The Battle of Cable Street – When Anti-fascists Repelled The British Union of Fascists

The Battle of Cable Street – When Anti-fascists Repelled The British Union of Fascists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

The Day
Satire Died – The Guardian Gets Mark Regev, Ambassador for the world’s most
racist state to pay tribute
When the Jewish Chronicle, the Zionists and the Board of Deputies urged the Jewish workers not to confront the fascists – now Mark Regev is rewriting history
It is
really unbelievable.  Who does the
Guardian choose to write an article commemorating the Battle of Cable Street, one
of the most famous days in the annals of the British Labour Movement when up to quarter of a million workers, including thousands of Jewish workers, sent the
fascists packing?  The PR man for Netanyahu and now Israel’s Liar-in-Chief in Britain, Mark
Regev.  The man who night after night
justified on TV the murderous bombing of Gaza two years ago when 2,200 Palestinian refugees were murdered, including 551 children.
Entrance to Cable St on Sunday afternoon, October 4, 1936… crowds
stop Mosley’s Blackshirts passing through [Tower Hamlets Archive
picture]
The man
whose career was spent justifying every last racist measure of Netanyahu – from
banning the commemoration of the Nakba in 1948, the massacre and expulsion of ¾
million Palestinians to the exclusion of Arabs from Jewish towns under the
Access to Communities legislation.
The Guardian’s shameless article allowing Israel’s Ambassador & apologist for genocide Mark Regev to rewrite history
It is a
sign of the deep sickness at the ‘liberal’ Guardian that they could even think of carrying
an article which tries blatantly to rewrite history.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews vehemently
opposed the march.  It had a box printed
in the Jewish Chronicle warning Jews to stay away from the march.  The Zionists had effectively taken over the Board
of Deputies by 1933 as Neville Laski made his peace with the Zionists.
Today’s march in the East End
This is
an example of how even the most radical moments in our history are co-opted by
the ruling class in order to blunt their political message.  In the process they allow the passage of time
to dim our memory so that the real lessons, the need to fight against all forms
of racism, are lost.  
Bill Fishman, one of the best-known historians and political campaigners in London’s East End, died at the age of 93.

 According to Regev’s rewriting of history, the Zionist movement, which had worked hand in hand with
the precursor of Oswald Moseley’s BUF, the British Brothers League, was somehow
in the vanguard of opposition to the fascists. 
The Zionists played no part in building opposition to the march.  That was the job of Jewish communists and
socialists.  The Jewish Peoples Council contained
a few dissident Zionists but to pretend that a handful of Zionist individuals
constituted an alliance between the Labour movement and the Zionists is a
shameless rewriting of history.

