Battle of Cable Street

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Battle of Cable Street
Flyer distributed by the London Communist Party
Date4 October 1936
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
Resulted inFascist march called off
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

Sir Oswald Mosley

Phil Piratin

Sir Philip Game

The Battle of Cable Street was an event that took place in Cable Street and Whitechapel in the East End of London, 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 anti-fascist demonstrators, including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews, Irish dockers, and socialist groups.[2][3][4][5] The majority of both marchers and counter-protesters travelled into the area for this purpose.


It had become known that the British Union of Fascists (BUF) were organising a march to take place on Sunday 4 October 1936, sending thousands of marchers dressed in their Blackshirt uniform through the heart of the East End (an area which then had a large Jewish population).[6] An estimated 100,000 residents of the area petitioned then Home Secretary John Simon to ban the march because of the strong likelihood of violence. He refused, and sent a police escort in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protesters from disrupting the march.[7]


The anti-fascist groups built roadblocks in an attempt to prevent the march from taking place. The barricades were constructed near the junction with Christian Street in Stepney, towards the west end of this long street. The main confrontation took place around Gardiner's department store in Whitechapel. An estimated 20,000 anti-fascist demonstrators turned out, and were met by 6,000–7,000 policemen (including mounted police), who attempted to clear the road to permit the march of 2,000–3,000 fascists to proceed.[8] 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. After a series of running battles, Mosley agreed to abandon the march to prevent bloodshed.[citation needed] The BUF marchers were dispersed towards Hyde Park instead while the anti-fascists rioted 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.[7] In the end, Mosley ordered the Blackshirts to retreat. Police escorted them back to central London.[4]


Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police.[9]

Battle of Cable Street as reported in BUF Blackshirt

Following the battle The Public Order Act of 1936 outlawed the wearing of political uniforms and forced organisers of large meetings and demonstrations to obtain police permission.

Between 1979 and 1983, a large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George's Town Hall. This building was originally the vestry hall for the area and later the town hall of Stepney Borough Council. It stands in Cable Street, about 150 yards (140 m) west of Shadwell overground station. A red plaque in Dock Street commemorates the incident.[10]

Numerous events were planned in East London for the battle's 75th anniversary in October 2011, including music[11] and a march,[12] 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.[13] The march was attended by some of those who were originally involved.[14]

The BUF experienced an increase in membership afterwards.[15]

The event is frequently cited by modern Antifa movements, as well as "...the moment at which British fascism was decisively defeated".[16][4]

Many leading British communists were present at the Battle of Cable Street. Some examples include, Bill Alexander the commander of the International Brigade's British Battalion, Charlie Hutchison one of the liberators of Belsen concentration camp and the only black British volunteer to join the International Brigades, and pioneering journalist and war correspondent Alan Winnington, were all present and partially credit the battle for shaping their political beliefs.

In popular culture[edit]

Commemorative plaque in Dock Street
  • The song "Cable Street" by British folk trio The Young'uns tells the story of the confrontation from the perspective of a young anti-fascist fighter.[1]
  • The book 'Night Watch' by Terry Pratchett features a Battle of Cable Street which is a blend of references to the 1936 protests and riots in London and the French Revolution.

See also[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
  3. ^ O'Shea, Joe. "Battle of Cable Street: when the Irish helped beat back the fascists". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Philpot, Robert. "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  5. ^ "The Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  6. ^ hate, HOPE not. "The Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b 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.
  8. ^ Jones, Nigel, Mosley, Haus, 2004, p. 114
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ "Battle of Cable Street - Dock Street". London Remembers. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  11. ^ Phil Katz. "Communist Party – Communist Party". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  12. ^ Cable Street 75. "Cable Street 75". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  13. ^ Brooke, Mike. "'They Shall Not Pass' message from the past for Battle of Cable Street 80th anniversary". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Levine, Joshua, 1970-. Dunkirk : the history behind the major motion picture. London. p. 46. ISBN 0-00-825893-7. OCLC 964378409.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Penny, Daniel (22 August 2017). "An Intimate History of Antifa". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court, London". The Independent. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2017.

External links[edit]