Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Why using the state to ban the EDL is a bad idea

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus tells us that local politicians are seeking to get the English Defence League's planned march in Bradford banned;
Bradford Council’s political leaders have spoken out against the proposed English Defence League demonstration. 

And Council leader Ian Greenwood has explained why he wants the Home Office to ban the event scheduled for August 28. 

Coun Greenwood, said: “We have listened to the views of a wide range of local groups about the English Defence League’s (EDL) plans to come to Bradford. The Council by itself has no powers to ban such an event without the consent of the Home Secretary. In these circumstances, we are asking the Home Secretary for this consent. 

“Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, and we strongly support that right. But the EDL’s activities in other towns and cities across the country have resulted in significant disruption, some public disorder, and cost the taxpayer, local businesses and local communities many thousands of pounds. 

“The people of Bradford want to enjoy their Bank Holiday without having it disrupted by people from outside our district who have no concern about this community, no concern about its local businesses and no interest in its future. 

“We are currently gathering information about how the EDL’s demonstration could affect local people and businesses, to give to the Government in urging them to give their consent to ban the demonstration”. 
The proposal is backed by local political parties, trade unions, Bradford University, faith leaders, the Chamber of Commerce. Searchlight front campaign Hope not Hate led the way with a petition calling for the ban.

However, as I have expounded numerous times previously, it is folly to rely on state prohibition as a way to fight fascism.

The point, in relation to Bradford, is made by the fledgling Stop Racism and Fascism Network;
Hope Not Hate are circulating a petition to ban the EDL’s rally in Bradford. Whilst we agree with the motivation behind this we cannot rely on the state to ban the rally. Firstly because these laws will be used against the workers movement and the anti-racists ourselves, secondly because we cannot sow illusions in the idea the police will always protect people against the EDL. The only way we can be sure the EDL pose no threat is a mass mobilisations of working class people against them. It is down to us to oppose the EDL on the day and send them home to think again.
This backs up my own arguments that antifascism needs to be "a non-hierarchical grassroots movement, based upon radical, working-class opposition to the state and capitalism" ready to engage in militant, physical resistance to fascism. That is clearly not the case with Hope not Hate's state ban. 

If it goes ahead, then it is simply another example of the power of the state repressing protest, albeit protest of a nationalistic and reactionary nature. Whatever else that might be, it is not a victory for antifascism.