Published in Weekly Worker, 28th October 2011
The October 24 English Defence League march to the Israeli embassy “in solidarity with Israel” was virtually ignored by Unite Against Fascism. “Palestinians stink,” I heard a female voice shout, as I made my way from the October 23 anti-cuts march in central London to Covent Garden, the day before the English Defence League’s pro-Israel demonstration. Why, it was Roberta Moore, the lovely lady of the EDL’s ‘Jewish Division’, who had decided to brighten up our Saturday afternoon with a bit of racism.” />Roberta is a person of many interests: the Brazilian born, ex-Israeli businesswoman counts the Zionist Federation as well as the British National Party among her ‘likes’ on Facebook. The target of her hatred? A small group of Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists handing out leaflets in Monmouth Street about the machinations of Ahava, an Israeli beauty product company with a factory in the Palestinian West Bank and a local outlet. As Roberta stood there grinning vacuously like the reactionary in Ugg boots that she is, the EDL’s entire Jewish Division stood firmly behind her – ie, the other two members.One of them, a middle-aged woman wrapped in an Israeli flag, interfered whenever pro-Palestine protesters engaged in conversation with passers-by. She was routinely told to get lost.
The EDL Jewish Division was completed by a third woman, who periodically shouted, “You’re all Hamas” with a voice so gravelly it would make Lemmy of Motorhead blush.
Also present: a hapless bearded man who waved the LGBT movement’s rainbow flag, while repeatedly shouting, “Hamas hates homos”; and a completely fanaticised silver-haired Zionist who kept exclaiming, “Buy Israeli products here”. With a forceful gesture that verged on assault, he passed me a leaflet appealing to the public to “help the shops in Monmouth Street survive” despite the “disruptive protests”, while casually remarking that “the protesters claim that Israel oppresses the Palestinians – a lie”. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Britain’s new far right. A real motley crew, not like the jack-booted stormtrooper battalions we read about in Socialist Worker at all – and only inadequately preparing us for what we would encounter the following day.
“If those barriers break one day and our lads get through they will murder them all,” said a senior EDL activist in Matthew Taylor’s undercover documentary. On Sunday around 2pm, I suddenly remembered this sentence very vividly, as we faced a 200-strong mob of angry hooligans, with only seven or eight metres and a line of nervous bobbies separating us from them. The stewards had trouble keeping “their lads” from breaking through the shaky fence that delineated the EDL mosh pit. Kensington High Street reverberated with chants of “Scum! Scum! Scum!”, as high-on-hate thugs waved placards such as “UAF = united anarchist fools” at a crowd of no more than 30 counter-protesters.
Given that the SWP had virtually conjured up a Nazi apocalypse in Bolton not too long ago, bussing in hundreds of protesters from all across the UK, Sunday’s ridiculously low anti-fascist turnout did not seem to make any sense. Why was this EDL rally less important than those in Bolton and Dudley? The bulk of counter-protesters was made up of Palestinian youths, who were joined by a small handful of Socialist Workers Party, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Revolutionary Communist Group comrades, as well as a couple of orthodox Jews from the Rabbis for Palestinian Justice campaign. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other ‘militant’ big mouths were all absent. There was a sense that the left had abandoned the Muslims, and EDL members were not slow to post on its discussion forum that “this proves UAF is finished”.
“It’s hard for us to get a good turnout even if we mobilise,” explained a disappointed UAF activist to us. Had the ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect we had predicted already set in? (see ‘Leftist dogma and exaggerated threats’ (Weekly Worker August 26) More likely, the SWP was too busy with its Right to Work front in response to Osborne’s spending review to really give a hoot about the EDL this time. On October 19, the SWP’s Martin Smith posted an article criticising Searchlight’s “non-confrontational” bourgeois anti-fascism on the Socialist Worker website, while not saying a word about the upcoming EDL event in central London. Instead, UAF banged the drums for the ‘national demonstration against racism, fascism and Islamophobia’ on Saturday November 6, expressing its “deep concern” about the EDL. This event – obviously not “non-confrontational” at all – is backed by the TUC and the rightwing Muslim Council of Britain.
The EDL, meanwhile, was alive and well outside the Israeli embassy. Kevin Caroll, a prominent organiser whose active support for BNP candidates was revealed earlier this year, gave the opening speech, a tedious pot pourri of ‘common sense’ nationalism and Islamophobic clichés. The Muslims want to force-feed us halal meat, he claimed. “Boo,” bleated the crowd, as if prompted by an X Factor studio assistant. Caroll read out violent bits from the Qur’an with a gravitas that suggested he had made some ground-breaking discovery, but it only earned him the same duteous response. The assembled patriots’ attention span was limited when it came to speeches. Again and again, they ran off to push to the front line and confront counter-protesters – that is when their hatred seemed real and uncontrollable.
