Cross-posted on Engage.
In June, Ben Gidley’s Dissent blog post characterised the aggressively pro-Western, anti-Islamic, anti-multicultural English Defence League as currently ideologically diverse and unstable, but capable of becoming a politically sustainable movement under certain circumstances.
Conditions now seem conducive to this. Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas observes that the English Defence League is coalescing into a movement with more purpose, and now constitutes a bigger threat than the BNP.
Ben’s post gives consideration to how to respond to the EDL:
“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term. In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.
Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”
Jon Cruddas ends his piece with intent:
“The threat of the EDL and the wider cultural war must be taken seriously. That is why we will soon be establishing a broad-based group to formulate a response. The right has become very organised; it is time for those of us who believe in a decent progressive society to do the same.”
My hunch in the meanwhile is get down to your local pub and start striking up conversations.