No Illusions in Cops and Courts

No Platform for Fascists!

"If the enemy had known how weak we were, it would probably have reduced us to jelly....It would have crushed in blood the very beginning of our work."
—Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister

On June 11 an Anti-Racist Action (ARA) demonstration of 300 trashed the premises of the Heritage Front’s telephone hateline run by Gary Schipper. Schipper is the voice of the hateline which for years has incited and organized the activities of a gang of pathological racists in Toronto. In the past few weeks alone there have been three murderous attacks on Tamils by white supremacist skinheads in Toronto. One victim was killed, one is paralyzed and a third has been badly wounded. The message of the protesters was clear—it is time to stop Nazi hate propaganda and the murderous racist violence that comes with it.

The ARA demonstration was carefully planned and, considering the logistical problems involved, well executed. People on Schipper’s street applauded the anti-racists and some joined the crowd. The cops were furious. They had their horses and clubs all ready to attack the protesters in front of Ernst Zundel’s Nazi headquarters, but the demonstration never arrived. Now Metro police chief William McCormack has announced that the "major crimes unit" is going to be investigating the breaking of a few windows and the minor redecorating of Schipper’s den.

Later that evening Heritage Front fuehrer, Wolfgang Droege, led thirty bat-wielding Nazi goons in a midnight terror attack on anti-racists outside a bar on College Street. The anti-racists successfully defended themselves and a couple of Nazi thugs ended up wishing they had stayed home. When the cops arrived they arrested three fascists, including Droege, as well as one of the anti-racists.

Media Hacks Denounce Anti-Fascists

The accounts of the 11 June demo in the capitalist media were full of lies about the "frenzied crowd" that "horrified" Schipper’s "terrorized neighbours." The task of smearing the anti-racists has mainly been taken up by various liberal columnists who in the past have occasionally been critical of police violence against black youth, and so have some credibility with people who are not fond of Nazis. David Lewis Stein of the Toronto Star (18 June), who claims to have once been a leftist, wrote a nasty smear claiming that ARA intended to "provoke the police to attack." This is ridiculous—the police attacked the January 25 ARA demonstration without any provocation. Besides, on June 11, ARA went out of its way to avoid contact with the police.

Another liberal at the Star, Rosie DiManno, claimed that the demonstrators were a "cabal of thugs" and labelled them "stormtroopers of another philosophical bent." She moronically commented that they would be welcome in the Heritage Front itself if it was not for their ...anti-racism! Michael Hollett, a political eunuch who got rich publishing NOW, Toronto’s trendy entertainment weekly, wrote that the ARA-led attack on the hateline was "reminiscent of Nazi mobs destroying Jewish businesses." For Hollett, "the only hope" in overcoming fascism is through "validating love."

Ripples from June 11

After the attack on the hateline, the B’Nai Brith suddenly announced that it was launching a "Youth Alliance" to teach young people how to oppose fascism without rocking the boat. Maybe they will be giving lessons in how to conduct a prayer meeting or how to compose a letter to a parliamentary committee. The only thing announced so far is that they will be training people to screen out militant youth who want to do more than just flap their gums.

Over the past decade appeals to the courts to do something about Ernst Zundel and his Nazi cronies have only fuelled the fascists. The court cases gave Zundel and his buddy Jim Keegstra a platform to broadcast their racist filth in the national media. The whole strategy of using the "proper channels" to deal with the fascists has proven completely counterproductive.

While joining in the general bourgeois denunciation of ARA and its allies, the Zionist leadership pointedly complained that the failure of the cops and courts to do anything about the Nazi outrages was the root of the problem. In recent weeks, the cops have staged a highly publicized spate of arrests of fascists. The government has also announced plans for new legislation to clamp down on spreading hate over phone lines. It is pretty clear that this flurry of activity is aimed at undercutting a perceived groundswell of popular approval for militant action against racism.

