Still not laughing at the English Defence League

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a caption is too.

While looking for coverage of the far-right’s attempts to exploit the tragedy in Rotherham to stir up a bit of cheap publicity, I stumbled across something that stuck in my head and bothered me in a way that silly facebook posts don’t normally do. The post in question was from “Patriots Against Society”, one of the myriad of daft EDL News-style pages and accounts that parody the far right:

Thoughtful, helpful commentary there.

Something about the combination of that banner and that “antifascist” response really gets to me. It’s a powerful message: drawing on a memory of class hatred of the police going back thirty years to their actions as an occupying army in the miners’ strike, making links between the contempt shown for working-class football fans in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and the contempt for young working-class girls that enabled the horrific abuse in Rotherham to go on for so long. And what do “anti-racists” have to say in response? “Lol, look at the thickos who can’t spell.”

The case against “anti-fascist” snobbery has been made before, of course, but it seems to be one of those arguments that needs to be made time and time again. The situation in Rotherham is a difficult and complicated one – I’m not used to finding myself agreeing with the demands put forward by far-right groups, but it’s hard to see how anyone could disagree with the EDL’s demand that Shaun Wright needs to go. The standard UAF model of organising demos where the speakers’ platform is a lash-up between the SWP and local bigwigs was never that good to start with, but it could be terrifyingly counter-productive in a situation like Rotherham, where a platform dominated by Weyman Bennett and local councillors would look like a who’s who of abuse enablers.

Orgreave, Hillsborough, Rotherham. The person who made that banner was angry, and they had good reasons for being angry, and the fact that they were out marching with the EDL should give us pause for thought. In a situation like this, the need for an anti-fascist movement that’s populist, anti-state, anti-establishment and can talk about class is more urgent than ever. The Anti-Fascist Network statement on the situation is a good start, but the amount of EDL News/Still Laughing at the EDL-style crap that’s out there means that there’s still a lot of dead wood that needs pruning if we want to have an antifascist movement that can seriously compete for the hearts and minds of people who drawn towards racist groups, instead of just instantly putting them off with blatant snobbery. I’d like to say the attitudes I’m complaining about are just a liberal problem, but anyone who’s familiar with the Malatesta blog will be aware that some anarchists have just as much difficulty with the difference between taking the piss out of racists for being racist and taking the piss out of racists for being fat/bald/alcoholic/uneducated/tattooed/etc.

There’s a place for satire and ridicule, of course, but good satire should be about examining what your target is actually saying, looking at their arguments to expose the holes, absurdities and inconsistencies in their logic. There’s a world of difference between that and shit like this:


If opposition to the far-right is ever going to go beyond frantic attempts at damage limitation, we need to be actually engaging with the people drawn to far-right ideas – yes, even the fat ones, the bald ones, the ones with alcohol problems and crap tattoos and bad teeth and a poor grasp of the English language and all the other things that seem to mark people out as subhuman in the eyes of many “anti-fascists” – and arguing why their justified frustrations should be expressed along class lines, not national or racial ones. And if we can’t do that, then we could at least do with some better-quality satire, so we’ll have something to laugh at while everything continues to get worse.

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Racism, Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The left, The right and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Still not laughing at the English Defence League

  1. Jo Makepeace says:

    This is great – as long as you are also involved in anti-fascism (not a dig at the author, for all I know they could be at it 24/7). There are too many anarchists who think that developing a ‘working class’ critique of ‘liberal anti fascism’ is anti-fascist in and of itself.

    At the moment there are only a handful of autonomous anti fascists organising and mobilising around the country. The EDL are in Downing St on Saturday – it’s all well and good slagging off the UAFs sometimes ham fisted efforts but they’ve issued a call out – has anyone else?

    • Point taken, although I think that discussions about who is and isn’t involved in anti-fascism are best not had on the internet. The internet is fine for discussing relatively abstract ideas like criticising liberal anti-fascism, actual organising and conversations about who’s involved in it not so much.

  2. Jo Makepeace says:

    Errrm…I’m not asking who is and isn’t involved in anti-fascism. Possibly the sentence should have run “This is great – as long as one is involved in anti fascism” but that might have sounded a bit Bullingdon club.

