Thursday, 22 September 2011

Just a week to go now!

Congratulations to all the supporters and followers of Cable Street 75, along with the Cable Street Group and affiliated unions and organisations. We're nearly there!

It will be a special event, just as previous Cable Street anniversary celebrations have been, only we think it even more important; in the aftermath of a recession, just like in 1936, our tolerant, diverse society is being attacked in London, the UK and throughout the world.

So it's crucial: come out on the 2nd of October, support the event, invite your friends and have fun. But when you get home, don't stop there; in your local organisations and communities, continue the work of those before you who have fought against fascism, and won.

In 1936, 1978 or 2011, remember one thing: they shall not pass!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Growing and growing

 First things first, we've been experiencing enormous growth in the last few weeks, with new organisations signing up almost every day.

Below is a complete list:

Southern & Eastern Region TUC
Hope Not Hate
Altab Ali Memorial Foundation
Searchlight Educational Trust
Bangladesh Youth Union
Jewish Socialists’ Group
International Brigades Memorial Trust
Brent Trades Council
London Anti-Racist Alliance
Communist Party of Britain
Young Communist League
Cities of London and Westminster
Trades Council
NUT Islington Teachers’ Association
Greater London Association of
Trades Councils
UNISON Greater London Region
NUT East London Teachers’ Association
Philosophy Football
National Clarion Cycling Club 1895
Socialist History Society
Greater London Pensioners Association
Connolly Association
Bangladesh Welfare Association
Swadhinata Trust
Nirmul Committee
Bangladesh Udichi Shilpi Gosthi
United Platform Against Racism & Fascism
Morning Star
Five Leaves Publications
Jewish Labour Movement
Lambeth Trades Council
Harrow Trades Council
Ealing Trades Council
CWU London Region
Croydon Trades Council
London Co-operative Party
Harlow TUC

As always, we're happy to add more names on the list, and if you'd like to affiliate, visit our website or email us.

Secondly, we have a new website up at, including the start of what we hope will be an extensive history section.

Lastly, our new 6-page leaflet, in English and Bengali, is avaliable to download here. If you'd like copies for publication, just let us know!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Battle of Cable Street: - Searchlight, October 1996 - Harold Smith

Harold Smith was an active anti-fascist in the 1930s. An 18-year-old office worker at the time, he told Searchlight what he remembers of 4 October 1936.
In the summer of 1936 there was a whole building up of fascist activity in London. I was 18. There was this tension because Mosley was doing relatively well, not popular, but he had a certain amount of support from people who were not only fascists. There was a feeling that he had to be stopped. There were skirmishes building up to Cable Street and earlier, in 1934, there had been the famous Olympia meeting where anti-fascists had been severely beaten. In September the fascists had a big rally in Hyde Park. That summer was one of those hot summers where things were just going to happen. The Labour Party had taken the view that people should not come out, the Board of Deputies of British Jews had taken the same stand: "Stay away, don't make a fuss". The Communist Party, the Independent Labour Party and other factions said: "No we've got to stop them"
I lived in Highbury in North London, and on the day we all gathered at Highbury Corner and trundled off to Cable Street. We never got there of course. The point that I'd like to make now, and I always make it, is that Mosley was not beaten in Cable Street itself. It was a side issue, a skirmish really. What he was beaten by was the fact that, who knows the real figure, hundreds of thousands of people just stood there. People like to romanticise things, but what stopped Mosley was that when you got to Gardiners Corner you just couldn't move.
I happened to be there fairly early. We got right to the centre and it was hopeless. We just stood there. There was no shouting, no violence, no sectarianism, no holding up of this party banner or that party banner. We all just stood there. There was no singing, it was really quite incredible. It must have been one of the biggest civil disobedience actions in British labour history. There were no paper sellers, you couldn't have sold the Daily Worker because you couldn't get in between the crowds. It was like a festive occasion. I think that when the police saw that they would have to get Mosley through that crowd they called it off. The hostility locally was so deep seated.
The significance of Cable Street is that it was one of the great turning points in a sense. Although Mosley wasn't defeated he did quite well in elections the following year in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. In a sense you could say that he saw what could be done against him and it marked the beginning of the decline. It's always held as a great moment in history, and I think it is in that sense. Nothing has happened since like that.
It was a welling up of feeling. People saw Mosley as symbolising Hitler. Jewish people in the East End certainly did anyway. I think the fear of Hitler meant that people said: "We're not going to have it here". The anti-semitism in Britain produced the followers of Mosley, but the other side of that was that it produced people that opposed the followers of Mosley. It was a sort of continuing battlefield. Cable Street was only the high point.
There was Long Lane in Bermondsey in 1937. There were skirmishes and fighting in the street for hours. I remember taking part in that. I never saw the fascists and we ended up fighting with the police. We were looking for the fascists and trying to see what was going on and we saw five policemen battering this anti-fascist on the pavement. The police always tended to defend the fascists on the grounds that we were causing the disturbance.
When we saw the police knocking this guy about we got some bricks and paving and picked them up and threw them at the police. They promptly ran, and frankly I can't blame them. Long Lane was a series of guerrilla warfares for hours all over Bermondsey.
There was a rumour that someone had been killed that was quite untrue. We didn't know what was going on except that we had to be there and they had to be stopped.
There were other things. I heard William Joyce speak in Finsbury Park once. A good speaker, abusive in his rasping voice. He just came to annoy and taunt the crowd. I heard Mosley speak at the Alexander Hall when he was a Labour MP and the next time I heard him speak he was a fascist at the Albert Hall. The platform was empty, very dramatic and stage-managed with flags and lights. The meetings he held were fierce and violent. There were pitched battles at some meetings. In the end the war came and he never really came back.
I would say to young people today, never give up, the power is in your hands. To paraphrase a famous dictum: "All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing".

