

Back to George's Views

Tribute to Trudeau

Trudeau revealed

Upon his death, there has been a huge outpouring of sweet nostalgia, reverence and adoration of Pierre Elliott Trudeau by a large majority of Canadians. The grieving has approached, in scope and stridency, the sort that is characteristically staged when the "maximum leader" of a totalitarian tyranny dies. Of course, the grief of Canadians is spontaneous and voluntary rather than being forced. And precisely because the grieving over Trudeau’s death is so fervent, and the gratitude for the legacy that Trudeau has left to them is so genuine, it proves beyond any doubt what kind of leader and what sort of politics Canadians like and value as a nation.

Canadians are thankful to Trudeau for doing many things to them and for them. Some of Trudeau’s actions have altered irreversibly the character of this nation and Canadians are apparently happy with the changes. Let us, then, take a look at the man Pierre Elliott Trudeau – what is there about his attitudes, beliefs, and character that the Canadian people adore him for so much?

That question could be answered in short by stating that Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the first socialist Prime Minister of Canada; Canadians like socialism. But, of course, that answer is too short, too uninformative. We want to look at Trudeau in greater detail in order to substantiate the answer. One of the most revealing books about Trudeau is, titled appropriately, Trudeau Revealed by His Actions and Words by David Sommerville, 1978; printed by BMG Publishing Ltd., Richmond Hill, Ontario. Soomerville has assembled a huge amount of press reports, citations and quotes from Trudeau himself, as well as from his political colleagues and friends, and also from his enemies. I am going to draw substantially on the materials in Sommerville’s book. Nearly all of Trudeau’s political writings (many in the periodical Cite Libre) and speeches prior to 1965 were in French. His contributions to Cite Libre alone are voluminous. Perhaps eventually all of Trudeau’s writings will be translated into English and compiled as collected works. In the meantime, I have recourse only to the translations of Trudeau’s writings cited in David Sommerville’s book.

Trudeau’s father was a successful and prosperous man. Trudeau was intellectually gifted. He attended the best schools, including Harvard and the London School of Economics (LSE). He was described by teachers and classmates as "well-liked", but one who "kept his distance" and displayed a "certain arrogance." They remember that even as a boy Trudeau liked to ridicule people who were not too bright. One classmate described him as a "dilettante . . . spoiled brat . . . intellectual snob and lone wolf." At the LSE a Canadian classmate regarded him as "a little rich left-winger – but enormously interesting" and "an intellectual dilettante." The same classmate also recalls that "there was always a slight aura of the playboy about him."

At the LSE Trudeau studied under, and was greatly inspired by, the great socialist economist Harold Laski. Trudeau soon became known to his friends as a Fabian socialist. From Laski he adopted (and maintained through the rest of his life) the strategy of advancing socialism via the ballot box, which was the much better road to power in established democracies rather than revolutionary Marxism. The strategy is summed up by Laski as being "permeation [by socialists] of existing political parties rather than the creation of a separate political party." In later years Trudeau and his Quebec associates followed this strategy to the letter when they "permeated" the Liberal Party, were elected to power, and then implemented their socialist policies through the machinery of the federal government for some sixteen years.

During his school years Trudeau was also an inveterate traveler. He visited France on many occasions and enjoyed spending his time there in the company of the communist and socialist intelligencia of post-war Europe. It is said about the intellectual Left of the West that they are attracted and fascinated by the ideological propaganda and lies of the most evil communist regimes like "dogs are attracted by a pile of ordure." Very much to type, Trudeau took advantage of every opportunity to attend international gatherings sponsored by the Soviets and to travel to most of the countries behind the "iron" and the "bamboo" curtains. Also very much to type, even when he didn't have anything of a positive nature to say about the "peoples democracies" which he visited, he always conjured up moral, or social, or political flaws in Western societies which he could use as counterbalancing equivalents to anything negative he might say about them.

Trudeau always maintained that political labels had no great significance to him. It was one’s ideas and actions that mattered. Trudeau’s own ideas and actions were always derivatives of the general socialist paradigm. He thought of himself as a pragmatic politician, which he indeed was in one sense. He projected his pragmatic considerations of socialist practice to include all other socialist regimes and leaders, even those of the most murderous and oppressive kind. Whatever they did, it was for the greater good of the socialist State, and therefore justifiable.

