… originally published in Arm The Spirit, No. 16, Fall 1993 … republished in Anti-Fa Forum in 1996 … … “documenting the anti-fascist struggle in Toronto a year on from 1992 when Anti-Racist Action was formed to combat a resurgence of fascist growth and activity. As timely as it was then, the document still speaks to the need for building and developing anti-fascist strategies which will adapt to changing circumstances and struggle against fascism ideologically as well as physically” …
On The Prowl – Notes On Anti-Racist Action And Developing Anti-Fascist Strategies In Toronto
The growth of the far right in Toronto is not an new phenomenon. The Heritage Front is not the first Toronto-based fascist group but the most recent example of a movement which dates back to the 1930s: when the Canadian Nazi Party ran candidates in Toronto; when the Balmy Beach Club in the east end of the city was renamed the Swastika Club; when nazi thugs attacked Jewish youth at Christie Pits Park near downtown, youth who defended themselves and their community by physically trouncing the nazi mob. Even the nazis of the 1930s cannot be isolated from the history of racism in Canada – from the genocidal policies used against the First Nations to the history of violent racism directed against the African and Asian communities.
This ongoing legacy of racism provides the fertile grounds for the growth of groups like the Heritage Front and Church of the Creator today. It’s the historical context of racism which makes some white people vulnerable to these hateful organizations, and the strong links between groups in Canada, the U.S., Europe and South Africa make the white supremacist movement dangerous to us all.
It is often tempting to ignore neo-nazi organizing and violence. It is sometimes easier to see them as misfits or isolated extremists rather than face the larger problems of widespread racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in society. But the first step
to confronting hate violence is understanding how racism and prejudice has played a crucial role in the history of Canada, and how the struggles against it – from the time of Columbus to today – must inform and shape both our anti-racist analysis and activism.
Who Are The People In Your Neighbourhood?
Many of us in Ontario see neo-nazi, Ku Klux Klan and other far right organizing as something that happens in the U.S.; or in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Quebec – yet southwestern Ontario is the most active area of organized white supremacy in Canada. The region is perhaps the organizational centre for the Canadian far-right.
The leadership of the local neo-nazi movement is very experienced, many of them having worked with Toronto racist organizations since the 1970s and 1980s. Some have travelled internationally to meet and work with their European and U.S. counterparts. Many have done prison time for “the cause”.
The main public figure in Toronto is Wolfgang Droege. Droege has been active in the Canadian far right since the 1970s when he worked in both the Toronto based Western Guard and later with the Canadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, where he rose to become the number two man in the national organization. Droege is a friend and “racial comrade” of both David Duke, the former KKK leader turned racist politician and U.S. Presidential candidate, and Tom Metzger, leader of the violent California-based White Aryan Resistance (WAR).
The Heritage Front was founded in 1988 when Droege and other white supremacists left the racist Nationalist Party of Canada. The Front bases itself on the National Association for the Advancement of White People, the organization formed by David Duke after leaving the Klan. The NAAWP presented itself not as a white supremacist organization but as a “white separatist” group concerned with “equal rights for whites”.
“Equal rights for whites” has become a popular slogan used by the right to justify attacks on the traditional targets of white supremacy. Under this banner, groups such as the Heritage Front denounce women’s rights, non-white immigration, lesbian & gay rights, Native land rights and educational curriculum which stresses anti-racism or tells the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust – all of which in their minds adds up to a conspiracy to destroy the white race. Like the NAAWP, the Front hides the blatantly racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of the past behind rants against immigration laws, crime, lesbian & gay rights, affirmative action, perceived attacks on (their) free speech, anti-racists, etc. in hopes of appealing to existing prejudices in white Canadian society.
The Heritage Front runs a telephone hateline which is used to broadcast verbal attacks against the communities which don’t fit into their world vision – communities which in represent just about all of us. It also plays an essential role in recruitment as the initial public contact point for unaffiliated racists and fascists in the region. The Heritage Front also publish a monthly magazine called Upfront which carries articles by both Front members and fascist organizations in the U.S. and Europe. It even boasts a regular column by David Duke. The Front holds several secret rallies a year often featuring prominent KKK and neo-Nazi leaders and Holocaust deniers from the U.S. and Europe. (The meetings are not advertised for fear of a massive anti-racist response, such as that organized by ARA in November 1992 which shut down a HF gathering.)
Despite their claims of merely seeking “free speech” and “open debate”, the Heritage Front has time and time again revealed its true violent nature. In June 1993, three Front members, including Droege and his henchman Pete Mitrevski, were arrested on assault and weapons charges following an attempted assault of anti-racists. (An attempt which sent several fascists to hospital.) The other Front member arrested, Chris Newhook, ha already been convicted and is now serving a 12 month sentence. Another Front diehard, Elisse Hategan, is facing charges of distributing hate material targeting the Black community.
Droege himself has already done prison time in the U.S. for his racist activities, including three years for his part in an attempted neo-nazi armed invasion of the island of Dominica, which was intended to establish a base for the international fascist movement. One of Droege’s responsibilities after the invasion was to have been running a cocaine processing plant.
The flip side to the Heritage Front’s “soft” image is the Church of the Creator (COTC), perhaps the most violent neo-Nazi organization in North America. The COTC has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Africa and is known for paramilitary
training and using violent attacks as part of its efforts to make the earth a “whites-only” planet.
The “church” part of the organization is based upon the teachings of the millionaire racist and one time Ontario-resident, Ben Klassen (who took the Hitler-thing full circle in August 1993 by committing suicide). Klassen wrote the “White Man’s Bible” which serves as the ideological/”spiritual” basis for COTC. It provides a “religious” excuse for their violence and hatred by teaching that white people alone are made in the image of god and that all other races (or “mud races” as they call them) are inferior.
The Toronto COTC is the organization’s main representative in Canada and among the most important chapters internationally. COTC people from the Toronto/Hamilton area have played major roles in the international leadership and the most popular COTC rock band, RaHoWa (short for Racial Holy War), is based here. RaHoWa and other COTC bands are crucial in fundraising for their violent racist activities and in recruiting young people and skinheads as storm troopers. The concerts pump up the bonehead fans with violent hatred and “sieg heils”, often resulting in assaults on the public after the shows let out. In June 1993, Heritage Front skinhead Jason Hoolans brutally assaulted a Tamil man after a RaHoWa gig, leaving the man partially paralysed.
Local COTC boss and RaHoWa “singer” George Burdi (aka Rev. Eric Hawthorne) recently helped found a Detroit-based record label called Resistance Records to make and distribute neo-Nazi recordings across North America and Europe. The label’s first release is a RaHoWa compact disc entitled “Declaration of War”.
