1. The English Defence League’s defence against accusations of being Far Right
The EDL (English Defence League) strenuously denies being a Far Right organisation. Its defence amounts to it allegedly welcoming many minorities into its ranks and that it stands up for the rights of all human beings.
Please note: the English Defence League (EDL) is not now, nor has it ever been a “Far Right” organisation. The EDL welcomes all colours, creeds, religions, sexualities and anyone who believes in the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. (EDL press release, 21st March 2011)
2. What is the Far Right? Expert definitions of fascism and comparisons from history
The Far Right is in essence any movement that holds extreme conservative views, involves some form of supremacism, with people deemed to be either inferior or superior, and the belief that social equality is a false ideal. The EDL’s interpretation of fascism is based entirely on the Nazi model of the Third Reich, carried on by neo-Nazis to the present day. Laying aside the naked tokenism on display with EDL ‘divisions’ classified by race, religion and sexuality, these ‘divisions’ actually do not subtract from the accusations that the EDL are Far Right. This is because the Far Right can encompass quite a few ideologies including fascism as well as religious fundamentalism. Fascism can also be broken down into different versions, such as Nazism, Italian Fascism and Falangism in Spain. Out of those three only Nazism was actually racial nationalist as opposed to just nationalist like standard fascism.
Like the EDL Italian Fascism did not have an official policy of racism and had Jewish and non-white members. Anti-Semitic sympathies were rare in the population of Italy when compared to Nazi Germany and Mussolini may have only introduced anti-Semitic legislation in 1938 under pressure from Hitler. Italian Fascists were extreme nationalists, just like all fascists, but accepted all races as long as they accepted fascist doctrine. In Mussolini’s Italy an Italian national was defined by his participation in the National Fascist Party, so if you weren’t in the Party you weren’t really Italian. The EDL consider you to have forfeited your English nationality if you oppose them.
Expert opinion holds that fascism is hostile to cultural pluralism and social division (Griffin, R., 1998): it abhors cultural division within society. According to Merkl (2003) fascism propounds a theory of ethnopluralism (more than one race) based on cultural homogeneity (one culture). Clash of civilisations rhetoric is fairly typical in fascist thought, which holds that civilisations cannot mix (Merkl, P., 2003). As related above, Fascist Italy was multi-racial as was Spain under Franco.
“Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. National pride has no need of the delirium of race.” (Mussolini, B., 1933)
Therefore it is no defence for the EDL to claim they aren’t Far Right because they allow Jews into their ranks. As related above, Mussolini had no problem with Jews initially. The same applies to any other racial minority. Fascist regimes were extreme nationalist regimes that believed in a monocultural society in which all citizens were a part of and worked for the benefit of the State.
“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” (Mussolini, B., 1927)
Expert opinion on the EDL is that they are Far Right. Commenting on the There is Nothing British about the BNP website Dr. Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University, an advisor to the British Government on the Far Right, states the following.
“The far right is no longer just the BNP. For the first time in British history mainstream politicians and others are facing a strong far right political party (the BNP) and a growing extra-parliamentary far right grassroots social movement (English Defence League).” (Goodwin, M., 25th January 2010)
3. Sources of evidence for the English Defence League being Far Right
The EDL will quite readily deny any supporter who says racist or fascist things as being genuine and will say that they are an ‘infiltrator’. There are actually many thousands of examples of such people making such statements, which if anything show that the EDL attracts racists and fascists. However for evidence that they cannot deny we shall have to look to official statements, such as their Mission Statement and statements by their leader Stephen Lennon.
4. A comparison between the English Defence League’s values and those of fascism
A series of frequently asked questions (the thread was entitled F A Q) was posted on the English Defence League’s UK Freedom Forum website on 11th June 2010, the answers bear a resemblance to fascist ideology.
In response to the question “What is the EDL?” the response was that EDL are people “who are concerned by the government’s failure to protect our English heritage and cultural values from the influence of abhorrent Islamic cultural values.”
In response to the question “What does the EDL hope to achieve?” the answer was: “The EDL hopes to achieve the integration of all British citizens into a harmonious socially cohesive society with shared common traditional English cultural values.”
The question “How does the EDL hope to achieve it [sic] aims?” makes it clear that the EDL seek a Kulturkampf against the “divisive and abhorrent culture of Islam” in England, which they see as incompatible with and a threat to English values. They say they will achieve their aims “By directly opposing Islamic cultural values, practices and symbols in England”, in other words they want Islamic culture banned in England. In their press release the EDL stated that it “believes in the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, so either they are lying or they don’t view Muslims as human. Seeing as they intend to achieve this by “pressuring government”, we can assume that by England they mean the UK.