    You don’t make a bad point in your blog, a lot of the anti EDL stuff out there on the internet e.g OTAN and SLATEDL is happy to use any stick to beat the far-right with – if only a handful of them turn up to a demo say they’re obviously losers, if loads of them turn up say they made a drunken spectacle of themselves etc etc. Consistency is not at a premium.

    That said, people who criticise liberal anti-fascists from a class struggle perspective often fall into the same trap – whatever liberal anti-fascists do is obviously crap. In fact you’d be forgiven for thinking that the main target of some ‘militant antifa’ was the UAF.

    The answer is not to develop a critique of groups like OTAN and Patriots against Society (who probably aren’t listening anyway) in order to slap ourselves on the back in a prolier than thou manner but to actually get out there to set up anti-fascist groups, link up with others, work against right wing ideas in our hometowns but also travel to oppose ultra-nationalism wherever it rears it’s head.

    • Oh yeah, definitely agreed. I think for anyone who’s involved in activism of any kind there’s a danger of developing tunnel vision, where it gets easy to focus on other people who’re doing an essentially similar thing, and lose sight of how things look to people who aren’t involved.

      The point about linking up and travelling is also important – I definitely get the impression there’s a bit of a syndrome where we tend to massively outnumber them in big cities with big concentrations of activists (Brighton/March for England being at one extreme end of the scale here) but have a much harder time in smaller, more distant towns like Rotherham, Rochdale, Blackburn, Shotton or wherever. How we get around that without local people feeling that we’re flooding their town with outsiders is another very big question, of course.

  3. Swervin says:

    Quite an interesting article. I am def not a uni educated type and would be classed by some as thick working class white male from the wastelands of thames estuary Essex. You are absolutely right in your assumptions. When I look around on anti fascist demos I have more in common with the right wing working class EDL, they dress like me, they talk like me, they drink in the same run down pubs as me, they stand on the football terrace like me and listen generally to the same type of music as me, their kids go to the same kind of schools as mine. The one important difference is I know my class history and am anti fascist thru and thru. The EDL, BNP, NF foot soldiers are drawn to the right and it is all to easy for them to be attracted that way. I look at my fellow anti fascist travellers and all too often the only thing I have in common is the anti fascism and that is it. I have a closer working class allegiance to the moronic right than the often middle class, vegan, anarchist,” I am at uni and rebelling against my parents” anti fascists I currently stand with. I thought the hippies were going to be the revolution and look where they all ended up, rich kids, grammar school or privately educated, pot smoking who are now running our country through big business or in parliament.
    Until we get the working class on our side and engage with people that some of you sneer at and look down very long noses at we will be in a never ending struggle.

    • Richard O'Sullivan says:

      It is a lot easier to fight fascism on facebook than where it counts on the streets,in the pubs,on building sites,in factorys,at football, The rise of the EDL sideswiped a lot of those of us involved in militant anti fascism. To the extent that top boys in our local firm< asked me to join the EDL to help them oppose sharia law. These lads stood with us against C18,BNP and Blood and Honour but are happy in the EDL. Where do we go from here?
      Sully Huddersfield SHARP/AFA

  4. Madeleine Noor Baker says:

    Great article, but may lose the trust of me and people like me when solidarity with those of us who aren’t white is seen as less important than trying to “seriously compete for the hearts and minds of people who drawn towards racist groups”. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for it, but the antifascist movement I want to be involved in isn’t trying to appeal to people who are so far down the racist road that they are giving up their weekends to stand with the EDL and assorted fellow travellers, that they are shouting “if you hate pakis clap your hands” (as they were in Rotherham). It is trying to force them off the street and out of the public arena.

    Totally agree with the rest of the blog and that anti-fascists need pulling up when their verbal assaults on the racists spills into scorn for working class people.

    • I see what you’re saying, and I’m not particularly interested in trying to appeal to EDL diehards, but the point is that no-one is born that racist; we need to be seriously engaging with people who’re just starting out down that road long before they get to that point, and I’m not sure we’re doing that good a job of it at the moment.

  5. Arthur says:

    But you had your chance when the EDL was new and were not against the left etc, but in flew the UAF and generated loads of hatred, which now can’t be undone, you sneered at people for the way they looked, dressed and their lack of education, says something for so called state education does it not.

    People are never going to forgive the anarchists, the left that have attacked them in the way they and are still doing.

