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Fight the right, build the left

The yellow vest movement in France
By: 
Carolyn Egan

February 5, 2019

The Trump victory in the presidential election in the United States has given confidence to right-wing forces around the world. This includes both fascists in the streets and right-wing parties that echo the refrain that things cannot stay the same and claim to have the answers to a world that is no longer tolerable for the vast majority of people. The context is, of course, the vicious neo-liberal agenda that has been wreaking havoc on working people and the poor, and the intractable economic crisis that drives it. Unfortunately, the rise of right-wing extremism is a warped expression of people’s anger at a system that cannot meet their needs.

In Ontario, the Doug Ford government came to power claiming to speak for “the little guy” who faces exorbitant rents and housing prices, whose hydro bills are out of control, whose job prospects are more and more limited, and whose pension is becoming a thing of the past. The Tories quickly showed whose interests they really represent. They started slashing and burning social programs, rolling back victories such as the $15 minimum wage and other improvements for workers, cutting the anti-racism directorate, and much more. And these attacks are continuing.

After the Trump victory, we also saw organized members of the far-right showing themselves in the streets and in public spaces across the country. We just passed the second anniversary of the horrific killings in the mosque in Quebec City by a young man influenced by these movements.

Right-wing governments and the far-right are not the same. But right-wing governments are showing a kinship to the extremists as we saw when Doug Ford would not distance himself from Faith Goldy, who openly associates with the far right. She ran for mayor of Toronto and won over 25,000 votes from people supporting her views. And parties of the centre are being influenced by these sentiments and moving further right, as we saw recently with the European Union’s summit on refugees in 2018.

The right is attempting to capture the growing anger at the system. But movements to the left are also building, as we saw in the Bernie Sanders campaign and the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America, Corbyn’s rise in the British Labour Party, and huge anti-racist demonstrations in Germany and other European countries.

An effective fightback against Ford’s austerity agenda, taking on the ideological arguments and showing how he governs for the 1%, can win people who may have voted for him. The Toronto and York Region Labour Council has called a stewards’ assembly in March, with the expectation that 1,000 activists from the diverse working class in this city will come out to hopefully start this and undercut the racist dynamic that we have seen growing across the country. In Vancouver, anti-Chinese sentiment has been whipped up, blaming the Chinese community for the housing crisis. In the east end of Toronto, mosques have been vandalized and refugees have been targeted by the far right.

The left cannot allow racism and anti-immigrant sentiment to grow. Our task is also to build a broad movement to oppose the far-right. In Toronto, demonstrations on August 11th and September 9th were turning points that have shown the effectiveness of broad community mobilizations led by a coalition of anti-racist, community, faith, labour, and other organizations and individuals.

As we do this, we must also build a revolutionary left that makes it clear that it is capitalism that maintains the exploitation and oppression that we face. Organized socialists have an important role to play in building resistance to austerity and racism, but also building a socialist alternative that shows through its theory and strategy that a new world is possible. It is this revolutionary vision that can give people real hope that fundamental change can and must take place.

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