The English Defence League is holding a demo in Stoke today which, whilst inevitably causing disruption, will get support from the Stoke football firm the Naughty 40 and associated hooligans, unaffiliated youths looking for trouble and BNP supporters in one of their key areas.
It’s been an interesting week for the EDL: not content with today’s demonstration, 4 members were jailed for the initial Luton demo, divisions within the ranks have been highlighted and Amit Singh, the EDL’s ‘Sikh activist’, has been outed for racist comments. The EDL will be meeting at Stoke train station at 11.30 where they will no doubt be contained by the cops. Already there has been disagreement on the EDL forum about liaising with the police with some supporters urging a more confrontational policy: “we should have no cooperation with the pigs” and “we will f**k over the police.” The EDL will be escorted to Wetherspoon’s where they will be confined for a few hours to drink and shout before being escorted back again. There is a likelihood that the local BNP will turn up to canvas the area. The chances of actual confrontation at the main demo are drastically reduced given the usual police presence. At previous demo’s in Glasgow and Manchester, EDL supporters have been prevented from joining the main mob and confrontations with these strays unable to get to the RV point on time has occurred. Unity recently reported schisms in the EDL with ‘spiritual leader’ Paul Ray ostracised by extremist factions, Kelway and Joel Titus still flying the ‘multiracial’ flag and hardcore Nazis like Heaton and Pinkham maintaining the nut job presence. There is always the possibility of inter-firm rivalries boiling over. As yet all the firms have put their differences aside but it only needs some outrage like the Thierry Henry handball incident to spark off resentments.
The good people of Stoke are having a hard time in the recession with high unemployment; the predicted public sector cuts are not going to help matters: these factors create fertile ground for the BNP who also flag up fears over immigration (as do the mainstream press). Despite Stoke being a BNP stronghold all is not well. In the past they have managed to keep Nick Griffin and central HQ at arm’s length whilst building up a solid base of support. However, the local council group leader Alby Walker quit his post over ‘ideological differences’ and the opportunist Simon Darby has been sent in to contest the general election. Having an outsider dropped in to capitalise on their efforts has annoyed the relatively impendent branch. The question now is – will Walker stand against Darby thus splitting the racist vote and sending a message to Griffin whilst doing so? Historically, bitter infighting and ego-clashes have always damaged the far right at crucial times.
The EDL & The BNP
The BNP continue to deny any links with the EDL in the same way they deny any expose: by saying ‘not true’ and then not proving it. The EDL still deny having BNP members amongst them despite the fact that so many BNP members are photographed at demo’s and the continued denials are beginning to lack conviction. They may not be a BNP ‘front group’ but the BNP can only benefit from the publicity and airing of resentments as the EDL attempt to legitimise racist views. The EDL may fly Israeli flags and multi-racial placards but this is either provocation, irony or smokescreen.
Anti-Fascism: Lessons From The Past
In their political naivety the EDL still see UAF, Muslim community groups and Antifa as the same thing. Antifa is not there to ‘support Islam’ but to operate in an anti-fascist role. The EDL is a fascist street gang who intimidate local people, Muslims and political opponents alike: although there are local football firms involved the majority of the EDL come from outside. The EDL black shirt/hoodies, violence, nationalism, racism and intolerance are all synonymous with fascism and historically the battle against fascism has been on the streets as much as the ballot box. Whether the EDL deny being fascist or not they are doing the work of fascists, using exactly the same tactics as fascists and are fired by the same hatred as fascists.
In the 1920s, Mussolini’s Fascists maintained a violent campaign against the left and rose to power despite the best efforts of the Arditi del Popolo – anti-fascist defence squads- to counter this, most notably at the battle of Parma in 1922. In the UK in the 1930s, Mosley’s BUF followed the same strategy by holding confrontational street meetings in working class areas which were frequently broken up by anti-fascists and communists. Mosley was protected by his I Squad bodyguard knowing full well that he could be forced from the streets which were his political arena (as it is the EDL’s) not having access to the Parliament of conventional politics. The fascist leadership were interned in 1940 under the Defence Regulation 18b ruling. Hitler gained power through a combination of populist rhetoric and the Brownshirt’s intimidation of opponents. This was not helped by a catastrophic schism between communists and socialists. After the 2nd world war, despite the ‘defeat of fascism’ (apart from Spain of course), Mosley returned with his virulently anti-Semitic street meetings which were violently confronted by the 43 Group. In the 1960s, fascist street presence was similarly countered by the 62 Group. In the 1970s, following the rise of the National Front and repeated attacks on left wing meetings and SWP paper sales, the militant anti-fascist Squads came into existence and successfully checked fascist aggression, particularly in Manchester and London. However, given the increasing autonomy of these militant anti-fascist groups the SWP leadership proscribed ‘Squaddists’ as counter-productive and expelled key members who went on to form Red Action. After various convolutions and affiliations Red Action joined with anarchists and other more independently minded anti-fascists to form Anti Fascist Action (AFA). AFA successfully challenged the fascist street presence and the BNP changed their strategy declaring “no more meetings, marches, punch ups”.
So, the message to anti-fascists is clear: the EDL are using the same tactics that fascism has always used by maintaining a hostile and intimidating street presence to push their racist views and as history holds lessons for the fascists so it holds lessons for us: the EDL must be opposed wherever they meet!
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