If You Do Not Hit It Then It Will Not Fall! An Analysis of the Canadian Yellow-Vest Movement and Anti-Fascist Activity in Vancouver

The rise of the Yellow-Vest movement in France has sparked a renewed wave of class struggle, with spontaneous mass protests radiating outwards from France and taking root in neighbouring countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. This movement is born in the struggle against the crises imposed by decaying capitalism. These crises continue to impose harsher and harsher conditions for workers on a global scale, even in imperialist centers such as France, Britain, Canada and the United States. With the rise of discontent amongst the working class due to the current conditions of society, communists around the world are working to mobilize the masses towards revolution and the building of socialism. But as the efforts of communists grow, right-wing populism, spearheaded by fascists, has emerged to counter the growing calls for revolution. These right-wing populists aim to distort the justified anger of the masses by directing it inside the working class rather than upward where it belongs. This right-wing populism manifests itself in the form of class collaboration, anti-immigration rhetoric, overt racism, and the promotion of fascistic policies.

While in continental Europe the Yellow-Vest Movement remains divided between a clear revolutionary line and a reactionary line, in Canada the reality of the Yellow-Vest Movement is very different. The so-called Canadian Yellow-Vests did not arise as a result of the justified anger of the working-class over the crises of capitalism, but instead arose solely from the reactionary elements which first popped up in France. They represent nothing progressive or revolutionary, instead they represent an attempt by fascists to generate the same kind of right-wing populism that infects France and replicate it here in Canada. These Yellow-Vests target migrants, people of oppressed nationalities, and other marginalized groups in an attempt to blame them for the declining conditions of the working-class in Canada. To this end, the Canadian Yellow-Vests have widely become a symbol of fascism falling into the same category as groups like Soldiers of Odin, National Citizens Alliance, and Pegida.

In Vancouver, the Yellow-Vests have managed to generate some traction and have begun to regularly host anti-immigration rallies. These groups attempt to openly portray themselves as Canadian “patriots” who are only concerned with the “well-being of other fellow Canadians”. Particularly in Vancouver, they use populist rhetoric surrounding the housing crisis to promote the idea that the inflated housing and rent costs are a result of an immigration problem. On the surface the calls for a rent freeze are not overtly fascistic, and the organizers of the Yellow-Vests try to portray themselves as being only peaceful, concerned citizens, however the underlying ideology is much more devious. In particular, the rhetoric of being “against unchecked immigration” which they promote via their social media quickly becomes phrases like “expel all migrant trash” and “Canada for Canadians” at their rallies. Additionally, the Yellow-Vests attract overtly fascist individuals and groups who come to support them. In Vancouver, notable fascist and Slav traitor Boris Ranisavljevic and known neo-nazi Brian Ruhe are frequently found in attendance of these Yellow-Vest protests, and are welcomed with open arms. Their presence at these rallies exposes the explicit connection of the Yellow-Vests with fascism and shows the clear link in the ideology expressed by the Yellow-Vest movement here in Canada. Within Canada, this movement opportunistically uses working-class concerns as a medium for their toxic ideology, allowing them to spread into working class communities.

In response to the reactionary groups who hide under the banner of the Canadian Yellow-Vest movement, protests have erupted across the country in an effort to counter and shut down the fascists wherever they organize. These counter protests have been met with varied degrees of success, with the level of militancy and combativeness put forward by anti-fascist organizers being the deciding factor for their success. In Canada today, numerous groups, organizations, and movements lay claim to anti-fascist work, however the politics, strategy, and tactics of these groups differ wildly such that one group’s definition of anti-fascism can be almost unrecognizable from another group’s definition. Most notably, Canadian anti-fascism in recent years has been plagued with various issues pertaining to a lack of organization and unity, a lack of concrete strategical and political goals, and above all a lack of leadership. This lack of leadership is largely due to the overwhelming influence of anarchist ideology and its aversion towards any form of concrete leadership. Nowhere is this truer than in Vancouver, where local anti-fascist activity has been highly sporadic and spontaneous.

