Fascism must be opposed in Wales this weekend when the Welsh Defence League (WDL) descends on the capital, according to anti-apartheid veteran and Labour MP Peter Hain
The former Welsh Secretary and Neath MP insists that the league, which plans to demonstrate in Cardiff on Saturday, is a racist organisation. The league claims it is a “peaceful protest group” but Wales Unite Against Fascism will stage a rival march in the city. Mr Hain, who is honorary president of the anti-fascist organisation, said the WDL would be “strutting its poison in an anti-Muslim demonstration”.
A peace vigil supported by Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan and the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, Saleem Kidwai, will be held at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay tomorrow evening. The two men have described the league’s protests as “crude, dangerous and unhelpful”. The Senedd event is organised by the Interfaith Council for Wales and will celebrate the different cultures in Cardiff.
Mr Hain called for a “big turnout of people” to join the anti-fascist march on Saturday. A Facebook group organised by anti-racist Cardiff City supporters, Bluebirds vs the Nazis, yesterday had 122 members. Mr Hain believes Wales must be vigilant against fascism at a time of economic difficulty.
“After the BNP’s utter failure to make electoral headway in the General Election, racists and fascists are increasingly resorting to their age-old tactic of violence they deployed during the 1930s when Mosley’s Blackshirts attacked Jews, and again in the 1970s and 1980s when the National Front went on the rampage against black Britons. Now they are focusing on their latest scapegoat: Muslims.”
He continued: “And this is a fertile period for scapegoat extremism, with all the classic hallmarks for racism and fascism: the aftermath of an economic recession and a new government bent upon big cuts in jobs and public services. In the 1930s Welsh miners and others volunteered to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
“In the 1970s and 1980s the Welsh anti-apartheid movement mobilised a broad section of Welsh society, and in the same period the Anti-Nazi League took on and destroyed the BNP’s predecessor, the National Front.”
Describing a recent EDL event in Stoke-on-Trent in January, he said: “Hooligans rampaged through the streets. Prominent British National Party activists, and an assorted bunch of racists and fascists, joined them. Marauding thugs tried to attack a counter-protest called by Unite Against Fascism, smashing their way through two police lines, overturning riot vans, but were blocked by a third police line. They then directed their anger on the Asian community, smashing up shops and attacking Asian people and a local mosque. Much the same happened in Dudley last month.”
At the age of 19, Mr Hain became the chairman of Stop the 70 protest group which aimed to prevent the 1969-70 South African rugby and cricket tours of the UK. Saturday’s marches coincide with South Africa’s match with Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
He said: “If it were not so sinister it would be ironic.”
South Wales Police officers have attended EDL marches in Newcastle and Aylesbury to prepare for Saturday. Extra police will be on patrol but the force anticipates a peaceful day. It has contacted people involved on both sides and wants to see a “family-friendly event”.
Mr Hain said: “It is vital that the decent progressive majority in Wales rejects the poison of the Welsh Defence League which does not speak for, let alone defend, Wales.”
The Unite Against Fascism march will start at 11am at Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay and is supported by leading trade unions including Unite and the CWU.
The emergence of the English, Welsh and Scottish defence leagues has fascinated and appalled opponents of fascism who fear that an alliance of football hooligans and supporters of far-right politics could be about to bring violence and intolerance to British streets. However, the English Defence League insists that people of all races and religions are welcome in its ranks and it is only opposed to militant forms of Islam. The EDL’s website refers to our “Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu friends”.
It blames violence at marches on “self-proclaimed yet clearly misguided anti-fascists and gangs of Muslim youth”.
The sight of street protests descending into violence has alarmed observers who fear there is the potential for confrontations on a scale not seen since the days when the National Front clashed with the Anti-Nazi League. Reports of former Welsh football hooligans joining a “ready-made army” in opposition to Islamist ideology will send a shiver down the spine of anyone who fears for social cohesion.
Anti-asylum badges are for sale on the Welsh Defence League website. Its Facebook page has a logo: “No More Mosques in Wales”. These groups have harnessed the internet to communicate. The question is whether a group with bigger political ambitions will harness this growing number of people who feel their society is under threat.
Thanks to NewsHound for the heads-up