More than three decades of neo-liberalism and austerity have thrown billions of people into unemployment, poverty, and precarious work. While the TNCs ramped up enormous super-profits and the rich grew ever richer, governments and public institutions became more and more habituated to escalating relative and absolute impoverishment and a general crisis of living. This is fueling the spontaneous upsurge of anger and rebellion in Europe, the US, Canada and elsewhere. It is justified anger, but it is largely undirected, and vulnerable to be usurped by right-wing populists and reaction.
The aim of right-wing forces is to redirect working people’s justified anger and blame away from the capitalist system onto other targets, such as immigrants, Muslims, women and girls, racialized peoples, Indigenous Peoples, the LGBTQ and Trans communities, unions and workers with higher wages, better working conditions, or better pensions.
Right-wing movements are identifiable by their common ideological threads, including xenophobia and hatred of immigrants and Muslims; racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy; homophobia, misogyny and the advocacy of “family values” as a means to discipline women and girls and sexual diversity; a law and order agenda supporting police, prisons, incarceration, guns, and chopping civil and democratic rights; and anti-labour sentiments that identify unions and unionized workers as the enemy. National chauvinism is also a feature. In English speaking Canada, it is reflected in anti-French and anti-Quebec sentiments, while in Quebec it’s reflected in narrow nationalism. Anti-Indigenous racism is a significant feature everywhere. These basic ideas are cloaked in a fog of deep resentments, anti-establishment rhetoric and demands to overthrow and incarcerate ‘the establishment’, ‘the elites’, ‘the privileged’, while consistently protecting capitalist profits and capitalist rule.
These forces utilize different fears and biases to reach into targeted groups and communities to recruit and to agitate. New immigrant communities have been especially targeted by ‘family values’ propaganda attacking sex education and health curricula in public schools. Told that their children are being groomed by sexual predators in schools, including by then Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (the first LGBTQ Premier in Canada), many families pulled their children out of school for months, with some never returning.
The INCEL (involuntarily celibate) movement is a new and dangerous addition to these right-wing forces, with one of its internet adherents responsible for the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 16 more – mainly women – in 2018.
The Brexit vote in the UK was driven by angry voters who rejected austerity, but a portion of whom also held immigrant workers responsible for scarce jobs and declining wages. On the left, Communists and their supporters campaigned for a Lexit – an exit that would end austerity, and move politics to the left.
The Yellow Vests movement in France began as a commuters’ rebellion against new fuel taxes, morphing into a mass movement against austerity and what it calls “the illegitimate debt,” with progressive demands that include a higher minimum wage, a lower pension age, increased funding for health and education, wealth taxes on the rich, and tax relief for the working class. These demands gained the support of the trade union movement “in a convergence of struggles” as the Communist-led CGT describes it. It comes as no surprise that Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement Nationale (National Rally party, formerly the National Front) attempted to get in front of this movement and seize its leadership; however National Rally’s influence has been largely limited to rural areas. The trade union movement has not given the “gilets jaunes” carte blanche support, and has condemned attacks on immigrants’ rights advanced by followers of the National Rally active in the Yellow Vest movement.
The Yellow Vest movement in Canada does not make progressive demands, or have the support of the labour movement. The “Yellow Vests Canada” is led by white supremacists and fascists who have taken the name, but not the objectives or demands of the French Yellow Vests, in an effort to capitalize on growing anger and insecurity of working people here, to raise a mass populist movement of the far-right in Canada.
The social base for capitalism has shrunk with the decline of wages and living standards for most workers, but imperialism’s massive campaign of disinformation and repression against the Communist and Workers’ Parties has enabled the far-right and reaction to sink roots and to grow on the fertile ground of austerity. Repression of the Communist Parties extends from political isolation and exclusion in North America, to mass imprisonment, murder, and coup d’etats in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. This is intended to block the spread of Marxism and socialism, and cut the head off the struggle against austerity, neo-liberalism and imperialism.
Imperialism’s response to the popular upsurge is to accelerate the drive to the right and reaction; including, if necessary, to make a complete break with bourgeois democracy and shift to fascism: “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” (Dmitrov)
But neo-liberal austerity or fascism is no choice at all for working people looking for a better life. It is a jump from the frying pan into the fire. The deep anger that has grown in the working class has its roots in this Hobson’s choice, giving right-wing populism – the main immediate danger in Canada – space to grow.
In the US, this anger was manipulated to generate votes for Trump and the Republicans out of the Tea Party movement. In France, Marine LePen received 33.9% of the second-round vote for President in 2018. In Greece, the fascist Golden Dawn party is a significant factor in Parliament. In 2018, in Germany, the far-right AfD took 94 seats and 13% of the vote; the far-right Sweden Democrats took 17.6% of the vote; in Italy Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini has seen support for his Lega party double since the March 2018 elections; and in Hungary, the Fidesz party is the government after receiving 49% of the vote. All of these parties and movements espouse anti-immigrant policies, and anti-Muslim sentiments.
In Latin America, far right and fascist governments like Bolsonaro’s in Brazil and Macri’s in Argentina have raised phony corruption accusations to defeat left-wing governments, while the Duque government in Colombia was elected following the historic peace agreement which saw FARC form a political party with representation in parliament. Since then many FARC MPs and mass leaders have been assassinated by government and paramilitary forces.
In India, the far-right Modi government is firmly rooted on Hindu fundamentalism and reaction. Fortunately, mass popular resistance against Modi’s agenda is growing, as seen by the huge labour strikes and women’s protests in January 2019. The situation in Kashmir, which has been a disputed territory between Pakistan and India since 1948, has been used to raise the fear of a nuclear war with Pakistan towards securing the continuity of the Modi government’s neo-fascist rule.
The drive to the right and reaction by finance capital is significant and dangerous for the working class, and for women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, racialized and Indigenous people, and labour. The struggle has two main features: to identify and expose the far-right as a political arm of finance capital and big business, and to build a broad-based democratic movement and a mass struggle against it; and second, to advance real solutions to conditions and grievances which the far-right seeks to exploit using “radical” rhetoric.
Right-wing populism is not fascism, though it is often supported by big business as well as by petit bourgeois forces, including small business owners bankrupted by capitalist globalization, and sections of the working class lacking class or political consciousness, who are taken in by seemingly militant demands for change without recognizing the anti-working class, anti-democratic character and policies of these movements.
Right-wing populism is the most visible and immediate danger in Canada today, plied by the Conservative Party federally and in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick; by the new People’s Party of Canada led by Max Bernier. These parties have close ties to fundamentalists like Charles McVety, to the leaders of the anti-choice movement and the movements against LGBTQ rights and sex education curricula, as well as to fascist personalities like Ezra Levant and Rebel News, Steve Bannon, and to white supremacist and anti-indigenous, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-French movements, organizations and political parties. Unchecked, right-wing populism could facilitate the growth of a fascist movement in Canada.
(From the Political Resolution adopted by the 39th Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada, May 17-20, Toronto, Ontario)