Prof Bill Fishman, 1921-2014, next to Nicholas Mosley, son of his
former adversary Oswald Mosley, speaking at Toynbee Hall in 2006 on 70th
anniverary of ‘Battle of Cable Street’
What the
Guardian could have done, was to run this piece by Bill Fishman, the late and
great historian of East End Jewry that was printed
in the Docklands and East London Advertiser ten years ago on the 70th
anniversary of Cable Street.
By 1936, Oswald Mosley’s
party had been waging a hate campaign against Jews, communists and the Irish in
the East End for more than two years, writes Bill Fishman.
Accusing Jews of taking
‘English’ jobs, Mosley’s elite bodyguard—the Blackshirts—terrorised Jewish
stallholders in Petticoat Lane market, beat up Jews going home after synagogue
and covered walls with anti-Semitic graffiti.
“Perish Judah” and “Death to
the Jews” were scrawled all over the East End.
Copying the militaristic
style of the fascist regimes in Germany, Italy and Spain, they carried out a
reign of terror.
At that time, I was a member
of the Labour Youth League and we heard that Mosley was planning a big rally in
the East End on that Sunday in 1936, on October 4. We were told to get down to
Gardiner’s Corner on the edge of the City.
It seemed like an act of
solidarity because, on the same day, the Republicans in Spain were also
preparing to defend Madrid against General Franco’s fascist nationalist forces.
Gardiner’s Corner, Sunday, October 4, 1936… far left is stalled tram, in front of crowds blocking entrance to Whitechapel High Street [Tower Hamlets Archive picture]
I got off the 53 tram just
after noon and there were already people marching and carrying banners
proclaiming ‘No Pasaran’—the slogan we took from the Spanish Republicans which
meant ‘They shall not pass.’
People were coming in from
the side streets, marching towards Aldgate. There were so many that it took me
about 25 minutes to get there.
I remember standing on the
steps of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, watching Mosley arrive in a black
open-top sports car. He was a playboy aristocrat and as glamorous as ever.
By this time, it was about
3.30pm. You could see Mosley—black-shirted himself—marching in front of about
3,000 Blackshirts and a sea of Union Jacks. It was as though he was the
commander-in-chief of the army, with the Blackshirts in columns and a mass of
police to protect them.
I had already seen him at a
public meeting some months before. He had been standing on the back of a lorry
parked outside the Salmon & Ball pub in Bethnal Green.
But at Gardiner’s Corner,
Mosley encountered his first setback, thanks to a lone tram driver. I saw a
tram pull up in the middle of the junction about 50 yards away from me—blocking
the Blackshirts’ route. Then the driver got out and walked off. I found out
later he was a member of the Communist Party.
I remember that, in contrast
to the ugliness to come, the weather was beautiful, like a summer day. By
mid-afternoon, the crowds had quickly swelled to more than 250,000, with some reports
later suggesting that up to 500,000 people gathered there.
As the tension rose, we
began chanting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5! We want Mosley—dead or alive!” and “They shall
not pass!”
I was moved to tears to see
bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley and shall
never forget that as long as I live—how working-class people could get together
to oppose the evil of fascism.
In a bid to keep the crowd
away from the fascists, around 10,000 police officers, virtually every spare
policeman in London and the South East, had been drafted in.
The police decided when the
tram stopped and blocked the way to charge the crowd to disperse us. They were
waving their truncheons, but we were so packed together, there was nowhere for
us to go.
I could see police horses
going up in the air because some kids in front of me were throwing marbles
under their hooves. That made the police more hostile and they spent the next
hour charging into us. Then, suddenly, people were waving to us from the back
of the crowd.
The Communist Party had a
system of loudspeaker vans and a command post with a phone and team of
messengers from which to co-ordinate the action.
But they also had a secret
weapon—a spy named Michael Faulkner, who was a medical student and communist sympathiser.
Faulkner had infiltrated the Blackshirts.
When Mosley was halted at
Gardiner’s Corner (today’s crossroads of Commercial Street, Whitechapel High
Street and Commercial Road), police chief Sir Philip Game told him that the
fascists could go another way, south through Royal Mint Street and Cable
Street.
As Mosley was passing on
instructions, Faulkner rushed to a phone kiosk near Aldgate Underground station
and rang Phil Piratin, the Communist leader. Piratin told those in the
loudspeaker vans to transmit the message—“Get down to Cable Street!”
The sheer weight of numbers
meant it was a slow procession, but I got there in time to watch the battle.
I was young and afraid of
what was basically a fight between the police and us, because we couldn’t get near
the Blackshirts.
Cable Street is very narrow
and there were three and four-storey houses where Irish dockers lived who
quickly erected barricades of lorries piled with old mattresses and furniture.
Women in the houses hurled
rotten vegetables, muck from chamber-pots and rubbish onto the police, who were
struggling to dismantle some of the barricades.
The Zionist leader & first President of Israel defended the leader of the anti-Semitic British Brothers League, William Evans-Gordon MP – Regev ‘forgot’ to mention this
Things escalated again when
the police sent ‘snatch squads’ into the crowd to nab supposed ringleaders.
Organised groups of dockers hit back with stones and sticks, while making
several ‘arrests’ themselves!
Indeed, there are some
families in the East End who still have police helmets and batons as souvenirs!
Finally, with the area in
turmoil and the protesters at fever pitch, Sir Philip Game told Mosley that he
would have to abandon the march, fearing too much bloodshed. He ordered Mosley
to turn back and march through the deserted City of London.
When the news filtered
through, people went mad and what had been a wild protest became a massive
victory party, with thousands of people dancing in the streets.
Once the dust settled, it
was found that 150 protesters had been arrested, with some of them being
severely beaten once in custody. In all, there were around 100 injuries,
including police officers.
Oswald Mosley’s popularity
began to wane, after his setback in Cable Street.
The Government hurried
through laws banning political parties from wearing military-style uniforms,
depriving them of both menace and allure.
Stanley Baldwin’s Tory
government passed the Public Order Act, which gave the police the power to ban
‘provocative’ marches.
Then, during the Second
World War, Mosley and his wife Lady Diana Mitford were interned as a threat to
national security. Years in the political wilderness followed before his death
in 1980.
Although a lot of fascists
still lived in the East End following the Cable Street victory, never again
would the ideology be so popular.
Jews, communists, Irish and
English men and women rose up simply because they did not want extremism.
Years later, during my first
teaching job in Bethnal Green, a parent came up and said: “My son speaks very
highly of you. I have to apologise, I was a fascist and supported Mosley. Now I
realise how wrong you can be.”
There was redemption in that
and it moved me. It made me realise how much things were changing even then.
I have
sent a letter into the Guardian but I suspect that they will prefer to pass
silently over this shameful episode.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Clearly satire has died.  Mark Regev’s article ‘Remember
Cable Street, when the labour movement and Zionists were allies
’ was an
exercise in the rewriting of history.  The
Board of Deputies of British Jews and the British Zionist movement under Chaim Weizmann
were implacably opposed to the anti-fascist mobilisation at Cable Street. 
On 2nd October 1936, the
Board placed a warning notice in the Jewish Chronicle entitled ‘Urgent Warning –
Keep Away’.  It read ‘Jews are urgently
warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march’. 
The anti-fascist mobilisation was
organised by Jewish communists and socialists and the Jewish Peoples Council.  The Zionists played no part in the
mobilisation.  The idea that English Zionism,
which had allied with the anti-Semitic opponents of Jewish immigration in the
Conservative Party, would support physical opposition to the BUF is laughable.
Mark Regev stands in opposition
to everything the demonstrators at Cable Street represented.  He is Ambassador for the most racist regime in
the world, a state that maintains a brutal military occupation in the West
Bank, which bombs refugees in Gaza and which demonises Israel’s own Palestinian
citizens. 
The lessons we should remember
are those of the historian of East End Jewry, William Fishman who wrote that:
‘“We were all side by
side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers
standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that for as long as I live,
how working-class people could stand together to oppose the evil of racism.” [East
London Advertiser 4.10.06]
Yours faithfully,

Tony Greenstein 

 

 

 

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