Reflections on the Anarchist Demo at the Russian Consulate

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Apr 122022

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a small but determined group of anarchists marched to the Russian consulate in Montréal, in solidarity with anarchists, anti-fascists, and anti-war movements active in the territories of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. We held up banners saying: “НЕТ ВОЙНЕ” (No War); “ПУТИН: ИДИ НА ХУЙ” (Go fuck yourself, Putin); “Solidarity with UKR[ainian] and RUS[sian] War Resisters”; “Fin aux Tsars! Up the Ⓐntifascist resistance partout”; and the anti-fascist flag. Despite our small numbers, we briefly took the streets, blasting a very sick playlist of mostly Ukrainian and Russian pop music and post-punk tracks. When we reached the consulate, we ziptied the “НЕТ ВОЙНЕ” and “ПУТИН: ИДИ НА ХУЙ” across the gate doors on the front of the consulate. We read the following communiqué from an action that had targeted a recruitment centre near Moscow in early March:

The other day I set fire to the military registration and enlistment office in the city of Lukhovitsy, Moscow Region, and filmed it on gopro. I painted the gate in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and wrote: “I will not go to kill my brothers!” After which I climbed over the fence, doused the facade with gasoline, broke the windows and sent Molotov cocktails into them. The goal was to destroy the archive with the personal files of conscripts, it is located in this part. This should prevent mobilization in the district. I hope that I will not see my classmates in captivity or lists of the dead. I think it needs to be expanded. Ukrainians will know that in Russia they are fighting for them, not everyone is afraid and not everyone is indifferent. Our protesters must be inspired and act more decisively. And this should further break the spirit of the Russian army and government. Let these motherfuckers know that their own people hate them and will extinguish them. The earth will soon begin to burn under their feet, hell awaits at home too.

As we left, several people egged the consulate.

The following are reflections from a few participants in the demo:

We want to make our reasons for participating in this action clear, and to explain why we think it is essential to support the anarchists, the anti-fascists, and the broad masses of people resisting the invasion in Ukraine — as well as all those in the region who are opposing the war, sabotaging the war machine, and helping refugees and people fleeing the conflict.

1. We have acted in solidarity with anarchists and anti-fascist comrades resisting the invasion, and with love in our hearts for expressions of autonomous and anti-fascist resistance against the invader.

It should go without saying, but as anarchists, we oppose hierarchical military institutions, and consider neo-Nazis like those who founded the Azov Regiment to be our enemies. We understand that the nature of territorial defense in response to an invasion makes deciding how to engage incredibly messy for people on the ground. We know that the territorial defense units (voluntary ‘civilian’ units) in Ukraine are subject to the Ukrainian state’s command structure — in theory, if not always in practice. From what we understand, anarchists and anti-fascists in Ukraine are organizing together (and with locals) within these units to carve out as much autonomy as possible for themselves and their ideas, while also surviving heavy shelling, missile strikes, and the targeted murder of civilians (among other horrors). We think that the experiences of the regular people that are currently being bombed, raped, displaced, tortured, and killed, must be at the heart of any analyses we put forward, or actions we take.

So, we declare our support for anarchists in Ukraine, both those who were there before the invasion began, and those having more recently entered the country. This does not mean that we think they are beyond critique. Rather, it means that we respect and support their decision to stay and fight, or the decisions of those who have chosen to go and fight by their sides. We think that this kind of armed self-defense is consistent with a long history of anarchist resistance to the expansion of authoritarian regimes. Present-day Ukraine differs from Rojava, Chiapas, and other ‘revolutionary’ territories; it is a deeply flawed capitalist democracy with marginal liberatory social movements. Nevertheless, it is clear that a life under Putinist Russia would be far less free. This reality is reflected in the fierce resistance to Russian advances.

Competing visions of society will no doubt emerge in the rubble of war: some liberatory, many more deeply horrifying. Regardless of how the war progresses, we think it will be essential that there are people in Ukraine who share our ethics and values. For years, anarchists in Ukraine have been actively organizing against both the Ukrainian state and the local far-right. In the months and years to come, they will be the ones best positioned to continue to fight nationalism, fascism and any manifestations of centralized power and authority. They are also the people who will best generalize anarchist ideas and actions in their own context. We want to see these people survive and flourish.

2. We act in solidarity with all those who have fled Ukraine, and we support initiatives that help people continue to flee. We are against borders, against conscription, and against any privileging of those with Ukrainian passports and/or ‘whiteness’.

There has been a marked difference in how the Canadian state and mainstream society have responded to Ukrainian refugees, as compared to refugees from Libya, Sudan, Syria or other non-European countries. We see this not only in immigration policy decisions, but also in the rhetoric of the Canadian government, which has stated that “Ukrainian immigrants have helped build this country”. This statement refers to the waves of Ukrainian immigrants who fled immiseration under the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, and later, under the Soviet Union. During the first immigration wave of the 1890’s, Ukrainians were ‘recruited’ to Canada as cheap, non-British, labourers, used to build rail-lines and to ‘settle’ indigenous and Métis lands in Western Canada.

The disposibility of these immigrants was made clear when, under the War Measures Act during WW1, members of these same Ukrainian communities were deemed ‘enemy aliens’, and sent to internment camps. In 1919, Ukrainian communities, tired of exploitation, participated extensively in the Winnipeg General Strike, where the North-West Mounted Police (yes, those same NWMP established to supress indigenous rebellions and enforce the reserve system) massacred some 80 striking workers. The years that followed were filled with xenophobic panics about the ‘dangerous foreigners’ fomenting labour radicalism.

Canada always has, and always will, pit dis-enfranchised people against one-another to maintain and expand its capitalist and colonialist project. It makes immigrants fleeing misery into the shock troops of colonial expansion. It embraces ‘model’ refugees in order to discredit migrants who have crossed borders for reasons that the state deems ‘illigitimate.’ However, we believe firmly that people can refuse to be tools of the state. Instead, we can be inspired by our own stories of disposession to build powerful solidarity with one another.

