¡No Pasaran!

I’ve not been very far in the last few days – I’m still under the weather with a bug I came down with last weekend. Hopefully I’ll start to get moving again in the next couple of days, but so far I’ve been trapped in Praepostorial Towers and unable to do much other than rest and watch nonsense on the television.

However, in my mind yesterday, I took myself for a walk down Cable Street in the East End of London. It is a street I know very well as it was my route to church when I lived in the East End of London. It was the 75th anniversary yesterday of the Battle of Cable Street – a hugely important event which still has resonances today in the way that our streets are policed.

The story is this – Oswald Moseley wanted to march his uniformed fascists (aka the Blackshirts) through the Jewish East End. The Battle of Cable Street was a moment when the local population stood up to the Metropolitan Police who were attempting to ensure that the march went ahead. The Spanish slogan ¡No Pasaran! was invoked – they shall not pass!

It led to significant changes in the way public events were policed and led to a ban on political uniforms being worn at public rallies.

I used to hear about the Battle of Cable Street from someone who was there – Professor Bill Fishman, who was connected to the college in whose chaplaincy I worked. Bill was the person who told me that he could never become a Christian because we had forgotten how to curse. He said he prefered yiddish curses to pious prayers and used to come into the chaplaincy muttering complex (and occasionally rather rude) such incantations against the then Tory government. Bill is one of the towering consciences of the East End and I remember him telling me about Cable Street first hand.

He is quoted on wikipedia as saying:

“I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of racism.”

I remember him telling me all about it and I remember still seeing those tears.

More about Bill Fishman on the Museum of Childhood website.