An investigation into the “Freedom Convoy” movement
by Jorge, Paul, and Arthur
The world of the ruling class is in flames, the internal war in the enemy camp is exacerbated, and the masses are increasingly pushed to resist in a thousand ways. In this context, our task as communists is and will always be to take on the legitimate discontent among those social bases which the reactionary social groups leverage. We must mobilize these social bases more effectively and more radically than the bourgeoisie.
-kites interview with Italy’s CARC Party (May 2020)1
For nearly a month in the opening weeks of 2022, the “Freedom Convoy” movement laid political siege to the Federal government in Canada to an extent unsurpassed in half a century, perhaps since the very different events of the “October Crisis” in 1970.2
Despite what many a leftist and liberal had feared, this siege did not take the form of a chaotic, January 6-style putsch on the capital (though this seems to be what some elements in the convoy movement had hoped for, as we’ll see). To the contrary, it was a far better organized and arguably far more popular confrontation with the Federal government: the moves and counter-moves between the Trudeau government and the convoy movement looked more like a chess match or a season of Money Heist than what Trump, the far-Right, and the QAnon crowd in the US managed to cook up on January 6, 2021. In its few weeks of existence, the “Freedom Convoy” mobilized in the low tens of thousands of people3 to descend on Ottawa and establish an occupation, with hundreds of long-haul trucks and many more people hunkering down for three weeks in the freezing cold. After setting in, blockades followed at US-Canada border crossings in Manitoba, in Alberta, and at North America’s busiest border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. This sequence of political actions amounted to a real shot taken at the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, a shot that anywhere between a fifth and 40% of the population (depending on who was doing the counting and how the questions are asked) seemed to sympathize with.4
In the third week of February, with the economic and political damage caused by the convoy movement mounting and its occupation in Ottawa still holding strong, the Trudeau government invoked rarely-used Federal emergency powers to repress and disperse the movement that police forces in Canada had scandalously “failed” to contain or disperse. While the Federal government and the bourgeois press moved rapidly past the events of February and into manufacturing consent for an inter-imperialist confrontation with Russia, it’s imperative that we don’t lose sight of the forces that orchestrated the political confrontation of February 2022.
Beyond the social media forums of the hardcore “freedom advocates,” the extent to which the convoy story has survived the onset of the inter-imperialist war over Ukraine is the extent to which liberal commentators have been left with the task of trying to explain what exactly the convoy movement was and where it came from. Most people have been polarized into seeing the convoy movement as either far-Right conspiracy or a movement of freedom-loving Canadians—as either reprehensible or unimpeachable. What both of these views fail to apprehend are the real political powers contending behind the scenes.
While launched in the name of truckers impacted by cross-border vaccine mandates, anyone who participated in or supported the convoy movement could tell you that it had little to do with the labour conditions of long-haul drivers. From the view of those who participated in or sympathized with this movement—whom we surveyed widely for this report—the significance and aims of the convoy movement translated into a lot of different things. For many it was a rebellion against the pandemic mandates; for others, many of whom were vaccinated, it was a protest movement against untrustworthy politicians with their smugly certain yet constantly shifting and contradictory directives around public health measures. For another section it was a last stand for “personal freedoms” against unrestricted tyranny. For yet another section with a longer view and very specific political stakes, it was a shot across the bow of the Trudeau government. And for those steeped in conspiratorial thinking and who see Trudeau as a pawn of the “globalist elite,” like Big Pharma and the World Economic forum, for them it was a last stand against Trudeau’s “communist totalitarian dictatorship.”5 All in, it was a carnival of discontent. But also something more than a mixed-bag of a movement, there was a deeper coherence that we must understand: the convoy movement was a veritable united front, and the distinction between this concept and some random mish-mash of the discontented is something that we must apprehend. The object of this report is to understand this as a united front—as communists understand this term—with a leadership, a class agenda, and a multi-class alliance built up around its class fraction. In examining the origins and emergence of the convoy movement, the political and economic forces backing it, and the precise nature of the political confrontation it orchestrated, we make some deductions about the this specific movement and the larger question of reactionary mobilizations in these times of proliferating capitalist-imperialist crises.
After a year and a half of repeated lockdowns, economic recession, income and job loss, disrupted education, ever-shifting travel restrictions, the cult of social distancing6, inflated costs of living, and, of course, and a major public health crisis that consisted of repeated lockdowns and waves of infection that just kept going and getting bigger even after most of the population was vaccinated and had been promised a remission of cases, it was inevitable that some political force would tap the vast popular discontent with the authorities responsible for managing the pandemic. This has made significant sections of the masses long past sick and tired of being strung along, and the convoy movement tapped into this mood. What remains to be explained, however, is why this movement took on a rightist and libertarian character—riddled with conspiracy theorists, sprinkled with far-Right elements, and saturated with a libertarian outlook that has no answers for the gargantuan problems confronting humanity beyond individualist conceptions of freedom. More to the point, why has this movement targeted Trudeau and the Federal government so exclusively rather than the provincial governments that are responsible for major public health decisions like lockdowns, masking mandates, and school closures?7 This will become clear once we understand the nature of this united front.
* * *
As the “Freedom Convoy” was coalescing, some of the kites readers who’d recently collaborated on the summer of social investigation across Canada in 20218 decided to team up again and subject the events of February to close scrutiny. Our team spent a number of days on the ground in Ottawa talking to supporters and militants of the convoy movement, as well as countless additional hours tracking support and opposition across social media pages and media outlets across the entire political spectrum. Unlike with the summer of 2021 social investigation project, we did not attempt to record our discussions with people as this would have sparked suspicion, hostility, or just prevented us from having frank conversations with people. Instead, we chose to just talk to convoy participants as people who’ve experienced the class divisions of this pandemic in lots of different ways and as people with lots to say about it. We asked questions, listened carefully, tried not to tail after incorrect views, and looked for openings to test out how to divert reactionary perspectives or mistaken views in a more proletarian revolutionary direction. What we’ve produced is a report that differentiates leaders from followers, and the aggrieved and militant popular mass from the life-long grifters, political opportunists, professional reactionaries, and other agents of capital. Most importantly, our findings suggest that at the core of the political confrontation provoked by the convoy movement rages a protracted intra-ruling class struggle for power over the Federal government in Canada—a war in the enemy’s camp.
Up until now, the bourgeois press has largely ignored the power plays unfolding behind the convoy movement, choosing instead to frame it as just another political clash within the culture wars, a coming to blows between the liberal-minded and the conservative-minded. On the liberal side of this spectrum, we saw the Liberal Federal government, most mainstream media, and even much the Left unite to denounce the convoy movement as a white supremacist, far-Right “mob” of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers that should be ignored or denounced—and when that didn’t work, suppressed. But the convoy movement rallied the support of a considerable proportion of people in Canada to its fight for “freedom” against vaccine mandates (and, for a smaller proportion within that movement, to resist the tyranny both real and imagined of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party). Each side has been made into the other’s most feared incarnation of evil. Between these opposing outlooks, the people are divided into opposing camps of sheeple and quacks, divided irreconcilably and antagonistically along the lines of the culture wars, while behind the scenes intra-ruling class struggle rages as a permanent cold war between opposing poles of the bourgeoisie. And as cold wars go, the experience for the broad masses of people is one of proxy war or polarizing civil strife.9 If real communists are going to succeed in making revolutionary advances for the proletariat in the face of this reactionary polarization of the masses, we must expose the bourgeois enemies of the people at the centre of things.
While the political clash between the convoy movement and the Federal government never appeared to be approaching anything close to an actual civil war, the extent to which the opposing sides dispensed with the usual liberal democratic decorum should not be lost upon us. The confrontation orchestrated by the convoy movement exceeded bourgeois politics as usual in Canada, evidenced not only but especially by the functional disunity of the repressive apparatus in the face of it all. How police forces fumbled and moved with indecision in the face of a movement that promised it was implementing “Operation Bear Hug” (which is corporate-speak for hostile takeover) and vowing to defeat pandemic mandates by whatever means necessary is just one expression of how dicey this power struggle actually became. It’s imperative that communists cut through the obfuscating drivel that’s poured out of the “legacy media” and correctly apprehend the various forces and actors in motion. Let’s neither be dupes for the mainstream bourgeois press (and the dominant class interests they represent), which has flatly vilified this entire movement and its participants while pretending like the pandemic was handled correctly and in the interests of the people. Nor should we naively tail after or opportunistically encourage this movement’s deeply reactionary character, which has preyed on people’s discontents for its own hidden agenda. The leading class forces and characters on both sides of this confrontation can all be enemies of the people—which they are, as we’ll prove. We communist revolutionaries have urgent work to undertake in diverting the masses from such reactionary confrontations that pit the people against one another and into a real revolutionary movement to confront and overthrow the elite economic and political forces which until now we are only serving as proxies to.
A (NOT SO) SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION?
Until late 2021, both the Canadian and US governments had been exempting cross-border truckers from vaccine mandates out of concern for not exacerbating supply chain disruptions that were all due to the pandemic (ostensibly).10 But in November and December 2021, respectively, Trudeau and Biden announced that the exemption was set to expire and cross-border truckers would have to be vaccinated. Of the estimated 120,000 or so truckers in Canada who were regularly working cross-border routes, much ado was made of the fact that some 90% of truckers were already vaccinated.11 But by these numbers, that still left as many as 12,000 Canadian truckers facing loss of access to their usual cross-border routes, and we can assume some proportion of that were also facing threats of termination.12
Lay-offs and labour force shifts as dramatic as this rarely proceed without some kind of popular reaction—be it spontaneous or organized—and so it’s safe to assume that in moments like these some sections of the ruling class and some departments within the regime of preventive counter-revolution13 are paying close attention. We’ll discuss what’s been publicly revealed about how the security apparatus apprehended this crisis further below. What’s of interest to us in this moment is that the rapid succession of events that took off from mid-January 2022 onwards is evidence enough that some political actors saw the raw potential in this aggrieved mass of long-haul drivers, and that political force was ready to move.
One day before the border mandate was set to come into effect on the Canada side on January 15, 2022 (and one week later in the US), a GoFundMe campaign was launched in support of a cross-country “Freedom Convoy” of truckers who were supposedly mobilizing to fight the cross-border vaccine mandate. Within days, the campaign was ripping across social media platforms as it was being shared and promoted by tens of thousands across anti-lockdown and anti-mandate Facebook groups and YouTube channels that had exploded over the course of the pandemic. Soon the “truckers convoy” was being tweeted about by Elon Musk, endorsed by Trump, bigged-up by Joe Rogan, covered by Fox News and promoted by Tucker Carlson; and in Canada from the very get-go backed by Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media.14 Within a week, hundreds of thousands of dollars had been raised from tens of thousands of donors. It was clear to anyone paying close attention that some kind of political storm was gathering on the horizon.
Around January 22, videos of convoy rendezvous points in western Canada began to emerge. While the mainstream media remained largely silent about the convoy that was amassing in different parts of the country, two days before the protest was set to converge in Ottawa on Friday, January 28, Trudeau gave his fateful speech where he denounced the convoy as a “fringe minority”—inadvertently supplying the movement with an identity and a slogan that it would wield against Trudeau for weeks to come as its base of support surged and perhaps even surpassed that of Trudeau’s.15
As the convoy movement coalesced and began its convergence on the capital from multiple parts of the country, the GoFundMe campaign approach record levels, surpassing $10 million as the occupation was just setting in for its weeks of occupation. As this raucous movement was indeed converging on the capital, GoFundMe froze all but $1 million of the funds, giving a shallow pretext that they were only doing their due diligence to ensure a proper allocation of funds. However, on February 4 GoFundMe suspended the convoy movement’s fundraiser altogether, citing that they “[had] evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity” (which the mainstream media had worked overtime over that first weekend of the protest to give the impression of, which we’ll look at further below).16
Convoy organizers bounced back with a new fundraising initiative on the far-Right-friendly fundraising platform GiveSendGo. Within days, the ten million dollars were recuperated and surpassed. As the convoy movement entered its second full week of protest, the mobilization had expanded to protests in a series of other provincial capitals as well as a series of border blockades that would very quickly stack economic pressure on top of the existing political pressure of the movement.
As the convoy movement entered its third week, it was becoming embarrassingly evident to the powers that be that various levels of the policing apparatus had completely failed to block or dismantle (and perhaps even permitted) this ticking time bomb that had been thrown at the foot of the Trudeau government. The border blockades were halting as much as half a billion dollars in cross-border trade every day, especially in the auto sector.17 On February 10, 2022 US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas contacted their counterparts in Canada to “advise” (i.e. green light) the use of emergency powers to disperse the protests. The next day, a Friday, Biden called Trudeau.18 The following Monday, February 14, 2022, Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland—who we all know is the one really running the show in the Prime Minister’s Office19—made a pair of speeches announcing and justifying the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act. Trudeau assured Canadians that invoking the never-before-used legislation20 was “the responsible and necessary thing to do,” and that “the scope of these measures would be time-limited, geographically-targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they [were] meant to address.” This ticking time bomb’s fuse was running out, and the Trudeau government was left as the only authority to diffuse it.
Preempting the opposition that invoking the Emergencies Act would surely give rise to, Trudeau detailed exactly what “reasonable and proportionate” would look like:
- no-go zones would be established where public protest would be prohibited;
- fines would be increased and redefined, including giving police new powers to seize personal and commercial vehicles and licences;
- tow-truck companies would be forced to work under police contract to assist with the removal of vehicles;
- and the financial assets of convoy organizers would be frozen.
And then, after days of notice and warning, including the police handing out leaflets to the remaining few hundred occupiers informing them of the legal consequences of remaining—a courtesy unheard of in the history of protest suppression in Canada—a joint police operation led by the RCMP, OPP, and the Ottawa Police Service under the direction of the Federal government did exactly that: they very cautiously picked apart the remaining hard-core of the convoy occupiers that had dug into Ottawa. The whole offensive took 2-3 days. At the occupation’s end around February 18, 2022, nearly 200 people had been arrested, of which 110 were charged with some 391 charges, with about 115 vehicles towed and impounded.21 Though this dismantling would appear restrained to anyone who witnessed or experienced the police repression at the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010, the Quebec student movement protests in 2012, or of the Wet’suwet’en resistance and solidarity protests in 2020, for those on the political Right this was certainly a coming of age moment.
