Thoughts on the trucker convoys and how things got to this.
Liberal democracy (such as it is) rests on the social contract: that the governed consent to be governed, and the government will do right by them and take care of their needs. It often fails in practice but that’s the ideal.
What has happened over the last few decades of “neo-liberalism” (where the liberalism is applied only to the freedom of markets) is that the social contract has been broken over and over again. Individual freedom has been emphasized but solidarity has been consistently attacked.
Trade unions are relatively weak in Canada and there has never been a federal NDP government (the NDP is the equivalent of the Labour Party, for any Brits reading this). There’s also much less of a social safety net than there should be.
No mandatory paid sick leave. Less paid time off. Left wing people blame the lack of social safety net and the lack of jobs on the unbridled power of business. Right wing people resent paying for welfare provision and blame a lack of jobs on immigrants.
The social contract has not been extended to Indigenous people and (despite the fact we’re all living on land stolen from them) right wingers resent federal payments to Indigenous people. This makes me furious.
In a liberal democracy, most people accept the status quo, and the compromises that go with it. But if enough people start to feel the social contract is not working for them, you get attempts to overthrow the system, or at least put a spanner in the works, from both left and right.
Once the consensus over the social contract starts to break down and you get open insurgency from the far right (who have always wanted to destroy liberal democracy), as opposed to just demonstrations, centrists respond by saying “it’s just a few bad apples” / “but free speech” etc.
But as Karl Popper said, the paradox of tolerance is that we cannot tolerate the intolerant.
There’s a German saying: if you have one Nazi and ten “ordinary people” at a dinner table, you have eleven Nazis.
If you tolerate Nazis at an event, it becomes a Nazi event.
To be antifascist is to reject and resist Nazis. Nazis don’t respond to reason or debate, because being a Nazi is not a rational position. That’s why antifascists have been removing Nazi propaganda from public spaces for decades, and fighting Nazis when necessary.
Towards the end of the Weimar Republic, the stress on the system (hyperinflation and mass unemployment) caused the breakdown of the social contract. That’s why the Nazis were able to take over, and centrists and the right let them do it, to “make Germany great again”.
Maybe not those exact words but they used similar rhetoric.
Canada is in a dangerous position. The capital city is under siege. Many of the truckers have Nazi and Confederate flags. (Remember that if you tolerate Nazis at an event, it’s a Nazi event.)
No-one can figure out how to get rid of the trucks because they are huge. As usual [many of] the police are on the side of the fascists, as is very clear from the way they’ve been hanging out with them and letting them take selfies with police cars.
There is tons of evidence from recent events in Canada that the police are extra obnoxious to minorities (1492 Land Back Lane, Fairy Creek) and stand by while fascists harass them (the burning of the Mi’kmaq lobster warehouse).
So how the hell does the government get out of this situation? I have no idea, but I think it’s an extremely dangerous situation.
Clearly the police are not going to help to get rid of the truckers, and calling in the army is generally frowned upon. It’s also really difficult to get rid of them once they are in the centre of the city. There’s an effort to resist by the people of Ottawa and other places where these convoys are blocking roads.
It’s strange (heavy sarcasm) how left wing protests (such as the G20 protests) are heavily and violently policed, yet the police are friendly with the truckers and allowing them to get away with harassing marginalized people (LGBTQ2SIA & BIPOC people).
Add to all of that the fact that working for the police attracts authoritarians and fascists (uniform! hierarchy! giving orders! free pass to harass marginalized groups) and you might get an idea why there are so many calls to defund the police and invest in something that actually protects people.
Update 1: just in case anyone was in any doubt. Police in Edmonton are now threatening to issue fines to counter-protesters against the truckers.
Update 2: In the original version of the post, I got the German saying wrong. It’s “if there ten ordinary people and one Nazi at a table, you have eleven Nazis.” Which is very true.
Update 3: Twitter thread from Amanda Jetté Knox, who lives in Ottawa:
“While the organizers have declared that this is an act of peaceful protest, some ideologically motivated violent extremism followers in Canada have seized upon this rally to advocate for their own ideological objectives,” the January document reads. “Extremists and other individuals supporting Covid-19 conspiracy theories and violent anti-authority/anti-government views have expressed intent to participate in the convoy and to attend the accompanying protest in Ottawa.”