The Toronto COTC also boasts a Security Legion (or “White Berets”), a group of skinheads who train in martial arts and weapons and provide security for many neo-nazi events in the city. Toronto media recently identified Eric Fischer, a former sergeant in the Canadian Airborne Regiment, as the leader and trainer of the Security Legion. Eric, along with his brother and fellow Security Legions member, Elkar (another Airborne veteran), were arrested during the summer of 1993 with a third COTC bonehead for kidnapping a Heritage Front member, assaulting him, and threatening to kill him by injecting him with window cleaner. Another Security Legions member, Richard Manley, was recently sentenced to nine months in prison for illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. (He’s another Airborne veteran… coincidence???)
The fact that the HF and COTC apparently use different methods does not reflect a split but an attempt to build a broad racist front attracting all manner of potential recruits, from older bigots to younger militants. Not only do Burdi and Droege associate openly, but Burdi is often a prominent figure at Heritage Front rallies, where he either speaks or performs with his band. In April 1993, Burdi appeared with Droege at an Ottawa press conference announcing the launch of the Heritage Front’s Ottawa chapter. It’s
apparent that Burdi (who was arrested for the May 1993 assault of an Ottawa anti-racist) is effectively the number two man in the HF.
The Heritage Front also acts as a front for the movement. As a public organization, unlike the secretive COTC, the Heritage Front is a contact point for newly initiated racists and fascists who can later be directed towards more violent groups.
The primary recruiting ground for both these organizations is young white people. It is from these ranks that the fascists, as they have done in Europe, hope to draw their stormtroopers. In this effort, local high schools have become one of the major political battle grounds of the 1990s.
On The Prowl
Anti-Racist Action (ARA) formed in the Fall of 1992 to organize a street level presence to oppose the growth of the fascist movement in Toronto. The primary impetus came from young people, many of them high school students. Their main objectives were to oppose the neo-nazi presence in both the political and social arenas. The former was to take place in the high schools, where the Heritage Front were and are actively recruiting young people. The latter was to confront them in clubs, bars and other social arenas where skinheads and neo-nazi bands were beginning to build a presence and to physically attack people of colour, anti- racists and punks.
While the focus was clearly on youth organizing, ARA also set about to explore new and creative methods of organizing and to expand the boundaries of the traditional forms of protest in Toronto. The young activists saw the need to challenge what they saw as depressing, disempowering, and ultimately ineffective modes of protest which the left has fallen into. ARA aimed to move away from boring pickets in front of faceless buildings and instead build a militant street level movement to fight grassroots fascism
which would at the same time work in coalition with other groups around broader issues.
Along with the critique of the mobilization strategies of the left, ARA also incorporates an inherent challenge to traditional political dogmas. Distrust of old-style ideological restrictions led to the creation of a political perspective which, in essence, borrows from the best of many traditions. Elements from anarchism, marxism, the German Autonomen, First Nations organizing, and popular culture are synthesized within ARA to create a political perspective which speaks to the people involved and allows the group to look beyond the constraints of any one tradition to attempt to create a new way of working politically.
A central element to the overall ARA approach is the cultivation of an anti-racist/anti-fascist counterculture. This has proceeded primarily through the organizing of regular Rock Against Racism concerts and also weekend parties, as well as the creation of an ARA “style”. The group also actively circulates buttons and T-shirts [the group’s motto is “On The Prowl” and their logo is a tiger leaping on a swastika]. ARA has recognized that one of the main attractions which the nazis have for young people is the sense of both rebelliousness and community which such organizations provide. The nazis certainly recognize this dynamic, which is why they have put so much effort into developing neo-nazi bands as recruiting instruments. ARA realizes that if it is to be effective politically, it also has to be “hip”.
Few young people are attracted to fascist organizations on the basis of ideology alone. Most are attracted to the cultural scene first, through the music, parties, or friends and only later drawn into the movement and its ideas. Rather than ignore this reality, ARA has actively sought to promote a compelling, vibrant, and fun culture of resistance to attract young people and provide an alternative to the nazis. At the same time, the providing of an active social element to a political organization helps not only to keep activists and others interested but also provides a forum for people to build up the friendship and trust necessary for effective political work.
ARA demonstrations have been more militant and confrontational than has traditionally been the case in Toronto. The events have consistently drawn large numbers and their atmosphere of anger and a willingness to meet the fascists face-to-face have both intimidated the neo-nazis while attracting the attention of the police and the press.
For example, a large and determined demonstration in November 1992 outside a “secret” Heritage Front meeting at the Roma Restaurant caused the police to shut the meeting down. Angry Nazis were forced to flee under police protection while at the same time trying to avoid the hail of eggs thrown at them by the demonstrators.
A January 25, 1993 demonstration called outside a Toronto courthouse was to be a pivotal moment in shaping the organization. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been in the process of hearing a complaint brought by the Native Canadian Centre of
Toronto against the Front’s telephone hotline. An announced fascist march on the courthouse in support of the Heritage Front was met by an ARA demonstration of over 500 people who blocked the main doors to the building.
Rather than take the small contingent of nazis into the courthouse through the back door, the police instead chose to charge the anti-racists from two sides. Mounted police rode into the front line of the demonstration, trampling people and whacking them with riding crops, while officers on foot rushed into one side, kicking and punching anti-racists as they did so. The “reason” for the attack was to move the ARA demonstration to allow the nazis to walk past and into the front doors of the court. Several demonstrators required brief hospitalization.
During the media circus which followed, both Police Chief William McCormack and Metro Police Services Board chair Susan Eng admitted in the press that the reason the nazis were not taken in through one of the four alternative entrances was because Droege demanded to be taken in the main doors (which raises the question of who is actually giving the order for police to attack anti- racists?).
Inside the courtroom itself, police continued their attacks by assaulting members of the American Indian Movement who were acting as security for Native Centre representative, Rodney Bobiwash. AIM members were thrown to the floor by police and handcuffed after they intervened to protect Bobiwash from an assault by Heritage Front supporters. After the demonstration, two ARA members were arrested on their way home on bogus charges of assaulting police, one for allegedly throwing an egg the other for spitting. (The two anti-fascists, one of whom was a minor at the time of the incident, were eventually convicted of lesser charges and received probation).
The persons targeted for arrest are significant. Both were on the front line of the demonstration and played active roles in repelling the horse charge, and one was also the final public ARA speaker at the demonstration dispersal point.
Despite the police attack and the arrests, most saw the demonstration as a huge success. Not only did anti-racists outnumber the nazis by more than ten to one, but the attack clearly revealed on which side the police stood. The aftermath of the 25th also revealed on which side other anti-racist organizations fall in a crisis.
