"God bless the Muslims. They'll need it when they're burning in effing hell."

The English Defence League marches on parliament.

If you were still in any doubt about the character of the English Defence League, today's march on the Houses of Parliament should make things clear.

The group, which claims to be non-racist and pro-freedom of speech, but whose followers have been filmed shouting racist slogans and chanting support for the far-right British National Party, has mounted a series of anti-Muslim demonstrations around Britain since March last year. In January, the EDL rioted in Stoke-on-Trent, where Asian residents and their white neighbours (described as "race traitors", according to Unite Against Fascism) were attacked.

Today's rally was in support of the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Having been banned from entering the UK on a previous occasion, he was at the House of Lords today (at the invitation of the UK Independence Party leader, Lord Pearson) to screen his anti-Islam film Fitna.

This afternoon, several hundred EDL supporters assembled outside Tate Britain, down river from parliament. When the march at first failed to get going, police allowed them to wander off to the pub for an hour or so. (By comparison, a smaller crowd of anti-racist protesters, organised by Unite Against Fascism, had been kept tightly corralled by police outside parliament's St Stephen's Gate since morning.)

Before marching towards parliament, the crowd was addressed by Guramit Singh -- virtually the only non-white EDL supporter present -- who claimed to be one of the "12 leaders" of the EDL. He called "on all religions" to "eradicate militant Islam".

Although Singh and a subsequent speaker at the rally occasionally made a distinction between "moderate" Muslims and "extremists", the crowd's biggest cheer was reserved for Singh's closing words:

"God bless the Christians, Jews, Sikhs, even God bless the Muslims -- they'll need it when they're burning in fucking hell."

Earlier, the Welsh Secretary and veteran anti-racist campaigner Peter Hain said: "The English Defence league, together with their allies the BNP, represent a racist and fascist threat -- not just to Muslims but to [all] black, Asian and Jewish citizens, too."

This was illustrated by the EDL supporters (including a couple dressed in fetching his'n'hers -- black for him, pink for her -- sweatshirts that bore the legend "EDL -- Derby division") I witnessed threatening a frightened mixed-race group of teenagers as they crossed paths on a sidestreet near Pimlico Station.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.