We have also read the stories of black, brown and Roma people trying to flee Ukraine, who have faced racism, and received less support than white refugees. In a context where racist, islamophobic, and anti-immigrant hysteria is on the rise in Europe, it is not hard to see how racism has fundamentally structured the metting out of sympathy and support afforded to different people fleeing war. It should be noted, however, that the many Ukrainian guest-workers currently living in Western Europe have rarely been received with the same compassion and enthusiasm that Western countries are now expressing towards war refugees. The degree to which Ukrainian refugees are currently being embraced as ‘fellow Europeans’ was hardly a given.

As anarchists, we do not accept an analysis whose only conclusion is resentment towards the Ukrainian refugees who have, undeniably, been treated better than non-European refugees in similar circumstances. For instance, it shouldn’t be surpising that Canada (a country founded on genocide) is once again making racist immigration policy decisions. However, these infuriating disparities should never become a justification for inaction, or a reason to withhold solidarity from people who need it. Instead, we will continue to take action and organize against borders, and to destroy the values of white supremacy that shape our world. We hope that among those who are just now becoming acquainted with the horrors of war and displacement, we will find new comrades who will join us in standing against racist borders everywhere.

Support all migrants, fuck all borders, free movement across invisible lines for everyone, always.

3. We act in solidarity with those who take action against the war and its profiteers in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and in “the West.”

In Russia, many thousands have been arrested for protesting the war by an increasingly autocratic and repressive regime. In North America, we have seen people target the weapons contractor Raytheon. In Western Europe and Turkey, there have been actions against the mansions and property of Russian oligarchs. In Belarus, there has been a campaign of sabotage targetting the rail lines that transport Russian troops to Ukraine.

We are also inspired by the long history of anarchist anti-militarism, and sabotage of the war industry. It is important to identify how the nations we live in (and our local capitalists) profit from this war, and to target them accordingly.

4. We have acted in accordance with our principled belief that, all throughout history and all across the world, people should be supported when they defend themselves against destructive invaders.

We have noticed that mainstream Canadian media is suddenly quite excited about regular people making molotov cocktails and attacking tanks with tractors. While it’s great to see support for people defending themselves, in our own context, let’s not forget to support Indigenous land defense too. We support community autonomous action and self-defense against destructive invaders everywhere: from the Wet’suwet’en yintah in so-called “British Columbia”; to the streets of Kharkiv and Kyiv; to Rojava, Yemen, Palestine, and beyond!

5. We have acted with the knowledge that Western countries are also finding ways to profit from the war.

In Canada, we can see how sanctions against Russian energy imports and the pause on Nordstream 2 have been used to shift European fuel reliance towards Canada and the U.S. This benefits the owners of U.S. and Canadian energy companies, and further threatens Indigenous land defenders who have been fighting against fossil fuel exploitation and for sovereignty in their territories. While we think that pointing to “NATO aggression” as the root cause of the war is a deeply-flawed and myopic analysis, it is clear that Western powers have been more than happy to leverage the war towards their own ends. We have no problem extending a big Fuck You to NATO as well.

6. We will never act in solidarity with nazis.

Much of the discourse about the war that we have seen coming out of certain parts of the left has emphasized the existence of the Azov battalion, and speculations about the role of the far-right in Ukrainian society. In the past decade, Ukraine (like most every country in the world) has seen a resurgence of far-right, authoritarian, and ethno-nationalist sentiment. While this is certainly concerning (especially for Ukrainians), Ukraine is hardly unique in this regard. Nor is it unique in having found adherents of far-right ideologies involved in its military. What’s more, in recent years, it seems that Ukrainian society has fared no worse than the societies that gave rise to the likes of Trump, Éric Zemmour, or the AfD.

What has perhaps been unique in the Ukrainian context, is a war that has been ongoing for eight years. The war in Donbas not only galvanized local fascists, but has notably attracted far-right adventurists from Western countries seeking-out battlefield experience. These contemptible grifters have fought enthusiastically on both Ukrainian and Russian sides of the war, depending on the particular flavour of fascist ideology that they subscribe to. (And, for all his talk of “denazification,” Putin himself is by far the premier backer of far-right movements all over the world.)

Fascists of all stripes will tend to try to leverage war and conflict towards their own ends, and this war will be no exception. We suspect that in this context, the best antidote to armed neo-nazis intent on expanding their social base, is in fact, well-organized, armed anti-fascists. We strongly reject an analysis that frames any anarchist who has taken up arms in this situation as a nazi-collaborator. The fact that both anarchists and neo-nazis have independently taken up arms in the face of military invasion by no means implies collaboration. To be clear, we think that such hypothetical alliances would be completely unacceptable, and ones that we would refuse to ever support. However, anarchists in Ukraine have long been at the forefront of countering local nazis, and we believe that materially supporting these anarchists is one of the best ways to help them maintain an uncompromising anti-fascist position under incredibly challenging circumstances.

We really shouldn’t have to say this, but the vast majority of Ukrainian civilians currently being bombed, shelled, killed, tortured and displaced are most certainly not neo-nazis. Given that ‘denazification’ has been the crude and increasingly exterminationist rallying cry for Putin’s vicious, imperialist war, it feels especially important to be clear and intentional in how we discuss the (real, but relatively marginal) presence of neo-nazis in Ukraine.


War is fucked, and it isn’t always clear what anarchists anywhere should be doing in this context. We inform ourselves by reading interviews with anarchists on the ground, by talking to friends and family who are more closely connected to the events, and through critical and analytical discussions within our circles. Deciding that this situation is too complex to engage with would only cede space to ideologues, who simplify and cherry-pick history and current events in order to build arguments that benefit their economic interests and political cliques.

