Spartacist Canada No. 166
NDP, Fake Left Join Witchhunt of Black Bloc
Police State Crackdown in Toronto
During the June 25-27 protests against the G20 summit in Toronto, some 1,100 people were arrested—the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Inside the heavily fortified summit, Harper, Obama and other imperialist rulers plotted how best to police the imperialist order and shore up their crumbling economies on the backs of working people. Meanwhile, out on the streets, the cops ran amok, cracking heads and terrorizing protesters. For months, the Harper government, the cops and the media set the stage for this with predictions of anarchist “violence.” Nearly 20,000 cops occupied the city core in an unprecedented mobilization of state repression that cost more than $1 billion.
Backed by their political masters from Ottawa to Toronto’s city hall, the cops used minor property damage and a few burned-out police cars as the signal for a massive crackdown. Across the city, from Parkdale to the East End, left-wing activists were rounded up and those who protested the police violence and mayhem were themselves arrested. Riot police charged and arrested protesters in the so-called “free speech zone” in Queen’s Park. Hundreds of protesters and passersby were “kettled” in a downtown intersection, penned in by cops for hours in the driving rain.
Denouncing the manufactured furor over so-called “vandalism,” the Partisan Defense Committee, the legal defense organization associated with the Trotskyist League, issued a June 28 statement (reprinted on page 14), declaring:
“From the standpoint of the working class such actions are no crime! What is a smashed bank window compared to an imperialist system that condemns millions to death by starvation, disease and war?”
The cops’ barbaric treatment of those arrested perfectly mirrors the racism, chauvinist oppression and violence that are integral to capitalist society. Inside the mass detention centre on Eastern Avenue, minorities were subjected to racist abuse. Women, gays and lesbians were singled out for special humiliation, including sexual manhandling and threats of rape. Some protesters were repeatedly strip searched, denied access to toilets, water and adequate food. The disabled were brutalized and those with cop-inflicted injuries were denied medical care.
Reflecting the national oppression of the Québécois at the hands of the Canadian ruling class, protesters from Quebec—automatically deemed supporters of the anarchist Black Bloc—were singled out for arrest and vile Anglo-chauvinist abuse. Merely speaking French or having Quebec plates on your car made you a target. According to a Montreal law student, the cops who pulled him over stated: “We’re pulling people over from Quebec, we’re stopping people in cars and buses” (cbc.ca, 3 July). At least 50 Québécois were arrested in an early morning raid at the University of Toronto’s Graduate Students Union, where they were being billeted. So many Québécois were arrested that of the 450 who came to Toronto on the buses organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), only 125 made the return trip.
In the early hours of June 26, even before the main anti-G20 demonstration, cops barged into private homes at gunpoint, arresting as many as 23 left-wing activists from the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance (SOAR), No One Is Illegal and the Montreal-based CLAC. Seventeen protesters now face multiple “conspiracy” charges, which could bring heavy jail time.
Conspiracy charges are often wielded by the state to go after perceived opponents against whom there is no evidence. The capitalist rulers have a long history of using such frame-up prosecutions against the left and labour movement. The early trade unions in this country were outlawed as “criminal conspiracies.” In the 1930s, as the anarchy of production for profit led to mass unemployment, the capitalist rulers launched a ferocious campaign of anti-communist repression, charging members of the Communist Party with “seditious conspiracy.” Such charges criminalize political protest and are meant to intimidate and silence all those who would oppose the violence, poverty and exploitation that are endemic to the rule of capital. Drop all the charges against the G20 protesters now!
Public Inquiries and Cop Baiting
To quell the tide of anger over the cop crackdown and refurbish the image of the cops, various politicians and bourgeois liberals have called for a “public inquiry” into the police violence, a demand eagerly embraced by the reformist left. And multiple inquiries have indeed been announced. In promoting such inquiries, these leftists propagate a dangerous myth that the capitalist state and its cops can be reformed to serve the interests of the oppressed.
