The Socialist party oppose the EDL, one can't take that away from them, but they insist on doing so for different reasons than the UAF and want to promote their own agenda at the same time.
I won't bore anyone with the minutiae of the wrangle, merely refer to the comradely language on the Socialist party's website. Highlights include admonitions such as:
"Defeating fascists is not one act, ie of blocking their path on a certain day - important though that is - but also, it is an urgent campaign to undermine and answer racist ideas; at the same time to win all workers to a socialist banner, and prepare now a real political alternative to the three main parties of the rich."
There are various complaints: the Socialist Party wanted a particular wording for one of those worthy but wordy motions which no-one except those present at such meetings gives a fig about, and have taken umbrage at the choices of the speakers and assorted lefty bigwigs who will be claiming the credit (but presumably not any blame) for whatever happens on the big day. Various Socialist Party stalwarts, such as Nancy Taafe, also feel snubbed and left out of the action.
Apparently, we are told by those who know them, the UAF is really a front for the Socialist Workers Party. They recently came up with a different motion from that proposed by the Socialist Party which says:
"The EDL is a racist and fascist organisation dedicated to attacking Asian people and Muslims. Islamophobia or bigotry against Muslims is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. Its aim is to divide us by making scapegoats of one community, just as the Nazis did with the Jews in the 1930s. Today they threaten Muslims. Tomorrow it could be Jewish people, Hindus, Sikhs, black people, lesbians and gay men, travellers or Eastern Europeans.
"The EDL have held countless demonstrations across the country, where they have rampaged through towns, attacking mosques, businesses and individuals. More recently, they have begun to attack peaceful demonstrations and multicultural and trade union meetings. Their leader, Tommy Robinson, who has a string of convictions for violence, appeared on a recent Channel 4 programme praising Anders Breivik, the fascist terrorist responsible for killing 76 people in Norway. Each time the EDL assemble, minorities and trades unionists are subjected to threats and racial/religious abuse."
Strong stuff. I am not in a position to say if it is true or not, what they say about the EDL. They cite no instances or evidence, other than a Tommy Robinson comment about Breivik on Channel 4 which unfortunately, I have been unable to locate online. (If anyone has the exact link please tell me as I would like to have a look).
I have heard allegations of violence of course. I have not heard of any 'rampages' by the EDL. You would have thought acts such as those would have been shown on the BBC if they had occurred. Usually the police seem to have the measure of the EDL and the UAF when they hold large set-piece events.
I am aware however that there has been violence on the peripheries of various demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, and that both the EDL and UAF will have a number of convicted criminals and supporters of violence in their ranks of supporters. (As do the Socialist, Labour, Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat Parties no doubt). Having a criminal conviction, even for violence, is as yet not normally a bar to having a political opinion or being entitled to express it by going on a demonstration, or even to speak at meetings. It also does not in and of itself stand as proof that what someone says is true or untrue.
As for being 'fascists', I have to say I do not believe the EDL are fascist, unless by fascist we mean 'people whose political opinions we strongly disapprove of and which we want a lazy shorthand word to describe in the hope that you will disapprove of them too and/or turn a blind eye if we indulge in violence and confrontations against them when they express their views, despite the police being present to prevent any unlawful behaviour'.
The accusation of bigotry is interesting. It can be unpleasant if someone is a bigot but it is also not a crime to be one, and much of what is described as bigotry are simply firmly held religious or other beliefs someone has an intellectual blind spot about and which others find embarrassing when expressed. One of the most bigotted people I know is a campaigner for refugee rights. He does fine work in that field but his views on climate change and animal rights are ludicrous and impervious to discussion. There are plenty of Christians I know who could be described as 'bigots' and they are still good people on the whole, who I am happy to know. I am also aware of many Muslims being 'bigots' too and I happily have a beer with some of them when its not Ramadan. Some of them drink more regularly than I do. And please, do not get me started on the bigotted Buddhists, animists, socialists and atheists I have met over the years. For all that the world would be a better place if everyone thought exactly the same way as me, I have decided that, things go best when people stop dismissing and rejecting other people just because they disagree with them.
Anyone local wanting to know more about the arguments put forward by UAF to demonstrate on the 18th August can find out for themselves. The Unite Against Fascism group will be having another meeting at Harmony Hall on Tuesday 31st July at 7.30pm, with speakers to include Weyman Bennett and Owen Davies, author of a book called 'Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class '. UAF say they will be gathering 'in the Town Centre' at 11am on the 18th August for what is going to be a peaceful demonstration.
The English Defence League also say their demonstration will be peaceful. Let's hope that both groups rein in their fantasists and hotheads and live up to their claims.