Socialist Worker

How do we stop the English Defence League?

Issue No. 2216

The racist English Defence League (EDL), which demonstrates in Bradford this Saturday is part of a wider network of racists and fascists.

The fascist British National Party (BNP) are intimately involved in its organisation.

A number of BNP members have been centrally involved in organising EDL protests and setting up EDL divisions.

Some activists and local community leaders have turned to relying on the police or a state ban to stop the EDL.

But nobody should have any faith in these forces. Whenever the EDL have held anti-Muslim protests, the police have “escorted” them—despite vast local opposition.

The “static protests” become more like marches.

And banning the EDL is a dangerous idea—it can put people off taking to the streets against the EDL and opens the door to the police clamping down on anti-racist and other left wing protests.

On previous protests we have seen the police arrest, beat and harass anti-racist protesters.

But the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement potentially has the strength to smash the EDL off the streets.


A strong movement can confront the EDL ideologically, politically and on the streets so that they are no longer confident to mobilise.

To do this requires the building of a mass movement, rooted in the working class and communities that can tackle the racists and provide a real solution to the issues that help them to build.

The vast majority of ordinary people hate the violence and racism of the EDL—it is this feeling which must be mobilised to defeat it.

Since the Stoke protest by the EDL, when its supporters attacked Asian shops, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has organised successfully to oppose the EDL in unity with local anti-racist organisations all over the country—including in Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Dudley, Cardiff, Swansea, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

These counter-protests have brought together young people, students, pensioners, trade unionists, local anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigners and religious groups.

These anti-EDL mobilisations have not destroyed the organisation.

But they have prevented a repeat of Stoke, given confidence to wider groups of anti-racists and made clear that the EDL will not protest unopposed.

Fascists and organised racists need to be met by mass mobilisations on the streets to break their confidence and separate off the less hardline elements.

This is the sort of response we would like to build.

There should be UAF groups in every town and city, and the anti-fascist message needs to be driven deeper into the working class and communities.

Some of that is happening. Trade union activists have put motions to their branch meetings to back counter-protests, and demanded their union takes part in actively tackling the EDL’s racist ideas.

Huge meetings at universities and colleges have brought together students and staff to talk about and oppose racism.

But there is another important step—tackling the causes of racism and providing a socialist answer to the problems of bad housing, poverty and anger at the rich that fascists seek to build on.

Capitalism puts profit above everything else. It wants people to be divided, because united we can change the world.

This is why politicians and the mainstream media want us to be silent. They won’t face up to the racists. Instead they blame Muslims and other minorities for problems in society.


The fears and damage caused by the recession, and the cuts the government are driving through, can push people towards the EDL and break apart our communities.

The EDL uses racism to deflect attention from the real cause of our problems—the greed of the rich and the powerful.

We have to stand up to the government and the media on all of these things—racist lies, shutting hospitals and schools, and criminalising young people.

The cuts are already being used to blame immigrants and asylum seekers for services being over-stretched.

We know this isn’t true.

While working in every area to make a powerful movement against racism, we also need all to fight against the cuts.

Victories against the racists, and the government, make us more confident, and more united.

In the coming months, we have to build a mass movement that can smash the EDL off the streets, and confront the system they feed off.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

What Socialists Say
Tue 24 Aug 2010, 17:30 BST
Issue No. 2216
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.