How the left failed in Birmingham

During and after the events of 8 August in Birmingham, it was apparent that certain groups on the left and so-called Muslim leaders had no appetite to build a counter-demonstration against the English Defence League (EDL), as ASSED BAIG of Birmingham UAF reports. They let down the Muslim community. When the EDL demonstrated in Birmingham with a police escort, what was our response? The only group to call for a counter demo was the SWP and some independent, non-affiliated Muslims.

Groups on the left were content to pay lip service to fighting fascism and standing up for the Muslim community, but failed to support Muslims as they prepared once more to defend their streets from the fascists. What this displays is the bureaucratic quagmire the left have got themselves into, where they are more concerned with electoral politics than actually standing on the streets, shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community. They roll out Muslims when they wish to display their ‘diversity’ and talk about defending multiculturalism, but these individuals are nothing more than token Muslims, used to gain support from the Muslim community.

The lack of left support for a counter demonstration in Birmingham indicates a deep-rooted fear of the Muslim community. Even our Muslim ‘community leaders’ are scared of Muslims taking matters into their own hands when the fascists are on the streets, because it is at critical times like these that people stop listening to fluffy sell-out politics and realise there is a fight to be had. Certain left groups only seem happy to engage the Muslim community if it serves electoral and recruitment purposes. They have no interest in engaging the Muslim youth, who are fed up with increased Islamophobia, racism and lack of support from other sections of society, and have no other choice but to come out on the streets. The left’s efforts concentrated on getting the EDL demo banned, but when this failed they seemed to fizzle away, unable and unwilling to take other action.

Muslims turned out on Saturday 5 September regardless, but the very fact that a counter demonstration was not called undermined the leadership of those of us who have attempted to get the Muslim community engaged in left politics. The youth will see no difference between their sell-out Muslim Labour councillors and MPs and the leaders on the left who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.

I can fully understand that there are two battles taking place. The first is to fight fascism on the streets and the second is to win hearts and minds around the country. The Muslim community has the will and the numbers to beat fascism on the streets, but we need support of the diverse groups on the left to win over hearts and minds.

The demonstration was a success with the EDL pinned down in a pub, loaded onto buses, flagged by more than 20 police vehicles and taken out of town and chased out by Asian youth in their cars lobbing bricks and other projectiles at the convoy until they were out of Birmingham. The EDL have announced that they will not be returning to Birmingham in the near future, a victory for the real anti-fascist campaigners and a defeat for the EDL and those who wish to restrict organising and campaigning to Facebook and writing letters.

FRFI 211 October / November 2009