Feb 19, 2022

Convoys, Rallies, and a Three-Way Fight Approach within a Union Context

Freedom Convoy advertisement.
Graphic and photo by unknown. Used here for educational purposes.

The author, DZ, has opted to use his initials because he is discussing active union business at his local. 

(This article details actions and analysis in Vancouver. Meanwhile, as we go to publish, the police in Ottawa have stepped up the banning of the Convoy from areas around Parliament and the city. Attempts to stop the Convoy protests by police have now seen the police using chemical sprays and flash grenades with a growing number of the Convoy supporters being arrested - 3WF)

The ongoing trucker convoy, which has occupied parts of downtown Ottawa and other neighborhoods for several weeks, has been met with a widespread sense of demoralization among the left (an equivocal term that I will disambiguate below). Participants in the convoy present themselves in opposition to vaccine mandates, but we must note that these actions are the latest iteration of a strategically and tactically fluid covid-denialist movement, which has manifest over the last two years as anti-lockdown, anti-vaccination, anti-mandate, and anti-mask. It is a movement which has also, from its very beginnings, drawn membership and support from far-right movements.

I. The Convoys

In what I follows, I will look at three smaller events that took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first two events I will examine are convoys. They were organized by a group called Action4Canada. On February 5th, a convoy billed as the “Langley Freedom Convoy” was disrupted by counter-protestors and cyclists, who blocked the convoy at several different intersections. The counter-protest was one of several actions organized to meet the smaller, mostly mobile trucker convoys in various cities across Canada. The express intent of the counter-protestors was to block intersections in order to reroute the convoy away from the hospitals in the Vancouver core. (Some intersections might also have been chosen to subsequently reroute the convoy away from the Downtown Eastside). Perhaps the most effective chokepoint occurred when cyclists blocked the convoy as it headed westbound on Terminal Avenue. As a local journalist pointed out, there's a two-kilometer stretch of Terminal where drivers can’t exit down side streets, and at the end of that stretch they were blocked and deadlocked. The convoy had to reverse out with assistance of police. Some of the convoy made it downtown, and I have seen social media posts showing that they were blocked or rerouted (with different degrees of success) at no fewer than four different intersections.

Cyclists disrupt Convoy in Vancuver. Photo by unknown.
Used here for educational purposes.

Interestingly, the destination for the “3rd Lower Mainland Freedom Convoy” on February 12th was the 176 St. border crossing in Surrey, BC, far from the Vancouver city core. The change in destination may be an attempt to avoid the disruptions of counter-protests. The fact that these groups target border crossings and challenge the RCMP—at this particular event several vehicles successfully broke through police barricades—shows that while police sympathies for the covid-denialist movement are frequently documented in, for example, Ottawa, these convoys are willing to engage in system-oppositional actions.

Perhaps the safest observation—one made by many—about these events is that there is a stark contrast between the police response to convoy actions and those of leftist or Indigenous movements, which are typically suppressed long before they would reach a similar critical mass. On that note, the counter-protest action on February 5th might have been the strongest leftist action in the Vancouver region since the Wet'suwet'en solidarity blockades two years ago—though it did not match the scope or intensity of those actions.

A binary opposition drawn between convoys and counter-protestors does not capture all the elements of the present conjuncture. A three-way fight analysis situates both the convoys and the counter-protestors in relation to the state as well. A few tentative observations follow.

1. The convoys fit the pattern of when far-right movements turn to system-oppositional tactics. In the fifth thesis of his “Seven Theses on the Three-Way Fight,” D.Z. Shaw proposes that “far-right movements are system-loyal when they perceive that the entitlements of white supremacy can be advanced within bourgeois or democratic institutions and they become insurgent when they perceive that these entitlements cannot.” This is not the venue to examine the intricate entanglement of white supremacy and liberalism within the North American settler-colonial project. Throughout this history, as evidenced in W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of the wages of whiteness, Indigenous dispossession and the political suppression of former slaves enabled the formation and growth of a white worker elite and petty bourgeoisie, who embraced and propelled this colonial project because it advanced their interests.

As Angela Mitropolous argues, the “political-economic boundary between the demos (the ostensibly proper subject of political representation and lawmaking) and the practices of managing (properly) productive populations” plays a crucial role in capitalist extraction and accumulation even under neoliberal policy (Mitropolous, Pandemonium, Pluto Press, 13). In my view, public health orders appear contradictory unless we view them as tending toward what the ruling classes perceive to be the minimum necessary intervention to preserve or shore up hegemony during crisis. As Mitropolous observes, these interventions seek to preserve the viability of the demos; “however, the viability of locked-down households was physically contingent upon and linked by the unpaid and low-paid work in which women, migrants, and Black and Brown people predominate” (Mitropolous, 11). Yet these interventions must also manage these productive populations to preserve the viability of the demos—hence the public health measures that covid-denialist movements perceive as attacking their interests are in place to manage the populations that ensure the viability of the demos to which many in these movements belong. When far-right groups perceive these efforts to balance hegemony during crisis as undermining their place in socio-economic hierarchies and curtailing their entitlements relative to those hierarchies, they reorganize along system-oppositional lines. Hence the close proximities of the various waves of COVID-19 and of system-oppositional covid-denialist movements.

2. Far-right movements are relatively autonomous. The three-way fight approach dispenses with the conventional wisdom on the radical left that fascist movements are the working-class lackeys of the most reactionary sections of capitalism. The conventional position has struggled to explain the potential mass appeal of fascism. By contrast, the three-way fight position (at least as I defend it) contends that far-right movements are relatively autonomous, potentially mass movements that seek to re-entrench the social inequalities and hierarchies already present in society. In my view this also means that the mass character of fascism cannot be explained as a form of ignorance or false consciousness, shaped by legitimate but misdirected grievances. Instead, the far-right seeks to defend the inequalities that serve their interests.

3. Counter-protests are divided between progressive, politically mainstream participants and smaller radical/revolutionary groups. The strengths and weaknesses of counter-protest actions against the convoys can be traced back to the composition of the counter-protests themselves. On the one hand, the counter-protests are made up of mainstream, progressive participants who have called on the Canadian state and its repressive state apparatus ‘to do its job.’ On the other hand, there are radical or revolutionary participants advancing direct action as community self-defense, and who would view this specific work as aligned with antifascist organizing over the last six or seven years. These coalitions won’t likely last longer than the immediate threat of convoy activity. Therefore, political education around these struggles must demonstrate the ideological sympathies between police and the far-right when progressives call for more police powers, it must emphasize the relative autonomy of far-right movements when progressives cast them as appendages of right-wing political parties, and it must highlight how far-right movements are endogenous to Canadian settler-colonial hegemony when progressives portray them as puppets of so-called foreign influence. The convoys, like other far-right movements, may be enabled or strengthened by money or infrastructure provided their political allies, but they will not disappear if those supports dissipate.

II. A Union Response to the Rally for Informed Consent

It didn’t take long before progressive media jumped into the fray with a defense of building a left populism that draws on whatever grievances the convoys might have. Emma Jackson’s essay for The Breach touches on almost all the expected cliched themes: whereas the left, which engages in perennially cliquish behavior, has been in disarray, these right-wing movements tap into real, but misdirected, anger felt by the supposed common man. This type of analysis, generally speaking, goes awry for many reasons. First, it refuses to analyze class categories seriously—very commonly mistaking a white worker-elite or petty bourgeoisie for the supposed “working class”—and it never specifically analyzes how race and gender factor into the formation of these movements and their demands. Second, it almost never recognizes, despite the mountains of revolutionary literature from the last five decades, that right-wing and far-right movements are able to mobilize with this kind of strength because neoliberal policy, mainstream liberal politics, and the far-right all converge around and prop up settler-state hegemony. Jackson argues that we ought to ‘understand the right’s grievances’ when this has always been a regular and self-defeating feature of the compromises and half measures made in the name of reformism or earlier attempts at left populism, compromises and initiatives which end up propagating the conditions that make far-right movements possible. And, finally, this type of analysis does not disambiguate “the left;” instead this term conflates everything from autonomous anti-capitalist movements, to labor organizing, to institutional capture of various anti-oppression initiatives via reformism, as if they evince a common political horizon.

The remainder of this essay will focus an approach that attempts to bring the perspective of the three-way fight to union organizing and practice. I acknowledge that the three-way fight originates in street-level antifascist organizing and that translating it into union practice meets several obvious limits, especially given that I’m discussing the terrain of a worker-elite or petty bourgeois faculty association. I hope that this analysis, however, offers an example of how a three-way fight perspective can work within labor organizing.

Our union’s practical strength was tested by an Action4Canada event with a much smaller scope than a convoy. On Thursday, February 3rd, 2022 the group held a “Rally for Informed Consent” in support of a student arrested for not wearing a mask while at Douglas College. A faculty member was present to observe the rally, and they counted 16 attendees directly in front of the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, BC (one campus of the college). There were additional protestors around the corner on Columbia Street. A photograph taken around 12:30pm shows around 20 people on Columbia, though not all demonstrators might be in the photograph and it is unclear if all people in the photo are participants. The presence of demonstrators on Columbia Street, separate from those in front of the doors to the Douglas College campus in the Anvil Centre, raises the suspicion—expressed by an anonymous op-ed published by the New Westminster Record—“that this protest chose their position intentionally in order to harass the vaccine clinic” housed in the Anvil Centre as well.

Though the conditions differ from a typical three-way fight struggle, there is a similar arrangement of contending organizations: the college administration (management), the union, and a covid-denialist group (which was, within its own messaging, was circulating far-right rhetoric and ideas). The motivation behind the union response that I advocated was one which differentiated itself from management’s liberal position and the far-right group. Administration refused to notify any union members other than those who were working within the building, maintaining that broader notification would cause undue alarm—but they also wanted to dampen the possibility of counter-protests staged by members or other parts of the community.

What I proposed was a multipronged approach which put the onus on union leadership to organize a political response to the anti-mask rally. Such an approach, I would contend, is a more productive use of union capacity than the “left populist” approach which asserts, often in vague terms, that we must organize or appeal to the other side. A strategic response to far-right movements can also serve advance internal organizational goals. Unions are obligated to rectify their historical role in implementing formal or informal practices—sometimes colluding with management—that have produced and reproduced racist and sexist work environments. Political education is a necessary, but not in itself sufficient, component to challenging practices that reproduce or are at least permissive of workplace inequalities and inequities. Many unions in the post-secondary education sector in British Columbia are seeking to align the traditional union mandate with anti-oppression objectives, so this is an ongoing issue at many locals. Though right-wing critics portray post-secondary education as a bastion of radicalism, the political attitudes at our local seem to hew fairly close to the populace at large. We’ve struggled at different points to pass anti-racist initiatives or solidarity statements.

Thus I prepared the union response to the anti-mask rally to navigate Charybdis and Scylla of pro-management members and covid-denialism within membership itself. There are three prongs to the approach, each demanding a stronger political commitment from members: (1) an action plan should further rallies take place; (2) a public statement; and (3) literature for members who decide to push back against these rallies. Each in and of itself is an insufficient response. For example, a public statement in isolation from the others comes off as a ‘sternly worded letter’ and we know how effective those have been at dissuading far-right organizing.

We passed the public statement at our executive council. But we also passed the other two. And if it is true that our membership’s political attitudes align with the general population, and if it is true that our executive council (a representative body of the general membership) is similar to membership, it was surprising that each motion passed unanimously. It is a marked departure from the typical scope of operations to assert, as our action plan did, that union leadership will notify all members that a rally will happen when management declines to do so. This puts the union at odds with management’s liberal approach, which appeals to the right to free expression, handles demonstrations as security concerns, and also discourages counter-action on the part of employees. It is also a marked departure that a political statement with explicit anti-racist messaging passes unanimously. There are typically objections that anti-racist or other anti-oppression messaging is outside the traditional union mandate. I have reproduced the text of the leaflet below in Part III.

I will admit that the foregoing analysis focuses on a very small sliver of organizing in general. But if it is correct that our local’s membership is not nearly as radical as conservative fever-dreams would indicate and all three prongs of the union’s political response were unanimously approved at our executive council, then we need to propose some explanation for that unexpected outcome. They could, for example, still face opposition in a general meeting.

In my view, our response was successful (so far) because it focused on two narrow political issues. As the leaflet’s title indicates, we contend that covid-denialist movements are anti-worker and mistaken about the analogies they have drawn to historical forms of oppression—the leaflet focuses specifically on analogies to Segregation. Our members were directed to return to in-person teaching around the peak of the Omicron wave and one of the top member concerns involved access to proper personal protective equipment to reduce spread of COVID-19 and protect employees and students at the college (how that was handled within the college is a different discussion). I believe that there is legitimate anger toward anti-maskers and the trucker convoy being uncritically framed as representing workers’ grievances.

