As antifascist and anti-racist militants, some of whom have been active for decades in the struggle against the far right in Montréal, in Québec, and elsewhere in Canada, we wish to absolutely disassociate ourselves from the recent statements made in the media by Maxime Fiset, spokesman for the Centre de prévention de la radicalisation menant à la violence (CPRMV), as well as from the overall position he has staked out.
We are well aware of the mainstream media’s taste for simplistic narratives, and of their particular attachment to recognized specialists (always the same ones), who are called upon give their stamp of approval to these one-sided fables. But the issue we are addressing is too important for us to allow the media and its alleged experts the leeway to peddle in falsehoods at the service of a simplistic and counterproductive doctrine that we do not and never will share.
It is worth noting that Monsieur Fiset was an active member of the fascist network, both as a founding member of the Fédération des Québécois de souche and as the local moderator of the white supremacist Stormfront forum, when some of us were quite literally fighting with his little neo-Nazi friends in the streets of our city, and even getting knifed by them is Québec City.
While we have no specific reason to doubt the authenticity of his ideological recantation, you can nonetheless understand the discomfort some of us feel seeing him jump up to speakon our behalf whenever the opportunity arises.
While Monsieur Fiset was once a committed neo-Nazi, his current discourse would be better described as “extreme centrist,” rather than leftist. He sees himself floating above the melee and imagines a certain symmetry between the far right and the far left, even going as far as to minimize the danger of violence posed by the far right compared to the far left. His discourse shares nothing with the political positions held by the greater part of the anti-racist and antifascist opposition, which both historically was and currently is communist, anarchist, and explicitly radical.
The State Anti-racists Have the Left in Their Sights
This isn’t a contradiction that should shock anyone; Fiset has never hidden the fact that he is effectively acting as a representative of a para-police organization, le Centre de prévention de la radicalisation menant à la violence (CPRMV). The government formed the CPRMV in 2015 to counter “radicalisation”among a handful of young Muslims attending certain Montreal CEGEPS.
Fiset has clarified that the CPRMV conducts research in four areas: the right, the left, religious activists, and individuals who radicalize around a personal vendetta. Let’s be perfectly clear: the left (particularly the far left) are not allies of the CPRMV; we are one of its targets.
The CPRMV defines “violent radicalisation” as necessarily involving the intention to use or promote violence in a way that threatens the “social well-being.” It is a given that the application of this formula depends on the ideological criteria of those applying it. It’s also based on a perspective that entirely overlooks the radicalization and militarization of states, as if the state was a neutral body that inevitably provided society’s political ballast. In addition, the CPRMV includes within its purview groups that don’t even fit into its already fuzzy categorization, but which could serve as “incubators” for individuals or sectors that might radicalize in the future. So, what we’re talking about is an extremely broad area of research.
Organizations like the CPRMV are predictable parts of the landscape for those involved in the antifascist struggle. Anti-fascism isn’t simply a struggle between two adversaries: us against the Nazis. It’s a three-way fight, with us not only in a battle with the far right but also against state and para-state organizations, which are just as hostile (if not more so) to the radical left as they are to the far right. Generally speaking, these state and para-state entities have a privileged relationship with the media and with other state bodies, as well as generous funding, all of which allows them to take up a great deal of space in the debate about the far right.
Given that radical antifascists have their historic roots in the revolutionary left, the actions of the state antifascists present us with challenges and with risks. With the resources at their disposal, these groups often release information on the far right that is useful to us. For example, groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S.remain key sources of information on far-right individuals and organizations. Even when those close to us produce reports on our far-right adversaries, they frequently (but not always) rely on dossiers released by these para-state entities. However, we want to avoid increasing the profile of these groups, because it is more than likely that they will eventually use their position not only to undermine our efforts but also to aid in the repression of radical antifascists and their allies.
The nature of their contribution to this repression takes a number of forms: conflating the far left and the far right; treating oppressive violence and violence against oppression as equivalent; calling for more far-reaching repressive state powers. Of course, these organizations often include well-intentioned people who under different circumstances could be doing valuable work.
But these groups can also act forcibly against us. The best known example is the Anti-Defamation League, which during the eighties went as far as engaging in espionage operations with the South African apartheid regime to collect information on dozens of far-left and anti-imperialist organizations. In some cases, ADL spies even worked to nurture links between neo-Nazis and pro-Palestinian organizations, to open the way for a subsequent hue and cry about the pro-Palestinian groups’ “anti-Semitism.”A scandal exploded when this operation was uncovered in 1993, and after several years in court the ADL was obliged to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the militants it had targeted. It’s impossible to know whether the ADL has ever again sunk to this level again since this ignominious episode.
Closer to home, the so-called Ligue antifasciste mondiale (LAM) was active in Montreal during the nineties. The product of street fighting with neo-Nazi boneheads but under growing police pressure, LAM turned primarily to gathering information and specializing in statements to the media. One of LAM’s key priorities was to criticize other antifascist organizations, particularly the Centre canadien sur le racisme et les préjugés. In 1993, when the largest antifascist demonstrations in Montreal in many years were organized against the presence of representatives of Toronto’s neo-Nazi Heritage Front and France’s Front National, LAM acted primarily to sabotage the militant mobilizations. They even went as far as denouncing the anarchists behind the magazine Démanarchie to the police, and then publicly in the media following the Saint-Jean riots in Quebec City, in 1996. Shorty thereafter, it was learned that LAM had been sharing information on the left with the police for years.
