A group calling themselves the English Defence League (EDL) have recently began a national tour of the UK, prancing around major cities declaring their opposition towards “Terrorists and Sharia”. Already they have visited Whitechapel, Wood Green, Luton and Birmingham City Centre (three times in fact). Where they have mobilised, it has been explicitly clear, that for all their rhetoric of being just a group of concerned, patriotic individuals, mobilising against Muslim extremism, they are an exclusively white mixture of football hooligans, drunken thugs and fascists. And when fascists feel confident enough to march through our streets, it is a hard-hitting realisation that the anti-fascist movement here in the UK is in a sorry state.
The EDL have been very keen on distancing themselves from more overt fascists organisations such as the British National Party (BNP) and have made several unconvincing gestures to show that they aren't racists or fascists. Upon joining their forums for example you are greeted with the message “The EDL will not tolerate any racist or Islamaphobic behaviour on this forum.”, in a similar token gesture, they can often be found marching comfortably with Israeli and even Jamaican flags alongside the usual barrage of Union Jacks, Ulster flags and such you can expect to find on a nationalist demonstration. All these gestures of course, would be much more convincing if they didn't have the very same politics of the fascists.
Recently EDL ring-leader (or should that read 'zoo-keeper'?) Paul Ray made it clear what the EDL's true intentions are when he spoke of their “opposition to all Muslims practising their faith in Britain”, he then went on to confess that the street demonstrations taking place around the UK were not aimed exclusively against extremist Islam, but all practising Muslims. This is not the first time Ray has spoken out against Muslims however, having appeared earlier on American radio speaking of his opposition to “paki-muslims” - a phrase he chooses not to use when speaking on behalf of the EDL.
Fascists have long been known for their complete lack of intelligence, and in true form the EDL are no different. Despite their denial of their links to fascism, their nazi-salutes at demo's, their attacks on anti-fascist campaigners and their chants of “no more mosques” suggest differently, their non-racist claims have none of us fooled. And as if further proof were needed of the EDL's fascist roots, their web designer is non other than BNP activist Chris Renton. But even if this were not the case, a group dedicated to defending Britain as a beacon of Christian values, demonising all Muslims as extremists is a group that deserves to be met head on.
What is striking about the whole affair, is as quick as the EDL were to distance themselves from the BNP, the BNP were similarly quick to distance themselves from the EDL. This 'we're not racist we just hate Muslims' approach is however, fitting with the long-term BNP strategy of watering down their fascism for popularist gain. In 2000 for example BNP leader Nick Griffin met with infamous white-supremacist and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke and lay out this strategy thus:
“…Perhaps one day, once by being rather more subtle we’ve got ourselves in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, “Yes, every last one must go.” Perhaps they will one day, but if you offer that as your sole aim to start with, you’re gonna get absolutely nowhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.”
Griffin also talked about the need for fascists to establish organisations that moved away from Jew-bashing and holocaust denial and instead focus on attacking Muslims, because as he so aptly put it:
“The proper enemy to any political movement isn’t necessarily the most evil and the worst. The proper enemy is the one we can most easily defeat.”
In a climate of war-driven hysteria about Muslims, where the bigoted racism of the BNP is being echoed by the mainstream parties in order to justify ever harsher detention and immigration controls, gloss over police racism and legitimatise their many Middle Eastern wars, it is no surprise the fascists of the EDL feel confident enough to march through the streets.
The 'National Tour' of the EDL so far may not have come to an area near you. But we in the Anarchist Federation urge all our comrades to go out and meet these thugs head on when they do, the experience so far has been that when anti-fascists stand toe to toe with these scum, we win. Fascism deserves nothing less than direct confrontation and where they mobilise we must be there to let racists everywhere know that splitting our communities up, driving Muslims against non-Muslims or whites against Asians isn't acceptable and we won't sit back and watch them preach their hate unchallenged.
Some in the anti-fascist movement have been quick to call on the police and local councils to ban these marches and urged letter writing campaigns. This liberalism however is not the approach of genuine anti-fascists, because we recognise that asking the state to protect us is asking the machine responsible for the rise of fascism, to help protect us from the monster it has created. Moreover asking the state to 'ban' racism in the form of fascists marching does little to tackle genuine issues many working people have with political Islam. All anti-fascists should mobilise against fascism in our streets and couple this with a message that immigrants, Muslims and all other scapegoated sections of society, should not be blamed for the short-comings of capitalism.
EDL have announced plans for upcoming demonstrations in the following cities:
October 10th, City Centre.
October 31st, City Centre, 1pm.
The EDL will no doubt be planning more future demonstrations, keep an eye out for updates on their website and we encourage all anti-fascists to make it clear we won't accept racism wherever and whenever it rears it's ugly head.