As for the leaflet, I think both our executive council and the subcommittee that approved it recognize that it offers an unequivocal statement rejecting the analogy between public health orders and Segregation, and that it serves as an education piece to distribute to members and students who, in circulating around campus, would encounter these rallies without the requisite historical knowledge—Canadian public education isn’t much better than American education when it comes to the history of racism and white supremacy in North America—to identify the obvious fallacies in covid-denialist propaganda. Yet further work needs to be done. It has been rightly pointed out that an education piece ought to be produced examining the covid-denialist appropriation of feminist slogans such as “my body, my choice.”

Though a faculty union would not likely emerge as an antifascist fighting force, we have taken the initiative to build an antifascist response into existing organizational structures when the labor sector we belong to has yet to formulate a coherent and autonomous political response to covid-denialism.

III. The Leaflet: “Anti-Maskers: Anti-Worker and Mistaken About Segregation”

The following text was approved by our local’s Anti-Racism Action Committee.

Groups protesting mask mandates and vaccines at Douglas College are actively spreading misinformation about the public health orders in effect at the college and drawing false analogies between their movement and the history of oppressed peoples. Individuals resist mandates for a number of reasons despite the harm it might cause to others. They may not see their attitudes and beliefs reflected in covid-denialism as a movement. Nonetheless, we must meet the politics of this movement head on: it propagates misinformation and false analogies that do not hold up to scrutiny. Indeed, covid-denialism is anti-worker and mistaken about Segregation.

Mask Mandates

First, Douglas College—with the exception of a few select programs—does not require vaccination for work or study within the institution. Anti-maskers present mask mandates as a violation of their freedom, but here they clearly run counter to workers’ demands. The faculty of Douglas College were directed to return to campus on January 10th, during what was possibly the peak of the Omicron wave. The current mask mandate mitigates the risk of transmission on campus—a protection that workers themselves have sought to maintain to protect themselves, staff, students, and their respective families. Therefore, the “freedom” to refuse a mask constitutes an anti-worker action.

Appropriating Symbols of Oppression

Second, participants in the covid-denialism movement—which as a whole is a far-right, white political movement—have likened their cause to the history of the struggles of oppressed peoples. Anti-vax and anti-mask protests are the latest manifestation of a covid-denialist movement, which formed in opposition to lockdowns. Their opposition was premised on the idea, shared with some right-wing politicians, that so-called herd immunity would engender survival of the fittest. More recently, and worryingly, anti-vaxxers have begun to describe themselves as “pure bloods.” And let us not forget that far-right movements, propagating white supremacist, ableist, sexist and transphobic propaganda were present at the birth of the movement against public health orders. Even if some particular anti-vax groups do not have an actual backwards connection to these original anti-lockdown movements, they remain permissive if not accepting toward the propagation of far-right and fascist propaganda within the movement.

Thus it is especially offensive when anti-vaxxers appropriate symbols from the struggles of the oppressed to legitimate their grievances. We are familiar with instances where anti-vaxxers have compared their treatment to the ghettoization of Jewish peoples under Nazi legislation, and the primary symbol associated with that treatment: the yellow Star of David. They have been rightly criticized for doing so. Anti-vaxxer groups readily mix with far-right groups; there have been numerous instances of antisemitic propaganda being propagated within these networks. It may appear to be a contradiction between appropriating the yellow Star and antisemitism. A pseudonymous antifascist scholar untangles the knot of this contradiction:

their attempt to draw a parallel between the conditions of present society and those of historical injustice and oppression is not as it appears—that is, an acknowledgement of these prior injustices. Recall that far-right groups regard human inequality as natural and desirable as long as their in-group is at the top of this hierarchy. In white supremacist ideology, Jewish peoples are the natural inferiors of “Aryans.” For the white supremacist and antisemitic elements of anti-vaxxer groups, when they evoke the yellow star, they mean that what they take to be natural hierarchies have been overturned, and there the injustice occurs (M.I. Asma, On Necrocapitalism, Kersplebedeb, 307).

In other words, the covid-denialist movement objects not to the oppression of marginalized peoples but rather their perception that their interests have been marginalized in society. Despite the fact that the pandemic has been prolonged by politicians glad-handing covid-denialism and “keeping the economy going” through public health orders driven by facilitating capital accumulation and politics rather than epidemiology.  Despite the fact, demonstrated by lax enforcement of denialist demonstrations including the so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, that they have the sympathy if not complicity of the police (who have shown themselves in their resistance to vaccine mandates covid-denialists themselves).

Thus when covid-denialists compare their situation to Segregation, one is left to wonder: what Segregation? They have captured parts of conservative political networks in both the United States and Canada. They have, in both countries, potential allies and sympathizers in the police.

In no uncertain terms, covid-deniers have no right to evoke the horrors of Segregation. Segregation in the United States was for ten decades the political suppression of, and the systemic degradation and humiliation of Black Americans. And not only the US; similar conditions prevailed in Canada: “public education, immigration, employment and housing were all subject to a veiled Jim Crow-style segregation that either formally or informally kept Black persons in social, economic and political subjugation” (Robyn Maynard, Policing Black Lives, Fernwood Press, 33).

Covid-denialist movements present aspects of Segregation out of context to draw false analogies. They point to vaccine mandates at certain public functions and present these mandates as the suppression of their rights. But public health orders are drawn up to balance various rights (or, more specifically, the balance of social forces represented by the assertion of rights), where it must be acknowledged that any supposed right won by covid-denialists is a burden shifted to workers, the immunocompromised, and persons with disabilities.

Covid-denialism never claims anything more than a shallow semblance to the system of Segregation in the United States—which amounts to denialism toward both the de facto and de jure violence and systemic oppression faced by Black communities. Covid-denialists not only can vote (and do), but they have well-placed allies in major conservative parties. There is no analogy to lynch-law justice, which perpetrated more than 4000 documented racial terror lynchings in twelve US southern states from 1877–1950 (Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America). There are no housing covenants which ghettoized Black Americans and other oppressed peoples. They have not faced chronic underfunding in segregated schools (a history with ongoing contemporary consequences). Nor have they been exploited as an under-class, “an unskilled reserve labor force to be super-exploited for the benefit of every other section of…society” (James Boggs, Racism and the Class Struggle, Monthly Review Press, 23).

The comparison of public health orders to Segregation amounts to the minimization and denial of the depth and magnitude of Segregation and its ongoing ramifications. Far from minimalizing the pandemic, they have embraced it as an opportunity for building their reactionary political program. They are—to draw finally an appropriate analogy to the history of racism in North America—descendants of the segregators, not the segregated.

