Sunday, 24 January 2010

VIDEO, REPORT & DISCUSSION ON FAR-RIGHT EDL IN STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND



What Happened?

Indymedia
by ‘Malatesta’

“Stoke today was a disaster. We rioted. We throw bottles. We
attacked police. Some people were racist.” (EDL forum)

As expected the EDL gathered at the RV point at the train
station and were taken by the cops to Wetherspoon’s where
they were able to drink under close scrutiny. According to
1 EDL forum poster there was trouble in the pub between 2
firms: “we tried to break it up right away, but the c**ts
on the bottom floor throwing s**t did not help.” Outside
there were some speeches through an apparently feeble PA
system and some got restless and tried to break out to
march. According to the EDL forum, the police started to
kettle them into a smaller and smaller space, there was a
clash with the cops and this sparked off wider unrest with
the EDL fighting the police and throwing things at them.
The EDL forum claims heavy handed policing and there is no
need to doubt this. The EDL represent a volatile challenge
to the police who know they are up for confrontation which
naturally makes the cops nervous and over-react. Anyone who
has been on a rowdy demo or attended a football match will
have experienced this.

“Uncontrolled violence. Rioting. Vandalism. All committed
in the name of the EDL.” (EDL forum)

As the demo dispersed 500 EDL marched through a
predominantly Asian area smashing windows and damaging cars
which led to further clashes with the police. According to
the BBC there were 17 arrests, 1,500 EDL, 300 UAF, and 600
cops. The EDL’s website still claims to be “peacefully
protesting against militant Islam” but yesterday’s
behaviour makes this statement nonsense. Stoke was always
going to be a potential problem with a strong football firm
and local BNP support and the EDL made a concerted effort
to get there in numbers yesterday. The police created the
pre-conditions for the trouble: putting them in the pub,
kettling them and increasing the pressure. Then it kicks
off. The police were outnumbered yesterday and the EDL took
liberties climbing on and then almost turning over a police
van which will no doubt have infuriated the cops.

‘Lamppost Incident’

The EDL Reaction There are mixed reactions on the EDL forum
with some of the moderates calling for better organisation
and exclusion of known trouble makers and some worried
about band-wagon jumpers simply turning up to kick off with
the cops. Supporters are also concerned over the alcohol
fuelled aggression and calling for internal policing, even
handing over unruly elements to the cops - which is not
going to please the extremists as this is tantamount to
grassing. One poster listed the reasons for the trouble:
“In-EDL fighting, Football firms fighting, Attacking the
police, Police equipment stolen. Police vans turned over.
Lamppost incidents. Racial chants. Speeches not being
respected. People not shutting up during a 1 minute
silence. The occasional Nazi salute.” The view from the
inside is pretty much the view from the outside and it
lists the kind of behaviour that has been witnessed at
every EDL demo so far. Forum members are calling for
official membership cards but this could be dangerous if
the list falls into the wrong hands as the BNP membership
leaks showed. As of this time, the EDL leadership have yet
to make a statement about Stoke.

There was the usual Sieg Heiling despite the leaderships
requests not to. The EDL still deny any far right links and
on the forum there is resentment of the Nazi presence which
could lead to a repeat of yesterday’s infighting. The EDL
are ranged right across the far right spectrum with
supporters ranging from ‘patriotic’ to the Nazi nutjobs out
for violence. The moderate EDLer’s are clearly worried over
the effect the Nazis have on public perception. They are
also wary of agent provocateurs and there is state
interest. A skinhead in full regalia being interviewed by
TV was deemed suspect: “Without a doubt he was a plant. I
know his ilk and have met his doppelganger ( same s**t same
person just cant prove it) many times before.”

EDL Support

The EDL is increasing it’s support on the streets and the
demonstrations are increasing in violence and
confrontation. However, they are also operating in the
short-term. Whilst meeting up for a drink and a crack at
the cops and opponents is all good clean fun they are
increasing the pressure for the further curbing of civil
rights and increasing the likelihood of demonstrations
being banned. The government has also raised the level of
Terror Alert to Dangerous which has implications for any
form of dissent, particularly anti-war demonstrations. The
EDL are also attempting to legitimise Islamophobia which
similarly helps the government’s agenda as the support for
the Afghanistan and Iraq situation is waning and the
election draws nigh. The EDL supports the state case for
more legislation, surveillance and aggressive policing. The
left and far right have both accused the EDL of being state
engineered and it is difficult to not suspect this given
the stated facts.

There is also the prospect of the EDL filling the vacuum
created by Nick Griffin on the far right. As far right
antipathy to the BNP increases over finances, jobs for the
boys, the non-white membership issue and suspicions over
the legitimacy of Griffin as a leader, the EDL are in a
position to capitalise on it politically. By organising a
political party they will no doubt attract the more
extremist voters and benefit from general anti-Muslim
sentiment in certain areas. This could also operate as a
right wing vote splitting tactic which could well be part
of the state agenda. Whether the EDL members have the
political will to sustain election campaigns is doubtful
unless they can attract former BNP organisers used to
generating local supporters.

Learning The Lesson

The anti-fascist turnout yesterday was dismal. Only 300
assorted UAF, community leaders and anti-fascists turned
out compared to 1,500 EDL. The EDL tried to break through
the police lines to get at the protestors but the cops held
firm. Luckily for the anti-fascists as there would have
been serious violence. Having the cops protecting
anti-fascists gathered in such small numbers is not good.
The next official EDL demo is in Dudley on April 4th but
there are intimations that Oldham and other towns may see
the EDL gather in the more immediate future. Anti-fascists
need to get organised to stop them gathering momentum and
oppose them in much greater numbers.


