Corbyn to mark anniversary of London’s biggest anti-facist demonstration

The battle of Cable Street Mural in East End. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

The Battle of Cable Street Mural painting in East End. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Jeremy Corbyn will join local people and veterans of London’s largest anti-fascist demonstration in Tower Hamlets this October, in a special event marking 80 years since the Battle of Cable Street.

The Labour leader will help commemorate the famous event by giving a speech and marching alongside local people. Adding to the celebrations will be an exhibition of the Battle of Cable Street on display at Watney Market Idea Store from September 27 with music, poetry and spoken word events as well.

David Rosenberg, a local historian who runs walking tours through Tower Hamlets, is helping with the commemorations. He said he is keen for the local community to get involved.

“On Sunday October 9 there’s going to be a march and a rally through the East End. We can’t confirm the route at the moment, but we intend the march to end up by the Cable Street mural.

“We will have veteran Ax Levitas who is 101 years old, Jeremy Corbyn will be there and Frances O’Grady of the TUC will be part of it.

“Our emphasis is really about trying to get as much of the local community to support the event but also wider than that as well, people from across London and we’re hoping people will come from outside London as well. It’s very important to remember our victories and Cable Street seems to have the ability to still inspire people, and that’s a very significant thing”, he said.

This October sees the 80th anniversary of the historic riots.

Some 300,000 local people blocked supporters of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) and their leader, Oswald Mosley, from marching down Cable Street in Stepney, Tower Hamlets on October 4 1936.

The area around Cable Street with its significant Jewish population was the target of Mosley’s fascist supporters.

Stephen Dorril, senior lecturer at Huddersfield University and author of Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism, spoke to EastLondonLines: “Cable Street was important because it really stopped the kind of mass big demonstrations and marches by the BUF.”

The battle was a victory for the people of Stepney and is seen as a significant point in the history of the British fight against fascism, according to Dorril.

“Some fascists wanted to have a violent confrontation so that they could accuse the communists, the Jews and the East End of provoking it. But they didn’t, they backed down.”

The Cable Street mural on the side of St George’s Town Hall shows the barricades built by local people from household furniture, planks of wood and mattresses that stopped the fascists from advancing.

Dorril was keen to boost the importance of local people’s actions during the battle: “There are a lot of myths about Cable Street. People think there were big battles between the fascists and the anti-fascists, but there weren’t. Cable Street was really about the East End community coming together to stop Mosley marching.”

Dorril said that the British fascists were “effectively finished after 1936”, largely because of the defeat at Cable Street

“Cable Street was successful in that it showed the Germans Mosley wasn’t the kind of street fighting fascist they thought he might be, or would be willing to support. That also resulted in funding being stopped. The Nazis were only interested in funding him as long as they were being anti-semitic. The people of Cable Street weren’t aware at the time that he [Mosley] had received money from Hitler. It did halt the forward march of fascism in the 1930s and it helped to stop Mosley.”

Dorril said the anti-immigrant sentiment during the 1930s is similar to the what’s happening at the moment with the EU and the refugee crisis: “The East end has always been an area that attracts new immigrants. In the 1950s Mosley was active again around Notting Hill because there were West Indian immigrants coming in, in the 70s it’s Asians and the National Front, and now it’s the EU and UKIP. It keeps replaying itself.”


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