This time we were a small group, but we hope to inspire other anarchists around us to engage with this conflict. We will continue to mobilize the rage and heartbreak we feel at both the mass graves in Mariupol and Bucha, and at the structural racism that underwrites indifference to bombings and displacements elsewhere in the world, in order to act in solidarity with all people suffering due to geo-political machinations and imperialist ambitions.

Solidarity with the inheritors of the anarchist tradition in Ukraine!

Solidarity with the anarchist and anti-fascists arrested and currently detained in Belarus, for allegedly disseminating anti-war and anti-police materials!

Solidarity with all the anti-war arsonists, hackers, and demonstrators in Russia!

Solidarity with the London Makhnovists, the yacht blockaders in Turkey, and all others taking direct action against the holdings of the Russian ruling class around the world!

Against great games and autocracy! For anarchy and self-determination!

The Montreal Sholom Schwarzbard Crew


Montreal Anarchist Solidarity with Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine and War Resisters in Russia and Belarus

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Mar 292022

From No Borders Media

(March 27, 2022) A small group of Montreal-area anarchists gathered downtown earlier today, and marched to the Russian consulate in solidarity with anti-fascists and the anti-war movement in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. Protesters held up banners reading (in a mix of English, French and Russian): “No to war!”, “Putin: Fuck Off!”, “No more Tsars! Up the anti-fascist resistance everywhere!”, and “Solidarity with Ukrainian and Russian war resisters”. At the consulate, whose gates were already vandalized with red paint, protesters attached the banners, and read a communiqué from an anti-war action in Moscow. Before leaving, a few protesters egged the front of the consulate.

Solidarity with people resisting war and occupation, not with states, not with any fascists, and not with NATO.

(Photo and report by No Borders Media)


Communique from Operation Solidarity, Kyiv

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Mar 272022

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Greetings, comrades!

We are the Ukrainian anti-authoritarian volunteer network, “Operation Solidarity”.

Since the first days of escalation by Russia, we have taken part in the resistance against the invasion, as have the majority of Ukrainian anarchists and anti-authoritarian left activists because we believe that this war is imperialist and usurping.

This is not a war of “de-nazification”, as the Kremlin claims. The problems of the far-right in Ukraine exist as they do in many European countries, but their scale is highly exaggerated by Russian propaganda which exploits antifascism. Life in Ukraine is incomparably more free than it is in Russia, which has only become increasingly fascistic during the course of this escalation.

Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population does not need to be “liberated”. As of now, this war is primarily being waged in regions where Russian language prevails, where local people join the territorial defense units en masse, craft Molotov cocktails, and construct barricades to repel the so-called “liberators”.

Though we remain critical towards the actions of western countries up until now, responsibility for this war lies solely with the highest seats of power in Russia, unrelenting in their ambition to expand their sphere of influence.

The war in Ukraine is a people’s war. We cannot stand idly by!

Presently, our comrades have joined the territorial defense and have formed their units there. The primary objective of Operation Solidarity is to provide them with everything they need. Such needs include: procuring high-grade body armour, ballistic helmets, tactical medical kits, and a myriad other military equipment. As of now, obtaining such vital necessities is impossible in Ukraine.

Additionally, Operation Solidarity aids refugees, distributes precious medications, and lends ever important and tangible support to local anti-authoritarian initiatives. We collaborate with the feminist cooperative ReSew, Lviv Vegan Kitchen, as well as a courier initiative distributing medication in Kyiv.

Finally, we receive and review applications from international volunteers who have opted to join the anarchist unit of the territorial defense and help facilitate their journey to Ukraine.

At this time, we call for your solidarity. Lukewarm, indecisive stances and abstract denunciations of war in general will not help us stop the dictator. Hence, we encourage you to state your concrete position in whatever form you can– we will spread your expression of solidarity here in Ukraine. We ask you to support our volunteer organization! Our duty is to provide our comrades with everything they need, and that cannot be accomplished without your help!

Greetings from Kyiv,
Operation Solidarity

White Lives Matter: Neo-Nazi Initiative Has a Quebec Franchise

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Mar 212022

From Montréal Antifasciste

Warning: This article includes screenshots of chat room conversations and visual elements of an antisemitic and racist nature.

White Lives Matter (WLM) is a neo-Nazi initiative that over the past year has spread to a number of areas in the US and Canada, as well as to New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in the world. The network’s first documented action was a series of decentralized demonstrations on May 8, 2021. The low turnout for these events led some observers to conclude that the undertaking had failed, but that optimistic assessment proved premature, as the network continued to grow, with an increasing number of actions over the past year.

WLM signals an attempt to reconsolidate the neo-Nazi milieu via decentralized chat rooms on the Telegram app. This approach is in part an effort to circumvent various obstacles, ranging from censorship on the major social media platforms to doxxing and other forms of resistance from the antifascist movement, as well as eventual criminal prosecution. It also parallels the international tendency amongst neo-Nazis towards clandestine, decentralized, and “leaderless” forms of activism, a trend with roots stretching back to the 1970s. Over the years, this has given rise to the “accelerationist” current and the increased prevalence of “lone wolf” mass murderers.

The WLM project also reflects substantial frustration with the marginal status of the neo-Nazi far right and a desire to move beyond the current subculture and the ideological quarrels among different tendencies and to form an activist network able to exercise genuine influence.

Although WLM is beyond any shadow of a doubt a neo-Nazi phenomenon, the American organizers’ original intent was to soften the movement’s image, which concretely translated into a superficial reticence to openly identify with the Nazi legacy or to use the swastika or other Nazi symbols in public discussions or on the stickers that the movement’s activists put up in public. Participants were also instructed (an instruction they often ignored) not to discuss the “Jewish question” or to encourage violence on public channels. Despite this, the chat rooms are completely saturated with Hitler memes, explicit references to historical Nazism, and unbridled racism of the most extreme variety—jokes about lynching Blacks, Holocaust denial videos, discussions asserting that Jews are not human and must be exterminated, etc.

