Fifty UAF protesters were arrested yesterday. No EDL protesters were arrested. All fifty UAF protesters were doing nothing more than making use of their democratic right to protest against fascists and racists. The organisers maintained a disciplined protest, and the speeches at the UAF protest were straightforwardly anti-racist. By contrast, the EDL thugs were plainly up for a fight, and their speeches clearly incited racist hatred, particularly when an EDL speaker, a young Sikh from Nottingham called Guramit Singh, said to ecstatic cheers: "God bless the Muslims... they'll need it when they burn in fucking hell." Singh is the one of the EDL's poster boys, promoted to prove they are a non-racist party. But Singh is a racist, fond of expressing such enlightening thoughts as: "fuck the p*kis … i just think we shud burn the cunts now".
EDL activists, who have a record of violent mayhem, were allowed to roam around, visit the pubs and get tanked up, more or less uninhibited. Meanwhile police attacked peaceful UAF activists, broke them up into four separate groups and kettled them. Some were manhandled before being shoved onto a double decker bus that was procured for the occasion. The EDL message board is filled with praise for the Metropolitan Police and how they handled the "reds and asians". It's a big pick-up for the brain-dead bampots, who are otherwise posting an incredible amount of racist 'poetry' that doesn't scan, though it can only be a matter of time before this horseshit ends up being turned into a 'Great White' record production, with the BNP's Joey Smith vocalising.
There's a lesson in this. The state can definitely shut down the EDL whenever it wants to. It can easily prevent rampages of the kind that have taken place in Luton and Stoke. It had no difficulty in rounding up EDL thugs in Scotland recently. No doubt cops in Bolton would have no serious problem complying with a ban on the EDL in Bolton, should it be decreed. It would be astonishing if the EDL wasn't, like the rest of the far right, penetrated from top to bottom by the security services, so I don't doubt that the police have the information about their tactics and organisation to stop them terrorising communities. But because they can doesn't mean they will, and it is a complacent error to think that this can be treated as a policing matter and ignored by the left. Policing and criminal justice in such matters is highly politicised, and it can't be otherwise.
Think about the context. Just in the last couple of weeks, we've had a number of major, contrived scandals about the influence of Muslims in politics - there was the furore about Amnesty and Moazzam Begg, the disgraceful Andrew Gilligan hit piece on Tower Hamlets council, and the preposterous "hijab gates" conspiracy theory. There is a ceaseless stream of background noise about mosques, mega-mosques, extremists and burqas. On top of which, we have the right-wing still pushing paranoid claims that New Labour deliberately created a multicultural Britain in order to get more Labour voters. We have attempts to normalise racist language, wherein celebs and others seriously tell us that "P*ki" is just an abbreviation. We have pernicious arguments about black criminality, which Rod Liddle didn't invent by his lonesome. And from the government, we have revisionist attacks on 'multiculturalism' and integrationist discourses on citizenship (that's a diplomatic way of talking about state attempts to put manners on black and Asian people). These ideas emanate from the right, but are now being taken up by some on the centre-left, in the vain hope of appropriating their apparent ability to summon loyalty from some voters. New Labour's attacks on minorities, beginning with the vilification of Asians in the spring and summer of 2001, and followed up with repeated attacks on Muslims, have helped normalise this kind of racism.
In broad brush, an elite backlash against the anti-racist consensus of a decade ago has now found its echo in public attitudes - which, on this topic, have moved sharply to the right. It has also galvanised racist violence. The University of Essex study of Islamophobia and hate crime in London confirmed that media reportage and the rhetoric of politicians acted as a decisive motivator and catalyst for violence against Muslims in the capital. That's what is fuelling support for these racist gangs, and that's the adhesive that unites explicit neo-Nazis with right-wing football hooligans. Those who want to respond to this by bigging up the flag while letting the police decide how to handle the far right are missing the scoop. The EDL are a political problem, and they can't be opposed in an apolitical, technocratic way. That is a way of ducking the issue. And nor can they be dealt with by meeting them half-way, or trying to steal their 'patriotic' clothes. That is a futile attempt to find a short-cut, which doesn't exist. The overwhelming burden of evidence is that the more the left validates the politics of nationalism, and concedes territory on 'multiculturalism', the more it feeds into the right's agenda. The agenda of the right on race relations has to be confronted, not accomodated, just as its beneficiaries in the far right must be opposed, not ignored.