Feb 17, 2022

Caution doesn’t make us safe: A review of PRA’s report on the MAGA movement

Million MAGA March Rally at Freedom Plaza, Washington DC, 14 November 2020

The January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol represented a watershed for the U.S. far right. For the first time in U.S. history, a sitting president and a major section of his party rejected the results of a presidential election, and thousands of his followers tried to overturn those results by force. January 6 blasted a hole in the wall between those rightist forces that accept the legitimacy of the existing political system and those that reject it, as tens of millions of previously system-loyal Americans embraced claims that the voting process was invalid. But after the attack it wasn’t immediately clear what course U.S. rightists would follow or how effective they would be, as leading Republicans such as Mitch McConnell initially denounced the Capitol invasion, groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers faced internal conflicts, and the Biden administration began arresting and filing charges against hundreds of January 6 attackers.

To understand how post-January 6 rightist initiatives have unfolded and what kind of dangers they pose today, a good place to start is “Capitol Offenses: January 6th 2021 & The Ongoing Insurrection,” a January 2022 report from Political Research Associates. Written by Steven Gardiner and Tarso Luís Ramos (PRA’s research director and executive director, respectively), “Capitol Offenses” offers a very helpful overview and analysis of U.S. right forces, strategy, and threats one year after Donald Trump left office. The report also grapples with important questions about how leftists and liberals should respond to these threats, and about the relationship between anti-rightist activism and work for systemic social change. All of this is in keeping with (and builds on) PRA’s longtime role as an organization that provides some of the best information and analysis available on the U.S. right and its relationship with systems of oppression and exploitation.

At the same time, “Capitol Offenses” also suffers from some serious limitations in both its analytic framework and especially its strategic approach. Just as I appreciate the insights that Steven and Tarso offer, the effort to put my criticisms into words has helped clarify my own thinking. I don’t claim to have the last word on anything, but my aim here is to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of the PRA report in a comradely spirit so as to move the discussion forward.

An ongoing coup attempt

“Capitol Offenses” argues—accurately, I believe—that in the wake of January 6, the United States faces an ongoing, powerful effort by “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) forces to impose an authoritarian system predicated on racial and religious oppression. Many of the key points of this argument can be summarized as follows:

  • Although many Republican leaders, including some Trump loyalists, were initially appalled by the Capitol invasion, since then “the MAGA coalition of White nationalists, Christian nationalists, libertarian opportunists, and laissez-faire deregulators has held together, and even consolidated.”
  • In this coalition, ethnonationalism is a central driving force, whose influence and intensity were boosted by four years of Trump administration policies and rhetoric. The Great Replacement myth that white people are being deliberately turned into a minority has moved from the neonazi fringe to mainstream discourse in only slightly sanitized form. The Christian right, once pragmatic allies of Trump, “is increasingly caught in [ethnonationalism’s] gravitational pull.”
  • “[T]he activated base for authoritarian measures to implement minority rule has grown substantially,” as indicated by polls showing increases in expressions of supremacist beliefs and high numbers of people who believe the 2020 election was stolen and/or advocate political violence.
  • MAGA forces now represent the dominant faction of the Republican Party and have “hardened into an authoritarian bloc, pursuing a strategy predicated on the conclusion that they (did not and) cannot win a free and fair election.”
  • Since Trump left office, the heart of MAGA activism has shifted from Washington, DC to state and local levels, including legislatures, courts, and the cultural sphere.
  • MAGA forces are spearheading a “slow-motion coup”—i.e., a process by which Republicans operating at the state level “are using legislative maneuvering to consolidate one-party control, restrict the electorate, and establish the mechanisms for minority rule at the national level.” These efforts include voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, and imposing partisan control over the counting of ballots.
  • Alongside election-rigging efforts, MAGA forces have also intensified a “culture war” centered on opposition to abortion rights, transgender people, teaching about systemic racism in public schools, and COVID public health measures.
  • MAGA campaigns legitimize political violence and may fuel an upsurge of physical attacks on oppressed communities and political opponents.

“In the wake of January 6, the United States faces an ongoing, powerful effort by MAGA forces to impose an authoritarian system predicated on racial and religious oppression.

I am generally in agreement with these points, and I believe that together they represent a compelling portrait of a deeply dangerous political situation. This portrait provides helpful context for addressing local or specific struggles, whether school board meeting battles over supposed Critical Race Theory or street confrontations with violent far right groups. As a secondary point, I also appreciate that the report refers to the rightist movement as MAGA rather than Trumpist, because this depersonalizes the threat and implicitly notes that the movement transcends Trump’s involvement and may outlive him. 

MAGA fascism?

Steven and Tarso’s argument also sheds helpful light on the question of the MAGA movement’s relationship with fascism, a question that many of us have grappled with since Trump’s presidential candidacy took off in 2015. “Capitol Offenses” mostly uses the less loaded term “authoritarianism” to describe the right-wing threat, but in a couple of places (including the report’s closing sentence) the authors make clear that they consider this threat to be fascist, although they don’t spell out just what they mean by this term. My own take on this issue has evolved as the political situation has changed. For several years I maintained that the Trump campaign and administration increased the threat of fascism but were not in themselves fully fascist, because they lacked key elements: (a) rejection of the existing political system, (b) an independent organizational base, and (c) an effort to remake society according to an ideological vision. But in the wake of January 6 I argued that Trump had embraced the first two of these elements and thus “Trumpism might not represent full-blown fascism yet, but it is rushing in that direction.”

“Capitol Offenses” speaks directly to these issues. The report argues that the MAGA movement’s slow-motion coup, with its political and culture wars wings, represents an attempt to establish both “a new kind of state” and “a new nation”—i.e., to transform both the political system and the social order in significant ways—while the movement’s takeover of the Republican Party has effectively provided it with an independent political base. These comments are quite brief and would need to be spelled out more fully, but I think they offer a helpful framework for further discussion. 

“The MAGA movement’s slow-motion coup, with its political and culture wars wings, represents an attempt to establish both ‘a new kind of state’ and ‘a new nation.’”

In these ways, “Capitol Offenses” represents an important and valuable contribution that can help us make sense of the current U.S. political situation and plot a course forward. But precisely because of the political dangers the report outlines so well, it’s critical that we also address what I believe are significant limitations or weaknesses in the report. These problems can be grouped into two broad areas—the report’s analysis of the U.S. right and, above all, the strategic framework the authors advocate—and I’ll discuss each of these in turn.

