Friday, October 4, 2019

Battle of Cable Street: when the Irish helped beat back the fascists

history Irish London fascism Catholic anti-semitism politics police violence riots workers

Trouble was brewing in London 80 years ago. In the early morning of October 4th, 1936, thousands of black-shirted fascists mustered around the Tower of London. Awaiting them in the East End were Jews, union men and communists.

Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, had declared October 4th a day of destiny and reckoning. Mosley hoped his army of British Blackshirts would march east from the Tower and occupy the “Jew-ridden and communistic” dockside streets of the East End.

Mosley’s legions would be guarded by thousands of policemen, hundreds of them on horseback. He expected his fascists to sweep through London as Mussolini had marched on Rome – and, de facto, into power – in October 1922.

It would be one of the most dramatic days of the 20th century on British soil. Thee hours of fighting at the barricades, mounted-police charges and riots would become known as the Battle of Cable Street.

As the large Jewish community (mostly refugees from the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, the Baltic States and Poland) prepared their barricades around Cable Street and Whitechapel, many wondered: what would the Irish do? Tens of thousands of Irish Catholic dockers lived with the Jewish community, in an often uneasy, antagonistic relationship.  (more...)

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