An Anarchist problematising the hitherto
failed approach of stopping the EDL


Indymedia

When i and other London anarchists/radicals scouted the
EDL demo in Brum in sept 2009 they had no more than 100 on
the demo and another few dozen more fasc types hanging
about the edges looking for trouble. Over the 5 months
since then the EDLs numbers, as we predicted, have climbed
dramatically while the numbers attending anti- protests has
not kept up. Yesterday we are told there were between
1000-1500 EDL and supporters and 300 Antis. And as in Notts
IF the thick blue line had not held the Antis would have
been done.

While I argued back then that the EDL was politically a new
type of politics, that they are loyalist and should be
opposed politicaly, and physically only if people attempted
to attack muslim areas, the vast majority of anachists (and
the Trot left) and particularly on IndyUK, have argued that

1) the EDL are simply fascists

and thus pushed two tactics that

2) the EDL then must be physically opposed and driven from
the streets.

and

3) to attack and ridicule them on the internet, a campaign
typified by one Indymedia based individual (Mista
Journalist/Lozza/Trolldestroya/Harpic/Robesphere/Demmy
God/Troll Deflator /Dangermoose etc etc ) which seeks to
destroy the EDL (having decided they are Nazis) by
identifying the significant neo-fascist involvement in it,
and noting their violence and attacks on the police.

So is the analysis correct and are the tactics working?"
These are very very simple questions that must be asked and
analysed and answered if we are to progress. .

Imho the analysis is incorrect and the tactics are not
working. But first who am I comment. Ok, I first got
involved with anti-racist and antifascist politics in 1978
when i joined my local "..... Against Racism" and then the
ANL (and SWP), which i stayed with till the early 1980s.
When ANL was wound down and I moved to London I was on the
periphery of AFA,i.e. I attended actions/demos but was not
involved in the hits. However as I got more involved in
working class and anarchist politics and studied both the
history of anti-fascism and the working class it became
evident to me that anti-fascism is not an anarchist
politics but the politics of the middle class that seeks to
defend (as does loyalism ironically) the status quo. And
when AFA declared that Anti-fascism in this era could no
longer work I agreed 100%. Does this mean fascism should
not be opposed? No of course not but it is how. I am also a
shop steward for over 20 years and am heavily involved in
local radical politics and to a lesser extent @ politics

So 1) is the analysis correct? No it is not. Fascism is the
state/capitalism using race or reaction to divide the
working class so it can not unite and resist or overthrow
it. While in effect the EDL is divisive, on paper and on
camera, unlike fascist groups, the EDL continuously argues
it is multi-ethnic and anti-racist and anti-fascist and
indeed of its top activists there are mixed race and
jewish. And in December EDL activists after being taunted
over race attacked and beat up nazis in Whitehall, London.

Yes the EDL has fascists involved, but mostly on the
periphery, but if you study their forums, as I do, you will
see a very strong rejection of fascism as 'anti-british'
and a rejection of 'racism' as 'anti british'. It is clear
to me as someone who has studied groups like this for over
30 years that the EDL are not 'fascist' but 'loyalist'.
That means they want to defend 'britain' and 'britishness'.
And here lies the problem. While 'britain' is on many ways
progressive ( EDL continuously counterpose and defend
liberal british values re women and gays and race against
conservative fundamentalist islamist attitudes) it is also
playing a role in the world that EDL supporters simply do
not acknowledge. So the EDL ends up being a defender of not
only progressive social attitudes but more importantly a
state and all that goes along with that, a defence of
privilage, of class division, and of invasions of Iraq and
Afghanistan. They while not fascist are then still
extremely dangerous and divisive.

And then so how are the liberal anarchist tactics outlined
above working?

2) Attempts to oppose the EDL physically have been a total
failure. Indeed if it were not for the police on several
occasions the Anti-s would have been quite simply mullahed.

and 3) The info/disinfo/ridicule tactic probably does work
to an extent and it is useful to an extent that the links
are publicised but sadly the links have been regularly
exaggerated and confused which has led the mass of
anarchists to make 2+2=5 and then react wrongly. See above.

So clearly we are at an impasse. Neither tactic is working.
So can and should the EDL be opposed? Yes and yes. But
loyalism as is the EDL ( and it is the same for fascism),
can only be opposed from inside the working class and any
attempts to oppose it from the outside contribute to it's
growth.

But first we have to properly understand what we are
dealing with. And that is a movement that has come out of a
working class army background in fury at what they saw as
insult to their comrades, and has drawn to it 1) thousends
of angry and disempowered young men, who btw have every
right to be angry as they have been disempowered by
capital. They are drawn to EDL as it is offers a simple
outlet for that anger against an 'enemy within' and one
critically that the state will allow. If a similar angry
violent street movement had been developed against e.g. the
bankers it would of course have been attacked by the state.
These youth while racist in a casual way (deal with it @s,
thats life outside your ghetto) are not fascists BUT if we
stay in our ghettos and regard all these kids AS fascists
it is more likely they will become so. And 2) ?? who is
behind EDL; EDL undoubtedly is playing a role in the so
called 'war on terror' and i doubt very much whether they
are at the very least not being given tacit support by
Suits at one level or other particularly if you note their
army connections

We have an historic opportunity. Capitalism is at it's most
doubted for 50 years and the state is despised by most
people. And the authoritarian left are at an historic low
point in their acceptance in the working class. If we are
to stop reaction we must have the respect of and the ear of
those who are drawn to it. None of us takes a blind bit if
notice of people who we neither respect nor even know
especially if they are shouting at us, saying they want to
attack us!

Libertarians and anarchists have a simple choice. Remain on
the outside of the working class (and end up a victim of
reaction from the surging EDL or BNP) or become part of the
class and create a progressive working class movement that
will draw youth away form reaction like the EDL and maybe
even a movement that can one day overthrow the state and
capitalism. It is in our hands.

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