Posts Tagged ‘Cable st’

Cable Street – Labour Lost

Monday, October 9th, 2023

Cable Street – Labour Lost: Over recent days I’ve seen a number of posts and articles celebrating the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, when people from the East End of London prevented a march through their streets by Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists on October 4th 1936.


Battle of Cable Street 80 March – Altab Ali Park & Cable St

Cable Street - Labour Lost

Back on Sunday 9th October 2016 along with many others I went to Cable Street to celebrate the 80th anniversary of that event, and here are a few of the pictures that I made.

Cable Street - Labour Lost

I also wrote a little about what actually happened back in 1936, though of course I wasn’t around then, so what I know about it relies on what others have written and said, including the testimonies I’ve heard over the years from some of those who were there and have spoken at this and various earlier celebrations.

Cable Street - Labour Lost

Cable Street has acquired a mythical status that it doesn’t entirely deserve, or at least one which distorts the actual nature of the event. It certainly was not a great victory for the organised left – with the Labour Party actively urging people to stay away. They urged people instead to attend a rally in Hyde Park, miles away in West London. If anything it was a victory for the ordinary common decency and solidarity of the working class population of the area who came out and fought the police (and generally not the fascists) who were trying to clear the streets to allow Mosley and his blackshirts to march. A victory for the kind of community self-organisation which is at the centre of anarchism.

Cable Street - Labour Lost

So in 2016 for me the anarchist groups taking part were the real centre of attention rather than the more official aspects of the celebration – this was really their day, though none were invited to speak at the official rallies at the start or finish of the event. And here I’ll repeat a little of what I wrote about the event 4 years ago.

“Probably many of those present already knew that the battle wasn’t fought by the political parties – Labour told people to stay away and urged them to protest in Hyde Park, while the official communist party opposed any opposition on the streets until almost the last minute, when it was pretty clear it was going to happen anyway.

“It was the community that came out onto the streets. People from the mainly Jewish areas of the East End, trade unionists, communist rank and file and Irish dock workers. Men and women in a grass roots movement opposed to Mosley, people who knew that they would be the victims if he came to power. And of course the battle was not against Mosley, but against the police.

“Of course there were communists and socialists among those who came out on the streets, and some who played a leading role. But it was essentially a victory for the working class left, for the anarchists and for many without political affiliations who came together spontaneously to defend their place and their people.

“It wasn’t a great defeat for Mosley and his National Socialists; they actually became more active in the East End after it, and areas such as Bethnal Green remained strongly supporting the Nazis. There was an even larger ‘battle’ the following year in Bermondsey. But Cable Street was undoubtedly an important event for the left, and one that has come to be associated with a much greater battle of the era, the Spanish Civil War. Cable Street radicialised many on the left.”

Many more pictures and more comments on My London Diary:
Black bloc rally at the Cable St Mural
Battle of Cable Street 80 March
Battle of Cable Street 80 Rally


Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

Class War and others protested on Wednesday 5th August 2015 outside the newly opened Jack The Ripper “museum” in Cable St days after it first opened. Class War had called this protest as soon as the news became public, and others had organised another protest the previous evening which I had been unable to attend. Class War later organised further protests outside the museum which I also photographed.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

Unfortunately the Jack the Ripper tourist attraction in Cable Street is still open, pandering to a popular taste, particularly among tourists to the city, for the sensational and to wallow in the grisly details of this brutal and horrific series of murders in London of five working-class women on the streets of Victorian London.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

The museum was set up according to its planning application as the “first women’s museum in the UK” which “will recognise and celebrate the women of the East End who have shaped history, telling the story of how they have been instrumental in changing society.” A number of people gave advice or worked for free or at cost because they supported the project on this basis, and felt disgusted at how they were duped.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

As I commented in 2015, ‘People who have seen the museum have been revolted at its sensational presentation of violent crimes against women. One of the politer comments was to call it “salacious, misogynist rubbish.“‘

I’ve only seen the shop through the doors and windows, and there does seem to be a lot of merchandise for sale. The on-line reviews of the place are extremely polarised. There are many positive, even fawning examples, though some do seem to follow a very similar pattern.

I think the window had been smashed earlier in the day

Others are damning. One comments “The museum is pretty small. It’s effectively 5 small rooms. You could whizz round it in 10 minutes easily. In no way does it represent good value for money. One of the rooms was pure conjecture too (What Jack the Ripper’s living room might have looked like…!?). It’s rather light on any kind of detail. For people with anything more than a superficial interest in the history etc, this is a waste of your time and money.”

Another states “I have no idea how it got so many positive reviews… It’s £12 per person and we’ve basically seen everything after 10 minutes. There’s nothing in this museum that isn’t already in the Google images.” Others are far more negative about the exploitation of the sadistic murders of women for profit.

