Like all previous mobilisations in Wales, the recent protests by the English Defence League (EDL) in Cardiff and Swansea on 5th June were called under the name of the "Welsh Defence League" (WDL). Judging by the combined turnout at both demos and taking into consideration the large number of attendees from England, the WDL numbers less than 50 people.
There is little to suggest that the WDL is anything more than a handful of people who travel to EDL demonstrations, rather than an organisation in their own right. Previous demonstrations in Wales were derisory: a shambles in Swansea, a no-show in Newport and a wash out in Wrexham. A recent partial renaming as the "Cymru Defence League" is due to "C-C-CDL!" being more chant-friendly than "W-W-WDL!" and not any kind of half-hearted sop to the Welsh language.
Their decision to have two protests at the same time may appear baffling at first glance. However it appears the WDL is made up of two cliques, one around Casuals United in Cardiff and the other consisting of some Combat 18 veterans in Swansea. Furthermore as they see football fans as a potential recruits, the presence of "Swansea Jacks" in Cardiff would have been counterproductive. The majority of demonstrators coming in from England did not appear to have been factored into the plan.
The draconian nature of public order policing at football matches has made the comparative freedom of political demonstrations attractive to hooligans. They can have a beer, can't be banned, and there might be a bit of pushing and shoving without getting arrested. In the same way that football hooligans judge achievement by simply occupying the opposition's end, pub or similar area, simply being able to hold a demonstration is touted as a success. This despite being heavily kettled by police, well away from public view and surrounded by opponents - which most political groups would consider an outright failure.
The EDL repeatedly state that their focus is "against Islamic extremism". Most of their opponents describe them as either "Islamophobic" if they are being generous or "racist" and "fascist" if they are not. In reality they are a very mixed bag of right-wing bigots that includes all of the above. Their iconography and language is heavily influenced by Ulster Loyalism and they seek to reach out to a supposedly suppressed English identity that doesn't need to spell out its core anti-immigrant message.
This brand of Loyalism has an added dimension in a Welsh context that would appear to be beyond the comprehension of the membership. The overt expressions of Englishness undermines their ability to organise elsewhere. Nationalistic naiveté will doubtless be a greater stumbling block to success in Wales than any lack of popularity in their core message. For this reason things look pretty bleak for the Scottish Defence League, Ulster Defence League and even the Australian Defence League.
As people come to their own conclusions about what to do if the WDL return (ignore them or otherwise) the future of the group remains very unclear. Will it act as a flag of convenience for the far right in Wales or simply provide the basis for another hooligan book by Jeff Marsh. With the British National Party (BNP) no longer mobilising on the street, many of those they have incited online have been left looking for an outlet for public shows of force. Though the appearance of the WDL, other unusual fascist groups and lone Nazi would-be terrorists may not present any form of threat at the moment, this may not always be the case.
There is an "I'm-not-racist-but..." section of the population that is still (thankfully) failing to mobilise. The far right have still not stumbled upon a magic formula to transform the typical Daily Mail reader into a stormtrooper for the cause. However we cannot rely on their failings forever. The bigotry and outright lies of the tabloid media continues to whip hatred and resentment against immigrants and Muslims amongst the ill informed. This finds an outlet as much in the continued presence of the BNP as in the support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) who, following the election of an MEP representing Wales, can now be considered the country's 5th party.
The rise of the far right has led a successive governments pandering to racist rhetoric to further 'toughen' immigration controls. We should not forget that the most immediate racist threat to the lives of many people is the UK Border Agency who continue to kick down doors, incarcerate families and deport them into danger. As much as the pantomime villains of the likes of the WDL must be opposed it is more important to tackle the bigger threat and win the arguments on immigration, tolerance and internationalism.
It is only when people unite over common interests, reject the false communities of race or nation and focus on the very real global divide of economic class that all our lives can be improved.