In response to the question “Does the EDL want British Muslims deported from Britain?” the EDL states:
“No it does not but we would like to encourage them to fulfil their commitment to Islam by making hijrah. Islam commands that Muslims must not live in Britain (a non-Muslims [sic] country). Islam commands that Muslims must not live in the land of the enemy (Britain)”.
It then misinterprets some passages from the Koran to back this up, as well as coming up with an entirely different meaning to hijrah than is what is given in Islam (it refers specifically to the Prophet Mohammed’s escape from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD). Islam does not say that unbelievers are the enemy, or that Muslims shouldn’t live in their lands. It should be noted what Stephen Lennon’s opinions on Islam are.
“Islam is a disease!” (Lennon, S., 11th December 2010)
“Islam is fucked!” (Lennon, S., 11th December 2010)
“Radical Islam and Islam’s days in this nation are numbered!” (Lennon, S., 11th December 2010)
The question “What is the EDL’s policy on immigration?” gets the response that “immigration leads to problems in the longer term” and that immigration should be limited to “immigrants who share our cultural values.”
The EDL’s policy on multiculturalism is that “Multiculturalism is divisive, division is bad. We should all work for a harmonious socially cohesive society with shared common traditional English cultural values.” The EDL obviously view cultural division as a bad thing and that English society although multi-ethnic should be monocultural. Interestingly Stephen Lennon declared that the EDL defends multiculturalism in a speech given at Blackburn on 2nd April 2011, although given that he has said things are true that are demonstrably false, it’s questionable whether he was being sincere.
When asked “Are members of the EDL are racists / is the EDL is a racist organisation?” the answer given states that the “exact opposite is the case.” This flies in the face of the masses of available evidence, however as mentioned previously that is outside the remit of this paper. The important bit is “We encourage and welcome all races to join us. Our Vision and that which we work towards is of a harmonious and socially cohesive society of all races.” That means a multi-ethnic society, which according to the EDL will have a shared culture.
The EDL’s response to “EDL members are fascists is that true?” is obviously “no”, but they then go on to make the bold claim that “Fascism died with Hitler, Mussolini and some old South American dictators” and that anti-fascists such as Unite Against Fascism claim the EDL are fascist, because they need someone to call fascist! It shows the extent of the EDL’s ignorance (or perhaps deceit) if they claim fascism died out long ago. Post-1945 it is usually referred to as neo-fascism and this description includes the British National Party and National Front that have fascist policies. Fiamma Tricolore and Forza Nuova are current Italian neo-fascist parties and there are huge numbers of neo-fascists world wide, so the EDL’s claim that they can’t be fascist as fascism no longer exists is rubbish.
When the question is asked whether the EDL is the same as the BNP, the response is that the BNP had abhorrent racial policies and “the EDL pursues an anti-racist policy including open membership to anyone of any colour or creed. One of the reason [sic] it opposes Islam is because Islam preaches racism.” Firstly the EDL can demonstrably be shown to contain a great many racists. Secondly the EDL states that it isn’t racist because it allows in all races and religions, but in the next sentence says that opposes Islam because it says Islam is racist, so presumably it doesn’t welcome Muslims into the EDL. Islamic racism is defined by the EDL as being opposition to non-Muslims, but opposition to Islam by the EDL isn’t racist, so says the EDL. Not only does this contradict the EDL’s claims that Islam isn’t a race and therefore anti-Muslim abuse isn’t racist, it manages in the first sentence to define itself as non-racist as it doesn’t discriminate against religions, but in the next says it discriminates against Muslims!
The question also asked about BNP members being in the EDL, but despite having said the BNP has “abhorrent racial policies” the response to that was “we don’t know and don’t care”. This may be influenced by the fact that Stephen Lennon was in the BNP from at least 2004 to 2007. They say every EDL member is subject to the same rules regardless of background, which is nonsense because officially they have no membership, so they can’t make anyone who isn’t a member of their organisation subject to the rules of the organisation.
A further question asked “Islam is not a racist ideology anyone of any race can become a Muslim?” but then followed that up with some misquoted passages from the Koran about Muslims not living with non-Muslims, as if that proved Islam was racist. Essentially according to the EDL it’s not racist to attack Islam, but if Islam is critical of non-Muslims that is racism. Furthermore Lennon himself made comments to the effect that Muslims are breeding “our race” to extinction, meaning that either he thinks Muslims are a race or ‘Muslim’ means a non-white person.