The world as imagined by members of the White Lives Matter

WLM is not a formal organization; each local group has its own Telegram channel moderated by its own admin or admins. Nonetheless, it is a well-coordinated project, many of the channels having been created in 2021 by a small original group, which then sought out activists in each region to act as admins. Propaganda promotes shared methods and goals, and dates for actions and decisions regarding “messaging” appear to be centralized.

Telegram channels can be strictly unidirectional (like an email newsletter, with the content entirely determined by the admin), or they can take the form of an open chat, somewhat in the style of a public Facebook group. In many cases, the unidirectional channels include a parallel chat room – this is the basic structure of the WLM regional groups. Once these virtual spaces were established, the participants were encouraged to print WLM posters and stickers (typically, different variations on the central racist theme of the “great replacement” and the oppression of whites at the hands of other groups), to coordinate outreach and propaganda campaigns, and to take photos of their actions and post them on Telegram to encourage other people to also get involved.

Some WLM outings have received coverage in the Canadian media (e.g., posters in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and New Battleford, Saskatchewan; in Toronto, where they have joined demonstrations against public health measures; see also the recent report on WLM activities in Montreal in Pivot), but mostly they have gone unnoticed. In some cases, local groups have met in person to coordinate more ambitious actions, e.g., banner drops in public areas.

This structure and approach is not unique to WLM; it is also shared by various other groups on the far right at the present time. Telegram provides a platform that allows individuals to get involved according to their own comfort level, and to become integrated into a community of sorts, with no need to meet or talk to anyone in person, all the while being encouraged to develop activities suited to their own capabilities.

As of this writing, many WLM channels are to all intents and purposes dormant, with less than a dozen members. Meanwhile, some groups in the US have taken their activities off the internet and into the streets in the form of banner drops, organized outings, leafletting, etc. In the areas where it is most active, WLM has been entwined with other neo-Nazi groups, such as the Folkish Resistance Movement (whose propaganda has been distributed in Saskatchewan and Alberta),[1] the Canada First group in Ontario, which received a certain amount of visibility at the so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, and the attempt to set up a group called “Nationalist 13” (“13” symbolizing “anti-communist”) in southern Ontario.

Examining the WLM’s internal chat logs, obtained from comrades with Cornvallis Antifa, it appears that in Canada the user known as “McLeafin” was brought on board by the US organizers in April 2021. He then set up a number of channels for different provinces and proceeded to seek out recruits to act as admins.

Continue reading on the site of Montréal Antifasciste

Spring Is Coming: Take to the Streets against the War

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Mar 052022

From CrimethInc.

The following call to action originally appeared in Russian on, the platform that emerged from the Russia-wide anarchist network Autonomous Action.

Our Russian colleagues report that, under a new law introduced this week, those who are found guilty of spreading misinformation about the invasion of Ukraine can be sentenced to years in prison. This apparently includes those who simply refer to the invasion as a “war,” rather than a “special operation,” as Putin’s government has insisted on doing. In this context, demonstrators show tremendous courage taking to the streets.

The next mass day of protest is scheduled for this Sunday, March 6. We hope their efforts will be echoed by demonstrators around the world, placing pressure from all directions on the Russian government, the global capitalist class, military profiteers, and all the other forces that are abetting the invasion.

To support political prisoners in Russia, donate to the Anarchist Black Cross in Moscow here. To support anarchists in Ukraine, donate here or here. There is also a solidarity structure to support refugees fleeing from Ukraine.

The chief supporters of the prevailing order in Russia today.
Anti-war demonstrators in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Spring Is Coming: Take to the Streets against the War

The Russian army has invaded Ukraine. Putin has lost his senses and his army is bombing cities, shooting civilians, and killing children. More than one million people have fled the country in order to escape from Putin’s “liberators.”

We refuse to submit to Russian military censorship. We say openly and clearly: this is war. This is a war of conquest and the Russian army is running it. With weapons in their hands, Ukrainians are successfully defending themselves from the invaders, but we, who are inside Russia, cannot stand aside from these events. We must show each other and the world that we are against this war, that only Putin and his gang need it. To be against the war is genuine anti-fascism right now.

March 6, this coming Sunday, is the general day of anti-war actions in Russia. Take the central square of your city! One of the meeting points in Moscow is the Square of the train stations at 15:00. There are also meetings at 19:00 and other times. Decide and organize for yourselves, team up with your friends. The main thing is to get out on the streets.

The Russian authorities are panicking now. They have realized that they are losing this war. That is why they hysterically threaten anti-war protesters—with expulsion, or with dismissal, or with immediate conscription into the army, or with jail. Don’t be afraid of them. Ukrainians in their cities go out into the streets with bare hands to protest against the invaders. They are standing against solders with riffles, against tanks. How can one be afraid of the rusty machinery of the Russian police?

We demand an immediate end to the war. We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. This is the main condition for any further action: the aggression of the Russian Federation must stop. We must stop the slaughter of people. Yes, Putin didn’t ask us when he planned the invasion—but we didn’t stop him in time. So it is important to do it at least now.

Of course, our main goal now is to stop the war in Ukraine. But we have to fight for the future of Russia, as well. There isn’t much time left for this deranged dictator. His small victorious war didn’t go according to the plan and now his removal is only a matter of time and concrete means. But what happens next, after Putin?

The lands of the “Russian Federation” are now at a historical crossroads. The collapse of Putin’s regime may trigger the process of liberation. Sure, they won’t lead to anarchist ideals immediately—but at least Russia will no longer be at war with the rest of the world and with its own population. In this wave of changes, there will be opportunities for serious changes in the political system towards greater decentralization—for example, the complete abolition of the presidency and the transition to a parliamentary republic, which we have been talking about for a long time.

