Cable St & Bermondsey

I meant to write yesterday about it being the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Bermondsey, probably an even greater street fight against the fascists that took place a day before the first anniversary of the Battle of Cable St, and perhaps more decisive.

Although we celebrate Cable St as a pivotal moment in the fight against Fascism, as historian Daniel Tilles points out it was actually followed by an increase in membership and support for the fascists in the East End, an an increase in anti-semitic propaganda and physical attacks on Jews.

You can read a newspaper report of the battle in an Australian newspaper online, as well as a blog post The Battle of Bermondsey by Lydia Syson, and it is also mentioned in a more general article with the lengthy title British Union of Fascists and the East End battles that ensued, a history worth revisiting.

I think many might question the conclusion that Tilles draws from the events, suggesting that the kind of street activism represented by both Cable St and Bermondsey is counter-productive. We can after all only speculate on what the consequences might have been had the two marches by Mosley been unopposed or met by entirely peaceful protest rather than stopped. Fascism at the time was clearly on the rise and backed by many in the British establishment and perhaps needed to be fought both on the streets and by more moderate methods which he suggests were more effective.

But it was international events which were eventually decisive both in making clear the true nature of the fascist threat and a war far more violent than street resistance that brought a more decisive end to fascism, though it lingered on after the war it was clearly a sad and broken movement.

Of course it never entirely went away, with various lunatic fringe organisations over the years, more recently in groups such as Britain First and the EDL that I’ve photographed. And it would I think be hard to argue that the kind of active on-street opposition to these groups by Unite Against Fascism and Antifa generally has acted as a recruiting sergeant for them.

My pictures are of the Cable St anniversary events in 2006, 2011 and 2016 and you can see more on My London Diary:

Cable St 70th anniversary -2006
Cable St 75th anniversary – 2011
Battle of Cable Street 80 Rally
Battle of Cable Street 80 March
Black bloc rally at the Cable St Mural


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