“One wonders what Socrates, that foul destroyer of Western civilization, might say about appealing to book sales and public opinion as an argument for the correctness of one’s views.”
Professor Ricardo Duchesne recently published an extensive Reply to my August 22 Review of his book Canada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of
European Canadians. At one point in this piece, Professor Duchesne demands I tell him when Germany and Spain were “racist and illiberal” before its globalist rulers “decided to open their borders to mass immigration.” While he later qualified this remark in the comments section to his Reply, this early decision to just ignore the little history of Nazism and Francoism highlights the slippery quality of much of his reasoning. It also tells you a fair bit about what parts of history he has decided to prioritize.
Duchesne’s Reply, like his book, is filled with number leaps in logic, an extraordinary
amount of hyperbole, and a deeply unCanadian tendency to be impolite (odd coming from a nationalist). This belies his claim that my review was “careless” and my conceptual approach “inept.” At numerous points, Duchesne claims I have not read his book carefully. I will admit, it is sometimes hard to take seriously a book where the words “traitor” “totalitarian” and “censorship” appear numerous times when discussing the truly draconian policies of the Canadian government and academia (According to the right-wing think tank the Fraser Institute—which Duchesne cites with approval in Canada in Decay—Canada remains one of the freest countries in the world). But I endeavored to take the book and its arguments seriously and present them as best as I could in the context of a short Review. It is inevitable that I could not discuss certain parts of the book, though I should observe that I mainly ignored the sections that were even less rigorous than what I originally discussed.
But let’s say I did misread parts of Duchesne’s book of over 350 pages. I would say this
pales before Duchesne’s struggles to carefully read my 2500 word Review. Indeed, he was unable to even adequately read my biography, included at the base of all of my Merion West articles, when he said I have a PhD in International relations. So for the record, I received my degree in Socio-Legal Studies in 2017, not International Relations. I teach International Relations. Duchesne may know of the socio-legal program, since I received my Doctorate right down the hall from where he completed his own graduate studies at York in 1994. So as two York graduates, one an inept left social wing democrat and the other the “only academic”(he isn’t and should know it) brave enough to critique multiculturalism as a tenured academic position at the University of New Brunswick, let us begin what is sure to be a constructive dialogue.
Liberalism and Cultural Marxism
Duchesne’s Reply begins with a long and unnecessary diatribe about how many
“excellent” reviews his book has gotten and how it is a “bestseller.” One wonders what Socrates, that foul destroyer of Western civilization, might say about appealing to book sales and public opinion as an argument for the correctness of one’s views. Moreover, Professor Duchesne and I both know that his characterization about stellar reviews—at least for his latest book—isn’t entirely true. But since Professor Duchesne is trying to defend European Canadians like myself from ethnocide by “hordes” of dangerous foreign invaders, I suppose I can let a little fib like that pass.
But there is a bigger problem. Duchesne’s hagiographic self-characterization runs in the face of his later claims that he has become a persecuted “lone” voice whom “cultural Marxists” such as the Canadian government, multicultural liberals, and myself are attempting to “suppress.” I must admit I find these allegations suspicious, given that Duchesne presents them via a published Reply to a Review of his self-described bestselling book. Apparently, this massive conspiracy to suppress him isn’t working very well. So Duchesne needs to decide. Is he a super-star academic or a persecuted Cassandra crying out in vain? It cannot be both. I have no doubt he will recognize this and drop the contradictory pretenses, as all far-right figures—who want to be both Augustus Caesar and Jesus Christ—eventually do.
This propensity to present oneself as both a figure of unquestionable stature and a
persecuted victim is characteristic of what my colleague David Holland calls “post-modern conservative aesthetics” and which he discusses brilliantly in our forthcoming book What Is Post-Modern Conservatism?: Essays on Our Hugely Tremendous Times. Thinking about Duchesne’s aesthetic and rhetorical strategy is important when discussing the first section of Duchesne’s Reply, where he characterizes many of his opponents as “cultural Marxists.” This term is quite popular on the far right, despite the fact that, as I have observed elsewhere, it is rarely defined or applied with a great deal of consistency or accuracy. For a case in point, let us consider his specific jab against yours truly.
