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."

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Cable Street Mural

This Mural was painted in the 1970s and 80s, including a repainting in 1980 when it was defaced, on St. George's Town Hall. By Dave Binnington, Paul Butler, Denis Rochfort and the late Ray Walker.
It's currently undergoing restoration for the events in October.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Phil Piratin, the Red Commander of Cable Street

A short biography of the famous Cable Street activist (and later Communist London MP) Phil Piratin. Courtesy of Robert Griffiths

If there was a 'commander in chief' at the Battle of Cable Street, it was Phil Piratin. He would not have described himself as such, preferring to say that 'the working class had won the day'.
  But his house in New Road was the centre of operations on that Sunday, October 4, 1936.
  Piratin was born in 1907, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. He grew up in Stepney, East London, one of Britain's poorest areas. After spells in the fur and other trades, and a period at sea, he began his own small business.
  In June 1934, he protested outside the Olympia indoor arena where Sir Oswald and his British Union of Fascists were holding a mass rally. As the Blackshirts brutally attacked hecklers inside the stadium, the police battled to hold back thousands of anti-fascists outside.
  Piratin heard one of the mounted police officers shout at the crowd: 'Get back to your slums, you Communist bastards!' He went back to Stepney and joined the Communist Party.
  His own organising skills played a central role in stopping Mosley two years later. But he also argued strongly that violence alone would not end the appeal of fascism among working class people.
  As Stepney CP branch secretary, he drove local communists and their allies to take up the problems of the poor and unemployed. His fearless work among tenants - many of them fascist party members or supporters - led directly to the formation of the Stepney Tenants' Defence League. Its militant campaigning against slum landlords inspired similar developments across London and beyond.
  It also led to his election to the local council in 1937, the first of what became a group of 12 Communist Party councillors in the borough.
  During the Second World War, he threw himself into the party's huge campaign for Air Raid Precaution measures to defend the working class from aerial bombing, becoming an ARP warden himself. When the blitz began, the rich and powerful took refuge in underground shelters, while the rest of the population remained on the surface.
  Piratin led a legion of East Enders to occupy the deep luxurious shelter used by the 'Savoy Hotel parasites', making world-wide news. Other local communist leaders broke open the gates to London Underground stations.
  It came as no surprise to Piratin when he was elected MP for Stepney Mile End in 1945. He then worked with communist MP Willie Gallacher and a group of left-wing Labour MPs - most of them soon expelled - to oppose the Cold War drive against the Soviet Union, communism and socialism.
  That may have contributed to his defeat in the 1950 General Election, although merger with the neghbouring constituency was the main factor.
  Piratin subseqently became business manager with the Daily Worker, rebuilt his own enterprises and raised funds for the Communist Party.
  His memoir of Stepney and Cable Street, Our Flag Stays Red, first published in 1948, remains a text-book for left-wing local activism.
  The first full account of his extraordinary life, The Red Road: A Political Biography of Phil Piratin MP by Kevin Marsh, will be published by Manifesto Press in October this year.

Cable Street 75 Meets

Representatives from 15 trade union, community and political organisations met on Monday evening to discuss plans for a march and rally on October 2, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 'Battle of Cable Street'.
Political director of Unite, Steve Hart, welcomed everyone to the union's headquarters in London and said he was 'immensely proud' of the role played by dockers and transport workers in blocking the path of Sir Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts.
'Now as then, Britain's biggest union is wholeheartedly committed to the fight against fascism', he declared. 
'As well as paying tribute to the 250,000 people who stopped the fascists from marching through London's East End, this year's events will reaffirm our determination that the racists and fascists will not capitalise on the economic crisis today', announced Bill Greenshields, chair of the Cable Street 75 mobilising committee.
Among the organisations represented at Monday's meeting were Unite, the RMT union, the South East Region TUC, Tower Hamlets Unison, Brent Trades Council, the Altab Ali Association, the Jewish Socialists Group, the Bangladeshi Youth Union, the Islamic Community Trust, Searchlight Hope Not Hate campaign, the London Anti-Racist Alliance, the Young Communist League and the International Brigades Memorial Trust.
Over the first weekend in October, as well as the Sunday march and rally, a series of other anti-fascist events is being organised in London by the IBMT and the local Cable Street Group.

Other Events: 75th Anniversary of Cable Street programme


The following events ARE NOT PRODUCED by cablestreet75; details of our events will follow shortly. Presented by the Cable Street Group. Produced by Alternative Arts
WILTON’S MUSIC HALL 020 7702 9555
1 Graces Alley E1 8JB Shadwell station
Aldgate and Aldgate East tube

Admission Free
A programme of events and exhibitions to celebrate and commemorate the Battle of Cable Street and the continuous struggle against racism, fascism and all forms of hate crime.

12noon – 6pm

STALLS all along Graces Alley by campaigning groups, local organisations and supporters with street theatre and music by La Columna, The Lost Marbles, The Fairly Fresh Fish Co, Klezmania and The Cockney Awkestra. 


Exhibition specially commissioned by the Cable Street Group with photography documenting the actual Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936, posters from the Spanish Civil War, images recording the past 25 years of protest against racial discrimination by Phil Maxwell and portraits of the diverse communities of the East End today by documentary photographers Kalin Coromina, Ned Dyke-Coomes, Zane Mellupe, Lydia Polzer, Ben Speck and Neil White.
This exhibition was first shown at the 70th Anniversary celebrations on Sunday 8 October 2006.
‘Protest and Survive’ will be transferred from Wilton’s to the Tower Hamlets Local History Library during October and exhibited as part of Photomonth East London – International Photography Festival.


Specially commissioned concert by a group of 30 diverse talented young musicians who play an amazing range of instruments under the leadership of Tony Haynes, director of the Grand Union Orchestra. Immersed in elements of music that span the globe this ensemble is outfitted with instruments from all cultures, blending Indian ragas and Turkish melodies with Latin rhythms and African drumming, a pinch of Jazz and European harmony.


BOOK LAUNCH and Reception
Five Leaves is publishing or republishing five books to celebrate the 75th Anniversary.
Originally published by The Cable Street Group as a pamphlet, now being published as a small book.
A reprint of a long-forgotten novel by Frank Griffin, with a new introduction by Andy Croft, an expert on the literature of the period.
STREET OF TALL PEOPLE by Alan Gibbons, a re-issue of the children’s book aimed at 10-13 year olds.
David Rosenberg’s new book on Jewish responses to homegrown fascism in the 1930s.
A new title by local author Roger Mills bringing the history of Cable Street up to date and covering everything from the Maltese gangs of the 1950s to films based around Cable Street such as To Sir, With Love and Tunde’s Film.
There will be readings and signings followed by a panel discussion about relevant literature of the 1930s and beyond. All the books will be on sale directly from the publisher and the authors present will be available to sign copies.


REBELS IN THE 1930s – working class writers
A panel discussion with Andy Croft author of Red Letter Days, Ken Worpole author of Dockers and Detectives, Mary Joannou author of Ladies, Please Don’t Smash These Windows: Women’s Writing, Feminsim and Social Change 1918-1938 and chaired by Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves Publishing.


The Cable Street Group proudly presents ‘They Shall Not Pass’.
A star spangled evening presenting a great variety of performers in a show celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street with poets, singers, choirs, comics and bands including Raised Voices , Shappi Khorsandi, Mike Rosen, Sandra Kerr, Leon Rosselson, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and many more……..
Programme subject to alteration and addition.
Produced by Alternative Arts for The Cable Street Group

Tuesday 4 october


Special Preview of a new film made by Phil Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim