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Remembering and Reliving Cable Street, 80 Years On


NEC member Rhea Wolfson

Last night I had the privilege of commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street with my local Labour Party watching Dare Devil Rides to Jarama.

The play follows the story of a young working class sportsman who is politically awakened through his realisation that those running the race tracks do so only for profit and at the expense of the safety and security of participants. Eventually, as a natural progression from his international socialist work, he joins the International Brigades.

Throughout the play we encounter Oswald Mosley standing on his Union Jack draped soapbox yelling in his black shirt about England, surrounded by violence. We are reminded that Mosley argued for fascism (quite directly) as a solution to broken promises by traditional government.

He is a long lasting reminder that where government abandons people; leaves them without security or certainty- this discontent must urgently be channeled into ideas of freedom and a fight for the rights of every person. If it is not, this vacant space will be occupied by the far right who will take advantage of strife and destroy our communities.

The fight against Mosley was the united fight of working class communities showing solidarity and realising that to fight fascism is to fight a force that threatens us all.

It’s not an historical battle but one raging right now. This week we are seeing bubbling tensions take form in policy at Tory Party conference. The first announcements focussed on foreign students and then the proposals moved onto workers. The underlying theme to these proposals is that our current system is broken and individuals are to blame.

Amber Rudd is right when she says that there are too many people out of work but her response is to ensure that society blames not her government but foreign workers. The effect of these proposals is harmful on a personal, day to day level and also because it serves as a way for government to continue to shirk from their responsibilities to crack down on unfair business practices, job insecurity and a housing crisis.

The stirring up of tensions between workers isn’t a new trick- it is one that has been used to divide those who might otherwise join together and organise against oppressive power for centuries, if not longer. This hate and anguish isn’t coming- it is here and our duty is to stop every seed of hatred before it truly takes root.

Remembering the International Brigades and Cable Street 80 years on, in the context of a Britain that saw hate crimes increase by 42% after the EU referendum, forces us to ask- are we doing enough?

Now is the time that we must be clear on our red lines and this must include absolutely no capitulation to nationalism.

We must remember that Internationalism is not fighting for a small group to remain in the common market but the common fight of all peoples with and for each other.

To the Labour Party: our duty now is to be the voice for marginalised communities. When Tories talk of missed immigration targets, we must force them to tackle the real issues that put our society in crisis and challenge every instance where Tories seek to blame our neighbours for their disasters.

And to those who fight for independence in Scotland, radical or otherwise: I cannot help but picture the scene, post-Scottish independence, where socialists look at the wall they have built and try to imagine that their comrades on the other side will thank them.

No pasarán.

Rhea Wolfson is a member of Labour’s NEC and Scottish Labour Young Socialists Co-Chair. This blog originally appeared on Scottish Labour Young Socialists, which is an organisation for socialist young members, trade unionists and activists of the Scottish Labour Party. 


  1. David Pavett says:

    Now is the time that we must be clear on our red lines and this must include absolutely no capitulation to nationalism.

    Does this not conflate nationalism with chauvinism and xenophobia? Is Rhea W really claiming that there are no legitimate forms of nationalism? If so then this needs some argument, especially since this has been the subject of much discussion in Labour circles in recent years.

  2. Rob Bab says:

    @Rhea Wolfson
    Hi Rhea, yes your statement which DP picked up on about your rejection of nationalism and your reference to the building of walls, regretfully dividing people, begs the question – have you reconsidered your position on your support for the nationalist political movement known as Zionism and it’s apartheid wall building programme? Thank you.

  3. Imran Khan says:

    Berlin wall anybody? The collapse of the former East Europe is still mourned in parts of the left.

    1. James Martin says:

      Yes, and it is still mourned by many in Eastern Germany who no longer have the right to a job and a home, and where women are no longer as equal as before, it is mourned by many in ex-Yugoslavia given the sectarian bloodbath that followed the restoration of capitalism there, and it is mourned by many in Russia whose state resources is now owned by a gangster class of oligarchs who stole them in the brave new capitalist world. None of these societies were perfect, far from it, and all deserved a political revolution at the time to remove the self-serving ossified bureaucracies that ruled them, but nevertheless as Cuba still shows compared to its neighbours in respect of things like healthcare and education there is an undoubted progressive heart to socialised relations of production and planning that should be supported.

  4. Imran Khan says:

    Thanks James, you have summed up much of what is keeping Labour out of power. I recommend you read ” Stasiland” by Anna Funder for life in the workers paradise of the former GDR.

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