On January 27th, both the Human Rights League of B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress denounced the demonstration in the media. Karen Mock, national spokesperson for B’nai Brith, accused ARA of “jumping on a bandwagon and using this high profile anti-racist initiative to attempt to create disorder and take the law in their own hands.”
Gerda Frieberg of the CJC stated that “The Canadian Jewish Congress does not support these kind of actions.” It was clear to some that the self-serving media ploy by B’nai Brith and CJC was intended more to solidify and justify their own close working relationships with police rather than advance the anti-racist movement. Indeed, recent revelations in the U.S. of Anti-Defamation League (B’nai Brith’s U.S. counterpart) collaboration with the San Francisco Police Department in spying on progressive and leftist organizations should certainly make committed anti-racists in Toronto wary of that organization’s true political goals.
The denunciation by these organizations was also significant in that it played directly to the police and media propaganda line of separating “legitimate” anti-racist groups from “illegitimate” ones, thereby hoping to criminalize ARA and justify unprovoked police violence against the demonstration. However, much of that attempt was derailed in the community, if not in the press itself, by the fact that such “legitimate” groups as the Native Canadian Centre and the Montreal-based Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice (as well as representatives from the Black community, women’s movement, and labour movement) supported ARA completely and publicly denounced the police’s actions.
Although ARA continued to organize actions following the January 25th police attack, including demonstrations against local school teacher Paul Fromm, who has been active in the Toronto Far Right for the past 25 years, the next major event did not occur until June 11th.
Behind The Front
While the Heritage Front and the Church of the Creator maintain publicly that they are not violent groups but are merely interested in open debate on the issues, their behaviour to date quite the opposite. In response to community action on many levels against the HF and COTC, the nazis have slowly been waging an escalating terror campaign against anti-racists. This campaign has primarily manifested itself in patterns of harassment and intimidation, but has recently moved into violent physical attacks.
The campaign began in the fall of 1992. On the night of November 28th, nazis painted swastikas outside several prominent anti-racist targets in Toronto including the Native Canadian Centre and a socialist bookstore. Other targets hit at that same time which were not mentioned in media reports were KYTES, a community theatre an employment centre in Kensington Market which at that time was serving as ARA’s regular meeting place, as well as the home of an ARA member.
This was followed quite quickly by a campaign of harassing and later threatening phone calls to some ARA members. While several people received calls, the fascists chose to concentrate their efforts against women. This targeting of women has been their pattern since that time, an obvious reflection of their inherent misogyny. While men have received calls, the harassment for the most part has not been of the same violent intensity as that against women and has not continued past a period of two weeks.
One woman was also targeted physically for surveillance, and the nazis placed people in cars outside her home to follow her and track her movements, who she met with, etc. Another woman was the subject of a racist flyer containing attacks against the Black
community while listing her name, address, and phone number as the contact person for the fictitious white supremacist group which claimed authorship of the flyer. The intention was to give the false impression that the anti-racist activist was a nazi and thereby subject her to harassment from members of the community.
These attacks soon escalated from intimidation tactics to physical assault and arson. During the spring a campaign of terror was waged against Youthlink, two shelters for young women. Early in 1993 a Heritage Front member who was a resident of the shelter was ejected by the staff for intimidating other residents by wearing nazi paraphernalia and bringing racist materials into the shelter.
The nazis responded to this by launching a series of lesbophobic attacks against Youthlink staff on their hotline. A campaign of threatening phone calls and physical surveillance of staff ensued which eventually culminated in an arson attack against
one of the shelters in late March. A staff member was also assaulted in her home by skinheads. During that same period, a member of the Black Action Defence Committee (the main Toronto group organizing against police racism and violence) was attacked
by five nazis one evening after leaving the BADC office.
In our analysis, this slow and deliberate escalation of violence is not haphazard but calculated. The slow escalation has two identifiable goals for the movement. The first is to test the response of police. The nazis need to see how far they can push things before feeling pressure from law enforcement. Thus far, the fascists have received little or no interest from police in regards to these attacks. The Heritage Front is also testing the resolve of anti-racist forces, again to see what the response will be from the left Unfortunately, apart from a few significant solidarity links being made between anti-racist and other community organizations,the response has similarly been quiet.
The second goal for the fascists is simply practice. We know that the nazis engage in various forms of physical and paramilitary training both in the Toronto area and with contacts in the U.S. This slow escalation is allowing their stormtroopers to put their training into practice in increasingly violent scenarios. This again allows the fascists to test their own capabilities and the commitment of different individuals, while also learning and preparing for what they see as the soon to begin Racial Holy War. As the summer grew closer, the nazis began to dramatically increase the level of violence. As mentioned earlier, in April the Heritage Front announced the formation of an Ottawa chapter. The inaugural event of the Ottawa HF was to be a “Rock for Racialism” concert to be held on May 29th featuring Canadian Neo-nazi bands RaHoWa and Aryan.
Anti-racists in Ottawa quickly began to mobilize against the proposed concert, eventually forming a coalition among various groups. ARA was invited to send a delegation from Toronto, and about 50 anti-fascists made the trip by bus. Despite gathering a crowd of 600 to confront the nazis, the liberalism and collaboration with police on the part of some of the coalition organizers plagued the action from the start (the specifics of which are discussed later). This conflict between liberal and militant elements among the demonstrators eventually led to a situation where many of the people wanting to confront the Nazis and close down the concert were abandoned by the demo organizers,
resulting in violent attacks on the few local anti-racists left behind at the scene. Skinheads brutally beat several demonstrators, hospitalizing half a dozen. The hundred nazis present then marched on the Canadian Parliament building where leader Droege announced to the “seig heiling” crowd that one day these buildings would be theirs.
The Heritage Front and COTC clearly saw the events of May 29th as a victory which provided a major boost to their morale. They crowed about their victory in Ottawa over their hotline for days and there was a marked increase in violent neo-nazi attacks in Toronto, particularly directed against the Tamil community. The week following Ottawa, a Heritage Front skinhead named Jason Hoolans brutally beat a Tamil man outside a Toronto restaurant, resulting in the man’s being hospitalized and partially paralysed. Hoolans was on his way home from a RaHoWa gig in the north of the city when the attack occurred.
Shut ‘Em Down
It was in this context of increasing violence and displays of bravado by the neo-nazis that ARA’s next action took place. A demonstration was called for June 11th to march on a neo-Nazi centre of operations. The actual destination of the demo was unknown except to a few ARA organizers. The rationale for the secret destination was a tactical one – if ARA announced the exact destination, the demonstrators would most likely encounter not only a sizeable and armed contingent of skinheads but also an even more sizeable and better armed contingent of police. Rather than tangle with cops on horseback again, ARA chose a different strategy.
