Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/629/9833
Tower Hamlets: Jobs, homes and services - not the racist EDL!
A victory has been scored in East London as the racist and hooligan English Defence League (EDL) has called off its plan to "hit" Tower Hamlets on Sunday 20 June.
Paula Mitchell and Naomi Byron
The EDL had planned to 'protest' against a meeting of the right-wing UK Islamic Conference. This event has now been cancelled. But there is more to it than this. The EDL has organised marches in towns and cities over the last year against 'militant Islam'.
While claiming to be 'non-racist', many EDL protests have descended into violent racist and Islamaphobic abuse and attacks. According to an investigation by the Guardian newspaper, the EDL is now targeting Muslim communities deliberately.
The threat to 'invade' Tower Hamlets was a huge provocation. Had they marched, the EDL would have faced a big counter-demonstration of the local community. Young people in particular were preparing to make it clear that the EDL is not welcome. This has contributed to the EDL backing out. A community demonstration will go ahead on 20 June nonetheless, to send a clear message: racists and the far-right should not dare to step foot in Tower Hamlets.
Fighting the far-right in Tower Hamlets
This is the first time for 17 years that any racist or far-right organisation has attempted to hold a public event in Tower Hamlets. In the early 1990s a series of united demonstrations of the local community and trade unions sent the far-right, racist British National Party (BNP) packing, including occupying the site of their 'paper sale' in Brick Lane.
The Socialist Party, then known as Militant Labour, initiated Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) which led the campaign in 1993 alongside the local community in Tower Hamlets. A local gang truce and the formation of Youth Connection united rival youth gangs against the BNP.
The Socialist Party and YRE also led a fantastic youth demonstration through Tower Hamlets after a far-right extremist nail-bomb attack in 1999. Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) led a youth demo against unemployment through the borough in 2009, which involved big groups of local school and college students.
How we can defeat the EDL today?
The Socialist Party is participating in United East End, a broad local campaign set up to organise opposition to the EDL's plans. We have argued for a united, well-stewarded demonstration which can keep protesters safe and prevent police harassing and arresting local young people. This should be led by local trade union and community bodies, to show how outnumbered and marginalised the EDL are, and to keep them out of the borough.
Many EDL organisers are not just racists but Nazis, who are against rights for women, LGBT people, trade unionists etc. But EDL events attract a small layer of people who are desperately angry at the attacks on their living conditions and frustrated that no political party listens to them or offers any answers to their problems. The EDL and BNP opportunistically attempt to use this to mobilise support for their divisive ideas.
Britain has been hit by the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Even Tower Hamlets council admits that overcrowding in the borough has gone back to 1930s levels. Now the new Con-Dem government plans the most savage cuts in our public services ever - this means many more job losses, and a huge hit on education, training schemes, pay, youth services, housing and much more.
The people of Tower Hamlets - overwhelmingly working class and young - will need a united campaign, led by the trade unions and community organisations, to fight these cuts. The EDL and the BNP on the other hand will divide opposition to cuts on the basis of race or religious identity. In order to mobilise the biggest and most effective opposition to the EDL we must also fight the cuts that face the vast majority of people in this borough.
The demo in Tower Hamlets should now be around slogans such as 'jobs, homes and services - not racism' to cut across any support the EDL may get locally. Especially now that the EDL have called off their protest, this is a brilliant opportunity to turn it into a united working class march through the borough, against public service cuts and for jobs.
Tower Hamlets Socialist Party believes that it was a mistake for the campaign - under the influence of Unite Against Fascism - to invite the leader of the Tory party in Tower Hamlets to speak at the campaign rally on 13 June. This can alienate big numbers of workers and youth who suffer as a result of the policies of all the main parties, and completely fails to address why some people are mistakenly drawn to the EDL.
The best way to fight racism and fascism is to get rid of the problems that breed them - unemployment, low pay, housing shortages, public service cuts. We can have no faith in any of the main political parties to do this. Instead, young people and workers need to join together to fight for our future!
Join with the Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs/YRE on the United East End demonstration.
Sunday 20 June 12.30 Stepney Green Park, nearest tube Stepney Green.
Contact 020 8558 7947 for details or leaflets to distribute in your area to advertise the demo.
In The Socialist 16 June 2010:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis