Battle of Cable Street
Flyer distributed by the London Communist Party
Date4 October 1936
51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.5109°N 0.0521°W / 51.5109; -0.0521
Caused byOpposition to a fascist march through East London
Lead figures
c. 100,000

The Battle of Cable Street was a series of clashes that took place at several locations in the inner East End, most notably Cable Street, on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists[1] led by Oswald Mosley, and various de jure and de facto anti-fascist demonstrators, including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews, supported in particular by Irish workers,[2] and socialist groups.[3][4][5] The anti-fascist counter-demonstration included both organised and unaffiliated participants.


The British Union of Fascists (BUF) had advertised a march to take place on Sunday 4 October 1936, the fourth anniversary of their organisation. Thousands of BUF followers, dressed in their Blackshirt uniform, intended to march through the heart of the East End, an area which then had a large Jewish population.[6]

The BUF would march from Tower Hill and divide into four columns, each heading for one of four open air public meetings where Mosley and others would address gatherings of BUF supporters:[7][8]

The Jewish People's Council organised a petition, calling for the march to be banned, which gathered the signature of 100,000 East Londoners, including the Mayors of the five East London Boroughs (Hackney, Shoreditch, Stepney, Bethnal Green and Poplar)[9][10] in two days.[11] Home Secretary John Simon denied the request to outlaw the march.[12]

Numbers involved

Very large numbers of people took part in the events, in part due to the good weather, but estimates of the numbers of participants vary enormously:


Tower Hill

The fascists began to gather at Tower Hill from approximately 2:00 p.m., there were clashes between fascists and anti-fascists at Tower Hill and Mansell Street as they did so, while the anti-fascists also temporarily occupied the Minories. The BUF set up a casualty dressing station in the Tower Hill area, as did their Independent Labour Party and Communist opponents who each had a dressing station.[8]

Aldgate and its approaches

The largest confrontation took place around Aldgate, where the conflict was between those seeking to block the BUF march, and the Metropolitan Police who were trying to clear a route for the march to proceed along. The streets around Aldgate were broad, and impossible to effectively barricade, except by blocking it with large crowds of determined people. These efforts were helped when a number of tram cars were abandoned in the road by their drivers, possibly deliberately.[19]

There were dense crowds along the A11 (the length of Aldgate High Street, Whitechapel High Street and some way along Whitechapel Road) and its side streets, with the greatest concentration of people at Gardiner's Corner; the junction of Whitechapel High Street with Leman Street (leading from Tower Hill), Commercial Street and Commercial Road (the junction of Commercial Road and Whitechapel High Street has since moved east by 100 metres).[20][21]

Cable Street

Protesters built a number of barricades on narrow Cable Street and its side streets. The main barricade was by the junction with Christian Street, about 300 metres along Cable Street in the St George in the East area of Wapping. Just west of the main barricade, another barricade was erected on Back Church Lane; the barrier was erected under the railway bridge, just north of the junction with Cable Street.[22]

The Police attempts to take and remove the barricades were resisted in hand-to-hand fighting and also by missiles, including rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots thrown at the police by women in houses along the street.[23]

Decision at Tower Hill

Mosley arrived in an open topped black sports car, escorted by Blackshirt motorcyclists, just before 3:30.[24] By this time, his force had formed up in Royal Mint Street and neighbouring streets into a column nearly half a mile long, and was ready to proceed.[24]

However, the police, fearing more severe disorder if the march and meetings went ahead, instructed Mosley to leave the East End, though the BUF were permitted to march in the West End instead.[11] The BUF event finished in Hyde Park.[25]


About 150 demonstrators were arrested, with the majority of them being anti-fascists, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Around 175 people were injured including police, women and children.[26][27]


The anti-fascists were delighted by their success in preventing the march, and by the unity of the community response, in which very large numbers of East-Enders of all backgrounds resisted Mosley. The event is frequently cited by modern Antifa movements as "...the moment at which British fascism was decisively defeated".[28][4] The Fascists presented themselves as the law-abiding party who were denied free speech by a weak government and police force in the face of mob violence. After the event the BUF experienced an increase in membership, although their activity in Britain was severely limited.[29][30]

Following the battle, the Public Order Act 1936 outlawed the wearing of political uniforms and forced organisers of large meetings and demonstrations to obtain police permission. Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police.[31]

Notable participants

British Union of Fascists

Metropolitan Police


Many leading British communists were present at the Battle of Cable Street, some of whom partially credited the battle for shaping their political beliefs. Some examples include:


Between 1979 and 1983, a large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George's Town Hall. It stands in Cable Street, about 350 metres east of the main barricade that stood by the junction with Christian Street. A red plaque in Dock Street (just south of the Royal Mint Street, Leman Street, Cable Street, Dock Street junction) also commemorates the incident.[38]

Numerous events were planned in East London for the battle's 75th anniversary in October 2011, including music[39] and a march,[40] and the mural was once again restored. In 2016, to mark the battle's 80th anniversary, a march took place from Altab Ali Park to Cable Street.[41] The march was attended by some of those who were originally involved.[42]

