Putting the EDL into perspective

Via some local comrades, Liverpool Antifascists have discovered this video of the EDL’s recent “march” through Liverpool:

On the same day, as we’ve already mentioned, 4,000 trade unionists marched to the Lib Dem conference protesting against the cuts. There was music, a broad cross-section of workers’ organisations, lots of flags and banners … and they marched down the road, with police diverting traffic.

What we have here from the EDL is two dozen people walking down the pavement into town. Some had flags. Many were wearing those adorable little EDL hoodies. But it wasn’t a march.

Anyway, I’m sure they enjoyed it. Even if it achieved nothing whatsoever.

On a more serious note, the following article comes from a Liverpool Antifascists comrade who was in town on the day in question and has put some thought into the question of how to approach them when they’re not on the streets causing mayhem. (Or, as in Liverpool, on the streets doing naff all.)

Why having a pint with the EDL might not be a completely crazy idea

Once we knew that the EDL were contained in the Baltic Fleet, I headed to Slater’s Bar with several comrades who – like me – had been marching all day. We needed to put our feet up and wet our lips. This also provided the opportunity for some discussion on the particular EDL brand of fascism. What follows is largely informed by that discussion.

The problem with the EDL, as opposed to more traditional fascists like the BNP or National Front, is that it is tricky to define. As I wrote over at Property is Theft, it is a fascist organisation,in the broader history of such movements, and its activities are certainly underpinned by a traditional fascist agenda.

But it is also not a homogenous organisation. Whilst the EDL may be fascist, with a leadership drawn from the ranks of the far-right, the majority of its ordinary members and supporters are not neo-Nazis.

The organisation is far from short of seig-heiling morons. But it also contains loyalists, civic nationalists, football hooligans just looking for a barney, and – most importantly – working class people looking for an outlet for their anger and a target for their grievances.

The problem is, in general, that much of the left has utterly detached itself from class struggle and made itself irrelevant, even oppositional, to such grievances. Thus the EDL, like the BNP et al, can twist them and distract from the real issue by offering a scapegoat.

This is why, while thousands marched in opposition to a cuts agenda threatening to devestate working class communities, they came out to protest a perceived “refusal to tackle the threat of Islamic Extremism.”

It is also why the EDL’s Merseyside Division have – without any acknowledgment that they are creating a lie – posted to their wall a picture of local trade union leader Alec McFadden. The signs he is holding, advertising the march against the cuts doctored to replace “cuts” with “troops.” There can be no clearer proof that they exist to distract from genuine issues based in class by waving patriotic totems.

The problem is that responding to such propaganda, reinforced by a deep anger looking for a release, is hard to counter. You can reach the general public with leafletting, and as in Bradford provide a physical barrier to attempts at violence. But how do you reach those drawn into this web of bullshit?

To my mind, the fact that the EDL begin and end their events by congregating in pubs is something we have to sieze upon. Not by complaining to the landlord, but by going in for a pint.

The best way to make people think about the beliefs they hold is, quite simply, to challenge them. This is what I tried to do on Saturday by getting in the face of BNP members and arguing the toss. When it’s ideas – rather than force – you want to challenge, you can’t beat the word of mouth.

As one comrade suggested, there would be the potential for an antifascist “Philosophy in Pubs” to become a bar-room brawl. But this is something that could be taken into account based on the numbers present, on both sides, and how you approach the EDL. Obviously, if you don’t want your head kicked in you don’t stroll over and make a crack about their mums.

What I’m suggesting isn’t a “solution” to the EDL. We will not convince the hardcore goons to turn over a new leaf. There will still be a need for physical opposition when they hold a demo.

But if we want to offer a way out for those who aren’t hardcore fascists, or who simply haven’t been offered any other viable alternative to the status quo, then there are far worse approaches to take than having a pint with them.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Putting the EDL into perspective”
  1. Bradford Local says:

    “The problem is, in general, that much of the left has utterly detached itself from class struggle and made itself irrelevant, even oppositional, to such grievances”.

    Here,here, your right, I stood with the EDL in Bradford, because they had the balls to turn up and make a stand and seeing UAF so called left types do the bent authorities work for them tying up green ribbons was cringeworthy.

    These UAF aren’t working class people and they stand for nothing and will change nothing.

    Would love to see the hardcore working class left and the EDL get together, the good left who out themselves on the line the sort who bravely fought the poll-tax.
    But you’ll be waiting on your pint though much as I’d like to share one with you guys, the OB will not let the EDL near a public house, there are no civil liberties for them as you would have seen in Bradford.

    The working class have to kick up a fuss and have a row, make ourselves heard, it’s the only way we’ll get anything -where the fuck have we been, the tories are in, stop turning up and shouting silly pointless things at EDL/BNP and lets take on the wealthy again in their own backyard.

    • Phil Dickens says:

      lets take on the wealthy again in their own backyard

      I agree, we need to. But the problem with the EDL and the BNP (aside from the fact that, unchecked, they cause violence and mayhem) is that they act as a siphon for genuine working class discontent towards reactionary issues. Hence why the EDL held a protest at the Lib Dem conference but the cuts weren’t even on the agenda.

      An awful lot of the people in the EDL aren’t fascists, but its leadership, structure, and agenda is. That’s why it poses a threat and why we feel it needs to be challenged. But, again, we hold that whilst violence should be physically resisted, and protests face mass opposition, ideas need to be challenged only with words.

      And a pint.

  2. Corey James Soper says:

    Fantastic article – I’ve been trying to raise this at local anti-fascist stuff for ages. If you talk to the EDL, they’re pissed off about being made redundant or not having a council house or no good jobs in the area – this has nothing to do with immigration – and everything to do with capitalism!

    Whilst the Left insults and berates these people, they are converted to the fascist hard-core. If we could open a dialogue – there are militant workers to be won!

    The Left and the EDL/BNP could never work together, though, because racism, nationalism, sexism, homophobia and every other -ism is against our principles. But individual EDL who realise we are united as a class, regardless of gender/race/whatever should be embraced.

    How this can logistically be done on anything more than a face-to-face convert-your-old-school-mate level I have no idea…

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