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EDL intimidation fails in Barking
Protected by a large wedge of police, roughly 100 supporters of the racist and divisive English Defence League (EDL) marched through Barking town centre in east London on Saturday 14 January.
An East London Socialist Party member
The marchers, bussed in from all around England, were opposed at short notice by over 80 anti-racist protesters from east London, including from the trade unions, to counter the EDL's so-called regional mobilisation.
If the EDL had expected support for their racist and divisive ideas in Barking they were mistaken. Speaking to The Socialist, Billy, a student working Saturdays at the market, said: "The EDL are just oblivious to everything that's going on. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. They are blaming the wrong people. They don't know the reality of it."
When the march passed through the shopping centre, in angry astonishment one man asked the police: "Is this for real? Is this just a wind up?" He commented: "This is 2012 - this is an embarrassment." Referring to the football hooligan-type chants, he said: "Look how immature they are. This is intimidation."
Of all those watching the scene only one person privately expressed support for the EDL, repeating the lie that immigrants had taken all the jobs and houses.
Not just a wind-up
Protesters pointed out the billions of pounds siphoned off by the bankers, which could have been used to build sufficient houses and hospitals for all, creating a million jobs.
Previously in Barking and Dagenham the far-right racist British National Party (BNP) got 12 councillors elected - an angry protest against the anti-working class policies of New Labour - but they were all thrown out in the following election in May 2010.
The EDL are now trying to capitalise on that anger. But their policies of dividing the working class on racial, ethnic and religious lines threatens to weaken the potential united response to the cuts and closures faced by working class communities. Such divisions will only leave people worse off.
In Barking, the EDL attempted to shun their hooligan image and appear peaceful throughout. But their chief steward appeared to only make it as far as the first pub on the route!
When the demo ended, the EDL hung around in potentially dangerous small groups. By then many local youth and bystanders had gathered and gave these groups serious grief.
One black youth was physically attacked, an eye-witness told The Socialist, but the police response was to threaten him with to arrest if he didn't move on. 'He assertively said: "I was born and bred in Barking. Why aren't we allowed in our town centre when the EDL are free to harass, intimidate and attack people with police consent?"'
Groups of EDL thugs then went to Whitechapel and headed for a pub near the East London Mosque, where the large Bangladeshi community saw several hundred youth turn up to oppose them, after they stood outside the pub hurling racist abuse, according to one eye-witness.
Effective opposition to the divisive approach of the EDL must address the questions which led to the protest vote for the racist BNP: Why are there so few jobs and houses? Misleading and divisive propaganda, such as recent claims in the media that migrant workers were causing unemployment, must be countered.
The reality is that 700,000 public sector jobs are being destroyed by the Con-Dem government right now, while rather than creating jobs as Cameron promised, big business in the private sector is also cutting jobs, such as at RBS and La Senza.
We must explain that the organised working class can defend itself against these attacks. Last year the trade unions organised massive opposition to the government's cut including a massive demo, strikes and countless anti-cuts campaigns.
Now there is a battle on to maintain that momentum. However, actions such as that of the EDL can divert and divide the attempts to unite all workers in action.
They must not be allowed to damage our movement. Working class people must not be faced with the false choice of three pro-cuts parties or the far-right at the next elections.
We urgently need to build a new mass workers' party to provide a united, no-cuts alternative at the next election, which is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition intends to stand prominent trade union candidates in the London elections in May.
The EDL announced its next mobilisation will be in Leicester on 4 February. It must be faced with a protest that clearly says: "Defend ALL jobs and services, make the bosses pay" and "Jobs and homes for all - no to racism - stop the EDL."
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 16 January 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.