The promotion of spontaneous anti-fascist organizing in Vancouver has resulted in an anti-fascist presence in the city that remains highly disjointed, fractured, and lacking strength. For years, different groups have arisen in response to fascist activity and the rise of the alt-right. Each of these groups have claimed to be the leading force in the fight against fascism. Many of these groups were dominated by anarchist politics which promote an aversion to all forms of leadership and discipline, or were led by revisionists who were more concerned with the appearance of militancy over militancy itself. Due to these ideological failures, these groups quickly fade into obscurity and eventually disband after operating for only a few short years. Such has been the cycle in Vancouver: fascists begin to organize openly, anarchists rush to respond and counter their activities in a highly disorganized and sporadic manner, opportunists and revisionists attempt to co-opt the upsurge in activity by creating new organizations with vague political aims and goals, these organizations host a few rallies drawing large crowds yet fail to consolidate anyone, then these groups cease operating and ultimately collapse, leaving the cycle to repeat.

It is clear from this cycle that the reliance on spontaneous resistance to fascism is flawed. By waiting for developments within the fascist movement in Vancouver, anti-fascist actions have become almost always reactive in nature. The lack of a consolidated movement means anti-fascists are constantly playing catch-up to the fascists. Rallies, counter-demonstrations, and protests are all called with relatively short notice and the call is often put forward simply by the first group who creates a public event notifying people to attend a counter-demonstration. This often means liberal groups, who create events with vaguely anti-fascist rhetoric, tend to co-opt the anti-fascist struggle. Such groups may not even be interested in any form of combative action against fascism. Instead, their variant of anti-fascism consists entirely of showing up to rallies to debate with fascists and wrecking movements pushing for a more revolutionary approach. In fact, on certain occasions such as last year’s International Day Against Racism Rally, the main organizers of the rally, belonging to a group called the Anti-Oppression Network (known for espousing an especially toxic brand of postmodern identity politics) fled after learning that Soldiers of Odin had shown up. This clearly showcases the need for leadership to be militant and fearless, so as to inspire a general sense of purpose and commitment to not back down from any fascist threat.

At the time of writing, no such unified anti-fascist force exists in Vancouver, or across much of the rest of Canada (with an exception being in places where the growing Against Fascism mass organizations initiated by the PCR-RCP are gaining traction), however this is also no excuse for communists to avoid attending anti-fascist rallies. While the PCR-RCP’s presence in the west is still relatively new, in Vancouver, our Organizing Committee has slowly built up the capacity to attend anti-fascist demonstrations and make our politics and brand of anti-fascism known. Our OC’s most recent experience regarding anti-fascist work in Vancouver was a counter-demonstration on February 9th which our supporters, along with a host of other groups, attended in opposition to the Yellow-Vests and their attempt to organize a demonstration at City Hall. This recent action serves as an example of why a more combative, unified, and militant anti-fascist movement is needed in Canada.

While many revisionist groups who attended this event see the outcome of this demonstration as a victory, we recognize that while there certainly were moments of triumph, as a whole this counter-demonstration ultimately failed in shutting down and de-platforming the fascists. We strongly condemn this opportunistic trend of claiming victory over the fascists when no such victory occurred. In reality, as the demonstration went on, the anti-fascist side’s numbers began to trickle down, culminating in a call to leave en masse. It was the anti-fascist side that was the first to leave City Hall, leaving the fascists to spew their hate speech for a time before finally leaving. To pretend we accomplished our goal is not only untruthful, but it is also dangerous. If anti-fascism is promoted as simply showing up to a rally for a period of time, waving flags, and taking photos, then we have essentially failed to curb the efforts of the fascists. We will doom ourselves to ineffective means of combatting the rise of the far-right, while they continue to become emboldened and begin promoting and carrying out violent acts against the working-class, especially those of marginalized backgrounds.

