Battle of Cable Street

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Battle of Cable Street
CableStreet.jpg
Flyer distributed by the London Communist Party
Date4 October 1936
Location
51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.5109°N 0.0521°W / 51.5109; -0.0521Coordinates: 51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.5109°N 0.0521°W / 51.5109; -0.0521
Caused byOpposition to a fascist march through East London
MethodsProtest
Resulted inFascist march called off
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

Sir Oswald Mosley

Phil Piratin

Sir Philip Game
Number
3,000
c100,000
6,000
Casualties
Injuries~175
Arrested~150

The Battle of Cable Street was a series of clashes that took place at several locations in the inner East End, most notably Cable Street, on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists[1] led by Oswald Mosley, and various de jure and de facto anti-fascist demonstrators, including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews and socialist groups.[2][3][4] The anti-fascist counter-demonstration included both organised and unaffiliated participants.

Background[edit]

The British Union of Fascists (BUF) had advertised a march to take place on Sunday 4 October 1936, the fourth anniversary of their organisation. Thousands of BUF followers, dressed in their Blackshirt uniform, intended to march through the heart of the East End (an area which then had a large Jewish population).[5]

The BUF would march from Tower Hill and divide into four columns, each heading for one of four open air public meetings where Mosley and others would address gatherings of BUF supporters:[6][7]

The Jewish People's Council organised a petition, calling for the march to be banned, which gathered the signature of 100,000 East Londoners (including the Mayors of five East London Boroughs[8]) in two days.[9]

Numbers involved[edit]

Very large numbers of people took part in the events, in part due to the good weather, but estimates of the numbers of participants vary enormously:

  • Estimates of Fascist participants range from 2,000–3,000[10] up to 5,000.[11]
  • There were 6-7000 policemen, including many mounted mounted police.[12] The Police had wireless vans[11] and a spotter plane[11] sending updates on crowd numbers and movements to Sir Philip Game's HQ, established on a side street by Tower Hill.[11]
  • Estimates of the number of anti-fascist counter-demonstrators range from 100,000[13][14] to 250,000,[15] 300,000,[16] 310,000[17] or more.[18]

Events[edit]

The fascists began to gather at Tower Hill from approximately 2:00 p.m., there were clashes between fascists and anti-fascists at Tower Hill and Mansell Street as they did so, while the anti-fascists also temporarily occupied the Minories. The BUF set up a casualty dressing station in the Tower Hill area, as did their Independent Labour Party and Communist opponents who each had a dressing station.[11]

The main confrontation took place around Gardiner's department store in Whitechapel. Police attempted to clear a route, but the demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the police by women in houses along the street in mêlée fashion. The BUF marchers eventually dispersed towards Hyde Park, while the anti-fascists fought with police. About 150 demonstrators were arrested, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Around 175 people were injured including police, women and children.[19]

Mosley arrived in an open topped black sports car, escorted by Blackshirt motorcyclists, just before 3:30.[20] By this time, his force had formed up in Royal Mint Street and neighbouring streets into a column nearly half a mile long, and was ready to proceed.[20] However, the Police, fearing more severe disorder if the march and meetings went ahead, instructed Mosley to leave the East End, though the BUF were permitted to march in the West End instead.[9]

Aftermath[edit]

Following the battle, the Public Order Act 1936 outlawed the wearing of political uniforms and forced organisers of large meetings and demonstrations to obtain police permission. Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police.[21] The event is frequently cited by modern Antifa movements as "...the moment at which British fascism was decisively defeated"[22][3] although the BUF actually experienced an increase in membership after the event.[23]

Notable participants[edit]

British Union of Fascists[edit]

Metropolitan Police[edit]

Counter-demonstrators[edit]

Many leading British communists were present at the Battle of Cable Street, some of whom partially credited the battle for shaping their political beliefs. Some examples include:

Commemoration[edit]

Between 1979 and 1983, a large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George's Town Hall. It stands in Cable Street, about 150 yards (140 m) west of Shadwell overground station. A red plaque in Dock Street commemorates the incident.[28]

