This story, covered briefly in the Independent and the Times, but not really followed up by anyone, in the press or on the blogs, is important because the most dangerous opponents of freedom- that is, those who have a chance of actually succeeding in reducing the freedom of others- are those who do it in the name of fashionable causes. So the following scene is instructive, and needs to be properly analysed (Unity of place and time are observed, unity of action may be assumed for the sake of argument):
The setting: Central Bolton on an overcast Sunday afternoon (not a promising start, I know)
The dramatis personae: The English Defence League (a bunch of thugs cobbled together from odds and ends not bright enough or clean enough to get into the BNP. They don't like militant Islam).
Unite Against Fascism (A bunch of thugs cobbled together from student politics and fringe bits of the extreme left. They like a punch up, don't like anyone who won't parrot their own pieties, don't know what fascism is, or freedom, and respond to provocation with the maturity of a 6 year old who's forgotten to take his Ritalin).
If you need to resort to abuse and threats you may just have lost the argument. If you start by setting out your intention to use violence and threats as your only answer then you are undoubtedly a bigger problem than the one you claim to be addressing. and you certainly don't deserve to be taken seriously.
The BNP, who were the original target of the UAF, are not fascists, and they are not right-wing. They raison d'etre is that they don't like immigrants, blacks, etc (insert term of choice) but as far as they have a coherent set of policies in other areas, which isn't far at all, they are left-wing, statist, and seek the working class vote. I wish they didn't exist, but they do, and we have to live with it.
The EDL, on the other hand, don't even pretend to have any coherent policies about anything, adn can hardly be grouped at all, politically. They claim to be against the supine acceptance of militant Islam, which may or not be an excuse to attack immigrants, but in itself it is at least defensible. They also, despite being mostly a chance for a bunch of thugs to have a little fun, have some intelligent leaders, who have learnt a lot from the BNP. The propaganda value of being the one who are violently attacked while peacefully protesting is high, even though the press tries to pretend it hasn't happened, and so the EDL isues rules for its own demonstrations, provides stewards from its own ranks, bans its supporters from carrying alcohol, and knows it can rely on the UAF to turn up and throw things, break things, and assault people, because that's what they do.
I'm not black and I'm not from Bolton, so I can look at this more in the abstract. The EDL may or may not be a spontaneous response to a genuine problem, but it is certainly not the answer to that problem. Nevertheless, it exists, and it's members are entitled to their views and to express them publicly. To deny that freedom is to make it conditional on orthodoxy or fashion, and it is amply demonstrated in human history that no one can be trusted to determine what people may be permitted to think.
If the EDL are a problem, and they probably are, the UAF, a violent, illiberal gang led by Trots, is certainly not the answer to it.
Don't believe me, go and read what they have to say. Listen to them speak. Let them tell you, through their words and actions, what they are. Unlike them, you see, I do believe in freedom, and not just for people who are like me.
I thought there was a point to this post when I started, but now I'm not so sure. In any case, read what everyone has to say about this. The Independent, you will notice, talks about the police battling right-wingers, but the police spokesman makes it clear that it was the UAF causing all the trouble. The EDL have, as I say, learned a lot very quickly. And don't trust anyone who wants to tell you what you are allowed to hear, and what you are allowed to say. They are not on your side.
2 hours ago