Since the horrible killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby just over a week ago, the English Defence League has seen a turn-around in their political fortunes in terms of membership, support and media coverage. An organisation that was on the brink of extinction through in-fighting and persistent defeat on the streets has had new life breathed into it by parasitically latching on to the death of an off-duty soldier apparently at the hands of Jihadi ‘Islamicist’ militants, opportunistically using the event to push their own agenda. We might ask exactly what that agenda is, since it seems to be a very multi-faceted one. On the surface the ‘organisation’ exists to combat ‘extreme Islam’, seeking to protest the growth of that ‘ideology’ on the streets, in Mosques, in Schools and Universities and throughout British society. The EDL claims to be’ inclusive’ and not Islamophobic, calling on Muslim communities, community and religious leaders to denounce radicalism and terrorism and to even join their League.
The EDL has enjoyed a spike of interest from thousands of people, not least white, working class people, in reaction to the Woolwich killing, but more than this, it has fed on a deep undercurrent of ‘Islamophobia’, ignorance about Islam and blatant racism towards those Muslims who are not British ‘by birth’. It is obvious to many people that the EDL, while it makes feeble attempts to publically counter this undercurrent, does much more to encourage a general prejudice and violent hatred for all Muslims. They make a point of condemning the Quran, Sharia law, the building of new mosques and a variety of Islamic practices, without making any distinction between ordinary Muslims and those who engage in a political ‘Qital’ (Armed struggle) as part of their personal faith. Overall they portray the Muslim faith as a ‘threat to the British way of life’ (or rather their definition of it.) This is an important and genuine distinction, and it is striking that it is deliberately conflated and misrepresented, and that the conflation of the two is actively promoted by the EDL, who allege that ordinary Muslims, (from the devout, the liberal and the conservative, to the non-practicing ) are concealing some sort of hidden agenda as a ‘fifth column’ within UK society. A fifth column that is the supposedly the spearhead of a cultural, religious and racial ‘invasion’ of Britain.
The EDL grew out of an alliance of football hooligan firms, ex-soldiers, the remnants of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement, various micro-fascist groups and collapsed political parties such as the NF, and while it would deny it, it can most certainly be located on the Right of the political spectrum, despite its claims otherwise, hinging its ideology on a specifically English popular nationalism. The EDL presents itself as a street-active protest movement aimed at pressuring the government to ‘act’ against extremist Islamic doctrines and, presumably to encourage Muslim communities to do the same, while promoting a narrowly defined English identity. Its organisation is very loose, centred on social media networks and informal relationships. Its actions however have spoken louder than its words, by a determined policy of provocative marches close to Muslim communities accompanied by racist chanting, abuse, attacks on people and property and clashes with the police.
None of which helps achieve their declared objectives of combating Islamic extremism in any practical or strategic way as a ‘pressure’ or ‘protest’ group.
What then is the purpose of the EDL?
There is a long and established pattern throughout history of state involvement with Far-Right and fascist groups- The father of modern fascism, Benito Mussolini, was initially funded by the British Security Service (MI5) in 1917 to ensure Italy stayed on the allies side and suppressed pacifist and left-wing anti-war protest. Adolf Hitler, early on in his political career was a paid agent of the German army’s Political Intelligence section in Munich, who, along with their aristocratic supporters, ensured he was groomed as both a political speaker and a leader of the young Nazi party. Maxwell Knight, one of the earliest heads of MI5 was a member of the British Fascisti in the 1920s, Knight (the original ‘M’ of James Bond fame) went on to organise the widespread infiltration of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (which was also partially secretly funded by elements of the secret state in Britain) but only after 1934 -since the BUF served as such a useful tool against organised workers and leftists.
In Italy in the sixties and Germany in the seventies state security services infiltrated and virtually ran fascist and Nazi organisations, manipulating them to attack the left or commit terrorist acts to be blamed on the Left later, (in the UK, the Tory Right with the National Front, and elements of the Security Services aimed to create a private army under the name ‘Civil Assistance’) -all part of a Europe-wide state-fascist collaboration supposedly aimed at combating soviet influence but really concentrating on repressing rising proletarian militancy.
