By Guest Blogger Roger Silverman
The English Defense League is the latest gang of racist street-fighters to crawl out of the rotten woodwork of British imperialism. These football hooligans with their shaved skinheads and in some cases Nazi tattoos have been swaggering through the Muslim ghettoes of one British city after another, allegedly demonstrating against “Islamic fundamentalism”, but in practice terrorizing and beating up innocent Britons who have family origins in the Indian sub-continent.
What makes this latest manifestation of British racism all the more dangerous is its roots in the British army. Serving or former soldiers and their families and friends, frustrated at their failure to impose the will of US imperialism on the people of Afghanistan, have exploited the imperial residue of British racism and created the EDL as a means of exacting revenge on local Muslims for their own losses in the battlefield. In a war which the then Defense Minister promised could be won without a single casualty, almost 300 soldiers have died so far, to say nothing of the wounded.
The EDL’s connection to elements within the British army give it a certain social base and - more disturbingly - military expertise and even possibly access to military materials. However, once mobilized, the unity, diversity and solidarity of the mass of the British population are more than equal to the task of smashing this latest racist threat. This was proved once again only last month, when the British electorate wiped out the fascist British National Party in last month’s parliamentary and local elections
Today I participated in the most inspiring demonstration I have attended for years: the march against the EDL in Tower Hamlets in London’s East End. It put a smile on everyone’s face! Why?
1) The EDL weren’t there!
This was going to be the culmination of a year or more of invasions by these skinhead thugs of city after city. They had brazenly announced their intention to march through the most densely populated Muslim concentration in London. Last Tuesday, 30-40 EDL’ers did converge on a pub in Whitechapel, perhaps on a reconnoitre exercise. Within minutes the call went round the estates and the mosques, and they found themselves surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered. It seems they got the point.
2) There was a mood of real jubilation and solidarity.
By my estimate, around 5,000 people were there - mostly young Asians, alongside a sizable contingent of trade unionists, largely NUT and local colleges, but including also a huge RMT European travel banner among others. The usual sprinkling of left groups was there, but this was a genuine local mass-based movement.
3) The slogans were mixed, but you could almost hear in their wording the demonstrators’ consciousness rising as the march proceeded.
At first it was just loud chants of “Allahu-akbar“; I consoled myself that this was after all probably the first demonstration these young Muslims had ever been on. Then the chanting progressed to “EDL - go to hell!” - a very reasonable suggestion that people of all denominations, religious or secular, could agree with. Finally the marchers improvised a wonderfully simple chant that said it all (sung to the tune of “she’ll be coming round the mountain”): “We’re whites and blacks and Asians and we’re Jews, and there’s many many more of us than you.”
Of course the EDL will be back. Victory won’t always be so easy. But the youth are ready for them, and they’re beginning already to link up with their natural allies.