[T]housands of Jewish residents, communists, trade unionists and Irish dockers … gathered on 4 October 1936 to stop Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts marching through the East End.
The anti-fascists battled for hours as the police tried to clear a way through, first through the “Gardiner’s Corner” junction and then along Cable Street, and won. With the police unable to prevail, the Blackshirts were ordered to turn back. To those who fought it was Britain’s stand against a doctrine that cast a dark shadow over Europe.
The East End is still a battle ground between progressives and reactionaries. The far-right British National Party made impressive gains in the local elections in Barking and Dagenham. In Tower Hamlets, the racist and totalitarian Socialist Workers’ Party has been attempting, largely unsuccessfully, to gain an electoral toe-hold, by forming an alliance with Islamist and communalist local politicans. So far, however, they have been outwitted by a self-serving Stalinist Scot and his somewhat more switched on local allies.
Seventy years on, anti-fascists still have a fight on our hands.
Events to commemorate the Battle of Cable Street include a day of celebration and commemoration in Cable Street itself this Sunday, which will entail a march, music, exhibition and stalls.
The exhibition will be opened by author and Harry’s Place regular Michael Rosen and his father Harold Rosen who was at the Battle of Cable Street. Michael Rosen, you will remember, is fighting his own battle against the racists in RESPECT and deserves our support.
Come along. If you’re lucky, you might hear Leon Rosselson and Billy Bragg sing “The World Turned Upside-Down“.
Gene adds: Via Mike in the comments, here is some newsreel footage of the events 70 years ago:
And can anyone spot the similarity between these two scenes?
(Hint: It has to do with the way certain people are holding their right arms. At least Mosley’s thugs had the “excuse” that the Holocaust hadn’t happened yet.)