No Pasaran!

Fascism gets a bad rap,
The clothes are okay, but the rest is crap,
And why don’t fascists ever grin?
It’s cos we never let them win
Just beat them again and again.

The Battle of Cable Street

The 4th of October marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, in London’s East End, where 3000 of Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts tried to march only to run into a wee bit of trouble when 300,000 people or so turned up to kick their arses.

A few poms who were there have been called upon to recount their tales of the Battle in the lead up to the anniversary, so hey! Let’s let ‘em take it away!

From the Guardian:

Day the East End said ‘No pasaran’ to Blackshirts
Audrey Gillan
Saturday September 30, 2006

They built barricades from paving stones, timber and overturned lorries. Women threw the contents of chamber pots on to the heads of policemen and children hurled marbles under their horses and burst bags of pepper in front of their noses.
Next Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of the day that Jews, communists, trade unionists, Labour party members, Irish Catholic dockers and the people of the East End of London united in defiance of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and refused to let them march through their streets.

Shouting the Spanish civil war slogan “No pasaran” – “They shall not pass” – more than 300,000 people turned back an army of Blackshirts. Their victory over racism and anti-Semitism on Sunday October 4 1936 became known as the Battle of Cable Street and encapsulated the British fight against a fascism that was stomping across Europe.
Mosley planned to send columns of thousands of goose-stepping men throughout the impoverished East End dressed in uniforms that mimicked those of Hitler’s Nazis. His target was the large Jewish community.

The Jewish Board of Deputies advised Jews to stay away. The Jewish Chronicle warned: “Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings.

“Jews who, however innocently, become involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew baiters, keep away.”

The Jews did not keep away. Professor Bill Fishman, now 89, who was 15 on the day, was at Gardner’s Corner in Aldgate, the entrance to the East End. “There was masses of marching people. Young people, old people, all shouting ‘No Pasaran’ and ‘One two three four five – we want Mosley, dead or alive’,” he said. “It was like a massive army gathering, coming from all the side streets. Mosley was supposed to arrive at lunchtime but the hours were passing and he hadn’t come. Between 3pm and 3.30 we could see a big army of Blackshirts marching towards the confluence of Commercial Road and Whitechapel Road.


“I pushed myself forward and because I was 6ft I could see Mosley. They were surrounded by an even greater army of police. There was to be this great advance of the police force to get the fascists through. Suddenly, the horses’ hooves were flying and the horses were falling down because the young kids were throwing marbles.”

Thousands of policemen were sandwiched between the Blackshirts and the anti-fascists. The latter were well organised and through a mole learned that the chief of police had told Mosley that his passage into the East End could be made through Cable Street.

“I heard this loudspeaker say ‘They are going to Cable Street’,” said Prof Fishman. “Suddenly a barricade was erected there and they put an old lorry in the middle of the road and old mattresses. The people up the top of the flats, mainly Irish Catholic women, were throwing rubbish on to the police. We were all side by side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of racism.”

Max Levitas, now 91, was a message runner and had already been fined £10 in court for his anti-Mosley activities. Two years before Cable Street, the BUF had called a meeting in Hyde Park and in protest Mr Levitas whitewashed Nelson’s column, calling people to the park to drown out the fascists. Mr Levitas went on to become a Communist councillor in Stepney.

“I feel proud that I played a major part in stopping Mosley. When we heard that the march was disbanded, there was a hue and cry and the flags were going wild. They did not pass. The chief of police decided that if the march had taken place there would be death on the road – and there would have been,” he said.

“It was a victory for ordinary people against racism and anti-Semitism and it should be instilled in the minds of people today. The Battle of Cable Street is a history lesson for us all. People as people must get together and stop racism and anti-Semitism so people can lead an ordinary life and develop their own ideas and religions.”

Beatty Orwell, 89, was scared and excited. “People were fighting and a friend of mine was thrown through a plate glass window.”

And Mosley’s son has a couple of things to say as well:

Mosley’s son to hail his father’s Cable Street humiliation
David Smith
Sunday October 1, 2006

Nicholas Mosley is still surprised by the reception he gets from Jews. ‘Jewish people have always been terribly nice to me,’ he says, a few hours after writing an article for the Jewish Chronicle. ‘I always wonder whether they will be because they quite understandably aren’t always nice about my father.’
Sir Oswald Mosley, the charismatic leader of the British Union of Fascists in the Thirties, dreamed of becoming Britain’s Hitler. In a poll for BBC History magazine, the virulently anti-semitic Mosley was voted the worst Briton of the 20th century.

His son, now 83, will be a guest of the Jewish East End Celebration Society on Wednesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when around 300,000 people rallied to force back a march by Mosley and his private army of ‘Blackshirts’. Nicholas will meet Bill Fishman, who as a Jewish teenager witnessed the stand-off.
‘Over the years I’ve had to think about my father’s anti-semitism because I had to come to some sort of terms with it,’ Nicholas told The Observer. ‘I understand it: he had some very grave faults in his make-up. He was a good father to me and I liked talking to him because he had this enormous love of ideas. I didn’t often talk to him about politics because he knew that an awful lot of his politics I quite passionately didn’t agree with. He never wore a blackshirt at home.’

On Sunday 4 October 1936 Mosley planned to march down Cable Street in east London with around 3,000 supporters in military-style uniforms that imitated the Nazis. Defiant residents, joined by communists, trade unionists and Labour activists from all over Britain, gathered to improvise barricades and stop the Blackshirts’ advance. Orthodox Jews and Irish Catholic dockers stood side by side. Some chanted or carried banners proclaiming ‘No Pasaran’, a tribute to Spanish Republicans meaning ‘They shall not pass’. The demonstrators became embroiled in running clashes with police, hurling bottles, rocks and planks of wood; dozens of people were injured or arrested. Mosley was eventually persuaded by police to abandon his intended route and march through the deserted streets of the City of London instead.

Nicholas was then 13 and at boarding school, where one teacher teasingly called him ‘Baby Blackshirt’. He says his father’s meek retreat made him ‘look ridiculous’. But only after Mosley’s death in 1980 did Nicholas discover another, very personal reason why he did not confront his foes in Cable Street. A day later, Mosley and Diana Guinness, one of the aristocratic Mitford sisters, secretly married in Joseph Goebbels’s drawing room in Berlin, with Adolf Hitler as a guest. ‘He did not want any publicity because when he started the fascist movement my mother was still alive and everyone gave them such a hard time, and he didn’t want his second wife Diana to have the same. The one place in the world he could ensure it be kept secret was if he was married in Goebbels’s house, because then Goebbels could say if anyone leaks a word of this… pow.’

Mosley was sent to prison during the Second World War. Afterwards he replaced his anti-semitism with diatribes against black immigrants. Nicholas served with distinction in Italy, an experience recalled in his new memoir, Time at War. He has also written a biography of his father and 15 novels.

Sitting in the elegant living room of his townhouse in Camden, north London, Nicholas said: ‘At least everyone recognises who you are if you’re called Mosley. Has my father cast a shadow over my life? Yes, but I haven’t regretted it because I feel hugely grateful to him: he challenged me and he made me think.’

News brief · 2 October 2006