Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/683/12680
Keep EDL out!
Jobs, homes and services - not racism
Naomi Byron and Hugo Pierre, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
The racist and divisive English Defence League (EDL) planned to march through Tower Hamlets on 3 September. This provocative event has been scaled back to a 'static protest' following a Home Office ban on all marches in Tower Hamlets and four neighbouring boroughs for 30 days from 2 September.
EDL members have organised racist protests targeting Muslims and have also attempted to disrupt and attack labour movement, anti-cuts and socialist meetings and events.
Bans are not effective ways of defending working class communities. Last October, despite a similar ban in Leicester, the thuggery of the EDL was exposed when hundreds of them broke free of police control and attacked anyone who wasn't white as well as shops in Leicester city centre. It is therefore crucial that the anti-racist movement develops an effective strategy for fighting the far right.
And, as Socialist Party members warned, this ban is being used against the local community which was organising a mass demo to keep the EDL out, as well as against anti-cuts campaigns and East London LGBT Pride.
This outrageous attack on democratic rights, in reality a curfew on most of East London, must be fought with determination. In fact the EDL can still come to Tower Hamlets but there could be no march to oppose them.
A determined campaign to force the police and Home Office to back down on this undemocratic ban, linked to the issues of fighting cuts, of decent jobs and access to education for everyone, could gain enormous support and be successful.
The EDL is not just racist. Anders Breivik, who carried out the right-wing terrorist attacks in Norway, was in contact with it. It has many right-wing extremists in its leadership, including former British National Party (BNP) members such as EDL leader Tommy Robinson. These right-wing thugs see the EDL as an opportunity to develop a street fighting force that could in the future be used against striking workers or young people protesting to defend their education, as well as to whip up racial divisions in our communities.
Last year when the EDL threatened to visit Tower Hamlets a big campaign was launched and they backed off. 5,000 people marched to show we wanted them out of our borough. This is just a small taste of what could have been organised this year.
The demonstrations of mainly local people alongside anti-racist and socialist groups which kicked the far right, racist BNP off Brick Lane in September 1993, or the mass demonstration of the local community, trade unionists, socialists and Communist Party members in Cable Street which defeated the British Union of Fascists in 1936 were organised in the teeth of enormous resistance from the police and the media at the time. It is a similar movement that can stop groups like the EDL getting a base.
The social conditions which the far right exploits still exist in Tower Hamlets, the seventh poorest borough in the country. 55% of homes do not reach the Decent Homes Standard. Youth unemployment stands at almost 30%. And the council has voted through over £75 million in cuts to vital public services over three years. The fact that working class people are still without a real political voice of their own exacerbates this situation.
Tory, Labour and Liberal politicians want ordinary people to pay for the economic crisis and groups like the EDL want to use the recession for their own racist agenda. But it wasn't Muslims or asylum seekers who caused the recession, and it wasn't public sector workers or any working class people either. It was the bankers, the capitalist politicians who bailed them out and the profit-motivated system which they support.
By building local anti-cuts committees to coordinate the fight to save jobs and services the working class is developing its own, genuine, united 'defence leagues'. The divisive ideas of groups like the EDL would only harm such campaigns.
Despite the ban there will be an anti-racist protest on Saturday 3 September. A big turnout of anti-racist and trade union activists and young people will make it absolutely clear that the EDL and their divisive ideas are not welcome. Email email@example.com for more information.
Further news, 2nd September:
The attempts by the EDL to hold their protest in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 3rd September have been made more difficult by the actions of the RMT rail workers' union.
Already the EDL has been rejected by a series of pubs and other venues. They were planning to 'muster' at Liverpool Street station but that plan has now been dropped due to the actions of the RMT.
An RMT statement says:
"The fascist EDL will be in London tomorrow morning. I have informed management that if they appear on any of our stations or trains, then there will be refusals to work on safety grounds of serious and imminent danger and stations will close.
"The RMT will not allow staff and the public to be put in danger by these thugs, who assaulted people on their last demo".
The counter demo goes ahead to defend Tower Hamlets with a static protest at 11am at the corner of Whitechapel Road and Vallance Road.
In The Socialist 31 August 2011:
Fighting public sector cuts
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party review