The cops, along with the prisons, courts and military, make up the core of the capitalist state, an instrument of organized violence used to maintain the rule of the capitalists against the working class. When the police kill and brutalize immigrants and Natives, repress leftists, attack picket lines or student protesters, this flows directly from the fact that they serve but one master, the capitalist class. Their job is to protect the profit system that creates unemployment, poverty and oppression. No amount of parliamentary claptrap, “inquiries” or appeals to “justice” will reform the capitalist state. It must be overthrown by a class-conscious working class in a socialist revolution and replaced by a workers state. The June events in Toronto amply demonstrate the truth of the statement by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1848 Communist Manifesto that “The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
From the Harper government to Toronto’s social-democratic mayor David Miller and much of the left, a furious outcry went up against the supposed “violence” of the anarchists. Grotesquely, feminist blowhard Judy Rebick told a CP24 newsman on June 27 that there should have been more cop repression and pre-emptive arrests. “What they could have done,” Rebick railed, “is arrest the Black Bloc at the beginning before they had a chance to be part of a bigger crowd and that’s what they didn’t do.” Rad-lib media darling Naomi Klein echoed this with her call on the cops to “do your goddamn job.”
The NDP’s Jack Layton and the bureaucrats of the Canadian Labour Congress and Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) spoke as one in denouncing “violence” by the protesters. A statement by OFL president Sid Ryan bragged that the labour tops “liaised with the Toronto Police and cooperated at every turn” during the large June 26 protest which they sponsored, and added: “Shamefully, a small number of hooligans used the cloak of our peaceful and lawful demonstration to commit petty acts of vandalism in the streets of Toronto.” This snivelling loyalty to bourgeois “order” is the labour tops’ guarantee that they will contain workers’ struggles within the bounds of capitalist legality.
The Communist Party (CP), Socialist Action (SA), Fightback and the International Socialists (I.S.) all rushed to join the denunciations of the anarchists. The CP ranted that SOAR and the Black Bloc were “playing into the hands of state repression” and demanded that they be “publicly repudiated and condemned” (People’s Voice, 1-31 August). Blaming the protesters for causing the cop violence, SA claimed that the “Bloc-istas also gave the cops ammunition to brutalize and jail over 900 innocents” (“Summits of Deceit and Repression,” undated leaflet). I.S. leader Ritch Whyman condemned the Black Bloc who, he said, “utilize the larger rally and split marches to launch attacks on property and the police” (socialistproject.ca, 3 July). The idea that the cops needed the excuse of the Black Bloc to round up hundreds of protesters is simply fatuous. The cops have never needed an excuse for their repression!
The Fightback group, deeply buried in the NDP, was even more virulent in its attacks on the Black Bloc. A June 30 public meeting on the G20 events run by this group featured speakers who actually praised the cops! One of them, United Steelworkers leader and Ontario NDP vice-president Mike Seaward, declared that “most of the day the police acted rationally—they were good.” Meanwhile, a Fightback leaflet for the meeting ranted that “the Black Bloc are not part of our movement and there is no difference between them and police provocateurs.”
That the police insinuate provocateurs into the workers movement and left-wing protests is a given for anyone familiar with the workings of the capitalist state. But in the mouths of these reformists, denunciations of “provocateurs” are a cover for refusing to defend leftists facing state repression.
All of these misnamed “socialists” stand indicted as reformists committed to the rule of capital, their program and actions completely defined by the framework of bourgeois society. Such a policy was sharply characterized by Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the October 1917 Revolution, as “the actual training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state” (The Lessons of October, 1924). In this, their forebears are the social democrats who united with the imperialists to oppose the October Revolution; who in Germany ordered the Freikorps murders of heroic revolutionaries Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.
Smearing the victims of police state violence is in perfect harmony with Fightback’s long-held position that cops are “workers in uniform.” For these pseudo-Marxists, the Black Bloc are not part of their “movement,” but the cops are! Speaking during the discussion period at Fightback’s public meeting, a TL comrade declared:
“What we saw in the streets this past weekend proves that the capitalist state—the cops, the courts and the army—is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie….
“Fightback’s attack on the Black Bloc protesters and practitioners is their calling card to respectability…. And what of their notorious assertion that cops are ‘workers in uniform’? Go tell that to the people in the street! Go tell that to your friend who got kicked in the face!
“Now, we of the Trotskyist League have a different idea. We understand, we have a program for workers revolution against capitalism. We have a statement of defense here with us tonight that calls to defend all the protesters.”
A Long and Dirty History of State Repression
From the mass internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II to more than a century of cop provocations and frame-ups against communists and trade unionists, the Canadian capitalist class has never hesitated to wield the full force of state power against its targets. For sheer numbers arrested, the police-state roundups in Toronto exceeded even the mass roundups in Quebec in October 1970. Then, Liberal prime minister Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act after the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte by the left-nationalist Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). Armoured cars rolled into Montreal as fully armed troopers in battle dress guarded public buildings. Over 450 labour leaders, Quebec nationalists and leftists were rounded up and held incommunicado without charges, as all civil liberties were suspended.
