October 4 marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists were sent packing by a coalition of Jews, Irish, local workers and members of the Labour and Communist parties.
How sad that the unreasonable hatred that defined Hitler’s form of fascism – on which Mosley’s was based – has risen again, with hate crime against people of foreign descent on the rise after the EU referendum, and even claims of anti-Semitism.
Here’s a documentary about the incident, available on YouTube:
Here’s Time magazine’s perspective on the battle, and on the UK today:
The successful defeat of Nazi sympathizer Oswald Mosley’s march through the East End, known as the Battle of Cable Street, is being commemorated this year by marches, talks and other events in this corner of London.
“Among the impoverished workers of the East End, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) built their movement in a horseshoe shape around the Jewish community,” says author and historian David Rosenberg, whose family owned a stationery shop on Cable Street at the time. Throughout the mid 1930s, the BUF moved closer towards Hitler’s form of fascism with Mosley himself saying that “fascism can and will win Britain”. The British fascists also took on a more vehemently anti-Semitic stance, describing Jews as “rats and vermin from the gutter of Whitechapel”.
On Sunday Oct. 4, 1936, Mosley led his Blackshirt supporters on a march through the East End, following months of BUF meetings and leafleting in the area designed to intimidate Jewish people and break up the East End’s community solidarity. Despite a petition signed by 100,000 people, the British government permitted the march to go ahead and designated 7,000 members of the police force to accompany it. The counter-protest from the Cable Street community involved members from the Jewish and Irish communities, local workers and local Labour and Communist parties, who succeeded in disbanding the BUF march.
British politicians were criticized by the UN for allowing the divisive and anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding Brexit to fuel a spike in reports of race hate crimes, a trend that has been replicated across the continent as countries struggle to handle the record influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa. The increasing intolerance displayed across the European political spectrum show that the same winds that blew across Cable Street eighty years ago still exist today.
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