Report on Leeds Antifascist Coalition meeting of 3rd July

On Sat the 3rd Leeds Anarchist Federation called a meeting for an Antifascist Coalition in Leeds with the intention of discussing the EDL and ideas for how to respond to their plans to march in Bradford in August. The people attending the meeting were aware of the EDL’s intention to attack the meeting but decided to go ahead with it anyway. Preparations were made for this possibility with the intention to try to de-escalate first, as a fight in the Swarthmore Center was in no way what we wanted, and we were prepared for other eventualities should a de-escalation fail. However, this predicted attack never materialised.

What did happen was that 5 unknown people arrived. The door was locked and so they rang the buzzer and waited. They claimed to be antifascists wanting to go to the antifascist meeting. When they came in one of them told us they were antifascists from Wakefield and asked us what we were going to do about the EDL. Two of them stood nervously in the doorway and the others sat down, one of them went and sat quietly at the other end of the room from his friends. We asked why they wanted to confront the EDL and they said because some of them are racist. We tried to question them further about this but it seemed that the guy doing most of the talking didn’t feel he was doing a very convincing job. He said “You know who we are, don’t you?”, so we asked who and he said they were the EDL. At this point, a number of people in the meeting stood up and positioned themselves more conveniently, so this man started insisting they didn’t want a fight and they were just here to explain that they weren’t racist. He insisted repeatedly that he was just here to talk and made numerous defensive bids for acceptance (“don’t tar us all with the same brush”, etc). They seemed to be more concerned about PR than anything else but the brief exchange we had with him was predictably ridiculous and it wasn’t the time or the place to discuss what he wanted so we asked them to leave and after a few repetitions of “But just let me finish…”, they did.

Despite being less of an attack and at most a mild inconvenience, it is in the interest of this man, called Snowy, to exaggerate this incident and his role in it as much as possible. Since the rooftop protests in Dudley he’s been trying to rise higher in the ranks of the EDL and is obviously hoping that he and his faction will gain more credibility if he makes it in and out of an antifascist meeting unscathed (no matter how this was accomplished). Snowy’s political ambitions are pretty transparent and his attempts to make his strange behaviour look impressive are equally transparent.

The politics of the EDL feed into an agenda that poses a threat to the unity of the working class and has to be confronted. All over the world the bosses and politicians are using the recession to attack the working class using the nationalist rhetoric that “we’re all in this together”, while the EDL serve to focus concerns away from these attacks onto immigrants and foreign culture, simultaneously encouraging the white working class to identify with the white ruling class in an act of pseudo-rebellion that only serves to undermine their own interests. Although the EDL is not a fascist organisation, their presence on the streets of Bradford will only serve to strengthen the division of the working class according to tribalist principles of ethnicity and culture. Having said this, testosterone laden politics that responds with merely street violence fails to adequately address the situation. Our response has to be in accordance with our political aims.

Anarchist Federation Leeds