Before the onset of "Trudeaumania" in the media in 1968, when Trudeau ran for and won the leadership of the Liberal Party, few people outside of Quebec had hardly heard of him, or, if they had, paid much attention to him . He had been elected as a Liberal MP from a Quebec riding in 1965. He was appointed Minister of Justice in 1967, and he received some media exposure in this post when he acted quickly to decriminalize homosexuality. It was his "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation" remark that first registered him on my scope of political awareness. Canadians started to see Trudeau on TV news with increasing frequency. I developed an instant dislike and mistrust of the man from the first time I saw him on TV, even though I could not fully articulate what this distaste and mistrust was about.

Those who have read my essay on Leftists will know that I make the rather brazen claim that I am able to detect, very quickly, a Leftist from his speech and mannerisms. I also think that Leftism is a character trait, and that a Leftist will be as extreme as the cultural and political conditions of any particular society permit him to be. Thus, the same democratic socialist who is the Minister of Labor in a Western democracy could easily be the commissar in charge of slave labor camps in a communist state. That was certainly how I perceived Pierre Elliott Trudeau from my first observation of him. I recognized him immediately as an enemy of mine in the then-prevailing "Cold War" setting, someone who thinks that the Left can do no wrong (it is always: "mistakes were made," rather than "evil crimes were done") no matter how horrendously inhuman the wrong. I recognized Trudeau as a Leftist then, in 1968, by a gut-instinct. I am among the select few Canadians who never voted for Trudeau. In retrospect, I must say that I suffered through the Trudeau era of 16 years as "years of national shame."

From the get-go, I saw Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the person, very much as his classmates and teachers remember him. However, I want to tag him with some additional (and very similar) adjectives which came to mind when I first saw Trudeau "in action" with the mostly admiring crowd, and in his encounters with TV reporters. I saw him as a "silk-stocking" socialist, i.e. a person born to wealth who knows what is best for the common people better than the common people themselves, and who has resolved to go forth and perfect society by exercising the required social engineering upon it. Trudeau reminded me of a marquis of the French aristocracy who has joined the cause of the French Revolution. He had the haughtiness, arrogance and condescension of an aristocrat. His opinion of the common people is expressed by two memorable incidents from his time as Prime Minister. In the first instance, Trudeau got into an altercation with a group protesting against the government on Parliament Hill. He advised them in French to dine on fecal matter. In the second instance, when he encountered a crowd of angry demonstrators against his policies in one of the western provinces, he gave the demonstrators what is known as the "finger" – a suggestive obscene gesture. It appears that Trudeau, the aristocratic socialist, thought of the masses mostly in terms of the anatomical nether regions where "the sun don’t shine."

Trudeau’s socialist economic policies

Trudeau was convinced of the superiority of a socialist planned economy over a free enterprise one. He wrote in 1957, "As far as I go, it seems evident to me that the regime of free enterprise has shown itself incapable of adequately resolving problems posed in education, health, housing, full employment, etc. That's why I'm personally convinced that with the upheaval promised by automation, cybernetics and thermo-nuclear energy, liberal democracy will not long be able to satisfy our growing demands for justice and liberty, and that it should evolve toward a form of social democracy."

Trudeau stated his beliefs on how the nation’s economy should be managed by the State in 1953. These beliefs were implemented in practice after Trudeau came to power some fifteen years later. He wrote, "Since neither individuals themselves, nor the economic system itself, can remedy the fluctuations [in the business cycle], we’re forced - whether we like it or not – to turn to the State. How can it guarantee that distributed purchasing power will transform itself completely into effective demand for produced goods? The most obvious solution would be to redistribute income equally among social classes, so that the poor have more to spend, and the rich have less to save."

Trudeau recommended one solution which could be administered "at the first sign of national economic weakness: that’s to stimulate buying by putting more money in the hands of consumers. The State should distribute, extensively and resolutely, payments of all kinds: direct aid, unemployment insurance, agricultural assistance, various grants."

