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We need more than brave individuals to beat the Nazis

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After four men pleaded guilty to planning to attack the English Defence League, Judith Orr looks at the socialist attitude to terrorism
Issue 2352

Thousands of supporters of the racist English Defence League (EDL) rallied in Dewsbury, in Yorkshire, last June yelling abuse and threatening local Asian people. 

Last week four Asian men were found guilty of planning to attack the EDL demo with guns, knives and homemade bombs. 

Unsurprisingly, they have been demonised as terrorists in the media. 

But it was shocking that a section of the anti-fascist movement tried to equate the men with fascist murderers, including Nazi nail bomber, David Copeland.

In a disgraceful article titled A Plague on Both their Houses, Nick Lowles of the Hope not Hate group even blamed Muslims for the growth of the EDL.

But fascists and those who oppose them are not two sides of the same coin. 

Fascists use violence to impose their dominance. 

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian Nazi, murdered 77 people in his quest for supremacy. 

The EDL uses terror and violence on the streets to intimidate all black and Asian people. 

Their members have been found guilty of brutal racist attacks. 

Their aim is to crush anyone who stands up to them. 

The men who went to Dewsbury with homemade bombs were a reaction to bigotry, not its cause. 

The violence of an oppressor cannot be equated with the actions of those suffering oppression who lash out to fight back.

Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote about the attitude socialists should take to such acts of terror. 

He said, “We understand only too clearly the inevitability of such convulsive acts of despair and vengeance. 


“All our emotions, all our sympathies are with the self-sacrificing avengers even though they have been unable to discover the correct road.”

But does that mean we think that individuals taking up arms is the way to stop the EDL? 

Or as Trotsky put it, “If it is enough to arm oneself with a pistol in order to achieve one’s goal, why the efforts of the class struggle?”

The four men made bombs to try and stop the racists. Yet the EDL was already being decisively beaten back. But not through the acts of few individuals. 

Instead this was achieved by a succession of massive Unite Against Fascism mobilisations—particularly in east London in Tower Hamlets in 2011 and in Walthamstow in 2012.

Thousands came out onto the streets. Black, white and Asian, people of all faiths and none, young and old all felt the confidence of their collective strength.

This is the sort of resistance we need.  

In reality individual acts of terror may represent a cry of rage but they do not take the struggle forward. 

They can actually damage the chances of building the sort of struggles needed to win, sapping confidence of ordinary people and allowing the state to increase repression.

If you assassinate a Tory, blow up a banker or shoot a fascist it can cause a temporary crisis.

But each will be replaced and the system remains intact. 

Revolutionary socialists argue that the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class. 

That’s the social force that can deliver a thorough and permanent revenge on all our enemies. 

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