...can only be either a statement of extreme irony or a total and utter lack of self-awareness;
The English Defence League: the Leading Force Against Far Right Extremism in the UK
This headline comes from an article on the EDL's website, following on from leader Tommy Robinson's appearance on Newsnight. But if that alone wasn't enough, the statements that accompany it go beyond absurdity.
Aside from being "the world’s leading counter-jihad protest movement," the EDL are also apparently "remaining vigilant for all other forms of extremism." Alongside the Islamists, "there are three main forms of extremism that we are helping to defeat," and this includes being "one of the best forms of protection that this country has against far right extremism." Yes, really.
The brave troops of the EDL also apparently challenge "the view that in order to defeat fascist ideologies (Nazism, Islamo-fascism, Stalinism, etc), it is necessary to resort to violence or other extreme action" and of course the old chestnut of "violent anarchism." Because these self-styled heroes of the working class deride the idea "that the existing establishment (the banks, the government, the media, leading industries, etc) are responsible for the world’s problems and deserve to be attacked in some way."
I've dissected much of this claptrap previously. In my report on the poppy burning incident, I explained how the EDL are at best ineffectual at challenging militant Islam, I've responded to their position on class, and as well as tearing down their mission statement I've explained why - far from being "anti-fascist" - the EDL's actions and politics vindicate the use of the term "far-right" to describe them.
As for the bullet points in this article, it isn't difficult to show them up as falsehoods or delusions. Taking them one by one;
- We are committed to peaceful protest; stewarding our demonstrations and cooperating with the police.
This is demonstrable bollocks. Not only do the EDL have a record of going on the rampage at demonstrations, they turn on one another when there is nobody else to fight. This is alongside preparing for such demonstrations by issuing threats to Asian taxi drivers, hardly conducive of peaceful protest.
- We educate our supporters about the threat posed by Islamic extremism; analysing its cause and encouraging a public debate, rather than making unfair generalisations.
If this is true, you have to wonder the value of their education. Taking Liverpool as an example, of late the EDL have demonstrated against a vigil for the people of Palestine which they automatically equated with "supporting Hamas," and a march for female asylum seekers. Then there was their threat to cause disruption across the country on the basis of tabloid myths. If these are people educated against unfair generalisations, we can only wonder what the ignorant bigots are like.
- We argue that extremism cannot be fought with extremism – not only is it wrong, but it doesn’t work.
This is too vague a statement to address. The EDL do not define "extremism," and at any rate their attitude appears to be that of the state's - fall in line with a prescribed way of thinking or be declared an enemy.
- We speak out against prejudice, and defend the reputation of ordinary Muslims.
- We celebrate the efforts made by truly reformist or modernising Muslims.
- We regularly accept opportunities to debate with our critics and those with whom we disagree: encouraging mutual understanding between people on different sides of the argument.
Perhaps why, when they invaded News from Nowhere, an admin of the Liverpool EDL page pointed out that some bits of literature "promote communism and are anti-royals" and "A[s] a[n] Englishman I find this unacceptable."
- We give a voice to people who have might otherwise believe that no one speaks for them.
This one is true. However, as I've argued before, what this amounts to is leading the working class down a nationalist blind alley. They have demonstrated their support for "the banks, the government, the media, leading industries, etc," and serve their needs by twisting class resentments and interests to present them as nationalist ones.
- We help prevent resentment from growing between communities.
I refer to my point on "peaceful demonstrations" above. The EDL not only causes and exacerbates tensions between ethnic and religious groups, it plays up the myth that such groups can be organised into homogenous "communities," which is the very basis of the divide and resentment.
- We refuse to cooperate with known extremists, and have made ourselves very unpopular with the far right for refusing to endorse their views.
- We celebrate diversity, by establishing ‘specialist divisions’ such as our separate religious divisions, and LGBT division.
Indeed, they have their token divisions, rejected by the "communities" they are supposed to represent. Moreover, their Jewish Division leader Roberta Moore quit precisely because of those using the group "for their own Nazi purposes."
Clearly, far from being "one of the best forms of protection that this country has against far right extremism," the EDL are the far-right. They attempt to mask it with sophistry, but their is no escaping their origins as a gathering of fascists and football hooligans. It is the duty of real anti-fascists to oppose them, both by dissecting their dogma and by standing in front of them when they advance upon our communities.