So if you are someone who thinks we should celebrate the work of a serial killer who eviscerated five defenceless women – three of them mothers – on the streets of London and feel your holiday would not be complete without wallowing in more of the bloody details you may well enjoy this “museum”, even though it is in the wrong location and has little authentic content.

If you are not sure about the details of the killings and have a strong stomach you can read more, rather too much more, on Wikipedia; it isn’t pleasant reading. For once I’d advise you not to click on the link, or if you do to skip some parts of the entry.

Of course the whole Ripper industry is a tacky area, with many more imaginative and profitable books speculating on the identity of the deranged killer. Although the evidence is only circumstantial the most likely suspect remains Montague Druitt who committed suicide shortly after the last of the five murders, and was one of three named in a letter written five or six years later by a senior police officer who though not involved in the investigation will have had access to the officers and the – now largely destroyed – police records of the case.

More about the protest at Class War at Jack the Ripper ‘Museum’.


Rip Down the Ripper Facade!

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

Rip Down the Ripper Facade! When Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, a former former head of diversity for Google got his architects to apply for planning permission to turn a building on Cable Street in East London into a ‘Museum of Women’s History’ the application stated it would “recognise and celebrate the women of the East End who have shaped history, telling the story of how they have been instrumental in changing society. It will analyse the social, political and domestic experience from the Victorian period to the present day.” The application his architects submitted was illustrated with pictures of suffragettes and other notable women from the past.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade!

But when the boards around the site came down in 2015, everyone was shocked to see it was instead it had been turned into a ‘Jack the Ripper Museum’, exploiting the unfortunate women who had been the victims of a series of unsolved murders in the East End in 1888. The architect who made the application and others who had been consulted made clear they had been duped into supporting the project and there were protests outside by members of the local community including the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Rev Adrian Newman, and Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade!
Class War Womens Death Brigade arrive for the protest

But most of the protests outside the tacky tourist attraction have been by Class War and its supporters along with feminists including London Fourth Wave Feminists who, together with Class War’s Womens Death Brigade organised the protest I photographed on June 19th 2016. These groups continued to protest after others – including Tower Hamlets Council – appear to have given up.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade!
London Fourth Wave Feminists were there waiting

The council in 2016 refused retrospective planning permission for the shop front and ordered changes to the signage and the removal of a metal roller shutter, which the shop had installed after a window was broken by persons unknown in the middle of the night – not during one of the protests outside as Wikipedia (and possibly the shop owner) suggest. I think I was present at all of the various protests except for the first rather tame event which the local council had arranged to calm things down after Class War and others had widely advertised one for the following evening.

Class War women had brought inflatable plastic hammers

The planning decision was appealed by the shop, and even after their appeal failed the council failed to take enforcement action and it was not until 2018 that the shop front was redesigned. Bad publicity from the protests possibly contributed to the commercial failure of the shop, though there were also poor reviews from visitors who felt it not to be value for money.

Black-clad protesters arrived set off some red smoke

Class War did not of course ‘Rip Down the Ripper Facade’ but the action was typical of their street theatre with inflatable plastic hammers and a little coloured smoke, while the Fourth Wave Feminists came with cat masks and posters to make clear why they were opposed to the shop’s glorification and profiting from violence against women. Eggs were thrown at one of the signs the shop had been ordered to remove and the windows were liberally covered with stickers, but there was no permanent damage.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade!
Ian Bone reaches past police to post a sticker on the window

During the roughly hour long protest there were no customers who came to try and enter the shop, and none inside left. Although London was spilling over with tourists on a Sunday afternoon in June, apparently none wanted to visit this particular tourist attraction. It had been hoped it would close after it was put up for sale in April 2021, but appears still to be open.

More on My London Diary: Rip Down the Ripper Facade!


Four Years Ago

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Four years ago, on October 14th 2017, I found myself in the unusual position of looking for a Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair, definitely something well outside of my normal social and financial territory. But I wasn’t looking for somewhere to eat, but to photograph a protest outside calling on the restaurant’s owner and his head chef not to break the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel by participating in Brand Israel culinary event ‘Round Tables’ in Tel Aviv in November 2017.

The protesters say that events like these are part of an Israeli government’s Public Relations efforts to distract from its policies of occupation and apartheid by bringing international prestige to Israel’s culinary scene and that his event is sponsored by Dan Hotels who have a branch built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem.

