Ottawa police are investigating what they are calling a “hate-motivated crime” that occurred on Sunday, May 1 during the “Rolling Thunder” rally. Ironically, the targeted group of this “hate-motivated crime” appears to be fascists—meaning that it is illegal to oppose fascism. This is a clear example of why we cannot rely on the state to fight the far right. 

Coming just a few months after the so-called “Freedom Convoy”, the “Rolling Thunder” rally was a three-day biker convoy organized by Freedom Fighters Canada and Veterans for Freedom. The Freedom Convoy, along with this Rolling Thunder rally, have been a rallying point for the far right in Canada who have grasped onto opposition to vaccines and public health measures to gain support. 

As we have explained elsewhere, the earlier convoy was not a working class movement. However, due to the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, 54 per cent of Canadians initially supported the convoy. But these opinions shifted as the protests became dominated by far-right and openly fascist elements. The convoy terrorized Ottawa residents and there were multiple reports of participants harassing health-care workers and passersby wearing masks at Freedom Convoy rallies across the country. 

But there were some people and organizations in Ottawa who supported the convoy. Capital City Bikers’ Church was one of those organizations. It was therefore not surprising that the church supported the Rolling Thunder rally, allowing bikers to park on their grounds and providing them a place to gather. 

Many Ottawa residents were understandably concerned about the “Rolling Thunder” rally knowing that it would be a pole of attraction for the far right. In fact, ​many of the participants of the bikers’ convoy also participated in the so-called Freedom Convoy. Concerned that Ottawa would witness another takeover by the same reactionary elements that paralyzed the city earlier this year, some residents graffitied across the church walls the statement “No haven for fascism”. While being investigated for vandalism or simple mischief would be normal procedure in a case like this, the Ottawa Police Service’s Hate and Bias crime unit is treating this as “hate-motivated mischief”. In effect this means that it is a hate crime to fight fascism, which is treated on par with spray-painting antisemetic slurs on the side of a synagogue.  

We cannot rely on the state to fight the far right

During the Rolling Thunder rally, the city of Ottawa was armed to the teeth. The Ottawa police, the RCMP, and other regional security forces were mobilized to maintain order in the city that weekend. There were also vehicle exclusion zones put in place and enhanced online surveillance. Security during the protest cost the police around $3 million. The Ottawa Police service will, no doubt, use this to enhance their budget.

Due to the general polarization taking place in society, it has become commonplace to call on the state to combat the far right. But this is yet another blatant example of why we cannot rely on the state to fight the far right. Under the guise of fighting “extremism” and “hate”, the state is turning its repressive apparatus against those fighting the violence and terrorism of the far right while the latter continues to organize and become emboldened. 

But the polarization we are observing is not only a rise of the right. In fact, we are seeing a much larger portion of society being radicalized to the left. This radicalization has tremendous potential. An example of what organized radicalization can look like is the mass unionization campaign happening in the United States right now. In Canada, we have seen how organized solidarity with the plight of Indigenous people has rendered the movement stronger than ever. 

As Marxists, we must stress that any and all measures used by the state to curtail the far right can and will be used 100 times over to repress the radicalization of the masses to the left. We saw clearly whose side the state was on during the protests against old-growth forest logging at Fairy Creek in B.C. At the time of the “Freedom” Convoy in Ottawa, the police had arrested more than 1,100 protesters in Vancouver. Several journalists and protesters also complained of excessive use of force on the part of the RCMP and confiscation of food and water. The protests had to be crushed because they directly impacted the profits of the Teal-Jones company and the logging industry.

The state is not a neutral arbiter; the state is an organ of class rule. Under capitalism, the state and its institutions exist to protect the rule of capital. Anything that threatens the ability of the capitalists to make profit will be met with the full force of the state. Anti-capitalist groups, Indigenous land defenders, and Palestinian rights activists that challenge the status quo are targets of state repression. Calling on the government to fight the far right is thus a call to enhance the repressive apparatus of the state that can be used against these groups.

So it is not surprising that after the Rolling Thunder rally in Ottawa, the police are using their resources to investigate not the far-right elements behind the convoy, but the anti-fascist activists concerned about the growing presence of the far right. This is proof that we cannot rely on the state to fight the far right. 

Discontent with the government’s handling of the pandemic and the economic crisis will continue to deepen. Unfortunately, some of this discontent is being channeled to the right. So it is likely that we will continue to witness a portion of this anger being channeled in a right-populist direction where racist and facist elements will germinate. It is the task of the labour movement to boldly stand up against these elements. At present, we are not outnumbered, we are out-organized. Only an organized movement of the masses can stop right-wing populism in its tracks. A united class struggle of all workers and oppressed for socialism is the only alternative to the growing influence of the far right.