On 20 June the English Defence League plans to march through the Whitechapel area of the east London borough of Tower Hamlets. This is where the borough’s 30 percent Bengali/Muslim population is concentrated. We need to biggest possible mobilisation to stop the racists.
Exactly how and on what basis to mobilise, however, is more complicated.
The EDL say they will be marching against the UK Islamic Conference being held at the Troxy, an old East
London venue in Limehouse. It’s not clear who exactly is behind the conference, but it will play host to notorious far-right Islamists such as Bilal Philips, Hussein Yee and Muhammad Hassan — advocates of marital rape and child abuse, executing gay people and “adulterers”, and rabid anti-semitism.
Tower Hamlets has a rich tradition of anti-fascism — from the 1936 Battle of Cable Street to the 1978 mobilisation against the National Front. Unfortunately it has also had, in more recent years, a growing presence of right-wing Islamism. The links of the East London Mosque with a variety of Islamist groups, particularly the Islamic Forum of Europe, were exposed by Channel 4’s Dispatches program earlier this year. The documentary also discussed the idea that IFE has infiltrated the local Labour Party.
The Islamic conference is not being held at the mosque. Perhaps the mosque leaders are trying to clean up their image; perhaps the politics of the conference are too virulent even for the IFE – a foul group which ironically includes people responsible for Pakistani war crimes during Bangladesh’s independence struggle in 1971.
A meeting of the Muslim Council of Britain is being held at the East London mosque on the same day, though whether the EDL intends to disrupt that we don't know.
The politics of the anti-EDL mobilisation are slightly less murky.
On Sunday 6 June, a meeting was called by Tower Hamlets Unison and the East London Teachers’ Association under the title “United East End”, heavily dominated by the SWP and its UAF front, discussed the campaign. Alex Kenny of ELTA rightly proposed an ongoing campaign linking anti-fascism and antiracism to a fight against cuts and for decent housing. The SWP opposed this vehemently; Kenny stormed out; and little came of the meeting except the SWP carrying on as they had always planned to.
The other idea the SWP opposed was that the campaign should also condemn and oppose the misogyny, homophobia and, yes, racism of the UK Islamic Conference. UAF publicity for the 20 June does not even mention the conference.
Of course driving the racists off the streets is the number one priority. But both the EDL march and the conference at the Troxy are provocations. By taking this line, the SWP are not only revealing the inconsistency and shallowness of their commitment to liberation, but preparing the ground for the EDL and the Islamists to spin and to a certain extent turn the day into a Muslim vs. non-Muslim clash. They have obviously learnt nothing from their Respect fiasco in Tower Hamlets.
Luckily, there are other forces organising to oppose the EDL and the Islamists. The Whitechapel Anarchist Group made a strong intervention into the United East End meeting and are working with other class struggle activists like the AWL. The day after Solidarity goes to press, AWL members and other like-minded socialists will be meeting to discuss our plans.
We want to:
• Be prepared for physical confrontation with the EDL, and not allow ourselves to be kettled in or kept miles from the action by the police. UAF has cleared three possible venues with the police—Altab Ali park, opposite the Troxy and Cable Street — so this may be complicated.
• Work with Muslim youth who want to do something more radical than the Mosque leaders and UAFmay be prepared for — and who are most likely to be victims of police repression.
• Crucially, seek to organise a working-class bloc opposed to both the reactionaries of the EDL and those of the UK Islamic conference — for workers’ unity, anti-racism and women’s and gay liberation.
• Work with those, for instance in the local trade union movement and in East End United, who want an ongoing campaign against racism and the roots of racism, fighting against cuts and for jobs, homes and services, in Tower Hamlets.
Get in touch for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07961 040 618