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Eight decades after the Battle of Cable Street, unions must mobilise to defeat the far-right again

Published date
04 Oct 2018
As we reflect on the historic victory at Cable Street 82 years ago today, we must be ready to mobilise against antisemitism, racism and discrimination again

On this day 82 years ago, more than 100,000 East Enders took to the streets to prevent Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists marching through the area.

The Battle of Cable Street was a pivotal moment in the history of the fight against fascism in the UK, and also in the history of the trade union movement.

Many trade unionists were among the countless thousands who stood up to hatred and drove out the fascists that day.

Irish dockers, railway workers, working-class women and men – all joined forces with the local Jewish community to stop Mosley’s Blackshirts in their tracks.

Eight decades on, I am still inspired by Cable Street. And it’s still the trade union movement’s – historic mission to fight racism and antisemitism, whatever form they take.

Anti-fascism is part of our DNA.

Thousands of trade unionists died resisting the Nazis in Germany and across occupied Europe. Thousands more joined the International Brigades to fight Franco’s armies in Spain, including the former leader of the T&G union, Jack Jones.

More recently, unions led the mobilisation against the National Front here in Britain.

Today, unions continue that fight – and it matters just as much now as it ever did. Because the far-right are always looking for a chance to exploit division and stir up hate.

Since 2016, there’s been a shocking rise in attacks by far-right thugs against Muslim and Jewish people, the LGBT community, disabled people and migrant workers.

We’ve seen organised far-right groups recruiting on football terraces, rampaging through our streets, and targeting trade unionists.

And like Mosley’s Blackshirts, once again they claim to champion the interests of working people.

But we know the truth.

It’s not migrants or Muslims to blame for ten long years of stagnant wages, cuts and austerity.

It’s the fault of a Tory government that is bankrupting public services. It’s the fault of tax-dodging corporations who are too greedy to pay their share. And it’s fault of bad bosses who undercut wages and driving decent employers out of business.

These people don’t give a damn about our values. They’re against everything that our movement stands for: dignity for all, regardless of race, faith or sexuality.

They say history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes. This isn’t the 1930s, or the 1970s. Today’s neo-fascists aren’t just organisig on the streets but on Facebook and WhatsApp too.

With the help of US billionaires and Russian hackers, they’re harnessing social media to spread hate and undermine our democracy.

So as we reflect on historic victories like turning back the tide of fascism at Cable Street, we must also look to the battles ahead.

That’s why the government must stop the flow of foreign money into our politics and crack down on social media giants letting their platforms be used to spread hate.

And we in the trade union movement must step up too. We can stop the far-right in its tracks by uniting working people and standing up for a new deal for working people.

We must mobilise the strength of our six million members to win the fight against antisemitism, racism and discrimination.

Trade unions bring people together, build friendships and community, and break down hatred and division.

We’ll keep demanding decent jobs, homes and public services.

And wherever the far-right marches or tries to attack mosques and synagogues, the trade union movement will be there, defending the places we live and work.

Because when neo-fascists threaten public order and peace, we don’t retreat or let them intimidate us.

Like the heroes of Cable Street, we stand firm with the message: you will not pass.