“McManus is a cultural Marxist when he writes that “liberalism is fundamentally about
[…] expressing a commitment to moving beyond the West’s racist past towards a more tolerant and multicultural future” by “accepting greater numbers of immigrants.”
I will start by observing that this characterization is incorrect and based on a blatant
misreading of what I said in the Review. If Duchesne had read my Review carefully, he would note that this statement appears in the Introduction where I attribute these views about liberal immigration to a general set of “left” wing authors. Nowhere in the Review did I personally affiliate with such positions. I also distinguish between the left-liberal position, promoted by figures like Will Kymlicka and pro-immigration views of those on the neoliberal right end of the ideological spectrum. Here I will quote from the Review in full to avoid further confusion:
“For those on the left, this is often understood in a moral way. Accepting greater numbers of immigrants has both symbolic value in expressing a commitment to moving beyond the West’s racist past towards a more tolerant and multicultural future. Immigrants also add to the diversity of our society, opening new avenues for expression and cultural self-discovery that may not have been available before. This is the argument of writers like Canada’s Will Kymlicka…For neoliberals, immigration is also a boon to society, but for different reasons…”
These kinds of problems pervade Duchesne’s Reply. At one point he says I do “not even
explain what is structurally confusing” about Canada in Decay, while also defending himself against such accusations by explaining them away. Duchesne claims he has completed an interdisciplinary degree, which apparently accounts for the disjointed character of his reasoning. But he neglects to mention the paragraph of my Review where I both explain what is structurally confusing about the book, and why interdisciplinarity can be a good or a bad thing depending on presentation.
“[Canada in Decay] frequently shifts between extended discussions on Canadian history
and immigration policy, contemporary politics and policy analysis, political theorizing about identity, critiques of luminaries like the aforementioned Will Kymlicka and so on. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such interdisciplinary approaches when done well and where conceptual links are clarified. But this isn’t the case with Duchesne’s book, and the lack of a clear logical structure to Canada in Decay makes the overall argument hard to follow.”
Given that Duchesne has so far gotten my degree wrong, misrepresented my presentation of the positions of different authors as consistent with own, claims I did not explain issues I actually went out of my way to explain, and conveniently forgets the history of Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain, one might be skeptical of his claim that he presents well researched “fully developed arguments” against a wide array of “cultural Marxists.” But let us give him the benefit of the doubt and look more deeply into this contention.
Duchesne argues that the “creation of multicultural identities across the West through
mass immigration with the intention of separating forever the nation of Germany from German ethnicity, the nation of Britain from British ethnicity, the nation of Sweden from Swedish ethnicity, is a cultural Marxist agenda.” As I indicated in my initial Review, it is hard to tell what this even means. As I highlighted, this hyperbolic claim is “written in a clear style” but is conceptually very imprecise. While Duchesne characterizes figures like Kymlicka and myself as “cultural Marxists,” this term is never defined.
It is only applied and applied specifically to those who support a mishmash of different policies Duchesne happens to not like. The clearest definition of “cultural Marxism” Duchesne gives is in his Reply, not the book itself. He claims “cultural Marxism” involves the “creation of multicultural identities across the West through Mass immigration.” But this settles little. What any of it has to do with Marxism, cultural or otherwise, is beyond me. Marxism is about nothing if it is not a critique of capital and capitalist societies. Indeed many Marxists are quite critical of policies which abet higher levels of immigration including free movement of labor agreements, the relocation of private industries to the developing world as part of a “race to the bottom” and so on. Marxists such as David Harvey also decry the tendency of capitalism to destroy specific communities and local practices.
