The East End of London has long been a melting pot. My own experience of working within several East London boroughs has been both fascinating and positive. The chance to meet, work with, talk to and train colleagues from so many different cultural, religious, national and racial backgrounds has been a boon and an education. I’ve met and learned from so many people whose experiences and approach to life has only ever enhanced my own.
Just as it is today, the East End was home to a diverse, multicultural community and then. Just as now, outsiders with a political axe to grind saw the area as a target to stir up trouble.
On Sunday October 4th 1936 the British Union of Fascists, a group of Nazi sympathisers led by Oswald Moseley planned a march into the East End in opposition to the area’s Jewish residents. The BUF drew its members from all over the UK, expecting to overwhelm the locals with their numbers. Moseley had pulled out all the stops to get up to 5,000 fascists to descend upon London on that fateful afternoon. You can watch a newsreel from the day here.
Then, as now the locals were having none of it. Fascists, racists and religious hate-mongers have never been welcome in Britain and no matter how hard they try they never manage to outnumber the opposition when they descend upon a town, city or Borough.
The Battle of Cable Street was a major turning point in the fortunes of the paramilitarised, uniformed British Union of Fascists. This was the day that ordinary British people showed them exactly what they thought of racism, Nazism and Fascism and it wasn’t pretty.
Today’s uniformed (and uninformed) fascists might do well to take notice.
The impact that Cable Street had on the British Anti-Fascist movement is perhaps best illustrated in this song ‘The ghosts of Cable Street’, written by ‘The men they couldn’t hang’ in 1986 to celebrate the battle’s 50th anniversary. Like Cable Street’s legacy itself, the song has stood the test of time. Click here to play the video.