October 4th 1936 proved to be a historic moment in the history of anti-fascism and working class unity. Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) planned to march through the east London areas of Aldgate, Stepney, Limehouse and ending in Bethnal Green. The fascists were to congregate at Tower Hill and march to four separate points in the east end for meetings. Mosley claimed the march was in ‘celebration’ of the BUF’s fourth year since it’s inception, but in reality the march was a direct provocation to the large Jewish and Irish communities who lived within these areas. The East End of London was no stranger to Mosley and his gang of Blackshirted thugs as since 1935 when the BUF modelled their campaign on the violent and anti-simitic Nazi ideology, the area had established BUF branches in Bethnal Green, Hackney and Shoreditch. BUF also had premises and full time organisers who planned and co-ordinate fascist activity within these areas. Regular street meetings were held which whipped up anti-Semitic feeling and recruited new, mostly young members which often resulted in Jewish residents being violently attacked. In addition to attacks on synagogues, property, anti-Semitic graffiti and cemetery desecrations. Mosley had already marched through the northern part of east London earlier in 1936 and his announcement to march on October 4th was a culmination of planned provocation which intended to divide communities and pit neighbour against neighbour. The rhetoric from Mosley and his blackshirts were basest sentiments appealing to mostly the poorest of the poor by claiming that immigrants and Jews in particular were “taking your jobs” and the reason why “you had no home”. This language was designed to scapegoat and demonise sections of the community ; particularly the Jewish.
Mosley, Mussolini & Hitler
The BUF were effectively part of a wider European led strategy to introduce fascism to the UK. Sir Oswald Mosley after a meeting with Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini in 1932 promised, as all fascist parties do, everything to everyone. They promised workers; work, the middle classes protection from ‘Bolsheviks’, trade unionists were promised freedom from capitalist exploitation, farmers promised guaranteed prices for their produce and more land, the ruling class promised respect for their traditional status, capitalists promised better and more stable profits with immigrants....to be kicked out of the country. As a result, Mosley had the backing of many capitalists and the ruling class. Lord Rothermere; owner of the Daily Mail and a Nazi sympathiser was a staunch supporter giving favourable column space to the Blackshirts. Lord Nuffield wrote a cheque for £50,000 and Benito Mussolini himself was financing between 80% and 100% of the BUF to the tune of £224,230 (around £7 million in today’s money) over a four year period from June 1933 to March 1937.The link with Mosley and fascism did not stop with Mussolini. The day after the Battle of Cable Street Oswald Mosley and two of his closest aides departed for Berlin where he secretly married Diana Mitford with the wedding taking place in the home of Nazi Propaganda Minister; Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels wife, Magda, Diana’s sister Unity and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler were the only other guests present at the wedding. Hitler ordered a complete press blackout of any mention of the wedding and said “this is an occasion we must not speak out about, it is a secret and we must ensure that news does not get out” .
Mosley (right) meeting with Italian fascist dictator ‘IlDuce’; Benito Mussolini.
Mosley inspecting his Blackshirts who respond by giving the fascist salute.