Most importantly, we are now living in a period of interwoven crises that are producing the conditions for a very serious intensification of the fascist danger. In the US, overtly fascist movements may not have attained a mass character, but they are interwoven with a very large rightward-moving and dangerously volatile segment of the population. The pandemic-induced economic downturn and the “economic scarring” that will long outlive the virus will intensify a process that the Biden restoration of the neoliberal centre will not contain. The conditions under which a fascist movement can gain ground are present and growing ever more dangerous. It is not a question to be taken lightly.
2. Sometimes We Must Call on the Authorities to Act
In the harsh realities in which we must function, there are times when demands need to be put before the police, courts, and legislators with regard to fascist and racist criminality. In January of 2017, a right-wing killer entered the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, and opened fire on those gathered within it. A total of 6 people lost their lives and 6 more were wounded. Members of the Muslim community had tried to get the police to respond to the “climate of hatred” they faced when it spilled over into criminal acts. In 2014, Islamophobic stickers were put on 3 mosques in the City and, in 2016, a pig’s head was left outside the Cultural Centre. The same year, members of the fascist La Meute group provocatively dropped off business cards at halal grocery stores. The lethal attack took place in a context where a sense of impunity had been allowed to take root among the racist thugs harassing Muslim people in Quebec City.
In such a situation, it would certainly be necessary to support the call from the Muslim community for the police to deal with criminal threats and attacks coming from the far right. Moreover, there are situations where calls for the state to shut down fascist groups are entirely correct. Last October, a Greek court ruled that the fascist Golden Dawn is a criminal organization and convicted 68 of its members of crimes up to and including murder. The thousands who took to the streets to celebrate were fully justified in doing so. This great result, a blow to the far right internationally, was won through a determined working-class struggle against the fascists and by ongoing resistance to the brutal austerity agenda that created the despairing conditions that Golden Dawn fed upon. No one sat back and hoped the state would make the far-right threat go away.
3. Never Leave It to the Capitalist State
There are particular dangers involved in the Trudeau government’s crackdown on the Proud Boys that need to be considered. The concept of “terrorism” has been constructed and acted upon by the Canadian state along lines that are deeply reactionary and profoundly racist. Police and courts have used the “terrorism” label to persecute Muslims and intimidate targeted communities. Toronto’s Tamil community know well how this legislation has been used. Politicians and the media have used the “terrorist” label to fan the flames of xenophobia.
Section 83 of the Criminal Code, though it may be directed at the far right at this moment, has the most chilling implications for working-class movements and the left more broadly. It can be used against any group, in or outside of Canada, “that has as one of its purposes or activities facilitating or carrying out any terrorist activity.” There are an alarmingly large and varied number of ways to engage in “terrorist activity” to the satisfaction of a zealous cop or prosecutor. Provided it can be established that someone has created “a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public” and that this was done “for a political, religious or ideological purpose,” they may be guilty of a terrorist act. “Property damage” and “serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system” may also be treated as terrorism, provided they can be linked to a risk to public health and safety. It’s not hard to see how the resistance of workers or communities under attack could unleash these repressive powers.