“I cannot rule out violence,” these are the ominous words of English Defence League (EDL) founder Tommy Robinson. He was talking about the EDL’s planned demonstration in Bolton on Saturday 6 March.
Three weeks ago more than 1,200 EDL supporters rampaged through Stoke-on-Trent.
They ran riot. Asian shops were attacked and car windows smashed. The previous night a local mosque had been spray painted with the words “Islam scum” and “EDL”.
That is the reality of EDL demonstrations. It shows why anti-racists must take to the streets in Bolton.
Barry Conway, Bolton secretary of National Union of Teachers, told Socialist Worker, “Instead of celebrating our diversity, the EDL want to destroy it. It is vital the community unites to stop them.
“We are putting a motion to our branch AGM opposing the EDL coming here and calling for a united campaign if they do.”
Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South, strongly opposes the EDL coming to Bolton. He said they are the “boot boys of the BNP”. But unfortunately he has also told the community to “stay calm”, “not get involved in confrontation” and “if possible, ignore them”.
But Stoke shows that the strategy of staying at home and hoping it all goes away can only lead to disaster.
Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism told Socialist Worker, “Every anti-fascist must get to Bolton on the 6 March.
“The EDL want to intimidate Muslims and Asian people in Bolton—but we won’t let them.”
The EDL claims it is a non-violent organisation. But there is violence whenever it comes out on the streets.
It says it isn’t racist and only opposes “extremist Islam”. But it issued a statement this week calling for a ban on the building of any mosques.
Footage from the Stoke rampage shows EDL supporters chanting “BNP, BNP”, only to be told by Jeff Marsh, one of the demonstration’s organisers, “Don’t shout BNP boys... it’s EDL, right. That’s stupid.”
Joan, a public sector worker in Bolton, said, “I am worried that the EDL will give confidence to the BNP.”
“They are weak here, but the EDL protest could help them in the election. This isn’t about religion or Islam—these people are coming here to spread violence and hatred.”
In Germany the Nazis demonised Jewish people long before the Holocaust. They attacked synagogues and witch-hunted Jews before eventually murdering millions.
Today fascists are a tiny minority, but groups like the EDL could quickly become a breeding ground for the BNP.
Known British National Party (BNP) activists have been seen on EDL protests.
The German left in the 1930s failed to unite to stop the rise of fascism. We cannot make the same mistake today.
We need to draw on the lessons from the movement against the National Front in the 1970s, when they were driven from the streets by working class unity.
Protest on Saturday 6 March, called by Unite Against Fascism. Assemble 11am, Victoria Square, Bolton