“Within thirty or forty years in this country we are a complete minority to Muslims, because of the Muslim demographics. They’re having 8 children, we’re having 1.3. Our culture and our race will disappear in this country.” (Lennon, S., 27th January 2010)
According to 2006 figures, the fertility rate of White British women had increased 1.73 children each (www.ccsr.ac.uk/esds/events/2008-12-02/dubuc.ppt). That of Muslim women from Pakistan and Bangladesh (women from the countries with the highest Muslim birth rates) had fallen to an average of 2.9 and 3.1 respectively and had been falling since 1987 (http://iussp2009.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submissionId=93139), and that a “rapid and continuing decline of TFR for the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups since 1987 support the idea of fertility convergence across ethnic groups in the UK although some differences remain between groups.” The claim that Muslim women have 8 children each (a birth rate higher than any country on Earth) is based on a YouTube video that gives no source. An obsession with preserving the nation or race through high birth rates and outbreeding rival nations or races; is a well-documented fascist trait. He further confers racial status on Muslims by implying it is somehow racist for people to vote for other people on the grounds of religion.
“Muslims will surely vote for other Muslims. Now that’s racism in itself.” (Lennon, S., 27th January 2010)
What a tangled web indeed!
The Mission Statement contains insights into the EDL’s desire to see cultural assimilation.
“Emulation and promotion of 7th century Islamic ideals is the antithesis of any Western democracy, therefore we challenge the concepts, laws, morality and intolerance of Islam as practiced in its ‘original” form’” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
This mirrors very closely Stephen Lennon’s oft-repeated statement that he opposes an ideology (he refuses to recognise it as a religion, despite all religions being ideologies) in “its 7th century barbaric form”. That implies that practicing Muslims are themselves barbaric and therefore inferior. Islam is portrayed as a threat to Western culture and values.
“In reality, sharia cannot operate fully as anything other than a complete alternative to our existing legal, political, and social systems. It is a revolution that this country does not want, and one that it must resist. Sharia is a “threat” to our democracy.” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
In fact sharia laws, which function as a non-legally binding collection of codes for out of court arbitration, are applied in the UK in a manner that does not conflict with UK national laws. Foreign cultures whilst accepted by the EDL are viewed as alien and they are content for them to eventually disappear in England.
“However, this does not give license to policy-makers to deliberately undermine our culture and impose Non-English cultures on the English people in their own land.” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
“Why is the EDL solely focused on Islam and not other alien cultures? There are other sections of our society which pursue cultural values which are inconsistent with our English cultural values and that has been the case throughout history and history has shown that eventually these groups integrate into society and conform with our cultural norms” (F A Q, UK Freedom Forum, 11th June 2010)
That says that the EDL believe that there are certain, defined, English cultural values that all ethnic groups should obey. Other examples of a fascist-type mentality can be seen in statements such as this.
“In pursuing this self-defeating and destructive policy, the Government has effectively been acting as the propaganda arm of the Muslim Brotherhood […] Islam is not just a religious system, but a political and social ideology that seeks to dominate all Non-Believers and impose a harsh legal system that rejects democratic accountability and human rights” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
The Muslim Brotherhood currently fills the role that the ‘Learned Elders of Zion’ once played for the Far Right, that of an imaginary rival. Nowadays instead of Judeo-Bolshevism they talk of Islamo-Marxism controlling the world’s governments. The reason for this is twofold.
- It is no longer socially acceptable to draw on anti-Semitic propaganda to further political aims.
- Anti-Semitism was endemic in Europe in the early part of the 20th century, not just in Germany. Oswald Mosley infamously was a fascist and an anti-Semite in the UK. These days similar views are held about Muslims.
The EDL make ominous rumblings about what will happen if the social divisions, i.e. having more than one culture in the UK, aren’t eliminated.
“Resentment is already beginning to grow, and could create dangerous divisions if nothing is done.” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
From whom this resentment emanates does not need to be explained, however it clearly illustrates that sharia law, in itself no more legally binding than the rules of a club, causes “dangerous divisions” in the minds of the EDL. This sounds suspiciously like what Stephen Lennon said when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s Newsnight in the aftermath of Anders Breivik’s acts of terrorism.
