Islamism and the EDL: our critique and theirs

Submitted by Matthew on 30 March, 2011 - 12:32

The EDL blog “English Defence League Extra” has republished, with critical comments, a recent Solidarity article on David Cameron’s 5 February speech on multiculturalism. The EDL writer uses our article as a stick to beat the SWP.

We have heard reports that a few SWP students have leapt on this as evidence of the AWL’s alleged political closeness to the EDL. This is just sad. They should read Trotsky’s response to Stalinist accusations that, because right-wingers cited his attacks against the Soviet bureaucracy, he must be in league with them.

In fact a large element of the EDL commentary on our article is incoherent rambling. Then there is the Trot-bashing, from which we are not exempt; the blogger claims that “getting Workers’ Liberty to sort out the Socialist Workers Party” is like getting “extremist Muslims to sort out extremist Muslims”.

Then, after a bit of shameless demagogy about “easily agreeing” that all non-white people in Britain face racism, there is anti-Muslim racism galore, including a particularly hideous paragraph in which the blogger casts French Arabs, and not racists like the Front National, as the real problem in France.

But the core of the EDL Extra commentary is connected to our attitude to political Islam and to “multiculturalism”. For example, the commentator is enthusiastic about our description of multiculturalism as “the orthodox bourgeois policy in Britain of recent decades”.

Of course our article attacked the anti-Muslim bigotry of the EDL, as well as newspapers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express and noted that, whatever the formal words of his speech, Cameron’s policies are playing to the far-right gallery.

On multiculturalism, our piece counterposed a “democratic and secularist criticism” of it to “old-fashioned chauvinist and racist criticism”. When the EDL, and in a different way Cameron, attack political Islam in the name of “British” culture and values, we attack both in the name of an “evolving universalist culture” of democracy, human freedom and working-class solidarity (one essential element of which is anti-racism). But that is also why we oppose bourgeois “multiculturalist” measures such as more religious schools — measures which Cameron is promoting and which, bizarrely, the SWP and their friends endorse.

As our article commented, the SWP operates a political sleight of hand which involves "ignoring the democratic and secularist criticism of [multiculturalism] and pretending that the old-fashioned chauvinist and racist criticism is the only one around."

The left should never be afraid to say what is for fear the right will exploit the truth for its own, dramatically different purposes.

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