by Daphne Liddle
ANTI-FASCISTS last week were delighted to learn that the Government has finally decided to ban a planned march by the Islamophobic English Defence League (EDL) through Muslim areas of Tower Hamlets.
This follows months of campaigning by Hope not Hate and a petition with over 25,000 signatures, backed by leading trade unions and local community activists.
But what finally moved Home Secretary Theresa May was the rioting a few weeks ago, which showed up how precarious is the police hold on keeping control when large numbers of youths defy them.
And it was the Metropolitan Police who finally asked for a ban.
But the ban May has imposed is a blanket ban for one month on all marches within six east London Boroughs: the City, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington and Hackney.
Some activists are concerned this will also rule out an anti-fascist counter demonstration and any other anti-cuts or anti-war demonstrations. They argue that anti-fascists should not rely on the state to stop the fascists but should do this by mass labour movement and local community action. They point to the crowds who came out and succeeded in stopping Mosley’s Blackshirts in 1936 — almost exactly 75 years ago.
But those working class and community masses, led by the Communist Party, fought mainly with the police who were trying to force a way through for the fascists.
This time the police are on the other side. They will be stopping the fascists from marching.
The EDL, according to latest reports, has insisted on its right to a static demonstration in Whitechapel Sainsbury’s car park. But it will be heavily “kettled”.
And if large numbers of anti-fascists flood the area next Saturday there is a real danger of an enormous three-cornered fight breaking out — which is exactly what the EDL want — and what the local community of all religions and ethnicities does not want.
Retired Searchlight editor Gerry Gable told the New Worker: “This is a crazy idea. Who do they think is going to stop the EDL? Look at the balance of forces. Starting a fight with the police would be completely insane.”
And the current Searchlight editor, Nick Lowles, wrote on the ban on the march: “This decision is a victory for common sense. The EDL clearly intended to use the proposed march to bring violence and disorder to the streets of Tower Hamlets.
“Their plan has been foiled.
“While the EDL might still decide to hold a static protest they will not now be able to march through residential areas and, most importantly, march past the East London mosque. A static protest will be far easier to police and it will probably also discourage a lot of EDL supporters from travelling.”
And he thanked the 25,300 people who signed the petition, the hundreds of people who donated to the campaign fund and the dozens of people who came out campaigning in Tower Hamlets.
The EDL are mixed collection of out-and-out neo-Nazis, football hooligans, former squaddies and a few bigots who have been taken in by their pretence that it is only Islam that the EDL wants to fight.
They have recently lost their Zionist supporters and the EDL is full of factional rifts. But this makes it more unpredictable. It is notoriously violent and was admired by Norwegian neo-Nazi Anders Breivik.