Firstly I would personally like to take responsibility for the disgusting, disheartening events in Québec city this Sunday. I covered the incredible social movements in Montréal for about 8 years. Starting in 2009 on Radio CJLO. In 2012, I was part of the groundbreaking team at CUTV that not only covered but nurtured social protest. I have been batoned, pepper-sprayed, hit with flash-bangs and illegally detained to be charged with unconstitutional offenses. I watched hundreds of thousands of citizens take control of the city of Montréal the night Law 78 passed; banging their pots and pans in a deafening roar. I watched in awe as a generation of young Québecois took to the streets peacefully night after night in the face of state violence and strive to connect with, and change their society.
I am responsible for Sunday because I have been silent for the last 3-4 years as I watched these amazing movements overtaken by a dark ideology. I have penned many articles decrying police repression but not one decrying the repression of ideas and stifling of voices in the social movements. I have been silent while dialogue and the hope of true mass mobilization have been put to the side in favour of ideologically rigid positions. I have been silent while self-made “leaders” have brutally enforced it through the modern control mechanism of social media. I have been silent while the mechanisms of dogmatic control have been deliberately put in place to control and direct the energies of amazing people toward some juvenile revolution fantasy construct who’s language and aims are, in some cases, as dark as it comes. I was silent because I feared the social media backlash, possibility of getting less views on my blog, and my peers thinking differently of me. I was silent and I am ashamed of that.
I acknowledge fully that probably most of the participants in Sundays debacle are excellent forward thinking progressive people bent on improving the human condition. I acknowledge the culpability of the state for using massively brutal force on high school, CÉGEP, and university students who took the streets to protest tuition increases. I served ten years in the Canadian Forces and that was the most draconian garbage I have ever seen. It made me beat someones ass angry at 40 cynical years I can only imagine what it did to the amazing young people who formed that movement. But this is about us, not them.
The following is a view from that perspective on how Sunday’s fiasco in Québec city came about.
What happened in Québec city Sunday has been coming since the spring of 2015 when protests in Montréal took a sudden and definite turn to violence. In 2016 the SPVM dramatically changed tactics and backed off of demos, letting them proceed for the first time in years. Suddenly, certain elements in the social movements changed tactics and there were incidents like the burning of half a neighborhood full of cars used by working-class people. At the 2017 anti-police-brutality demo Bloc’ed up protesters actually attacked the alternative media that had been their best ally. Social networks were full of draconian pronouncements not to question their tactics, and anyone who did was pilloried by the political correctness police.
How did we get to Sunday’s disastrous display from the society-shaking heights of the 2012 student movement to a place where the “social movements” just helped La Meute move from fringe parody to political force and at the same time massively damaging social protest in the eyes of many in the broader society. All the while conveniently handing to police and security forces the perfect argument to legitimize the use of massive resources to treat social and environmental protest as national security threats.
Part of the problem I think is somewhat structural to the “left”. Some is a product of the rise of sponsored “protest groups” like Antifa. Certainly the brutally repressive tactics used by the police forces in Québec in response to the student strike has had a large role to play. The rest is the result of mundane human nature and the decision taken by individuals within the movement that the population is to stupid to ever act in its own interest. These “heroes of the revolution” have decided among themselves that they must put revolutionary theory into practice; to use violence to provoke the state to make conditions so intolerable for the bulk of the population that they will revolt. Basically they want to make your and my life, and the lives of everyone you know and care about so intolerable that we will have no choice but to follow them. This isn’t a joke and they lay this out in their own words on the aptly named Montréal Counter Info website.
Structurally, I think some detached examination is in order. As someone who doesn’t come from a background of social protest I’ve always had an outsiders view of the “left”. One of the most curious things I find is the culture of no criticism. Any criticism even if delivered in a respectful and constructive way is often forbidden. This is odd because most other group activities consider such reflective criticism of strategy and base goals and methods to be vital. How else does any group improve and become more enabled to actually accomplish its goals? The other super surprising thing to me was the rigidity of the dogma in social movements. The doctrine as delivered by the auto defined “leadership” must be followed without question. But because doctrinaly there can be no defined leader, the function is carried out by an amorphous consensus usually emanating from the most radical elements in it. I’ve had far more wide ranging discussions, where everyone felt free to express opinions and argue them around army mess tables than in most social movement settings. That seems odd to me. Even when their message is openly contradictory or problematic no one dares question it for fear of being labelled as retrogressive or an apologist for the state. I have no doubt I will receive threats of violence both social and physical for what I write here. Ask yourself is that what you’re struggling for? Is that what the huge majority of people who want fundamental change are dreaming of? Does this structure help or hurt the desperately needed movement toward new social economic political structures that is becoming in an age of dark chaos epitomized by Donald Trump not just desirable but necessary to human survival? Did Sunday advance anyone except La Meute?
