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."