“We pay your benefits,” they chanted at the anti-fascists. To be honest, it is more likely that the opposite was true. Despite the presence of some petty bourgeois elements in the EDL ranks, here was a dead-end mob largely recruited from the poorest and least employed elements of British society. This did not keep them from mentally inhabiting a parallel universe: in their minds, radical Muslims and politically correct Marxists were about to take over Britain. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a fundamentalist rightwing government is about to undercut the very means that keep these people alive – unchallenged.
Our good friend Roberta Moore made an appearance and gave a fairly toned-down speech. She lectured some Muslims watching from a safe distance that they could “stay here”, but “You will assimilate, and you will follow British law.” The star of the day, though, was no doubt Nachum Shifren, also known as the ‘surfing rabbi’, whom Roberta had especially flown in from the US at EDL expense. A far-right Republican, frequent agitator at Tea Party rallies and candidate for the California state legislature, Shifren is your man if you consider governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be too much of a bleeding heart liberal.
The rabbi, who is considered an embarrassment by more moderate Zionists, assured the EDL mob that “you won’t understand my words, but you will feel my meaning” before shouting slogans in Hebrew at the Israeli embassy. The crowd reacted with bewilderment and some laughter until the Rabbi started to speak the language they truly understood, agitating against “liberals who preach multiculturalism” and especially the “damn communists” behind the police line. The mob cheered violently, and we felt a little less safe for a minute or two.
Later, the police escorted the EDL to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, where the surfing rabbi spewed more venom, while EDL casuals destroyed an Islamic info stall, throwing the Muslims’ table across a fence. “When we get control of this country, I’ll make sure your ass is out of here,” shouted the rabbi. Scuffles erupted and if you were a Muslim you certainly would not want to run into these lads on their way home.
But make no mistake, comrades: the left is now officially established as the EDL’s other main target – a development the organisation’s leaders counted on from day one. “Persecuted for being English by the UAF”, goes the official EDL anthem, and in a sense we are all UAF now, whether we like it or not. More random attacks against leftists have been reported, the most recent incident taking place in front of the University of London Union, where an EDL casual beat up a member of the Stalinist CPGB-ML – though not without receiving a few good punches himself. The EDL has also been preparing files on journalists and photographers who report their activities, while issuing death threats to others.
While the bulk of the left stylised the EDL into the BNP’s own SA, our own ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ attitude may have been a little too laid back at times. True, we analysed the EDL carefully, without hysterical exaggeration, and without the SWP’s desire to paint it as the coming of the Fourth Reich at all costs. We were correctly agitating for the only long-term solution, a Communist Party, instead of alliances with the liberal bourgeoisie. We also looked to the 1920s German KPD and its tactically flexible approach to countering fascism. But despite its flexibility – which included Querfront cooperation with the far right through national Bolshevik, anti-Semitic and “After Hitler, us” slogans in the Rote Fahne paper – the KPD tactics ultimately proved disastrous. Obediently, the rank and file waited forever for the leadership to declare it was the “right time” to strike.
As the pro-imperialist EDL is forging links with the American Tea Party movement, which in all likelihood will increase its financial and organisational resources, we must continue to observe and analyse this very organically British, embryonic fascist movement arising before our eyes. But cool-headed analysis and a correct long-term strategy does not mean inactivity, lack of solidarity, the absence of short-term self-defence tactics and avoiding confrontation at all costs. Notes
- Israel’s liberal daily, Ha’aretz, suggests that Roberta is a follower of the late Rabbi Kahane, founder of far-right American terrorist group, the Jewish Defence League, and Israel’s neo-fascist Kach party. The Jewish Socialist Group’s Charlie Pottins thinks so too
- For more information on the Free Palestine fortnightly demo go to freepalestinefortnightlydemo.wordpress.com
- A Ha’aretz reader comments that the EDL Jewish Division consists of Roberta Moore (aka Morrigan Elemeth), Shoshanna/Cassandra Victoria and Stella Solomons (EDL forum user name ‘getonwithit’), who is apparently “also a BNP activist”. According to her Facebook profile, Solomons holds a media studies degree from Birkbeck University – see what identity politics can do for you!
- I believe it was Jonathan Hoffman, vice chair of the Zionist Federation, who frequently appears alongside the EDL Jewish Division’s trio infernal.
- Watch the documentary here.
- This did not stop the Iranian-owned Press TV channel from fantasising about “hundreds of protesters”.
- ‘Anti-fascism – do we confront or comply’? at Socialist Worker.
- See Young, british and confused?
- The song is played by a band called Arthur and the Bandits and sounds like a cross between bad Oasis and Skrewdriver without a guitar tuner. It can be found on Youtube.
- Read this article for more.
- For more on the Querfront, read the paragraph on ‘National Bolshevism’ here.