    Yes I’m an EDL supporter and I won’t be surprised if you take my post down.

    • I’m not particularly interested in trying to apologise for the UAF or whoever. And the EDL may not have been anti-left from the start, but it was always provocatively racist and unhelpful, even measured against your own stated aims – how many Islamists do you think have stopped being Islamists as a result of you lot shouting and waving flags around?

      Whatever, I’m sure you’ll carry on doing what you’re doing, and I’m going to carry on doing what I’m interested in, which is mostly about trying to bring people together to try and collectively solve problems with our bosses, landlords and the like. If that’s not something you’re interested in, then that’s up to you.

    • Militant says:

      This is daftness. Some of our lads went along to observe one of the very first EDL demos in Birmingham and people on the demo were chanting ‘Allah is a paedo’ and ‘Muslim scum off our streets’ (we did not have the numbers to do anything about the demo at the time as 40-50 of us were on bail and many others under police surveillance. If you were involved at the time you will know what I am on about).

      When the EDL were new they might not have been specifically against the left but they were definitely racist and here is the thing Arthur, if you are racist then we are against you. I don’t care if you won’t forgive us. We are not after your forgiveness.

      Good post nothingiseverlost.

      • Arthur says:

        No religion of any kind can be a race, it’s an ideology, a belief and it’s some ones choice, you can’t leave a race but you can a religion.

        Personally, I don’t like those chants but they are at the end of the day just words, UAF do much the same and even have placards that are, in my view inciting people to violence i.e. smash the EDL and there have been times after demos are over that lone EDL have been given a kicking.

        EDL is not perfect by any means, what group is? We make a great effort to be non violent and to remove undesirables but some seem to be able to get through but that doesn’t negate EDL.

        So far every single thing that we campaigned against has proven to be, we said there are rape gangs and it gives no pleasure to say we were right, we said there were thousands of radicals willing to bomb and kill and look how many went to Syria, etc.

        We said our schools are taken over and that’s true too.

  6. Arthur says:

    You think that we are not interested in bringing people together over such things, of course we are, we are working class and we are the ones most effected by those things.

    Our voice has been taken away from us, racist you say, how because we protest about Islamist extremists, that’s racism, come on, when the tubes and buses were bombed, who was it died, us on our way to work, it wasn’t Cameron, or Clegg, Milleband or the bloody bankers mate, it was us, working classes, trying to earn a living, it’s our working class kids in Rotherham and loads of other place that have been raped and abused, not politicians kids, not bankers kids, no it’s our kids and we are fighting back in the only way left to us, the streets.

    What’s wrong with a bit of flag waving, it brings people together, gives them a feeling of togetherness, of solidarity, that we are brothers in arms against an elite that would and are trying to destroy us.

    We are not right wing, we are not nazis, or as the far right say, zionists, we are working class people who, quite simply, have had enough.

    We march on Downing street this weekend and our voices WILL be heard.

    • If you’re so interested in issues that affect working class people, what have you ever done to protect working class people being ripped off by our landlords? What about working class council tenants hit by the bedroom tax? What about the payday loan rip-off industry or high gas bills, what have you ever done about that? Why are you so keen to swarm all over Rotherham, but when care workers try to defend their standard of living in Doncaster you’re nowhere to be seen? I’m not defending terrorists or abusers, far from it, but you’ve got to admit it’s pretty suspicious how you only ever get up in arms when you can blame Muslims for something.

      You say that flagwaving brings people together and builds togetherness, but I’m not convinced that many of the working class people from Pakistani, African or East European backgrounds I know would agree with you. It certainly doesn’t do anyhing to stop Islamic extremism – again, how many Islamists can you name who’ve stopped being Islamists as a result of the EDL?

  7. Arthur says:

    Actually we do have support from Sikhs, Hindus and other groups.

    No, we don’t blame Muslims, we blame Islamists and we went to Rotherham to demand that action be taken against politicians and others who allowed this thing to take place.

    • You may have individual Sikh and Hindu supporters, but not that many. Most of the white working-class folk from English backgrounds I know think you lot are arseholes as well. Nevermind going to Rotherham, what do you lot do in your actual day to day lives to help address the problems ordinary people suffer from?