Notwithstanding the couple hundred militants who willing to die on that hill in Ottawa, there would be no fourth weekend of protest.
In its month of life, the convoy movement in Canada sparked anti-mandate protests across a number of other imperialist countries, including Australia, France, Belgium, and Austria. But these other convoy movements seem to have been effectively disrupted or dispersed in those countries and have fizzled away. As Canada’s movement was being dispersed, a copy-cat movement in the US was trying to coalesce. The “People’s Convoy” anti-mandate movement was launched in California with plans to converge on Washington, D.C. in early March 2022. Although this took a bit longer to get together, a convoy of truckers, mobile homes, pickup trucks, and other vehicles did eventually manage to reach the capital and was clogging up the capital district for three weeks with slow-rolling protests, which it funded with the $1.7 million it managed to fundraise online. In comparison with Canada’s movement, however, that’s basically an order of magnitude smaller in a country that’s one order of magnitude larger—and so, arguably only one one-hundredth the significance. This makes sense given: the US as a whole saw far fewer restrictions across its states than Canada did across its provinces, and the convoy that attempted to converge on D.C. was doing so just as the remaining restrictions were being lifted. So it simply didn’t became the same scale of a mass movement in the US as it did in Canada.
Whatever becomes of the movement against pandemic mandates locally or in other parts of the world, and whatever becomes of trucker convoys or vehicle convoys as a protest tactics—like the “Rolling Thunder” convoy movement-inspired motorcycle rally that converged on Ottawa once again on May Day 2022 weekend—this is not our immediate concern.22 Our concern is the clash of political forces hiding in the centre of it all.
Since the dispersal of Canada’s convoy movement, the Federal government and the ruling class as a whole has reclaimed the initiative by rallying popular opinion to a new consensus and around an even more reactionary movement: the ideological, political, and logistical preparation for an inter-imperialist confrontation with Russia. But with fuel costs and other living expenses sky-rocketing as a result, and as humanity is dragged into yet another catastrophic war that has been brought on by NATO’s imperialist expansionism colliding with Russia’s campaign to preserve its sphere of influence, if we’re to make the masses into an active and conscious force in these increasingly dangerous times, then we communists must be able to distinguish between real friends, real enemies, real comrades, and everyone in between. And then we have work to do to bring the masses broadly to be able to draw these necessary distinctions.
SIDEBAR: SOME REMARKS ON MONOPOLY CAPITALISM AND THE CULTURE WARS
One of the arguments of this report is that the monopoly-capitalist ruling class was deeply divided over the “Freedom Convoy.” We haven’t provided the facts we have to back up this argument quite yet (this comes a bit further along in this report). But it’s necessary to make some remarks first about the nature of the monopoly-finance capitalist ruling class. The monopoly-finance capitalist ruling class is essentially rivaling and competing blocs of finance capital with links and ties and controlling stakes in all major sectors of industry. While this ruling class is firmly united against the people in its mindless pursuit of the accumulation of capital at all costs, from further immiseration of the people to completely ruining of the planet, this ruling class is also highly fractious and is wracked by all sorts of internal contradictions. Every major corporation, internally and in its relation to all others around it, every trust or cartel, and every associated bloc of monopoly-finance capital moves in a permanent sea of competition of all against all. One expression of this permanent state of competition is that distinct forms of capital accumulation yield and shape distinct variants of bourgeois culture, ideology, and modes of maintaining bourgeois hegemony. For the last century, at the level of bourgeois politics this fundamental division has taken on the outer appearance of permanent struggle between liberalism and conservatism. But this is a division within bourgeois politics; it is the mere division between the various parties that serve the bourgeoisie, not necessarily essential divisions among the people. The fundamental division in our society is not between liberal people and conservative people; it’s between that tiny bourgeois minority who own and control the means of life, sustenance, production and also destruction of the planet under the banner of “private property” and the vast proletarian majority across the world, including a significant section from within Canada, that has no productive property whatsoever, and due to the state of the latter’s dispossession is forced into exploitation or even greater exploitation to aggrandize its bourgeois masters. Notwithstanding the vast internal complexity of any and all bourgeois societies, this basic class division is entirely obscured by the apparent liberal-conservative division of bourgeois society and the culture wars that fuel it. Liberalism and conservatism, in cultural and social terms, are nothing more than catch-all categories for all the competing norms and codes that bourgeois society subjects us to live by and survive with. And only in cultural and social terms, because Conservatives are still economic liberals. What “freedom of choice” means for the broad masses of people in our bourgeois “liberal democracy” is the right to choose from the large menu of rotten options for how to sell the labour time of our minds, bodies, and souls to the capitalist-imperialist system. And for the bourgeoisie, economic liberalism is their right to exploit and profit from our enslavement to wage labour.
However, while the monopoly-capitalist ruling class is united in its exploitation of the proletariat it is often divided over the question of how to rule over society as a whole. The question of what mix of repression and concessions creates the most stable social order is fully always up for debate within the bourgeoisie. This is one of the major things at stake in the struggle between woke capitalists and revanchist reactionary capitalists—and the proletariat has no stake in this fight. The proletariat is the stake! How many people to let die in the face of a global pandemic; what amount of emergency support should be provided to quiet the masses during lockdowns; how can the pandemic be managed without disrupting capital accumulation for the monopoly-finance capitalist-imperialist system—better yet, how can it be managed to accelerate capital accumulation: these are all questions that have divided bourgeois ruling classes all across the world throughout the pandemic. It’s quite easy to see how sectors of monopoly-finance capital tied to the pharmaceutical industry, or to the tech sector that benefited so immensely from lockdowns, would be pro-vaccine mandate and pro-lockdown, respectively.23 It’s also quite easy to see how those sectors that were completely locked down would be entirely opposed to repeated lockdowns, like all those small proprietors operating fitness programs and gyms, restaurants, salons and barbershops, bars and clubs, and any small business whose sales slowed or evaporated during the lockdowns.24 Consider who benefits the most when many of those businesses go bankrupt or are forced to close their doors: the landlord is now free of a commercial lease on their property and can now flip that commercial lease (or sell the property entirely) at the height of a red hot real estate bubble and record-high rental market. But while all landlords big and small stood to benefit from this turnover of tenants both commercial and residential, the key driver in this dispossession is finance capital:25 it’s big finance capital at large that has stood most to gain from the massive dispossession of commercial and residential leases over the course of the state-directed economic downturn of 2020-21 because this massive turnover in the real estate market has allowed for a significant inflation of housing and rental costs in the industry as a whole. We hope to see comrades associated with kites come out with some more economic analysis that explores the enormous financial wealth that seems to have been pillaged by finance capital over the past two years from the popular classes and smaller sections of capital. As Karl Marx long ago warned us, huge waves of centralization and concentration of capital unfold in times of economic crisis.
And yet, despite this sharp and quite obvious class line differentiation between who profited and who lost during the pandemic, it’s the people who’ve become more deeply divided. The vaxxed and boosted blame the unvaxxed for the pandemic not going away, while those who defend their “freedom of choice” hold in contempt the “sheeple” for going along with all the governmental tyranny. We’ve all felt it in our relationships, social networks, and families: to mask or not? To social-distance or not? To take the vaccines, or not? And the “Freedom Convoy” really called the question on just how deep these divisions run. To address this division, and the culture wars that are dividing the people, we need to trace this conflict back to the war in the enemy camp.
A CRACK IN THE FACADE
While the big bourgeois press in Canada was widely and vociferously opposed to “Freedom Convoy 2022,” we as Marxists, and in consideration of our remarks in the preceding sidebar section, won’t conflate a uniformity of perspective among the monopoly corporations that dominate the media landscape in Canada for a uniformity of perspective across the ruling class as a whole.
The bourgeois press in Canada was not kind to this movement. The convoy was ignored for as long as possible by the mainstream media, and it was only once the convoy had amassed enough participation, was assembling in multiple parts of the country, and was clearly converging on Ottawa, that the press moved into action—its coverage rapidly passing from neutral and hesitant to downright hostile all within a matter of days.
The content of this propaganda offensive shifted almost daily as the mainstream media sought to find the hardest-hitting angles from which to vilify the convoy movement. Instead of bringing scrutiny to convoy organizers and their respective political agendas, or even subjecting the anti-mandate movement and its proponents to a head-on scientific approach to the various pandemic measures and mandates (which would have started to pry open up a real public debate about who the fuck runs Canada and to what ends), instead the media chose to seize upon every detail that could be used to discredit the mobilization and turn popular opinion against it, from any instance of unruly behaviour to the presence of any far-Right or white supremacist symbols or personalities in the mix.
Anyone following the convoy movement in even a minimal way in the mainstream media or on social media will have heard the stories of some people who were accosted in a soup kitchen or the supposed “desecration” of an oh-so-holy war memorial and a Terry Fox statue (which, to be clear, consisted of protesters merely mounting and dancing around a war memorial and a Terry Fox statue being draped with a Canadian flag and a sign that read “Mandate Freedom”).26 There was also some widely reported incident of some reactionary shit taking a dump on the lawn of a house with a pride flag in its window—deplorable behaviour, to be sure, but is this news that’s truly worthy of a national audience amidst a political siege on Parliament?27
From the perspective of the comrades carrying out the on-the-ground social investigation for this report and who attended the first few days of the mobilization in Ottawa, the whole thing had more the atmosphere of a carnival than a protest. There were enough people walking around drinking tall cans of beer that the whole thing had the vibe of a Canada Day Boomer music festival. It’s no surprise, then, that amidst large crowds, booze, music, and of course, fervent political conviction, that some people would act like complete jackasses. But it was entirely disingenuous for the mainstream media to paint the entire convoy movement as violent, unruly, and dangerous, and, as comrades observed, this only made protest participants even more entrenched in their convictions that the “legacy media” is their enemy. If this protest posed a real danger to anybody, it wasn’t to curious passersby or the residents of Centretown, Ottawa—except perhaps for the constant blaring of truck horns, which did become rather insufferable after just a few hours—but to the stable and orderly rule of the bourgeoisie. And if anyone faced some risk of harassment, it was the mainstream reporters who were reporting against the movement or else were made to answer for the editorial lines of their employers.
Another major angle that the mainstream media took against the convoy movement was spotlighting any far-Right symbols or personalities with a history of propagating far-Right and white supremacist ideology, such as with Pat King (more on King below). While it says something that the likes of King were given space and presence within the movement, the inflation of the far-Right element within the convoy and painting the protests as homogeneously white supremacist by the bourgeois press was the easiest way to antagonize and harden a liberal opposition against it—and in so doing, obscure the real movement of forces at play.
The intense vilification of the “Freedom Convoy” in the first few days was the pressure needed to get GoFundMe to first suspend and then eventually cancel the convoy’s fundraiser. In fact, the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee directly called on GoFundMe to ensure that donation money wasn’t being used to “promote extremism and hate,” which gave GoFundMe the pretext it needed to cancel the fundraiser altogether.28
In the lead up to the second weekend of the convoy movement with protests planned in multiple additional cities, the media narrative churned out a new class of victims: healthcare workers, who were being advised by hospital administrations to avoid wearing hospital scrubs coming into and leaving work. In Toronto, this narrative was widely promulgated in the week leading up to the Saturday, February 5 protest. The scare-mongering by the bourgeois press even found common cause with the most opportunistic section of Toronto’s Left, with a band of social democratic activists, Toronto District Labour Council hacks, and a mixed-bag of Trotskyites coming together to stage an anti-convoy rally under the pretext of defending healthcare workers—not from the hospital administrations that had so thoroughly exploited them throughout the pandemic but from the convoy movement which the Left had so enthusiastically rallied alongside much of the bourgeoisie in opposing.
Now, were things really as dangerous as the bourgeois media was making the convoy out to be? Consider this: if convoy protesters beating the shit out of counter-protesters, the masked, non-white people, healthcare workers etc., was a common occurrence, don’t you think we would have seen that footage a thousand times over? This is precisely why the populist-Right’s messaging to its base that the convoy movement was a peaceful protest movement (which is a hell of a lot closer to the truth than the liberal spin would have it) that was violently repressed by the Trudeau government [Where are my freedums!? Image] (which is the rightist spin of things but closer to the truth than the liberal spin) is radicalizing that base even further.
Nevertheless, it must be said that for those following this protest from their Twitter feeds at home, the vilification campaign worked, evidenced not least of which by the gusto with which Lefties took to social media to denounce the convoy movement and its participants from beginning to end without ever getting anywhere near it.
The next fumbling attempt to discredit the convoy movement came in its third week after the GiveSendGo fundraising platform was hacked by a loud and proud Anonymous co-founder Aubrey Cottle, a hacker who has openly boasted about his past collaborations with intelligence agencies in Canada and the US.29 In this “leak,” much adieu was made of the fact that 41% of the more than $10 million+ raised came from US donors.30 The media instantly spun this up into a foreign-actors angle, the implication being that the Trumpian right in the US was a significant driver of Canada’s convoy movement. First of all, that a neighbouring country ten times the size of Canada contributed less than half of the funds raised (on a Christian fundraising platform that’s hugely popular with the political Right) should be shocking to no one but those liberal journalists tripping over themselves to churn out the next hit piece. Analysis published a couple weeks later by the Parliament’s Public Safety and National Security Committee would reveal, however, that of the funds raised during the initial GoFundMe, 88% of the money was raised in Canada and mostly by small donors.31 The foreign-actors angle was revealed to be nothing but a propagandistic slag. Tellingly, this angle very quickly shifted focus from the Trumpian base to the even more trumped up claim that the convoy movement was being whipped up as part of a “Russian disinformation campaign.”32 There’s nothing noteworthy or out of the ordinary about the RT news network signal-boosting the havoc that the convoy movement was causing in the heart of the capital of one of its main NATO rivals. If Russia had been experiencing a domestic crisis even one-tenth the proportion of the convoy movement, we can be certain that NATO’s regime-change apparatus would have had the hashtag #SaveRussia blowing up right now instead of #SaveUkraine. In any case, liberals can rest assured that the vast majority of convoy participants almost certainly were not followers of RT.