In popular culture

Commemorative plaque in Dock Street

See also


  1. ^ "Cable Street: 'Solidarity stopped Mosley's fascists'". BBC News. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  2. ^ Julia Bard (13 September 2022). "Redefining Antisemitism to Protect Israel From Scrutiny Won't Make Jews Safer". Jacobin. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  3. ^ Barling, Kurt (4 October 2011). "Why remember Battle of Cable Street?". BBC News. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Philpot, Robert. "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  5. ^ "The Battle of Cable Street". Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  6. ^ hate, HOPE not. "The Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Cable Street". History Workshop. 8 January 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2022. Website shows the original BUF leaflet including exact locations and times
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Lewis, Jon E. (2008). London, The Autobiography. Constable. p. 401. ISBN 978-1-84529-875-3. Lewis uses the East London Advertiser as primary source, and also provides editorial commentary. This source only gives the districts where the meetings would take place, not times or the exact locations.
  9. ^ "Sir Oswald Mosley". Jewish Chronicle. 9 October 1936.
  10. ^ "ILP souvenir leaflet". Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d Sir Philip Game. "'No pasarán': the Battle of Cable Street". National Archives. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  12. ^ Piratin, Phil (2006). Our Flag Stays Red. Lawrence & Wishart. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-905007-28-8. cited by Olivia, Lottie Smith (July 2021). Exploring Anti-Fascism in Britain Through Autobiography from 1930 to 1936 (PDF) (MRes). Bournemouth University. p. 72.
  13. ^ a b Jones, Nigel, Mosley, Haus, 2004, p. 114
  14. ^ Marr, Andrew (2009). The Making of Modern Britain. Macmillan. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-0-230-70942-3.
  15. ^ "The official interpretation board at the Cable Street mural". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Independent Labour Party leaflet". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Daily Chronicle, cited in a TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  18. ^ "TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022. It makes reference to contemporary estimates as high as half a million, but does not give a primary source.
  19. ^ "Fascists and police routed: the battle of Cable Street - Reg Weston". Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  20. ^ Miller, Andrew (2007). The Earl of Petticoat Lane. Arrow. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-900913-99-0.
  21. ^ Ramsey, Winston (1997). The East End. Then and Now. Battle of Britain Prints Limited. p. 384-389. ISBN 978-0-09-947873-7.
  22. ^ "Recollections and sketches of James Boswell". Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  23. ^ "Torah For Today: The Battle of Cable Street". Jewish News. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  24. ^ a b c "Fascist march stopped after disorderly scenes". Guardian newspaper. 5 October 1936. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  25. ^ "Eight decades after the Battle of Cable Street, east London is still united". The Guardian. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  26. ^ Brooke, Mike (30 December 2014). "Historian Bill Fishman, witness to 1936 Battle of Cable Street, dies at 93". News. London. Hackney Gazette. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  27. ^ Levine, Joshua (2017). Dunkirk : the history behind the major motion picture. London. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-00-825893-1. OCLC 964378409.
  28. ^ Penny, Daniel (22 August 2017). "An Intimate History of Antifa". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  29. ^ Webber, G.C. (1984). "Patterns of Membership and Support for the British Union of Fascists". Journal of Contemporary History. Sage Publications Inc. 19 (4): 575–606. doi:10.1177/002200948401900401. JSTOR 260327. S2CID 159618633. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  30. ^ Philpot, Robert. "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  31. ^ Kushner, Anthony and Valman, Nadia (2000) Remembering Cable Street: fascism and anti-fascism in British society. Vallentine Mitchell, p. 182. ISBN 0-85303-361-7
  32. ^ a b c d Meddick, Simon; Payne, Simon; Katz, Phil (2020). Red Lives: Communists and the Struggle for Socialism. UK: Manifesto Press Cooperative Limited. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-907464-45-4.
  33. ^ "Jack Spot : the 'Einstein of crime'". The Jewish Chronicle. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  34. ^ "St John Beverley Groser (1890-1966) and Michael Groser (1918-2009)". St George in the East. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  35. ^ Davis, Mary (16 November 2018). "Remembering Max Levitas – Jewish Communist and last survivor of the Battle of Cable Street". The Morning Star. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  36. ^ Carrier, Dan (15 August 2008). "Betty Papworth". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  37. ^ "Obituary: Phil Piratin". The Independent. 18 December 1995. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  38. ^ "Battle of Cable Street - Dock Street". London Remembers. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  39. ^ Phil Katz. "Communist Party – Communist Party". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  40. ^ Cable Street 75. "Cable Street 75". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  41. ^ Brooke, Mike. "'They Shall Not Pass' message from the past for Battle of Cable Street 80th anniversary". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  42. ^ Rod McPhee (1 October 2016). "'We still haven't learned the lesson of the Battle of Cable Street 80 years on'". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  43. ^ "Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court, London". The Independent. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  44. ^ "Ghosts of Cable Street". Song Lyrics. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  45. ^ "Upstairs Downstairs – episode synopses". BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  46. ^ Follett, Ken (2012). Winter of the World. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-5098-4852-2.
  47. ^ "Cable Street" – via
  48. ^ "Cable Street Again, by Ashenspire". Ashenspire. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  49. ^ "Mark Reads 'Night Watch': Part 15". Mark Reads. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  50. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (18 February 2019). "Jewish character dies on EastEnders". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 29 May 2023.