In 2011, the EDL came to demonstrate in the East End, with beers in hand and their ample man boobs jiggling in the hot August sun. They had come to tell locals like me that we were wrong, that we lived under Sharia Law, that we were going to a form of multicultural hell. It was an unnerving day, but this great bit of London – as diverse as it is unified – stood up to outsider bullies as it always does.
I thought of the EDL last weekend when another group of politically motivated demonstrators came to our neighbourhood, and used aggression to express their dissatisfaction with the way we live in the East End. Like the EDL, Class War were hostile: loaded up with booze, setting off fireworks, throwing bottles at police and walking down residential streets carrying flaming torches like rejected extras from 'Game of Thrones'.
When the dust settled, there was none of the triumph of seeing off the EDL. Just bemusement. Why would people who claim to care about an area come and deliberately trash it?
Looking at the Facebook page for Class Action's demo didn't reassure me that there was much difference between the EDL and Class War. They certainly had a few of the EDL's racial bugbears, citing: 'Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks and Israeli scumbag property developers' as reasons for the changing make up of the East End. One thing they had over the EDL, though, was a flair for an Instagramable costume.
Some wore pig masks – the new symbol of being shafted by the Tories – which would make sense if they weren't standing in a constituency with a Labour majority of 24,000, in a city that turned staunchly Labour at the election.
Others bravely stuck it to 'hipsters', which is odd because some basic field research would have shown Class War that Brick Lane is now more a tourist destination than a hipster hangout. It's why local people are fine with the fact that the shops there don't serve the community. They're for passing tourists seeking a novelty – be that a daytime curry, some vintage tat, or indeed a bowl of cereal.
There's a discovery of Freud's that I genuinely think is invaluable for any Londoner. It's called the 'narcissism of small differences', and it says that the greatest feuding and ridicule happens between people who are actually very similar, and that the fight for those precious differences is of enormous importance to both. Given that 99.99 percent of all hipster jibes come from actual hipsters, one school of thought about Class War is that they're just a bunch of posturing trendies themselves, albeit older (possibly dating back to the original artistic takeover of the '70s) and with zero legitimate interest in the area except to say: 'Boo, Shoreditch isn't as good as it used to be'.
Another school of thought is that Class War are just fighting a proxy street battle, and that the real battle is online. The theory goes that nobody could really be stupid enough to think a cereal café is responsible for gentrification. It was only attacked as a way of tapping into the café's existing online hatebase.
Whatever their motives, Class War brought uninvited hostility to a hard-working, ethnically diverse community that they clearly don't understand or wish to engage with. They hijacked the agenda away from hard-working local groups like the New Era Tenants Association or the East End Preservation Society and brought the argument down to the level of the EDL. In choosing that course of action, Class War has shown all the community spirit of a monkey flinging its own shit.