Organizers chose as the meeting place a community centre only four blocks south of the home of prominent nazi publisher Ernst Zundel. Zundel’s home is a well known location in the city and, as one of the main suppliers of hate material internationally, his home/office is of major significance to both fascists and anti- fascists. Because of the location of the meeting place, dozens of police gathered outside Zundel’s house (which had been covered in plastic by its owner to protect it from the expected onslaught of eggs and paint bombs.) Fifty or more skinheads were also present to “defend Zundel’s house” from anti-fascist attack – an attack which never materialized when, to the surprise and outrage of the cops and nazis, the ARA demonstration piled onto streetcars and headed east to the home of Gary Schipper – the voice of the Heritage Front hateline.
As the phalanx of 300 demonstrators marched up the residential street, ARA marshals passed out information flyers to the participants identifying the still secret site and the reasons for the action. Other ARA people went door-to-door to pass out similar flyers containing Schipper’s photo and address to the residents of the largely immigrant neighbourhood and explain to them the intentions of the demonstration.
After reaching the house, with eggs flying through the air, a dozen or more demonstrators expressed their outrage in a more direct fashion by rushing the house and smashing windows. After the direct action was over, and the speeches had been completed, the demonstration withdrew from the neighbourhood. In one instant, the
fight had been taken right to the nazis’ door in a way that had not occurred anywhere else in Canada. The implications for the fascists were clear – we knew who they were, we knew their faces, we knew where they lived and where they met, and we would not be
intimidated by their violence.
A controlled expression of community anger had been accomplished, one which made that anger and resolve clear in a direct and militant fashion, yet one so controlled and disciplined on the part of demonstrators that no other residents’ property was damaged. No parked cars were touched, no other homes were touched, no gardens were trampled – only one building was the target, and that target was identified and dealt with. Because the Zundel bluff was so effective, no nazis were there and so few cops that the demonstrators were allowed to enter and leave the neighbourhood without incident (Except for Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege appearing in his car with 5 skinheads to verbally threaten demonstrators waiting to disperse afterwards. Mr. Droege received
a smashed windshield for his efforts and his small gang quickly sped away.)
Late that evening – in a poorly planned and executed attempt at retaliation – a gang of thirty skinheads armed with baseball bats converged on a popular club frequented by ARA people and other anti-racists. The location was doubly significant in that the club
itself had been a popular nazi hang-out until they were driven out by local anti-racists a few months earlier.
Despite being outnumbered three to one, the few anti-racists present defended themselves and chased the skinheads out. Several nazis, including leader Droege, were beaten and hospitalized. Droege was later to be arrested and charged with aggravated assault on one of two anti-racists seriously injured. Also arrested that night was another Heritage Front leader named Pete Mitrevski and a skinhead named Chris Newhook. Newhook has since been convicted of assaulting police and possession of a dangerous weapon (a baseball bat with “SS” carved into it) and was sentenced to twelve months.
The response to the events of June 11th was swift from all directions. The media, as could be expected, had a field day condemning ARA as terrorists adopting the same tactics as the fascists, etc, etc. However, what separated this action from January 25th, at least in the media, was that no non-governmental anti-racist organization dared publicly denounce ARA or the June 11th action. While this did not stop various columnists from
venting their misplaced moral outrage for several weeks following the demo, it did make the criticisms ring quite hollow when even the most conservative of anti-racist groups would not join the reporters’ crusade.
A sampling of the public comments by other anti-racists went:
“Extreme…but justified” – Dudley Laws, Black Action Defense
“The problem is…the police and the attorney general’s office have not been co-operating They have not used legislation as a means to stop the hate-mongering. Young people…understandably get very frustrated and wrongly take the law into their own hands. I really hold the people who are in the position of authority responsible at this point because they have chosen to do nothing [about hate crimes].” – Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress
“If the rallying cry for all anti-racists is “Never Again” then no one is pressing this at the moment any more than activist groups such as ARA. If Canadian governmental authority proves to be as incapable in stemming racially motivated crime and fascist political organization as the German governments of the 1930s and today, then the unthinkable resurgence of organized Naziism may be literally at our doorstep. The unfortunate excesses of the June 11th rally may be cause for some concern, but it does not begin to
compare in significance or gravity with such an eventuality.” – Roger Hollander, Metro Councillor
“It is the Heritage Front, Church of the Creator and other racist groups that have carried on a violent campaign of intimidation over the last several months – all the while proclaiming their virtue….Anti-racists are responding to a wave of violence created
by racists. While the merits and demerits of property damage can be debated, it is far from the deadly and physical violence of the Front.” – Rodney Bobiwash, Klanbusters
It was interesting in that the most vociferous opposition and denunciation of ARA after June 11th came from more progressive sectors of the community, mainly revolving (whether admitted or not) around the question of militancy.
This kind of criticism is an unfortunate tradition of the North American left. It seems that all too many are comfortable in supporting militancy everywhere but their own backyards. This tendency was certainly obvious in the response of the left to the
development of armed organizations in the U.S. and Canada during the 1970s and 1980s. (See Ward Churchill’s essay “Pacifism as Pathology” in Issues in Radical Therapy for an excellent analysis of this phenomenon.) Indeed, it seems pathetic commentary on the Canadian left (and on the level of self-policing done by Canadian progressive movements) that a bit of egg throwing and a few broken windows are seen as acts of violence. As was said to one ARA critic by a South Asian comrade, “It’s only within the confines set by the white Canadian left that June 11th can be seen as a violent
The unfortunate fact is that for most leftists in Canada, demonstrations have become social events. They are forums for people to come together, meet their friends, chat while the speeches are going on and then leave in groups for the nearest bar after (and often before) the demo has finished. ARA’s demonstrations consciously challenge this comfortable norm by being actively confrontational.
ARA recognizes that doing anti-fascist work is unlike most other political struggles in the Canadian context (outside of Native Territory) in that there is a very real element of physical retaliation – in this case by nazis. Rather than choose the easy path of staging irrelevant picket lines which present no threat to fascist organizing, ARA chooses to take the fight right to the nazis – in the schools, in nazi socializing places, at their meetings, at their homes. Because of this strategy, ARA demonstrations cannot be social event because of the need for the security.