“And we are against all extremism and all violence, but you need to listen, because God forbid this ever happens on British soil, because it’s a time coming. You’re probably five or ten years away.” (Lennon, S. 25th July 2011)
He previously said something very similar when interviewed by Australian TV’s Nine Network’s 60 Minutes programme, foreshadowing Anders Breivik’s atrocity.
"I think if things were left the way they were and nothing changes, you’re probably five…five years away from having English lads wanting to blow themselves up. Because people are so angry about what is going on. So angry and so feel under threat and a complete oppression to do with Islam." (Lennon, S., c.20th March 2011)
In other words the EDL are threatening violence, terrorism in fact, as a result of them not being listened to. Lennon may say we have five years minimum, but a terrorist attack could potentially happen before then. This is because:
- Regardless of what Lennon says the EDL are inclined to violence and the language of extremism.
- With no official membership the EDL leadership cannot positively guarantee that none of its loose collection of supporters are opposed to committing acts of terrorism.
Seeing as the resentment they speak of is directed at Muslims and Lennon’s comment was in relation to a terrorist massacre by Anders Breivik, a Far Right extremist, it can only be taken as meaning that the EDL are suggesting Far Right atrocities if they aren’t listened too and their demands aren’t met. The EDL state that they are very keen to get in touch with people with a similar mentality as theirs around the world.
“The EDL is keen to join with others who share its values, wherever they are in the world, and from whatever cultural background they derive. It believes that the demand for sharia is global and therefore needs to be tackled at a global as well as national level, so that this demand will never be succumbed to. The EDL will therefore have an international outlook to enhance and strengthen its domestic efforts, while uniting many in a common struggle against a rising tide of Islamic intolerance towards western life, its customs, its cultures, its religions, its politics and its rule of law. The time for tolerating intolerance has come to an end, it’s time for the whole world to unite against a truly Global Jihad.” (EDL Mission Statement, 23rd January 2011)
The EDL has managed to join up with various Far Right extremist and terrorist groups and links between it and the Norwegian Far Right terrorist Anders Breivik appear to have been established. It categorises Islam in total as being against Western life, customs, cultures, religions, politics and law, a view shared by Far Right extremist Breivik.
“Far worse than failing to compete with non-Muslim Asians is failing to identify the threat from Islamic nations who want to subdue us and wipe out our entire civilisation. That is a failure we quite simply cannot live with.” (Breivik. A. B., ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’, 2011)
This is a fundamental belief that unites the Far Right in Europe, North America and Australasia. It is inconceivable that a non-Far Right movement would declare Islam as an enemy of Western civilization and openly state that Muslims are trying to take over. When the EDL said it would join with people who share its values, you have to question the values of a group who shares its values with a man like Anders Breivik.
What the EDL seek is a homogenous society with a single culture. The EDL believes that Islam is incompatible and is a threat to “English cultural values”, something they repeat a lot in both the FAQ thread and the Mission Statement, and therefore Islam must be banned and Muslims forced to abandon their religion or leave the UK. Lennon went further and stated that Muslims are a threat to the ‘white race’. References to the threat to English culture from foreign influences are legion and there are multiple mentions of wanting a culturally homogenous society, a typical example of fascism.
Other fascist-like behaviour within the EDL as a whole is the intimidation of unsympathetic media outlets, attacks on the meetings of political opponents, the desecration of places of worship for ideological reasons, the glorification of militarism and the obsession with the nation’s past military victories, violence as a political tool, the all-powerful leader with a personality cult, the referring to political opponents as ‘communists’ and their hatred of the Left, saying that anyone who disagrees with them is a ‘traitor’ to the nation (with fascism Party and State are one), the massive use of nationalistic imagery and holding ultra-nationalist beliefs, as well as rhetoric reminiscent of the Nazis (Jews substituted for Muslims).
Examples of fascist-sounding slogans include: “Patriotism isn’t racism, betraying your race is treason”, “One Country, One People, One Cause” and “One Nation, One Enemy, One Firm”.
The EDL releasing statements and mission statements saying they aren’t fascist makes no difference when their stated core beliefs are and so are their actions. Declaring they aren’t racist in their Mission Statement when their leader says that Muslim birth rates are a threat to continuing existence of the ‘white race’, is as meaningful as me releasing a statement to the effect of me being a purple carrot from the planet Mars called Eric. On 13th February 1945 Hitler declared “I promise you I am quite free of all racial hatred”, in his Political Testament. Releasing an official statement does not make lies turn into the truth.
Combined with the historical precedents and expert opinion, all this leaves no possibility of any other conclusion other than the EDL is fascist and therefore Far Right.