However, there’s another possibility for “what comes next” after Putin: the regime transforming into a pupal stage, into an even more authoritarian regime—the complete closure of all borders and the cessation of international contacts. Blocking half of the Internet in Russia tonight is only the first sign. There will no longer be any forces left for aggressive wars, but this will not make it easier for the inhabitants: they will find themselves in a state reminiscent of North Korea. And there is absolutely no anarchist movement in North Korea. None.

The face of the future of Russia as well as the present? It remains to be seen.

Now, in the coming days and weeks, we all have a unique window of opportunity. Putin’s authoritarian regime has made a fatal mistake and is reeling. If the psychopath in the Kremlin does not press the nuclear button, he will not live long. And now everything depends on us, the inhabitants of Russia. If we remain silent, then the agenda will quickly be hijacked by isolationists and conservatives, who are in the majority in the upper levels of power. But if we are active, we will win. A rusted leviathan needs only to be pushed and it will crumble into dust.

Take the streets on March 6. If you can’t go out on March 6, go out on other days. If you can’t go out at all, protest against the war in other ways: distribute leaflets and posters, stick up stickers, write “no war” on medical masks, hang posters from balconies. Finally, talk to people. This is now more important than studies, more important than work, more important than anything else in the world. Now the fate of not only Ukraine, but also Russia is being decided. Our future is being determined—and only we will be responsible for what it will be.

Winter is ending. Spring is coming.

Autonomous Action

A sticker reading “No War” in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A sticker reading “No War” on an urban map in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A sign affixed to a backpack via charming pins, belonging to a Russian anti-war protester.

Gridlocked: The Freedom Convoy and the New Canadian Populism

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Feb 202022

From subMedia

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, a popular movement demanding an immediate end to vaccine mandates and other restrictions on daily life has shaken the Canadian state to its core. Its calls have deeply resonated with members of settler-colonial society in which public health measures and other forms of collective solidarity are seen by some as an affront to individual freedom and an undue hindrance on capitalist enterprise. While the movement is now facing the brunt of a massive wave of state repression, from which it is unlikely to recover, the contradictions it has exposed are only set to get worse.

Ill Winds from Ottawa

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Feb 162022

From CrimethInc.

Thinking Through the Threats and Opportunities as a Far-Right Initiative Gains Momentum

Opponents of vaccine mandates have established protest encampments in Ottawa and elsewhere around Canada, blockading several routes crossing the United States border. Far-right organizers and former police officers have prominent positions in this movement, and police have taken a relatively hands-off approach thus far; it appears likely that the model currently being tested in Canada will appear elsewhere around the world shortly. In the following extensive report, our correspondent in Montréal explores the sequence of events that led up to these developments, reviews the agendas of the various forces vying for control, and reflects on what we can do in a situation in which the far right has gained the initiative.

To preface this report, it is necessary to deal briefly with the question of whether the anti-mandate protests in Ottawa represent a movement for “freedom,” as the participants insist.

On October 25, 2021, officers of the New York City Police Department participated in shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge—where they famously kettled and arrested Occupy protesters almost precisely ten years earlier—to protest against a vaccine mandate for municipal employees. While we passionately believe that people must be free make their own medical decisions and determine their own risk tolerance, the police were effectively demanding the right to expose those they arrest to even greater medical risk. This is a particularly clear-cut case showing that the movement against vaccine mandates is not necessarily a movement against state control or in favor of medical autonomy.

An authentic movement for freedom and medical autonomy would oppose all the forces that compel workers to expose themselves to COVID-19 against their wishes—in other words, it would be explicitly anti-capitalist. Likewise, such a movement would support striking students intent on determining for themselves which risks they wish to take.

When anti-mandate protesters maintain that borders should be tightly controlled by passport checks, yet decry vaccine passports as “fascism”—when they complain about police checking for vaccine cards, but support police in arresting and imprisoning people by the million—when they object to the government placing limits on economic activity, but not to the vast economic disparities that force workers to face potentially lethal risks simply in order to pay rent—they are not taking a stand in favor of freedom so much as they are willfully changing the subject from the encroachments of state power as a whole to a few details of state policy. This is part of the process through which a spurious right-wing opposition functions to redirect rebellious impulses into ersatz movements that ultimately strengthen state institutions.

It is possible that a consistent movement opposing state control in favor of medical autonomy could serve as a space in which those who oppose vaccine passports could go through a process of political development. But for this to be possible, these movements would have to foster a systemic analysis of power, whereas in fact, they are dominated by right-wing elements intent on limiting their political horizons. Therefore, at the minimum, it is necessary to oppose and outflank the right-wing elements in these movements—which is the subject of the following text.

The paranoid fears concerning vaccination and the conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 concern entirely the issue of the loss of autonomy. They allegorically (and distortedly) project real economic and social experience onto the body. In this manner, they both express and repress the experience, just as dreams, and more generally, the language of the unconscious, do: it’s not, allegedly, that the small store owner or the small businessman has been crushed by large states’ economies of scale, but rather that there is a plan to control his/her brain, or his/her body, his or her reproductive capacities.

Because the anti-vaccine unconscious is, like every form of mass irrationalism, the exact opposite of what it believes it is—because, in other words, it is a deeply conformist way of thinking—it is also a particularly fertile ground for the development of forms of racism, among which the anti-semitic and the Sinophobic elements are predominant.

-“The Anti-Vaccine Unconscious

Without further ado—the report.

Continue reading on Crimethinc.