Fascism, Cops and Capitalism

The police are riddled with racism from top to bottom. This is part of "police culture" in a racist society. Most cops are automatically hostile to leftists and broadly sympathetic to much of what the fascists have to say. But the problem is deeper than the mentality of the police—it is rooted in their duty to "serve and protect" the privileged few who run this society. Most of the rich and powerful don’t see the Heritage Front as a threat.

The people who own the banks and big corporations make the real decisions in capitalist society. All other things being equal, they prefer the system of electoral "democracy" because it is flexible, relatively efficient and has low overhead costs. But the form of political rule ("democracy" or dictatorship) is, for them, simply a matter of expediency. Fascism was good for the big German and Italian capitalists. It allowed them to crush the militant workers’ movement, slash wages and social benefits and suppress all organized resistance. Many of the rulers of the "democratic" powers at that time were openly sympathetic to the fascists. Winston Churchill was a very enthusiastic supporter of Mussolini. Canada refused to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi holocaust in the 1930s, but opened its arms to thousands of fascist criminals after World War II. This was no oversight—these "former" Nazis were considered as politically reliable elements in the Cold War.

ARA’s Political Contradictions

ARA militants have done some positive things in the last year. They have taken the lead in organizing against the fascists and have been smart enough to avoid confrontations with the police and keep the focus on the fascists. ARA actions have helped popularize the idea of actively confronting the racists and drawn dozens of youth into political activity. It is highly probable that some potential Heritage Front recruits have been scared off by the prospect of having to face determined opposition.

But ARA has also exhibited some serious political weaknesses, most of which can be traced to the contradictions of the anarchist political inclinations of the group’s leading elements. If these are not challenged and corrected, the limited successes scored to date could easily be negated. In the first place, the leadership of ARA (which for doctrinal reasons denies its own existence) moved to exclude members of organized left groups with the expulsion of the International Socialists at its 28 March meeting. There were various pretexts offered, but the real reason was that the core group wanted to establish a political monopoly for their own fuzzy version of anarcho-spontaneist politics within ARA.

ARA announced that it was a political group, not an alliance or a coalition, and that members of other groups were no longer welcome at its meetings. But one of the peculiarities of ARA as a group is that it hardly has any explicit politics. Perhaps the ARA ideologues think that keeping everything vague makes it easier to recruit new people. But even in the short run you cannot build an effective social movement without being able to provide answers to questions posed in the real world. Whose side should we take when Clinton bombs Iraq? What do we say about the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel? What attitude should we have to state censorship of pornography? ARA has no answers.

ARA leaders may scoff about such "abstract" or "irrelevant" questions, but the pitfalls of avoiding defining the politics of the group is evident in the functioning of the organization. ARA contains a profound contradiction between a radical impulse to smash fascists on the one hand and simple liberalism on the other. In the aftermath of the police attack on their 25 January demonstration, the ARA leadership refused to respond to the despicable attacks launched by the Canadian Jewish Congress on the grounds that it would be unseemly for a non-Jewish organization to criticize a Jewish one! One of the factors in the victory of the Hitlerites in Germany was that the Jewish community was led by people who pushed the same kind of passive legalism as the CJC. You don’t have to be Jewish to know that.

On 2 April an ARA march demanded that the ministry of education revoke the teaching license of Paul Fromm, a known fascist, and intervene to investigate other teachers for Nazi links. This may seem like a "practical" approach to the naive, but it is profoundly mistaken politically. We do not want to demand that the state investigate people for their political suitability—most of the victims of this would not be the fascists but their opponents. Reliance on the state to fight the Nazis can only sap the strength of the anti-fascist movement and legitimize the role of the state as the arbiter of what kinds of politics are "acceptable." The only approach that will work in the long run is mass action to crush the fascist organizations and drive their members out of the schools and the workplaces.

