On Saturday 23rd February, a 1000-strong crowd greeted the arrival of a group of approximately 40 bussed-in supporters of the English Defence League in Cambridge. Trade unionists, students, and members of Cambridge’s Muslim community all marched to show that the EDL – a far-right neo-fascist group – are not welcome in Cambridge or anywhere else.
On Saturday 23rd February, a 1000-strong crowd greeted the arrival of a group of approximately 40 bussed-in supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) in Cambridge. Trade unionists, students, and members of Cambridge’s Muslim community all marched to show that the EDL – a far-right neo-fascist group – are not welcome in Cambridge or anywhere else.
The day began at 11am with the speeches from the President of the Cambridge University Student Union, local Labour MEP Richard Howitt, and Maria Bakali, a member of Cambridge SYRIZA and supporter of Socialist Appeal. The Greek comrade referred to the fact that, “Five of my friends and comrades have been beaten and stabbed by members of the Golden Dawn [a Greek neo-fascist party], and in January three immigrants were murdered in the centre of Athens”. This was a wakeup call for the protestors in Cambridge about the real role of such neo-fascist groups – not only do they target immigrants, but they attack the labour movement also.
The march came to a halt when the protestors arrived at the location of the small EDL group. Dozens of police lined the walkways of the park with metal barriers, erecting a divide between the two sides of protestors. The march continued through the city centre before heading back towards the starting point, followed by a police helicopter, around 80 policemen on the ground, and several surveillance police officers who were filming the protest.
Overall, the protest looked like a celebration of a fascist-free Cambridge, with music in the background, dance and chants, whilst local shopkeepers were generously offering delicacies, drinks and food to everyone all the way through. The demonstration took place just four days after the protest against the French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, who was invited to give a speech at the Cambridge Union (a debate society at the University). On both occasions, Cambridge gave a strong message: the fascists and the far-right are not welcome in the city, and they will not be allowed a platform.
The presence of a huge turnout from workers and youth in Cambridge – especially compared to the tiny numbers present from the EDL – shows the enormous potential power of the organised working class. The task now is for the leaders of the labour movement to fight for a bold socialist programme; to struggle against the cuts to jobs, housing, welfare, and public services; and to argue for a genuine alternative to the crisis-ridden capitalism system, which feeds the fascists and the far-right.