Fascism; a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
I’m not going to waste a lot of time on the Antifa. The group name originates in the 20’s fighting against actual Fascists in Europe. In it’s modern revival it seems to have evolved out of the Black Bloc. The group openly promotes violence against whom they label “Fascists”. How they apply this label is disturbing. Anyone who doesn’t agree with their views or actions are too often labeled fascist. Applying it to Sunday’s debacle in Québec city; however misguided and disturbing their beliefs may be they are not “Fascists” as shown by the definition above. My father crossed an ocean and helped liberate Europe from Fascists, I fought a type of Fascist in Croatia that were putting teenagers heads on spikes. These people may be misguided but again, are NOT Fascists. Labeling everyone who expresses different opinions on immigration or anything else as “Fascists” that these self-appointed revolutionaries can violently attack is not democratic, not social and not helpful to anyone’s cause except the person in front of the mic and their desire for notoriety. In the end their tactics have caused an outpouring of sympathy for a group most in the society would shun in other circumstances. I’m going to predict an increase in their ranks. P.S. not all of their sympathizers will join their Facebook group.
The Antifa and the Black Bloc they came out of share a nihilistic and violent philosophy. It is also a philosophy based on the very paternalistic idea that we don’t know whats good for us; as is very openly put in this manifesto of sorts printed in 2016.
“As anarchists, we initiated attacks in this space because we’re not struggling for less murderous police, but for the destruction of all forms of policing. When the police kill someone, sexually assault someone, imprison someone, we believe in vengeance, but we don’t want to stop there. By opening up space and time in the streets through attacking the police, people create the conditions to destroy other components of the material infrastructure of colonial society. We believe this is an important step to nurture the relations of care, trust, and reciprocity that are essential to any rupture with the colonial, capitalist, and patriarchal control of life. In the particular setting of this demo, we acted to open the possibility of complicity with Indigenous people who see the inherently colonial institutions of Canadian policing, in their entirety, as enemies. While aware that some Anishinabe participants were calling for a peaceful protest, we hope that others recognized us as possible future accomplices.
After Monday night, we’ve noticed some self-proclaimed settler/white allies reacting harshly to the direct actions that took place against institutions they ostensibly oppose. The way in which they have taken one or two individuals’ call for a peaceful march to represent the interests of a whole community speaks to the failure of allyship politics. The idea of being a good ally by following the instructions of an oppressed group inevitably confronts the problem of contradictions amongst people of the identity category in question”
Montréal counter-info article “A riot for every police murder”
There is much more in this vain, but it is the adoption of this sort of pseudo-intellectual vocabulary and polarizing stances have been mirrored more and more across the spectrum of social protests. I would use the example of the anti-gentrification movement in Montréal, a real and very pressing issue. Recently there have been a spate of increasingly violent invasions of various businesses and residences. Everything from burning cars to spraying some unknown substance on restaurant patrons. In what universe is this accomplishing anything? Whom is this persuading of what. The minute you truly believe that you have the right to cause true fear to other human beings, make their lives harder by destroying their property and vehicles you lose more than the argument. If you think it’s a long trip from there to real violence you’re wrong. I know this because I have seen where that road ends. In the bloated bodies lining the villages in the former Yugoslavia. The people that did these things were not monsters, they were accountants and high school gym teachers. But they like the kids in the black masks thought they were granted automatic absolution from basic morality because they believed they were serving the greater good.
To my colleagues in the vibrant Montréal alternative media community this should serve as a warning. No longer can we be blind cheerleaders for whoever has a cause. We are trying to form an information and discussion stream outside the mainstream but it must include the application of the same rules for all. We cannot be cheerleaders for anyone or we become simply a mirror of the mainstream media and pointless in an age of “fake news.” Journalism is about the courage to say the unpopular thing, simply parroting the party line is the role of cowards.
I will close, and I hope without encouraging anyone here to blame infiltrators for this mess because it’s ours, with the following observations. One of the most ancient journalistic maxims is Qui Bono: who benefits? So who has really benefited directly from the degeneration of mass social movements into this flag waving crap? The forces of the state. The images provided them in the last 2 years are golden mana from heaven; masked violent crowds attacking police and citizen alike and open calls for violence. Police are walking into politician’s offices in Ottawa and Québec with these images, helping them greatly to expand their powers. I would also point out that almost the same moment the SPVM massively and fundamentally changed their brutal tactics of the last 4 years, that was the exact same moment this new more violent faction took place in the streets. Coincidentally, when the police choose to appear much less repressive, social movements become wildly more violent. How convenient for someone.
Great Video by Eric Robertson 99media. Some of this is hard to watch
A better job explaining the concept than my poor pen.
I started as a Journalist with community radio and writing articles. In 2009 I began working with CUTV Montreal. During the student strikes and subsequent social unrest I helped manage the Livestream ground teams. I am also a co-founder of 99media.org and The founder of 3RTV, both citizen media groups. I also collaborated with Michelle Moore on the documentary film Déception Durable which was selected for the 2014 Montréal International Film Festival, and Films That Matter in Calgary on resource extraction in Quebec. I am a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists.