It is up to unions to take the lead in the fight against the rise of the right, including fascists and other white supremacist groups emboldened by the election of US President Donald Trump, delegates to Unifor’s Canadian Council heard.
“If someone is going to stop the populist trend in Canada and elsewhere, the labor movement must lead it,” said Unifor Research Director Bill Murnighan.
His message was echoed soon after in an emotional address by Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff on the second day of Canadian Council.
“We will stand up, and we will not tolerate fascism in our country,” Yussuff said, his voice cracking.
Speaking one week after the disturbing events in Charlottesville, Va., Murnighan gave a presentation on the rise of right-wing populism in the United States, Canada and Europe.
By exploiting the concerns of working people, right-wing politicians are able to push an agenda that hurts workers, Murnighan said. They talk about lost jobs and diminished opportunity, and pin the blame on immigrants, the poor or some designated “elite,” Murnighan said.
Left-wing populists, on the other hand, point the finger right at corporations and the wealthy whose policies have hurt working people and their communities.
Murnighan said the popularity of such people as US Senator Bernie Sanders, who almost won the Democratic presidential nomination on a wave of support from young people, and British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbin shows that a populist left-wing message will resonate with voters.