The free online magazine for news and views from Cradley, Storridge & Mathon
editor@okcradley.com editor@okcradley.com editor: Ken Nason features editor: Harold Armitage
49
May/June 2024
Street brawls between fascists on one side and ‘Antifa’, communists and anarchists on the other. Although this may sound like something from the news of Portland, USA in 2020, this is East London in 1936. The 1930s was a period of seismic political change throughout Europe. Fascist dictators took power in Germany, Italy and Romania and left wing and communist movements rebelled against expanding fascism in countries like Spain. In Britain, this tension culminated in a violent event in the East London area of Stepney, on Cable Street. The murderous pogroms in Russia and elsewhere in Europe had lead to many Jewish refugees arriving in the East End of London from the early 1900s. Stepney at the time was one of the poorest and most densely populated suburbs of London and many new immigrants settled in the area. By the 1930s the East End had a distinct Jewish population and culture. Sir Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Mosley met Mussolini in early 1932 and very much admired and modelled himself on the dictator. Mosley even created a new, sinister organisation – The Blackshirts – a quasi-military group of around 15,000 thugs, modelled on Mussolini’s Squadrismo. Mosley with Mussolini The Blackshirts were known for their violence, after attacking a left-wing Daily Worker meeting in Olympia in June 1934. Much like elsewhere in Europe, there was growing antisemitism in Britain in the 1930s, partly as a scapegoat for the ongoing effects from the Great Depression. But as the number of fascists was growing, so too was the opposition against them. Trade unionists, communists as well as the Jewish community were becoming increasingly mobilised. When Mosley announced a march into the heart of the Jewish community in the East End of London, planned for Sunday 4th October 1936, the community was in disbelief and it was a clear provocation. The Jewish People’s Council presented a petition of 100,000 names to urge the Home Secretary to ban the march. But, the BUF had the support of the press and police, and with the Daily Mail running headlines in the 1930s such as “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” the government failed to ban the march and the people of the East End set about organising to defend themselves. In the lead up to the march the Blackshirts held meetings on the edge of the East End and distributed leaflets designed to whip up antisemitism in the area. The Daily Worker called people to the streets on the day of the march, to block Mosley’s way. There were many who were worried about violence and the Jewish Chronicle warned its readers to stay home on the day. Many other groups such as the communists and Irish Dockers encouraged the defence of the diverse community from fascist intimidation. The Communist Party even cancelled a planned demonstration in Trafalgar Square and redirected its supporters to the East End.
The Battle of Cable Street On 4th October 1936 the people of the East End of London halted the march of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts through Stepney, in what became known as The Battle of Cable Street…
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editor@okcradley.com
editor@okcradley.com editor: Ken Nason features editor: Harold Armitage
okcradley.com
The free online magazine for news and views from Cradley, Storridge & Mathon
49
June 24
Solutions according to Religion
The Battle of Cable Street On 4th October 1936 the people of the East End of London halted the march of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts through Stepney, in what became known as The Battle of Cable Street…
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