Tommy Robinson leading an EDL demonstration, London 2013. Photo: Flickr/Andy Thornley Tommy Robinson leading an EDL demonstration, London 2013. Photo: Flickr/Andy Thornley

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance is a plainly racist organisation; anti-racists need to make sure they stop them marching on 9th June argues Josh Newman

The Democratic (or ‘True’) Football Lads Alliance will be out in London on Saturday 9th June, ostensibly to demand the release of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, alias Tommy Robinson, the old face of the EDL. The group has been gaining traction over the last year with recent sizeable marches on the streets of Manchester.  No one can be taken in by their claim to “oppose all extremism where ever [sic] it stems from“.  Groups such as this always mask their transparently racist beliefs thinly behind other concerns and in this case, the DFLA seems to obsessively home in on the subject of grooming gangs.  There is no mention of any other kind of sexual abuse crime or indeed any other kinds of crime at all so it is clear that this is a flimsy front for specifically anti-muslim hatred. 

It is well known on the left that mainstream ideology leaves an explanatory void around the real difficulties actually experienced by many people in their day to day lives which the far-right are able to occupy with their divisive rhetoric. This is why the DFLA’s supposedly universal anti-extremism is a potentially dangerous piece of PR, since it borrows from mainstream centrist ideology and adds a façade of credibility to their arguments. 

Fortunately, the counter-arguments are not difficult to make. British rapper Akala takes on Tommy Robinson here with exactly the kind of level of argument that we should emulate around this.  So rather than being satisfied with Robinson’s conviction for contempt of court, we should focus on filling that explanatory void by pointing out that when similar crimes are committed by white individuals or groups, their race is never mentioned. Nor indeed do Robinson or his disciples make any mention of the fact that in cases of the kind they are talking about it is overwhelmingly men who are convicted for grooming children. This is perhaps unsurprising from a group which describes itself as a ‘lads alliance’ and all this should be enough to show us that the DFLA are a basically racist group with a specifically Islamophobic bent. 

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that these reactionary, divisive pseudo-political groups are firing up again; it is not just Marxists who are familiar with the idea of cyclical history in politics and economics. The DFLA are not the same as Oswald Mosley’s fascists of the 1930s, the National Front of the 1970s, or even the BNP, although they bear more obvious personnel connections with the latter. Despite this, the pattern is familiar: national economic difficulty hitting everyone apart from the very wealthy followed by increased scapegoating, usually of a national or ethnic group who were welcomed to boost the economy in times of prosperity. 

In each of the waves of far-right demonstrators taking to the streets mentioned above they were met with powerful resistance from various left and anti-fascist groups inluding Stand up to Racism, usually with little help from the state authorities (at Cable Street in 1936 and at Lewisham in 1977 metropolitan police resources were not put in place to prevent marches that made no secret of their violent racist intentions).  This resistance in person is what shut down these movements and that is what will shut them down again.  Counterfire’s John Rees refers in his book The ABC of Socialism to anti-fascist action as ‘sticking-plaster politics’ but points out that ‘if you have been cut by a lunatic with a knife then a sticking-plaster is precisely what you need’. 

This means that in order to break the cycle of relative prosperity turning to financial crisis spawning far-right extremism which endangers immigrant populations, already vulnerable under the structural racism of the state, we must radically change the system. 

All this has to be part of the wider movements where we make the arguments for an alternative vision of society in print, in person, and on the streets in protest.  We are coming into a summer of struggle with protests around the NHS on 30th June and demonstrations against Trump on 13th July, among other events. When we come together in this way we create a concrete atmosphere that can fill the void created by mainstream politics that can otherwise be occupied by the far right.

We have to stand together against these groups wherever and whenever they appear, and under whatever banner they march. We are more than they are and the bonds of international solidarity between workers will always be stronger than their erratic ideology of division. 

See you in London on Saturday 9th June at Stand up to Racism’s protest, so we can all make it clear to the Football Lads Alliance that they shall not pass. 

Josh Newman

Josh Newman is a teacher, musician, and writer from East Kent who now runs Counterfire and Stop the War branches in Oxford