We Trotskyists sharply disagreed with the political program and tactics of the FLQ, but their targets in October 1970 were symbols of imperialist oppression and capitalist rule. We demanded that those imprisoned for the Cross/Laporte kidnappings and the later killing of Laporte be freed. Just as the reformist left today proves its loyalty to the bourgeois state by denouncing the Black Bloc, so ostensible “radicals” dropped defense of the FLQ like a hot potato as they swam with the rightward political tide of the late 1970s.
The repression of October 1970 was a warning to the Québécois that any threat of separation would be met with the full military force of the Canadian state. Today the oppressed nation of Quebec remains forcibly subjugated in a unitary Canadian state dominated by Anglo chauvinism. We call for Quebec independence in order to remove the roadblock of national antagonisms that divide the workers of English Canada and Quebec, poisoning prospects for united class struggle against capitalism. First and foremost, we fight against the Maple Leaf chauvinism that dominates in the English Canadian working class. At the same time, calling for independence helps combat nationalism in Quebec by giving Marxists a hearing to win Québécois workers away from their nationalist misleaders.
Consistent with their social-democratic pro-NDP politics, reformist groups like the CP and Fightback oppose Quebec independence (see, for example, “‘Fightback’ and the Quebec National Question,” SC No. 162, Fall 2009). Craven loyalty to the capitalist state is the iron logic connecting their defense of “Canadian unity” to their cop-baiting refusal to extend any solidarity to the Black Bloc anarchists.
The present witchhunt of the Black Bloc by the leftist lackeys of the capitalist state conforms to a pattern that goes back to at least the Genoa anti-G8 protests in 2001, when the Italian police killed leftist protester Carlo Giuliani. In Genoa and many times since, the imperialist rulers have been assisted in their dirty work by the reformist “left,” which has joined the chorus apologizing for brutal state repression of the anarchists.
The International Communist League is forthright in our defense of the Black Bloc anarchists, but sharply critical of their politics. Anarchists hate the dictatorship of the proletariat—past, present and future. Their visceral anti-communism leads them to reject the lessons of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the world’s first and only successful workers revolution. We Trotskyists unconditionally militarily defended the Soviet Union, a bureaucratically degenerated workers state, against capitalist counterrevolution and fought for proletarian political revolution against the ruling Stalinist bureaucratic caste. In contrast, the political current of anarchism backed the counterrevolutions of the early 1990s in the Soviet Union and East Europe. Capitalist restoration has been a colossal defeat for the working classes of these countries and internationally, and has emboldened the imperialists in their attacks on workers and the oppressed.
At bottom, anarchism is a form of radical democratic idealism which appeals to the alleged innate goodness of even the most rapacious imperialists to serve humanity. The anarchist perspective of “propaganda of the deed” by small groups of individuals is counterposed to the Marxist fight to mobilize the social power of a class-conscious proletariat to sweep away the capitalist order.
Historically, anarchism has proven to be a class-collaborationist obstacle to the liberation of the oppressed. Uniting with the counterrevolutionary White armies, some anarchists hailed and even participated in the Kronstadt uprising against the Russian Revolution, and Kronstadt remains an anti-communist touchstone for anarchists today. During the Spanish Civil War, anarchists became ministers in the popular-front government which disarmed and repressed the armed workers’ struggle against capitalism, opening the road to decades of Franco’s dictatorship. (For more, see Marxism vs. Anarchism, Spartacist Pamphlet, 2001.)
Successful struggle against capitalist rule and the system of imperialist subjugation must mobilize the social power of the working class on an internationalist program. Rejecting this Marxist perspective, the reformist left ties working people to their capitalist exploiters centrally through support to the NDP. The Trotskyist League fights to build a revolutionary workers party through political struggle against the NDP social democrats and their left tails. Taking up the cause of all the oppressed, such a party would give conscious leadership to the struggles of the workers not only to improve their present conditions but to do away with the entire system of capitalist wage slavery.
“Unity” with the oppressors, or with their social-democratic political agents, is the road to defeat. The only way to smash the all-sided assault on social programs, to assure free quality medical care, childcare and jobs and decent living standards for all, to end the neocolonial pillage of the Third World, is by ripping the productive forces from the hands of the capitalist class through socialist revolution and putting them in the hands of those whose labour makes society run.