Alongside the unified chorus of opposition that could be seen in the big bourgeois press in Canada, various industry and “labour” mouthpieces also came out to publicly denounce the convoy movement, from the auto industry, the Canadian Truckers Association, and Unifor to Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and the Teamsters.33 But despite the propaganda coming out of all these managers and maintainers of the status quo, anywhere between 20-46% of people in Canada ended up sympathizing with the convoy movement, with enough people moving into action to make it a real liability for those holding political office, especially those in charge of pandemic mandates.
All across the country as the convoy took to the road and passed through various regions and cities, large protests could be found amassing at major meeting points en route; and this was in addition to the innumerable tiny gatherings of people waving their “F*ck Trudeau” flags alongside the red maple leaf flying high on overpasses bridging over highways all across the country. This was a veritable populist rebellion and this minority was looking a lot less fringe than the powers that be hoped for.
Not surprisingly, the ruling Liberal Party along with the New Democratic Party34 were both solidly and vehemently opposed to the convoy movement. In fact, it was the Ontario leader of the NDP who was among the first to call for the revoking of the licenses of protesters.
Conservatives, on the other hand, were quickly polarized and split by the convoy movement. Within the first week of the convoy’s settling into Ottawa, the leader of the federal Conservative party Erin O’Toole was ousted from leadership for being too hesitant in the face of the unprecedented anti-Trudeau opportunity that had rolled up outside Parliament. O’Toole was replaced with the pro-convoy Member of Parliament from Manitoba Candice Bergen as interim leader. In the weeks since the dispersal of the convoy movement, the staunchly pro-convoy and much further to the right Conservative Member of Parliament Pierre Polievre is polling far ahead of other candidates to take over the federal Conservative Party. As for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, the more Right-populist party in Canadian Federal politics, it staged an open presence in the occupation, taking pictures with supporters, making speeches, and selling enough PPC merch to paint the crowd a little purple. However, convoy organizers did not want the PPC to steal their thunder and declined allowing Bernier from having a greater presence in the protests.35 Why this was the case may become clearer further below once we look at the background of some of the convoy organizers (as it turns out one conservative grifter can see another conservative grifter from a mile away). In sum, establishment conservatism in Canada couldn’t resist getting behind the anti-Trudeau train to at least some extent—however tentatively, arms-length, and opportunist that support proved to be.
The real consequential shifts with conservatives, however, came at the provincial level, where the real authority behind public health mandates, school closures, and economic lockdowns in the country resides. Immediately after the convoy movement emerged, Premiers from among the unbroken chain of conservative provincial governments ranging from the Rockies to the Maritimes began making their ways in front of cameras to announce that they would be lifting pandemic mandates in one way or another in the near future. Scott Moe of Saskatchewan came out openly in support of the convoy movement on January 26, 2022, announcing just a few days later that his province would be ending all vaccine mandates. As of March 1, Alberta’s Jason Kenney lifted the vaccine mandate for most provincial employees. While Ontario’s Doug Ford took one of the strongest lines against the convoy movement in nominal terms, going so far as clownishly asserting that he had never been to a protest in his whole life, his government abandoned the vaccine passport on March 1 and lifted all mask mandates as of March 21. Quebec’s Francois Legault, despite implementing some of the harshest mandates in Canada with 8pm-5am curfews imposed in each of the last two winters—which caused major protests in Montreal and Quebec City throughout February—was the only Premier to indicate a willingness to meet with Quebec convoy organizers, adding that the vax-pass would be phased out imminently along with other restrictions. With provincial governments having walked back pandemic mandates all across the country, the convoy movement, despite being able to claim that it was violently repressed by Trudeau, has also been able to claim some victory for having expedited an end to many pandemic mandates.
That said, we shouldn’t be surprised to see bourgeois politicians, especially conservatives, splitting from what’s been the ruling consensus until now concerning pandemic mandates. The popular classes have many and various grievances with the handling of the pandemic, so it was only a matter of time before political authorities began to distance themselves from their previous public health measures in the face of an insurgent populism that has mobilized enough popular sentiment to sway elections (and both Ontario and Quebec will see provincial elections in 2022). In any case, these are not the ruling class divisions we’re talking about—this is just bourgeois politics as usual. We need to look beyond the surface of bourgeois politics to see the deeper power struggle at play within the ruling class in Canada.
* * *
Major questions have been raised in the bourgeois press over the past month concerning the abysmal “failure” of policing in Canada: most especially, how the fuck did police and intelligence agencies allow a convoy of hundreds of trucks and many more supporters to set up a permanent occupation outside of the Federal seat of power, a movement on a mission to not only end pandemic mandates, but according to the views of some of its lead organizers, even remove the Trudeau government?36 It’s a question that the now-former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly had no interest in trying to answer as public pressure mounted on him in early February and as Trudeau moved to invoke the Emergencies Act. On February 14, Sloly resigned from the Ottawa Police Service. A week earlier, Sloly told Ottawa city council that he needed 1800 additional officers to deal with the convoy, which were not forthcoming).37
As the convoy gathered and approached Ottawa, it’s since been reported that CSIS briefed the Federal cabinet about the risks the convoy posed; but the content of its report seems to have mostly focused on the presence of far-Right extremists, QAnon personalities, and the possibility of a lone-wolf attack. The January 27, 2022 CSIS report from its Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre wasn’t publicly available to our knowledge at the time of our publication, but the mainstream media outlets that were given the report have given no indication that the report deals with the motives or backgrounds of some of the very well-known personalities driving to the convoy movement.38 If Trudeau was led to be on the look out for far-Right extremists and lone wolfers, then he would have entirely misapprehended the real threat he was facing.37
In the first week or so of the convoy movement, Trudeau and other politicians were reassuring people in Canada that existing laws were sufficient to deal with the protest. Except that they weren’t. The three levels of policing in Canada did not prevent these protests: they treated them with softest of kid gloves, including greeting them with fist bumps and lighthearted banter.
And beyond the frontline sympathies, many cops pledged their support quietly as well. The data leak of the GiveSendGo fundraiser and the voluntary hand-over of data by GoFundMe have both revealed that active-duty police officers from the Ottawa Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and other police forces across Canada were among the donor base in significant numbers. Two dozen Ottawa cops were discovered to have donated to the GiveSendGo campaign, and that doesn’t include those who would have donated anonymously. OPP officers were also among the donors but the police force would not release info on who or how many.39 So the numbers of cops who donated to the convoy movement could be in the hundreds. The material sympathy of cops with this movement is a matter of fact. Why so many cops supported the convoy movement is another matter entirely: perhaps in part this was because many cops opposed being vaccinated, perhaps because many cops supported this siege on Canada’s woke prime minister. We are in no position to know exactly what directives were or were not coming down from municipal, provincial, or Federal policing apparatuses (and apparently bourgeois politicians can’t answer this question either, as some of have called for an official inquiry to investigate the whole debacle).40 Whatever the case, cops sympathized with this insurgent right-populist movement to a degree large enough to impact on-the-ground policing operations. As NOW Magazine’s Enzo Dimatteo’s summarized the situation in its February 15 issue, “for three weeks… Canadians have watched with dismay as Ottawa police and members of various other forces called in to provide backup have seemed unwilling to do anything about it… The unfortunate truth is that senior command within the force and rank-and-file officers have failed to take the steps necessary to clear protesters.”41 What held back senior command from dispersing the protests sooner? “The reasons for that are complex,” Dimatteo adds, as he refers to the now-resigned Peter Sloly’s troubled tenure at the Ottawa Police Service and “the internal backlash over Sloly’s efforts to modernize the force since he took over as chief in 2019.”42 Local context aside, Dimatteo has a more sophisticated and compelling analysis of the orientation of cops and police bureaucracies on the whole towards the convoy movement than a thousand indignant liberal journalists combined from over the past couple months:
[T]he seeming abandonment of duty also has to do with the widespread view among police not only in Ottawa but across the country that the anti-vaccine protests and calls for “freedom” are also a response to so-called “woke culture” and the perception that efforts behind racial and social injustice have run amok. Police forces in Canada have been caught in that crossfire after the choking death of George Floyd in the U.S. in 2020 led to widespread charges of racism and calls to defund police forces in Canada and across the globe. It’s no coincidence that the convoy protests have been compared to the Black Lives Matter protests post-Floyd.
Dimatteo is suggesting that cops and maybe even parts of the police bureaucracy either supported the convoy movement or at least opposed Trudeau enough to have allowed this semi-putschist reactionary assault on the Federal government to unfold. And yet, beyond passive supporters, even more interesting questions remain about this movement’s connections with the repressive apparatus.
Partway through the convoy movement’s leadership, a trio of personalities with military, intelligence, and policing backgrounds stepped into some visible leadership capacity of the protest.43 There was a former Canadian Armed Forces military officer Tom Morazzo, who has since announced his intentions to run for the far-Right provincial political party called the Ontario Party. Then there was former intelligence agent Tom Quiggin, who was involved in NATO’s Balkan operations, became a talking-head throughout the US-led imperialist “War on Terror,” and who recently published an accelerationist fictional trilogy about “the Great Reset” wherein Trudeau gets assassinated. Then there was the leading role played by the ex-RCMP officer Daniel Bulford in the security operations of the convoy movement: Bulford worked directly in Trudeau’s security detail in Ottawa up until very recently and was employed with Canada’s federal police force for 15 years until December 2021, at which point he was fired for not getting vaccinated. Bulford, who claims membership in “Mounties for Freedom”—one among a large number of pop-up freedom organizations within the larger united front of the convoy—called on his active-duty comrades who were policing the protests with a message that “we still believe in you, we still believe that you are the kind of people that will stand up for us and do the right thing.”44 By the “right thing,” of course, Bulford meant stand back and let the protest take the capital. So cops not only widely sympathized with the convoy movement, as the evidence suggests, they had one of their own boys in blue in its command structure who was actively liaising with police forces on the ground!
Investigating the relations among the various parts of the repressive apparatus would make for a very interesting research project right now, and communist revolutionaries have no need to wait for the results of some inquiry (which will almost certainly do more to obscure than add to what we already know). But we hope this report constitutes a small step in this direction, and we hope that other kites readers will step forward to contribute further, writing to the journal if there’s parts of our report where our analysis falls short in any way. Suffice it to say for now though that, from the surface of things, police forces in Canada were split in some indeterminable proportion around how to relate to this siege on the Federal government, with some proportion supporting it and some repressive apparatus elements even leading it. Whether these were rogue agents acting alone or were part of some grander plot, we don’t claim to know. What we do know is that while surface level realities may suggest that this was a popular rebellion against pandemic mandates that was spearheaded by an anti-Trudeau block of the far-Right and other conservative and right-populist forces, at the core of events we can see that the repressive apparatus either failed to seriously defend the standing government against this movement, and may have even had a deeper complicity with it. We’re not surprised to see this contradiction surface within the State as a whole, between its repressive apparatus and the Federal government. The question that remains for us to treat is what force could lead to such a functional disunity among various sections of the bourgeois state? Before we can answer that question, however, a deeper examination of the composition of the convoy movement is still required.
NOT THE UNITED FRONT WE WERE LOOKING FOR
“The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa, who are holding unacceptable views that they are expressing, do not represent the views of Canadians,” is what Trudeau had to say about the convoy movement on January 26 as it was converging on the capital from various parts of the country. The next day, Trudeau claimed he had been exposed to Covid-19 and was required to isolate himself45—a convenient development in view of the fact that the movement amassing seemed to be swelling beyond fringe status. Quite the opposite, the convoy movement arrived in Ottawa as a formidable united front of distinct social and political forces; and despite the varying stakes of those involved, it managed to coalesce a significant mass movement with clear demands and a very focused line of attack on a clear opponent. Our on-the-ground social investigation allowed us to formulate a rough class analysis of the varying parts of this movement and to distinguish between those whose long-range class interests lay at the heart of the convoy movement versus those who were more just pulled along for the ride.46
A (not so) “fringe minority”: the mass element
If the “Freedom Convoy” can be characterized as a mass movement, as we believe it must, let’s start by analyzing the mass element within this movement. The most obvious place to start is with the truckers.
Truckers certainly made up a decisive core of this movement, especially in the occupation of Ottawa. But this movement had little to do with truckers or their issues.
For all the praise heaped onto truckers by convoy supporters, not unlike the shallow praise for “essential workers” in the early days of the pandemic, this movement brought little attention to the workforce that it idolized and whose image it usurped. This movement said nothing of the dangerous driving conditions and often illegally-long workdays that are forced onto many long-haul drivers by a logistics industry dominated by monopoly-capitalist interests. In the last few months alone, trucker protests in British Columbia—which had nothing to do with the convoy movement—formed their own convoys to bring light to dangerous driving conditions on poorly maintained roads47 as well as inflated fuel costs,48 but these events received no attention from the convoy movement.
The convoy movement also failed to address the issues faced by the small owner-operators that make up a significant chunk of drivers in the trucking industry, a strata who get screwed not by immediate bosses but by exorbitant insurance rates, high gas prices, and fixed load prices that are controlled by distributors that are much bigger capitalists, often monopoly capitalists. Our investigation found that it was precisely this segment of the trucker labour force—small owner-operators and those who work for them—who made up most of the trucker contingent in the Ottawa occupation. It was certainly not truckers working for large-scale carriers or big companies with their own fleets: these drivers would have been summarily terminated if they took company equipment for days or weeks on end to occupy the capital. So, that the grievances of this segment of the trucker labour force also failed to feature into a movement dubbed the “truckers convoy” is a curious thing. Though, perhaps the “freedom advocate” would argue that this movement was about much greater political issues. Fair enough, let’s proceed.
