I finally made it to Cable Street in the East End of London. Over the years I have read a lot about the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ and have been inspired by the story of ordinary people standing up to oppressors and bullies. It looks like an ordinary (but very long) London street but the fact that it has an important place in anti-fascist history makes it an important place to visit.
My destination was the mural in the Shadwell area that commemorated the Battle. The mural itself has been attacked several times since it was created in the 70s. One of the artists, Paul Butler, restored it in 2011.
The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts, or the British Union of Fascists as they were officially called, and those who opposed fascism. They included Jewish, socialist, Irish and communist groups. As with all far right marches, the location was chosen to be provocative. This was an area with a large number of Jewish residents. The police were there to protect the marchers. An estimated 100,000 anti-fascist demonstrators turned out. 6,000 police tried to keep the march open but barricades had been erected across the street. After fights in the street, Mosley agreed to abandon the march and the fascists did not get to walk along Cable Street.
The notion of ‘They Shall Not Pass’ came from the Spanish Civil War and, in this case, the anti-fascists were successful. It is an inspiring story, worthy of a mural and important to remember in these times when far right groups threaten to march again.
Cable Street is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?