At the same time, it should reduce taxes, to leave more money in the hands of the consumer (as well as the producer). Some might object that these methods were mutually opposed – how did one spend more while reducing taxes? "The answer is quite simple: the State will have budgetary deficits and finance itself through loans. . . . in practice, that will be done through the intermediary of the Bank of Canada which will open a credit account in the name of the government in return for loan certificates. (If the Bank doesn’t have enough currency in circulation, it could always print some without any inconvenience when needed.)"

The Trudeau administration did indeed implement most of these recommendations (except for tax cuts) and thus quickly diluted the value of the Canadian dollar and ran up a formidable national debt of 200 billion.

Trudeau’s greatest achievement

Canadians consider Trudeau’s greatest achievements for the nation to be the repatriation of the constitution and the addition to it of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By Trudeau’s own admission to a meeting of Liberal Party members in 1980, he was not interested in a Charter as such, but had to create it in order to protect the French Language rights legislation. Mind you, by creating the Charter he was also accomplishing another desired result – the subordination of Parliament to a Supreme Court. Kenneth McDonald describes how that came about in His Pride, Our Fall, Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1995. McDonald writes,

"It was not so much Pierre Trudeau’s aversion to nationalism as his obsession with language, and his passion to put his Official Languages Act beyond the power of a future parliament to change or repeal it, that drove him to change the parliamentary system. He could not stomach the English tradition of parliamentary supremacy, and he contrived to do away with it by two tricks.

The first he described in an address to Liberal party members in Quebec City, October 22, 1980, when he said: "I’ll tell you something else: we also wanted to entrench language rights; unfortunately, I think it’s true that, if we had done so, we would have seen certain people in the country fighting the project saying, ‘there goes that French power government again, which only wants to help and protect francophones.’ It was to broaden the debate that we wanted to entrench fundamental rights." (p. 37)

"His two obsessions were bilingualism and the Constitution. He thought that by spreading the use of French across the country Quebec’s nationalism would die on the vine. But he couldn’t protect his language policy against amendment or repeal by a later parliament because it was only statute law, and in the British parliamentary tradition, parliament was supreme. So he had to change the Constitution, and it was done by a trick.

He did it by claiming to "patriate" the Constitution from Westminister, which had proclaimed Canada’s sovereignty in 1931, and inveigling the British parliament into passing a Canada Bill with a built-in Charter of Rights and Freedoms that incorporated his language legislation and an amending formula that made the Constitution almost unamendable.

The deception, imposed upon a nominally free people, changed Canada’s system of government from its foundation in the evolutionary common law, in which individuals exercised their inherent freedom to abstain from doing what the law prohibited, to a system where their "Rights" and "Freedoms" were no longer inherent; they were written down and "Guaranteed" by the state, that is, they were vulnerable to whatever meaning the state or its courts decided to give them." (p. 49)

The Canadian people were stripped of the one and only absolutely benign and dependable system for the protection of individual freedom in the world – the British common law. In its place Trudeau gave to the people the French kind of constitution, which submits the interpretation of a set of enumerated individual rights to the pleasure of a group of judges who are unelected and who are accountable to no one. Furthermore, this colossal constitutional change was implemented without consulting the citizens by referendum, as they rightly should have been consulted. It was a robbery of precious rights, and the people cherish Pierre Elliott Trudeau for being the robber. Some things truly are beyond human understanding!

Trudeau’s Leftist milieu

In the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s Trudeau played a prominent role among the elite intellectual Left of Quebec. As a consequence, he was singled out for frequent condemnation by the Catholic Church and its secular ally, the Duplessis regime. During this period Trudeau met and worked with – at one time or another – with practically every one of the French Canadians who achieved name-recognition on the Canadian scene either as nationalists-separatists (including the revolutionary FLQ), as influential and creative spirits in the cultural affairs of Quebec, or as notable political figures either in the provincial Liberal party of Quebec or in the federal Liberal Party of Canada. They were all people of the Left, believing in socialism of one form or another.

