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(en) Libcom.org: Stop laughing at the English Defence League by Joseph Kay
Thu, 30 May 2013 17:55:22 +0300
Three reasons why laughing at the EDL is counter-productive, and what we should do instead
---- You've all seen the images doing the rounds on facebook of EDL members waving
mis-spelt placards. Maybe you've liked or shared them on Facebook. I had the autotuned
'Muslamic Ray Guns' tune stuck in my head for ages even though it was politically
problematic. While humour and ridicule can be an important political tool, much of the
'humour' in this vein is counter-productive to an effective anti-fascism. ---- The problem
with the EDL is that they're a violent, nationalist street movement. Not that they have
northern working class accents and can't spell. 1. Class hatred. The first problem here is
the most obvious one: laughing at the EDL for poor spelling or regional accents is
barely-veiled class hatred - in the wrong direction.
I'm not sure when exactly the left joined in patronising the working class rather than
identifying with them, but this fuels the EDL sentiment that white, working class people
are the only ones it's still ok to hate in 'PC Britain'.
The concept of 'the white working class' is of course bullshit. The working class is the
most diverse class. But sneering at accents, spelling and grammar cedes a whole
demographic to the far right. Some of the grievances that feed into far right
mobilisations are legitimate concerns around as housing, unemployment, the abandonment of
former armed forces personel.
These are and should be issues of class mobilsation. This should not be the natural
constituency for the far right. The EDL have attacked picket lines. EDL leader and
small-businessman Stephen Yaxley-Lennon even goes by the psuedonym 'Tommy Robinson' to
sound more working class. By laughing at the uneducated proles this territory is abandoned
to the anti-working class politics of racist scapegoating of muslims and immigrants.
2. Ignoring liberal racism. The second problem with this kind of laughing is it cordens
off explicit, inarticulate, uncouth racism and thus ignores smug, implied, articulate
liberal racism. The latter is far more common. Professional controversialist Rod Liddle
was forced to apologise for describing the Woolwich murder as the work of "black savages",
but far fewer people saw the problem with the Guardian's front page which said the same
thing to its genteel, educated audience with an image and decontextualised quote:
3. Not all racists are thick. Third is the little problem that not all racists are thick.
Racism is not the product of inadequate education or reason. In fact, plenty of racists
spout well-educated nonsense about genetics, or in the past, phrenology. Some of the
canniest racists are in government. When Theresa May said the Woolwich stabbing was 'an
attack on us all' she knew exactly what she was doing. If only there was some kind of
'league' to rally to the 'defence' of 'England'...
In this sense the EDL are the extra-parliamentary attack dogs of institutional racism,
whistled into action when the government wants to pass represive legislation, or the
right-wing press want to criticise the EDL as a way to paper over their daily
hate-mongering and incitement. Laughing at mis-spelled placards underestimates the breadth
and depth of the problem, and obscures the way it's intertwined with 'respectable'
All that said, we shouldn't over-state the threat. While the EDL and friends spate of
attacks on muslims and mosques has understandably created widespread fear, there's signs
their sudden revival from infighting and near-collapse is not a complete ressurection. Nor
will it necessarily be sustained. As a comrade wrote:
Ok so not getting complacent, but should probably have a bit of perspective on yesterday
however shit it was. EDL had a perfect storm. Bank holiday, good weather, immediately
following a "terror" attack hyped by the media. Held in central London, the easiest place
to get to in the UK. Most figures are 1500-2000. Obviously this is shit, but without
having any of this on their side, in Luton in 2011 they pulled 3000.
That said, at the time of Luton the EDL were keen, in public at least, to stress their
allegedly non-racist opposition to extremist Islam. They even used the anti-racist slogan
'black and white unite'. Now, their leaders are openly saying "Islam is not a religion of
peace… enough is enough..." and calling to "send the Black cunts home". So while the
numbers haven't recovered their peak, they are no longer attempting to hide their racism
and are certainly up for a fight.
Finally, some brief comments on strategy. I think what's needed is a two-track approach.
Physical mobilisation to counter the immediate street threat, and class mobilisation to
deny them a constituency in the longer term.
In terms of physical mobilisation,Brighton's anti-facsist mobilisations are those I'm most
familiar with. The main element of the mobilisations was the refusal of the familiar split
between secretive, small group direct action and mass, symbolic action. Rather the
mobilisations created the space for mass direct action and community self-defence, where
participants could engage in tactics they were most comfortable with. Streets were blocked
and roaming fascists chased and confronted.
In terms of class mobilisation, there's some promising campaigning against the bedroom tax
in Merseyside, and an increasingly urgent need to organise collectively around housing.
Workplace organsing is also important in creating solidarity (it was heartening how many
workmates turned out to oppose the March for England), while anti-raids work and migrant
solidarity is also significant. This isn't a comprehensive list, I more want to pose the
question to groups and individuals about what longer-term class-based organising involves,
and stress it shouldn't be abandoned for the necessary short term street mobilisations.
There's a place for piss-taking and lulz, but let's save the class hatred for the class enemy.
South London Anti-Fascists are calling for a calling for a counter-mobilisation agains the
BNP's march on Saturday. Get involved and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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