A “three-sided struggle”

One of the things I appreciate about PRA is that it rejects the poisonous “anti-extremism” and “anti-hate” models of analysis and criticizes their role in supporting the growth of state repression against the left. This stands in sharp contrast to more centrist organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League (the latter of which has not only advocated but actively conducted surveillance against leftist groups). Far more than the SPLC or the ADL, PRA has addressed ways that oppressive and exploitative hierarchies are central to U.S. society and are the soil from which supremacist right-wing politics grows.

In “Capitol Offenses,” Steven Gardiner and Tarso Ramos build on this base to argue that we should see right-wing politics as part of a “three-sided struggle”:

“Social justice campaigners must contend with both the dominant institutions, which for the most part are trying to maintain the status quo, and the social and political forces trying to make the society less inclusive, less democratic, and less just. This social movement Right is also in contest with both justice movements and with dominant institutions that they regard as insufficiently aligned with their priorities.”

A three-sided struggle model, they argue, also “helps us to understand the social movement Right as made up of overlapping factions,” rather than treat it as a monolith, as people on the left too often do.

This argument shares with Three Way Fight the view that far right forces are connected with systems of oppression but also politically autonomous and not simply tools of established elites, and Steven and Tarso include a link to the Three Way Fight website in their discussion of three-sided struggle. But there are important differences. Their explanation of a three-sided struggle makes it sound like the far right simply wants a stronger version of existing hierarchies and that its disagreement with dominant institutions is just a matter of degree. There’s no clear discussion of the far right’s oppositional character: the way it draws on rebelliousness as well as fear or anger at losing privilege, its desire to overthrow established elites, overturn established systems, and force a qualitative break with the status quo. “Capitol Offenses” also doesn’t mention any of the ways that far rightists promote distorted versions of leftist politics, such as opposition to war and U.S. military interventionism.

Consistent with this limitation, “Capitol Offenses” says little or nothing about those elements that most clearly embody the far right’s oppositional side: underground paramilitary groups such as Atomwaffen Division and The Base, the boogaloo bois’ physical attacks on and killings of police, Tucker Carlson’s opposition to military interventionism, and the remnants of the alt-right that have repudiated Donald Trump for selling out to the conservative establishment. These elements are currently much smaller or more limited than the MAGA-led initiatives that are the report’s focus, but resentment of elites and the political establishment—including the conservative establishment—played a major role in fueling Trump’s rise. Rebellious anger represents a side of far right politics that asserts itself over and over, and it would be strategically dangerous for us to ignore it. More on this below. 

Trump protest, Federal Plaza to Trump Tower, Chicago, IL, 19 November 2016

Far right racial politics

Expanding on Steven and Tarso’s own point that we should avoid treating the right as a monolith, I believe the racial politics of the U.S. far right are more complex than what “Capitol Offenses” presents. While I agree that the drive to establish white minority rule (i.e., disenfranchise people of color) is ideologically dominant within the MAGA coalition and the U.S. right more generally, there are important cross currents that we also need to understand if we want to combat these forces effectively.

Multiracial organizing is a reality in significant sectors of the U.S. far right, as many scholars and researchers—and PRA itself—have documented. This includes not only relatively small groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. As I reported last year, the massive New Apostolic Reformation movement not only welcomes people of all ethnicities in substantial numbers; an important section of the movement actively urges its members to “combat racism.” Like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, NAR is squarely part of the MAGA coalition. Such far right multiracial organizing does not generally combat white nationalism but coexists and interacts with it in complex ways. There are also distinctive rightist formations active within specific communities of color that may play an increasingly significant role within the larger U.S. right, such as Hindu nationalism within the Indian American community and the misogynistic “Men’s Rights Asians” subculture among Asian American men.

It’s possible that these ideological cross currents on race will end up being stifled under the drive to Make America White Again. But they could also help force a readjustment of the MAGA movement’s vision of a “new type of nation”—either by negotiating a kind of multicultural acceptance for politically loyal people of color, or by shifting the color line itself, for example by redefining some Asian and/or Latinx Americans as white. The boundaries around whiteness have changed before, most recently in the early/mid twentieth century, when southern and eastern European ethnic groups moved from a racially ambiguous outsider status into full white identity. Bringing more ethnic groups into the white racial construct could happen again, particularly if it helps keep whites as a majority in the United States. (I believe Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White, predicted such a development some thirty years ago, but I can’t find the reference.)

In any case, while these considerations don’t negate Steven and Tarso’s argument that the MAGA coalition is driving to reassert white political and social control, they do call for us to view MAGA racism in more complex political and historical terms.

A “block and build” strategy

While I see some gaps in how “Capitol Offenses” analyzes right-wing politics, my biggest concerns are with the report’s strategic pronouncements. Because we face both an unjust social order and a rightist drive to impose authoritarianism, Steven and Tarso call for a “block and build” strategy, which juggles “the twin priorities of blocking the further consolidation of power by racial and religious authoritarians, and building a governing coalition capable of delivering a just, multiracial democracy.” Both struggles, they argue, are constrained by the left’s weakness—”progressives cannot currently accomplish either [priority] by themselves”—thus coalition partners are needed, “not all of whom can be expected…to align with emergent visions and agendas for a just society.” The two approaches are interconnected (“Block and build will sometimes be in tension, but neither can succeed without the other”) but also sequential: “We cannot win a just society without first defeating ethnonationalist authoritarianism.” In other words, blocking the right is the immediate priority, while achieving “a just multiracial democracy” is for the long haul.

In broad terms, the block and build approach sounds similar to the double-sided strategy I’ve long advocated: broad coalitions to combat the far right, coupled with radical initiatives that target established systems of oppression and exploitation. But in the “Capitol Offenses” version, radical politics all but disappears. Addressed primarily to “progressives,” the report never mentions the radical left and never mentions revolutionary change as an issue even for discussion. The authors repeatedly acknowledge the need for systemic “transformation” but imply that it can only be accomplished through gradual reform of existing institutions. It’s quite true that the U.S. lacks a strong, well-organized radical movement at this time. But before dismissing the possibility of dramatic liberatory social change in the near term, we should remember that less than two years ago the U.S. experienced its most massive radical upsurge in half a century, an event that “Capitol Offenses” doesn’t mention. 

“Coalitions have an important role in antifascist work, but they need to be based on respect for diverse politics and diverse tactical approaches.”

