The tensions that led to the Battle of Cable Street are still causing trouble today


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.

Source: The Enduring Lessons of the Battle of Cable Street, 80 Years On | TIME


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6 thoughts on “The tensions that led to the Battle of Cable Street are still causing trouble today

  1. Roy Beiley

    The UN was not formed until after WW2. It must have been the League of Nations which criticed the British Govt.

    1. Neilth

      The final paragraph refers to this year i.e. Post Brexit rise of racism as a re read should clarify. However it’s worth remembrring that Moseley was ex Labour Party and the racists came from the working class who felt disenfranchised and disempowered. They looked for someone to blame and fell for the populist rhetoric of a charismatic chancer. Again huge parallels with the rise of UKIP

      1. Barry Davies

        You attempt to claim that UKIP is in anyway linked to fascism is ignorant in the extreme, and clearly based on the gutter press claims, something the fascist used for their propaganda. It should be remembered that in the early and midd 30’s Hitler was considered to be some sort of a messiah for Germany having dragged them out of the recession and modernised the nation, and highly regarded by many politicians of the day. There is nothing wrong with what you sneer at as populist, because it is what is popular among the majority as opposed to that which is not popular amongst the minority. Also as all humans are the same race, with minor ethnic variations, it is those who scream racist the loudest who are the bigots, you could ask Nigel Farage’s German wife about that sort of abuse.

      2. Neilth

        Your failure to distinguish between popular (that which is liked by the majority) and populist (a political ideology that rejects existing political consensus and espouses traditional far right views) demonstrates a lack of understanding of political terminology. Your portrayal of Hitler as a ‘messiah for Germany’ due to some sort of economic miracle shows ignorance of the rise of Nazism. What you refer to as dragging them out of recession and modernisation was largely built on a massive rearmament, building the weaponry they would use in WW2. This was on the backs of poorly paid workers and by destroying organised labour. You are right that I used the word racist, as shorthand for antisemitic, anti gay, anti Romany, anti disabled, anti communist, anti black, etc etc
        The fact that Farage is married to a German wife doesn’t make him an internationalist nor does it give him any form of anti racist (sorry short hand again, but popularly understood) credentials. It does confirm his heritage of privilege where ‘Do what I say not what I do’ is a typical attitude.
        That UKIP has happily embraced ex EDL, BNP, and other far right thugs as members and that many of its representatives have espoused those far right policies, in fact its entire manifesto is based on an appeal to xenophobic little Englanders lends the lie to your attempt to portray it as moderate.
        You really need to take a cold hard look at what you seem to have misunderstood.

  2. mohandeer

    Thanks for this article.
    The current government hasn’t learned any lessons from the past. It allowed Pergida to march through London. Their hatred of Muslims should have automatically disqualified them from entering Britain(they are likely just as anti Jewish unless those Jews are Judeo-Christians, since they hate all ethnics)but Cameron let them cross into our lands. I remember one of these yobs with gobs, shaven head, piercings, tats, denim and bovver boots, yelling furiously at a stoic police horse(it was probably wondering why humans thought themselves somehow superior to dumb animals like it). If our government was ever serious about ending bigotry and discrimination Pegida would not have been allowed entry. Some history is worth hanging on to, for those who can be bothered.

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