Yet another set of facts belie the image of the “truckers convoy,” and that’s that the vast majority of its participants, from its leadership and through its ranks, had no relationship with the trucking industry whatsoever. While projecting truckers as the vanguard and base of the movement was brilliant both as an ideological ploy and even in political-military terms—think about it, it was virtually impossible for police to know whether and to what extent any of these truckers were carrying firearms or other weapons in their trucks, and the trucks themselves could serve as giant battering-rams if the police decided to move heavy-handedly—truckers came nowhere near making up the majority of the movement. There were certainly enough trucks to make for an intractable mass of heavy equipment: as comrades walked up and down every major street of the protest during its opening weekend, some 500 were counted (which is sizable but nowhere near the report of tens or hundreds of thousands of trucks that was being circulated by convoy boosters online). But what made this movement a success and its occupation defensible was the much larger non-trucker mass base that came over the opening weekend and who supported the movement online and all across the country. However powerful the image and allure of the “truckers convoy,” tens if not hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated workers and employees have either been terminated or threatened with termination since the vaccine mandates came into effect across many public and private sector occupations. In some provinces, thousands of healthcare workers that have been hesitant or non-compliant about the vaccine mandates faced job losses, exacerbating provincial healthcare systems already in deep crisis. Across the private sector employers have created their own policies, making it hard to track what percentage of the labour force has actually faced job loss because they refused the vaccine, but we can be sure that it is a significant proportion. This is a much bigger number of workers than the 12,000 or so truck drivers who may have been impacted by cross-border vaccine mandates and so this is where the base of this movement actually lies.
Our investigation had the vantage point to confirm that the opening weekend drew somewhere in the low tens of thousands of non-truckers—certainly more than 10,000 and possibly even more than 20,000—and this on a weekend where the daytime temperatures dipped to a frigid -20 degrees Celsius. From immediate appearances alone it was clear to us that this was a much broader, multi-class movement than what the name “trucker convoy” suggested. And understanding the class composition and social and political forces at play in the convoy movement is one and the same as understanding what this movement was all about and how it came into being.
The convoy movement pulled a lot of people into its train who were frustrated in one way or another with the handling of the pandemic (for right and wrong reasons, often a mix of both). But the participant base that we interacted with was very much composed of the popular classes, skewing hard in the direction of the proletariat; and second to that, small proprietors and other elements of the petty-bourgeoisie, many of whom had faced loss and setback during the pandemic.
From the dozens of interviews we conducted with people during the opening weekend of the occupation in Ottawa, we found that a significant proportion of demonstrators were proletarians.49 Most of the people we talked to were working-class with the overwhelming proportion coming from industrial sectors, trades, transportation, and construction (with a smaller but still notable proportion of people we talked to seeming to come from the urban and rural poor.). A significant number of union coats and tuques could be seen throughout the crowds, as well as a considerable number of orange and yellow reflective jackets (not the kind worn by cyclists at night). Our online research also found Facebook groups of trades workers in support of the convoy movement that counted thousands or tens of thousands of members, such as the groups Trades Standing with Truckers Convoy 2022 or Trades Support Truckers. These are in addition to the convoy Facebook pages grouping hundreds of thousands of people—such as Le convoi de la liberté 2022 and Freedom Convoy 2022, each of which numbered nearly 400,000 members.
Our conversations with people revealed why a considerable proportion of proletarians had joined the convoy movement. We met a lot of workers who were tired of being pushed around by the government and employers and for whom mandates were the tipping point in a long list of frustrations. We met a small but not insignificant proportion of people who lost their jobs because they refused to be vaccinated. We also met young people working shitty, low-paying jobs in factories and fast-food joints who seemed like the kind of young people who just smoke a lot of weed to just get by with dead-end working-class life. We met a lot of youth who were just fed up with the loss of social life brought on by pandemic restrictions. We also met people aggrieved in ways that had little to do with the pandemic but who were desperately in search of a political movement to address their desperate circumstances, like this one young Algonquin guy who trekked down from his reserve ten hours north of Ottawa to the protest because there was no food in his grocery store and whose family and community had been deeply impacted by Canada’s genocidal Indian residential school system. And of course, we also met a lot people caught up in conspiracy theories who overlap with many of the groups named above. We didn’t try to debate about what was science and what was pseudo-science. We could see that people held suspicion of the dictates of government and pharmaceutical companies that couldn’t be untangled from very real concerns like the opioid crisis and other health catastrophes caused by Big Pharma.
Yes, we also saw and met supporters of conservative, alt-Right or libertarian causes of a mix of class backgrounds; but this was a relatively small minority in comparison to the segments named above. The over-representation of this openly Rightist element in the protests has wholly diverted liberal public opinion away from seeing the real reasons why so many people showed out for the “Freedom Convoy.”
While Canada is seen as being among the countries that implemented some of the longest, strictest, and greatest number of lockdowns, we must understand that this was done not in the interest of viral suppression (as countries like China or Vietnam pursued with far more intensive but much shorter lived lockdowns), but rather to manage death-tolls below what intensive-care units (ICUs) could handle—the only real metric that ever seemed mattered to public health authorities in Canada. However, conspiracy theorists, who rail on about Trudeau’s subservience to World Economic Forum “globalists” and other conspiracies about totalitarian plots, fail to see the overall force of capital accumulation that is overdetermining the course of events in historical moments, certainly in moments of crisis as significant as the pandemic. Conspiracy theorists, driven as they are by unscientific notions and reactionary views, don’t see the workings of the capitalist-imperialist world system—just the plots and conspiracies of evil people.
This death-toll management approach to the pandemic consisted of locking down just enough of the economy and society to control the spread of Covid-19 but without impacting most of monopoly-finance capital. The locking down of in-person retail, gyms, bars, sports facilities, live entertainment, and schools, the imposition of social gathering limitations and travel restrictions, and of course the whole cult of “social distancing” had a massively detrimental impact on the popular classes—job losses, small business shutdowns, disrupted educations, destroyed social lives, ruinous mental health. But it was a boon for many sections of monopoly-finance capital. First of all, pretty much all of major industry and production, circulation, finance, the fast-food industry, and public transit systems went about its business as usual (albeit with mask mandates). Secondly, whole new markets were wrested open up by the locking-out of a whole strata of the petty-bourgeoisie and non-monopoly bourgeoisie. An unprecedented number of small proprietors had to close up shop and lost their commercial leases because they couldn’t afford rent.50 A real lockdown would have halted all rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the public health emergency and limited all production, circulation, and travel to the absolutely essential. But instead, a major chunk of the petty-bourgeoisie was unceremoniously dispossessed, giving landlords an opportunity to sell their properties or else create new commercial leases at the height of a red hot real estate market. And there are those sectors of the economy that have been entirely restructured through remote work, online ordering, cloud services, content streaming, the list goes on. There’s monopoly-finance capitalist entities making billions behind every one of these points of restructuring: Rogers, Bell, Google, Uber, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, HBO, the list goes on.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been managed in the interest of monopoly capital and to the detriment of the people in these and so many more ways than or anyone else has been able to take stock of. Moments like these provide once in a generation opportunities for major revolutionary movements and transformations, and when revolutionary forces cannot make good on the opportunity, reactionary forces take the lead.
Ninety years ago, in the midst of last Great Depression, it was communist-led unemployed and relief camp workers who struck for Ottawa. After militant protests and mobilizations in 1933-4, the militant Workers Unity League organized the “On-to-Ottawa trek,” which started as a thousand workers in B.C. that road the rails in boxcars heading east for Ottawa. It amounted to 2,000 workers by the time it reached Regina, where it was halted by the Federal government and the RCMP, sparking the Regina riot.51 Ninety years later, its a reactionary mobilization that has laid siege on the Federal government–and with a former RCMP agent of 15 years as one of its main spokespeople. The absence of a proletarian vanguard makes all the difference. The proletariat requires a revolutionary organization, one that can seize upon this righteous indignation, propagate a proper class analysis of these unprecedented developments in the world, and lead the people into decisive fights against our real class enemies. In the absence of the proletarian vanguard, it’s no wonder that “plandemic” conspiracy theories resonate so strongly with people. The convoy succeeded because it tapped all this pent-up populist rage—petty-bourgeois and proletarian—that’s been accumulating over the past two years. But to what ends?
However one judges this insurgent and agitated mass that captured the world’s attention in early 2022, and whatever the proportion between the proletarian and petty-bourgeois in its ranks, what unifies them has been the recent and ongoing dispossession of such a large number of people in such a concentrated period of time from their jobs, their social lives, and their routines. The pandemic has sprung forth yet another rebellious section of the people. Who says that only the proletariat has a monopoly on rebellion? Kenny Lake makes a point in part one of the Spectre series that is illuminating (and which we’ve noted can be overlooked and misunderstood), and it’s the point that “it is in the process of dispossession… and through the volatile effects of the social anarchy of capitalist production, that the masses of people most receptive to the aims of and immediate need for communist revolution can be found.”52 Certainly, close to one hundred percent of people in the convoy movement would tell you that they are definitively not trying to make communist revolution; if anything, they believed themselves to be fighting Trudeau’s and the World Health Organization’s “communist, totalitarian, globalist order.” But let’s not confuse terms with meanings. However libertarian the outlook of many in the convoy movement, many were out in the streets with some consciousness concerning the need to oppose big corporate monopolies and the government that many people rightly see as serving those corporate interests. So that mass, whatever its subjective outlook at this time, is some kind of objective mass base for socialist revolution. And it’s being turned against the proletariat’s long-term interests and driven into the petty-bourgeois dead-end of libertarianism. It’s the task of communist revolutionaries to help this mass realize who its real enemies are and where its real friends are to be found.
One of the main points of suspicion for online Leftists of the convoy movement concerned how white movement appeared to be. Certainly, it was whiter than a movement you’d see arise in a place like Toronto, and it certainly drew more heavily from regions and sectors of Canadian society that are whiter than others (as one comrade in our entourage put it, from “fly-over country”). But, despite what many Leftists may wish to believe, the abundance of maple leaf flags and Canadian nationalism in the convoy movement does not a white movement make (as anyone who has ever visited Niagara Falls for Canada Day celebrations can easily attest to). First of all, we talked to or saw enough Arab, Punjabi, Black and Native participants to trouble the propagandistic claim that this was a white supremacist and anti-vaxxer mob. Non-white participants shared all the same grievances named above as many white participants did. Secondly, further social investigation gathered from comrades in our networks seemed to indicate that throughout different immigrant working-class communities people were expressing thoughts and feelings about the convoy movement that ranged from curious to supportive—but almost never the flaming opposition that could be seen online among liberals and Leftists. A number of comrades have also reported anecdotes relaying considerable support coming out of Haudenosaunee reserves, especially the Mohawk ones that run along the St. Lawrence River. This isn’t surprising considering the heavy presence of Mohawk workers in the trades and construction sectors of the economy, which were among the over-represented sectors in the convoy movement. But more importantly, considering how many times Haudenosaunee people have risen up to confront provincial and federal levels of government in the last three decades—Oka/Kanesetake in 1990, Caledonia/Six Nations in 2006, the Tyendinega solidarity blockade for the Wet’suwet’en in early 2020, and 1492 Land Back Lane in Six Nations from the summer of 2020 to the present—should anyone be surprised about Haudenosaunee people getting excited about some white people finally laying siege to the Federal government? In fact, much to the embarrassment of the Left which had been so vocally denouncing the convoy movement as a racist white mob, it was a 49-year-old Mohawk woman from the Tyendinega community, Candy Sero, who on February 18 had the misfortune of sustaining some of the most serious injuries as police began cracking down on protesters after the Emergency Act powers came into effect. Sero was trampled by Toronto police cavalry and suffered a broken clavicle during one of the more brutal instances of police force during the final days of the movement. In fact, the non-white groupings of people were significant enough that the white majority felt emboldened and a sense of multinational solidarity: “We’re really happy to see some Sikh truckers here with us too,” one occupying protester told our comrades.
One anecdote that comes out of our on-the-ground investigation is so illuminating of the national dynamics of the convoy movement and the whole political context that it arose around it that it bears telling at length. Some comrades were walking around the Rideau Centre mall among the thousands of unmasked protesters parading around in carnivalesque defiance when they stumbled upon this lone young white person in their early 20s, almost certainly a university student, holding a sign denouncing “white supremacist violence.” While our comrades stood there looking over at this lone social justice warrior and their placard, they remarked to one another about how many people of colour they had passed since arriving at the protest and getting into the mall (many, they reported). At that exact moment a Black man walked up to this sole counter-protester and started to gently interrogate them on why they were there and what their sign meant. The comrades observed him argue that the movement wasn’t white supremacist at all, and he was asking this person for an explanation of what they meant by it. The counter-demonstrator refused to answer out of “concern for [their own] safety,” leading the Black guy to eventually just abandon the conversation after a couple of minutes. That this white Lefty was helpless in trying to elaborate their views on white supremacy to a Black guy in these protests encapsulates the whole sterility of the Left’s criticism and commentary on the convoy movement.
Was it a bit racist though? We’ll admit, we saw a number of placards throughout the protest clowning Trudeau for his younger days spent in Blackface. We also saw many signs that carried messages like “Unity of Canadians no matter their sexual orientation or the colour of their skin.” The truth about the national dynamics and dominant ideologies that prevailed across the occupation of Ottawa is that they were much more in line with traditional, maple-syrup soaked Canadian nationalist liberal bullshit than they were with openly far-Rightist ideologies and white supremacism. Certainly, there were racists and far-Rightists in Ottawa (we’re getting to them). But we’re certain that the vast majority of participants weren’t there to accelerate the onset of a race war—and to believe so, as the dominant section of the bourgeoisie, the mainstream media, the Federal government, and the Left has sought to do, is to have been played by (or be playing at) the bourgeois propaganda that aimed to obscure these developments. This was a dangerously popular movement whose mass carried legitimate grievances, and however confused it may have been about its grievances, it was ready for a fight.
Yes, this was a very white movement. So what? White people can’t protest? What matters is why so many people, white or otherwise, sympathized with or participated in this movement. To understand why this movement took on the particular form it did—with its ideology, outlooks, and specific demands—we must understand the role played by the more active and leading segments of this united front.