It’s against this backdrop that the EDL should be viewed (even the Neo-Nazi BNP, claim that the EDL is a state-sponsored outfit designed to ‘discredit nationalism’, though in truth, that could be sour-grapes from a competitor, one itself quite probably riddled with infiltrators and informers).
We should ask ourselves what the cack-handed politics of the EDL achieve and who they benefit. First of all, they actually achieve very little, beyond stirring up bigotry and racism, popularising anti-immigrant feeling and to a lesser degree, spurring sensationalist debate in the media around Islam’s position within a largely secular British society.
They do however, give white working class people as voice, one that has been consistently ignored by all the major parties, the Tories out of sheer class snobbery and hatred, the Labour Party out of a misguided fixation with the politics of ‘minority equalities’ and ‘anti-discriminatory practices’, born of a hang-over of post-colonial guilt, 60s academic leftist liberalism and a middle class, post-modern aversion to even recognising that working class people exist anymore. Using the language of liberalism and pluralism, the EDL’s ‘inclusivity’ embraces having had LGBT, Jewish and women’s divisions, and yet its members, on protests, are almost exclusively (99%) white, hetero, non-jewish males. The fact that this voice is raised against Muslim ‘radicalism’ and ‘immigration’ is certainly beneficial to the state at a time of horrendous attacks on working class living standards, benefits, wages and social and healthcare services.
It also feeds the state’s need to have some sort of visible support for the military at a time when the majority of British people are opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the EDL are passionately pro-Army, its ranks including many ex-servicemen, and the League feeds on the sympathy ordinary soldiers receive from the public for having to fight for corporate interests abroad under the guise of combating terrorism. They also feed on the understandable outrage produced by terrorist Jihadi atrocities against civilian targets and allow people who are either politically non-aligned or apolitical, to articulate a growing anxiety and prejudice, regarding certain Muslim cultural and religious practices, an anxiety which is then blended with a very real fear of sudden violent death through terror. While they have vocally given support for the military charity ‘Help for Heroes’ (since rejected), they offer no criticism of the poor treatment of veterans by both that charity and the government. The EDL also trumpets its somewhat incongruous and vocal support for the state of Israel, another tenet of British Foreign Policy, as further evidence of its anti-Jihadism (although it never really concerns itself with foreign affairs.)
All in all, the EDL serves the purposes of the Establishment very well; it has become a small mass movement that cleverly exploits issues that the Left cannot and will not deal with, because of its ideology, while appealing to an indigenous working class constituency that the Left could only dream of. The League likes to throw out ideological distractions designed to keep the Left, the media and anti-fascists in a state of confusion- like making pronouncements that they not ‘Far Right’, that they are ‘anti-Nazi’ (publically burning a Swastika flag), their ‘inclusive’ agenda, their use of gay rights to attack Islam, their rejection of racism, including having a minority of non-white members, and their courting of other non-Muslim minority communities-despite the racial chanting and attacks on protests. The EDL also ensures it is seen by its own members as being an anti-establishment group, using the Left-Anarchist chant of ‘Whose streets!? Our streets’ on their demos, engaging in conflict with the police on demonstrations, resulting in the arrest of membership-fodder, while the arrests of its supposed leader Tommy Robinson (aka- Yaxley-Lennon) ensures he has a martyred, maverick image resisting and blaming the ‘liberal elite’ and ‘political correctness’ for his ‘harassment’ by the state. The English Defence League’s leadership, its financiers and handlers operate at a sophisticated level, using the internet intelligently to spread its limited message, limited deliberately because the best propaganda is that which is simple and repetitive- through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
They cleverly exploit left-wing methods of propaganda, aping the ultra-left and anarchists in appeals to working class culture and values, and in doing so ensure that the long-standing state technique of a deliberate conflation between Left and Right ‘extremism’, a technique known as ‘parallelism’ or’ ideological convergence’ which is another feature of the creation of ‘pseudo-gangs’ ( as perfected by General Frank Kitson in Britain’s wars against Kenyan and Malayan independence movements) aimed at discrediting opponents. The EDL makes a regular point of laughably describing anti-fascists as ‘fascists’ who prevent them from exercising their ‘democratic right to protest’.
