"Who Are the English Defence League? And Are They Fascist?" by Ben Gidley at Arguing the World: argues that the EDL is the unstable inheritance of two different traditions, one "suited" (associated with the anti-Islamic right) and one "booted" (basically football hooliganism), then makes some points about why the EDL matters and some speculations about how to combat them. Also posted at Engage and Harry's Place, both with discussion threads. Unfortunately, HP's thread illustrates the law of diminishing returns with blog commentary and is not worth ploughing through, except to get a taste of the EDL's more intellectual supporters. However, the comments by Monty are intelligent so I extract them here:
To me, the most interesting aspect of the EDL is their nebulous nature. We don’t know who, or what, they are. And they seem to have picked up on the fact that formal organisation, with membership and leadership, tends to make new movements vulnerable to legal action and proscription by the Home Office.
For a grass-roots movement, which doesn’t want to morph into a political party vehicle for a few individuals, it looks quite shrewd. How do you ban an organisation which has no tangible structure, no leaders, no membership, no money, and only manifests itself as three initials which could change at a whim? It is more of a flash network, like the people who descend on someone’s house when they get wind of a party and free drinks. You can’t ban it.
And you can’t infiltrate it’s leadership and “turn” it to a different direction. It has no formal leadership.[...]
another tactic which the EDL have been using quite effectively: Namely the proposal of a protest demo at a specified time and place, and the subsequent cancellation of same.
In the case of their Troxy demo, their event was called off because their stated aim had already been met. But the EDL can cancel, or simply not arrive, with absolute confidence that the UAF et al will turn up wanting some aggro, and finding none, start an actual or near riot, tangle with the police, and generally draw public attention to their most appalling behaviour.
Then when the pictures hit the newspapers, there’s plenty of violence, but no sign of the EDL, and no EDL arrests, because they weren’t there.
If you look at the cost/benefit analysis of that approach, it’s quite smart.Explaining the English Defence League by James Bloodworth at Obliged to Offend. I've already linked to this, but wanted to draw your attention to comments by Duncan, now blogging occasionally at Though Cowards Flinch, where he may one day write a post about this, which will be worth reading. In the meantime, here's a flavour:
the BNP and the EDL are separate entities with different political genealogies even though both of them fit the label ‘far right’. The BNP can still be placed in the fascist political tradition, even if much of their current rhetoric is at odds with that, and the political CV’s of all the main players
In contrast, the origins of the EDL are in football firms, which with a few exceptions have never been explicitly linked to right-wing groups despite the latter’s fantasy about this, and other ‘right but not racist, honest guv’ groups from around the milieu of loyalist supporters on the mainland, as in March for England or the British Ulster Alliance.
I think it’s useful to compare what’s happening now with the last time, to my knowledge, when some football firms became politically active which was in the early 90’s in opposition to Irish republicanism. It was during this time that large numbers turned out to attack the Bloody Sunday demos in London and the Scottish National Firm was formed, involving supporters from almost every team except Celtic.
Although this was disruptive and dangerous at the time, and sparked some high profile incidents like the abandoning of the England – Ireland football game in 1995 mid-match, this movement was short-lived and fizzled out.
This is why I think it makes sense to treat the EDL and the BNP separately, even if I think that support for both of them is being generated by the same underlying processes.[...]Via Duncan: "Addressing the problem of the English Defence League" by Phil Dickens at Liverpool Antifascists. Dickens, who blogs here and here, is one of the most intelligent writers in the UK anarchist blogosphere, and he has also been published in Shift, my current favourite anti-capitalist periodical. (Read, for example, his argument against multiculturalism or his explanation of why One Law for All gets no publicity compared to the EDL.) Here's a long extract:
The EDL are potentially dangerous and much more interested in direct confrontation but the main threat from the far right is still undoubtedly the BNP.
The answer is not to ignore them, quite simply because those the EDL appeal to are the ignored and marginalised of society. Some may side with this rag-tag organisation because they’re racists looking for a barney, but most harbour quite genuine grievances and – in the absence of anything else – turn to the EDL because they’re saying the right things.
This is why Unite Against Fascism’s (UAF) approach is also ineffective and even counter-productive.
All of these issues are lost in cries of “Nazi scum off our streets” by a group which is happy to align itself with anybody from the leader of the government which is currently attacking the working class to openly bigotted Muslim “leader” Iqbal Sacranie. They really do want an alliance of everyone against the fascists, no matter how unsavoury some elements of that “everyone” may be.
