An open letter to the editor of the Telegraph and Argus, Bradford
Dear Mr Austin-Clarke,
As you will know, I have contributed quite a bit to the recent correspondence in your columns regarding the EDL's proposed demonstration in Bradford. I have to say, as a democrat and a socialist, I have been very disturbed by your campaign to have the demonstration banned, and I want to make a few observations to you personally, and to, perhaps, pose a few questions.
“Banning” is a very grave matter, whether it is the banning of literature, of speeches, or of public demonstrations. I am not saying that I think there is never an occasion for banning: clearly a demo which is explicitly designed to initiate violence, or at which violence is advocated, would have to be banned, or, at least, the proponents of violence prosecuted. The laws already exist. But I have followed closely the development of the EDL since its inception in Luton, when a small group of Islamic extremists did precisely what I have outlined in the previous sentence, and against our own troops who have been fighting, and in some cases, sacrificing themselves in Afghanistan. I have found no evidence whatever that violence has been advocated at EDL meetings (unlike the BNP, which, I'm afraid, your reporters seem to equate with the EDL). What I DO know is that a leader of the SWP/UAF, Weyman Bennett, was arrested at the Bolton EDL demo, and that I have photographs of Martin Smith, also of the SWP/UAF physically attacking bystanders at EDL demonstrations (in one case, a bystander who was simply asking him questions. But he had a “skinhead” haircut. Say no more.)
As with any political party or movement, you can only argue with what are presented as the aims of that movement. For instance, the BNP is quite open with its belief in the superiority of the white race, etc. Similarly, the policies of mainstream parties are open to scrutiny, and subject to your criticism or otherwise. You can only criticise the EDL on the grounds of what it sets forth as its views, and that has been clearly stated: NOT racism, but opposition to militant Islamism. (Not opposition to individual Muslims, by the way). Of course, there are hotheads who see a movement like the EDL as an ideal opportunity to have a “punch-up” with people they despise. But it would be a mistake on your part to assume that this is what the EDL desires. On the contrary, my impression is that the leadership makes great efforts to exclude such thoughts and such people.
What I have found, over the last six months, reading the national and local press, is that reporters and leader-writers have been all-too-willing to accept a version of the EDL which has been supplied to them by the UAF, Searchlight, and similar organisations (I know this because such reports replicate each other almost word-for-word). I don't blame these reporters: they have tight schedules, and it saves an awful lot of time to google up a few quick opinions. The important question that, I feel, you have not been asking, is – just who are the UAF and “Hope not Hate, etc.? This is one of the points I have raised in some of my letters for publication, and I can only guess that you have omitted them for legal reasons.
The UAF: Mr Cameron (as you have mentioned) has signed up to them, as have many mainstream politicians. That must be a recommendation, surely? I would make two comments (skirting over the point that some of the signatories on their website are either dead, or no longer, as stated, M.P.'s!):
1) Mr Cameron etc. are hardly going to refuse to sign a document against Fascism, are they? This is in the realm of the “When did you last beat your wife” question! We are all against Fascism (except, of course, fascists). But the fact is that the UAF is a Front organisation for the Socialist Workers' Party, a far-left Trotskyist party which long ago lost any roots it might have had in the working class to which it claims allegiance (I'm not sure it ever had any). Its leadership, at least the last time I checked, included Martin Smith, who is the National Secretary of the SWP, and I personally have no doubt he is the real leader of UAF. You and I both know that Trotskyist Communists will do ANYTHING to further the (their) Revolution, and that, if they are in control of a national body like the UAF, it is for their own Revolutionary reasons. Are you happy with this? Wouldn't you normally be as “anti-” a Trotskyist party as you are, for instance, rightly, “anti-” the BNP? (At least the BNP occasionally – to its own cost – submits itself to a vote!)