Numerous events were planned in East London for the battle's 75th anniversary in October 2011, including music[29] and a march,[30] and the mural was once again restored. In 2016, to mark the battle's 80th anniversary, a march took place from Altab Ali Park to Cable Street.[31] The march was attended by some of those who were originally involved.[32]

In popular culture[edit]

Commemorative plaque in Dock Street

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cable Street: 'Solidarity stopped Mosley's fascists'". BBC News. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  2. ^ Barling, Kurt (4 October 2011). "Why remember Battle of Cable Street?". Retrieved 16 May 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  3. ^ a b Philpot, Robert. "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  4. ^ "The Battle of Cable Street". www.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  5. ^ hate, HOPE not. "The Battle of Cable Street". www.cablestreet.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Cable Street". History Workshop. Retrieved 16 June 2022. Website shows the original BUF leaflet including exact locations and times
  7. ^ Content taken from Lewis, Jon E. (2008). London, The Autobiography. Constable. p. 401. ISBN 978-1845298753., it comes from the East London Advertiser primary source, and also the books editorial commentary. This source only gives the districts where the meetings would take place, not times or the exact locations.
  8. ^ "ILP souvenir leaflet". Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d Sir Philip Game. "'No pasarán': the Battle of Cable Street". National Archives. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  10. ^ Jones, Nigel, Mosley, Haus, 2004, p. 114
  11. ^ a b c d e f East London Advertiser – reproduced in Lewis, Jon E. (2008). London, The Autobiography. Constable. ISBN 978-1845298753.
  12. ^ Jones, Nigel, Mosley, Haus, 2004, p. 114
  13. ^ Marr, Andrew (2009). The Making of Modern Britain. Macmillan. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-0230709423.
  14. ^ Lewis, Jon E. (2008). London, The Autobiography. Constable. p. 401. ISBN 978-1845298753.
  15. ^ "The official interpretation board at the Cable Street mural". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Independent Labour Party leaflet". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Daily Chronicle, cited in a TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  18. ^ "TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022. It makes reference to contemporary estimates as high as half a million, but does not give a primary source.
  19. ^ Brooke, Mike (30 December 2014). "Historian Bill Fishman, witness to 1936 Battle of Cable Street, dies at 93". News. London. Hackney Gazette. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  20. ^ a b c "Fascist march stopped after disorderly scenes". Guardian newspaper. 5 October 1936. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  21. ^ Kushner, Anthony and Valman, Nadia (2000) Remembering Cable Street: fascism and anti-fascism in British society. Vallentine Mitchell, p. 182. ISBN 0-85303-361-7
  22. ^ Penny, Daniel (22 August 2017). "An Intimate History of Antifa". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  23. ^ Webber, G.C. "Patterns of Membership and Support for the British Union of Fascists". Jstor. Sage Publications Inc. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  24. ^ a b c d e Meddick, Simon; Payne, Simon; Katz, Phil (2020). Red Lives: Communists and the Struggle for Socialism. UK: Manifesto Press Cooperative Limited. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-907464-45-4.
  25. ^ Davis, Mary (16 November 2018). "Remembering Max Levitas – Jewish Communist and last survivor of the Battle of Cable Street". The Morning Star. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  26. ^ "Obituary: Phil Piratin". The Independent. 18 December 1995. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  27. ^ "St John Beverley Groser (1890-1966) and Michael Groser (1918-2009)". St George in the East. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  28. ^ "Battle of Cable Street - Dock Street". London Remembers. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  29. ^ Phil Katz. "Communist Party – Communist Party". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  30. ^ Cable Street 75. "Cable Street 75". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  31. ^ Brooke, Mike. "'They Shall Not Pass' message from the past for Battle of Cable Street 80th anniversary". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  32. ^ Rod McPhee (1 October 2016). "'We still haven't learned the lesson of the Battle of Cable Street 80 years on'". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court, London". The Independent. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Ghosts of Cable Street". Song Lyrics. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  35. ^ "Upstairs Downstairs – episode synopses". BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  36. ^ Follett, Ken (2012). Winter of the World. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781509848522.
  37. ^ "Cable Street" – via www.youtube.com.
  38. ^ "Mark Reads 'Night Watch': Part 15". Mark Reads. Retrieved 23 May 2021.

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