Because of these silences, it’s concerning that “Capitol Offenses” calls for a broad “united front against racial and religious authoritarianism” without explaining what this means or what the terms of unity should be. These questions are key because calls for anti-rightist and anti-fascist unity have repeatedly been used to silence and isolate leftists and protect the status quo. Coalitions have an important role in antifascist work, but they need to be based on respect for diverse politics and diverse tactical approaches. Too often, leftists have been told to give up our organizational autonomy and public voices in the name of unity and the questionable assumption that radical politics would alienate more people than it would attract.

I’m also disheartened by the ways that “Capitol Offenses” promotes dangerous illusions about the existing state and political order. Although they warn that “we cannot police our way out” of the right-wing threat and we should “resist the cycle of further securitization and racialized policing,” Steven and Tarso assert that “The FBI, Justice Department, DHS, and local police should do their jobs—responding to crimes and acting quickly in response to credible threats….” But the “jobs” of these agencies can’t be disentangled from the violent defense of capitalism and racial oppression. That is their job.

On a related note, the PRA report criticizes the Biden administration and Democratic Party for presenting a “weak hand (and, on some significant matters, weak will)” with regard to the right-wing authoritarian threat and the need for a united front to oppose it. Calling the Democratic Party “weak” is like calling a multinational corporation “greedy”: it targets subjective behavior while ignoring the structural reality that underlies it. The Democratic Party was created by Andrew Jackson and his followers as a vehicle to mobilize popular support for white supremacist capitalism, and although the party’s ideology and policies have changed dramatically over the generations, its core mission—its structural role in U.S. society—has remained the same. Since the late 1970s, the party has functioned largely to coopt “progressive” constituencies into supporting kinder, gentler versions of neoliberal policies (or in the case of the Biden administration, Trumpist policies with regard to China, trade, and immigration). The Democratic Party also bears a major part of the responsibility for the growth of the repressive state apparatus over the past half century, a process that helped pave the way for today’s right-wing authoritarian threat. If you’re going to advocate a united front with Democratic Party-related forces it’s crucial to be clear about these realities, but “Capitol Offenses” is silent about them.

“Capitol Offenses” closes with a warning that we face a choice between defending American democracy, despite its profoundly undemocratic flaws, and handing power over to fascists. I agree with Steven and Tarso that the current U.S. political system encompasses deeply important pluralistic space that has been won through generations of struggle and that should be defended against the authoritarian right, although it’s confusing and self-contradictory to call the current system democracy. But pluralistic space can’t be defended by looking to the police to do their jobs or urging the Democratic Party to stop being weak. Its defense, in the face of these institutions, calls for independent, militant activism that challenges entrenched power. The militant activism I’m talking about doesn’t mean “letting democracy burn,” as Steven and Tarso suggest. Rather, it takes inspiration, for example, from the mutual aid organizing that the people of Minneapolis practiced as part of the George Floyd uprising—outside of and against the existing state. 

“Pluralistic space can't be defended by looking to the police to do their jobs or urging the Democratic Party to stop being weak. Its defense calls for independent, militant activism that challenges entrenched power.”

A strategy that subordinates radical change to defense of the existing political order poses several dangers that “Capitol Offenses” doesn’t consider. One danger is that the strategy weakens the left and sets us up for increased persecution, as we can expect from the Biden administration’s use of “anti-extremism” ideology to further growth of the national security state. But another danger is that by positioning leftists as defenders of the status quo, the strategy cuts us off from the millions of people in the U.S. who feel beaten down and disenfranchised and are rightly disillusioned with the conventional political choices available to them. To take this a step further, if leftists defer our radical aims for the sake of unity against the right, it helps far rightists present themselves as the only real oppositional force and thereby potentially gain support from some sectors of the population who might otherwise be won to liberatory politics. This is one reason why it’s so important for us to recognize the insurgent, oppositional theme in far right politics. 

If it seems far-fetched to envision the far right capturing popular support that might otherwise be won to a militantly oppositional left, consider that right now a Democratic president is saying he will “respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs” if Russia invades Ukraine, and some of the loudest voices warning against the threat of war are right-wing anti-interventionists such as Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard. Whether the flashpoint is Ukraine or someplace else, it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Joe Biden takes the U.S. into military conflict with a foreign autocrat (as he helped to do in 2003 against Iraq, with disastrous results). If leftists and liberals muffle their protest for the sake of unity against the right, it’s MAGA forces that will benefit.

“If leftists defer our radical aims for the sake of unity against the right, it helps far rightists present themselves as the only real oppositional force.


Steven Gardiner and Tarso Ramos’s report on the MAGA movement’s drive for power is an important warning to antifascists and everyone who wants to keep the United States from taking a quantum leap in authoritarianism and oppression. I appreciate the clarity of their analytic insights and I share their sense of urgency, their recognition that the stakes are high. But I disagree with their conclusion that defending the existing political order now is the safer and more responsible choice, and that anything else means letting fascism win. The strategy they advocate poses serious risks they don’t address, including increased repression against the left and increased support for the far right from people who are angry at the current system, some of whom might otherwise be won to liberatory politics. In my view, to defend pluralistic political space and combat authoritarianism we need to challenge not only the political right but also the many ways people are disenfranchised and disempowered right now, and we need to develop initiatives that are independent of the state and independent of the Democratic Party. I don’t claim that this approach is easy or that we should be particularly optimistic about the prospects for success. But I do think it’s the best option we have. 

Thanks to Xtn for helpful comments and suggestions.

Photo credits

1. Photo by Elvert Barnes from Silver Spring MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

2. Photo by Ben Alexander from United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Feb 11, 2022

North Shore’s “Trip Report” on the Freedom Convoy

The anarchist website North Shore Counter-Info recently posted an insightful eyewitness commentary on the Freedom Convoy truckers’ revolt in Canada. “Trip Report: Ottawa on Saturday, February 5” offers no illusions about the protest’s right-wing character but tries to present the protesters in human terms and avoid reflexive stereotyping. The author encountered “signs and pamphlets everywhere about every wingnut conspiracy I’ve ever heard and even some that I haven’t – microchips in vaccines, THE JEWS, lizards, you name it” but little evidence of overt fascist or white supremacist involvement. “I have heard of people of colour being harassed by members of the convoy protest but that is definitely not most of their main activity most of the time and I don’t see a single sign about immigration, race or colonialism the whole time I’m there.”

