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The EDL – a challenge for the trade union movement

John Millington calls for working class unity against the racist English Defence League
28 May 2013

Nazi saluting tanked up extremists, who have sworn to rid the country of a religious minority in Britain, run amok through the heart of the capital passing within 200 metres of the House of Commons with a grand total of two police officers in pursuit.

Going through all the possible opening paragraphs for a classic news piece, I couldn’t come up with a more accurate opening salvo. Pursuing the EDL is a precarious occupation at the best of times but is a truly chilling prospect when for at least 20 minutes there are seemingly just two officers for company.

One EDL member approached me and despite my press card being on display in full view, accused me of being a member of the Unite Against Fascism counter-protest. Clenching his two litre plastic bottle of Strongbow in one hand, he thought it better to run back to his riot than question me further.

This was not a demonstration for British troops or for brutally murdered machine gunner Lee Rigby. It wasn’t even a demonstration against extremism amongst however few Muslims who might profess such views. It was about a release of pent up rage and raw anger. And EDL members did not care all too much who was on the receiving end of that rage.

For all the bluster from EDL leaders Robinson and Kevin Carroll that the organisation is not racist, citing the contribution of Sikhs to the British armed forces, several EDL members began attacking a car driven by a clearly Sikh man en route to Downing Street. The car quickly sped off as the mob surrounded it chanting “who the f*ck is Allah.”

Having arrived at Whitehall, EDL members continued to fight with police whilst throwing glass bottles at fellow journalists until they were penned in for their “rally.” At least 3 renditions of God Save the Queen interspersed with calling anti-fascist protesters “c*nts” followed while Robinson made sure his followers paid homage to the Sikh contribution to British armed forces.

Speaking to a self-identified spokesman of the Sikh-led protest about human rights in India, which had been camped outside Downing Street prior to either the EDL or UAF arrival, he refused to condemn the EDL, adding that “EDL leaders understand the contribution of Sikhs to the British armed forces.” On further questioning however, he admitted that he would like to see a Sikh separatist state called Khalistan (or “Land of the Pure”) – a move which is advocated by some of the most reactionary forces within India and the UK.

Whatever Sikh people at large think about the EDL, ultra-nationalists linking up across countries and even race boundaries is a classic fascist tactic as is taking advantage of genuine grievances about life in general amongst workers and the unemployed.

The EDL and its organisers are not fools. They are cashing in on 10 years of Daily Mail led Islamophobia and the pain of austerity. It is not about defending people who chose to go on EDL demonstrations, but there has to be recognition that people who are not reached by progressive political parties or the wider trade union movement, risk being led into the arms of extremists like the EDL.

Similarly, if working class Muslims are not brought into the trade union family, Salafists and other extremist elements are likely to step into the breach.

As Labour MP Dennis Skinner said recently: “It’s all about class.” And working class unity across racial boundaries has never been more urgent.

John Millington is a freelance journalist specialising in industrial relations and social movements


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Will Podmore 20 June 2013, 11.07

If the fascist English Defence League had killed 52 Londoners on 7/7, we would have blamed their pernicious ideology, not their ‘race’ or religion. We would not have confused the two. We would have called them murderers.

But when fascist Islamists killed 52 Londoners on 7/7, the ultra-left said that blaming their pernicious ideology was Islamophobic. When fascist Islamists tried to blow up a march in Dewsbury last year, the ultra-left said that blaming their pernicious ideology was Islamophobic. The ultra-left refuses to distinguish between their terrorism and their religion. It identifies Islamists with Muslims. It conflates the two. No critique of Islamist terrorists is allowed.

The SWP front Unity Against Fascism denies that there are Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims. A UAF vice-chairman, Azad Ali, is an Islamist extremist. He is a coordinator of the Islamic Forum of Europe, a Muslim supremacist group aiming to change ‘the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed from ignorance to Islam’. Ali has written of his ‘love’ for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric linked to terrorist plots including 9/11. Ali has described al-Qaeda as a ‘myth’ and denied that the Mumbai attacks were terrorism.

Tony 23 June 2013, 14.56

It’s great to read these comments. I thought i was the only one on the left who thought like this!

I find it so difficult to understand why those on the left support the fascist islamists to such extremes. Two wrongs dont make a right, just because you dont agree with american and british foreign policy does not mean you have to be apologist and agree with the islamists to the extend you support them or at best turn a blind eye to what they preach.

I am proud to be english and a socialist, although i am waiting for someone to call me racist. It wont be long.

Frankie 8 July 2013, 13.59

The radical left have not listened to what the English working class are saying, that’s the problem. Listening means using both ears and closing your mouth.

Comments are now closed on this article.

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