  8. Aunite Fash says:

    Is “Arthur”, Arthur Disbury by any chance?????

  9. Arthur says:

    No I’m not Arthur Disbury, and yes I used to post on Libcom and also urban75.

    Well, I’m 70, retired, so there’s not a lot that I can do, but I fight for the right for us working to have a voice and they now have one, via the EDL, the unions used be our voice, as did the labour party, but they deserted us, in more ways than one.

    Lets look at the names you call us, far right, how are we far right, we are not after power, EDL don’t stand for election, we want freedom, liberty, so that children don’t have to submit to FGM, so gays can walk the streets without fear, one law for all, no shari’ah courts can take away our freedoms and treat women as 2nd class, which they do. So do tell, what is far right?

    We have many from different ethnic groups but many are afraid to join demos/protests for fear of being attacked, a large number of Iranians would have joined our Bournemouth demo but were scared that the Ismalist there would seek them out in a violent way.

    So we have more support than you think.

    • Arthur, you do a pretty good job of making the EDL sound like a lovely caring group, and if all I had to go by was your comments I might well be taken in by it. But you know and I know that the reality of your demonstrations is not quite so pretty. Do you have anything to say to the comment from “Militant” above? Are they making it up?

  10. Arthur says:

    Taking it to another point that we are fighting against, Shari’ah courts that act against our Liberal views of equality for all, one law for all, well here’s Mariam Namazis views of those courts, she is an Iranian communists and her views are the same as ours, why is our view treated differently?

    Now, whats to say, that’s some thing in common, what else could be in common then?

    • If you lot are so keen on Maryam Namazie, why don’t you take a look at what she has to say about you?

      • Arthur says:

        Yes, I already know what One Law for ALL and Mariam think of us, much the same as many on the left think, shame really, it’s a time for unity against the threat of Ismalism. But of course the left seem to think there is no threat.

      • Arthur says:

        Also I would point out that the article is a lot out of date and new people now run the EDL, a committee of 12 with a chairman.

        The mistake that she and others make is this idea that EDL is far right, I’m far from being far right or even right, I’m very much middle of the road, as are most EDL, sure we get a few idiots on our rallies but so do many other protest groups, you can’t inspect every person who turns up.

  11. Jas says:

    Nothing ever lost????? It soon will all be lost when the Muslims take over, then you will have to change your name won’t you????

  12. ECAW's blog says:

    “While looking for coverage of the far-right’s attempts to exploit the tragedy in Rotherham to stir up a bit of cheap publicity”

    I am not fat, tattooed or a boozer. Nor am I remotely far-right, and yet I feel compelled to support the EDL. Why? The lazy, frankly bigoted, quote above gives some of the answer. The people of the EDL that I have come across are also not far-right and are genuinely concerned about the legions of girls raped on an industrial scale by gangs who can find justification for their actions in their scriptures. This cannot be said for those who have enabled them in their depredations for decades. These are my reasons for supporting the EDL:

    After Woolwich I took the unusual course of investigating the teachings of Islam in order to find out whether it presents a real threat to the non-Muslim world or not. These were my initial reactions:

    but the more I studied the more real cause for alarm I found. Along the way I came across the betrayal of liberalism as exemplified by what the Guardian has turned into, the dishonesty of Muslim apologists and non-Muslim apologists as exemplified by your opening quote, the frantic attempts to drown out debate with silly name calling and the dishonesty of our leaders about what Islam is and isn’t:

    Dare you follow me in examining the teachings and example of Mohammed or will you avert your gaze, preferring to see only Muslims and how they can be shoe-horned into your political ideology?

    • Actually, if you’d bothered looking around my blog a bit more, you’d find that I recently wrote a piece considering what we can do to resist the rise of ISIS (I think the answer is not very much, but I am at least considering the question). In your studies, have you actually bothered to talk to any Muslims? Do you understand that they don’t all believe the same things?

  13. ECAW's blog says:

    Why would I look round your blog? I see no titles indicating anything to do with ISIS or Islam in your list of recent posts. I did at least read the article we’re currently discussing whereas I see you haven’t looked at any of the links I gave before posting your reply.