A Retrospective of the Counter-demonstration of 12 February 2022, Opposed to the Demonstration in Support of the “Freedom Convoys”

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Feb 142022

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

We were more than 150 on Saturday morning gathered to oppose the far right, which is currently riding the wave of anger at health measures to advance its political agenda. Among the demonstrators we were confronted with, if the most widely waved flags were those of Canada, others were raising high flags of the Front canadien-français, a far-right ultra-nationalist collective with a Catholic heritage [note: we are told that the flag in question, the Carillon-Sacré-Coeur, is not the flag of the Front canadien-français. The flag dates from the early 20th century in Ultramontanist circles. The FCF was a small group created and dissolved in recent years that appropriated this flag, like various right-wing nationalists.MTL CI]. The extreme right-wing populist of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, was also present.

The energy of the counter-demonstrators was very good, despite the sadness of the event. We chanted loudly for hours “A-Anti-Antifascists” and “Neither Trudeau nor covidiot, the solution is not fascist”. Our biggest victory was to deprive the demonstration of all its flag-wearing trucks and cars by blocking the exit to the parking lot. Even in a small, well-motivated group we are really capable of curtailing the movements led by the extreme right.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Despite the situation across Canada, millions in funding from obscure sources, and the spirit of the freedom convoy movement inspired by last year’s assault on Capitol Hill, the SPVM deployed at least as many fascists in police clothing as there were counter-demonstrators to surround us and block any attempt to move. In riot gear, many of them proudly wore “thin blue line” patches. Mixed with rage and sadness, we waited for a long time surrounded by riot cops once the demonstration had left their place of departure. It was pitiful to see so many riot cops putting us in cages without paying attention to the fachos gathering in our neighborhoods.

The situation is extremely worrying. As anti-fascists, we cannot allow the seed that is being sown to germinate. We must organize and multiply counter-demonstrations, let’s be on the lookout for what is being prepared in our neighborhoods. As an extremely well-funded fascist mobilization takes shape and is protected by cops with symbols that have a more than alarming background, putting forward antifascist perspectives in our struggles seems more than imperative.

Photo: André Querry

Ottawa, the Far-Right, and the State: Inside the Convoy Protests and the Unfolding Three Way Fight

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Feb 122022

From It’s Going Down

On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with two anarchists involved in the Punch Up Collective, a group which is currently mobilizing in Ottawa, the capitol city of so-called Canada, in the midst of an ongoing far-Right protest occupation made up of several hundred vehicles in the downtown area.

During our discussion we talk about the far-Right leadership of the protests, their history of organizing similar convoys and their involvement in a variety of racist and reactionary groups, and how the public, the police, and the State are all responding to the demonstrations, as law enforcement has been giving the convoy free reign of the streets and residents report hundreds of incidents of harassment, targeted violence, and racist intimidation. Meanwhile, anger is growing not only at the convoy, but at police and the failure of the State to respond, as people begin to self-organize and take action. We also look at how the Conservative Party is coming out in support of the convoy; hoping to use it as a wedge to gain more power and influence.

We also broadly cover how the Left has been caught off guard by these demonstrations: from how the current pandemic has negatively impacted organizing and support networks, to how the electoral Left has been slow to respond and terrified of the growing anger on the streets against the convoy. Finally, our guests map out current mutual aid programs and various forms of resistance and talk about the need to take the streets back from the far-Right and hold them. With more convoy protests being pushed for in the US and a counter-demonstration being called for in Ottawa this Saturday, it’s up to us to understand what is happening on the ground and prepare accordingly.

Trip Report: Ottawa on Saturday, February 5

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Feb 082022

Anonymous submission to North Shore Counter-Info

We took the train downtown to avoid getting caught in the traffic jam of the protest itself. I’ve spent the ride alternating between preparing myself for what we’re about to see by mentally going over all of the things I should expect to see and hear in the next few hours at the convoy protest and distracting myself by contemplating whether or not I like Ottawa’s new transit system. I haven’t been to downtown Ottawa since before the pandemic. I know what stop we’re going to but it is unmistakeable anyway, a wave of people dressed in Canadian flag capes, maskless and bearing protest signs prepares to dismount just as we do. I remember using a similar tactic to find the right subway stop to get to Zucotti Park in 2011. There are so many surface-level similarities between here and there that I can’t help but feel a pang of the jealousy and perhaps even empathy with the protestors that I’ve been experiencing all week, watching their moment unfold and remembering moments where I have felt joy, camaraderie and anticipation of the kind that I imagine they are feeling this week.

The first thing I notice when we step out of the train is a tall white man wearing a Make America Great Again hat, waving the “Fuck Trudeau” flag that has been an important emblem of the right for the past few years. Obviously I hate his Trump hat but I am also reminded of how much I hate that the far right has taken a slogan as pure and good as “Fuck Trudeau” away from me, such that I can’t insult the man who is perhaps my least-favourite Prime Minister in Canadian history without first stating that I don’t support the far right. The second remarkable thing is two young families crossing paths as one walks toward the train and another away from it, the children jumping up and down as they walk and chanting “FREEDOM” so loud their voices are cracking. I can tell they’ve been doing this all day and the MAGA dude joins in with a boisterous “FREEDOM! FREEDOM!” and waves enthusiastically to the children.

I’ve been following this protest online all week and while I know online is where a lot of the protestors’ banter happens I also knew it would feel different to be among them in downtown Ottawa. I wanted to see it for myself and get a sense of the “vibe,” as well as guage how obvious the presence of the far-right movement that I know spearheaded these demonstrations is. I’m here as an observer, not trying to fully blend in or infiltrate them in any way but also not provoking them. Obviously I can’t get much from being there for one day, and I don’t pretend or hope to be an expert on the freedom convoys, but I did hope that seeing it in person would help me formulate an opinion about it in a way that social media alone can’t do.

