Source: Fair use

On Feb. 23, three Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MPs were photographed proudly grinning next to Christine Anderson, a member of the far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). 

AfD was established in 2013, and its short history is already littered with countless scandals related to neo-Nazism. To give only a few examples, members of the party have made references to “Umvolkung” (a term for the racist theory of ethnic replacement associated with Nazism), forged ties with open neo-Nazi groups, and finally, past leader of the party Björn Höcke once stated that Germany needs “nothing other than a 180-degree reversal on the politics of [Holocaust] remembrance,” obviously implying that Germany should not be ashamed of its Nazi past.  

In between issuing Nazi dog whistles (or all but endorsing Nazism), the party is known for whipping up xenophobia and Islamophobia, denying climate change, opposing same-sex marriage, promoting misogyny, and so on. Clearly, the AfD will stoop to any low in order to stoke divisions and hatred and is not afraid of being associated with fascism.

And yet, when faced with backlash about the CPC’s canoodling with this rotten den of neo-Nazis, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre pleaded ignorance, claiming that the CPC was “not aware of the views or associations of [Anderson] and her political party.” Even more stunningly, apparently the MPs who sat down, ate and spoke with Anderson—Colin Carrie, Dean Allison and Leslyn Lewis—didn’t know her views either! Pollievre says the MPs “were not aware of this visiting Member of the European Parliament’s opinions, and they regret meeting with her.” A simple Google search on Anderson and Alternative für Deutschland immediately brings up all of its scandals and Nazi ties. Are we to believe that nobody thought to do this before meeting with Anderson publicly, and posting about it online? Nonetheless, this is the absurd argument that Poilievre stuck to when he announced on March 5th that the three MPs will not be removed. 

The obvious reality is that the Conservatives are comfortable flirting with the far right to score some support. There is no way that neither Poilievre nor the MPs didn’t know about the ideas of Alternative für Deutschland, or that they genuinely oppose those ideas. They’re only sorry they got caught. 

A new era for the Conservative party

This scandal is just the latest expression of a deeper trend taking place in the federal Conservative party. Last year, Erin O’Toole was removed as leader of the party, representing the victory of the right-populist wing over O’Toole’s more “pragmatic”, “respectable” brand of conservatism.  The Freedom Convoy helped to usher O’Toole out the door, as the more moderate wing of the party demanded that he condemn the convoy and the right wing that he endorse it wholeheartedly. His choice to flip-flop weakly between the two inspired little confidence. 

Poilievre, by boldly endorsing the convoy and styling himself as a rogue, anti-establishment warrior, was able to snag the leadership of the party. He lambasted “gatekeepers” and “elites”, and even claimed he would fire Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem for acting as the ATM of the Liberals. Of course, Poilievre is not really against the elites of this country. He, just like every other capitalist politician, has always supported the capitalists over the working class: he has promoted so-called “right-to-work” laws which aim to decimate union funding and thereby limit the power of the working class, accused migrant workers of causing lower wages for “local” workers, and recently advocated more austerity as a means of fighting inflation.  Dressing up these policies in anti-status quo language, talking about the “have-yachts” and the “have-nots,” doesn’t change their vicious anti-worker content. 

This scandal with Christine Anderson further proves the real class nature of right-wing populism, and shows that the Conservatives are becoming more and more willing to pander to the far right—including to actual neo-Nazis—in order to secure a base of support. 

Gone are the days when associating oneself with white nationalists meant being ejected from the CPC, as Derek Sloan was in 2021 when he accepted an online donation from white nationalist Paul Fromm. Now, a simple “oopsies” is enough to make up for associating with neo-Nazis.

Witch hunts for the left, impunity for the right

While Justin Trudeau as well as some liberal journalists have taken this opportunity to firmly scold Poilievre, we are not seeing anything like the all-out witch hunts that get incited when baseless accusations of antisemitism are thrown at the left. 

In 2021, the same organization that raised concern about the Anderson meeting, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, criticized left NDP MP Niki Ashton as antisemitic. The bourgeois media immediately leapt on the opportunity to grind Ashton’s name into the dirt, even repeating outright misinformation to make Ashton look worse. And all of this was in response to the apparently unforgivable crime of… having a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, ex-leader of the British Labour Party, had himself been branded antisemitic by the right for supporting the people of Palestine against Israeli state oppression. No evidence of actual antisemitism was ever produced against Ashton or Corbyn, but even the party leadership of the NDP refused to defend their MP.  In reality, these accusations amounted to nothing more than a smear campaign against the left.