Similarly, “Hope not Hate” is well known to be an offshoot of “Searchlight”,
published (at least the last I heard) by Gerry Cable, who was once avowedly a Stalinist Communist. The T&A today refers to Nick Lowles: he is the editor of “Searchlight”. Local organisers are known to have similar backgrounds, and there is a revealing video, which shows one of them openly boasting that he and his henchmen “took over” the Keighley Labour Party prior to the 2005 election. These are NOT the kind of people the T&A would normally put its weight behind, say, in a General Election. Now, of course, much like UAF, “Searchlight” has avowed aims to which few of us could object: the exposure of Fascism and fascists. But you have to ask the same questions as I suggested above: do you accept that Revolutionary Communists espouse a Cause for its intrinsic merits, or for the furthering of their own, revolutionary, aims? The question has to be asked, and answered.
2) I can picture the scene in Mr Cameron's office:
PA: Dave, we have a petition here, asking you to sign up against
Fascism – had you better sign it?
Dave: I'm in a bit of a hurry, meeting in Godalming this afternoon, here, give me it, where do I sign?
What I am saying is, the UAF and Searchlight, who are, under normal circumstances, bitter enemies, are working together to label EDL a “fascist” and “racist” organisation. Why? It is only ever, for Revolutionary Marxists, for their own reasons; not reasons they would care to have discussed in the popular press.
I have discussed the “racist” label above. I have read many reports, for instance, in the Guardian, where the reporter has found a suitably “thick” and violent hanger-on to spout his racist views, which, then, the reporter can present as the EDL's. It's easy, is it not?
Fascist? This is a term which the Trotskyist and Stalinist Left bandy about on an hourly basis. I really think it means nothing, apart from “This person/party is not Far Left. Therefore he/she is a Fascist”. This was frequently applied to Mrs Thatcher (with whose actions I violently disagreed) in the 1980's. But you and I know perfectly well that she was not in any sense a fascist.
Why is the EDL NOT fascist? Where is the Charismatic Leader? Where are the Blackshirts/Brownshirts? Where are the demands to suspend bourgeois democracy? Where is the Racist programme? Where is the Anti-Semitism? It simply does not hold water.
I actually feel that one reason why the Press, including yourself, object to the EDL is that it IS a grass-roots movement, undirected by nice middle-class people. This tone was evident in your first editorialising, back in July. You were asking “Does Bradford want people like this?”, supporting a photo, what of? Nobody being violent, for a start. Just a lot of very working class youths, some with hoods (God protect us) and Baseball Caps (Horror!). Also, some Union Flags, some St George's Flags, and, I think, an Israeli national flag. (By the way, if the EDL was really a “front” for the BNP, are you seriously suggesting they would embrace such a symbol of Jewry?)
As I did in my most recent letter for publication, I emphasise that I am not a member of EDL: I have grave reservations about some aspects of their aims and methods. But I think their voice should be listened to, as there is no-one else representing what are, I sincerely believe, the well-founded fears of a majority of our population.
To deal with the nub of the question:
Look around the world today; so many trouble-spots, so many massacres, so much hatred and violence. Do you deny that most of it originates with militant Islamists? So far as I can see, in virtually every country in the world where there is a substantial minority, or a majority, of Muslims, there is agitation, violence, and terrorism. Or, have you some evidence that OUR Muslims are different? They ALL believe (on pain of death, it has to be said) in the inerrant word of a Holy Book, which includes violent opposition to infidels and Jews amongst its stipulations.
I am NOT stating that all “our” Muslims are like this. I have never had a cross word with one, and got on extremely well with them at work. Lovely people. But it is not THESE Muslims that I am referring to. However, your attitude (and that of most of the Press) seems to be “Just close your eyes, and it will go away”. It will not. My observation is that Muslims only respect power: they do not respect wimps (this again goes back to the Qur'an). Every concession to special Muslim interests (Halal is in the news at present) leads on inexorably to the next demand, and the next. There is no end to it: just look at the world, and read your history.
What I have found hard to stomach, from a paper which I normally respect for its balance, is that you took an unbalanced view of this topic from the start, without weighing up the evidence, as distinct from reading UAF-inspired propaganda. This is a permanent blot on your stature as an independent organ. I have noticed how many of your correspondents, including the very balanced Dale Smith, Alec Suchi, etc. etc., agree with me on this one. You have scored an “own goal”.