Unlike any other organizations in the city, ARA demonstrators march in ranks with their arms linked to help strengthen the formation and ensure that there are no people left isolated and vulnerable – to police intimidation, arrest, nazi attack, or fascist surveillance. ARA also takes a defensive marshalling strategy. While most Canadian demonstrations have marshals in place to protect property from demonstrators so that their cause is not “discredited” by the actions of some “unruly elements”, ARA’s marshals are there to protect the body of the demonstration against attack – whether that comes from the nazis or police. The marshals are also there to prevent surveillance from fascists (who, as elsewhere, like to show up and videotape and photograph anti-racists).
Some critics denounced ARA for allowing such expressions of militancy to occur at all – for not holding back activists who felt the need to take more direct forms of action. In a community statement issued by ARA to respond to such critiques it was stated:
“During the demonstration, some anti-racist protestors struck back against Gary Schipper and the Heritage Front. Paint bombs and rocks were thrown at his residence and windows were broken. Although these acts of vandalism were not planned by ARA, our group allows people to express their anger against fascism and white supremacy as they see fit. We do not police anti-racists.”
In the aftermath of the demonstration, four anti-racists were arrested on charges of mischief to property and disguising with the intention of committing an indictable offense. The arrests of the four did not occur on the site of the demonstration but happened arbitrarily over the ensuing two weeks. One woman was arrested at a local radio station after representing ARA on a call-in show. Two others were picked-up while attending a subsequent anti-racist demonstration. Despite being arrested on different dates and in different parts of the city, all four were picked up by the same two undercover officers, indicating a coordinated police effort to identify and target ARA activists.
The bail conditions imposed on the four were clearly politically motivated and intended to curtail their anti-racist activism. The initial conditions (most of which have since been
changed through legal challenges) included non-association with other members of ARA; barring from attendance at ARA or other anti- racist meetings; and barring from attendance at any demonstration in the entire province of Ontario. These conditions are more restrictive than those given to Heritage Front and COTC members charged with aggravated assault, forcible confinement and weapons offenses.
The action against Schipper’s house on June 11th occurred as a direct response to an escalation of fascist violence and public organizing. As such, the action succeeded in accomplishing several goals, both through the demo itself and the resulting nazi tactical
mistake made in response – namely attempting the mass assault against ARA people later that evening. The assault attempt failed miserably on two levels: 1) the fascists were humiliated in their attempt to boost morale and look tough after being fooled by a
classic “bait and switch” and 2) it resulted in the arrests of two key Front leaders. The main effects of the day’s events was to force the nazis to turn their organizing inward rather than towards expansion. Planned summer recruiting drives were put on hold due to the legal restrictions placed on some of their key activists following their arrests. Funding for a planned national summer tour by RaHoWa and the opening of a public office space was eaten up by bail costs and lawyer fees.
Despite the critiques of some about June 11th action, this single event and its aftermath was responsible for the significant decrease in fascist activity and violence during the past four months.
Policing The Crisis?
As always, the role of the police and the intervention of state agencies within a political struggle is multi-faceted and often difficult to negotiate both internally and externally in the broader movement. This is no less true in anti-fascist organizing in Toronto. An analysis of the police approach to the movements, both racist and anti-racist, is essential to begin to develop effective strategies.
While the problem of police interference in political organizing is not a new one, it must be understood that the police play a particular dynamic within the context of anti-fascist work which is quite different than in other struggles. This is because in other progressive or radical movements, the question of involving the police as a potential “ally” within the struggle is non-existent. Whether it is organizing around such issues of institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia or domestic and foreign policies of the Canadian government, it is clearly recognized that the police as an institution play no potential positive role in advancing the cause.
This is unfortunately not the case with anti-fascist organizing. The activities of neo-nazi groups are by definition violent, whether through actual physical attacks or by the implied threat which their presence presents to those communities which have historically been targets of fascism. Their organizing also involves illegal activities, from relatively minor incidents of vandalism to more serious acts of violence including assault, arson, paramilitary training and murder. Because of this reality, many anti-racists see the police as an option against neo-nazis.
This double vision with regards to the police is both problematic and dangerous. While most are quick to recognize police violence and direct hostility, as was demonstrated during the demonstration on January 25th (with the exception elements of the “legitimate” and conservative anti-racist movement), there remains a strong trend which looks towards legal “remedies” for white supremacy. This trend takes the form not only of desires for stronger laws against hate group activities, but in particular looking towards police for protection.
The willingness to look to police as a strategy usually falls along clear lines of race and class. Certainly those individuals and communities who have not traditionally suffered at the hands of police are more likely to view them as “protectors” rather than oppressors. Therefore it has usually been the anti-racist groups representing these privileged interests which have been urging residents to call police when they encounter racist activity in their community. One Ontario government anti-racism organization
has even gone so far as to publish a pamphlet which argues the “call police” strategy while printing on the cover a photo of ARA’s January 25th demonstration (without permission, I might add) where mounted police attacked anti-racists to protect neo-nazis.
However, one need only look at the police’s attitudes and actions to date to see quite clearly that they are much more interested in attacking and criminalizing anti-racists than they are neo-nazis. While the mounted police attack against ARA and police assault of AIM members on January 25th is the most blatant example of this, we can go further in revealing the clear pattern of police indifference to fascist attacks.
The most obvious aspect of the police approach is the clear double-standard used in investigating nazis and anti-racists. The police have demonstrated time and time again their desire to shelter Wolfgang Droege and the Heritage Front as an organization
from the supposedly “random” and “unconnected” acts of their supporters. In the two most violent incidents to date, the 1992 bombing of the Toronto Morgentaler abortion clinic and the 1993 firebombing of Youthlink, the police have allowed Droege’s denials
of HF involvement to stand at face value.
In the Morgentaller case, neo-nazi graffiti stating “Peace, Love & White Power” along with the Heritage Front’s telephone number was painted on a large wall directly across the street from the bombed clinic. The graffiti was done sometime between 1:00am and 4:00am (the approximate time of the blast) on the night of the bombing. The connection to most would seem quite clear. However, the media revealed that police investigators interviewed Droege and essentially accepted his claim that the Heritage Front was not
Over a year later, police have still not made any arrests despite admitting in the press that the perpetrators were videotaped by the clinic’s security system. Certainly the history of state and police attacks against the left reveals that a similar set of circumstances involving a right-wing or government target would have resulted in mass repression. In that case, it seems that if Droege were a leftist he would have been answering questions from a jail cell, assumed guilty until proven innocent. In a similar manner, Droege was allowed to shrug off any involvement or responsibility for the arson attack at Youthlink. While admitting to a Toronto magazine that the Heritage Front did wage a lesbophobic campaign against the shelter on their hotline, he says that his group had no hand in nor responsibility for the attack. Again this claim to be “uninvolved” has apparently been accepted by the police, who are choosing to ignore a months long, sophisticated and coordinated campaign of harassment and surveillance of the shelter and its employees. This clearly was not the work of a “lone nut”, and the police’s apparent readiness to accept it as such is yet another demonstration of their unwillingness to go after the fascists as organizations but instead to individualize attacks which are clearly coordinated. Police have even refused to fully investigate the assaulting of a Youthlink staffer by skinheads, choosing instead to charge the woman herself for filing a false complaint!