A fringier minority (the petty-bourgeoisie)
A section of the convoy movement that was perhaps a bit more deserving of Trudeau’s slur was the petty-bourgeoisie—though it’s place in Canadian society is not so minor and the ideologies it propagates unfortunately not so fringe. The petty-bourgeoisie is a mixed bag of a social class made up of small proprietors, professionals, tradespeople53, and the salaried managerial employees of both private and public sectors. In the convoy movement, small proprietors and tradespeople seemed to make up the vast majority of petty-bourgeois element. The petty-bourgeoisie could also be divided by its political orientation, ranging from the more liberal/“progressive” to the more conservative and reactionary sections. The liberals we met were more the urban professional types and tended to have greater post-secondary education. We met a pair of motivational coaches who went on at lengths about the need for a “popular initiative referendum,” a well-known demand of the yellow vest movement in France. We also met a pair of buddies who were remote workers from Ottawa who previously had white-collar office jobs: they told us how sick they were of being stuck at home and the loss of their social lives. These liberal-types were sharply distinguished in their manner and outlook from those who were small proprietors, owner-operators, and those who worked with or who were contractors, who were generally more conservative and libertarian and trended further towards reactionary, conspiratorial, and/or religious ways of explaining the world. One example of this was this one Christian libertarian contractor who we talked to for some time. He brought his whole family to the occupation, including his two children, and was serving hotdogs and hot chocolate for days to convoy participants. On the one hand, according to this guy’s outlook everything that was wrong with the world was reducible to there not enough Jesus in people’s lives; but on the other hand, he had recourse to all sorts of conspiratorial ways of explaining world phenomenon, like the idea that the George Floyd rebellion in the summer of 2020 in the US and the revelations around the mass graves of Indigenous children in Canada in the summer of 2021 were some kind of op by liberals in US and Canada to win elections. These ideas are as wrong-headed as it would be if we were to claim that the convoy movement was simply some kind of conservative, reactionary, far-Right, or even corporate conspiracy. As we’ll get to, yes, there were conservative, reactionary, far-Right, and perhaps even corporate links to the convoy movement. But what makes this conspiratorial way of seeing the world so noxious is its erasure of the political will and discontent of the masses, which then makes it that much easier to hate the masses involved. This is what emboldens little fascists like Kyle Rittenhouse to go out and murder people with conviction and impunity.
Another observation that our comrades drew from their social investigation during the first weekend of the convoy movement was that while the more proletarian segments tended to ground their grievances in material loss and suffering, the petty-bourgeois segments more frequently had recourse to conspiracy theories and other imaginary projections (such as Trudeau’s installation of “a communist dictatorship”) to justify their outrage and situate their libertarian notions of freedom.
That said, comrades did come across some petty-bourgeois elements who held some grievance rooted in material loss during the pandemic too. We met with a small factory owner who registered major losses in profits because of the various measures imposed by the government. It’s not surprising to see these people angry too—the push to political militancy isn’t limited to the proletariat, and can also come from dispossession or losses of small business owners, which, as Marx noted long ago, is the most unstable part of the bourgeoisie, large sections of which regularly pass from proletarian to petty bourgeois (or the opposite) across the generations or within a single lifetime.
What makes this aggrieved section of the petty-bourgeoisie dangerous is in how it diverts the broader proletarian movement from realizing the aims of its own class project, which was a major feature of this demonstration. Our comrades noted two main expressions of this kind of inter-class unity within this convoy movement. The first was among those working in the trades, contracting, or light industry where one can often find workers working alongside the owner/boss. One can often find social bonds that exist among these types of workers and bosses, as their common work creates some basis for common socialization, interests, and standards of living not so far off from one another.
The more dangerous expression of inter-class unity, however, existed by way of political affiliation rather than one structured around a common workplace or employment: namely, those organized and identifiable libertarian or rightist elements. For all the coverage in the bourgeois media about Confederate flags or swastikas, our comrades, after three days of walking around, failed to discover a single Nazi flag (there may have been one, but our comrades failed to see it). What many protesters did carry, however, were repurposed Nazi/Holocaust imagery to draw comparisons between themselves and Holocaust victims (Stars of David for the unvaxxed, for instance) or between the Trudeau government and the Nazis (swastikas made out of vaccine needles, Legault or Trudeau as Hitler, etc.). Not in good taste, arguably, but also not Nazism. The prominent right-wing imagery that we did see, however—which was clearly tolerated if not promoted—was the libertarian Gadsden flag, the yellow flag with the coiled snake and the words “Don’t tread on me.” This was a common standard of the Trump movement in the US. Comrades also noted a wide range of other discreet alt-Right and far-Right symbols, ranging from groups like the Farfadaa54 from Québec—easy to identify by their leather jackets emblazoned with a middle-finger print-ons—to Ukrainian neo-Nazis. But the predominant tendency was, without a doubt, libertarianism.
However, the extent to which this convoy was put into motion by this mishmash of rightist groups is not at all apparent to us and we haven’t seen any compelling evidence for it. Rather, it seemed to us like these groups and tendencies showed up more with the intention of extending the reach of their ideologies and organizations, and were if anything leeching off the larger movement. It’s a technique many of us will have seen in the way Trotskyist groups interact with large Left mobilizations: see a mobilization, show up, hand out some newspapers, wave your flag, and then claim you’re organizing the revolution. Much of the far-Right presence in the convoy movement seemed akin to this sort of Trotskyist entryism.
That said, that doesn’t mean that these groups or tendencies don’t have the intention or capability of playing a greater role and accelerating their influence over events. In the case of the Farfadaa, for instance, it seemed like they took on a belated organizational role as the protest set into Ottawa, being an organizer of a contingent of Quebec trucks that had a base camp out of Gatineau, Quebec (for anyone not familiar with Ottawa region geography, Gatineau is the adjacent city to Ottawa on the other side of the Ottawa River, just minutes from Parliament). Then there was the grouping of the four men who are alleged to be part of the far-Right white nationalist Diagalon militia who were was arrested at the Coutts, Alberta border blockade for being in possession of a large cache of weapons, ammunition and who were charged with with conspiracy to commit murder, weapons offences, and mischief among other things.55 Could you imagine how this overall conflict could have shifted the overall movement if a far-Right white separatist group had stolen the thunder of the movement with an armed standoff at the Montana-Alberta border crossing? But that’s not what the leadership of this movement wanted; which brings us to our next section.
An even fringier minority (the leading element)
Just a bit of scrutiny of the leading element within the convoy movement—its initiators, lead operators, main spokespeople—begins to unearth an anti-Trudeau, anti-Liberal government agenda that predates the pandemic, has little concern for public health or any other major popular grievance, and reveals a grander political struggle at play within Canadian society.
Starting with the movement’s figurehead, Tamara Lich: she was one of the main organizers of the “Freedom Convoy 2022” organization, a principal fundraiser behind the GoFundMe campaign that raised over $10 million, and until very recently the secretary of the Maverick Party, a Western-Canadian separatist party that emerged in early 2020 out of the Wexit campaign of the previous year. The Wexit campaign made headlines in the lead up to Canada’s fall 2019 Federal election, in no small part from the large and expensive billboards and adverts it was putting out proposing that Alberta and the western provinces should separate from Canada and possibly join the US if “Western Canadian interests” could not be met. “Western Canadian interests,” of course, means oil pipeline construction and the supremacy of oil companies, if not over Canadian politics, then at least western Canada. In 2020 the Wexit campaign developed into the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta at the provincial level and the Maverick Party at the federal level. Coming back to Lich: in addition to her ties to Alberta’s separatist movement, according to her own account she has also worked as a senior administrator in the oil sector. Prior to the rise of Wexit, she had been stirring up the same concerns from within the Yellow Vest protests in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 2018 and 2019.56
A quick review of the Maverick Party’s platform reveals a strong inclination toward the interests of the extraction bourgeoisie: in addition to calling for the resumption of cancelled pipeline projects, the Maverick Party also calls for more mining projects in the north, “ethical oil,” “freer trade,” and “market-based approaches to environmental protection.”57
After the dispersal of the convoy movement in the second half of February 2022, it’s Tamara Lich—this long-standing proponent of western Canadian separatism and an agent of Alberta’s oil industry—who has been hailed as the main leader of the movement and one of the greatest martyrs of Trudeau and the Liberal government’s emergency powers. For all the airtime Lich has received in the mainstream press, it’s remarkable how little scrutiny her background has been given. We can only attribute this to the fact that the bourgeoisie is a class that wishes not to be seen and that had the mainstream media given more attention to the class interests behind the convoy movement, this would have invited some very touchy questions about the state of bourgeois politics in Canada. In any case, we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of Tamara Lich.
Current Maverick party leader Jay Hill also has ties to the oil industry. Hill found himself in a conflict of interest scandal in 2011 after attempting to use his former position in the Harper government to help his wife profit from a multinational deal between oil giants Petronas and Progress Energy.58 The Maverick party hasn’t openly declared its involvement in the convoy, but a significant number of convoy organizers have past connections to Wexit. While the party kept itself at arms-length from the convoy movement, it did published multiple statements endorsing the convoy movement’s existence.
James Bauder is another one of the prominent figures within the convoy movement. Bauder and his wife Sandra Bauder are two of the main figures behind “Canada Unity,” the organization that claimed responsibility for launching the convoy and which put out the bold “Memorandum of Understanding” that essentially called upon the Governor General and Canadian Senate to disregard the federal government and install a “Citizens of Canada Committee” made up of the Senate, the Governor General, Canada Unity and, who knows, likely some section of the leading element outside of Parliament. Within about a week of the convoy movement occupying Ottawa Bauder retracted the document, admitting on his website that his document did not represent the views of the movement as a whole. However, this only happened after his petition had gained some 320,000 signatures out of the million that Canada Unity was aiming for. If there’s something that proletarian revolutionaries can learn from someone like this, it’s audacity.
If this sounds at all impressive, know that this isn’t Bauder’s first time mobilizing truckers against Trudeau. Canada Unity was initially founded in 2019 after a previous and less successful attempt at launching a trucker convoy, “United We Roll,” a convoy that aimed to reverse the Trudeau government’s carbon tax and push ahead cancelled oil pipeline projects. That convoy also managed to muster a couple hundred trucks that converged on Ottawa, but it failed to ignite the mass movement that the “Freedom convoy” managed to catalyze during the pandemic. Bauder—who, like Lich, is no trucker—was also a major supporter of the Wexit campaign before founding his group Canada Unity (the name of which suggests a very different agenda from Western separatism).
Beyond his anti-Trudeau crusade and unwavering defence of monopoly oil interests, Bauder has also shown himself to be a real enemy of the people on a number of other occasions. In early February 2019 the “United We Roll” convoy forced its way through a picket line of…wait for it… oil workers in Saskatchewan who were mobilizing to defend their pension fund. James Bauder was among those rallying to the massive Rebel News campaign against “union thugs” and in defence of the corporate oil interests. Bauder live-streamed his whole strike-breaking action on Facebook. Meanwhile, many of the participants of the 2019 convoy were also actively stoking xenophobic hysteria against Trudeau by arguing that Canada had supposedly renounced control of its borders to immigrants. United We Roll’s February 2019 demonstration in front of Parliament also featured Faith Goldy, the far-Right figure and former Rebel News reporter who ran for mayor of Toronto in 2018 and stirred up controversy militating in favour of “rising white consciousness.”
While on the topic of Rebel News, we should also discuss the role of Ezra Levant. Trained by an American libertarian NGO in his 20s, the former television show host and columnist for Sun News founded Rebel News in 2015 as a registered for-profit company (which nevertheless persistently appeals to its readers for donations as if he were running a not-for-profit or movement publication). A surface sweep of the internet reveals that Levant is if anything a professional reactionary and seasoned political opportunist. Levant has claimed that climate change is a scam against America, was an eager promoter of “United We Roll,” and authored a book entitled China Virus: How Justin Trudeau’s Pro-Communist Ideology Is Putting Canadians in Danger in mid-2020. As much as he may want to situation himself as a movement figure-head in his own right, Levant has been accused by a former Rebel News employee of taking “its money from ordinary hardworking people… But, it also quietly takes a lot of money from less ordinary, more wealthy people.”59 In other words, a grifter. Levant has also worked as a lobbyist for Rothmans, a major player in the cigarette industry before becoming a lobbyist for… you guessed it, the oil industry! The links Ezra Levant entertained with other organizers in the convoy movement were not apparent to us, but it’s hard to believe there were none, considering the omnipresence of Rebel News at everything they organized. Within a day of Tamara Lich’s launch of the GoFundMe fundraiser in mid-January 2022, Rebel News had launched its own fundraiser to fund a whole fleet of new journalists to embed within and cover the convoy movement.
Pat King—the most controversial of convoy figureheads given his openly white supremacist views—also once served on the Wexit-Alberta Board of Directors, revealing a direct connection to other convoy organizers. As with his co-organizers, there’s no indication that Pat King is a trucker. King was an easy target of the mainstream media given his track record in propagating openly white supremacist conspiracy theories. In one video that circulated widely as oppositional fodder against the convoy movement, King can be seen giving a rant about some supposed global conspiracy aimed at the “depopulation of the Caucasian race” through Muslim “infiltration,” which he believes to be targeting “Anglo-Saxons” because they “are the ones with the strongest bloodlines.” King also has a history of clashing with and beating up anti-racist protesters in Red Deer, Alberta, a hometown he shares with Tamara Lich. Pat King’s role in the convoy movement is clear evidence that his far-Right views have been compatible with or useful to the wider mobilizations of the convoy movement as a whole, even if they do not represent the more mainstream and sanitized image that the movement sought to cultivate for itself and preserve.
While there were many other figures who emerged in the course of the convoy movement whose political resumés and corporate connections we could have surveyed, we believe the depth of our research suffices to establish that a clear relationship has existed between the leadership and leading proponents of the convoy movement and a very specific section of Canada’s ruling class: the monopoly capitalists that dominate Alberta’s oil industry…
The fringiest minority of all (not the Oiluminati)
As our investigation above has shown that the monopolists who control the bourgeois press in Canada along with some other major sections of capital strongly opposed the convoy movement. But many bourgeois elements and other agents of the bourgeoisie, like conservative politicians, openly supported it. On the one hand, rolling back certain pandemic mandates carried the benefit for many sections of capital in simplifying production and circulation while shifting state fiscal priorities away from public health crisis management back towards servicing monopoly capitalists first and foremost. But on the other hand, as our survey of the political backgrounds of some of the leading elements of the convoy movement suggests, there exists another set of bourgeois interests which, while also interested in reclaiming those Federal revenue streams to serve the valorization of capital, have a wider agenda in opposing the Trudeau government. Why? They have a distinct monopoly capitalist vision for Canada’s domestic and foreign policies, and they want their faction of the bourgeoisie back in command of Federal politics. The same prairie oil barons that built the new Conservative Party from the early-to-mid 2000s and brought it to power for a decade from 2006-2015 under Stephen Harper—and let’s not forget how rabidly reactionary, Islamophobic, and war-mongering its rule was amidst the “War on Terror”—have an interest in taking Trudeau out and unseating the Liberals.