ARA’s political softness and disorientation was again on display at a public meeting at Harbourfront on 12 May when Droege and a bunch of his goons came in and virtually took it over. When leftists in the audience (including supporters of the Trotskyist League, Bolshevik Tendency and International Socialists) tried to shout down the Nazis, the cops moved to exclude the protesters. The ARA spokesperson did not object to this nor did she walk out with them, but stayed in her chair on stage and listened to the subsequent harangues of the Nazi thugs for the rest of the evening.

The flip side of this political passivity is a tendency toward sectarianism on the question of organizing actions against the Nazis with other forces. While ARA has co-sponsored demonstrations with the Black Action Defense Committee and the Jewish Feminist Anti-Fascist League, it has never seriously attempted to initiate actions with participation from the range of organizations that have signed the call for today’s rally. In particular, the anarchist hostility of the ARA leaders to the organized labor movement has meant that they have not made any serious attempts to win endorsements or participation from the unions. The upper layers of the union bureaucracy are mostly a bunch of pro-capitalist chairwarmers, but down toward the base there are quite a few people who understand that the fascists represent a cadre of ready-made strikebreakers and company goons. The participation of even a few union contingents could be critically important both in broadening the base of future events and in preventing the cops from isolating anti-fascist militants.

For Militant United Front Action!

ARA appears to think that the most effective way to fight the Heritage Front is to carry out actions which it controls tactically at every level. While the 11 June demonstration was a success, the only effective way to deal with the fascists in the long run is through tapping the reservoir of tens of thousands of people who could be mobilized against racist terror. And the best way to get a hearing from people outside ARA’s current orbit is through involving a broader range of organizations in the planning and conduct of the demonstrations.

At the moment it seems possible that there could be a cold split among anti-fascists between a more militant youth wing led by ARA types and a bigger, broader coalition hegemonized by professional misleaders who make a principle out of advocating cheek-turning as their only tactic. If those committed to serious struggle against the Nazis pursue a tactic of "going it alone," it would suit the cops just fine. They could run a witchhunt against ARA and other militants while the reformist windbags strike heroic poses at impotent gab fests. And of course this would leave Droege free to go about his business.

With the state contemplating repression against anti-fascist militants, it is important to remember that an injury to one is an injury to all. A vigorous political defense campaign on behalf of ARA members being prosecuted can provide an opportunity to expose the workings of the state apparatus and turn the tables on the cops and the Crown.

Keep the Nazis on the Run!

Any fascist activity is a provocation against the union movement, aboriginal people, immigrants, Jews, lesbians, gays, visible minorities and leftists. The question of when and how to move against the Nazis is simply one of the correlation of forces. In 1966 the fascists started to hold outdoor meetings in downtown Allen Gardens. The cops did nothing, nor did the courts. The various official community misleaders advised people to ignore them. So the meetings went on and even started to grow a little, until one day when 5,000 (largely Jewish) protesters turned up and dealt the Nazis a decisive and humiliating defeat. The public meetings stopped and fascist recruitment dried up. This was a victory for every decent person in Toronto and an example of how to handle fascists.

The Heritage Front today is a small and relatively unpopular group of losers and psychos. But they are dangerous and they have the potential to grow explosively. The current economic depression has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and is driving many to despair. Young white kids who are thrown on the scrap heap as soon as they leave high school can be fooled by Nazi lies that blame "welfare cheats" for the collapse of social services and foreign workers for the fact that there are no jobs. Fascism is a product of capitalist decay and therefore a successful struggle against it must be connected to a perspective of overturning this oppressive social system and replacing it by one in which human need, not corporate profit, determines social priorities.

The Nazis can be stopped! But to do so requires a strategy of building the broadest possible mobilizations to shut them down. There are a lot of people in this town with a vital interest in stopping the Nazis cold. There are lots of things that people may disagree about, but as long as there is a shared willingness to take a stand against the fascists there is a basis for unity in action.

Drop the Charges Against ARA Supporters!

For Militant United Front Action!

Smash the Heritage Front Nazis!

June 1993

Posted: 12 December 2004