(A) Sab x | 21.03.2010 18:10 | Social Struggles
I am just writing to inform you about an incident that took place at a UAF meeting at the Railway Club in Bristol last night (17th March). In the very same room that you gave a speech in a couple of weeks ago.
The meeting which started at 730pm was arranged to discuss election strategy and to build support for the counter fascist operation that is taking place in Bolton this Saturday. Weyman Bennett was due to speak at this meeting but pulled out at the last minute. It was a public meeting and it was advertised as such. When i arrived there were about 35 people in attendance the usual type of people you would expect at meetings like this. Rob Wotherspoon (CWU), Trade Unionists, SWP, Socialist Party and Labour party members. The meeting was running a bit late as the replacement Guest speakers train was running late.
In the mean time 5 rather stocky looking guys one them had a skin head walked into the room. Obviously alarm bells started ringing they were all half drunk as well. They sat down to join the meeting, I had my eye on them as i am sure everyone else did. The chap with the skin head started to film the meeting on his mobile phone which the chair too acceptation too. then all of sudden another stocky looking entered the room, then another, then two more and then one more. the spread themselves around the room, to almost surround us . All in all I would say there were about 10 of them in the room at this stage and later I was told there were 3 or 4 waiting outside the club. I think we were all just waiting for the flash point at this stage.
The meeting was then opened to debate, there was a couple of contributions from the floor. then the ringleader indicated and was allowed to speak. He announced that he was from the EDL, That he was a serving Soldier. He said he was here because he had serious problem with UAF campaigning against them and that they were not racists or fascists the were anti-Islamic extremists . A few voices were raised in the audience, a few swear words were used by the EDL leader. The Chair did his best to maintain control of the meeting but the meeting deteriorated. Insults were flying around people were going chest to chest a few chairs were pushed around. the chap with the skin head resumed filming and taking photographs of everybody and then the Police were eventually called. I am sure that all this in on youtube today I haven’t looked yet.
While we were waiting for the Police to arrive I was chatting to one of the EDL members and to be honest with you they did not have a political argument between them. I asked the question what do you mean by Islamic fundamentalism? He couldn’t tell me. They all took offense to being called racists or fascists which surprised me. To be honest with you I think most of them had genuine gripes. The chat I spoke to was a Plummer who has been out of work since last May. Another EDL member was talking about the afghan and iraq wars. What I am saying is that there were a lot of waivers amongst them. a lot of them are clearly not Fascists the are just been used and manipulated by Fascists for thier own Political aims and objectives.
One thing about the tactics of the EDL. These guys were not from Bristol, some were sent to the meeting from a place in Wiltshire called Calne. I can only speculate why the didn’t send their members from Bristol, Maybe they didn’t want to expose there Identities at this stage from some reason. I think they may also have been hoping Wayman Bennett would be there.
For them I think they would class this operation as a success, they had a few beers, they stopped our meeting for 45 mins and they intimidated us. To be honest with it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
On the plus side it has exposed to me what they are all about, these are very dangerous individuals. So anyone holding a future UAF meeting, please make sure they have the numbers there to protected themselves. ultimately our meeting reconvened after they left so they really didn’t achieve much no matter what they may think.
This my account of what happened, as I have mentioned Rob was there as well so he may have things to add that I might have missed
A mate of mine was at this meeting, and we have since had chats about how best to deal with the EDL. He told me alot of the key facts in the above report -
* Most of them REALLY hate being called racist/facist
*No coherant political arguments between them
*One or two were dickheads, but most seemed to want to debate
*Unemployed/alienated/frustrated white working class composotion
This throws up some really interesting questions about how to deal with them, as they are clearly mostly just fustrated at the situation they find themselves in, and are being manipulated by a minority of real facists at the top of the organisation. Also, as they are recruited from footie firms, many are up for a tear up, and are happy at being given this thin veneer of an excuse (obviously, footie violence itself is an expression of powerlessness and alienation). The problem with reaching out to EDL foot soldiers is that the peer pressure and camraderie amongst footie firms is hard to break through.
I think just confronting this lot and screaming 'nazis' at them may just push them further into the arms of the facists (although obviously we need to defend against them ideologically and on the streets).
Contraversial though it may be, I'm up for dialogue with the average EDL member, as I think they suffer from the same worries and concerns as the rest of us (alienation, frustration at the system, lack of representation etc), but are chanelling it in a really stupid way.
Anyway - I would like to start a dialogue on this, coz I think this lot need much more careful handling than your everyday fash.
I think you raise some very important points, and one's that I'd considered before now.
I'd say a majority of people on EDL demo's aren't facists, and many really don't consider themseleves racist, but they're hardly going to listen to alternative view points if the only alternative they see is a bunch of UAF people screaming that they're BNP NAZI's (when many of the induviduals dont consider themselves either).
I also don't think its enough to point out that several induviduals are high up in EDL and BNP, especially when to many people the BNP are seeming more and more like a credible political organisation.
I think whats more important is getting into a political debate about what the leadership of the EDL is really after, and what a group like it does/will/can achieve, because IMO the answers run something along the lines of:
distracting and deviding the working class giving the bosses/politicians even more of a chance to screw us all over.
demonising all muslims, thus lending credablity to the governments 'war effort' in afghanistan, helping them prolong the conflict there and send more young working class people to die in the middleeast.
scapegoating muslims in the UK for the increasing problems in this country - stopping peopel from targetting the real reasons behind them.
Inreasing racial tensions, allowing groups like the BNP to seem 'needed' in political power to 'control' the outbreaks.
acting as a recruitment drive for the hardline facist elements involved.
Another important question that i find myself wanting to ask when EDL activists swear that their organisation is really nothing to do with crazy NF/B&H/etc nazi's is: "then why the **** do you let them come to your demo's?!".
If they showed up at any demo's i attended they'd be chased of the streets, if your not nazi's why let nazi's into your ranks? (the obvious answer being 'because most of our leadership are facists or sympathisers and want these people to attend').
Went into a bit more of a ramble there then i planned too... but basicly i think its important for anyone who seriously wants to tackle the 'rise of facism' in the uk to not just target the EDL physically in the streets but to target their members idelogically, and more importantly to target their *potential* new members within our communities and neighboring working class communitites.
Well, i hate to say i told you so, but there's been a minority within anti-fascism who have been saying similar things for years, that this isn't old fashioned fascism as we know it, but something a little different, if still quite ugly and in need of resistance.
The crude version is that the left has lost interest in 'white' politics, and has been almost exclusively focussed on 'non-white' politics for years, as well as 'non-white men' politics in particular. Everyone but white men have been treated as deserving of the time and efforts of activism to the point that it is easy to have some sympathy with this frustration and sense of alienation of white working class white men, to narrow it down further, both from the state, and the concerns of activism.
Yes, we all know that white men have traditionally been seen as the ones inflicting discrimation on everyone else, including white women, who are still seen as deserving of activist time, but there is a certain point where this in turn does start becoming a form of discrimination in itself, if all white men in particular are tarred with the same brush.
Something of a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, which requires anti-fascists, and activists acknowledging that to an extent, what has also become crudely known as political correctness, is in danger of being seen as little do with equality, but is instead seen as a contradictory and discriminatory crusade against white men.
But, i grew tired some years ago of being shouted down, as an anti-fascist, whenever i raised such concerns.
So, not only have anti-fascists, to some extent, driven people into the arms of fascists, they have also deactivated (at least in terms of being active within established groups) other anti-fascists, by routinesly shouting down this kind of debate for years!
If this is a glimmer of light within that, then there is a need to replicate that everywhere.
And to stop shouting down other anti-fascists who want that debate!
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(A) Sab x