On 4 October 1936 antifascists of London came out en masse to confront Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists as they planned to march through the East End. The Battle of Cable Street, as this confrontation has come to be known, represents an enduring moment when a community came out in tens of thousands to reject racism and fascism.
The award-winning folk trio THE YOUNG’UNS sing this original song remembering this historic day of antifascist solidarity. Lyrics Below.
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The British government refused to ban the fascist march through the heart of the Jewish quarter. In response, an estimated hundred thousand to half a million people led by trade unionists, communists, anarchists, and socialists blocked Mosley’s path. Antifascist transport workers jumped off their trams to help defend protesters from police beatings. The Communist Party turned East End cafes into first aid clinics to treat the wounded. Women threw rotten food, marbles, and the contents of chamber pots out the windows of the houses lining the streets of Stepney. In solidarity with the Jewish community, Irish dock workers helped tear up the street paving to build barricades against the fascists. They remembered how in 1912 the Jewish community supported their strikes.
The Battle for Cable Street launched movements for tenant rights, against economic injustice, and in defense of immigrants. As we again face racism, violence, and division today, we remember the community solidarity that turned Mosley and his mob of fascists away.
For more detailed information, visit www.cablestreet.uk, a site created for the 80th anniversary of this historic event.
by The Young’uns
On the fourth of October 1936
I was only a lad of sixteen.
But I stood beside men
Who were threescore and ten
And every age in between.
We were dockers and teachers,
And those with no jobs to do.
We were women and children
Equal in union — atheists, Christians, and Jews.
And we had so much to lose.
For with Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain,
We knew what fascism meant.
So when Mosley came trouncing,
Denouncing the Jews,
To the East End of London we went.
For I’d met refugees, who had fled o’er the seas,
Germans, Italians, and Jews.
And I knew their despair
For what they’d seen there
And I couldn’t let them be abused.
We had so much to lose.
Now 3,000 fascists — their uniforms black —
Had set out to march on that day.
And 6,000 policemen
Intended to greet them
By making clear the way.
But we were there ready —
Our nerves they were steady —
One hundred thousand en masse.
And we planted our feet along Cable Street
And we sang: They shall not pass!
We sang: They shall not pass!
Then all us young lads,
We were sent to the side streets
To stop the police breaking through.
And with swift hands we made strong barricades
Out of anything we could use.
And they came to charge us,
But they couldn’t barge us,
With fists, batons, and hooves.
With as good as we got, we withstood the lot,
For we would not be moved.
We would not be moved.
And, yes, there was violence.
And, yes, there was blood.
And I saw things a lad shouldn’t see.
But I’ll not regret the day I stood
And London stood with me.
And when the news spread the day had been won
And Mosley was limping away —
There were shouts, there were cheers,
There were songs, there were tears,
And I hear them all to this day.
And we all swore then we’d stand up again
For as long as our legs could
And that when we were gone,
Our daughters and sons
Would stand where we stood.
Was the first time I’d heard two tiny words
Said by every woman and man.
Now I say them still
And I always will: