The second appearance of the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) on the streets of London on Saturday 7th October is causing a fair amount of head scratching on our end of the political spectrum as people are working towards an understanding of where they’re coming from. The FLA march, numbered in the tens of thousands, was called in response to recent terror attacks in Britain. It took place when there was a break in the Premier League and Championship fixtures to accommodate the qualifying matches for the next World Cup, although Leagues One and Two and all of non league football went ahead as normal on the day.
Unlike the EDL in 2010, the two FLA marches that have been called so far have been completely devoid of national flags – all that has been seen have been club crests and insignia and wreaths in memory of those killed by terror attacks in Britain. It would seem that the organisers in the FLA are doing what they can to avoid their movement being accused of having fascist tendencies by discouraging displays of flags or political insignia associated with the far right. It’s this seemingly disciplined appearance that has got some people on our side wondering if there’s something new emerging that may be worth engaging with.
Some historical perspective is needed here… Type the phrase ‘church and king mob’ into any search engine and you’ll come up with plenty of pieces about reactionary mobs essentially doing the work of the ruling class in maintaining the established order and quelling dissent. Here’s one example of their manifestation: Priestly Riots – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestley_Riots Here’s a lengthy examination of plebeian reaction which should inform our analysis of where the FLA are coming from: Popular Loyalism and Public Violence in the North-West of England, 1790-1800 – https://www.jstor.org/stable/4285276?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
These examples come in the period before industrialism and what’s considered to be the formation of the working class. While the Industrial Revolution did lead to class conflict and working class militancy, it never had the edge that would push it towards full blown revolution. This is because the British ruling class have always conceded just enough in the way of reforms to keep uprisings at bay. As the 19th century progressed into the 20th, it was the spoils of empire that would be used to pay for these reforms and concessions. Allied with some pretty effective propaganda, the ruling class have managed to keep the lid on any meaningful dissent that would threaten their interests. This piece in the Telegraph by the conservative writer Charles Moore acknowledges the contribution of these factors into creating the kind of working class Toryism that could well be informing the strategy of the FLA: A vast, loyal band of working-class Conservatives – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7983677/A-vast-loyal-band-of-working-class-Conservatives.html
The FLA could be seen as a twenty first century manifestation of the traditional ‘church and king’ mob. This is what veteran anarchist, Martin Lux argues here: FOOTBALL LADS ALLIANCE “MARCH AGAINST TERRORISM” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fArtDmZS2RQ This is what was said about the English Defence League when they first emerged: The EDL: a “Church and King Mob” – https://liveraf.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/the-edl-a-church-and-king-mob/ There are certainly fascists circling around the FLA looking for recruits to their cause and this has to be monitored. However, it could be said that the more patriotic, reactionary elements within the ranks of the FLA might find fascism a bit too ‘continental’ for their tastes and may well prefer a more historical form of reaction.
The FLA may like to think they’re countering the nihilistic, random terror inflicted by ISIS / Daesh. It has to be pointed out there there are people putting their lives on the line to fight ISIS / Daesh: War on Isis: Western fighters joining Kurds to fight terror group in Iraq and Syria – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/western-fighters-joining-the-kurds-to-fight-isis-in-iraq-and-syria-a7041136.html while the likes of the FLA are merely posturing on the streets of London.
It could well be said that the FLA are unwittingly acting as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class. While protesting against the likes of ISIS / Daesh, they were seemingly happy to march past near empty apartment blocks bought as ‘investment opportunities’ on Park Lane and in nearby Mayfair without batting an eyelid. Whether this is through ignorance or an unhealthy level of deference to the super rich is a matter for debate. The fact is that the FLA are acting as a diversion from the real forces that are screwing us over. A diversion that the establishment must be privately celebrating as yet again, they get let off the hook.
How do we deal with the FLA? We haven’t got all the answers yet but we would like to offer a few suggestions. Calling them fascists is counter-productive – as stated earlier, fascism’s a bit too ‘continental’ for people who prefer a more traditional form of expression for their patriotism and reaction. A degree of historical understanding of reactionary elements within the working class in Britain is needed to inform any strategy that needs to be devised to counter the FLA – some of the links listed above are a tentative start to this process. Exposing the reactionary elements in the FLA as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class is essential but that can only be done if we can successfully articulate our vision of what working class solidarity should be.
To say that the project of articulating a vision of working class solidarity has been undermined by the rise of identity politics is an understatement! However, that is an ongoing debate which we have touched on in previous posts in On Uncertain Ground and one we intend to return to in the future. To conclude, this post has to be seen as our initial reaction to the rise of the FLA and as a work in progress that will hopefully be part of a constructive debate on how we deal with this latest manifestation on the streets.