There are a lot of flags and signs here representing various wingnut, nationalist, and right-wing causes, but the two most widely-shared symbols of this movement are clearly the Canadian flag and the absence of a face mask. The red and white is everywhere and many of the protestors have taken to draping themselves in it, parading around with a flowing maple-leaf cape. I don’t really get it when the Canadian state is ostensibly the thing they’re fighting but then again I never really “get” Canadian nationalism and this is nothing new – the same plethora of Canadian flags was the most common symbol at two important predecessors of this movement, the populist, Islamophobic “patriot movement” that emerged in opposition to Bill M-103 and the oil-and-gas-funded “Yellow Vests Canada movement.

The lack of face mask is a striking symbol that they all share and many of them have taken it beyond the protest, defiantly refusing to put their masks back on when they get onto public transit or enter the few businesses that remain open downtown. I’m not wearing one either and that’s all it seems to take to blend into this crowd. On the train I imagine they find each other this way, sharing conspiratorial glances with others of their newfound community who have also woken up from the conformist, pro-restrictions stupor they imagine the rest of us to be in. In the streets I’ve heard of numerous passersby and counterprotestors being yelled at for wearing theirs, and I’m not at all surprised.

I know there is racism underlying this, because I know their organizers are rooted in the more overtly racist movements that paved the way for this one, but I don’t think a naive passerby would necessarily notice it unless they happened to be in the right place at the right time. I have heard of people of colour being harassed by members of the convoy protest but that is definitely not most of their main activity most of the time and I don’t see a single sign about immigration, race or colonialism the whole time I’m there. I did notice two overtly anti-semitic signs, mostly of the text-heavy “list of conspiracies” variety that I’ve also seen on conspiracy theorists at broad-based left-wing protests in the past. There are a number of right-wing symbols dotted among the crowd, including a surprising number of “Don’t Tread On Me” flags, but no evidence of known Canadian far-right or neo-Nazi organizations out with their colours and symbols on display. Later on Twitter I notice somebody posted a picture of 6 members of the far-right patriot “Canada First” organization out in balaclavas in the streets that same day, but I didn’t happen to encounter them in person. I had expected to see more evidence of the overt fascists of Quebec and Canada recruiting but I couldn’t find it on Saturday. Maybe they’re hiding or maybe the crowd was just too big for me to find them. There are a lot of white people here but it’s definitely not a homogenous crowd, maybe not even a lot whiter than many of the environmental or other left-wing demonstrations I’ve been to in the past.

It was huge on Saturday. Police on Friday reported “about 350” protestors downtown on Friday and said nothing about numbers on Saturday but there were definitely thousands. The success of the trucks themselves as a space-claiming tactic for this group can not be understated. Every street in and out of the area around parliament is blocked by large vehicles, adorned with signs and flags and with protestors inside the cabs, honking the horns and smiling and waving at their crowd, many of whom are carrying “Thank You Truckers” signs and reserving their biggest shows of enthusiasm for encounters with the actual trucks. Even on days where their numbers are lower it is difficult to imagine what police or counter-protestor tactic would successfully undermine their control on the blocks surrounding parliament hill. There are a lot of them on and in front of the hill, where a sort of “main stage” has been set up on the back of a truck for speakers and announcements, but they have the whole neighbourhood. Several blocks away a park acts as a logistics hub, people are set up there with free food, firewood and other supplies. All of the streets in between and in fact much of downtown are actively part of the protest zone, filled with people yelling and chanting and the ubiquitous sound of truck horns that has drawn so much of the attention of local counter-protestors.

I passed by the main stage several time and every speaker I heard was an anti-vaccine advocate of some sort. It’s actually quite boring – blah blah ivermectin blah blah conspiracy blah blah toxic chemicals in your arm. I can’t tell if many of them are even listening to the speakers and in the streets away from the stage the only chant I hear is “Freedom!” so it’s very hard to tell if people there are all or mostly anti-vaxxers, but I would imagine a lot are. Down the road another loudspeaker blasts classic rock and an equally large group have created a dance party, waving their conspiracy-touting signs and Canadian flags and chanting “freedom” as they dance ecstatically together in the -25 degree weather. I’ve never seen our side get so successfully pumped up in such large numbers in such shitty weather.

I imagine that every conspiracy theorist I’ve ever encountered in the region is here, plus many more. I am used to seeing such people alone in a crowd but it is a bit disturbing to notice just how many of them there actually are now that they’re all in one place. There are signs and pamphlets everywhere about every wingnut conspiracy I’ve ever heard and even some that I haven’t – microchips in vaccines, THE JEWS, lizards, you name it. One sign tells me that a triad of weasels are working together to control the population with the vaccine chip: the Trudeau government, the mainstream media, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. I hope somewhere out there a PSAC member is proud to be elevated to such a high status. I had intended to talk to more people but literally every conversation I overheard was about a known conspiracy – 3 guys behind me talking about 5G and China, a woman explaining The Great Reset to her school-aged children, a Francophone father telling his kids that masks are bad for their lungs. At the end of the day on the bus home I psych myself up to ask two protestors behind me to explain their movement to me, only to give up when I hear them whispering to each other about how much more needs to be exposed about chemtrails. I am struck by an obvious point that I hadn’t really contemplated before, that a lot of very normal-looking people with families, jobs and nice smiles are in fact followers of some of the conspiracies I think of as the most irrational and impossible to believe. I assume this has increased a lot since the pandemic but I can’t prove it.

