Slam the door on fascism!

WHILE the Labour contenders stomp around the country another leadership battle is going on — this time within the racist British National Party following the collapse of the BNP vote in the May elections. BNP hopes of winning parliamentary seats and consolidating their hold on the councils were dashed in May. They were beaten back in Stoke and Labour swept them out of all their council seats in Barking and Dagenham.

Though the last election burst the BNP bubble there’s no shortage of others ready to step into their shoes. The English Defence League (EDL) has become the focus over the past year for a motley crew of football hooligans, racists and neo-nazis bent on fomenting trouble amongst the Muslim communities in Britain.

Last weekend the EDL targeted Bradford for an anti-Islamic demonstration in the heart of a city where a third of the population are Muslims, plainly in the hope of provoking violence.

The EDL was limited to a “static” protest following the Government’s decision to impose a blanket ban on marches in Bradford and the day fortunately passed off without any major incidents. Despite huge provocation from the racist hooligans the Muslim community in particular refused to rise to the bait.

Bradford’s community groups and the national Hope not Hate campaign called for calm to prevent a repeat of the violence between anti-fascists and neo-nazis that took place in the city in 2001 and led to 297 arrests and 200 jail sentences, totalling 604 years.

EDL leaders say they are not Nazis. They say they are not racists. They claim to be “multi-ethnic” and “multi-religious” and that some of their followers are Indians and Jews. That may be so but what is equally true is that the EDL and its followers are pursuing a vicious anti-Islamic agenda which would be considered intolerable by the Establishment if it were focused against the Jewish community.

Targeting Muslims began as a BNP ploy after the London suicide bombings in 2005, largely because hate campaigns against religious groups are not covered by existing race relations legislation. This was later played down by the BNP in favour of the traditional racist platform of an end to immigration when the racists tried to build electoral bases in eastern London and the Midlands.

What the EDL have picked up on is the Islamophobia of the bourgeois media, encouraged by the ruling class to justify imperialist aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and the whole of the Middle East.

Hardly a day goes by without some story in the bourgeois media about “honour killings”, stonings and Sharia Law to paint Islam as a barbarous and reactionary religion that threatens so-called European civilisation. While we can all play that game and point to some other products of “European civilisation” like the colonial slave trade or the gas-chambers of the Third Reich, there is no doubt that in some Islamic countries Islam is used to justify reactionary and oppressive class laws.

But that can equally apply to all faiths. And we should also note the selective nature of Islamophobia which focuses on Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah but turns a blind eye to the barbarous practices of Muslim states that do the bidding of imperialism, like Saudi Arabia, where flogging, stoning and beheading are the norm.

Nor should we forget that the current Coalition and the past Labour Government themselves have encouraged the rise of all sorts of nonsense by financing the growth of “faith” schools at the expense of state education. Fascists and racists claim to support working people but their aim is only to split the working class and they only ever come to power when the ruling class needs them to prop up open class dictatorship. Racist and sectarian ideas ultimately serve only the ruling class, which seeks to divide workers to make their exploitation and subjugation that much easier.

The labour movement must put its weight behind the efforts of Hope not Hate and the other anti-racist movements to build a broad campaign to defeat the BNP and the EDL and ensure that the scourge of fascism never returns to Europe again.