We note with some amusement that LAM always worked very closely with Yves Claudé, alias Yves Alix, a “researcher” who has gravitated from the left to the far right over the years. We still have no idea who Claudé actually works for, but he “conducts research”and takes photos of both friends and enemies wherever he goes. His recent “exposé”on antiracists in the pages of l’Aut’journal is little more than a phantasmagorical updating of the sort of disinformation that he has been producing for twenty years now.
The preferred practice of the state antifascist organizations is to play the good cop, to be invited into our spaces, to have a role in our networks, to play the “critical ally” card, all to better understand us and eventually target and effectively destabilize us at the opportune time. How else is one to understand the actions and statements of Monsieur Fiset and the CPRMV?
Maxime Fiset and the CPMVR Actively Undermine the Antifascist Struggle
Until very recently, Monsieur Fiset’s omnipresence was just one more aggravation in the sociopolitical and media landscape. In a recent interview with the community newspaper Droit de parole, he went beyond what common decency permits by describing a group active in the Montreal antifascist scene in hostile and condescending terms, which, as well as fueling discord and providing grist for the police and far-right mills, exposes yet more of our comrades to repression and reprisals.
Last August 20, Monsieur Fiset was everywhere in the media declaring La Meute victorious, following a showdown in Québec City where La Meute was trapped in an underground parking garage for five hours, encircled by hundreds of anti-racists and antifascists. What leap of logic allows him to portray La Meute as victorious in this humiliating situation? To conclude that a group of antifascists who tipped over some dumpsters, threw a few lawn chairs and some other projectiles in the direction of the police, and physically attacked people identified with the ultra-nationalist movement de facto “lost the public relations battle,” on the one hand, de-legitimizes the greater anti-racist mobilization and, on the other, legitimizes La Meute’s anti-racist discourse. (He repeated himself recently, telling Al Jazeera that the far right was currently enjoying a “growing legitimacy.’) The flaws in his reasoning are obvious, and they serve to indicate the major chasm between Monsieur Fiset’s political understanding and that of the majority of the militant antifascist movement.
Monsieur Fiset is dogmatically attached to so-called “nonviolence,”while the international antifascist movement, from its earliest days in the 1920s until now, adheres to a diversity of tactics, including (but not limited to) the use of violence against organized far-right, fascist, and ultra-nationalist currents. The antifascist movement’s goal is to halt the fascist drift by any means necessary. (On this subject, we strongly recommend that Monsieur Fiset read Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which could only help to illuminate some of the blind spots in his analysis.)
As Peter Gelderloos wrote in his indispensable book How Nonviolence Protects the State:
We believe that tactics should be chosen to fit the particular situation, not drawn from a preconceived moral code. We also tend to believe that means are reflected in the ends, and would not want to act in a way that invariably would lead to dictatorship or some other form of society that does not respect life and freedom. As such, we can more accurately be described as proponents of revolutionary or militant activism than as proponents of violence.
As antifascists and anti-racists, we are neither intrinsically for nor against violence. That said, we do support direct action and the strategic use of a broad range of tactical approaches. We are politically “radical” (in the etymological sense of the word, i.e., we want to attack the root—radix—of the problem), which isn’t something we try to hide, and we believe that violence is sometimes necessary to counter the far right and reverse the fascist drift. We don’t accept the authority of the state, and we oppose police repression on the part of a state that establishes socioeconomic conditions that favor the emergence of the far right, and then protects that “right” when it marches in the streets and diffuses its toxic ideology.
This “radical” position of simultaneously opposing the far right and the state makes perfectly clear our differences with Monsieur Fiset, his centre, and his moralizing liberal position. We have never heard Monsieur Fiset comment on police violence and abuse in either Quebec City or Montreal.We have never heard him denounce the state’s excessive physical, economic, and symbolic violence or its armed wing that cultivates the terrain on which the far right sprouts.
The moralizing pacifism of people like Monsieur Fiset is part of an ideological hegemony that serves the state and its repression to the detriment of social movements. We believe that the rise of the far right and increasing police repression of any and all expressions of opposition calls for an equivalent increase in resistance.
Numerous tactics working in concert as part of a common strategy is what we will need when the time comes. There have certainly been excesses open to debate, and we haven’t failed to critically address them (including Quebec City on August 20, 2017). That said, it is not the violence as such that needs to be criticized but its unproductive and nonstrategic use in particular circumstances that must be challenged when necessary.
To sum up, we don’t accept Monsieur Fiset speaking to the media in our name, nor for that matter in the name of all anti-racists in general or as a spokesperson for the anti-racist struggle. For us, Maxime Fiset is an impostor. He only represents himself and his centre, which at the end of the day makes him a mouthpiece for the liberal state we are resisting at the same time we fight the fascist scum in the streets.