Last year another Workers’ Liberty member and I went to a meeting about organising against an EDL demo in Bradford.
After a few minutes a group of about half a dozen young guys turned up. They were led by a middle aged guy calling himself "Snowy" (aka John Shaw). He was from the EDL. We had a bit of an argument. Snowy said he wasn't racist and had mixed race relatives. He described himself as a working class Tory who was just trying to counteract Islamic extremism.
We argued back that the EDL acted like anti-Asian racist thugs. After a while he and his bored looking mates left.
From this encounter we learnt a few lessons about security. It also helped cement the coalition which organised a working class anti-racist mobilisation against the EDL in Bradford. The EDL ended up having a torrid time in Bradford, and John “Snowy” Shaw slipped from my mind.
The EDL have always acted as a rallying point for those who want to carry out violent and racist provocations. It has been right to oppose them on the streets and elsewhere. There have always been fascists involved. However they could not be described as straightforwardly fascist.
Their lack of a political programme or centralised leadership made that label sound hollow, even if the EDL had the potential to morph in the direction of becoming a more organised ultra-right/fascist force.
In the year since Bradford the EDL has been through several schisms and crises. The northern divisions have become increasingly fused with neo-Nazis and organised fascists. As a consequence they have started to focus on attacking the left and the labour movement.
Reports on this split have put Shaw front stage again. He is now the leader of the “Yorkshire Divisions”, and he seems to personify the shift in his organisation’s politics towards hardcore fascism. Shaw has started recommending to his followers the notorious anti-semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazis put the Protocols on the school curriculum, and neo-Nazis have continued to peddle it to this day.
Ironically many reactionary Islamist groups also peddle the Protocols as well. The EDL is becoming a conduit of a new generation of racists from tabloid Islamophobia to organised fascism. The need for the labour movement to lead opposition is more urgent now then it has ever been.