English Defence League march in Harrow, 13 December: the labour movement cannot let them pass

Submitted by Matthew on 10 December, 2009 - 4:19 Author: Joan Trevor

They messed up earlier in the year, in September, but armed with lessons and nerved from their recent successes in Manchester and Leeds, the English Defence League (EDL)/Stop Islamisation Of Europe (SIOE) and fellow travellers are due back in Harrow, north west London, on Sunday 13 December for another go at the central mosque. That demonstration follows an EDL mobilisation and counter-demonstration in Nottingham on 5 December.

The police have granted permission for a static protest outside the newly built mosque on the main road. The pretext for this protest is not clear: last time it was the alleged support of the mosque for sharia law, which the mosque denied. Then it was a commemoration of 9/11. This time? Plain anti-Muslim prejudice, presumably.

In September the EDL came in numbers too tiny to even attempt to get near the mosque. The counter-demonstration was around 2,000, good, but worryingly disparate. It consisted of a small number of United Against Fascism (UAF) supporters and invited speakers, who remained in a knot throughout the day and evening, around a stall and a megaphone but, alas, very few banners from supporting organisations including the labour movement.

The mosque had organised its own guard of young Muslim men, who tried to persuade young people not to run after suspected sightings of right-wingers but to "protect the mosque".

Young people of Muslim background composed most of the crowd. They were not organised, but seemed to be groups of friends from the area who had turned out to object to the racists’ attempted provocation.

There was a large police presence, and in the evening some of the youth skirmished with them; this, rather than the fact that a large turnout of anti-fascists had prevented the fascists from marching, was all that was reported on the local media after the event.

This time, as in Manchester, the mosque's leaders have told “their” young people to stay at home. They have also issued a statement to anti-fascist groups saying they appreciate the support but would we also please stay at home and not “sow discord”. They are confident that the police will be able to protect the mosque.

But as the racists are unlikely to actually attack the mosque, this is not the problem. The problem is that the police will protect the fascists! They will allow fascists and their fellow travellers to hold a demonstration in the middle of an area to intimidate large numbers of black and Asian people.

This is a test of the EDL’s ability to mobilise and we should frustrate the attempt. It would be a disaster if the right wing are allowed to demonstrate unopposed. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are likely to go ahead with a mobilisation, but if it is on the scale and of the character we saw in September, it will not be near enough.

In September, the AWL's leaflet called for “jobs and homes, not racism”, and for the anti-fascist movement to address the social roots of the far-right’s current increase in popularity. We think that is the right approach, and our leaflet got a good response from people in the crowd. We will do the same thing again, but have also set ourselves the task of mobilising as many trade unionists as possible to turn out on 13 December.

That approach is in contrast to that of UAF and Hope not Hate/Searchlight, who advocate trust in the police and state to defend us from fascist demonstrations. Who do not was to “stir up” too much trouble, who want to keep class politics out of the campaign against the fascists.

There is no excuse for trade unionists and socialists to stay at home. Bring your banners and come prepared to show the right that the labour movement will not “let them pass”. Black, Asian and white youth need to see that there is another political pole in society with answers to the problems that confront all our communities.

Harrow AWL meeting

How to fight fascism

Wednesday 16 December, 7.30pm, Victoria Hall, Sheepcote Road, central Harrow