I’d like to preface this with an apology. I’m sorry that my writing on the EDL thus far has taken them seriously in their claims. Their threatening nature, though significant, has been grossly inflated and exaggerated. After Bradford (AKA: “the big one”), we have a clearer picture. What they represent is deeply problematic and needs confronting; however, as an entity – they are redundant, vacuous and failing by their own standards.
Aylesbury, Stoke, Dudley, Bolton and Manchester show that the EDL are not toothless; in their optimum conditions they can and will inflict real damage. However, their aim is to pacify the Muslim community through fear. They cannot do this without taking on the strongest Muslim areas – some of those being Tower Hamlets and Bradford where they’ve categorically and unequivocally failed. Which leads one to question: how much further can they really go? Their aims of escalating to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have hit the rocks due to a distinct lack of popular support and an unreceptive police force (unlike in England). In England, they have not stirred up racial tensions in the intended way, despite having no nationally unified resistance to speak of and quite overt support from the police. The fact they have to high-tail out of areas like Bradford, Tower Hamlets, Birmingham and Cardiff says it all. The EDL are provocateurs – nothing more, nothing less.
British cities like Birmingham, London and Bradford have a cohesion that transcends the ideological milieu on which the EDL thrive. Islam, in such areas, far from being a problem to the community is embraced. Throughout the Isles of Britain ties exist that run deeper than the prejudices of the post 9/11 world. In the face of such solidarity the EDL are powerless. The EDL are losing both on the streets and in public relations. Some are even going so far as to label the EDL “cowards”. Based on the numbers who turned up for “the big one” – which was at maximum around 700 – it is clear that there is a lot of fear in their ranks. It may be that like any good ideology, they are forced to believe their own lies; genuinely believing that there are “no go areas” for whites in Britain. Hence, they are too terrified to stand up to these “Muslim ghettoes”.
Anyone who is not a racist or paranoid will realise that such claims lack all validity. The Black and Asian youth of this country have grown up in a climate of harmony compared to their parents and do not indiscrimately attack whites. Most, however, are conscious of recent history and will actively fight to maintain the path of progress when challenged. Hence, within the marginalised communities of our cities, there is a brotherhood that is not tangible – but which manifests in times of crisis. In Birmingham this alliance has actualised numerous times to get the EDL out – in an extremely effective fashion and we saw it materialise to great effect in Bradford.
Now I may as well state the platitude that in the fight against the EDL – all have their roles to play. HOPE not Hate’s statist approach stops marches. Unite Against Fascism’s counter demos get good coverage and offer the chance for solidarity beyond racial lines. However, while their roles are important in their own right – this summer’s defeat of the EDL cannot be ascribed to these leftist groups. Autonomous, well organised and rational youths have been the primary buttress. The EDL are a force mobilised to cause damage and fight. The danger they present is that when the clashes occur and the police get involved – the youths get caught between fighting the police and the EDL. However, wisdom is seemingly omnipresent throughout Britain. The angry youths are not attacking the police despite provocation – instead they are maintaining a discipline and only acting in self-defence. The actions of the youth in Birmingham and Bradford are paradigms for us all.
The UAF’s counter-demo was well monitored by the police. There were police lines that penned protesters in. Understandably among the Muslim youth there was a reluctance to walk into such constraints. The vast majority of those who felt the need to be a presence on the street therefore maintained presence in their local communities where they would only act if the EDL made moves towards their localities. When the EDL were seemingly allowed to break police lines and make such movements, they were confronted by a few hundred predominately local Asian youths who fought off the EDL in a highly restrained and dignified manner – but one that left the EDL bloody, bruised and humiliated. It is a testament to the organisation of local communties that there were no images of youths wrapped in Kefiyyehs rioting on our televisions this weekend.
The role of the left in all of this is minimal. HOPE not Hate are too closely associated with the British state to take any position of radicality to confront the threat posed by the rise of nationalistic sentiments in the UK. Unite Against Fascism are an important organisation who can facilitate important community events that exhibit that there is far more that unites the population of Britain, than what divides them. However, their modus operandi is to get the image of unity across – so essentially are confined to the realm of PR. When rampaging thugs are on the street attempting to beat up Muslims and Asians – neither group have the ranks or the philosophy to be a force worth relying upon.
The way to defeat the EDL in urban areas is to look to the street. The “Urban youths” who white lefties tend to avoid are foundational to anti-fascist movement in this country. To put it crudely, due to their emotional and historical connections to the fight against racism they are the foot soldiers of the movement when and if confrontation amounts. Any anti-racist national movement in this country has to support and defend these youths. Attempts should not be made to recruit them into organisations that hope to sever them from their communites, rather organisations should facilitate them and stand with them to ensure all police provocation is monitored and recorded so that Bradford 2001 and Kensington 2009 (the site of the Gaza demonstrations that led to 119 arrests) never happen again. We know the Muslim youth of this country are willing to take steps that “lefties” are not. Therefore, they deserve our full support. Instead, so far in the post-Bradford climate both HNH and UAF are screaming victory for their actions, praising the youths – but not engaging with, let alone facilitating or supporting the philosophy of anti-racism that has emerged through praxis.
Decentralised, wise and aware youths are the future of the movement – we need to harness our institutions so the state cannot vilify them. Without them this summer, this article would have been a completely different tone. Instead, the summer of escalation for the EDL has failed – ending in an almighty bang. POWWW!