More On ‘That Meeting’…The SWP and The EDL…
This article is addressed to both Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members and Norfolk Community Action Group (NCAG) supporters. It is a genuine attempt to find and establish some common ground on the issue of the English Defence League (EDL), which has become increasingly poignant in recent weeks in Norwich.
First of all, you should know I am a proud member of NCAG, and an anarchist. I fully support the earlier statement that was posted on the NCAG blog, and think that the accusations made by various local Trotskyites of NCAG being “EDL apologists” are both ridiculous and deeply offensive.
The purpose of this piece is not to create an uneasy alliance between the aforementioned acronyms or claim the argument ‘won’. Instead, what I intend to do is try and layout my opinions on the EDL, a view I know at least a few others in NCAG agree with.
I am doing this partly because I think that the EDL are becoming an increasingly present danger to our communities, and because I think that many of those in the SWP have not actually heard what I, and at least some others in NCAG, think about the EDL. Maybe, after this, there is some possibility for some cooperation, without compromising our integrities.
Going into this, I have no idea what other people in NCAG or Norwich Anarchists think about what I am going to say, and I would like to make it patently obvious that this is an opinion piece. Fortunately NCAG is not designed to stifle individual analysis and initiative so I have taken time to layout how I see the situation. So, on that note, here is what I would like to say about the EDL.
The EDL is a grassroots movement, that at times, is genuinely popular in many communities. The organisation identifies Islam as a major threat to what they perceive as English culture and this is the glue binding the formation. Undeniably the EDL consists largely of white working class men recruited from around football grounds up and down the country, even spawning off into other countries also, though with varying results.
While its correct that religious groups in this country treat workers, women and other groups like scum, and this should by no means be tolerated, I believe that the EDL are guilty of massively exaggerating the problem and, in doing so, have wrongly painted an entire community as a threat.
Lets make this clear, I understand the tactics deployed by the EDL to be not only redundant and ridiculous but ultimately wrong in addressing the problem. These actions only serve to distract us from the continual class war and consequently provide not only cover for the Tories to swing ever rightwards and attack working people but also provide a boot, or Adidas Samba, to any opposition.
I believe, that if we are being honest with ourselves, part of a successful anti EDL tactic includes acknowledging the task ahead and preparing our counter in accordance with this, being aware that things may not exist solely in polite discussion. This means preparing adequate security for meetings and not being caught unawares.
Now quite how anyone could suggest that myself, or anyone involved with NCAG has any sympathy with the EDL is beyond my comprehension. Especially when affiliates have operated openly with SWP and Counterfire members on projects, while never having thrown their lot in with the EDL.
As long as the EDL’s membership remain the unwitting dupes of fascists, class traitors and petty criminals, then we will have to oppose them. But the thing is, it is their leaders who are the class traitors and the racists. This is often a point made against the various Trotskyite organisations. The members are just normal people who are pissed off and disenfranchised with the status quo. They are workers, who are treated likes shit by the bosses, the police, the council and the entire totalising domination of the ruling class. Make no mistake these people belong to a genuine grassroots movement, and NCAG, while admittingly filled with some middle class student types, also consists mainly of your stereotypical ‘worker’. While its true that NCAG is vehemently anti-racist and the EDL has many racist connotations and links, there is also a lot that both groups have in common. To not recognise this would only be down to negligence and a purposeful aim of further distancing ourselves from the EDL. At this point I, unfortunately, think it is necessary to state that the white working class is not the enemy.
If the EDL supporters dropped the racism in their organisation, which many speak out against- not to mention the ‘disagreement’ in Bristol between the EDL and the Combat 18 old guard- then they would immediately start to cause real trouble for the “powers that be”.
So, we need to appeal to the EDL members, we need to get them to our side (when I say our side I mean NCAG’s, but I am assuming that the SWP lot can see what I am getting at). This is to say that we need a dual strategy, one of hindering any street presence and of propaganda.
So, Trotskyites, can you see why we prefer members of the EDL to your good selves?
Well no, of course you can not, because I have not attempted to explain why it is that we do not like your organisation, or front groups for that matter. I am not going to do that, because all that will do is nothing more than start another fruitless argument. I do, however, hope that on this issue you may come to understand where this article is coming from.
We are not going to ignore the fascists and nor are we going to simply scream at them and then return home for a celebratory mug of cocoa and smugly assert on facebook that you and the community united to ‘stop the fascist EDL’, in what was a beautifully uplifting demonstration of community spirit. Though if that was actually true, that would be brilliant.
We are going to do everything we can to appeal to all working class people, to fight back against the class enemy and this of course includes encouraging the abandonment of racism.
Now, to respond to an SWP members wacky claims that NCAG has done nothing in the local area, here is a, likely incomplete, list of projects that NCAG has spearheaded over the last year. None of which any SWP members turned up to- which is a shame really, as at several of them the entire youth branch of the pro-Gaddafi Workers Revolutionary Party ventured out!
1) Organised a gig that raised £1150 pounds for the Tomlinson Family.
2) Organised various protests outside police stations (again related primarily to the murder of Ian Tomlinson)
3) Organised various community meetings, and participated in other local and national campaigns.
4) Leafleted various working-class areas of Norwich and engaged with the residents.
5) Attended countless protests of various issues across the country.
There are of course other things that we have done, and do, as individuals and members of other organisations.
I hope, that the above has helped to clarify some of the obvious misunderstandings and shone light on the potentially purposeful smears. In ending, I must reaffirm that this piece is based upon my personal opinions and experiences as a supporter of the NCAG initiative and that this has been written with the best intentions.