The subjects covered in this blog include Slavoj Žižek, IQ tests, Chomsky, Tony Blair, Baudrillard, global warming, sociobiology, Islam, Islamism, Marx, Foucault, National/International Socialism, economics, the Frankfurt School, philosophy, anti-racism, etc... I've had articles published in The Conservative Online, American Thinker, Intellectual Conservative, Human Events, Faith Freedom, Brenner Brief (Broadside News), New English Review, etc... (Paul Austin Murphy's Philosophy can be found here.)
This blog used to be called EDL Extra. I was a supporter (neither a member nor a leader) of the EDL until 2012. This blog has retained the old web address.

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Thursday, 17 February 2011

EDL: a wet dream for purposeless lefties



[Image left: the Central Committe of the English Defence League, acording to Spiked, Socialist Worker, New Statesman, the Daily Mail, and all the rest of the middle classes who see the UK working class as the Other.]
17 February 2011, Patrick Hayes, from Spiked
The English Defence League has provided an easy target for politicians and campaigners in search of a cause.

You could be forgiven for thinking it was 1936 all over again. Unite Against Fascism is rallying the troops against the English Defence League (EDL), declaring: ‘It’s time now to make a stand. We cannot allow racists to rampage through our towns, threatening and attacking Muslims or anyone else.’ Politicians are drawing comparisons between today’s situation and Oswald Mosley’s fascist marches in 1930s East London. And the media is publishing reams about the EDL’s ‘visceral, violent, anti-Muslim hatred’.

Are we witnessing the rise of twenty-first-century blackshirts? In a word, no. The EDL is not fascist; it doesn’t subscribe to a fascist ideology or, indeed, any ideology at all. Yes, it is obsessed with radical Islam and argues that the worst examples of Islamist ideas and actions are fundamentally problems of Islam itself. The EDL’s mission statement luridly argues that Islam is responsible for ‘the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities’. Yet while the EDL’s beliefs about Islam are reactionary, and some of its members may well be racist, it is also a quite different organisation to far-right groups like the National Front or the British National Party.

The EDL’s appearance in towns across England, and further afield, doesn’t mark a major resurgence of the far right. The attempt to understand the rise of the EDL by reference to zombie categories both confuses the issue and exacerbates the problem. The EDL needs to be understood on its own terms in the social and political context of today, not through lazy comparisons with events that occurred 80 years ago.

The first question to ask is why is this happening now? In many ways, the rise of the EDL is an understandable response to the marginalisation of vast swathes of the white working classes in the UK. In the past, there existed a number of institutions that could represent their voices and interests; these are notable now by their absence. Once-vibrant trade unions, for example, now exist mainly as hollowed-out shells, obsessed with health-and-safety legislation and more interested in dampening down militancy than in pursuing industrial action. The modern trade union is more concerned with offering practical guidance and therapeutic support when members face redundancy than in fighting for its members’ interests.

Worst of all is the traditional mouthpiece of the working classes, the Labour Party. In recent decades, the Labour Party has become utterly dislocated from the working classes. In 1959, Labour’s support among the manual working classes was 62 per cent; by 1983 it had dropped to 38 per cent. Since then, it has been largely staffed and supported by the middle classes. So it’s no real surprise that New Labour makes no bones in revealing its contempt for the working classes, who have been stereotyped as football-obsessed, beer-swilling thugs. New Labour is no longer interested in representing workers’ interests and instead attempts to remould them into ‘acceptable’ citizens, pressuring them to eat healthy food, cut down on smoking and boozing, and to become cultured through, among many other things, the social engineering that is immigration policy.

As Brendan O’Neill has outlined previously on spiked, New Labour actively turned immigration into an elite weapon for the ‘social good’ of the country, in ‘a subconscious attempt by a disoriented elite to renew Britain, to redefine it, through altering the social make-up and elevating the virtues of the migrant above the virtues of traditional British nationalism and the native working classes’.

Today, any disgruntlement among the working classes is seen as the ‘bigoted’ response of a class going the way of the dodo, that ought to be silenced and re-educated through diversity-awareness classes and other such initiatives. At the last General Election in 2010, discussion of immigration was treated as taboo, with politicians even agreeing to sign pledges promising they wouldn’t mention the ‘I’ word when electioneering lest it stoke racial tensions and awaken the inner fascistic tendencies presumed to lie barely dormant in the white working classes.