When the GiveSendGo data was leaked, mainstream media sources jumped on the fact that a considerable chunk of donors came out of the US (about 40%), including one donation from US tech billionaire Thomas Siebel. To be sure, a section of the bourgeoisie in the US definitely cheer-led the convoy movement and helped kicked in some moral and financial support. And there are a number of reasons why different sections of the ruling class in the US supported the convoy movement: the Trump wing of the Republican Party and the populist-Right saw Canada’s convoy movement as a vindication of their own January 6 putsch and a source of momentum to draw from for their own comeback; and enough of the bourgeoisie in the US opposed public health measures that the US became a complete patchwork of contradictory pandemic interventions and live-and-let-die policies across its Federal system. So Canada’s “Freedom convoy” stood as a vindication of the most laissez-faire policies. And there is also a section of the bourgeoisie in the US that understands that the energy security of US imperialism hinges to a great degree on heavier flow Canadian oil into the US market, especially now in the midst of the NATO imperialists’ bid to reduce European dependence on Russian oil. So, all in all, the warm reception that the “Freedom Convoy” received on Fox News and other right-wing American networks has a strong basis in the material interests of US imperialism—very specifically, the energy needs of US-led imperialist alliance against Russia and the need to wean Europe off of Russian energy. And it’s the program carried by the western Canadian separatists and Alberta’s oil industry that matches this need the most (not to say that Trudeau’s policies are far off from meeting those needs, it’s just a matter of degrees).
That said, it would be misleading for us to posit these events as directly organized by the Albertan bourgeoisie. That’s not how politics works. Bourgeois power and bourgeois factional struggles for power are mediated by many intermediaries, agents, and political forces. It’s rare that a figure from the big bourgeoisie comes along to rule so vulgarly and openly in defiance of their own and overall bourgeois interests; and when this does happen, like with Trump or Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, it’s very often that these figures end up proving to be more of a liability than an asset to bourgeois hegemony. The big bourgeoisie and its various factions and sections generally have no interest in openly and transparently ruling over the executive branch of the State: it’s a liability for the established powers of major financial and monopolist interests to rule directly, lest popular discontent and rebellion spills outside the set boundaries of elected officials and begins to lay siege to sections of monopoly-finance directly. It’s so much better to rule at a distance through liberal democratic, or bourgeois, politics.
Furthermore, the convoy movement was a huge gamble that no section of the bourgeoisie would have been willing to openly risk associating itself with. Generating a political crisis as significant as locking down the capital and blocking major international borders was a roll of the dice that had the potential for radically divergent outcomes: one being that government’s weakening or collapse, the other being it’s return to greatness. This movement’s siege on the Federal government was both high risk and high reward. The occupation of Ottawa and the border blockades could definitely have brought a complete loss of popular legitimacy to the protesters and their cause, and not only to the demonstrators, especially if the far-Right accelerationists or any lone-wolf terrorists had managed to take their own initiative amidst the chaos of larger events.
How did things actually shake out though? On the one hand, the convoy movement had a significant chunk of their demands met in the form of loosening mandates, even while the movement gets to play the martyr to its base and its supporters across the world. This movement’s base expanded dramatically in both its militancy and popular reach over the course of the month, with general anti-Trudeau and anti-government sentiment expanding and hardening within its base. As for the opponents of this movement, while a proportion probably quietly (or loudly) endorsed Trudeau’s moves, there’s also been a palpable disgust by many liberals and social democrats with the Federal government’s failure to prevent this movement from taking hold, to do much about it once it did, and then finally needing to resort to what was basically a lite form of martial law.
So all in, the gamble paid off. It’s knocked Trudeau down a notch, established a few figureheads of prairie populism and reaction as popular icons, moved the Conservative Party further to the right and reenergized its base, and all this while keeping Alberta’s oil industry in the shadows and therefore that much stronger in relative terms. The last week of February and March 2022 may have seen Trudeau and the Liberal government bounce back to consolidate a new ruling class consensus around #SaveUkraine and inter-imperialist confrontation with Russia. And this was followed by an announcement by Trudeau and Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh that they’d maintain a coalition to keep the minority Liberal government in power as long as legally possible, which will be until late 2025. While this means that Trudeau has a long tenure ahead, this doesn’t mean that the base of opposition that swelled and organized against him poses no political threat. The power struggle playing out across the bourgeoisie, and thus across the bourgeois political parties, has polarized the masses in a way that many feel to be rather exceptional. And even while the inter-imperialist confrontation with Russia that is attempting to lock Russian oil out of the European market is precisely the geopolitical moves that will benefit and appease Alberta’s oil bourgeoisie, the rest of us are left dealing with the political divisions and populist rage which this report has argued is squarely attributable to the war playing out in the enemy camp.
SOME TACTICAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE CONVOY MOVEMENT AND ITS HISTORICAL MOMENT (OR HOW BOOMERS AND GEN-X BEAT MILLENIALS AND GEN-Z AT THE INTERNET)
It’s a damn shame that the libertarian-right was able to take leadership of such a considerable and combative mass of people. A century ago, a half century ago, it was communists who undertook these kinds of militant clashes and mass mobilizations in Canada and across this continent. What’s changed? This isn’t the place to get into how communism was beat out of the proletariat,60 but we should acknowledge that the void of a militant proletarian revolutionary option has left fertile ground uncontested and open to such far-Right and libertarian forces. One of those areas of fertile ground has been social media and the Internet. Before concluding our report, we believe it would be fruitful to share with kites readers some of the reflections we gathered in the course of our investigation concerning how his movement used the Internet, and what we can learn from it.
Major shifts have occurred in last 10 to 15 years—especially in the last two years—around how the masses are consuming media and getting their information. From what we can see, the far-Right has gained the most from these shifts. Why?
The global financial crisis of 2007-08 greatly deteriorated the living conditions for many people across the US and Canada. Rising indebtedness, ever-stagnating wages, a housing crisis that never stopped getting worse, an opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has shown no signs of relenting: these are all signs of the social decay and generalized state of crisis unfolding in our capitalist-imperialist societies.61
In 2008, in the midst of the financial meltdown, Facebook was only four years old. But over the subsequent year Facebook saw its user base triple. By 2013, the number of monthly active users (MAU) would climb past one billion. Facebook’s surge in popularity followed the implementation of aggressive growth tactics within the company alongside a time when trust in “legacy media” was plummeting. Over the course of the pandemic, Facebook’s MAU would climb further to 2.7 billion. It did this by playing a leading role in building and profiting from the echo chambers that have defined the major political polarizations that have characterized the last five or so years of politics in North America. For it’s culpability in this disaster, Facebook has been brought before US Congress multiple times in recent years to account for its role in spreading disinformation, shaping elections, and how personal user data is being used and sold. Something we all learned from some of these proceedings is that Facebook is a clearing house for far-Right ideas and conspiracy theories, and it’s become one of the world’s most profitable companies by doing just that.
In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, the Occupy movement amassed Left-populist opposition for a moment in 2011; but the failure of any revolutionary organization or movement to coalesce out of that moment left populist outrage up for grabs to an increasingly insurgent Right in the subsequent years, from the Tea Party to Trump’s election to QAnon. Meanwhile, what were the dominant expressions of the Left doing over the course of these same years? Cheerleading the “Syrian revolution” or waiting on Bernie Sanders to bring “socialism” to the White House? Even while the proletarian masses and oppressed nations stepped forward in new rebellions across the era, with Indigenous people in Canada making major mobilizations across the country with Idle No More in 2013 and the rebellions against police violence in Baltimore and Ferguson in 2015, no revolutionary forces succeeded in making any serious advances out of these movements. This is no surprise to us given, as kites has repeatedly argued, the absence of vanguard parties in the US and Canada that are up to the task. So instead, the political potential in these proletarian upsurges was largely co-opted by radical liberals or postmodernists who are left-in-appearance/right-in-essence opportunists who have grifted off the widespread discontent of the masses. From BLM and the “Reconciliation” agenda in Canada under Trudeau to the whole political shift of the late 2010s that saw performative wokeness go mainstream, kites has followed closely and been analyzing the preventive counter-revolutionary role played by the Left since the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore. Why this context matters is because while the Right has been in full-blown resurgence since at least the Tea Party, the Left has mostly become one and the same with liberalism. The positioning of Leftists and liberals in relation to the convoy movement is only the latest example of this.
So while the Left became increasingly alien to the proletariat, the Right has forged itself anew within the working class and the popular classes by taking an active part in rejecting identity politics (albeit, mostly on incorrect grounds and towards reactionary ends) and laying siege to liberalism62 (which is properly the task of communists!). The problem is that wokeness offers no real solutions in the interests of the masses broadly, and rather polarizes people into the culture wars. And the main means by which the Right has accomplished its popularity has been new media sources.
Facebook groups have been the mainstay of the anti-vaxx and anti-lockdown movements, leaving millennials and Gen-Zs scratching their heads at how their Boomer and Gen-X grandparents and parents bested them at the internet. In Canada, these divisions and echo chambers were nowhere near as bad as we saw things get with the QAnon movement that eventually laid siege to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. But after the convoy movement, this can’t be said to be true. Media outlets like Rebel News, Druthers, and True North have Facebook followings of 320,000, 170,000, and 100,000, respectively. These media outlets have conquered significant followings by capturing popular discontent within bourgeois society but without disrupting bourgeois society as a whole. With the ever-growing distrust of the big bourgeois media, these new sources of information have filled the void and weaponized people’s discontent. Meanwhile, what have Leftists conquered on the Internet over the last decade (aside from playing their active part in the hot take economy)? We have “Left” media sources bankrolled by Russia and Venezuela (RT and Redfish by Russia, Telesur by Venezuela), who have an obvious interest in providing coverage that exposes and opposes the imperialists they are squared off against; or ones tied to social-democratic electoral movements, as with Jacobin in the US. Perhaps comrades in the US have a better sense than we do about promising online and media initiatives, but in Canada from what we can see the far-Right has gained far more ground online than the far-Left over the past decade.
While the argument can be made that Leftist social media helped fuel the rebellion against police violence in May 2020 or the massive pro-Palestine demonstrations during the bombing of Gaza in August 2020, the role played by social media in these moments amounted to little more than the rapid dissemination of information within online communities—the rest was spontaneous. And what of Leftist social media, which is definitely a phenomenon today in a way it wasn’t even a decade ago? Well, it’s yielded no effective political currents and made few effective political interventions among the masses, as far as we’ve seen or can think of. The same cannot be said for the convoy movement, where social media, and the platforms on the Internet more broadly, were significant means of mobilizing and organizing people, as we’ve seen in this report: online petitions and fundraisers, vast social media presence, and the deployment of a wide ecosystem of online media sources, from websites, podcasts, vlogs, and a wide range of purpose-built websites within the overall united front of the convoy movement. While there’s only so far communist revolutionaries can expect to get from using platforms and tools fully controlled by our class enemies, it’s certainly long past time that we return to building instruments of power that can actually make the proletariat a leading force in history once again. If we don’t, our enemies will. They already are.
IN SEARCH OF A MASS LINE
Our time in Ottawa wasn’t only dedicated to understanding the movement as we found it, but also in trying to identify and distill out the most advanced ideas expressed by the masses within it. Was the convoy movement made up of an incorrigibly reactionary mass of people, like many Liberals and Leftists believed, or could communists have, with greater force, made a positive influence in diverting at least some section of this mass into a revolutionary direction against all the enemies of the people behind the pandemic (rather than against the Trudeau government alone). We identified four sets of ideas around which such an intervention could have been made (if, that is, a sufficiently strong vanguard political force existed in Canada and then dared to struggle on the terrain of this movement).
The first set of correct and advanced ideas we noted is that much of the general anti-Trudeau feeling among the protesters was reducible to a demand for a more democratic society, not a less democratic one. Many people we talked to felt completely alienated from that state of bourgeois politics, especially over the courses of the pandemic. But unfortunately convoy participants have been ideologically primed by their conservative and far-Right news sources to reduce all of the world’s problems down to Liberal Party governance. Alas, this is the cost we have to pay for allowing reactionaries to have a monopoly on mass discontent with the state of bourgeois democracy. If not seized upon by proletarian revolutionaries, this state of discontent can easily be mobilized by fascist forces.
A second thing we noted was widespread opposition to lobbies and (certain) monopolies, with a large part of the crowd being highly aware of the control the pharmaceutical companies exercised on the government, and also, in lesser proportion, the general profiteering by large corporations that took place throughout the pandemic. We talked to numerous people who we got to admit that the biggest evil-doers in world are indeed the corporate monopolies making all the decisions completely outside the bounds of anything that could be considered democratic. It’s not such a leap from here to a socialist consciousness. But without the active intervention of communist forces, it’s a much closer leap from here to faux-anti-elite fascist consciousness.
The third set of observations we gathered was a demand for greater coherence and honesty in relation to the decisions of governments concerning the pandemic and the need for solutions that wasn’t vaccine mandates or lockdowns that have been devastating the popular classes economically and socially without actually beating back the pandemic.
A fourth observation we made concerned the widespread discontent with the state of disunity among people that was created by pandemic mandates. Many people expressed their yearning for popular unity which, however abstract and undefined, shouldn’t be glossed over. We’re not simply talking about the nationalist “Canada Unity” ideology that was dominant within and projected by the convoy movement; we’re talking about everyday people lamenting how divided things have felt since the beginning of the pandemic.
We believe that were a proletarian revolutionary force to have existed at the time of the convoy movement, it could have made significant interventions—if not in diverting the movement as a whole towards more fruitful ends than abolishing mask mandates, at least in attracting away many proletarian militants from the sway of libertarianism and the far-Right. In fact, we know of some comrades in one particular city who succeeded in doing precisely this: after months of active intervention in bringing a proletarian class line into the space of anti-lockdown, anti-mandate movements, we have received reports of comrades successfully diverting proletarian segments for real class struggle initiatives. With the necessary effort and correct methods, we believe that such advances could have also been made in relation to the convoy movement as well.