Without romanticizing the Freedom Convoy, the author of “Trip Report” wants to understand its appeal and is critical of those who look down on the protesters or call for the State to crack down on them. Here are some more excerpts from the report:

“I suspect a lot of the growth of this movement is happening among people who did not show up and would not have shown up for right-wing movements of the past but are simply genuinely tired of Covid restrictions. At one point I saw a group of children with cute signs bearing the outline of a truck filled with lists of the things they’ve missed since 2020 – soccer, seeing my friends, smiling at my grandmother, choir practice. My heart sinks as I imagine what worldviews these kids are encountering at what may well be many of their first protest. I empathize so hard with their desire to engage in normal, playful, collective activity after two years of pretending to be satisfied with zoom calls, masked conversations and freezing-cold outdoor meetups. I hate that so much of the left acts as if these concerns are not even a thing, telling people that if they care at all about vulnerable, elderly and disabled people they must simply suck it up and get on with it. One sign reads ‘This is existence, I want to live.’ Me too, man, 100%. If only it were true what the theorists of this movement say, that actually Covid is only a cold, the government has inflated the death toll and all we need to do to find an end to the pandemic is take the red pill, pull off our masks and dance in the streets again. If I squint really hard I can almost see what they’re seeing, they’ve been locked inside for so long and the truckers are the first with the courage to actually speak up and say enough is enough, we need to go out there. If it weren’t for the right-wing racists directing the movement, not to mention the millions of actual deaths due to Covid-19 that no amount of good vibes and lies will prevent, it would make a lot of sense.”

*          *          *

“In the afternoon we check out a counter-demonstration organized primarily, it seems, by residents of downtown Ottawa... Countering the trucker protest before it becomes a full-blown neo-fascist revolutionary movement is so, so important but I honestly felt zero affinity with this counter-protest in particular. Most of the signs were either calling for more police, complaining about inconveniences like sound and traffic, or making fun of the demonstrators for being unvaccinated and/or stupid…. I feel a surge of rage at downtown liberal elites who think the problem is that these people just didn’t go to school long enough.”

*          *          *

“Freedom is a very real and very important goal, and Covid restrictions genuinely constrain people, often in ways that are genuinely unethical. I do not support vaccine mandates, even though I do support encouraging people to get vaccinated in other, less coercive ways. Unlike the right, we know that real freedom will only be attained collectively, that it isn’t about simple individual choice. Refusing to wear a mask when a friend or neighbour asks you to do so for their own health is a busted understanding of freedom. But I do think the world has become even less free since the pandemic, that governments have gained new kinds of powers and new forms of surveillance. In Canada I think they’re also enjoying a new level of defeatism, pacification and obedience displayed by a large segment of the population who can’t imagine a solution to the problem of Covid-19 that is any more complex than simply doing whatever the government says to do and shaming anyone who doesn’t.”

*          *          *

“I have no doubt that if this protest became a revolutionary movement it would absolutely be a fascist one. The elements of it that want to depose the Prime Minister would install someone much, much worse. There is no hope for common cause with this thing but we need to find creative, probably new ways to counter it. It does not make sense to treat these protesters as potential comrades (at least as a group), but it will not work to treat them as we have treated known, overt neo-Nazis either.”

We encourage people to read the full report here, as well as the discussion in the Comments section, and also check back to Three Way Fight for more commentary and discussion of the Freedom Convoy.

Photo credit: 

Freedom Convoy, Ottawa, February 1, 2022. Photo by ΙΣΧΣΝΙΚΑ-888, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Feb 8, 2022

On the Freedom Convoy, the Right and crisis of State legitimacy

Protests against laws: vaccine mandates; border restrictions; the general implementation of broader, potentially more and lasting forms of state governance and control of the populace (at times appearing as a “soft” repression if accepted, more blatant if opposed). All of this has been met with demonstrations by varying sectors of society. These demonstrations which have a growing international scope have in many occasions transformed into more militant actions including riots against police, symbols of government and ruling class policy. However, the driving politics of these protests have a decidedly far-right character with small but not insignificant fascist currents within them that have been able to articulate a politics and program and use these demonstrations as a larger space to network and build a broader front of rightist struggle. 


Canada is seeing the most recent of these international protests. Dubbed the Freedom Convoy, these protests have taken the general form of a truckers' revolt. For a week now truckers and supporters of the convoy have organized actions across Canada. Some of the most dramatic are in Ottawa which is the federal capital. The mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency with the situation “out of control”, the police have called the convoy a siege and have started some arrests, and there are active calls for military intervention against the convoy. Beyond Ottawa, other cities across Canada have had pro-convoy actions. Pro Convoy forces also temporarily shut down main bridges between Canada and the US including the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge.

In trying to make some sense of these protests and from there develop some possible strategic approaches, we're posting up responses to the general argument above. Events are moving rapidly and the specifics of the actions in Canada are changing. But it’s not just all specifics we're grappling with, instead we think the liberatory anti-system left has to have an ongoing, growing perspective on what we recognize will be a more generalized political phenomenon.


On the Freedom Convoy, the Right and crisis of State legitimacy

Convoy and supporters in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Reuters. Used here for educational purposes.

(The following is a contribution by a friend and fellow traveler of 3WF. It is being posted as anonymous due to personal and political concerns.)

Regarding the convoy, arguing against counteractivities that take the form of defending the State, a comrade has noted that

there is a widespread crisis of capitalist legitimacy that will increasingly generate such popular oppositions and these will predictably include reactionary (fascist?) elements [...] the left cannot allow itself to be positioned as an appendage of the party of order and assume a partial responsibility for mitigating the impacts of capital’s conflicts and contradictions. This will cede the terrain of resistance to the neofascist right, and while we can hope they will screw it up that’s not the best plan for the future.

Correct insights, but this does not actually indicate what approach to take, though i grant that it does remind us of what reference points we should keep in mind.


On the news, i see that people (i assume on the left) held a demonstration outside of a police station in Ottawa demanding more vigorous police action. (A subsequent demonstration was more correctly organized as a counterprotest – it went ahead despite strenuous efforts to sabotage it by an unholy alliance of politicians, trade unionist officials, and “community organizers”.) A demonstration was called in Quebec City with the same demand, in advance of a convoy that descended on the provincial capital on February 4 (organized and led by Bernard Rambo Gauthier, a former member of the far-right Islamophobic group La Meute and former spokesperson for the tiny Citoyens au Pouvoir de Québec political party). It is easy for everyone to agree that such protests are the wrong way to proceed; however, in a situation where there are countless reports of police signaling the "truckers" in Ottawa have a green light to do various things nobody else who has held a protest has been allowed to do (include physically confront people who try to photograph or counter-protest them, building permanent structures, honking horns constantly day and night, harassing people for wearing masks – all of this in an area where many people work and live), it is also clear that for many people the Ottawa police's tolerant approach itself feeds into the "widespread crisis of capitalist legitimacy". (In this regard, see: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/monaghan-ottawa-police-have-facilitated-the-freedom-rally-now-what; and similarly regarding the Coutts blockade in Alberta: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/02/03/lack-of-action-at-truckers-blockades-shows-racist-intent-of-albertas-critical-infrastructure-defence-act-says-chief.html.)


