Reflections on the convoy, the Left and the rise of the far right in Canada
The widespread joy and approval by liberals, social democrats and "progressives" of the use of the Emergency Act by the Trudeau government to clear the so-called "Freedom Convoy" out of downtown Ottawa is a sign of the dangerous times we are in. While there are voices of dissent, they are few and far between and the NDP's "reluctant" vote to extended the measures is being embraced with predictable nausea inducing nonsense like this:
Though, to be fair I suppose, there really is little doubt that "Jack" would have supported the legislation. He was fond of playing the right wing "law and order" game.
Few are those on the left who will be sorry that the fake "truckers" were cleared out of Ottawa. There is a rather small and very misguided faction that embraced -- fully or partially -- the convoy as some sort of working class uprising even though it was clearly not one. Its connections with the far right were rather overt as was shown in the piece: The ‘Freedom Convoy’ Is Nothing But A Vehicle For The Far Right - Canadian Anti-Hate Network (antihate.ca)
Gabriel Haythornthwaite gave some excellent background on the "trucker" movement on The Left Chapter in his piece: Business freedom convoy delivers regressive politics (theleftchapter.com)
Stridently opposing this fascist shindig, however, must not lead anyone to demand heavy-handed policing when confronting any new anti-vax demos, convoys or blockades. This is fundamentally wrongheaded and should be obviously so to anyone on the Left. Legitimizing police propaganda in any way is a dangerous error.
We are now seeing the narrative shift even further away from last year's calls for defunding -- a very convenient turn of events when it was the police themselves that allowed the protest in Ottawa to escalate into a weeks long shitshow. The recent police action to end the "occupation" is not and cannot be seen as an anti-fascist police "moment". The police are anything but anti-fascist as was perfectly clear from the handling of this whole affair and the individual police expressions of sympathy with the protestors that can be found on social media.
It may well go beyond that:
The police in Ottawa will now use their own (contrived?) ineffectiveness to push for greater funding and resources. Police more broadly will be thrilled to see an act passed granting them greater powers that they can claim to possibly need the use of again in the future against left, Black or Indigenous protestors and movements.
Between Duck Dynasty fascism and police fascism, police fascism is the far greater threat in both the short and long terms. We can't lose sight of that. The only way to defeat the new creeping fascism is ideologically and politically -- as well as in the streets -- and the police can never play a part in that.
Let us not make the mistake of replacing the hard task of organizing to build a Left alternative to fascism with a call for greater policing.
The problem, however -- and it is a problem that supporters of police action can rightly point to -- is that this alternative has not been built and is nowhere near being built despite the fact that the warning signs about the rise of the far right have been there for all to see.
It is a sign of the fundamental weakness of the left in Canada that in the days leading up to the clearing of the convoy we saw a left divided between the (much larger) contingent of social democrats calling for police and even military intervention and those calling for an utterly fanciful "mass worker resistance" that they knew full well was not going to materialize because absolutely no meaningful work outside of social media has been done to create the conditions for it.
Posting grandiose statements about how "people" or "workers" need to "fight back" against this fascist outburst is not going to make it happen and it did not happen in any broad sense. Doing this is LARPing or playacting frankly and is not terribly productive.
In the absence of sustained, popular resistance the state and the police will ultimately act when various business and economic interests are at stake and this is what happened. They will do so using the police and sweeping emergency acts and much of a tired and angry population will be grateful for this.
This fact allows liberals and social democrats to justify actions that set the precedent that extraordinary powers and laws may be needed to get the police to do what would have previously been seen as basic policing. It ends as an ideological victory for the police in spite of events that should have exposed them as, at best, incompetent.
Some suspiciously top-down looking anti-trucker "community" groups have popped up that one can't help but suspect will say the best way to "resist" fascism will ultimately be voting for the NDP.
The left's irrelevance in Canada is in no small part due to the sheepdog types who always make excuses for and try to push people into the NDP and the supposed "social movement" "direct action" folks who actually do the exact same thing by offering no alternative to it that is not grandiose slogans on Facebook.
This has the (intended?) effect of leaving many leftists as observers right now to a play in which we have no role. Recent days have made that abundantly, critically clear.
This is not a good place for us to be.
It shows how desperately the Left needs to organize the possibility of mass resistance to fascism and other threats that goes beyond Facebook rhetoric and one-off stands that come far too late. One that involves both the street and a political wing.
Sadly I think we are a long way from that.
Again, though, Gabriel Haythornthwaite's piece Business freedom convoy delivers regressive politics helps point the way forward with some of the lessons and implications he draws from what unfolded.
It is a good start to push away from a time that can be both dispiriting and demobilizing.