To truly combat fascism we must treat fascists as what they are: enemies of the people. And as enemies we must use whatever means are at our disposal to de-platform and shut down any of their attempts to organize. Therefore, anti-fascism must necessarily take on a militant, combative character that is confrontational, and organizers must rally all counter-protestors to take a proactive stance in shutting fascists down by whatever means necessary. At this most recent counter-demonstration it was clear to us that a militant potential did exist, exemplified primarily through supporters of the PCR-RCP, Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), East Indian Defence Committee (EIDC), and Alliance Against Displacement (AaD), but the organizers of the rally ultimately failed to capitalize on this. Numerous times throughout the demonstration combative chants arose such as “fuck off Nazi scum!” and “fascist pigs go home!”. Multiple small confrontations broke out in which anti-fascists were prepared to push back the emerging fascist threat. These factors indicate that the potential for militancy is not only possible, but that militancy naturally arises when individuals are faced with the reality of dealing with fascists who would gladly enact violence against ourselves and our communities if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, a few organizers of the rally took it upon themselves to try and “de-escalate the situation”, effectively discouraging militancy and welcoming the liberal policy of debating with these fascists instead of trying to push them off of city hall, which would have prevented them from getting their message across.

Perhaps the most glaring error made by the organizers of the counter-demonstration was the fact that they called for collective retreat from city hall nearly 3 hours prior to the expected end time. This decision, seemingly coming from nowhere, meant that any militants present at the counter-demonstration were also forced to leave or they would be left outnumbered by the fascists. This was extremely frustrating to our supporters and other militant groups as we were just beginning to force the fascists back to the street corner away from city hall where they were trying to organize. Afterwards we were told that the decision to leave was made because our numbers were dwindling, despite the fact that many anti-fascists were still present as evidenced by the gains in ground we were making just prior to the decision to leave.

Despite these clear shortcomings, our supporters were able to unite with other militant forces present at the rally, including groups like EIDC, RSM, and AaD. Through the struggle against the fascists it became clear to all counter-demonstrators that our militant faction was at the frontlines in actively seeking to push the fascists back. This meant many individuals were drawn to our tactics and began to echo our calls for greater discipline and, for a period of time became more unified and structured in our opposition to the fascists. Briefly, we were able to mobilize many protestors to form a wall and attempt to close the distance between ourselves and the fascists, taking ground and forcing them backwards towards the street corner. Although this discipline was quickly reverted after the rally organizers made the decision to prematurely end the counter-protest, this shows the correctness of our practice in that it led to observable results: namely that the fascists lost ground and the anti-fascists gained it.

This brief example shows how quickly and readily discipline can be achieved when experienced anti-fascists, who lead by example, utilize their leadership to push a counter-demonstration in a more militant direction. Ultimately, most working class individuals who show up to protest fascism want to combat fascists, and many can correctly identify that to effectively do so, there needs to be leadership and discipline. Leadership is necessary to analyze the given conditions and develop an appropriate course of action, and discipline is necessary to ensure that such a course of action is carried through to its completion.

“Everything reactionary is the same; if you do not hit it, it will not fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself”. Despite Mao Zedong saying this almost 75 years ago, this quote still rings true today, and especially so in the contexts of anti-fascist organizing. The PCR-RCP recognizes that as capitalism continues to decay, fascism becomes an increasingly present threat. In these times of crisis, the capitalist class, fearing that they will lose power in the face of an ever-growing working class movement, will embolden fascists to attack and suppress working-class resistance to capitalism. We recognize that as communists we have a duty to immerse ourselves in the struggle against all things reactionary, and that we must take a leading role in combatting fascism. We understand that anti-fascism must be combative, militant and we must be willing to do whatever it takes to combat the far-right. We damn the words of traitors and revisionists who feign militancy, yet are unable to shed their liberalism and truly put themselves on the frontlines in the fight against the fascist movement. We intend to make clear that this is not what anti-fascism is, but rather, it is yet another distortion made by the revisionists.

Armed with our proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we must work tirelessly to build a unified, disciplined and organized anti-fascist movement guided by communist leadership. This leadership must prove the correctness of its strategy and tactics through its actions and practice. We intend to continue to work towards this goal of creating such an anti-fascist movement that is in service of the working masses, and willing and able to combat fascism wherever it exists. Equipped with the three weapons of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the Party, the United Front and the People’s Army, we will continue to organize and build towards a militant anti-fascist movement in Vancouver and across the rest of Canada.

Our task is clear, and we have every intention of achieving victory over the fascists and ensuring that they, along with the system of capitalism, become a relic of history.

PCR-RCP (OC) – Vancouver