What will the future hold for the English Defense League (EDL) now leader Tommy Robinson has resigned? By Janeeth Devgun
In 2009 Mr Robinson founded the English Defence League, an establishment that aims to fight ‘radical Islam’ through democratic means. By simply browsing the official website, the conclusion that any observer would first come to is that the EDL depict themselves as being ‘a human rights organisation protesting about Islamic extremism’. A fairly rational statement considering Islamic extremism (Jihadism) has been fought by almost every western state since the horrific events of 9/11. However their portrayal in the media enhances an opinion that they are more fascist than rational, with organised protests around the UK leading to a large number of violent incidents. At an EDL protest in Birmingham in July; smoke bombs, cobblestones, bottles and coins were hurled at police as the EDL gathered for demonstrations against Islamic ideology in the city centre. This event is not unique either; during an EDL demo in Dagenham two Asian men were beaten up, with one hospitalised after suffering serious fractures to his face. In Luton, Asian residents had their windows smashed and EDL graffiti daubed across their homes. Once again, looking at the official EDL website, their headline slogan ‘Not Racist, Not Violent, just no longer silent’ seems a simple phrase to please rather than to practice.
Of course, it is wrong to assume that all members of the EDL are violent thugs. It’s just that the violence that eschews from their ‘democratic’ protests portray them in this way. Even ex-leader Mr Robinson has recently added to his criminal record, in January he was sentenced to an 18 month spell in solitary confinement for travelling on another person’s passport.
He stated in a news conference that this solitary confinement allowed him the time to reflect on the future of the organisation and his eventual decision to leave. He stated “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive”. Perhaps with this statement he acknowledges, after four years, the on-going violence connected with the anti-Islamic protests and the large amount of tax payers’ money that is wasted on the preparation, control and clean-up of the aftermath of EDL events.
Robinson then followed this with “I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the on-going need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas”. The fact that the EDL may be moving towards a more democratic position could be a worrying concept for us all. Although the majority of students were not alive in the 1970’s when the National Front reached the peak of its popularity, it could appear that the EDL are aiming to follow in their footsteps. Possibly even aiming for a percentage for the electorate vote, much like the National Front did in the 1979 election, where they received 0.6% of the vote.
However now that both Robinson and co-founder Kevin Carroll have stepped down, it is unclear where the future of the EDL leads; whether it be violence or democracy. Although one thing is clear. None of us can expect the Far-Right to vanish altogether. The core ideas of Fascism date back to the early 20th century, and unfortunately have stayed much the same ever since. Anti-Semitism, over-glorification of the state, heavy militarism and scapegoating of a faith or organisation are almost always consistent in world-wide parties and organisations connected with Fascism. The ideas of the English Defence League, the British National Party and the National Front cannot be characterised as a movement, but simply as a continuum of core values from Fascism that have been sustained for a long period of time.
This is also worrying when, in the UK, the protest vote is becoming more and more common. Voters find that they do not identify with the three central parties, or they express their displeasure towards them with a vote for an extremist party, whether it be Far-Left or Far-Right. This enduring trend has seen the rise of the Socialist Workers Party, UKIP and the British National Party in national and local elections.
The on-going repetition of the far right gaining attention and support is evidence for the fact that there will always be a handful of people to keep the flame of the Far-Right burning, whether it be through violence or democratic means. We should just live in hope that Far-Right parties that claim to fight extremism do not brainwash more of the electorate, especially in a time when both immigration policy and European Union membership are prominent and voters can be easily led.
“I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive”. “I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the on-going need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas”.