Ben Gidley – who are the English Defence League?

The previous post describes Naomi Chazan’s efforts to bolster a politics of inclusion against the waxing defencism of Israel’s political right and the exclusions it purports to justify.

This substantial piece from Ben Gidley on the Dissent blog Arguing the World, linked from our previous EDL post but deserving a post of its own, brings this endeavour to Britain’s backyard. The piece begins by examining the EDL’s ‘suited’ and ‘booted’ members respectively, proceeds to discuss what feeds the EDL and how it might best be categorised within British politics, and concludes by considering what impact it might have should it become electorally oriented, and how to respond to it in the long-term:

“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term.  In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.

Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”

An important read.

%d bloggers like this: