Sunday, 4 April 2010

The question of a working class response to the EDL remains

At the end of last month, I reposted a blog by Barry Kade on the English Defence League's anti-working class stance. Like all fascist groups, they raised the spectre of "communism" in order to attack the idea of working class organisation and resistance to capitalism. But what is the working class response to the stance and activities of the EDL?

There have been some strong efforts at reclaiming a working class perspective against the BNP. Notts Stop the BNP recently organised a conference aimed at building a national network based on just such a perspective. Liverpool Antifascists have been putting the principle in to practice. Antifa, too, have long engaged in antifascism as "part of class struggle." But, aside from a broader analysis which applies equally to the BNP, there has been no serious engagement of the issue upon which the EDL are built, and for which they have considerable public support: militant Islam.

Antifa have perhaps travelled the greatest distance in this respect. In 2004, before the EDL existed, their first demo was called in opposition to both the National Front and al-Muhajiroun, who were due to clash that day. Bristol Antifa also produced an excellent perspective piece titled "Fascism & Fundamentalism – Two Sides Of The Same Coin," which can be downloaded as a leaflet in PDF format here. But is this enough?

Debate has been raging upon this subject for some time, particularly through Ian Bone's blog. In particular, Durruti02's article "knee-jerk antifascism and the EDL" has sparked heated debate, not least after being hidden by the moderators on Indymedia.

I would contend his statement that "the EDL are not fascist nor racists, nor neo nazis." Though they are not fascists in the narrow sense of believing in the ideology of Mussolini or Hitler, they are fascists in the broader perspective that traces fascism back to the Ulster Volunteers created by Lord Carson. It is a reactionary ideology founded upon authoritarian nationalism with the aim of dividing the working class, and is waiting to be used as a weapon by the state. Moreover, one cannot deny the overwhelming racism towards Asians, particularly those perceived to be Muslim, prevalent within the EDL.

That said, the analysis offered in the article is pretty sound. It is certainly true, for example, that "many ordinary onlookers will draw the conclusion that the EDL are correct, as the Left seem to be keener on attacking white lads that muslim jihadis and fundies."

The caveat, of course, is the lack of any significant jihadi or Islamist movement in Britain. Islam4UK, the later incarnation of al-Muhajiroun, has been banned by the state and so the threat it poses is non-existent. Even before that, though they have staged protests such as that in Luton which catalysed the birth of the EDL, the religious bigots have fled at even the first sign of opposition. They are cowards and, though they need to be opposed, do not deserve the attention of an entire movement.

Instead, as I have argued before, we need to make the argument for a far more sensible perspective on this matter. If and when any group attempts to pick up the mantle of Islam4UK, they need to be opposed both ideologically and physically in any action they might take. But this should happen from a radical working class perspective. We need to stand up against attacks on our communities by the far-right of any stripe, but we should do so in the realisation that Islam will not dominate the world. Moreover, like fascism, its political currents will whither with the rise of serious community organisation at a grassroots level.

With such a perspective in mind, we can also offer a more credible opposition to the EDL. These people are violent fascist lunatics who do themselves no favours. In Dudley yesterday, whilst Unite Against Fascism had a picnic in a field, they turned on each other for lack of anybody else to fight. They bring chaos and carnage wherever they go and will not simply go away if we ignore them.

But, in taking a more credible stands both towards them and towards Islamism, we can make them irrelevant. Alongside more concerted physical resistance to their presence, this will make them go away.