    Regarding your second point, yes I have bothered to talk to some Muslims and I am well aware that they believe different things, or to be more accurate different versions of the same thing. I find it tiresomely predictable that whenever I bring up Islam people repond with Muslims. Let me turn the question back on you and ask have you bothered to study what is at the core of what Muslims believe or claim to believe? You might be in for a shock as was this commenter in the Guardian:

    “…Then 9/11, and I joined the liberal chorus of “This has nothing to do with Islam! These terrorists are twisting the words of the quran, they are missinterpreting the sacred text! Islam is a religion of peace! Just look at the quran!” Eventually, I did take the Quran down off my shelf. I was barely halfway through it before I had to admit to myself that I had been wrong, that this was probably the most vile book in existence, far worse than the bible, worse than Mein Kampf, worse, even, than the Daily Mail.
    It is just so full of hatred, and egotistical supremacism. The secret is in the quran. I wish more liberal, moral relativists would actually pick it up and read it, I’m sure they’d suffer the same shock that I felt. This book is really, really fucking disgusting”.

    • I have no particular desire to defend the Quran. I’m sure it has a lot of nasty shit in it, just as the Christian and Jewish holy texts do. I’m also not daft enough to think that anyone follows the words of their holy books 100%, even if they claim they do.
      Why are you so obsessed with Islam? What is it about 4.4% of the population that gets you so worried? What have Muslims actually done to you personally? How does the death toll from Islamist terrorism in Europe over the last five years or so compare to the acts of your mate Breivik?

      • Arthur says:

        That’s a bit below the belt mate, Breivik is a murdering scumbag and is not in anyway representative of how EDL feels or thinks.
        Breivik is where he should be, locked up.

  14. ECAW's blog says:

    I am obsessed with Islam as you call it because of the call at it’s centre for its followers to convert, subjugate or kill non- believers, some of whom take it literally some of whom don’t.

    You have shown your true face by linking me to Breivik on no evidence, in fact flying in the face of any evidence you would find on my blog. You have shown how you respond to any views other than your own – just shout “Fascist” louder and clap your hands over your ears.

    I find it curiously similar talking to supposed anti-fascists to talking to proselytisng Muslims or Jehovah’s witnesses. There is no truth but Jehovah’s truth or Allah’s or Trotsky’s or whoever it is you have up on your wall. It goes some way to explaining the otherwise counterintuitive love affair between the hard left and Islam. Good luck to you. I think we have reached the limits of any possible discussion.

  15. Jas says:

    Nothing ever lost, I think you have lost something ,,, oh yes 99% of your brain cells , and to answer you! I do have a clue and I can speak for myself! ok

  16. Arthur says:

    Well, that seems to be the end of the conversation, but I found the post on ban restaurants quite interesting, in fact made me feel that I actually didn’t want to eat out again.

  17. Pat says:

    How come I google irish travlers and this came up?

  18. Jo Flo says:

    What is most vile and despicable about the violent, drunken fascists of the EDL is that they racialise crime. The Rotherham child abuse has fuck all to do with Islam, nor even Islamic fundamentalism, regardless of what professional bigot Pam Geller thinks. Islam does not permit raps, so off you EDL slimebags can crawl back to the sewer you came from. The abusers peddled the girls with drink and drugs, items banned under Islam. Criminal scum, yes, practising Muslims – NO! Get protesting against Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, and the rest of their establishment clique.

  19. Jo Flo says:

    Typo: Islam does not permit rape. And DON’T go linking to some neocon blog that deliberately falsifies the Qu’ran to try to prove a point, fascist EDL scum!

  20. Jo Flo says:

    Oh, and why did the EDL march in Hexthorpe against Roma people?????

    Not racist, eh? Only opposing “militant Islam”, eh?

    Roma people are DEFINED AS A RACE (thus haters including the EDL are RACIST)

    European Roma people are mostly Catholic with Hindu origins, many practicing, so even Shitain First cannot say they were marching to preserve Christianity. They originate from India, and were forced out by a Muslim ruler actually – but no sympathy from the RACIST EDL!

    500,000 Roma men, women and children murdered in concentration camps. Still attacked and forced out of their homelands by WR groups in Central and Eastern Europe.

    Now opposed by another set of neo-nazis, the RACIST EDL.

    And the EDL wonder why few Hindu people or travellers refuse to support them?

  21. Pingback: Happy birthday to me! (and to Recomposition) | Cautiously pessimistic

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