But now that we have real antisemitism within the Conservative party, where is the unanimous media outcry, or the calls for MPs to step down? They are nowhere. Anyone who took seriously the bourgeois media and the right-wingers “concern” over antisemitism on the left should now realize that these people don’t care about fighting oppression—they care about fighting the left.

No more status quo 

This hatred for socialist ideas, ironically, tells us exactly what is needed to defeat the far right, whom the Conservatives are increasingly pandering to. 

Simply making calls for Poilievre to condemn the far right, like Trudeau has done, is useless. He has asked the Conservatives to “own up and either really disassociate themselves from hateful, vile, intolerant rhetoric, or tell the truth and explain that they actually have room for those rhetorics and that intolerance within their party.” The fact is, we already know that there is room for the far right in the Conservative party, but finger-wagging does nothing to change that.

What is needed is for the leadership of the working class to realize that the status quo is collapsing, and to begin defending bold socialist ideas that actually address the crises of capitalism which Poilievre cynically uses to get support. Poilievre was able to win the leadership race because he at least pretended to be addressing those crises by speaking of the working class, the elites, and the divisions in society. Of course, he is a total hypocrite and has nothing but lies to offer the working class—but the NDP has failed to expose those lies and have instead been appealing to the nonexistent status quo. 

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh responded to Poilievre’s election by congratulating him and talking about the need to “refuse the destructive politics of division.” But the fact is that society is divided, by nature. There are workers and there are capitalists, and the capitalists amass their wealth by exploiting the workers. In a time when this division is becoming increasingly clear to more and more people, vague calls for unity make no sense and inspire no one. Further, by tying themselves to the liberals with their “confidence-and-supply deal,” the NDP have opened themselves to attacks from the right when they do try to espouse anti-status quo ideas. For example, in reference to the deal with the Liberals, Poilievre said to Singh, “Yes, the ‘system’ is rigged for the rich but you are the system Jagmeet.” The NDP’s strategy of moderation has left a vacuum of anti-status quo ideas on the left, which shamefully makes Poilievre the only politician willing to utter the words “working class.” 

Fight the far right with a socialist program and class struggle

Of course, most working class people are repulsed by the far right and are outraged at the Conservatives’ flirting with neo-Nazis. But that doesn’t mean the labour movement can ignore the problem. No matter who wins the next election, the fact is that capitalism is too decrepit to offer solutions to the most pressing crises—inflation, the housing crisis, the climate crisis, and so on—and this is what gives ammunition to the far right as they try to redirect the vitriol and fear of workers away from capitalism and toward this or that culture war issue. Extracting promises to do better from Poilievre or even defeating him electorally does nothing to address the root cause of the issue. 

The labour movement needs to mobilize the large swathes of workers and youth who want to fight the status quo and defeat the far right, rather than appealing to a “centre” that doesn’t exist. In Canada, a recent poll shows that one million youth want communism, and another poll from 2021 showed that 35 per cent of Canadians want to move away from capitalism, with only 25 per cent opposed to that. This, as well as recent mass movements like the Black Lives Matter movement, show that the polarization in society swings far more to the left than to the right, and that it is absolutely possible—and necessary—to trounce Poilievre and his despicable far-right fans by mobilizing in the streets and in the workplaces.

The NDP and the labour movement need to expose the fact that the “elites” and “gatekeepers” are not some shadowy secret clique, nor are they “big government”—they are the same old capitalist class that has been reaping profits from the working class for centuries, and right wingers like Poilievre represent them, not workers. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) recognized this when they stated that Poilievre has “spent every minute of his time in office fighting against fair wages, good pensions and a better life for working people.” 

This is true. But it is up to the labour movement to fight for those things, as well as against capitalism in general, or else Poilievre and the far right will continue to cynically exploit the anti-status quo anger in society to their own benefit. Anderson’s meeting with the Conservative MPs should be a wakeup call for the labour movement and the NDP: the status quo is dead and gone, and far-right goons are taking advantage of it. To defeat them, labour must do the same—but by advancing a fighting, socialist program that attacks the actual root of the crisis: capitalism.