Communist revolutionaries could have achieved this by showing in practice that the proletarian democracy of class struggle and popular organizations is the only answer to putrefaction of bourgeois democracy and bourgeois society. We could have done this by exposing the whole class of monopoly-finance capitalists that are the real enemies of the people who have profited from the pandemic. We could have propagated far and wide that a revolutionary seizure of the means of production is the only way to eliminate the very possibility of all the terrifying conspiracies—real, imagined, or even mere possibilities—that are keeping millions of people up at night. A real proletarian revolutionary movement could have and would have needed to make its own interventions on the state of global public health by exposing the monopoly-finance capitalists from Big Pharma to Big Farms for their direct culpability in the proliferation of infectious disease over the past two decades.63 And finally, that the only unity that can possibly advance humanity is the unity of the popular classes under the hegemony of a proletarian agenda and a proletarian vanguard against the whole international class of monopoly-finance capitalists, against capitalism-imperialism.
However, we were not able to make this intervention because the wave of communist party-building in Canada that precedes us over the past twenty years has failed to leave behind any ready-made forces to make this intervention. The intervention that our network of comrades did manage to make was the next best thing: a bold campaign of social investigation into the heart of this mass movement. This was the second such initiative in less than a year that we’ve been involved with, and until there exists a new communist party in this country with the capacity to undertake the kind of political intervention that may have been possible, we encourage readers of this report to follow the example undertaken by kites over the past year and get out into the masses, begin investigating the state of the people and the crises raging among them, make contacts among the masses, and begin building proletarian organization. And be sure to reach out to kites to connect with comrades associated with the project. The gains we need to make won’t be made in isolation from each other, but in sharing our best methods and practices and in collaborating on bigger interventions.
Though we have not been able to ascertain with exacting certainty what (or even if a) coherent political force was behind the convoy movement, it’s clear that there were many layers of actors involved, ranging from the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie down to the meanest of proletarians, rogue elements of the repressive apparatus, industry hacks, professional reactionaries and lifelong grifters, all in the mix, altogether. The convoy movement was a seriously multi-class united front of social and political force. The form it takes after its recent dispersal is not yet clear. Will it fizzle like the Tea Party in opposition to Obama only to re-emerge as a Trumpian electoral movement in the Conservative Party under Pierre Polievre’s leadership? What will become of the Alberta-based western Canadian separatists forces that played such an evidently leading role? We suspect we haven’t heard the last of them.
Whatever happens, it’s clear that there is a reactionary political force, with various ties or backing from a segment of the bourgeoisie, that has proven itself willing and able to wield or whip up reactionary sentiments of many stripes to feed its bid for power.
Some kind of political force has been at work that is hard to understand from the outside, and clearly does not want to be completely seen. It has disappeared from sight for the time being, but in its couple months of existence it mobilized a following numbering into the hundreds of thousands of militant supporters and perhaps millions of looser sympathizers. This is a united front that would have impressed Lenin or Mao and which they would have studied inside and out. The convoy movement was solidly backed by at least one political party (the Maverick Party), it rallied the support of another (the People’s Party of Canada), and it split and completely shifted the centre of gravity of one of Canada’s main political parties (the Conservative Party of Canada). Their social media reach was stunning, evidenced by running one of the most successful GoFundMe campaigns of all time (definitely in the top 10).
For now, Trudeau has put the proverbial genie back in the bottle, but not without generating even fiercer opposition from his rivals while instilling diffidence and uncertainty in his own ranks. The people are paying a heavy price for the bungled and callous ruling-class mismanagement of the pandemic, not only in terms of a public health crisis that refuses to recede, but also in terms of how many people have been moved to a generalized libertarian state of distrust of any and all public health measures mandated by the State. We must realize that this growing sentiment in effect serves the bourgeoisie as it will serve to legitimize low and insufficient public expenditures on crisis mitigation or prevention next time around. This isn’t the first zoonotic pathogen to wreak havoc through our modern-day capitalist-imperialist production and distribution chains, nor will it be the last, and it’s terrifying to think about how the bourgeoisie will respond to the next pandemic threat in light of the Covid-19 experience.64
This division among the masses and the great grief it’s now sowing can only be overcome by effective proletarian revolutionary propaganda, the likes of which will not come into being without significant effort. And we hope that our experience in producing this report will compel more comrades across the country to boldly immerse themselves in any such moment like this in the coming months and years.
The tasks ahead are formidable but not insurmountable. We need to turn the reactionary mobilization of the masses away from the deepening entrenchments in the direction of a reactionary civil war (or else a protracted civil cold war, evident by the fever pitch of the culture wars today) into a revolutionary civil war. Let us end by concluding the quote that we opened this report with, from the comrades of Italy’s CARC Party:
The world of the ruling class is in flames, the internal war in the enemy camp is exacerbated, and the masses are increasingly pushed to resist in a thousand ways. In this context, our task as communists is and will always be to take on the legitimate discontent among those social bases which the reactionary social groups leverage. We must mobilize these social base more effectively and more radically than the bourgeoisie…
[The masses] may mobilize under reactionary banners… but it is not by blaming the masses for mobilizing that we can make advances. Under what flag the masses fight depends on the role played by and the strength of the communist movement.
Our task is therefore not to judge whether a mobilization is “fascist” or not. Fascists may very well be the promoters of a particular mobilization, but the mobilization itself is a mass phenomenon and has objective causes. It’s the task of communists to take the lead. There are no pure areas of struggle, and contradiction penetrates every aspect of class struggle. “Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is,” as Lenin teaches us.
1. See “We are both the subject and object of the revolution: An Interview with Italy’s CARC Party – Part I of On Granite Conviction: Revolutionary Communism in Italy Today,” in kites #4 (September 2021).
2. For some historical background on these very different events from a half-century ago, see our annex “Militancy in Quebec in the ‘60s, the FLQ, and the October Crisis” that appears at the end of this report.
3. Clearly not the 1.5 million people hailed by Trump and other convoy boosters, but from our on-the-ground investigation far more than the low-balling of “thousands” that was reported in the mainstream bourgeois press.
4. A poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News founded that 46% of Canadians found the convoy movement “legitimate and worthy,” and for people aged 18-34 this sympathy was 61% of survey participants. See Aya Al-Hakim, “46% of Canadians sympathize with trucker convoy, but many disagree with their tactics: poll,” Global News, February, 11, 2022, globalnews.ca (accessed April 16, 2022).
5.The fact that statements absurd as these dominate popular thinking to such an extent reveals how much the ideological security of capitalism-imperialism rests on a complete and utter obfuscation of very recent history, which includes the obliteration of the words and their meanings that this history has furnished us with. We observed in the convoy movement placards and signs condemning Trudeau’s “fascism,” “communism,” and “totalitarianism” in equal proportion. What we should take away from this depressing lack of comprehension of the fundamental distinctions among the most basic political systems of twentieth century is the great care with which we must work in developing and applying the mass line.
6. “Social distancing” should not equated with whatever level of physical distancing is necessary to reduce and eliminate the transmission of any given infectious disease, be it Covid-19 or anything else. By placing the burden of infectious disease control on the willingness of people to observe social distancing regulations (rather than complete but short-lived lockdowns and widespread contact-tracing and testing), jurisdictions in the US and Canada engaged in a neoliberal managerialism that was not only ineffective at containing or eliminating the spread of the virus, but also allowed public health authorities to blame the people for the continued spread of the virus. The anti-social discourse imposed by governments and health authorities in the early pandemic is especially sadistic considering how bad the mental health crisis already was prior to 2020. But it definitely benefited monopoly capitalism by allowing for the restructuring of the workplaces, schools, and so much of consumption via the explosion of online purchasing, video conferencing applications, and remote education and work. For all these reasons and many more which we have yet to fully take stock of, the Covid-19 pandemic is the successor to the 2007-09 Great Financial Crisis.
7. The exception here is Quebec Premier Francois Legault, the sole provincial leader who’s been made a target of the convoy movement, which is explicable given the harsh 8pm curfews that were imposed in Quebec for parts of two consecutive winters.
8. See our previous social investigation collaboration “Chronicles of the Struggling and Dispossessed: An investigation into the other side of Canada,” in kites #5-6 (January 2022).
9. The kites editorial “Between Gilead and OnlyFans” demonstrates this point in relation to the fight over abortion rights that is currently escalating in the US once again.
10. We say ostensibly here because supply chains have also been significantly disrupted by the US-led trade war with China that commenced under Trump and which has escalated sharply under the Biden presidency (and to which we can now add the economic warfare being carried out against Russia). However convenient it is for the imperialist bourgeoisie to blame pandemic measures for inflation and supply-chain issues, inter-imperialist trade war spearheaded by the US factors into these problems to a great extent. See Edward Segal, “Supply Chain Crisis Worsens As Russia’s War Against Ukraine Continues,” Forbes, April 2, 2022, forbes.com (accessed April 16, 2022).
11. This figure was widely circulated within the bourgeois media as a way to discredit the convoy movement. For one example, see Katherine Fung, “Canadian ‘Freedom’ Truckers Protest Vaccines As 90 Percent of Drivers Vaccinated,” Newsweek, January 28, 2022, newsweek.com (accessed April 16, 2022).
12. From the small sample of unvaccinated truckers we talked to in the convoy, no one indicated that they had lost employment and some reported finding work easily within Canada. While there probably were truckers at the protest who lost jobs, we didn’t meet any.
13. We are using this term regime of preventive counter-revolution as it has been used and developed through various articles across kites and with the general definition given to it originally by the (new) Communist Party of Italy to refer to the unified totality of state and bourgeois apparatuses that have developed through and around aims of preventive counter-revolution. For a full definition of this term, see “Banish Pessimism and Defeatism: An Interview with Umberto Corti of the Central Committee of the (new) Italian Communist Party – Part II of On Granite Conviction: Revolutionary Communism in Italy Today,” in kites #5-6 (January 2022).
14. Within a day of the launch of the GoFundMe for the “Freedom Convoy,” RebelNews.com launched its own parallel fundraiser, which it indicated was for the purpose of hiring a whole staff of people to embed itself within the movement. Whether this was just one giant grift for Rebel News (the fundraiser has since disappeared from its website and we couldn’t find any reports of how much money Rebel News raised) or a way to fund its reporters to integrate itself with the activists and leadership of this movement (or both!) we cannot say. Whatever the case, Rebel News moved fast to merge itself into this movement.
15. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party received 32.6% of the popular vote in an election in which only 62% of eligible voters voted. Which means only 20% of all eligible voters in Canada voted for Trudeau, a number that drops even further when we add youth and permanent residents and temporary foreign workers who do not have a right to vote. By contrast, the array of different polls taken around the “Freedom Convoy” revealed that anywhere from 20-46% of all people polled supported or sympathized with the convoy protests and/or their aims. And therein lies the threat to the Trudeau government: that the convoy movement could be twice the force of his own base. This difference in political strength only becomes greater if one side’s political base is mobilized and ready to fight while the other’s is demoralized and scattered.
16. “Freedom Convoy: GoFundMe seizes funds of Canada ‘occupation’,” BBC, February 5, 2022, bbc.com (accessed April 16, 2022).
17. David Lawder reporting for Reuters.com in “Analysis: Truckers in perfect spot to threaten cross-border trade” (February 11, 2022) cites cross-border trade at the Ambassador bridge at the Windsor-Detroit crossing to be worth $360 million per day, or 25% of all US-Canada cross-border trade; with the other two border blockades at Emerson, Manitoba and Coutts, Alberta, the total daily value of trade is in the order of half a billion dollars a day, much of that in the auto and car parts production sector.
18. See Andy Blatchford, “Biden, Trudeau talk convoys as U.S. braces for Canadian-style protests,” Politico, February 11, 2022, politico.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
19. Readers of kites in the US may not know that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is the rabid anti-communist whose Ukrainian granddaddy was a Nazi, is reported to have personal real estate holdings overlooking the Maidan in Kyev, has been a major player backing the coup attempts of the self-proclaimed and US and Canada-appointed fake-president Juan Guaido in Venezuela, and has been pushing for confrontation with Russia for years.
20. The Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act in 1988 to bring the federal emergency powers legislation in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that had been enacted in 1982.
21. See “Update on Police Operations to Remove Unlawful Protesters,” Ottawa Police Service, February 21, 2022, ottawapolice.ca (accessed March 14, 2022).
22. Though it is noteworthy that in the aftermath of the convoy movement, Doug Ford’s provincial government finally decided to do something: Ford’s majority government brought forward legislation that will see a massive increase to the powers that police have in Ontario to repress vehicle protests and blockades by making it far easier for police to suspend and seize driver’s licenses, license plates, and vehicles. And Ford has earmarked $96 million to help Ontario’s regime of preventive-counterrevolution prepare for the next such protests. That means the next time a cop murders a proletarian in a hood or the next time Gaza gets bombed by the Anglo-imperialist-backed Zionist regime, the masses of youth and other people who pull up in their vehicles ready for a fight will be facing off against more prepared political-military force.
23. A comrade editor raised the point about whether the existence of right- or libertarian-adjacent people who work in tech or are even big tech capitalists themselves, like Elon Musk or Peter Thiel, challenges this point about tech capital having been pro-lockdown. We admit that our investigation on this particular point for this report was not deep, but suffice it to say that the views of a few tech billionaire personalities can’t be equated with large tech capital shareholders as a whole, and the whole question is worthy of further investigation. The authors of this report would appreciate any feedback from reader with more to say on this matter to email email@example.com.
24. This sharp recession among the small proprietor section of the petty-bourgeoisie contrasts sharply with the white-collar professional who was able to stay home and work safely on Zoom. While we know that some proportion of this remote workforce are proletarians who are exploited and are in effect workers who’ve been forced into paying the rent, internet, and hyrdo bills on their new domestic workplaces, another categories will include managerial and professional. There’s a whole class analysis of this sector that will need to be done, but our point here is to sharply contrast this section of the petty-bourgeoisie with locked-out small proprietors and other small businesses that suffered from the economic collapse of 2020.
25. For a comprehensive account of the relationship between financial accumulation and real estate in recent decades, see Samuel Stein’s Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso: New York, 2019).
26. Here’s just one of the many mainstream stories that run through all these discreet incidents: Oliver O’Connell, “Soup kitchen harassment to confederate flags: Controversial moments at Canadian trucker convoy protest,” The Independent, January 31, 2022, news.yahoo.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
27. While denouncing such deplorably reactionary behaviour, comrades on the ground with the convoy movement over that opening weekend reported that the whole sanitation situation was, well, a complete shit-show.
28. See footnote 16.
29. See by David Gilbert, “GiveSendGo Hacker Faces Death Threats for Leaking ‘Freedom Convoy’ Donor Info,” Vice, February 17, 2022, vice.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
30. Grant LaFleche and Alex McKeen, “Who’s funding the ‘Freedom convoy’? What leaked data suggests about GiveSendGo donors,” Toronto.com, February 14, 2022 (accessed April 17, 2022).
31. Christopher Nardi, “More than $1 million donated to GoFundMe for ‘Freedom Convoy’ came from outside Canada,” National Post, March 3, 2022, nationalpost.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
32. Hanna Panreck, “Canadian state news again suggests Russian forces behind trucker Freedom Convoy,” Fox News, February 14, 2022, foxnews.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
33. “Teamsters Denounce Freedom Convoy Blockade at Canadian Border,” Teamster.org, February 2, 2022 (accessed April 17, 2022).
34. For readers in the US who might be inclined to think that a third, social-democratic party in the buffet of liberal democratic options makes for a more progressive system overall, we consider looking up the experiences of the New Democratic Party (NDP) where it has governed provincially. Neoliberalism, one hundred percent of the time. The same goes for the NDP at the Federal level, which has never held a government but has always been just to the left of but practically indistinguishable from the Liberal party. In fact, the Liberal party at both Federal and provincial levels is notorious for grafting NDP policies into its own governance and platforms, especially just before or going into elections.
35. Ewa Sudyk, “Freedom Convoy rejects Bernier’s request for involvement,” Western Standard, January 31, 2022, westernstandardonline.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
36. Initially, one of the main organizations behind the convoy protest, Canada Unity, had essentially called for the removal of the Trudeau government and its replacement by a “Citizens of Canada Committee” to be composed of Canada Unity and other appointees. As outlandish as this may sound, the petition that helped mobilize the convoy movement received more than 320,000 signatures. Bauder’s organization later retracted the positions in his petition in recognition that they did not reflect a consensus among other convoy organizers and the movement as a whole. More on this further along in this report.
37. Dani-Elle Dubé, “Sloly requests 1,800 more officers, civilian personnel for truck protest policing operations,” City News, February 7, 2022, citynews.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
38. Justin Ling, “Canada was warned before protests that violent extremists infiltrated convoy,” The Guardian, February 17, 2022, theguardian.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
39. David Fraser, “Police grappling with members who allegedly donated to ‘Freedom Convoy’,” CBC, March 2, 2022, cbc.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
40. Since the initial calls were made for an inquiry to investigate the nature of policing operations conducted during the convoy movement, the inquiry that’s been launched has been given the entirely distinct mandate of investigating why the Federal government invoked the Emergencies Act. It’s unclear whether the mandate of the present inquiry will reveal very the extent to which police forces in Canada were culpable for the unhindered access that the convoy movement was given to occupy Ottawa. See “Inquiry opens into Liberal actions against Freedom Convoy,” Western Standard, March 15, 2022, westernstandardonline.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
41. Enzo DiMatteo, “Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act as police toe thin blue line on “Freedom Convoy” blockades,” Now Magazine, February 15, 2022, nowtoronto.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
42. While these quotes are from DiMatteo’s Now Magazine article, the podcast CanadaLand has an entire episode dedicated to Peter Sloly’s tenure with the Ottawa Police Service. See “#758 Ottawa Cops: Rapes, Lies, And A Lawsuit Against The Press,” CanadaLand, February 28, 2022, canadaland.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
43. See Grant LaFleche, “Security expert. Mountie. Soldier: Meet three men working with the ‘Freedom convoy’,” Toronto Star, February 12, 2022, thestar.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
45. Rachel Aiello, “PM Trudeau in isolation after COVID-19 exposure,” CTV News, January 27, 2022, ctvnews.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
46. One participant who felt himself to have been taken for a ride is Martin Joseph Anglehart, a man who joined the convoy movement from Medicine Hat, Alberta and who spent his entire life savings on convoy expenses only to never be reimbursed and was left living out of his vehicle. While significant attention that has been given to this one vocal defector in the mainstream media should come as no surprise, Anglehart’s statements to the press are worth a listen for the view they provide into the motivations for why he joined the movement, which he indicated had a lot to do with feeling isolated and depressed throughout the pandemic. His video statements can be found in the article by Natalie van Rooy, “Protester who lost life savings regrets involvement with ‘Freedom Convoy’,” CTV News, March 24, 2022, ottawa.ctvnews.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
47. “Truckers protest dangerous conditions on B.C. highways,” CBC, January 22, 2022, cbc.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
48. “Truckers slow traffic in protest of high gas prices in Metro Vancouver,” CTV News, March 14, 2022, bc.ctvnews.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
49. We are building on our conception of the proletariat that we employed in Chronicles of the Dispossessed. We see the proletariat in Canada as consisting of two main sections: the working-class and the poor, urban and rural. The vast majority of Indigenous peoples in Canada (Native / “First Nation,” Métis, and Inuit peoples) are in these two categories of the proletariat, but due to the added burden of centuries of national oppression that is driven by the Canadian bourgeoisie’s need to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands and all wealth within them, the vast majority of Indigenous peoples can very well be considered as a third section of the proletariat with its own added stakes in a proletarian socialist revolution.
50. Danielle Wiener-Bronner, “More than half of businesses that closed during the pandemic won’t reopen,” CNN, September 17, 2020, cnn.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
51.The wiki entry “On-to-Ottawa Trek” offers a fair summary of the events surrounding the On-to-Ottawa Trek, that bold political offensive taken by the communist-led Workers Unity League in 1935, a time when the Communist Party of Canada still had a revolutionary character. A few years later, however, the CPC would abandon its revolutionary character when it entered into strategic alliance with the Liberal Party against fascism and during the Second World War, never to reclaim its revolutionary initiative again. See wikipedia.org/wiki/On-to-Ottawa_Trek (accessed April 18, 2022).
52. See Part I of the Spectre that still Haunts series, “The Proletariat: What it is, what it ain’t,” in kites #1 (January 2020) for an account of the relationship of dispossession and revolutionary consciousness. We think that this way of viewing political agency in relation to social dislocation can be extended to any class or fraction of any class facing dispossession. For instance, a part of the bourgeoisie can be set in motion by fear of or active financial loss, just as segments of the popular classes have been in motion by the loss of freedom of movement and social lives that has occurred during the pandemic. It’s important to understand these economic movements and the shifting of classes. That said, while understanding the motion within and across classes is an important analytically for an overall class analysis and in order to formulate tactics for making political effective interventions in such moments, we want to caution against seeing this as a substitute for a general class analysis of a social formation, a region, a country, or a people in any given time or place.
53. Tradespeople are divisible into both petty-bourgeois and proletarian strata. The petty-bourgeois strata of tradespeople are defined as those owning their own companies, tools of the trade, and possibly even employing a small number of workers who they work alongside and oversee as masters or specially-licensed practitioners of their trade. The proletarian strata are often apprentices and do not own much by way of tools, but they often aspire to achieve the position of their bosses one day. Those tradespeople whose companies become large enough that they no longer need to work in the trade alongside the other trades workers and move into a strictly managerial become bourgeois proper. And then are also those tradespeople who are employed directly by large firms as, say for instance, in-house electricians or technicians. These workers are not proprietors in their company but they sometimes are given hourly rates far above most other workers and this can generate a more petty-bourgeois standard of life and class consciousness. But from our past social investigation work, we can also say that when workers like these hit a snag in life, they can be living in tent cities or on the streets just six months later.
54. The Farfadaa is one the largest far-Right groups in Quebec, emerging as an offshoot of the now defunct anti-Islam organization La Meute. The group came to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic by attaching itself to the broad anti-vaxx and anti-mask movements, within which they were one of the few well-organized formal organizations with a strong street presence.
55. See Meghan Grant, “Coutts arrests: new details on the men and women charged in border blockade,” CBC, February 17, 2022, cbc.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
56. See Taylor Chartrand, “Following death-threats to Trudeau, Yellow-Vest Medicine Hat looks to change their name,” Chat News Today, January 12, 2019, chatnewstoday.ca (accessed April 17, 2022).
57. See maverickparty.ca for the platform of the Maverick Party.
58. See Shawn McCarthy, “Former MP Jay Hill broke rules by calling ministers about energy deal, ethics watchdog says,” The Globe and Mail, March 26, 2013, theglobeandmail.com (accessed April 17, 2022).
59. A YouTube video by this former Rebel News employee has been removed, however if you Google search the quote in this sentence, fragments of this scandal can still be found on Reddit and other parts of the internet.
60. The kites piece “Kick ‘Em While They’re Down” (Issue #3) does a good job of analyzing how anti-communism was cultivated by and took hold within academia and the Left, but that’s only part of the story. The retreat of communist revolutionaries from the proletariat more broadly after the second-wave of party-building in Canada after the 1970s remains to be accounted for.
61. For a theoretical elaboration on the generalized state of crisis playing out across capitalism-imperialism, refer to kites #2 for Kenny Lake’s “Things Done Changed” (which is Part II of the Spectre series) and José San Miguel’s “Theses on Capitalist Crisis and Class War.”
62. Cultural liberalism, that is; certainly not economic liberalism.
63. See Rob Wallace’s Big Farms Make Big Flu (Monthly Review Press: New York, 2016) and Dead Epidemiologists: On the origins of COVID-19 (Monthly Review Press: New York, 2020).
Annex: Militancy in Quebec in the ‘60s, the FLQ, and the October Crisis
Before the 1970s, the French-Canadian province of Quebec was largely dominated by the Anglo-Canadian ruling class minority in a largely Francophone province; the Quebec bourgeoisie was relatively weak and marginal, and such forms of national oppression as denial of language rights and discrimination in hiring practices were widespread. Out of this context was born a revolutionary and socialist-oriented independence movement which soon developed an armed wing, the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), an armed organization inspired by, among others, the Front de Libération Nationale of Algeria. Though not quite Marxist-Leninist, the FLQ brought together a few dozen militants divided into loosely-connected cells with a socialist ideology comparable in many ways to many of the other armed national liberation movements in existence around the world at the time. The FLQ developed links with Cuban, Algerian, and Palestinian revolutionaries as well as with the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary formations in the US, and some members even underwent arms training with revolutionaries overseas.1 They had a major network of contacts throughout Quebec and maintained a number of hideouts and safe houses, including a farm that had been set up specifically as a prison for enemies of the people. The FLQ had a surprising amount of popular support in Quebec, including from within the Quebec labour movement, which was itself heavily influenced by Marxists of all stripes—revolutionary and revisionist—at the time.
The years 1969 and 1970 marked the culmination of the FLQ’s ten-year-long political-military campaign as bombs were set off in bourgeois neighbourhoods, military barracks, and at the Montreal stock exchange. This was in addition to a series of major riots, the most significant of which were those that happened on Quebec’s National Day of June 24 in both 1968 and 1969, as well as the one organized against the Murray Hill company by the Taxi Liberation Movement on October 7, 1969, which was a highly-original mass organization that would go on to supply leading members to the FLQ.2
After a period of internal struggle, in 1970 the FLQ decided to attempt a big push to advance the national struggle and put pressure on the state for the release of 23 political prisoners. On October 5, the Liberation cell of the FLQ kidnapped British diplomat James Richard Cross, and this was quickly followed by the kidnapping of Quebec’s Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte by the Chénier cell. A week later, Laporte was found dead in the trunk of his car. A public assembly in Montreal openly in support of the FLQ drew close to a thousand participants, with Michel Chartrand, a well-known trade-unionist of the time and long-time enemy of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as one of its lead speakers. These were the events that led Pierre Trudeau to initiate the War Measures Act, claiming there was an immediate insurrectionary threat against the Quebec government, which led to the occupation of Montreal by the Canadian military and the arbitrary arrest of some 500 people (including nationalists, socialists, Marxists-Leninists, trade unionists and other “inconvenient” people) with countless other warrantless searches. Many of these detainees were held for months without charges or trial. One very significant consequence of these events for the internal geopolitics and distribution of bourgeois power throughout Canada was the shifting of the country’s financial centre from Montréal to Toronto. Since then, the Quebecois bourgeoisie has grown a size or two and has established itself as a full partner and important element of the Canadian ruling class. The nationalist movement, following suit, shed its progressive and socialist elements and converted into a nationalist movement with trends ranging from centre-Left to far-Right. The most committed socialists, for their part, channeled their energy towards the second party-building movement in Canada, with a former FLQ spokesperson going on to establish In Struggle! Marxist-Leninist Organization in the early 1970s.3
For further reference, we strongly recommend watching The Rose Family, a documentary about two brothers who were part of the Chénier cell and became the face of the October Crisis. You won’t find anything better and more in-depth about the FLQ as an organization. It’s available at the National Film Board online collection at the nfb.ca. Another accessible resource for a general overview of events is the documentary Action: The Events of October 1970 by Robin Spry (onf.ca/film/action_ the_october_crisis_of_1970/). The deepest historical analysis of this movement available in English is Louis Fournier’s (now somewhat rare) book FLQ, Anatomy of a clandestine movement. The FLQ manifesto can be found at marxists.org/history/canada/quebec/flq/1970/manifesto.htm.
- For some documentary footage of FLQ members training with Palestinian liberation fighters, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9E383UCyCc.
- In 1966, the militant association of taxi drivers Taxi Liberation Movement (TLM) was formed to fight the monopolist control of the industry, which was responsible for massively inflated permit costs, long hours, and miserable rates of remuneration. After a series of escalating actions in the preceding years, on October 7, 1969, the militant taxi workers movement organized a protest at Montreal City Hall that eventually made its way over to one of the industry monopolists in Montreal, Murray Hill Limousine Service, which was ransacked and set fire with vehicles being destroyed. Company security guards fired into the crowd, hitting an independent activist Marc Carbonneau and killing one demonstrator: ironically, an undercover Quebec police agent that was infiltrating the TLM. For more information see archivesrevolutionnaires.com/2019/05/04/mouvement-de-liberation-du-taxi/.
- Known more commonly by its French name, En Lutte.