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EDL: A party without purpose

They are a fight club, they exist to cause trouble and get in news

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A strange masochism seems to guide the actions of Britain's premier far-right paramilitary grouping. You needn't be Napoleon, Machiavelli, or have even helped a mate attempt to gain a seat on the JCRC to work out that, generally speaking, it is a bad idea to go and campaign at those people most opposed to you when building a movement. This is exactly what the EDL, in returning to York on Saturday, appear to be doing.

They have definite form in this area. Every year they pointedly march through Brighton, and practice the vanguard of the emerging national culture they oppose. This, seldom noted, utter inability to let a quarrel lie seems to a key part of the group's DNA. When the EDL first emerged in mid-2009 I was a Sixth Former, involved with anti-fascist activism in the West Midlands. When the EDL began drawing large crowds they repeatedly tried marching through Birmingham, where they tended to receive a rather hostile reception. Whereas when they (despite our best efforts) had relatively successful action days in outlying towns like Dudley, Oldbury, and Wolverhampton, they didn't follow them up, losing opportunities to potentially gain supporters that a traditional movement would lunge for.

Which begs the following questions: what are they actually about? What are they hoping to achieve? Returning to a city with a large student population, a history of pioneering social reform, electing left-wing councils and MPs, and possessing a widely supported labour movement centred on the railways and public sector, seems like madness. Until you look into where they're protesting, then some sense emerges.

ASLEF, the train drivers union, passed a motion at their conference last week stating their belief that their members can reasonably, and should, refuse to operate trains carrying EDL supporters to demonstrations. The protest is ostensibly to 'pay respect' to the war dead. War dead remembered on the North Eastern Railway memorial erected in memory of railway workers who died fighting fascism. The symbolism for both the famously left-wing railway workers and the famously anti trade unionist British nationalists is enormous, hence this bizarre display and resulting insight into the psyche and purpose of the EDL.

They are a fight club, they exist to cause trouble and get in news. Much as the Tuition Fee Demonstrations in 2010/11 were derided as 'Instagram' protests, aimed at getting likes and retweets, the EDL exist for the headlines. Married with their politically correct brand of racial hostility, they're the perfect post-modern protest group. The Orange Order for an era when our leaders and the interests they serve seem in contest only to see how far terms like 'freedom', 'democracy', and 'justice' can be rendered void of all meaning. Who needs Newspeak when you've had New Labour?

If they are trolls, why feed them? Just as the Tuition Fee protests were about more than getting #fibdems trending on Twitter, the EDL is about more than drinking Strongbow and shouting than actually getting anything done. They represent the same sense of frustration, aimlessness, and anomie as national student anger at the arrogant imposition of higher fees. We live in an age when it seems that the big political questions have been taken off the table and a generation has grown up lacking the language to discuss them. However, politics can still bite you. With youth unemployment now a normal thing, we could be heading for a long hot summer of angry, political, but politically illiterate, violence.

Even the EDL with their obscure hatreds, grudges and incomprehensible tactics will soon tire of our cohesive, prosperous and cosmopolitan city. Their attention seeking masochistic crusade will continue its self-flagellation elsewhere. It won't stop the plague, this is global. Stockholm smoulders, discontent in France expresses itself in protests against gay marriage, an intolerant proxy for anger at the entire system. This is everyone's malaise.

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2 Comment

Salas Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

One look at the beer swigging riff raff that the EDL is enough to remind you of the BNP and NF supporters that have haunted British Society.

99% of EDL Supporters haven't got a clue and are still living of age old stereotypes, cliche's and monologues of hate and discrimination.

Sadly i don't think they have the intellectual capability to hold a decent conversation, let along discuss and debate anything worthwhile.

EDL? Pathetic.

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JP Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

Hi Josh, I would be careful about likening the EDL to the Orange Order.

The Orange Order still exist most notably in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and while there are definitely sectarian elements within it who are often vocal, they do not constitute the majority within the Orange Order.

The EDL though are a genuinely racist grouping, bolstered by those that are disgruntled and have been given no hope for the future by our politicians. In many ways the EDL cause is aided by the same lack of hope that gave the loyalist flag protests momentum in Belfast. Some politicians are starting to address the issues that led to the flag violence in Belfast, but many are not, instead turning a blind eye. That's what is to be feared in England if mainstream politicians turn a blind eye: many young people and those without hope being drawn into other people's violence.

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