Bravery of Cable Street fighters saluted at 80th anniversary events


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has praised the courage of the East Enders who took on Oswald Mosley's fascists at the Battle of Cable Street.

Speaking at an event to mark the 80th anniversary of the day in 1936 when Jews and non-Jews united to prevent far-right extremists from entering the East End, Rabbi Mirvis said: “Tens of thousands of people were determined to guarantee that the fascist march would not happen."

“Today we salute their bravery and their heroism."

He added: “Eighty years after Cable Street, our society continues to be threatened by those who wish to destroy the stability and harmony within our ranks

“And today we are particularly concerned with the rise of antisemitism. There should be no place for such sentiment or such actions – we need to have zero tolerance for racism, for xenophobia, for antisemitism, within each and every political party, there should be zero tolerance for antisemitism, and so too within the nation’s institutions and organisations.”

The commemoration, organised by London Jewish Forum, was also attended by Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador, and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth, John Mann, Rushanara Ali, Stephen Timms and Meg Hillier were also present at Shoreditch town hall.

Mrs Smeeth recalled how her grandmother, a young child at the time, had prepared rotten fruit to throw at the fascists.

Her great-uncle had also gone around bars and pool halls in the area, collecting wood to be used as clubs, and money to bribe Metropolitan Police officers to warn of Mosley's Blackshirts.

“If we’ve learned anything from our history over the last 80 years, it is that we need to keep the fighting the fight against this ideology”, she said.

“That the job is never ever done, because people forget. They forget who we are and where we come from.

“Today is important not just because of the stories or the history, but because we need to continue to remind people.

“I call on all of you here today to make sure that your friends, your family, your workplaces all understand what it meant and they understand the fight that we will have to have next, because we are not done fighting.”

Mr Khan said that anyone who cared about London had to understand its history.

He said: “The Battle of Cable Street is not simply folklore; it’s reality.

“The history is this; there were Londoners who were being blamed for the misfortune of others, who felt simply being who they were was a crime and was wrong.

“Now it was possible on that day for that minority to be left on their own. What happened instead; their neighbours, their friends, others, came together to show to the fascists that ‘you’re not going to divide us’.

“And I think that lesson is so powerful, not only in 1936, but in 2016 as well.”

Earlier in the day members of the Jewish, Muslim and Irish communities joined with trade unionists for a commemorative march and rally.

The march, organised by the Unite union, attracted several hundred people who displayed banners and chanted "No pasaran" ("they shall not pass"), the battle-cry of the Cable Street fighters.

Members of the Jewish Labour Movement were out in force.

“JLM and, in our former incarnation, as Poale Zion, has always been at the heart of anti-fascist activity in the UK”, said Jeremy Newmark, chair of the group.

“It’s important that the mainstream Jewish Zionist community took their place here today.”

Sarah Sackman, JLM vice chair, said: “I think it is a day to remember the contribution the Jewish East Enders made.

“Jews from across the political spectrum people who just happened to live in the East End. Socialists, Communists, and also non-Jews as well, who stood in solidarity with the Jewish community.

“So it is a day, I think, to put aside contemporary frictions and tensions and to remember the message of Cable Street, which is about standing up for what we believe in, standing up against fascism and hate and antisemitism in whatever form it comes.”

Leon Silver, president of the East London Central Synagogue, said he remembered his parents telling him about the moment 80 years ago when the Blackshirts were turned away.

“And I remember them telling me that a week or two after the Battle of Cable Street there was what was known as the Mile End Pogrom – 200 fascists ran through Mile End attacking Jewish people.

“The struggle does go on, unfortunately, and many of the things were said about the Muslim community during the big immigration of the Bangladeshis to the area were the identical things that were said at the turn of the 20th century about Jewish people.

“These appalling things that were said have been repeated over and over about other communities. So we have that in common and that’s why it’s so essential that we stand together.”

Speaking at the culmination of the parade, in St George’s Gardens, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, attacked “those around that try to divide our communities and drive a wedge between us.

“You can always find a minority to blame for everything and then you've created the hatred and the vileness in society that creates the distrust".

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive