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Stopping the growth of the far right: Labour must be there

Carolyn Egan

February 4, 2021
As Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader who was murdered by the US government in 1969 said, “Nothing is more important than stopping fascism, because fascism is going to stop us all.’
If there was any doubt about the growth of the far right in North America, the festival of reaction that took place in Washington DC on January 6th made it clear that many have been drawn to these ideas. The racist, anti-Semitic march in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years earlier, which left one anti-racist activist dead, was a glimpse of what was brewing. This is not just a US phenomenon. We have seen the rise of neo-Nazis and the far right in France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Germany and so many other nations. 
Canada is not immune. The Proud Boys, one of the groups which played a significant role in both Virginia and the attack on the Capitol Building, was founded in this country. Far right groups have openly marched in many provinces spewing their hate speech and attacking those who challenge them. On January 29, 2017 we saw the horrific attack by a white nationalist on a Quebec City mosque, leaving six dead and many wounded throughout the building. 
It is critical that progressive people actively organize against them wherever and whenever they appear. We have seen how the Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi organization in Greece, was defeated by trade unionists, immigrant and refugee groups, socialists and others coming together and demonstrating against them. These mobilizations made it clear that the majority of people did not support their hate and bigotry and their influence waned. This broad based organizing is the way to counter the growth and influence of the far right, demanding that all people have the right to live with the dignity and respect they deserve and pushing governments to provide the resources and services to allow this to happen. 
After the attack on the Quebec City mosque in 2017, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council along with anti racist organizations such as the Urban Alliance on Race Relations organized a mass meeting on March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. They joined with many others around the globe using this day to raise consciousness about the growing racism and Islamophobia, and to put out a call to action.
Soon after delegates to the labour council established a rapid response network. It was intended to support local mosques which were being harassed by anti-Muslim bigots, and to counter actions by groups such as the Proud Boys, PEGIDA, Soldiers of Odin and others who were regularly demonstrating at public venues such as City Hall square. 
Unions such as the United Steelworkers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Workers United and others mobilized members to take on these expressions of racism and hate. They joined with anti-racist organizations, faith groups, students, LGBTQ groups and outnumbered the bigots. As time went on, their forces became demoralized because every time they appeared, progressive forces were there to counter them. Eventually they stopped rallying.
But it is clear that they are not gone, and today we must be very vigilant, keep our organizations strong and continue to counter the expressions of hate. Whether it be nooses at building sites, harassment of racialized people, police violence, attacks on mosques, or marches in the streets we have to be there to stop this bigotry and hate. Trade unions must be an active part of the resistance.
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