These conceptual ambiguities are masked by a lot of hyperbole and become vicious
problems when Duchesne tries to criticize major liberal theorists such as Will Kymlicka, whom he claims is responsible for the “contamination” of liberalism with “cultural Marxist ideas.” Will Kymlicka’s argument for multiculturalism draws little if anything from Marx. While he was educated by the well-known analytical Marxist and egalitarian theorist G.A Cohen, Kymlicka has become a Rawlsian style liberal through and through. Kymlicka argues for a specific set of liberal rights, which the Marx of “On the Jewish Question” would have dismissed as bourgeois nonsense. He wants to provide specific cultural protections to cultural minorities who Marx believed would lose such affective attachments in the more universal Communist order to come and wants these all entrenched in and protected by a liberal state which Marx would say should ultimately wither away.
Now Kymlicka may be wrong about the value of multiculturalism—or at least how it should be understood properly from a liberal standpoint. To invoke Duchesne’s favorite Kylickism, perhaps the “profound transformation” in our societies Kymlicka wants to bring about through multiculturalism should be rejected. But whether good or bad, such a transformation would not be inconsistent with liberalism. And it would owe little, if anything, to the influence of Marxism unless ethnic minorities started mobilizing to demand collective control of the means of production. The same is true of Charles Taylor, who Duchesne also holds up as a nemesis in his Reply (though their relationship is more ambiguous in the book). Taylor’s left Hegelian liberalism is just the kind of theory the young Marx would have ridiculed as a kind of bourgeois apologetics.
These kinds of interpretive questions matter because they help us frame our
understanding of who believes what and why. Duchesne’s decision to tar all those who disagree with him in the same amorphous muck obfuscates important distinctions that can help us make such crucial determinations. If “cultural Marxism” is fundamentally about the creation of multicultural identities through mass immigration, then Ronald Reagan, who granted legal status to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants, was a “cuckservative” cultural Marxist because he only supported tolerant assimilationists policies while happily taking in (too) many foreigners.
Ethnocentrism and Liberalism
The heart of Duchesne’s Reply comes late in the text, when he takes issue with a
rhetorical question I posed which challenges his ethnocentric perspective. As I put it:
“How does [Duchesne] deal with the observation that there were very substantial ethnic
differences between French-speaking Roman Catholics and the primarily Protestant Germans who settled in Canada shortly before the First World War? Wouldn’t the French-speaking Quebecois have more in common with, say, francophone Roman Catholics from Haiti who happen to be black? To avoid this conclusion, Duchesne shows a truly ugly side by just biting the bullet and claiming that skin color and race matters.”
Duchesne claims that this is a rhetorical question, since very few Germans settled in
Quebec. He then goes on to claims I am engaging in “moral manipulation,” both by trying to say that ethnicity doesn’t matter and by trying to associate Duchesne with white nationalism and Apartheid apologists. All the while, he acknowledges that he has been approvingly cited both white nationalists and Apartheid apologists. But the point of my question was never to claim that ethnicity doesn’t matter. From a descriptive standpoint, it clearly does, since many advocates still invoke it to justify a range of state policies. It is worth noting that this is distinct from the normative question of whether ethnicity should matter, and if so, how much. The point of my question was to problematize Duchesne’s conception of ethnicity, which, in turn, would
problematize the normative positions he derives from this description.
