The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The lessons of Cable street

Category: 20th century

In that year the fascist onslaught had been unleashed against the people of Spain.

Everywhere the fascists were striving to create the im­pression that their onward march could not be halted.

And in Britain too they were winning support through demagogy and lavish expenditure on uniforms, bands, and the kind of attractions that lure the politically backward.

From 1933 onwards their growth was continuous. They boasted in 1936 of a membership of thousands in the East End of London. Unemployment, bad housing, poverty was rife.

In line with Government policy abroad, certain important sections of British capitalism began to give open support to the fascists at home.

Money was found to provide the fascists with barracks in many areas, where they drilled and trained for their thuggery. Armoured lorries were purchased in which they would speed from one area to another to terrorise their critics.

It was against this background that the British Union of Fascists announced its intention to march through East London on October 4th.

Then, as now, police protection made possible the growth of fascist organisation. Then, as now, the Government refused to take action to prevent fascist provocations.

In the name of “free speech” the British fascists were allowed to speak, to organise, to march.

From all over Britain uniformed fascists arrived in coaches and armoured lorries. Six thousand foot police and entire mounted police divisions were mobilised.

But the might, the discipline and the courage of the people proved too good for them. A solid mass of people estimated variously at from 50,000 to a quarter of a million barred ev­ery street on their route.

Barricades were erected. With bare hands or improvised weapons the people beat back fascists, police batons, horses and all, and the slogan of the people of Madrid, “They shall not pass” became a reality in East London.

Millions of people have still to learn some of the lessons of those days:

The lesson that fascism is too dangerous a growth to be tolerated in the name of “free speech”, the lesson that fas­cism finds fertile soil among people with grievances who are not given correct leadership.

Prejudices about race and colour planted in the minds of the people by capitalist society can divert people’s atten­tion away from the real enemy.

But 1962 is not 1936. Millions know what fascism ins. Millions suffered because of it. But the dangers are still present.

They find expression in policies like the Immigration Act, which encourage racialism and discrimination against certain citizens of the Commonwealth, and in the refusal of the Government to act against racial slanders.

The people are ready to act against fascism and race ha­tred. The prompt appeal of the seven East London Councils to stop fascist meetings and marches, the call of the LCC for action against purveyors of race hate policies, the public protests at fascist meetings, the growth of broad antifascist committees, the launching of national petitions — all are signs of this readiness.

But if the lessons of October 4th, 1936 are to be fully learned, we need a nationwide campaign embracing all dem­ocrats and peacelovers, to force this Government or one which will take its place, not only to introduce laws to make the spreading of racial hatred a crime, but to wipe out the social evils of bad housing and unemployment which provide a fertile breeding ground for fascist demagogy.

From World News, Oct. 6, 1962

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