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cable Street 75 News

First things first, a number of societies and organisations have joined the Cable Street campaign. Here's a list of the  most recent ones:

Lambeth TUC
Morning Star
Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils
East London Teachers' Association
Jewish Labour Movement
Philosophy Football
Unison London Region
Clarion Cycling Club
Greater London Pensioners
Socialist History Society

There are new organisations joining all the time; contact us if your group, campaign or union is interested. 

 As for the rally itself, we can confirm that Bob Crow will be speaking at the event. There will be a full list of speakers published later on. 

With the riots in London, tensions are high in the city, especially in Working-class areas. But so is solidarity, and that's why we ask you to sign Hope Not Hate's petition to ban the EDL from marching in Tower Hamlets at the start of September. You can find the petition here.

For more frequent news updates, stay tuned to our constant streams on twitter, facebook or at our new website.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Charlie Goodman speaks about the battle; from Searchlight 1996

The Battle of Cable Street: - Searchlight, October 1996 - Charlie Goodman

Charlie Goodman's arrest on 4 October 1936 was notable for two things - the sheer brutality of the police and the guts of this 16 year-old kid who faced up to them.
At one point in the battle at Gardiner's Corner, when after literally hours of police charges the crowd retreated a bit, Charlie climbed up a lamp post and shouted at the top of his voice: "Don't be yellow bellies, forward, we are winning". The police eventually caught up with him in Commercial Road and he was clubbed, punched and kicked all the way to Leman Street police station. (Things have not changed much. How many Asians have suffered similarly at that police station in the last 15 years?)
Charlie's wife, Joy, remembers his act of defiance. Though only 12 years old, she too was in the front line that day. Four years later she met Charlie and later they married. She recalls that when she met him, she asked whether he was the nutcase up the lamp post. When he Said he was, she knew he was just her type.
As Charlie staggered home after a second beating inside the police station, his head wrapped in bandages, he was stopped by an elderly Jewish women who asked whether he had been in the fighting. He thought she might disapprove if he said yes, and he also felt that his was but a small part in the day's events, so he said he had not been involved. To his surprise and joy, she said: "A curse on you that you did not fight this day". It sounds a bit like something out of Henry V, but that's how the community felt by the end of the battle. In the morning before the battle even started, any man not heading towards Aldgate was abused by old people on the street.
Charlie was sentenced to a few months' hard labour and found himself in the same prison as Arnold Leese, leader of the Imperial Fascist League. Leese got into some difficulties when he was given light duties In the prison tailoring ship. Apparently, most days he 'fell' down the stairs.
The Jewish authorities took a harsher view of those who were arrested in the fight than they did of a Jew in prison for committing a crime. The influential Henriques family, who were great philanthropists in the East End, were much hated for their attitude towards the anti-fascist movement. Joy Goodman was expelled from her youth club for selling the Young Communist League newspaper Chailenge. When she pointed out that pro-Mosley papers like the Mail and the London Evening News could be had at the club, but not one that stood up for the Jewish minority's rights, Lady Henriques told her she was incorrigible.
Charlie went off to Spain to fight for the Republic. Later he joined the British Army and was wounded at Dunkirk. His injury kept him in hospital for more than a year.
He recalls that in 1940 his Commanding Officer asked for men with fighting experience to come forward. When Charlie Said he had been in the International Brigade, the CO said he did not mean that kind of experience, he meant men who had served in India and the like. After the Soviet Union entered the war, ex-International Brigaders got rapid promotion because of their experience in modern wariare.
Since the war the Goodmans have earned the love and respect of East Enders through their work as tenants' leaders. Charlie and Joy did not give up the struggle agailnst fascism. In 1962 when Mosley tried to speak at Victoria Park Square, Charlie, who was then a member of the local police watch committee, and his two sons were arrested. Joy was also taken Into custody but released because she was pregnant.
Charlie told Searchlight: "The struggle of the people agalnst fascism and racism must go on today. Jews must be made aware that the plight of the Asians is no different from the sufferings of their own parents and grand-parents. The religious divisions within the Asian community, the generation gap, even the exploitation by sweat shop owners of their communities, all have their parallels in the 1930s In the Jewish community of the East End.
"The names change, the streets are the Same, and so are the problems. The glorious struggle of 1936 must be remembered today."

