EDL: Anti-fascist fronts are not the answer
"The English Defence League's summer of protests to target Muslim communities is to continue with a demonstration against a ‘super mosque', even though the development is no longer going ahead. The far-right group will return to Dudley next Saturday to demonstrate against the abandoned mosque and community centre project." (Guardian 9/7/10). This is the latest in a line of planned and actual protests by the EDL which has resulted in a degree of publicity in the national media.
The Guardian newspaper has also recently undertaken some investigations into the rise of the English Defence League (EDL). The organisation was formed in June 2009 in Luton and has organised demonstrations and protests in various large cities, several of which have ended in violent clashes with anti-fascist counter demonstrators and / or groups of Muslim youths. In the wake of the crushing general election defeat of the British National Party which, again, is going through an internal faction fight, the EDL has served to recruit people who are discontented with the main parties' stance on issues such as immigration and the preservation of an 'English identity'.
In the report it states that "Undercover footage shot by the Guardian reveals the English Defence League, which has staged a number of violent protests in towns and cities across the country this year, is planning to ‘hit' Bradford and the London borough of Tower Hamlets as it intensifies its street protests. Senior figures in the coalition government were briefed on the threat posed by EDL marches this week. Tomorrow up to 2,000 EDL supporters are expected to descend on Newcastle for its latest protest. MPs said the group's decision to target some of the UK's most prominent Muslim communities was a blatant attempt to provoke mayhem and disorder ‘ (Guardian, 28/5/10)
There are several points of interest here. First of all, the EDL seems to represent a return 'to the streets' by the far right. This was a common sight in the 1970s and 80s by groups such as the National Front (NF). This tends to help create a 'pogrom' kind of atmosphere, which emboldens individuals and groups to further action, such as the recent attacks in Belfast, especially against people of Romanian origin and attacks against Gypsies in Italy. The response to this tends to be a counter resurgence in anti-fascist groupings intent on 'fighting fascism' and supporting the victims.
There is a need for the working class to defend itself against racist attacks, as one component of all the attacks reigning down on it. Following the attacks on Romanians in Belfast, there were practical efforts made to guard potential victims' homes by local residents acting together with some politicised elements, students and so on. In a higher stage of the class struggle it would be possible to develop a more organised and massive defence of working class or immigrant neighbourhoods from pogromist attacks, as we saw for example in the great strikes of 1905 in Russia, or in the opposition of the London dockers to Moseley's planned march through the Jewish East End in 1936. But anti-fascist fronts drown out class solidarity in what is, fundamentally, a defence of the democratic system. There are two elements to this. The first is the desire to 'confront' right wing elements be it at demonstrations or particular events. Such 'exemplary' actions by individuals and small groups tends to act as a substitute for real class solidarity, which is based on widening the collective struggle.
Secondly, there are strong connections between the radical left of the state - organisations such as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and some trade unions - and the anti-fascist fronts. Again, these tend to act either as fronts for recruiting (mainly) younger workers worried by the fascists or enrolling workers into broader coalitions which aim to provide 'radical opposition' within the framework of capitalism.
The leftists' anti-fascist fronts are based on the idea that fascism is the number one danger to the working class. But it wasn't the BNP or EDL that have been breaking down people's doors at 3am, or locking up women and children in detention centres where they suffer traumas and abuse, but the democratically elected Labour Party, which used the issue of immigration as and how it suited its needs. Phil Woolas, the last Labour immigration minister said: "This is a deliberate attempt by the EDL at division and provocation, to try and push young Muslims into the hands of extremists, in order to perpetuate the divide. It is dangerous." But the Labour Party has certainly driven many more young Muslims into the hands of the jihadists with its war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and its increasingly repressive arsenal of laws aimed at ‘fighting terrorism' at home. The fundamental problem with anti-fascism is that it aims to convince us that we should ally with ‘democratic' bourgeois parties who are no less our enemy than the fascists.