A major schism in Quebec’s Left intelligencia occurred in 1960, when those who wanted to establish an independent national-socialist state of Quebec and those who believed that Quebec’s national identity can be preserved in a federal (and socialist) state of Canada parted company. From then on Trudeau worked to form a coalition of the federalist faction of socialists in Quebec and the federal socialist party, the CCF. The federal CCF had lost momentum in the previous election and was reorganizing its forces under a new name – the NDP. Trudeau contributed a significant article to a socialist anthology, Social Purpose for Canada, which was published at the founding of the New Democratic Party, in 1961. The fact that Trudeau was a serious, dedicated socialist is unmistakable from the contents and tenor of the article. Yet, only seven years later he came to power as Prime Minister of Canada under the label of the Liberal Party of Canada. That was pretty good "permeation," indeed!

Trudeau’s article, titled The Practice and Theory of Federalism, was a distillation of his thoughts on socialist tactics and strategy. Contrary to the widely-held belief that socialism can be instituted only in a unitary, centralized state, Trudeau argued convincingly for a plan of action for socialists to take power in Canada through the federal structure. A consistent follower of Laski’s strategy of "permeation," Trudeau wrote, "In a non-revolutionary society and in non-revolutionary times, no manner of reform can be implemented with sudden universality. Democratic reformers must proceed step by step, convincing little bands of intellectuals here, rallying sections of the working class there, and appealing to the underprivileged in the next place. The drive towards power must begin with the establishment of bridgeheads, since at the outset it is obviously easier to convert specific groups or localities than to win over a majority of the whole nation. . . . Federalism must be welcomed as a valuable tool which permits dynamic parties to plant socialist governments, from which the seed of radicalism can slowly spread. . . . socialists, rather than water down . . . their socialism, must constantly seek ways of adapting it to a bicultural society governed under a federal constitution."

Eight years later, in 1969, Trudeau was a socialist Prime Minister in Liberal Party garb. He was asked by some students what kind of society he would like to make in Canada – socialist or capitalist. Trudeau replied: "Labour Party socialist – or Cuban socialism or Chinese socialism – socialism from each according to his means." What he meant by the Delphic utterance was that he intended to make of Canada the kind of socialist state that Canada could afford to be.

Trudeau and the totalitarians

In Trudeau’s view, by defending South Korea from communist aggression the United Nations inflicted greater injustices on the Koreans than what the communists could inflict. An editorial in Trudeau’s Cite Libre, in 1951, objecting to UN intervention in Korea, stated, "It is impossible to believe that the lightning war unleashed by the North Koreans and the subsequent reunification of the whole of Korea under a government, even communist, atheist or totalitarian, would have been able to produce as many collective injustices . . . as those which resulted from the military intervention by the United Nations." It went on to blame the United States for Communist China remaining an ally of the Soviet Union: "The Americans are incapable of imagining that socialist, and even communist, countries can become anti-Stalinist forces: thus they refuse to recognize the government of 400 million Chinese, and oblige it to remain in the Soviet orbit."

In 1952, after returning from an International Economic Conference in Moscow, Trudeau wrote a series of articles for Le Devoir. In the first article he stated that, "For many people the Soviet Union is hell, and you don’t put a foot in it without making a pact with the devil. This prejudice prevented many economists and businessmen from attending the [conference]."

In another article of the same series, Trudeau did address the Soviets with some mild criticism, but the apologetics and compliments were much more numerous. He observed that the Russians had not lost their mania for uniforms, but did not think that the leaders in the Kremlin were interested in military expansionism. "On the contrary," he wrote, "one of the principal concerns of the state seems to be to better the material welfare of its citizens. And if they are happy with a system which raises their standard of living slowly but surely, the present government doesn't have any worries for a long time." This, of course, was pure hogwash. The men in the Kremlin funneled nearly all available resources into armaments production; they couldn't care less about the very concept of a "living standard" for the serfs. Neither did they have to worry about keeping the serfs happy.