There is no doubt that the EDL is a fascist organisation, it has classically Fascist features-A ‘charismatic’ (lol!) unelected leader, a lack of democracy in its organisation, its simplistic appeal to a narrow, nationalist, patriotism, xenophobia, outright racism, the exaggeration of internal and external threats, support for an ‘heroic’ military and imperial wars, concealed wealthy backers and a dependence on the politics of the street and little else. The best historical comparisons of the EDL would be the ‘King and Church’ mobs of 1791 and the ‘British Empire Union‘ during the First World War and after. The former were whipped up by wealthy backers to attack religious non-conformists and those with sympathy for the Republican values of the French revolution and ensured the suppression of such ideas in Birmingham into the next century.
The British Empire Union came into being as a re-formation of the ‘Anti-German Union’ which encouraged attacks on German civilians resident in the UK during the war, a Germanophobia that blended with anti-semitism and patriotic support for British war aims, but which went on after the war, (as the BEU) to concentrate its attacks on organised Labour, pacifists and Trade Unions (and whose founder, Sir George Makgill, worked hand-in-hand with MI5’s DG Sir Vernon Kell, passing him information.) It became the fore-runner of the BUF. Like the BEU, the EDL has made forays into attacking enemies other than ‘The Muslims’ – Trade Unionists, Left groups (for just being leftists, not purely as anti-fascists) and even attempted during the riots of 2011 to become an auxiliary of the Police, with the aim of ‘defending their communities’, not that the police wanted their ‘assistance’ (acting not unlike the aforementioned ‘King and Church’ mobs).
It’s obvious that the politics of the EDL are a dead-end, they cannot influence government policy, since they are arm of that policy, acting as a loyal but false opposition, as Tommy Robinson said- “”We know who our masters are. We just want them to do their job.”. Their only purpose is to facilitate covert policies that exist in the para-political sphere, outside of mainstream political discourse, where nothing is as it seems, serving the establishment in an assortment of ways: harnessing working class discontent, redirecting it to coalesce around the rallying point of a largely chimerical Islamic enemy, to bolster support for the Army and unpopular wars, to enhance the disconnection between those wars and home-grown acts of Jihadist terror, to revive nationalistic patriotism, to encourage a sensationalised debate over immigration, apportioning blame for a lack of jobs, housing and healthcare onto ‘Muslims’ , ‘asylum seekers’ and people with large families to drive benefit cuts, to force an anti-left, anti-union agenda onto society, and to further alienate the indigenous working class from left-wing politics. The state, like the Jihadists, doesn’t give a shit where it recruits from for its political foot-soldiers, whether football firms, like the ‘Luton MIGS’, or local gangs the ‘Woolwich Boys’, a symmetry of feeding off working class youth (there’s even good reason to suspect that certain ‘radical’ Islamic groups in the UK are themselves state-sponsored).
Meanwhile, the Left is incapable of fighting on the same terrain as the EDL, hamstrung as it is by its own ideological tenets: anti-racism, multiculturalism, anti-discriminatory practices and an obsession with minority equality. They simply will not deal with issues around Islam that people find disturbing, leaving the field wide-open to the Fascists. For the Left Islam is unassailable, in its radical and ‘mainstream’ forms, but practices engaged in by some Muslim people, in some communities, are found to be deeply disturbing by many non-Muslims in the UK; Forced marriages, female circumcision, honour killings, child brides, faith schools , acid attacks on women, widespread Homophobia and anti-semitism, the status of women within Islam, the hijab, the growth of closed ,protectionist, authoritarian communities, domestic and sexual abuse and paedophile grooming gangs are without doubt seen as backward, mediaeval practices, and not without good reason, since they fly in the face of a western culture built largely on the values of the Enlightenment, which has already banished the worst barbaric excesses of Christianity after hundreds of years.
The Left seems to have forgotten its atheist roots and its anti-clericalism that once upon a time would challenge the very notion of the existence of any ‘God’. A Leftist it seems is more comfortable (rightly) attacking the Christian churches on Gay marriage, institutional child abuse and the question of female priests, in an astounding display of double-standards.