In each case, “investigators” seem unwilling or uninterested in uncovering connections and links to the Heritage Front or other organizations, but prefer to operate on the basis that the perpetrator is acted in isolation. Yet, at the same time as they shrug off interest in the hierarchy and organizational structure of the Right, the police seem quite interested in identifying such areas in the anti-racist movement.
In fact, instead of being committed to prosecuting neo-nazis, it has been the pattern to date that the police have a much greater interest in investigating ARA. The placement (and later expulsion) of a known agent provocateur early in the organization’s life was one indication of state intentions towards the group (a provocateur who now spends his time spreading accusations of homophobia and queer-bashing against ARA in an attempt to drive wedges between the group and the lesbian and gay community, a community from which ARA has drawn some of its strongest participation and support). Subsequent events involving the actual prosecution of a high profile Heritage Front spokesperson have been even more revealing. This case has demonstrated concretely that any move by anti-racists to lay charges or make reports to police merely opens the door for police intelligence gathering on the organization and its membership.
Elisse Hategan (aka Deschner) faces trail in June 1993 on charges of inflammatory libel against a local anti-racist and distributing hate literature. She is being accused of distributing the earlier mentioned racist flyer intended to paint an anti-racist activist as a nazi. Interestingly, the police “investigation” of Hategan, as evidenced through their interviews of other anti-racists called as witnesses in the case, has consisted primarily of police attempts to obtain the names of other anti-racist activists and trace structures and chains of communication within the movement. [Editor’s Note: Hategan’s trial was moved to November 1993 and at that time it was revealed that she had left the Heritage Front and was giving information about that organization to anti-racist groups. She will also testify against HF members in some of their upcoming trials.]
The case itself provides an ideal cover for such a ruse, for it gives the police authority to subpoena anti-racists and interview them about their work while hiding such probing behind the facade of “prosecuting hate crimes”. In fact, it is the suspicion of many that the recent creation of the much publicized “Hate Crimes Unit” within the Metro Police is in itself nothing more than a cover to gather intelligence on the anti-racist movement.
Hategan has been allowed to associate with known members of the Heritage Front in direct contravention of her bail conditions. In fact, in one incident she appeared at an ARA demonstration in a car with known leaders of the Heritage Front and COTC. This situation was immediately noticed by Rodney Bobiwash of the Native Centre. Knowing that the violation should immediately result in her re-arrest and revocation of bail, he notified the officer commanding the police presence at the demonstration, who replied “I don’t care.” This incident speaks volumes to the reluctance of the police to truly prosecute neo-nazis and to the illegitimacy of the police investigation against Hategan.
The interviewing and subpoenaing of activists continues despite that fact that Hategan has apparently admitted to distributing the flyer and will presumably pursue a defence based on freedom of speech. It is also significant that by calling anti-racists as witnesses, and thereby revealing their identities to the court and to the nazis, the police are knowingly opening up these individuals for harassment. The conjecture is that such a decision is calculated to place these individuals in jeopardy so that the police can 1 gather intelligence on the fascists by using the anti-racists as “bait”, and 2) hope that individuals will turn to the police for protection, thereby creating an opportunity for
further intelligence gathering on the anti-racist movement.
These suspicions were reinforced during the pre-trial hearing in October when Hategan’s attorney cross examined of one of the anti-racist witnesses. Lawyer Harry Doan (who is defending most of the nazis facing charges in the city) spent most of his time asking questions about ARA’s organizing – the names of activists, the names of the organizers of the January 25th and June 11th demonstrations, etc. While obviously unrelated to the charges against Hategan, the Crown prosecutor did not object to this line
of questioning. The witness was unable to provide Doan with the information he wanted.
Unfortunately, the unwillingness of some to see use of the police as being at best a tactical decision in certain situations rather than a parental-type figure to protect us from bullies is problematic and dangerous. Indeed, people who will go to the police out of trust and reformist beliefs in the system are dangerous for any radical organization which constitutes itself in opposition to that very system. These are often the people who will, perhaps unwittingly, do the job of the police by speaking openly about membership and strategies in some misguided sense that the police, while problematic on some levels, are allies against the nazis. The evidence to date shows us exactly the opposite.
When Opportunism Knocks
Because of the early successes of ARA, the organization inevitably sparked the interest of various Trotskyist and Marxist-Leninist political parties who began to flock to ARA like moths to a bright light. Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that most were involved not to work honestly against the neo-nazi presence in Toronto but instead to forward the goals of their own organizations.
As has been the experience of many groups who have tried to do political work around various issues, the presence of these party organizations soon becomes an obstacle to building the organization as a whole. The International Socialists in particular played a prominent role in opposing every demonstration (except one) that was ever undertaken by ARA against the far right, while at the same time trying to push through their own proposals which better suited the ends of their party. This behaviour was later discovered to be in keeping with their own political mandate to provide “revolutionary leadership” to organizations of “movementists”, who while presumably understanding their own issue, did not have the same vision and understanding of the party on how to defeat the state.
Eventually, after several months of attempting to work in good faith, the International Socialists were voted out of ARA by a 2/3 majority of ARA members. This had the result of causing all the other Troskyist and Marxist-Leninist parties to leave the group en masse in support of the I.S. While this on the whole was positive in that it saved ARA the similarly obstructionist and opportunist behaviour of the other groups, such as the Trotskyist League and the Bolshevik Tendency, it also caused the loss of a few individual
comrades who had risen above their party’s dogma to do principled and solid work within ARA.
I.S. attempts to denounce ARA did not cease after their expulsion, but continue in various forms. During the Ottawa demonstration in May, it was the I.S. contingent who actively collaborated with the police against militant demonstrators. I.S. marshals tipped off the cops to an attempt by ARA and other anti-racists to rush past police lines to get closer to the building where the nazi concert was being held. This tip off resulted in many of those demonstrators on the front lines being hit with pepper spray by police.
Later the I.S. marshals purposefully split the demonstration by declaring “victory” because the cops told them that the concert was going to be shut down. This declaration over the megaphones, coupled with the herding of the participants by I.S. marshals, caused more than half of the demonstrators to leave the site. Many anti-racists refused to acknowledge that any such victory existed when the sounds of the nazi bands playing could clearly be heard even outside the building. This cowardly decision to split the demonstration (and the fact that the ARA contingent of 50 who had stayed behind at the site were forced to leave at 11:00pm to catch the bus back to Toronto) left the few dedicated Ottawa activists vulnerable to the brutal skinhead attack which followed.