Trudeau then proceeded to endorse the Soviet system in the following words: "In my effort to understand the U.S.S.R., I’ve always tried to explain the rigours of the regime away with the necessity of protecting the revolution from enemies without and within. . . . I still believe that from the material point of view (and I don’t say anything about spiritual needs) your system can be excellent for countries such as yours . . . and I add that in your country I never saw opulence displayed which was an insult to a great many people like I have often seen in countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain." Trudeau was the classic leftist intellectual dog who never ceased to be attracted by the odor of the communist pile of ordure.

Apparently Trudeau equated communist conquests in Europe and Asia with advances by democracy. Trudeau wrote in 1953: "The advent of total war contributed – more than is generally thought – to the promotion of popular masses. . . In a way, the idea of democracy made gigantic progress everywhere in the world between 1939 and 1945. In Europe, in Asia, oligarchic or dictatorial powers fell before popular governments. And elsewhere, where democracy was already well-known, it would henceforth be otherwise comprised. Whole peoples were sliding to the left. One talked about the ‘welfare state.’. . . three Commonwealth countries gave themselves labour-socialist governments. Socialism consolidated its position in Scandinavia and progressed in the main western European countries."

In 1971, on a visit that included Kiev, Trudeau said: "We have a great deal to learn from the Soviet Union . . . a country from which we have a great deal to benefit."

Trudeau’s admiration for the Soviet Union just went on and on. In 1977, Vladimir Bukovsky was a political prisoner in Russia when Trudeau visited Moscow. Trudeau declared that Canada would like to exchange experience with the Soviet Union in developing their respective northern regions. Bukovsky writes, "It was awful for us, for everybody in the Soviet Union. Everybody knew quite well how many millions of prisoners perished when developing these territories [in Siberia]."

Soon after the missile crisis, Trudeau made his first pilgrimage to Castro’s Cuba in 1964. In 1976, during the height of the "cold war", the Soviet Union was conducting a policy of aggressive expansionism in Africa and Central and South America; Cuba was being developed as a strategic forward base for Soviet naval and air forces. Castro was utilized by the Soviets as a proxy fighter in Africa. Trudeau, as Prime Minister, allowed Cuban planes supplying their invasion force in Angola to refuel at Gander, Newfoundland. That same year Trudeau visited Castro again, hailed him publicly, gave him a $4 million gift, and arranged a loan for another $10 million. If that was not aiding and abetting the enemy of NATO, then it is difficult to imagine what would be. Many of Canada’s citizens felt deeply ashamed for the acts and words of our Prime Minister in the year 1976, more so if they wore the uniform of Canada’s armed forces. This is the man who Canadians revere so greatly in death.


My ethnic roots are in Latvia. From 1945 to 1991, in addition to the murders and deportations carried out to eliminate all nationalists and anti-communists, the Latvians suffered as slaves in the empire of the Soviet Union. The communist masters conducted a deliberate ethnic and cultural genocide on a nation of only 2 million by flooding its territory with people from other parts of the Soviet Union, and by forcing the native Latvians to relocate outside the territory of Latvia. The other Baltic states and other small nations on the periphery of the "evil empire" suffered a similar fate. Trudeau endorsed this strategy of oppression.  

I think that Trudeau never cared for the ordinary people, but only for the State. As we have seen, he demonstrated his aristocratic and elitist contempt for the ignorant masses in his own country. It is understandable then that he would have complete unconcern for the ordinary people who were suffering and dying under the communist yoke. But he did admire the communist rulers, because they were comparable in stature to himself; they, too, represented the socialist elite who were destined to rule over the masses. That is why Fidel Castro was Trudeau's life-long personal friend. I could forget and forgive many things that Trudeau did, but that he consorted and fraternized with mass murderers and enslavers of people, including my ethnic relatives in Latvia, I can never forget or forgive. I wonder if Trudeau’s boys have any idea of what their dear "papa" really valued and believed in and who his friends were. One of them, a mass murderer of the old school, was welcome at papa’s funeral.

How, then, do I regard a man who condoned or found excuses for all that horror and sought friendship with its perpetrators? Surely, I regard him with the deepest and sincerest contempt. I am glad that Pierre Elliott Trudeau has gone to his just rewards. We are well rid of him.

 Top of Page

Back to George's Views

Send comments to George Irbe