The English Defence League

The Guardian at the weekend had a long and revealing article on the EDL. There's a video to go with it. The BBC have also been undercover, and their documentary is called "Young, British and Angry" (I haven't watched that yet; it's available for just a few more days on the iPlayer).

I think the investigations confirm my sense that it is wrong to call the EDL fascist; they are too heterogeneous and contradictory. Nonetheless, it is clear that they are an important focus for street violence, and are creating a climate that is increasingly devisive, as well as intimidating for non-white people. It is also clear their ability to mobilise people makes them a focus for fascist recruitment and potentially for fascist regroupment, especially given the on-going crisis in the BNP.

How to respond remains, therefore, a key question for the anti-fascist movement. Or, rather, the lack of a serious anti-fascist movement makes the question of how to respond particularly urgent. This urgency was dramatised by the EDL march in Newcastle at the weekend, which saw a poor response, which is very well analysed by Scottish Socialist Youth. Here's a snippet:
So what did the labour movement response to fascism entail? A couple of lonely union banners, shit music, some woman dancing with a hula-hoop, a few speakers and a shockingly low turnout of no more than 150 is probably the best way of summing it up. Outright lies as well – one speaker applauded the police’s actions while informing the assembled turnout of embarrassed looking trade unionists, confused onlookers and obscure paper sellers that the EDL had been ‘denied the right to march in our city today’. Surrounding the union rally was huge lines of police, which only served to alienate the public from the event, and either way, did not stop a leading EDL member, Joel Titus, from swaggering his way through the crowd earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, as the EDL began to assemble in the city centre, Unite Against Fascism were massing on a quiet road a couple of miles away. What followed was a stage-managed display of militancy, with angry chanting and plenty of talk of ’smashing’ the EDL, before the 500 or so protestors marched into a pre-arranged tight police kettle within what was just about shouting distance of the EDL. If you shouted REALLY loudly, that is. Which they did of course, not that you could even see the EDL through the thick lines of police, parked riot vans and so on.
Meanwhile, the EDL are planning to march in Cardiff this weekend. The Walsall march on 19 June has been cancelled, partly because the mosque it was protesting against has been denied planning permission, not least because of large numbers of Muslims complaining that there are too many mosques in the area already!


Waterloo Sunset said…
I'd say the EDL are currently best described as a homegrown Loyalist movement. While not currently fascist (although some memebers are), they definitely have that potential. And Loyalism has always been an ideology that has been prone to attracting fascist fellow travellers.

That would also explain the hostility, from a British nationalist perspective, that some of the EDL leadership show towards the overt neo nazis.
Liam said…
Thanks for the link, I'm glad you appreciated our article.

I watched the documentary on BBC3 and it confirmed what a lot of us thought about the EDL - they aren't hardcore nazis,and there may even be a few members who genuinely don't think the EDL is racist, but the core of their organisation is a fear of muslims, and asians, that many ordinary people unfortunately seem to share. The dangerous thing about them is their capacity to get large numbers of people onto the streets. Wherever they try to organise, we should oppose them - in Scotland, we have had huge successes in organising against the SDL outside of UAF (although the fact that the SDL are only able to mobilise a handful of people has also played a huge part in this).
The UAF are completely counter productive in the fight against racism when they take to the streets - members of the public, and especially the working classes, see middle-class effete students waving Pakistan, Soviet and Al Qaeda flags and shouting "Nazi scum" (ridiculous, whatever you think of the EDL) at "normal" looking blokes with England flags.

What an absolute gift to the racists.
bob said…
Homegrown Loyalism makes sense to me intuitively, not least given the history of involvement with Loyalism from some of the football firms, but also begs a lot of questions, as Loyalism is such an ideologically complicated formation.

On the UAF, see my comment on the next post up.