Before the June 11th demonstration, the I.S. had made plans to cause a disturbance at the gathering site by demanding that ARA organizers reveal the secret destination of the demonstration (this despite the fact that all the advertising for the action made it clear that, while the demonstration would be going to a neo-Nazi centre of operations, the actual destination would not be known until the group arrived there). After the demonstration, in a move reminiscent of COINTELPRO-style tactics, the I.S. took part in drafting a letter condemning ARA for the “violence” of the June 11th action – a letter to which they signed the names of several organizations who, upon being contacted by ARA, had never heard of such a letter and who did not support the statements within it.
Unfortunately, it was not only groups within ARA who have demonstrated similar opportunist and patronizing attitudes towards the organization. While some in the broader left see the formation and effectiveness of ARA as a positive development, at the same time they dismiss the relevancy of anti-fascist work and maintain that ARA should be focusing on “more important” issues, which themselves vary depending upon the personal political priorities of the person being critical.
This attitude was also the basis for much of the internal problems with the International Socialists and others, who saw broader organizing against the police and the racist policies of the state as being the priority. It is unfortunate that in this way some of the most damaging attacks against the nascent anti-fascist movement have come not from the traditional enemies in the state and on the Right, but from the left itself – many more concerned with maintaining a level of “revolutionary chic” rather than doing the work necessary to forge grassroots political movements.
It is the position of many radicals that anti-fascist work is in itself irrelevant because of the relative lack of power and numbers which the neo-nazi movement commands in Canada at this time. These comrades see state and police racism as the arenas where opposition should be directed, and that “chasing nazis” is an exercise in irrelevancy However well intended, and correct as far as its analysis of institutionalized racism, this perspective is at its base short-sighted and self-defeating.
It is argued that without the sea of mainstream racism in which to swim, that fascists and fascist movements cannot survive. Therefore, the conclusion becomes that doing work against neo-nazis is beginning at the wrong end of the problem. Again, this is a
compelling argument in isolation, particularly because it is theoretically accurate. However, theoretical accuracy does not always lend itself to practical and effective political action. As was stated by Italian anti-fascist Errico Malatesta in early part
of the century, “The optimum is the enemy of the good” – the never- ending search for the perfect political action all too often serves as an excuse for doing nothing at all. Indeed, if the anti-racist movement in Toronto cannot strategize and mobilize effectively enough to eliminate a couple of hundred nazis, how can we realistically expect to be able to defeat racist immigration laws and police violence and other institutional monoliths?
Unfortunately, much of this criticism fails to learn from history, even recent history. As was pointed out by a Sri Lankan comrade who spent a year in Germany as a refugee in the late 1980s, the German left chose to ignore the neo-nazi movement at a moment when it was relatively small. At a time when 100,000 people would come out to a disarmament demonstration, little or no attention was being given to the “insignificant” fascist problem. Five years later, we see the terrifying results of allowing that movement to grow unopposed. Events such as Rostock, murderous and violent attacks on refugees and guest workers, and the assassination of anti-fascists are not spontaneous, but are the culmination of years of unhindered organizing. Unfortunately much of the left in Canada has chosen to ignore this lesson.
While we can take all the time we want to formulate the perfect political line and theorize the precise political moment to act, in the meantime what work has been done towards building the movements that will presumably act at that moment? Political process, political experience, and resolve to struggle come only through work, and unfortunately discussion is no substitute for action. How do we expect to inspire people after more than a decade of stunning and crushing defeats for progressive and revolutionary movements around the world?
It has to be understood that broad-based and effective political movements do not appear spontaneously, but are the result of years of struggle. This work, if it is to be realistic and successful, must begin by setting upon manageable goals and taking small victories where they can be won. It is out of the crucible of small victories – which provide experience and inspiration to a movement – that larger victories are possible.
Race And Resistance
An underlying basis for much of the criticism is the fact that ARA, with notable exceptions, is comprised primarily by white, working class youth. Criticism comes from both radicals of colour, who are sceptical of white radical organizations, and from other
white radicals, who essentially believe that white people have no place initiating anti-racist work.
Both criticisms are a concern if we truly hope to forge working links against racism in society. The first criticism is certainly legitimate given the history of much of the white left in North America and Europe with replicating systems of racism and class privilege within their organizing. Indeed these problems were a significant contributor to the downfall of radical white movements in the 1960s and 1970s.
These concerns cannot be ignored, yet can be overcome through consistent and principled work, an openness to constructive criticism from people of colour, and willingness to create political alliances not based on an ill-considered integrationist approach. Ultimately this scepticism, if accepted as being legitimate and worked on in good faith, can provide the basis for a politically stronger and mutually respectful relationship, and therefore the foundations for an effective broad-based movement.
It will be the links with radicals of colour, built upon respect gained from a history of principled political work, which can prove to be the strongest and therefore most reliable in a crisis. It has been the demand of some Trotskyist/Marxist-Leninist parties involved with ARA that the organization go out and recruit people of colour to lead the organization. However, this appeal to recruitment and “building a party” is in itself both self-serving and opportunistic. The way to attract more people of colour to the organization, which is indeed a critical and significant goal, must be accomplished through principled political work and an honesty about motivation. People who come into any political organization must be there because they see opportunity, promise, and the possibilities of doing effective work in that organization.
Indeed, merely recruiting people of colour into an organization is a eurocentric, tokenistic approach which ultimately replicates systems of racism in the broader society. Recruitment not only contains an implied hierarchy but also a passivity on the part of those being recruited, which often results in the involvement of people who will be amenable to the party platform, rather than those who want to come in and challenge it for the better. It seems that the latter is always preferable if an organization in sincere about building itself politically and personally. A predominantly white anti-racist group must always willing to challenge itself on its own racism, and a recruitment based party politic is not an effective means of doing that.
The second criticism is a concern only as much as it is centred in what is essentially a guilt-based politic. For white people to simply defer to people of colour to initiate action
around issues of racism is to fundamentally deny both individual and collective historical responsibility for oppression. The effective way to take responsibility for racism is not to sit around and feel guilty and do nothing, but to work against racism
in the white community. As former Black Panther Party leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad stated in a lecture in Toronto, “Racism is not a problem Black people have. It’s a problem that white people have.”
