Nazis are again taking to the streets across Britain. They are pretending to be protesting against “Islamic extremism” – but this is a smokescreen.
In reality the English Defence League (EDL) and their ilk are nothing more than fascist thugs, out to sow the seeds of division in communities across Britain.
We have seen pictures of people on EDL protests giving Nazi salutes and videos of them singing, “I hate Pakis more than you.”
As the Nazis’ demonstrations increase, so too do our counter-protests. Sometimes things have turned violent as the two sides face off against each other.
Some argue that we should abandon the counter-demonstrations and stop physically confronting the Nazis. But we must meet the fascists on the streets and mobilise a presence to challenge them.
In Birmingham the EDL has marched more than once. The first time they were unopposed – and they taunted black and Asian people. There were reports of attacks.
But the second time, anti-Nazis organised a counter-demonstration. Even though the police cleared the way for the EDL to march, people in Birmingham defended their streets and defeated the fascists.
Asian youth in particular turned out in numbers to counter the EDL – and they would have done so even if a counter-demonstration had not been called.
In this situation, anti-fascists would have been completely wrong not to call a counter-protest.
Disastrously, we would have left young Asian people isolated and forced to take on the Nazis alone. And we would have run the risk of alienating those we need to recruit to our ranks.
Anti-Nazi organisations cannot just be composed of middle class white people who talk the talk of fighting fascism but abandon the Muslim community when it comes to the crunch because of fear of “violence”.
The third time the EDL marched in Birmingham, the city’s local Unite Against Fascism group did not call a counter-demonstration. Many mosques and so-called “community leaders” asked people not to demonstrate.
Asian youth turned out regardless.
EDL marchers found themselves penned into a pub, shuttled onto buses and chased out of Birmingham. After that the EDL said it would not march in the city again.
This decision wasn’t made because there was no opposition on the streets, nor because the council was being lobbied to ban the EDL from marching. And it definitely wasn’t made because there was going to be a fluffy “United Birmingham” event.
The EDL decided not to return to Birmingham because they were confronted and defeated on the streets by anti-fascists.
The EDL called another demonstration in Manchester and, although there wasn’t a repeat of the scenes in Birmingham, the EDL was once again outnumbered.
The truth of the matter is that the EDL and other fascist groups do not respond to banning orders, “united” events or liberal wishy-washy language.
What they do understand is being outnumbered on the streets by a broad and diverse movement that has greater numbers than they do.
We are at a pivotal point today. We can either organise and confront Nazis on the streets – or we can save our principles of solidarity and unity for meetings and conferences while leaving the Muslim youth to fight on their own.
I know who I will be standing with when the fascists march again. Others need to make up their minds – before history puts them alongside unrepresentative politicians and sell-outs.
Assed Baig is NUS president at Staffordshire University and a Unite Against Fascism activist