And this is where the big problem is. In his book, Duchesne appeals to many different
labels when describing the ethnic group or groups which have traditionally determined Canada’s destiny—and which Duchesne thinks should be more aggressive in preserving their dominance. Notably his characterization does not include First Nations people. In his Reply, Duchesne reiterates that First Nations did not constitute a nation or a state in the traditional sense of the word when Europeans arrived. Indeed they did not, though that was not my point in the initial Review. As I observed “why any of this entitled the French and British to take lands inhabited by First Nations is never really discussed [in Canada in Decay],” nor does this answer why First nations should not be considered equally important or even predominant participants in determining the ethnic makeup of the present Canadian nation. This is in keeping with Duchesne’s argumentative strategy. Throughout his book Duchesne shifts the goalpost for who warrants ethnic prioritization. In the beginning it is the English and the French. Later he broadens the mosaic to include all people of European background because he alleges they share similar cultures and values. Finally, at points, Duchesne simply states that the ethnicity which should be prioritized is defined both by culture, and more noxiously, and by race. Aka “white” European people. As he puts it in Chapter 8 of his book:
“Culture does matter, and this is why I prefer the term ‘ethnicity’ rather than race,
because ‘ethnicity’ refers to culture and race combined. The point is not that Canada has to be purely European. Non-whites in race have been historically present throughout Canada’s history and their equal rights were recognized in full by the 1960s, before the imposition of mass immigration and the artificial creation of diversity. Canada was created by Euro-Canadians, and for most of her history, “Caucasians” have been the overwhelming majority. What conservatives refuse to accept is not only the extensive scientific evidence pointing towards some very important behavioral and general intelligence differences between racial groupings, but also, and this is the point I wish to emphasize, the fact that all humans have a natural disposition to view other groups from within the standpoint of their own in-group.”
And this is where my rhetorical question about the black Roman Catholic Haitian comes
in. Duchesne criticizes me for calling him a racist, though I never explicitly made this claim in my Review. But it is hard not to reach such a conclusion when reading paragraphs such as the one above. My point about the black Roman Catholic Haitian is that this individual would have far more in common culturally with the earlier Quebecois settlers than other Europeans from different cultural and religious backgrounds. The Haitian and the French Canadian would enjoy a shared religion, language, and colonial heritage. This demonstrates how ambiguous even the notion of cultural ethnicity can be. But I doubt that Duchesne would be comfortable with Haitians moving in en masse, and this is not because he is uncomfortable with “overrated ethnic food” like poulet aux noix. It would be because of what they share in common with “Sri Lankan Tamils, corrupt Chinese real estate millionaires, and Somalis” as Duchesne artfully put it in Chapter One, titled if I remember “How To Scaremonger Using As Many Racial Stereotypes As Possible.” To invoke the title of Chapter Fourteen, Duchesne wants Canada to remain a “white man’s country.” What this entails in practice is that the cultural and racial minorities who are still here should be tolerated, but white European Canadians should adopt policies to prevent further demographic change along “ethnic” aka cultural and racial lines.
This brings me to my final point. Duchesne’s is an illiberal position since it ascribes
tremendous normative weight to the alleged biological and social characteristics an individual human being may share with members of a so-called undesirable group. This is problematic if one is concerned with practicing a consistent liberalism, which again, must be distinguished from the more racist inconsistent liberalisms of the past. Firstly, as Rawls would put it, Duchesne’s position ascribes great important to characteristics that are arbitrary from a moral point of view. We cannot choose our race, or can only shift our cultural association with great difficulty. Judging people on such a basis grants far too much weight to factors individuals cannot control. Secondly, Duchesne’s position undermines the dignity of individuals by refusing to look at their own merits and instead evaluating them based on the alleged biological and social characteristics they share with the group. Finally, many of these alleged characteristics are based on flimsy evidence and hyperbole. It isn’t a coincidence that Duchesne has to appeal to Apartheid apologists, White Nationalists, and, in his Reply, a sequence of newspaper articles and far right books discussing statistics without context or criminological sophistication, in order to make his vague points about the dangers of immigration (though he never emphasizes crimes committed by the 20 million intra-European emigres).
I will conclude by saying this. It is possible to have a sensible discussion about
immigration. There are economic and moral issues that need to be resolved, as well as questions about integration and values. These are difficult problems for liberal states, and I am not even certain they can be solved within a liberal framework. But they certainly cannot be solved by adopting the regressive ethnocentrism advocated for by authors like Ricardo Duchesne.
Matt McManus recently completed his Ph.D. in socio-legal studies at York University. He is currently Professor of Politics and International Relations at TEC De Monterrey. Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.