Against that background, is it really so hard to understand why the working classes are organising themselves into groups like the EDL, when the organisations that traditionally represented them now treat them with such contempt and, indeed, have forced them to feel like outsiders in their own country? At a time of great alientation, when working-class white people are looked upon as strange creatures, and when they are forbidden from talking about immigration, the emergence of a group like the EDL has a perverse logic to it. [Why 'perverse' when you have fairly successfully rationally explained the EDL? Spiked too can only be on the outside of the working class.]

This leads to the second question: why is the EDL making such a big splash? The EDL is being blown out of all proportion. Labour MP Sadiq Khan has even accused David Cameron of ‘writing propaganda for the EDL’ with his recent speech on the failure of multiculturalism. The hysterical response to the EDL shows it has become an all-purpose tool for liberals, fascist-hunters and politicians, who want to carve out a sense of identity and purpose and re-enforce their smug sense of moral superiority over Others. [Yes. The EDL's members are ultimate Other. But can the English working class ever be the Other to the white middle class? No! The SWP/UAF/Guardian/New Stateman Alliance believes that only the Brown Exotic, and Blacks in a former period, can be the Other. These people really are pathetic.]

Where British National Party leader Nick Griffin has attempted to make his party more respectable, replacing skinheads and bovver boots with suits, the EDL ‘thugs’ are a liberal’s wet dream. They are a picture of everything liberals would imagine fascists to be: rowdy men, often with cropped haircuts, taking to the street and singing slurred, boisterous chants, wrapped in the St George’s flag and wearing hoodies. One liberal commentator has chastised the Daily Star for publishing ‘crude propaganda’ about the EDL, claiming its readers would be brainwashed like mindless, ill-educated drones: ‘Who can blame a reader who, after reading such a skewed version of events, is gripped with anti-Muslim fervour?’

From this standpoint, it seems clear that many liberal observers view the ideas of the EDL as contagious, and thus believe that EDL members should be quarantined, censured or censored, lest they infect other, dim-witted working-class people.

Meanwhile, the more radical left uses the EDL to gain a sense of purpose. And as has long been the case, the left is seriously censorious towards anything that is stamped as ‘fascistic’. The EDL can barely announce a public appearance without immediate attempts to stop it, with campaigners out on the streets with petitions for the home secretary to ban EDL demonstrations in the name of ‘protecting our communities’. Activists also complain to the BBC for giving the EDL airtime on Newsnight and name and shame pubs that let the EDL meet on their premises. All of this reveals a far more authoritarian instinct than anything exhibited by the EDL to date.

The EDL is trapped in a vicious circle. It exists largely because its members have no way of expressing their ideas or interests, yet when they do express them they are shouted down. To recognise that there is a basis for discontent does not mean that the EDL is right. There is much scaremongering by the EDL about the imminent threat of Sharia law being introduced in the UK - a nonsensical notion. ['Nonsensical' - how's that? The EDL is not saying that Sharia law has complete control today. But tomorrow? When the Muslim demographic timebomb has done its job?] However, when you listen to some of the concrete concerns of the EDL’s members, they don’t sound unreasonable. At the Luton march in February, EDL founder Tommy Robinson complained about schools banning the St George’s cross, lest it offend people, about council land earmarked for affordable housing being sold below its market value for a mosque to be built, and about the local shopping centre building a ‘multi-faith centre’ when ‘it’s been there for 40 years without one’.

These concerns do not really expose any problematic rise in extreme Islam but rather speak to the intrusive social engineering of the New Labour years, which has made many working-class white people feel marginalised. One woman who addressed the crowd on the EDL march in Luton announced to loud applause: ‘For many centuries, Englishmen have claimed and successfully fought for the rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience… We must stand up and reclaim our ancient liberties.’

The greatest threat to these liberties comes not from radical Islam, but the odious triad of smug observers, censorious left-wing groups and interfering politicians, who in equal measure both despise the EDL and are dearly thankful for its existence as it gives them a sense of purpose. Challenging these elitist views is something that would be worth taking to the streets for.

Patrick Hayes is a reporter for spiked.

1 comment:

  1. There's a follow up article on spiked now: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10290/

    ReplyDelete