Dilemma: what would you do?

By East End Walks
October 11, 2009

Another October 4th has passed. For many people around the world the date may not mean anything special but for Jews with a sense of history, for anti-fascists, and for people who have lived for generations in London's East End, the date is special. It was on 4th October 1936 that the people of the East End - Jew and non-Jew - stopped Mosley's blackshirts invading their area and inciting hatred, in a huge and united anti-fascist demonstration of people's power.

But fascism wasn't just defeated on the streets. What happened during the late 1930s on housing estates was just as important. Mosley had tried to tell non-Jews living in miserable conditions that they had bad housing because the Jews had good housing when the reality was that both Jew and non-Jew in the East End suffered miserable housing conditions. This was brought home to potential recruits to Mosley's party through the activities of the Stepney Tenants Defence League (STDL) - which brought all tenants across religious/ethnic divides into a united battle against all bad landlords whether Jewish or non-Jewish.

But a strange thing happened on a certain East End housing estate in 1937. There were five families about to be evicted. Two of them did not want any help for the Defence League which was closely associated with the Communist Party. The two families in question were members of Mosley's British Union of Fascists. The STDL knew that the only way any of the evictions could be fought would be through a completely united campaign of the whole estate.

But what of these two families who were members of a party that was inciting non-Jew against Jew in the East End that was fanning the flames of hatred, that waws engaging in physical assaults. Would you leave them to rot or offer them help?

If you want to know what actually happened, well instead of reading on, you should come on the guided walk: "ANTI-FASCIST FOOTPRINTS: A WALK THROUGH THE 1930s EAST END FROM GARDINERS CORNER TO CABLE STREET which is taking place at 11am on Sunday October 18th. You can book a place online at www.eastendwalks.com


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