Monday, 11 July 2011

Event Details: Rally and March

11.30am Aldgate East (junction of Braham Street and Leman Street) 

1.00pm St George-in-the-East Gardens (off Cable Street)

On 4 October 1936 London’s East End took to the streets to stop Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts from marching through its then largely Jewish districts. Communists, socialists and trade unionists led one of the largest – and most successful – mobilisations of Britain’s working class ever to have taken place.
The fascists came to the area to divide Jews and non-Jews but were faced with a community that united against the threat. Come and join the march and rally to remember that historic victory and to send a powerful message of unity against the forces of fascism, racism and antisemitism today.

Supporters include:
South East Region TUC
Cities of London and Westminster Trade Council
Hope Not Hate
Altab Ali Memorial Trust
Islington Teachers' Association
Searchlight Educational Trust
Bangladesh Youth Union
Jewish Socialists’ Group
International Brigades Memorial Trust
Brent Trades Council
London Anti-Racist Alliance
Communist Party of Britain
Young Communist League

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Alf Salisbury speaks about the Battle

The Battle of Cable Street; from Searchlight, October 1996.
Alf Salisbury was 27 when the Battle of Cable Street took place. Unemployed and living in Stepney at the time, he told Searchlight how anti-fascists organised the callout on the day to stop the fascists. He also recounted how Cable Street inspired him to go and fight with the International Brigades in Spain.

"I was involved in the Stepney Branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement. We had a lot of unemployed, in fact the highest unemployment figures in the country. Part of our policy was to secure benefits and call for full employment at trade union rates, but we were also an anti-fascist organisation because of the area in which we lived.

We became involved in fighting against fascism because we saw Hitler come to power in 1933 and we saw what was happening in Germany. We decided we had to do something because of the nature of our area, which had so many Jewish people. There were many attacks on Jewish people by the fascists. They came in from outside, held their meetings in Bethnal Green and used to plan their next attack against the Jewish people.

I was the acting secretary at the time of the Stepney branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement. We met as a committee when we heard that Mosley was going to try to come through Cable Street. We decided we'd got to do something. It was about 50-50 on our committee of Jewish and non-Jewish people. We decided to follow the call of the local Communist Party and other organisations who were appealing to everybody to stop Mosley in his tracks from coming through Stepney. By that time people had got to know something about the atrocities in Germany so it wasn't that difficult in my opinion to get people to come to Gardiners Corner and Leman Street, the area through which he was going to come into Cable Street.

So we went around with a platform on the Sunday morning, 4 October, and went into street after street for at least three hours calling on the people to come out. We started at eight in the morning, when very few people are around. We woke people up, on the whole most people were supportive. We urged them to come out to Gardiners Corner and Leman Street. In the meantime other organisations were appealing to the Catholics as well to come out. That was a very important thing because of the docks. There were thousands working down the docks, many who were Catholics. Because of their strong tradition of trade unionism they didn't like fascism. Our job was to appeal to all and sundry. We succeeded in getting a lot of people out that perhaps were hesitating.

It ended up where we figured that over 300,000 people had gathered at Leman Street, Gardiners Corner and Aldgate generally. When Mosley got to Royal Mint Street they stopped. There were hundreds of fascists, mainly youngsters who were quite ignorant and who were unemployed. It was easy for them when they offered them sandwiches and places to sleep and that kind of thing.
Nonetheless, we stood our ground and the police at the finish had to tell them "you can't go through". In the meantime some of our people got arrested, more than a hundred to my memory were arrested and taken to Leman Street Police Station. People were mainly fined.

Cable Street meant that there was a better awareness of what fascism meant in terms of a future war. Quite a number of people became politicised. The Jewish Board of Deputies took the line that we shouldn't do anything, "stay off the streets", but we didn't accept that. Hence you had 300,000 people on the day.¨The anti-fascist movement became the focus after Cable Street. We linked the question of unemployment with anti-fascism. The link was that if you are not careful and become complacent, then fascism takes advantage. We had to tell the unemployed that they were the target of fascism.

Before Cable Street the fascists were very busy in Bethnal Green. Members of the Communist Party in the main started taking up cases of rents. Everybody was grumbling, especially in the tenements. They said "our rents keep going up" "we can't get any repairs" and so on and they were threatened with being thrown out. So we took up their cases. There was a Stepney Tenants Defence League but different tenements had different organisations. A lot of the cases were with non-Jewish people and as a result of the work we kept them away from fascism. Many of the people whose cases we took up became active afterwards.

One of the heroes of that period was the Chairman of Stepney Communist Party, Phil Piratin. I think he was a marvellous person. He became a councillor and he was able to exert a lot of influence amongst the non-Jewish councillors as well. There was one or two that were moving in the direction of fascism at that time. After the war, of course, Piratin became an MP.

I was just one of a number of people who, as a result of what happened at Cable Street, felt that we had to do something to defeat fascism, to take up arms against it. Otherwise there would not only be many dead, but they would also throw us back a thousand years. I went to Spain, the Communist Party were the prime organisers of this. I went to Spain in February 1937. I was an unemployed seaman. I was with the British Battalion, the Major Attlee Company.

The lesson of Cable Street is that young people have got to be aware of not only what happened in the past, but also of what may happen again if we are not vigilant. That is the most important message that I could give to anybody."