A prime example is the recent protest in Tower Hamlets. The EDL were due to protest an event held by Islamists called “The Book That Shook The World.” Local groups issued a statement “against fascism in all its colours,” which denounced the EDL and the Islamic Forum of Europe with “their very reactionary version of political Islam.” By contrast, UAF called the event “a peace conference, organised by a Muslim charitable foundation and aimed at building understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims” and those who thought differently (such as the Whitechapel Anarchist group) were soon accused of racism.
This is why the EDL hold credibility when they claim that UAF “support Muslim extremists.” The group, essentially just a recruiting front for the Socialist Workers’ Party, is so desperate for its “broad and common front” against fascism to work that it won’t criticise anybody but the EDL and BNP.
The English Defence League is a reactionary organisation which serves to divide the working class against itself. But so, too, are the groups on the Islamic far-right. The only sensible response, as the locals did in Tower Hamlets, is to unite the working class to “be on guard against Fascism in whatever form it occurs.”"A very un-English Defence League" at Contemporary Anarchist. I haven't fully digested this yet. It talks about the ways in which American-based "neo-conservative" (a misnomer in my opinion) groups fund the EDL. This bit, however, is the most pertinent to some of our issues:
Most recently, English Defence League attempted to draw support from Britain's Jews by creating what has been referred to as a 'semi-fictitious' Jewish division. Jewish leaders in Britain have consistently rejected calls by two EDL-associated groups operating in Britain -- SIOE and EDL -- as racist and Islamophobic.
Britain's Jewish community likened the malicious lies of the EDL and SIOE about British Muslims to those spread by Hitler about Jews. This ICLA- alliance, using the EDL divisions on facebook and also their forum, then began threatening Britain's Jews, using characteristic ad-hominems and veiled threats, calling them Kapos and dhimmis, and falsely claiming that 'hundreds of British Jews' had joined. These claims regarding the depth of British Jewish support are false.The last bit comes from a new anti-EDL blog from the people that brought us the blog version of That's Funny, You Don't Look Anti-Semitic.
A detailed analysis of their facebook group membership showed Jewish support (no greater than 30%) came from outside of Britain, mainly from American, Canadian and French Kahanist-linked and Likud-Herut activists, whilst the bulk of supporters (70%) came from gullible EDL rank-and-file nationalists, unknowingly hoodwinked by the EDL leadership into supporting non-English foreign lobby groups.
"Who Are Atlas's Thugs? Inside the Weird Alliance of the Pro-Israel Fringe and Far-Right British Football Hooligans" by Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post from back in March makes some of the same allegations as the above post. Essentially, the claim is that Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs is bankrolling the EDL and that the EDL are the product of the BNP's "Zionist" turn. I think Blumenthal's analysis is wrong, as he claims that "The reorientation of the BNP around a pro-Zionist, Islamophobic platform led directly to the rise of the EDL." Now, it is true that BNP leader Nick Griffin has made a bid to present the BNP as pro-Zionist, but this is hollow, and the EDL's apparent pro-Zionism is unrelated to it. The EDL authentically express what the BNP are cynically attempting to tap into: a widespread hatred of Islam across British society. For the EDL, being pro-Israel springs from being anti-Muslim.
"The Fascist EDL Attacks Birmingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign Stall" by Tony Greenstein. This post starts with a recent viscious attack by some apparently EDL linked thugs on a PSC stall. TG goes a small step further than Blumenthal and reiterates his equation between the EDL and "the Zionists" which we looked at here. While I think he is making his points in good faith, the fact that an out and out antisemite in the comment thread, “Eleanor”, takes up his points as evidence for “Jews” being fascists illustrates what is at stake here, and why he is playing a dangerous game. To my mind, the “Judeo-Nazi” trope which this feeds is today’s equivalent of the old “Judeo-Bolshevik” trope and is fast becoming the key weapon in the antisemitic arsenal.
“Searchlight Names EDL Leader “Tommy Robinson” as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon” by Richard Bartholomew. This post is about the revelation that one of the key EDL leaders is an ex-BNP member.
Not sure which of these posts by "Malatesta" at Libcom I've already linked to, so I'll link to them all. I think the analysis is fairly sound, and they are quite informative, but I think s/he over-emphasises the BNP link and fascist presence in the EDL. ‘Shema Israel!’: The EDL Jewish Division; The BNP, EDL & Violence; The EDL & A ‘Different’ Kind of Racism.
More links and discussion at Engage.