In fact, this is why the make-up of ARA should be seen as an advantage rather than a detriment. While older white leftists may not see the relevancy of white youth, the fascists certainly do and have made the high schools a major political battle ground. The
fact that youth of all races are alienated and ignored by society is well accepted, yet until recently it was only the nazis who were capitalizing on this disenchantment to recruit among young white people. Many white radicals have chosen to ignore some of the most important lessons on the role of white people in anti-racist work as articulated by some of the most militant and articulate Black leaders, such as Assata Shakur and Angela Davis.
Such a role was articulated by Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton in their book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America:
“One of the most disturbing things about almost all white supporters has been that they are reluctant to go into their own communities – which is where racism exists – and work to get rid of it… It is hoped that eventually there will be a coalition of poor Blacks and poor whites… creating a poor-white power block dedicated to the goals of a free, open society – not one based on racism and subordination… The main responsibility of this task falls upon whites… Poor white people are becoming more hostile – not less – toward Black people, partly because they see the nation’s attention focused on Black poverty and few, if any, people coming to them… Only whites can mobilize and organize those communities along the lines necessary and possible for effective alliances with Black
communities… If the job is to be done, there must be new forms created. Thus, the political modernization process must involve the white community as well as the Black.
The fact that intelligent, articulate and radical young people are working against the recruitment in their schools, and using the nazi presence as an opportunity to get their peers involved and politically educated around broader issues of racism and oppression should be supported rather than criticised. That fact that many bring with them a distrust and disenchantment with “traditional” forms of protest and modes of political organizing is also instructional to those willing to listen and learn. Unfortunately the distrust of Leninist party organizing, disdain for meaningless picketlines in front of faceless buildings, and desire to incorporate cultural elements of resistance into political work are challenges to the current leftist hierarchies in the city, and many choose to dismiss ARA based upon the threat which such a erspective poses to their own relative positions of authority. Far to many leftists see young people as cannon fodder, or sheep to be herded in particular directions, rather than as equal partners in political struggle who bring much needed critique, analysis and enthusiasm to the work.
In their argument against doing anti-nazi work, these critics also misunderstand some of the most basic principles of political organizing. It must be recognized that people are not effectively organized out of guilt but out of recognition of their own interest in change. Again to quote Ture and Hamilton, we must move beyond the false “assumption that political coalitions can be sustained on a moral, friendly, sentimental basis; by appeals to conscience.” Such an approach does nothing to expose and identify structures of privilege, and can all too easily lead to political dissolution. To Ture and Hamilton viable political coalitions stem from “the recognition of the parties involved of their respective self-interests…[and]…the mutual belief that each party stands to benefit in terms of that self-interest from allying with the other or others.”…
Young white people are at this time facing recruitment by Nazi groups, dealing with nazi gangs in their schools and socializing places, and seeing their friends, white and non-white, being attacked by skinheads. Therefore, anti-nazi organizing speaks directly to their experiences and political needs. Obviously, political education and activism cannot stop with concern over one’s own needs, but it has to start there. The birth of ARA provides the opportunity to involve a new generation of activists in anti-racist work and in radical political organizing. It provides the political support for white working class youth to organize themselves around issues of racism and oppression, which presents the opportunity of radicalizing a generation of activists. This is the promise of groups such as ARA, and the long term vision which many of its critics on the left are unwilling to see.
Moving The Movement
The terrain for developing action against the far right is a constantly changing one. The constraints at this point in time are wholly different than they were in the fall of 1992, and the movement must take this into account if it is to continue to grow and be successful. Actions which were possible during the initial phase of ARA activity are more difficult or impossible to organize successfully today. This is primarily the result of preparedness on the part of the fascists. We have to remember that before the Roma demo, the nazis had not experienced a street level response of any magnitude or intensity. This led them to a feeling of security in regards to their activity vis a vis general meetings. While expecting some degree of infiltration perhaps, they were not ready for a militant presence of several hundred to converge on their meeting place.
It was the very fact that they were not expecting nor prepared for such a response that in many ways made a successful demonstration possible. The Heritage Front at that time was less secure with information regarding time and place for their meetings, allowing the date and time of the meeting to be disseminated several days before the meeting and the location to be given to their members as much as twenty-four hours beforehand. This time frame allowed ARA to receive the information in enough time to distribute posters and organize demonstrations.
Subsequent to the Roma demonstration, the Heritage Front has kept meeting details secret until as little as a few hours before the meeting, then notifying their supporters via telephone. With this new security practice, the HF has significantly curtailed the ability of anti-racists to mobilize in sufficient numbers to again confront them at their meetings. This fact highlights two specific needs for ARA’s continued viability: 1) differentiation of tactics, and 2) the need for better intelligence.
ARA needs to again be creative in its approach to mobilizing against the fascists. To maintain an approach based solely around mass demonstrations is obviously destructive at a moment when the nazis, through their own security measures, have effectively shut
off much of that opportunity. One of the advantages which ARA has always had contributing to the militancy and excitement around their demonstrations is the existence of a visible and identifiable enemy. The best ARA actions to date have come when anti-racists were actually facing down nazis in the streets. However, if the fascists can effectively conceal their gatherings, then the opportunity to go face-to-face with them is gone. The element of surprise, of agency, goes from the anti-racists to the racists, who will be the ones determining when and where they will gather publicly and will therefore be expecting confrontation (as well as police protection).
If the chance of going head-to-head is diminished if not lost, then an over-emphasis on mass mobilization will force ARA back onto the path of demonstrating in front of faceless targets, exactly the thing to which the organization worked to develop alternatives. Necessity, then, demands creativity, and the need to devise strategies for both gathering better intelligence and staging effective actions using smaller numbers.
The most important work to be done, however, lies not within the right but within the left. Unfortunately, it is the left at this moment which poses the major obstacle to the growth of an effective anti-racist movement. The institutionalization of progressive Canadian politics and the visible disdain for the work of ARA and other anti-fascist organizations needs to be addressed openly. The left has to begin to move from its current position of attempting to organize along ideological lines, and instead return
to a grassroots approach which speaks directly to people’s experiences.
We are unfortunately at a political moment when the only people doing real grassroots organizing, particularly in the white community, are the fascists. They are the ones in the trenches, in the schools and workplaces, and they are capitalizing on institutional white supremacy to organize a growing, well-funded, internationally coordinated, and violent racist movement.
While defeating the neo-nazi movement in Canada is a relatively small task in comparison to defeating institutionalized white supremacy, it is one which is crucial to address at this moment. The work of ARA in particular provides a basis from which many bigger things can emerge. The opportunity to involve young people in political organizing, particularly in a struggle which can show concrete short term gains and can and will inevitably be successful, can provide the inspiration and experience necessary to wage broader and longer term struggles.