The Left’s silence on Islamic issues, and its natural anti-war and anti-racist positions lays it open to claims by the fascist right that it is more interested in and allied with Islam, rather than what was its natural constituency- the working class (see Labour, Livingston, Galloway-Respect, STWC and the UAF). Meanwhile it falls back on anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist arguments when it comes to the rise of Jihadism, and while this analysis is largely right, it neglects to seriously challenge the theological roots of Jihadist terrorism, the rise of an apocalyptic Islamism that believes, according to its interpretation of the Quran and various different sets of the Hadith, that Jihad is the ‘sixth pillar’ of Islam and that the right to wage Qital (armed struggle) against the Kaffir (unbelievers)is an obligation for all Muslims as the ‘unalterable word of God’ and that only the revival of the 13th Century millennial ‘Khalifah’ (Islamic empire) would save humanity from the ‘fires of hell’.
But most Muslims lead quiet, banal, lives, some miserable, some happy, some feeling constrained, some blissfully devout and happy in their ‘submission’. Only a small minority develop a murderous fanaticism, but that is no reason not to speak out against radical imams, madrasas and mosques that prey on the alienation of those working class Muslim youth who have nothing but boredom, discrimination, family, dole and petty crime to look forward to, who see the atrocities committed against Muslim people’s across the world on the internet, not the news- internment without trial, drone strikes, the uncounted dead of two major invasions, the assassinations, the cold-blooded killing of children on the Gaza Strip, massacres of civilians, abuse of prisoners and the borderless , global, War on Terror. All of which barely makes the headlines, in fact, alleged terror ‘plots’ (in the US often orchestrated by the FBI) and occasional actual attack get a disproportionate amount of media coverage in the West by comparison, attacks which are seen as ‘incomprehensible’ both for their viciousness, the use of suicide bombers and because of a deliberate political and media separation from foreign policy. It is no surprise that some Muslims take the path of armed struggle, and can happily justify acts of terror according to their interpretation of Islam and embrace the US endorsed concept of a Global war on terror.
Jihadism has become a global movement largely thanks to the US backing of tribal sects in Afghanistan during the war against soviet aggression there, funded by the incredibly wealthy Saudi Arabian dynasty’s oil money (Followers of the strict Wahabi sect-guardians of Islam’s holiest places), coalescing in the Mujahedeen movement, and then the CIA’s backing for the Ayatollah in Iran in order to suppress the worker’s revolution there, particularly the influence of the Iranian Communist party. Sunni and Shia Fundamentalism grew across the Middle East in those nations as an oppositional force to western backed dictatorships, and from their ongoing collaboration in the dispossession of the Palestinian people- coming out of the slums and mosques as the only centres for opposition and ones which naturally rejected western values and politics. The west has actively suppressed progressive, democratic and pluralist ideas in order to secure control of energy resources and geographically strategic military bases. Western Imperial resource grabs in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with the abandonment of international law when it comes to Israel, has ensured that radical Islam and an adherence to the faith and identity it provides, has grown exponentially. The attacks on the World Trade Centre were orchestrated by dissident elements of the Saudi elite unhappy with the use of their country by the Allies to ‘liberate’ Kuwait from Saddam Hussein (who was given the go-ahead to invade by the US in the first place), defiling the nation that contains both Mecca and Medina. The US knew attacks were coming but did little to prevent them, in order to use them as a reason to occupy first Afghanistan and then Iraq under completely false pretexts. There is little question about the massive violence used to accomplish these occupations, the total number of civilians and military killed and maimed will never be really known. From the high-tech means of precision-guided munitions to the blunt force of the interrogators fist, Muslim peoples have felt the full force of western military power in what appears to them a renewed Christian Crusade. These wars have inflamed Muslims sense of honour, dignity and justice across the world- Islam is an international, global religion, and Muslims are duty-bound by the Koran to defend their religion, is it any surprise then that young Muslim lads from our cities then go off to train, fight and die as volunteers abroad against allied forces? Is it any wonder they choose to attack targets in their home countries or any of those in the west? When they see the unrestrained use of violence against unarmed Muslims in the Middle East and Africa, is it any wonder they decide to take up arms in acts of terror in retaliation for the military aggression of the west? All the more so given the fact that they see the whole of ‘creation’, the Earth, as belonging to Allah and to Islam and reject the concept of the nation-state and of democracy?
