Stopping the BNP and EDL: Strategy of patience and small deeds

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Paul Sillet, UAF national campaigner

When the EDL first emerged in 2009 we thought, "What is this new beast?" We noticed that there were former BNP, Combat 18 and National Front types around the demos, if not necessarily on them. Those on the demos were mainly from the "firms" - football supporters involved in inter-club violence - and others.

The EDL were attracting supporters to the prospect of launching mini pogroms in places like Luton and Dudley. At the time we were facing a possible BNP electoral breakthrough alongside a growing fascist street movement.

'We took a risk, and it paid off'

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Leicester was one of the turning points in the battle to stop the EDL. It was to be the first major UAF demo built locally, despite facing a national mobilisation by the fascists. At the time it represented an attempt to turn the EDL strategy on its head. Instead of them leaving behind local groups, UAF would use the opportunity to put down deep roots.

Leicester had been trying to get a local UAF group running for a while. We had managed to get a number of people to some of the national mobilisations against the EDL, as well as days of action against the BNP. We that knew sooner or later the fascists would target our multiracial city.

When the EDL announced they would march on 9 October 2010 we assumed that there would be a national UAF mobilisation. But we received a call from the UAF national office telling us that we had to build a local demo. Our first reaction was, "You've got to be joking!"

'A victory that came from unity'

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Dean Harris and Natasha Munoz, Waltham Forest UAF

Dean: 'As soon as we discovered that the fascists would come to Waltham Forest we called a meeting and invited everyone we could. No one was to be excluded. We wanted it to be as broad as possible, even though there were others who disagreed - especially some people who wanted to exclude the Labour Party as they accused them of implementing austerity.

To us it was clear that we needed to build a big movement, despite any other disagreements. It was a big advantage to have Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy with us. She played important role in the campaign.

'EDL are splintering and demoralised'

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Kelvin Williams, UAF photographer

When Tommy Robinson and Kevin Caroll announced they quit the EDL it was greeted with acrimonious disappointment by the foot soldiers. The constant opposition they faced was the chief factor in them drawing the conclusion that the street movement was no longer working.

Anti-fascism and the spirit of the united front

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In this special feature Socialist Review sets out the challenges and strategies faced by the anti-fascist movements in Britain. With contributions from activists involved in the struggle here.

The declaration by Tommy Robinson and his cousin Kevin Carroll that they were abandoning the English Defence League (EDL), the street organisation they had founded, marked an important milestone in the struggle against fascism in Britain. Robinson had led one of the most successful fascist street movements since the National Front in the 1970s, a model emulated by dozens of "Defence Leagues" across Europe. His resignation marked the movement's demise, and follows the electoral collapse of the Nazi British National Party (BNP).

A tradition of resistance

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Socialist Review spoke to Hassan Mahamdallie, one of the contributors to the new book Say it Loud, about the fight against racism in Britain, the role played by socialists and the lessons for today.

How has racism changed in Britain over the past 30 to 40 years and what's been driving those changes?

Let's go back a little further - let's talk about the past 50 years. If you think about the first generation of West Indian and Asian and other groups that came to Britain to fill the labour shortages and rebuild Britain after the Second World War, they experienced naked racism.

One, two, three, Tower Hamlets

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The English Defence League (EDL) suffered a significant blow last month when they attempted to march through the heart of Tower Hamlets in East London. Instead of being a day spent intimidated the local Muslim community and its allies, the EDL found itself unable to set a foot inside the borough.

Ten years of Loving Music and Hating Racism

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In preparation for the tenth anniversary celebrations of Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), I looked through my old folder of political memorabilia. There I discovered a copy of the first ever Temporary Hoarding magazine produced in 1977.

Adorning the front cover was a simple but powerful message: "We want rebel music, street music. Music that breaks down people's fear of one another. Crisis music. Music that knows who the real enemy is."

I believe that spirit is kept alive today through the work of LMHR.

Defending Multiculturalism

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Hassan Mahamdallie (ed)

I'm just about old enough to remember the bad old days: Britain in the 1970s, when casual, vicious, open racism was commonplace and everyday. And with the benefit of hindsight, looking back I can see something that perhaps wasn't so clear at the time: the role that certain ideas about culture played in that day to day racism.

Fighting racism on two fronts

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When the racist English Defence League (EDL) announced it was going to hold a demonstration in Luton on 5 February everyone knew that it was going to be a big test for both the anti-fascist movement and the racists.

In the run-up to the demonstration the EDL boasted that it was going to put 8,000 people on the streets. But on the day it claimed 2,500 turned up.

However, anti-fascist protesters outnumbered the EDL two to one. Around 2,000 activists gathered at the official Unite Against Fascism (UAF) rally in the town centre and up to 3,000 people joined the joint UAF/community protest in Bury Park, the predominantly Asian part of the town.


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