The legitimacy of the State response is under fire, but from different people for different reasons, and whether we do it loudly (demonstrating, etc.) or quietly (choosing to wear or not wear a mask), lining up on one side does imply opposing the other side, even if it also implies opposing or criticizing the State. One can fault the State because of its role in gutting the public health system or for not privatizing it quickly enough (both positions are widespread here, of course); one cannot easily hold both positions at the same time, and each position implies, if only passively, shoring up State legitimacy against the critics who hold the opposite view. Add to this that, in terms of the pandemic, by their nature those measures that would have had the greatest effect -- preventing outbreaks, reducing hospitalizations, preventing complete breakdown of the medical system, perhaps even preventing new variants from emerging -- are also those measures that seem to "be doing nothing", because they succeed at preventing and so never need to engage in the more visible task of remedying things. Whereas for those who want to criticize measures, it is a pretty easy game, as the measures do suck big time, some are inevitably going to prove to have been unnecessary, and people are getting sick and dying anyway.


Early in the pandemic I thought, "the right is taking a stand against public health during a pandemic, how do they recover from this?" – now I feel the takeaway is "the left" (meaning whoever is in power but is facing a more right-wing opposition party) is seen as making life miserable with restrictions, and the right is being credited with bringing freedom when they are lifted, and whether or not the virus is no longer serious, for understandable psychological reasons many people are increasingly not able to take it seriously, so they naturally feel relief and sympathy with the protests organized by the right.

Convoy supporters in Ottawa.
Photo by unknown. Used here for educational purposes.

As an example of another left approach, in response to this bad political situation, there are attempts to perhaps "get in front of" (or maybe "ride the wave" of?) the discontent, by calling for (radical) left-framed protests against how the pandemic has been handled. Which might be a step in a good direction, but these attempts sometimes (maybe because it would complicate the message) fail to criticize anything but the State's pro-active measures, and sometimes fail to demarcate themselves from the rightist protests. They do not address the pandemic as something that is leading people to get sick, just as something that is leading to hitherto unprecedented social constraints. They do not address what repealing public health measures may mean in terms of people getting sick – most very mildly, but some fatally – just in terms of how unfortunate it is that the right now enjoys the initiative in protesting these measures. Furthermore, while they often include admonitions to not "judge" or "look down on" those who participate in rightist protests (the idea being that doing so is a sign of left elitism), their own approach is pretty condescending, assuming that the people at these protests are not capable of having a political analysis themselves, assuming they must somehow be there out of inexperience or naiveté.


Regarding the convoy itself, from its inception, it would be inaccurate to see it as an example of "popular oppositions [that] predictably include reactionary (fascist?) elements", it is instead a political intervention organized, encouraged, and funded by reactionary elements. (For background: https://globalnews.ca/news/8543281/covid-trucker-convoy-organizers-hate/.) 

Convoy supporters rally outside Parliament in Ottawa.
Photo by Dave Chan / AFP. Used here for educational purposes.

This core succeeded in mounting a political intervention that attracted a large number of people of various political persuasions, drawn to the protests because the pandemic restrictions do indeed chafe. (As an aside, for Americans reading this, our restrictions vary largely from province to province, and in some places are very laissez faire; where I live, on the other hand, they have at various points included lockdowns, curfews, ticketing people for walking outside too close to someone else, vaccine passports to enter not only restaurants and gyms but also Walmart or the liquor store, etc. -- interestingly, the anger at restrictions seems greatest in those provinces where they are the least onerous.)


In Ottawa, the ratio of “committed reactionary organizers” to “people with some reactionary views” to “people who are not particularly reactionary but just fed up”, seems to have fluctuated from day to day (media are saying perhaps 15,000 people attended the protest on Saturday, and that that was down to 300 mid-week, but shot back up to over 8,000 over the next weekend – and don’t forget that thousands of people went out and waved their Canadian flags on highways across the country to show their support for the convoy as it made its way there), and it is not clear to me how it could be measured. Obviously, there are even going to have been leftists who participated, though probably in extremely small numbers.

Convoy and supporters in New Brunswick, CA.
Photo by Unknown. Used here for educational purposes.

Everyone seems to be saying that the convoy will be a turning point and a powerful symbol -- but a symbol of what, and to whose benefit, is not clear. An early sign: this week it precipitated a vote of non-confidence and resignation of the leader of the establishment-right Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole, who had vacillated on how to position himself vis à vis the protests, and whose interim replacement has made a point of correcting this error by immediately staking out pro-convoy positions. O'Toole was already unpopular in his party and there was already blood in the water, but the timing of his ouster is not a coincidence. While a boon to the populist right, the convoy has clearly thrown the establishment right into a panic.


In terms of the dangers of wrong left approaches, i assume we all see the danger in demonstrating to ask the police for more repression. Similarly, exaggerating the scope of the violence engaged in by demonstrators, or measures that seem “unfair” (like canceling their gofundme but not automatically returning donations to those who had contributed), simply provide talking points for the more hardcore elements within the miasma. At the same time, it is unclear how the convoy will end up being seen -- in the short and medium term, what we know is different people will see it different ways. In Ottawa, media says there are increasing tensions between people who live in the city and the convoy people. Things may take a turn where the soft support -- the thousands who lined highways with their maple leaf flags, the thousands who showed up last weekend but then went home after a few hours -- could start to rapidly melt away. A danger of the "riding the wave" approach – leftists who hope to undercut the right by mounting left protests against restrictions – is that, in such an eventuality, such "left cover" for the convoy protests could play a critical role in keeping people entangled – or entangling new people – in the reactionary orbit.


At the same time, there is also a convoy-adjacent blockade of the Coutts border crossing between Alberta and Montana, which has received a lot less coverage but which may end up being more significant, depending on how things play out. And, inspired by all this, there are several convoys that descended on provincial capitals this past weekend (Feb 5-6), many of which say they intend to stay. At the same time, in Europe and Australia (I assume organized by far rightists, but could be wrong) there is now talk of a series of convoys, inspired by the Ottawa one. It is reminiscent of Occupy, except with confused right-wing politics instead of confused left-wing politics.


Everyone i talk to in my immediate circles is experiencing this as a moment of great demoralization, disorientation, and worry as to what might come next. Interesting times.