The Scottish Defence League (SDL), an offshoot of the English Defence League which has staged anti-Muslim demonstrations in several cities, plans an event in Glasgow on Saturday, 14 November.
According to a report in the Scottish Sunday Mail, “a mob of English racists and neo-Nazis” will be “invading Scotland” that day. “Despite portraying themselves as Scots”, this “ragbag army of football hooligans, far-right activists and racist thugs” will travel to Scotland “from Birmingham, Luton, London and Carlisle.”
“Most of the marchers will come from England,” claims the article, and their aim will be to provoke “a confrontation with Scots Muslims”.
The Sunday Mail is surely right to predict that the SDL event will receive support from England, and that it will aim to “confront” (i.e. intimidate and attack) anyone assumed to be a Muslim.
But it is wrong to imply that the SDL cannot mobilise support in Scotland. In the last Euro-elections, one in 40 votes cast in Scotland went to the BNP.
The SDL plan has triggered the launch of “Scotland United”, bringing together trade unions, religious groups, political parties, and voluntary sector organisations.
The “Scotland United” founding statement calls on the City Council and the police to ban any SDL activity. (It is still not clear if the SDL plans a march or a static rally.)
“Scotland United” will also be staging its own rally — well away from anywhere near where the SDL are likely to be gathering. The slogans for the rally are: No to Racism and Fascism! No to Islamophobia! No to the English/Scottish Defence League! Yes to a Multi-Cultural, Multi-Religious, Multi-Racial, United Scotland!
One of its organisers has explained:
“Their [the SDL’s] intent is to provoke a hostile response within the Muslim community, similar to the scenes of the 1930s Cable Street protests led by Oswald Moseley, in which Jews were provoked into violent response to justify further injustices against them. ... Scotland’s diverse and multiracial communities are not falling for that trick.”
But Jews and anti-fascists did not “fall for a trick” at Cable Street when they kept the fascists out of the East End — they beat them. And they beat them by mobilising the numbers needed to confront them — not by going to a park on the other side of central London and holding a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial celebration!
The most energetic support for “Scotland United” probably comes from the Scottish-Islamic Forum, which appears to be loosely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood (and whose leading figure has been adopted as a parliamentary candidate by the SNP.)
Supporters of the “Scotland United” statement include Unite Against Fascism (UAF). In fact, the statement seems to be based on a UAF “template”, given that virtually the same text was used on the occasion of the 31 October EDL march in Leeds.
But Socialist Worker simultaneously plays the other side of the street, claiming: “UAF activists are gearing up for 14th November, when they will confront the racist thugs of the SDL.”
Local SWP members claim that the UAF will be organising to confront the SDL, and that it will be supporting a meeting being held this week to organise against the SDL’s attempts to take control of the streets.
That meeting has been organised in the main by members of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). But more recent versions of the “Scotland United” statement include among its signatories he SSP’s sole elected representative and the SSP as an organisation. It is unclear how the SSP’s name has ended up on the statement.
With only a fortnight to go to the SDL event, time is short for the secular Left to organise a proper challenge to the SDL.