This was a peaceful protest, with Palestinian flags, banners about Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleaning and supporting the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) and calling for justice for Palestinians. Those protesting included both Palestinians and Jews. A small group of counter-protesters also came, holding an Israeli flag, one of whom came to tell me that everything it stated on the protesters banners were lies. I told him that I had friends in Palestine and know how they were treated both by the Israeli government and by Jewish settlers who came and destroyed their olive trees while Israeli forces stood and watched taking no action against them.

I left to join Class War and London 4th Wave Feminists who were protesting again outside the tacky tourist trap in Cable St which glorifies the exploits of ‘Jack the Ripper‘ and his brutal series of 19th century murders and exhibiting materials relating to the death of working class women who were his victims.

The so-called ‘museum’ only gained planning permission by claiming it would celebrate the history of women in the East End and not their horrific slaughter, and although Tower Hamlets council were unable to withdraw the consent they were now failing to enforce decisions about inappropriate signage and unuathorised metal shutters. Class War came with plastic inflatable hammers to symbolically attacked these.

Police tried hard to get the protesters to move away from the shop with no success, and escorted a few customers past the protesters inside. There were few during the hour or so of the protest, and at least one group went away when they heard what the protesters had to say, while another group who had been inside came out and told them that they thought the “museum” was very disappointing in the way it treated the murders.

I left as the Ripper protest was coming to an end to go to the Zimbabwe Embassy, where every Saturday afternoon the Zimbabwe democracy and human rights vigil takes place. Today was a special day as the first vigil was held on 12th October 2002 and they were celebrating 15 years (780 vigils) having vowed to continue until the human rights abuses of the Mugabe regime are ended and there free and fair elections in the country.

Among those present were several who had been at that first vigil in 2002 including human rights activist Peter Tatchell who had been badly beaten when he attempted a citizen’s arrest on Mugabe in Brussels in 2001, and his is one of the hands holding the knife to cut the cake.

Zimbabwe vigil celebrates 15 years
Class War return to Ripper “Museum”
Little Social don’t break the cultural boycott


Cable St Remembered

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Back on October 4th 2006 we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable St. Then there were still quite a few people present who had their own memories of the day people from the East End fought police and fascist marchers, stopping them from marching.

In my account of the event I wrote (capitalisation added):

The man standing next to me quietly said “I was there” and later told me a little of the event and his life. It was the story of a typical East-ender of the era, 13 when it happened. His parents had arrived from Poland in 1912 and settled close to Cable Street, later moving to Brick Lane. Despite being Jewish he had gone to the Methodist Mission just down Cable Street and paid his penny to watch films of a Friday night. And like the rest of his friends, he went with the crowds to stop the fascists. Later, in uniform, he was a part of the army which went to europe to finish off the job in 1944, getting married shortly before he left. Still married after 62 years, he now lives with his wife in north London.

My London Diary – October 2006

You can read the story of one of the women who was there in 1936, Beattie Orwell in a long post on Spitalfields Life, published in 2018 when she was 100.

Max Levitas (1915-2018), perhaps the best-known of the Cable St veterans, and a life-long communist activist and antifascist fighter in the East End, led the march on the 75th anniversary in 2011 and made a powerful speech at the rally.

2016 was the 80th anniversary and was again marked by a larger than usual event, beginning with a well-attended rally in Altab Ali Park before marching to Cable St.

The march was attended by a very wide range of groups, reflecting the people who had come out onto the streets in 1936. Again on My London Diary I wrote:

It was the community that came out onto the streets. People from the mainly Jewish areas of the East End, trade unionists, communist rank and file and Irish dock workers. Men and women in a grass roots movement opposed to Mosley, people who knew that they would be the victims if he came to power. And of course the battle was not against Mosley, but against the police.

Of course there were communists and socialists among those who came out on the streets, and some who played a leading role. But it was essentially a victory for the working class left, for the anarchists and for many without political affiliations who came together spontaneously to defend their place and their people.

My London Diary – October 2016

Back in 1936 the Labour Party had urged people to stay away from the protest and go instead to Hyde Park, and even the Communist Party had opposed trying to stop Mosley until they saw that the fight was inevitable.

The march rather reflected this official caution, with marchers being told to keep to the pavement rather than march on the road. It was left to the anarchists and some of the more militant left to give a more authentic celebration of the event when they remained in front of the mural when the others left for the official rally at the end of the march.

Class War began their own rally, with Martin Wright as the only speaker giving a detailed account of the events of 1936 and their continuing significance, but this was interrupted when Italian communists and anti-fascist groups began their own very noisy performance with chants and flares.

Many more pictures from these events online at My London Diary:

Battle of Cable St 70th Anniversary 2016
Battle of Cable St – 75 Years 2011
Battle of Cable Street 80 Rally 2016
Battle of Cable Street 80 March 2016
Black bloc rally at the Cable St Mural 2016


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.