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(en) Britain, The Football Lads' Alliance

Date Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:05:52 +0300

A couple of weeks ago, a new organisation calling itself the Football Lads' Alliance (FLA) took to the streets of London in protest against extremism and terrorism. Various estimates put the number of marchers at between 5,000 and 10,000. In typical fashion almost the entire left is already describing this movement as far-right, racist and fascist, in spite of the assurances of the organisers that they eschew racism and do not want to follow the same path as the EDL. There have also been absurd criticisms from the left that the march was only for ‘straight white men' and is not ‘diverse' enough in terms of involving women and people of colour, again in spite of the fact that there were people of different ethnicities apparent on the march and that the organisers have expressed a desire to set up a Families Against Extremism organisation to campaign alongside the FLA.

It is also worth noting that there were no racist incidents recorded by police on the day. We have no pronouncement to make on the FLA; it is a case of ‘wait and see' what develops from this new initiative. What we can say is that the FLA is a predominantly working class organisation and for us no section of the working class is ‘out of bounds'.

We reproduce here a piece by former Red Action and AFA member Liam O who penned the following in reply to those on the left-wing Urban 75 forum that have already written off the FLA as being racist and ‘Islamophobic'...
Red Action - and indeed AFA - would never have come into being without 'football lads'.
Of the originals, Mickey & Joe were leading Cockney Reds back in the heyday of mass football hooliganism (the late 70's). They brought many fighters with them. Most of the Manchester Squad were football hoolies/fighters. Jay was Chelsea. All the Welwyn lads were West Ham/ICF.
Later (in what could be descibed as the 'Casual' era) we had people who had been involved in football hooliganism with Man Utd, Celtic, West Ham, Spurs, Arsenal, QPR, Man City, Millwall, Liverpool, Everton, Cardiff, Villa, Sunderland, Hibs and many more.
Quite a few had flirted with the far-right. Some had been members of the NF and BM.
Often these comrades brought people with them who were only starting on their political journey. To us they were diamonds in the rough. Most of the left regarded them with horror. Yes they were more than a bit macho. Yes they could hold old-fashioned/right-wing views on all kinds of things. Yes they used the language of the time, language that these days would be instantly denounced as sexist, homophobic and even racist - and was all of those to us even back then. Yes, some of them were crazy bastards, but they were our crazy bastards
But they were all, at heart, anti-Fascist. And they were consistently prepared to put their physical safety and their liberty on the line. And we were damned glad to have them.
Over a period of time - and exposure to political debate and discussion - most of them developed politically or went their own way. Allowances would regularly have to be made for newer comrades. Very few arrived 'fully-formed'. There was very little finger-wagging (from us anyway), virtually no lecturing. Mostly a quiet word over a pint and loads of piss-taking - osmosis even.
If you are in regular contact with people you know and trust and enjoy being with, but your choice of language and behaviour is problematic then eventually you either change/develop or you fuck off.
Much of AFA's strategy was based on doing the hard yards - of actually engaging with and winning over the potential recruits of the racists and the far-Right. Nearly all the liberal/traditional Left's work and propaganda was aimed fairly and squarely at the victims.
The left always looked at football hoolies and football firms as the enemy, beyond the pale.
It was a mistake then.
It is a mistake now.
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