The ‘EDL’ could not gain any power on the streets without ideological cover. This has been granted by the popular witch-hunt or panic against Muslims. It is a mood generated by a sustained propaganda onslaught by the corporate media to promote our rulers failing ‘war on terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just like in Orwell’s novel 1984, our rulers always manufacture bogeymen to keep the population paranoid and divided against each other. And today a frightened population facing recession and cuts are taken in – and the mood is exploited by hardcore fascists. The new found ‘legitimacy’ of the BNP and the street intimidation by the EDL are just two sides of the same coin, twin pincers of the same reaction.
We need to build new alliances between different groups to politically and culturally isolate the fascists of the BNP and the Muslim-baiting pogromists of the EDL. This requires both ideological and physical struggle.
The large drunken mob of EDL taking over a section of central Manchester on Saturday shows what we are up against. Griffin’s appearance on the BBC’s ‘question time’ will inevitably give confidence and a sense of legitimacy to every racist street thug to go ‘p*ki-bashing’. No matter how much the BBC help Griffin to appear moderate in the genteel QT debating chamber (he will denounce the EDL as thugs), the BBC elites appeasement of the BNP by allowing them on the panel will inevitably empower EDL Muslim-baiting mobs on the streets.
The EDL street mob holds up to society the mirror of the ugly reality of xenohobia and Islamophobia. This is a matter of a clash of social forces, not just some refined intellectual debate. Societies, especially those facing economic crisis, often turn ugly, going into an irrational frenzy, with mass popular movements viciously scapegoating some minority group or other. That’s the history of pogroms and ‘ethnic-cleansing’ in Europe and elsewhere.
The Islamophobic or Anti-Semitic pogrom-frenzy is an elemental force that seizes on whatever jutifications and rationalisations it needs, deploying or discarding them opportunistically. This cant be stopped as arrogant liberal elites believe, by scoring fine points with fascism’s besuited figureheads in the debating chamber, even if we win the arguments. We can only win by mobilising an equally powerful counter-veiling social force – one that can occupy the streets and also point to resolving the crisis through a class struggle against the capitalist parasites.
We may soon face the attempt by its crazed leaders to march the drunken EDL hoologan mob into a mixed area, somewhere where Muslims live in significant numbers. When it happens, to stop the pogrom we will have to physically block the way – with greater numbers united from diverse communities and social groups. Thats what our side successfully did in the battles of Cable Street in 1936 and Lewisham in 1977. That requires a politics of physical force, with large numbers of people organised and militant enough to stand their ground.
But this physical force, while necessary – is not sufficient. We need to rebuild the counter-hegemonic alliances between different groups that have been successful in the past- alliances between the different lefts, organised working class movements, oppressed ethnic, racial and religious minorities, students, other minorities like Lesbians and Gays, young people and counter-cultures…
At the moment, Muslims appear isolated and singled out. The right have won a propaganda war so that people fear ‘Islamification’. Racist fears of immigrants and immigrant descended communities are given a new edge by a religious dynamic.
Today’s pogromist swears to the media they are only against ‘Islamic extremists’ – but then carry banners against all mosques and shout slogans against all Muslims. At the same time their ideologists claim that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, and that in their view the whole faith of Islam is inherently terrorist!
Today’s pogromist swear that they ‘are not racist’ because ‘Islam is a religion not a race’. But as history shows, the persecution of a religious minority is just as much an evil, destructive and poisonous force for both minority and majority communities as is racism. Our argument is clear – today, Muslims in Britain form a vulnerable ethic minority, who must be defended if a civilized society is to be maintained in Britain.
But because Muslims are not only a racial or ethnic minority, but a religious one – then pogromist vigilantes like the EDL can hide beneath the cloak of our secular critique of religion! We on the left have fought centuries old battles for freedom against kings, tyrants and priests, against religious obscurantism, sexism and patriarchy. Now the fascists attempt to hijack our past victories, hijack the language of secularism and feminism – and turn them against the downtrodden immigrant workers and ethnic minorities of the Muslim faith!
Alan Lake, the wealthy business man who claims to bankroll the EDL reveals his strategy. The Guardian commented that he appears to want to “build alliances with all groups who might fall foul of the strict Islamic code, including lesbian and gay organisations, other religions and ethnic groups and supporters of free speech”. At the same time Lake said that: “Football fans are a potential source of support. They are a hoi polloi that gets off their backsides and travels to a city and they are available before and after matches.”
So will this force of violent football hooligans, who are marching around Manchester bellowing ‘God Save Our Queen’ going to stand up for secular critique, for women’s rights and Lesbian and Gay rights? Are they going to win the support of mainstream Muslims and isolate the extreme Islamist minority? Are they f*ck!
Once they have made their bridgehead, hiding beneath their ill-fitting cloak of convenience of liberal secularism, then they will attempt to role back liberal secularism, attacking other minorities. They will also attempt to use Christianity as an ethno-nationalist identity, obviously ignoring the actual teachings attributed to Christ – of peace (sermon on the mount) or tolerance and diversity (the good Samaritan).
We must therefore work within all communities to prevent the EDL and/or BNP building the ‘Islamophobic alliance’ that isolates and singles out Muslims. This means work with secularists and humanists, women’s groups, Lesbians and Gay communities, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs – as well as trades unionists and the broader working class. This is essential and difficult but not impossible. Leading figure for the Muslim Council appear to want to help, recently proclaiming that tolerance for sexual minorities like Lesbians and Gays is an Islamic goal.
And despite the Islamophobic propaganda of the BNP and EDL, reality will often break through. The professional liars and demonisers of Islam who inspire the EDL say that that the Muslims faith teaches conquest. Yet it is the West, for all its secular humanism and post enlightenment rationalism that has recently invaded and occupied two Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not therefore what is found in some old book that reveals the truth – but what people actually do. Today’s problems (and solutions) have their roots in political and economic crisis – wars, occupations and recessions – not in scripture – be it the teachings of Christ, Mohammed or Voltaire.