Today's Daily Star carries the story that "The English Defence League will carry out a Norway-style massacre in Britain unless the Government cracks down on the racist organisation." Aside from the irony of a paper which previously supported these fascists carrying this story, the idea that it offers is a dangerous one. The state's "crack downs" are no ally of anti-fascism.
The "expert" making the hyperbolic claim that the EDL are ready to move into terrorism is Matthew Collins, author of Hate: My Life in The British Far-Right. Formerly a member of the National Front and BNP, he is now employed by Searchlight. He says that "the Government needs to treat gangs of white, far-right extremists like they do groups of Muslim extremists." His thoughts largely mirror those of Nick Lowles, who he works with, when he declares that "extremism breeds extremism" and "there should be a plague on both their houses" because otherwise "it won’t be just foolish young Muslims planting bombs on Tubes. It will be foolish young white kids."
However, his evidence for this assertion largely rests on the fact that EDL leader Tommy Robinson "says himself that we’re probably five years away from a Breivik-style incident in this country." Not forgetting that Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik "praised the EDL in his manifesto and claimed he had 600 EDL supporters as Facebook friends."
Tommy Robinson claimed in an interview on Newsnight that "there's an undercurrent of anger across the whole of Britain, across the whole of Europe" and that if it wasn't addressed there could be an incident like the terror attacks in Norway "in 5-10 years." This was not, as many have leapt upon it, a threat. It was an argument that the way to prevent that was to allow an organisation like the EDL to operate openly and give such anger a platform that did not involve using bombs or taking up arms.
I don't agree with this analysis - I'd certainly say that there is an undercurrent of anger, but I'd argue that most are rooted in class and inequality. The EDL is one of the various catalysts for such anger taking on a nationalist dimension. Whilst the group may give hardcore racists an outlet that doesn't involve bombs, it also gives working class kids a way to vent their frustration at the world without actually addressing the numerous social and economic problems that are at the heart of them. However, whether you agree with it or not, to claim that this wasn't his point and that he was threatening violence is a dishonesty that the anti-fascist movement shouldn't be embracing.
Likewise, Breivik's praise for the EDL was tempered by harsh criticisms of it as too moderate and naive. Much the same as the BNP faces criticisms from more openly neo-Nazi parties. They don't change the fact that either organisation is demonstrably fascist, but they do point to a diversity in the far-right that it is simplistic to ignore.
None of this will stop Collins or Lowles from calling for bans and crack downs. Searchlight has a long history of collaboration with the state, which includes shopping anti-fascists to the security services. More recently, their Fear & Hope report came with the explicit aim of "bolstering the mainstream middle," which leaves the "domestic extremists" who protest the government as much in the cold as Islamists or fascists. In fact, we know from recent experience that it leaves people who stand up to the far-right facing prison sentences - with not a peep from Lowles et al because they didn't do so by running into the arms of the state.
Fascism needs to be challenged. But it needs to be challenged by the working class people under attack from it, standing together and defending our communities.
As Tower Hamlets ALARM say in relation to the coming EDL protest there;
We don’t need a ban on the EDL, we need to stand against them. Not walk away to Weaver’s field, but to stand in front of them. Stop them marching, show them that they cannot not intimidate, divide and batter a community.
If the EDL are not beaten on our streets they will never go away, if they are not smashed to atoms – physically and ideologically – then they will continue to grow and infect. If the EDL are banned and go underground without being definitively defeated on the streets we will never be able to operate without a fear of them. They will become the bogeyman to radical politics.
State intervention is a worrying turn, the State stepping in and banning EDL protests is not a sign of a left wing section of the State acting, or even an Islamic element gaining strength, it is a sign of a further move to a totalitarian State. We already have the camps in Yarlswood, thug police that get away with murder and an ever watching State gathering information on us. We don’t need to campaign for them to ban political groups. Today the EDL, tomorrow us.
We don’t need the State to stop the EDL. We need to do this ourselves. We need our communities to work together, overcome divisive elements and tackle the threat of fundamentalism in whatever forms it takes.
Matthew Collins is right when he says that "we need to stop this hatred brewing on our streets before it’s too late." But the way to do is by standing up to the fascists as a class. If we listen to Hope not Hate, and go down the road of repression, all we will do is prove Tommy Robinson's predictions for 5-10 years time right and set back the anti-fascist cause to a dangerous degree.