1936-2016: Remember Cable Street.
Assemble 12 noon, Sunday 9th October, Altab Ali Park, for a march to St George’s Gardens, Cable Street. Rally with speakers at both ends of the march including Cable Street veteran Max Levitas, Rushanara Ali MP, Mayor John Biggs, GLA member Unmesh Desai, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady
Every five years, since 1986, people have gathered in London’s East End to celebrate a momentous local victory The Battle of Cable Street of 4th October 1936. We are approaching the 80th anniversary very soon.
In the same Whitechapel streets where many Bengali families live in the East End today, a beleaguered and impoverished Jewish community were then under siege from Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The Fascists had built branches in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Bow and Limehouse. On 4th October 1936, Mosley’s movement planned to flood those streets with four marching columns of uniformed fascists.
A local grassroots body called the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Antisemitism submitted a petition with nearly 100,000 signatures, collected in two days, asking the Home Secretary to ban Mosely’s march, but he ignored their demand.
On that day in 1936, Jewish and non-Jewish East Enders came out fighting to defend the area as one where all could live without fear. A remarkable unity in action was forged on the streets.
Mosley intended to march his troops through what used to be known as Gardiner’s Corner at Aldgate – the gateway to the East End. But anti-fascists in tens of thousands completely blockaded the streets there, making it impossible to penetrate. The police, under instructions to facilitate Mosely’s marchers, looked further south to Cable Street as another possible entry point.
At that time the City end of Cable Street was almost entirely Jewish, and the Limehouse end mainly Irish. The fascists tried hard to win the local Irish Catholic community against the Jews but, on the day, dockers and railway workers – the most unionised sections of the Irish community – helped their Jewish neighbours build barricades in Cable Street to prevent the police clearing a path for the fascists. Many local members of the Labour Party and the Labour League of Youth, and members of trade unions, joined with the Jewish People’s Council and the Communist Party in this great anti-fascist victory. It is estimated that around 200,000 people took to the streets of the East End that day.
This year’s anniversary celebrations will be particularly poignant. This may be the last five-yearly commemoration where we will hear directly from those who witnessed and participated in this important victory of 80 years ago. On Saturday, 8th October, five local women including four from left-wing Jewish families, and one non-Jew whose brother joined Mosley’s party, will share their memories at an event at the Idea Store. The following day the march and rally will assemble in Altab Ali Park – a park named, of course, after the young Bengali clothing worker killed in a racist attack near there in 1978. The march ends in St George’s Gardens on Cable Street.
Please come along to honour those who fought against anti-semitism and fascism then and to show your commitment to fighting against racism and fascism today. Bring banners!
David Rosenberg, Convenor of Cable Street 80, and member of Islington North CLP.
In addition to the march, the Idea Store is hosting an exhibition about the Battle of Cable Street from 28 September until 28 October and several cultural events connected with this local history. For full details visit: www.battleofcablest80.squarespace.com or www.cablestreet80.com