This weekend, in Portland Oregon and Nanaimo British Columbia, the descendants of the worst relics of history’s most racist and imperialist powers are out in the streets. Soldiers of Odin, a white supremacist, anti-immigration, fascist group is marching to “end” a tent city that is home to hundreds of displaced and dispossessed people. But rather than raise clearly the banner of hate they hold, Soldiers of Odin claims to be a charity looking to “keep our communities safe,” and to “protect innocent women, children and elderly” people of “all creeds and colours.”
The Soldiers of Odin’s primary demand is “safety” because it implies that they are fighting an enemy. Instead of demanding homes, healthcare, food or respect for all, safety is the primary concerns of bigots and white supremacists. Safe from what exactly? Safety from the bosses that oppress us all into low wage labour, working everyday while struggling to meet our basic needs? Safety from the state that leaves some of us on the streets without homes, that sends police to harass us? Safety from colonial property ownership that dispossess and displaces Indigenous communities in order to make always more profit off of stolen land?
No. The Soldiers of Odin plan to march against people experiencing homelessness.
The Soldiers of Odin’s rhetoric about homelessness and poverty is deceptively simple: they want to “look after our own first.” They use the spectacle of poverty in Canada as a justification for stopping migrants and refugees at the border. Again they are gesturing towards an enemy, and a racial and national hierarchy of human value. Without naming it, the enemy they imply is the racialized immigrant, people of color, and the poor who live outside nuclear families. The Soliders of Odin’s enemy is an outsider, guilty of disrupting the peace and safety of honest (white) workers and their families. Their argument is irrational. There is no logical way to claim that migrants and refugees cause homelessness. But by reducing the issue to individual stories of economic migrants or homeless people living with addictions, easily stopped at the border or incarcerated and forced into treatment by a strong willed government, their nonsense solution feels more doable than solutions that require fundamental reordering of our society to end the capitalist economic system and the colonial order of land occupation and theft.
Beyond their sickening hate that sacrifices the lives of the billions that they proclaim enemies, the far right racists and anti-poor bigots misunderstand the cause of our social ills. The story that there is a Canadian middle class free and safe from the injustice of this world is a myth. The capitalist economy depends on keeping all working people – whether we happen to be employed in a unionized and well-paid job or unemployed and poverty stricken on the street – in poverty in order to exploit us as a class. The Canadian government uses imperialist policies within its own border against Indigenous peoples and around the world to drive profit from our dispossession and forced displacement.
None of us who are homeless, consume drugs or alcohol, or are migrants or refugees are responsible for the struggles with the edges or depths of poverty that plague families in Canada. The responsibility for these ills is on the capitalist and colonial systems and those who invest and receive massive profits from them. As long as there are bosses to exploit us; landlords and sheriffs to push us out onto the street; police to harass and beat us up with impunity; as long as our entire communities are one paycheck away from being able to meet our basic needs, none of us will be safe.
All people who are Indigenous, immigrants, workers, unemployed, housed, and homeless have an interest into challenging all forms of oppression that keep us down and the capitalists in power. And we do have the power to do it. Homeless and poor people who happen to be in Canada have the same destiny and interests as the migrants and poor who happen to have found themselves in or across the borders of other countries around the world. When we stand against bigotry and all forms of hate we stand together for a better world: homes for all!