OPINION: The Canadian truck convoy: a cover for far-right racism

The so called “freedom convoy” in Canada had a fascist core with an agenda; use mainstream concern over a pandemic to build the far-right movement.

The trucker convoy in Canada, a demonstration involving a small number of commercial truck drivers and their anti-vax supporters, involved a cross-country convoy ending in Ottawa with simultaneous protests throughout Canada.

On the ground reports and images predominantly show Canadian flags and calls for “freedom”, with plenty of “F*ck Trudeau” and “don’t tread on me” flags flying. There is also the occasional use of the swastika, Confederate flags, and even a Nazi flag in use. 

The far-right core of the protest, some of whom were pushing for their own Jan. 6 moment in this convoy, according to Salon journalist Kathryn Joyce, helps to explain the widespread disapproval of the protests by Canadians. 

These international developments matter for us as our own far-right in our region and the states more generally are connected to this movement and emboldened by it. See the fundraising or talk of a U.S. convoy as evidence. Or, if you’re feeling brave and have the stomach for it, hop on a far-right chat board or website and see how they are portraying and identifying with the convoy.

Convoy organizers have relied on GiveSendGo for crowdfunding. Due to the fact that GoFundMe froze the hate-filled campaign; GiveSendGo is a crowdfunding site popular among the far-right in the U.S. as the “Christian” website seems to have no qualms with white nationalism.

While the convoy portrayed itself as a working-class struggle against vaccine requirements for crossing the US/Canada border, as much as 90% of Canadian truckers who need to cross the border are vaccinated according to the BBC. 

In fact, very few big rigs seem to have been involved in the protests, with the far more common appearance being pick-up trucks and SUVs of presumably both Nazis and run-of-the-mill anti-vaxxers tagging along. It seems many of the protestors are not connected to the logistics industry per the BBC.

John Bell, a reporter for the Canadian Socialist Worker explained “The racist, white supremacist roots of the ‘truckers’ convoy are as Canadian as maple syrup and residential schools.” These racists in Canada are finding themselves emboldened just like they are throughout the world. 

The phenomenon is tied to populist right-wing politicians and a failure of the left to effectively offer alternatives to the miserable status quo. This may be most understandable to us in the states as Trumpism and the growth of far-right militias.

Fundamental to their strategy is tying their fascist ideas and agendas to mainstream issues that have broader engagement than their fascist fringe, think police funding, CRT, voting fraud, border control, and obviously, vaccination requirements. 

This is why leftists, including feminists, unionists, and anti-racists, challenged the convoy demonstrations in the streets. In Ottawa, such a group involving hundreds blocked the convoy for hours before finally allowing the convoy to leave only after forcing the anti-vaxxers to lower their flags and signs. Reports of similar blockades in other cities abound.

While the police initially seemed to fraternize and even colluded with the anti-vax convoy, these mobilizations of the left were all the more powerful. Unfortunately, many looked to the police to repress the convoy, failing to see how an empowered police force is always used most brutally against the left.

Socialist Worker offered this cautionary tale in an editorial, “In Toronto, after far-right groups began organizing rallies at city hall in 2017 a similar plan to ban them was proposed by the city council. When the motion was made public, however, the first group named and targeted as extremists by the ban was the annual Al Quds day rally for Palestinian rights.”

The editorial goes on to argue, “A state crackdown won’t stop the rise of the far-right. That can only be done with a 2-pronged strategy.”

“Our policy of fighting fascism was two-track: attacking the rats and attacking the sewers in which the rats multiply. Fighting the fascists is not enough. One has also to fight the unemployment, low wages and social deprivation that create conditions for the growth of fascism,” stated Socialist Tony Cliff.

Such a two-pronged strategy requires us to both confront the far-right when they are public, but also organize for a better world like lower tuition at UWT, better pay and unionization in our workplaces, for racial and gender justice more generally, and ultimately a socialist society where the conditions of despair from which fascism grows is unknown.

This issue becomes all the pressing as reports are appearing of a truck convoy being organized here in the states. The far-right will use such space to organize for their agenda; they should be confronted at every turn.