Conspiracy theories are a longstanding staple of far-right politics

By Kevin Fulmer 

The anti-trans “1 Million March 4 Children” on September 20 revealed an ugly fact about Canada that should have been noticed far earlier – the far right is larger than many thought and it is growing fast.

Although there were nowhere near the one million people the event name hoped for, the fact that thousands across Canada marched in protest of trans-inclusivity in schools should be a wakeup call to the entire country. The march was mainly comprised of two “parental rights” groups – Family [Heart] Freedom and Hands Off Our Kids – both of which espouse conspiracy theories about public education indoctrinating kids with “woke ideology” and even claiming that queer people are pedophiles and groomers.

This is just the latest example of the ongoing use of conspiracy theories in far-right circles.

Of course, some conspiracies are 100 percent real. For example, oil companies know that fossil fuel emissions are causing climate change, but they actively suppress this knowledge discredit climate scientists and lobby the government and support anti-climate science politicians, all to protect their profits. Similarly, Julian Assange exposed the attempted coverup of war crimes by the United States and Australia in the “war on terror.”

But as Assange’s persecution demonstrates, capitalist society has an aversion to exposing conspiracies by powerful corporations or the ruling elite, especially if the disclosure draws the system itself into disrepute. Instead, capitalism makes space for (and often relies upon) sensational conspiracy theories that have zero evidence and which usually target a minority group.

The belief that transgender people – and the movement for queer rights in general – are somehow dangerous to children has been a talking point of the far-right for decades. In the 1970s, Anita Bryant used the rhetoric of parental rights and “protecting children” to oppose protections for lesbians and gay men against discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment. Claiming that the queer movement targeted youth, she established the “Save Our Children” organization which supported California’s 1978 Briggs ballot initiative which would have banned queer people and supporters of queer rights from teaching in public schools. This tradition continues in modern parental rights groups like US-based “Mom’s for Liberty,” which came under fire recently when its leader quoted Adolf Hitler.

Queer rights aren’t the only issue the far right has agitated against with conspiracies – not by a long shot. Recent record-breaking wildfires – obviously caused by climate change – have been blamed on arsonists and even space lasers. This is in addition to the conspiracy theory that climate change is a hoax. These absurd claims have been parroted and amplified by high profile political figures like US Congress member Marjorie Taylor Greene, who drew connections between space lasers and Jewish-owned Rothschild Inc. Investment banking firm.

It is no coincidence that many of these narratives also target Jewish people – the far right has a timeless infatuation with antisemitic conspiracy theories. The infamous conspiracy theory of “blood libel” – which claims that Jewish people steal children in order to harvest their blood for Passover – is very common in right wing circles. The Holocaust Encyclopedia states: “Blood libels, together with allegations of well poisoning, were a major theme in Jewish persecution in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period. They were a central component in the development of modern antisemitism in the 19th century. Blood libel accusations often led to pogroms, violent riots launched against Jews and frequently encouraged by government authorities.”

Nazi Germany made extensive use of conspiracy theories to further its cause. Nazi newspapers accused Jewish people of all sorts of made-up conspiracies, blood libel in particular. Another is the concept of “Judeo-Bolshevism” which claims that communism is a Jewish plot to destroy western civilization. The Nazis used this to propel anti-communism and anti-trade union movements to crack down on workers. This conspiracy theory even had the support of the British ruling class, with Winston Churchill himself claiming a connection between the international Jewish community and the rise of communism in Europe.

Modern antisemitic conspiracies are very common, with the ones mentioned above still in use. Almost all far-right conspiracies involve Jews in some way, whether it is George Soros funding Antifa, Bill Gates using vaccines to implant microchips into people, or the claim that Jewish people control the media. Instead of using class analysis to explain how the capitalist class profits off the exploitation of the working class, the far right cherry picks Jewish capitalists and pushes an antisemitic talking point. This not only ignores the reality of class society but diminishes and marginalizes class analysis altogether, replacing it with a narrative based on hate.

The far right uses this tactic with any and all minorities which it can scapegoat. Japanese internment was started on the notion that Japanese Canadian people – the majority of whom were Canadian citizens by birth – would betray the country based only their Japanese heritage. This is echoed today in the rise of hate crimes against Chinese Canadian people, a trend that corresponds with the propaganda war against China and the baseless accusations of China interfering in Canadian elections, spread by Canada’s right-wing security state apparatus.

The right wing also uses conspiracy theories against political opponents – infamously proven by McCarthyism, which forced communists and suspected communists out of their careers and into poverty.

These conspiracy theories are a cause for serious concern, as they are used to organize “witch hunt” campaigns against minorities and left-wing groups, with the aim of diminishing their rights or even eliminating them. They also prevent the spread of a class analysis and class consciousness among the working class, duping people with convenient scapegoats and deflecting their attention from the real causes of their socio-economic woes – capitalist exploitation.

The rise in far-right conspiracies in Canada should not be a surprise, however, as the ruling class often uses them as a distraction when the contradictions of capitalism sharpen and cause increased working-class militancy. As the Russian ruling class grew increasingly anxious before the 1917 revolutions, they amplified antisemitic conspiracies and encouraged pogroms as a way to distract the people from the class struggle.

This diversion tactic often works on workers who are disgruntled with the status quo but who may struggle to understand the factors that contribute to their problems. The lack of a clear analysis can lead them to seek simplistic explanations offered by conspiracy theories. Feelings of alienation, frustration and powerlessness can make workers more susceptible to conspiracy theories, as an attempt to regain a sense of control and understanding in a complex and hostile world.

Liberal capitalism also socializes people to use individualism as a way to understand the world, which causes them to trend toward narratives about a group of individuals that make decisions affecting their lives, rather than toward an analysis of the real social and material forces at play in a class society. Demagogues like Donald Trump capitalize on this, using populist phrases like “drain the swamp” and conspiracy theories to make it seem like he is an outsider, when in reality he is a member of the same capitalist class that is causing these problems in the first place.

The solution lies in helping working people understand class and develop a class-based analysis, to recognize how the problems of their daily lives (like inflation, government corruption, environmental decay and poor wages) are caused. When workers have class consciousness, they will not be fooled by the easy answers and scapegoats provided by conspiracy theories. When workers do not buy into conspiracy theories, the far right loses its main agitation strategy, and events like the “1 Million March 4 Children” will disappear, to be replaced by militant labour organizing and socialist political activism.

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