“Those who feel dispossessed and disenfranchised as a result of these changes (neo-liberalism) may gravitate towards Fascism”. Cygnus analyses last Saturday’s SDL/EDL demo in Dundee City Centre.
They were a crowd of around 80, mostly white, male and working class, contained within plastic safety barriers. They had banners and placards that warned us of Muslims grooming children on our streets and of Islam as a religion of hatred. They took turns to speak over a microphone – sections of the Qur’an were quoted in order to reveal that this Abrahamic religion’s 7th century text had tendencies of misogyny and paedophilia. The Union and English flags were the national symbols of choice; the Saltire was largely absent. A woman from within the group was heard shouting: “we’re not racist, we’re just patriotic”. They held this static demonstration for about an hour, shouting and chanting sporadically. Separated from them by police and barriers were another group who shouted and chanted at them, calling them “Nazis” and “scum” for the time they remained there. As they left, Unite Against Fascism sang “go home, you scum, go home” and the Scottish Defence League responded by calling them scum, too.
This was Saturday the 5th of October in Dundee city centre. The “extremist” or “far-right” or “controversial” group known as the Scottish Defence League (SDL) came to demonstrate against “militant” or “extremist” Islam in Dundee, wherever it may be hiding. (Although, it should be noted that the bulk of demonstrators were not from Dundee or nearby – they were from around Edinburgh or Glasgow or from England, the EDL.) S/EDL and UAF shouted at one another for over an hour. For whom was this a success? The UAF showed the S/EDL that they cannot bring their ideology to Dundee without opposition; the S/EDL left after a day of attention in the public arena, saying they’d be back next year.
Whether or not they are Neo-Nazis, like Greece’s Golden Dawn party, is up for debate but it is manifest that S/EDL is a fascistic organisation. There is a strong (British) nationalist element, a distinct feeling of hyper-masculinity and militarism (there were shouts of “No Surrender” and placards which read “Support our Troops”) and a distinct focus on minority groups as the perceived source of the ills of our society – in this case, it is immigrants and Muslims. There is, today in the UK, plenty of fuel for Fascism: a Neo-liberal capitalist system is going though crisis, so austerity is being imposed upon the working class, inequality is growing, foodbank use is increasing rapidly and there is a serious housing problem, exacerbated by the Bedroom Tax. Those who feel dispossessed and disenfranchised as a result of these changes may gravitate towards Fascism; while history has many examples of this trend, the story of Golden Dawn is our most current and pertinent parallel.
The pull of Fascism affects the white working class disproportionately, since they are the neglected members of society’s privileged, dominant group. Sadly, many people do not see this, as shown on Saturday by one person in the UAF crowd heard shouting at the S/EDL,calling them “minks” (derogatory term for a poor person). This kind of behaviour is symptomatic of the effects of Fascism: it divides our society and pits us against one-another, meaning we cannot see capitalism and the state as the sources of fundamental social and economic problems. This understanding of how Fascism assists a capitalist state is not to suggest that all people involved with the S/EDL are mere victims of ideological forces. It is obvious that some are simply racist arseholes, who get off on intimidating and dominating others.
The actions of the state institutions in response to the demonstrations were revealing. They were content to play up divisions in society and, by introducing a heavy police presence, engender a feeling of subdued violence. There was a police helicopter, several police horses and a small battalion of police on foot, ensuring that the whole spectacle could be seen as, at any moment, about to explode. A police officer approached two Palestinians wearing keffiyehs (Palestinian scarves) — they were not in the UAF crowd or shouting — told them that their scarves could “cause unrest” and that they should either remove them or go away. The officer attempted to justify this by claiming that the police had earlier told the S/EDL to remove scarves to “avoid unrest”. Over a week before this event, a pliant local media began talking up fears of “unrest” and “potential for disorder”.
The Radical Independence Campaign in Dundee chose to avoid joining in the UAF demonstration, despite largely agreeing with their principles. We viewed shouting and chanting at the Fascists as unproductive, both in terms of public perception and ideological opposition (the S/EDL most likely enjoyed the attention). We saw our energies as having a greater yield being focussed elsewhere, and campaigning for independence is one of them. The British state is content with increasing unemployment, poverty and inequality – this trend shows no sign of changing for the better. Since its inception, Radical Independence Campaign has recognised this and sought to work towards a society where the people have greater control over the economic structures that affect us all. It is a drive for social justice that means we can target and eliminate the roots of Fascism. Granted, it is easy (very easy) to mock people in groups such as S/EDL, but we must take seriously the social and economic causes of nascent Fascist movements, and with independence we can do this. Next year, we can begin to challenge Neo-Liberal capitalism that plunders our communities and the Fascist ideology that divides them.