Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cable Street

I've just watched a cracking video clip of the Battle of Cable Street which took place 70 years ago today. The combination of period dress, vintage street violence and the clipped narration works well. There's some particularly fine baton work from horse-mounted police midway through (it's not as easy as it looks).

Depending on which way you look at it, as demonstrated by the comments at the foot of this BBC article on the anniversary, the Battle of Cable Street was either...

  • a high point for the ordinary people fighting back against racist fascism


  • suppression of the age-old British right to free speech by a violent mob

Personally, I've little doubt that Mosely was a twat and I can totally understand why some of the residents of the East End, particularly European Refugees, would have had issues with the march. But, having said that, Mosely-style fascism failed to take root in this country because British people didn't take to that sort of thing, not because some of his supporters got a good kicking one day.

It's fun to watch though.

And let's not forget that, less than three years after Cable Street, British Communists tacitly condoned the Nazi invasion of Poland because Stalin was still best mates with Hitler and told them to. So much for the Polish prolitariat, eh comrades?

My take on the Battle of Cable Street is that lots of ordinary, somewhat misguided, people - communists, fascists, refugees, and police - spent the day whacking the shit out of each other whilst the people pulling their strings sat down with their whisky and sodas and had a right old laugh.

The prospect of a few thousand people hitting each other on the head with bricks rather than hitting you on the head with bricks must be quite sublime.

And the one thing thought you must never, never, permit those ordinary people to entertain is the notion that they all basically want the same things from life and that finding common cause would not be all that difficult - if they put their minds to it and strung up a few of their leaders, and their leaders, beforehand.

Nobody thinks that they are the bad guy

After the War, the architecture of Cable Street was 'improved' by the kind of people who didn't get any bricks in their faces and it's now more of a crap hole reeking of social exclusion than it ever was.

And whilst on the subject of grainy black and white videos from Britain's Golden Age when people knew their place and old ladies could walk safely on the streets...

  • Fans of London ghettoes that achieved a modicum of fame off the back of fascism sixty or seventy years ago will enjoy this classic video - The Lambeth Walk

... the story goes that Goebbels, a man who understood a thing or two about human psychology, went mental and stormed out of the cinema when he first saw it (The Lambeth Walk not the Motorhead cover). The moral of the tale being that taking the piss out of wankers in uniforms is, sometimes, far mightier than the sword. If for no other reason than they usually have bigger swords.

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