The Battle of Cable Street is the name popularly given to a major altercation in the East End of London, England, when Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, attempted to march with his supporters through this heavily Jewish area of London. On October 4, 1936, Mosley attempted to lead a march of 3,000 black-shirted British Fascists from the City of London through Whitechapel, where about 100,000 Jews lived. At Cable Street, at the edge of the East End, Mosley’s men were forcibly prevented from advancing further by a large throng of left-wing protesters, comprised of local Jewish and Irish inhabitants as well as “cockney” dockers and other workers, organized in part by the British Communist Party, and they were forced to turn back. The term “Battle” is something of a misnomer, since the only violence occurred between anti-Mosley protesters and the police, on whom the anti-Fascists turned, and not between the Fascists and anti-Fascists. Nevertheless, the “Battle of Cable Street” has become legendary as one of the few times during the 1930s when the left and far right apparently clashed, and the far right was defeated.
Since most of the anti-Mosley protesters were probably gentiles, “Cable Street” was also seen by many as a prime example of what a “popular front” could achieve to stop the seemingly irresistible spread of Fascism in Europe. It also probably enhanced the prestige of the British Communist Party, which attracted a significant level of support in the Jewish East End during the latter 1930s (but probably not earlier).
Presumably in retaliation, the following week, many windows of Jewish shops in Whitechapel were smashed by vandals.
T. Kushner and N. Valman (eds.), Remembering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Society (2000); R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (1990 ed.); J. Jacobs, Out of the Ghetto: My Youth in the East End – Communism and Fascism (1978); W. D Rubin-stein, Jews in the English-Speaking World: Great Britain, 244, 315–16.
[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.