Seen in this light, through the lens of an Islamist, the killing of Lee Rigby was in essence an act of war, not terror. But terrifying it was, along with all of the attacks launched by Islamists over the past 15 or so years, and the atrocities and war-crimes committed by allied forces, including by Lee Rigby’s own regiment, in 2003 when they tortured and sexually humiliated Iraqi detainees, when a Grenadier Guard who cold-bloodedly bayoneted a 10-year-old Afghan boy for begging for chocolate…and all the other aforementioned horrors, which includes the fact that the British government are ultimately responsible for the deaths of British soldiers in pursuit of the 90 billion barrels of oil that lies beneath the Caspian Basin on the pretext of ‘defeating terrorism’ and the ‘overthrow of dictators’. None of which fits with the patriotic pro-military hegemony of ideas that the state and the EDL clings to, connecting to a collective colonial memories, -of ‘Zulu’, the beheading of General Gordon at Khartoum and the sentimental myth of the ‘little drummer boy’.
The EDL represents a peculiarly British brand of state-sponsored Fascism, one that blossoms on the terraces during the World Cup, where ‘English people’ are called upon to take great pride in Britain and forget it is a declining, second-rate, European nation- (as evidenced by the ‘football, chips, beer and tits’ culture of the EDL themselves.)
The Woolwich killing is a gift to the EDL, and leaves the left to react in entirely predictable ways. The revolutionary left needs to think hard about the complexities of the issues involved and to see this as an opportunity to cast-off some of that middle-class liberalism it’s been smothered with for decades- suffocated with in fact.
If there are more Islamicist attacks in the near future, which the EDL will relish, or if they manage to provoke riots in places like Oldham, Leeds, Leicester and Bradford, (all the while trying to exploit other, local issues) to generate an inter-communal race war, then these provocations may kick-start both a renewed attempt by the EDL to enter mainstream politics (as with the failed attempt with the British Freedom Party) – to become a truly formidable popular political force, or to create a major realignment on the Right, to scoop up those votes, with a UKIP/Tory alliance.
The question is, where can the left, anarchists and anti-fascists intervene in this process without becoming associated with Islamic fascism, or even mainstream Muslim culture which is identified as being so alien to western culture as to be a total anathema to many working class people in the UK? [It’s worth bearing in mind that Islam is not as monlithic as it is presented- see the recent emergence of the Black Bloc in Egypt and Tunisia, the activism of anti-capitalist Muslims in the Taksim Square riots in Turkey alongside the Besiktas football club fans, the anarchistic ‘Group Çarşı’ and the revolutionary potential of the radical Shuras in the Shia uprisings against Saddam Hussein in the early 90s and the secular revolutionary movements in 1970s Iran before the Western-backed Ayatollahs seized power…]
The EDL are more than just a bunch of ‘pub monkeys’ with a desire to provoke a ‘bit of trouble’ in Muslim communities, the EDL is a dangerous tool of the state, one that has been created to fan and spark a race war in British society, should one be needed according to economic conditions. The only winner in these circumstances would be the state, the bosses and the rich.
This is the ideological riddle presenting itself, and always has done in relation to Islam for the Left and anarchists- Islam, even in its moderate incarnation, is a reactionary belief system, how can we reconcile our atheism and anti-authoritarianism , our anti-fascism and our humanitarianism with defending one vile ideology against another, the religious fanatics and the ‘blackshirts in hoodies’?
Mussolini and MI5
‘Right-wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War 2’
Arsehole Robinson ‘Masters’ quote-
Fusilier war crimes
Stabbing of Afghan boy
Details on Tory/NF/SS collusion-
Book- ‘The Bigger Tory Vote’ by Nick Toczek
THE RICH ARE OUR MISFORTUNE.
UPDATE 31.07.13:- The appearnce of the ‘ENGLISH VOLUNTEER FORCE’ as an elite spin-off from the EDL, makes the fascist nature of both organisations very clear, as the EVF states on their Facebook page and website-
‘WE ARE A NATIONWIDE EFFECTIVE NON POLITICAL OR RACIST COUNTER – JIHAD STREET MOVEMENT
We STRONGLY oppose militant/extreme to Islam & the influence it has within our country and are opposed to dissident republicans and the extreme left.
We are strongly opposed to the politically correct issues & loopholes related with Islam such as the building of mosques where imams are preaching hatred, Halal meat in our food chain not labelled correctly etc, We are opposed to the violent left wing UAF/Antifa and anyone connected with them.
And wish to fight to stop the eradication of our British traditions