1936 anti-fascist London "battle" has resonance today

Tue Oct 4, 2011 7:43am EDT
 
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Max Levitas recalls the electricity in the air as more than 100,000 Jews, Irish workers, communists and residents battled police to stop fascists marching through a Jewish area of east London in 1936.

The protesters threw marbles under the hooves of police horses and residents dumped garbage and chamber pots from their windows in what became known as the "Battle of Cable Street." Dozens were injured in the violent clashes as baton-wielding officers unsuccessfully tried to break their lines.

Seventy-five years later, the sprightly 96-year-old is still out on the streets. To Levitas and his fellow anti-fascist campaigners, Cable Street stands as a still-relevant warning for Britain today.

"Look what's happening again. It's a recurrence of the fight which we had against racism," Levitas told Reuters.

With Britain's economy in a downturn and unemployment rising, academics and experts say Britain is witnessing the rise of a new "far right," with the grass-roots English Defense League (EDL) as its more publicly acceptable face.

The group, which describes itself as a nationalist movement that aims to stop Islam overwhelming British culture, says it rejects hate theories and disassociates itself with extremist far-right, neo-Nazi organizations.

But for Levitas and others, there are uncomfortable echoes of the past in the EDL's ideology, followers and its protests that frequently turn violent.

John Denham, a former cabinet minister, has directly compared the EDL's activities to the fascists' moves of the 1930s.   Continued...

 
<p>Max Levitas, age 96, poses for a photograph in front of a mural depicting the 1936 battle of Cable Street, on Cable Street, in east London September 28, 2011. Levitas recalls the electricity in the air as more than 100,000 Jews, Irish workers, communists and residents battled police to stop fascists marching through a Jewish area of east London in 1936. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>