I suspect a lot of the growth of this movement is happening among people who did not show up and would not have shown up for right-wing movements of the past but are simply genuinely tired of Covid restrictions. At one point I saw a group of children with cute signs bearing the outline of a truck filled with lists of the things they’ve missed since 2020 – soccer, seeing my friends, smiling at my grandmother, choir practice. My heart sinks as I imagine what worldviews these kids are encountering at what may well be many of their first protest. I empathize so hard with their desire to engage in normal, playful, collective activity after two years of pretending to be satisfied with zoom calls, masked conversations and freezing-cold outdoor meetups. I hate that so much of the left acts as if these concerns are not even a thing, telling people that if they care at all about vulnerable, elderly and disabled people they must simply suck it up and get on with it. One sign reads “This is existence, I want to live.” Me too, man, 100%. If only it were true what the theorists of this movement say, that actually Covid is only a cold, the government has inflated the death toll and all we need to do to find an end to the pandemic is take the red pill, pull of our masks and dance in the streets again. If I squint really hard I can almost see what they’re seeing, they’ve been locked inside for so long and the truckers are the first with the courage to actually speak up and say enough is enough, we need to go out there. If it weren’t for the right-wing racists directing the movement, not to mention the millions of actual deaths due to Covid-19 that no amount of good vibes and lies will prevent, it would make a lot of sense.

In the afternoon we check out a counter-demonstration organized primarily, it seems, by residents of downtown Ottawa who are sick of noise, traffic, and acts of hateful speech, harassment and bullying on the part of some of the protestors. Countering the trucker protest before it becomes a full-blown neo-fascist revolutionary movement is so, so important but I honestly felt zero affinity with this counter-protest in particular. Most of the signs were either calling for more police, complaining about inconveniences like sound and traffic, or making fun of the demonstrators for being unvaccinated and/or stupid. “Honk if you failed civics,” “Self-driving trucks can’t spread covid,” “Ottawa police act now,” “Make Ottawa boring again.” A lady with a wordy sign about how vaccine mandates save lives mistakes me for a member of convoy protest and chastises me for apparently being illiterate, “Did it take you a few minutes to read that one, honey?” I have a graduate degree and no business being this personally offended but I feel a surge of rage at downtown liberal elites who think the problem is that these people just didn’t go to school long enough. We leave before it’s over, just as some of the protestors are engaged in a verbal standoff – antis chanting “Go home dipshits” while convoy protestors chant back “We still love you! Love! Love!” and the police form a stronger line between the two crowds.

I think the trucker convoy is a protest. I disagree with those who say it is a siege, an insurrection or any other overblown term, and think those ideas are coming mainly from Ottawans outraged that someone could be this loud and this annoying for this long. I would absolutely organize and participate in a demonstration exactly this loud and annoying if it were for a different cause organized by different people, so I don’t really see any merit in those concerns and definitely don’t think that being very noisy or very annoying somehow makes this more than a protest. There have always been liberals calling us terrorists too when we take up space, or claiming that our airhorns are weapons and they’re under attack by our refusal to leave. It is an “occupation,” in the sense that the Occupy Movement was an occupation, ie it seeks to take up space as a protest tactic and seeks to create a container for like-minded people to come together, encampment style. Like many protest movements there are revolutionary elements within it that would like to see it escalate into something much more. That could happen – it is a really big and successful protest and a lot of the people there seem very inspired and committed. But it hasn’t happened yet. It should be stopped before it does that, ideally by grassroots resistance and not by police repression.

I have a lot of disjointed thoughts about this and could probably write several long essays about it if I had the time and faith in my own understanding and authority to do so. For today I’m going to be content with sharing my experience and some broad themes of questioning that I’d like to follow up on, in no particular order:

(1) Freedom is a very real and very important goal, and Covid restrictions genuinely constrain people, often in ways that are genuinely unethical. I do not support vaccine mandates, even though I do support encouraging people to get vaccinated in other, less coercive ways. Unlike the right, we know that real freedom will only be attained collectively, that it isn’t about simple individual choice. Refusing to wear a mask when a friend or neighbour asks you to do so for their own health is a busted understanding of freedom. But I do think the world has become even less free since the pandemic, that governments have gained new kinds of powers and new forms of surveillance. In Canada I think they’re also enjoying a new level of deafeatism, pacification and obedience displayed by a large segment of the population who can’t imagine a solution to the problem of Covid-19 that is any more complex than simply doing whatever the government says to do and shaming anyone who doesn’t.

(2) People are always going to believe things that are false. Conspiracy theories are annoying as hell but they provide easy answers and are super compelling. Nobody is going to feel compelled by being called an idiot. We need better ways to counter misinformation than petty bullying and overstated blame.

(3) I have no doubt that if this protest became a revolutionary movement it would absolutely be a fascist one. The elements of it that want to depose the Prime Minister would install someone much, much worse. There is no hope for common cause with this thing but we need to find creative, probably new ways to counter it. It does not make sense to treat these protesters as potential comrades (at least as a group), but it will not work to treat them as we have treated known, overt neo-Nazis either. What are some ways we can counter this movement that go beyond (but might still include) shaming its potential recruits and threatening their events with physical violence?

(4) What is up with the police here, actually? On the one hand it’s true they have not tried much to remove the protestors (although it looks like this might change in the next few days), and the success and good vibes of the protest is in part the result of a near-total lack of repression, partly due to the whiteness and politics of the protestors. On the other, the Ottawa Police are probably not lying when they say they don’t have the training or resources to move this thing. It’s not because there are too many protestors, it’s because of their tactics, particularly the trucks. How is it possible that there is no plan to prevent the police from losing control of PARLIAMENT HILL this easily? What are the things we can learn from this and what new understandings of the Canadian state should this give us?

(5) What do we want to do about Covid now that is clear that vaccines are a tool and not an end? How will we cautiously resume riskier activities while still showing care, empathy and protection to those vulnerable to the virus? Anti-vaxxers are wrong about vaccines for sure but they are not the whole (or even the main) problem and we can not escape the fact that the virus is likely here to stay. If the virus never ends we will have to dance in the streets together one day again anyway. It does not make sense to tell everyone to simply endure a shittier life indefinitely. The freedom that many of the convoy people are talking about is a boring version of freedom because many of them do not care at all about people dying of Covid, but those of us who do care will still have to find ways to live.