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Cable Street shows us we have to tackle racism head on

JEREMY CORBYN on the lessons of the day the East End beat the Blackshirts

The Battle of Cable Street has a deep personal significance to me. I learned all about that historic event from my mother, who was there herself.  

She told me how she joined tens of thousands of people from an incredibly diverse range of community organisations, faith groups, trade unions, the Labour Party, left-wing groups and others who had come together against the planned march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists — and the police guarding it — through a heavily Jewish neighbourhood.

Communities joined together to support each other with one simple aim: to stop the fascists marching through the East End and determinedly say they wouldn’t let them pass.

Barricades were erected to halt the march, and so it was eventually abandoned in a great victory for the anti-fascists.

My mother Naomi stood alongside so many others because she wanted to live in a world, as we all do, free from xenophobia and free from hate.

As I said at the tremendous event to mark the Battle of Cable’s Street 80th anniversary in 2016: “The principles that brought those people on to the streets runs through my DNA.”

Those who stood there in Cable Street, all those years ago, did so as an act of defiance and an act of principal, and we walk in their shadow.

We must never forget their enormous service to the whole country and its future. They showed us without doubt that unity is strength and that in today’s increasingly dangerous world — with both the far-right and racism again on the rise in many countries — we must stand united and strong again. 

We should be pleased to live in one society with many cultures and side by side in a multi-faith society. 

As Gary Lineker’s recent brilliant Fish and Chips video showed, many things we regard as essential to British life wouldn’t be as they are without refugees and migrants.

London and Islington North, which I have the privilege to represent in the House of Commons, has always been, and should always be, a melting-pot for people from all over the world to make it their home and make their contribution. We must celebrate our diversity, which makes the capital great in so many ways.

In recent months, we have again seen a rise in those who wish to scapegoat and blame migrants for the problems we are facing as a country and a society.

In particular in the last few weeks we have seen a notable increase in hostility towards refugees, including a wave of negative and misleading media stories encouraged by the Tories and their allies.

These are just the latest examples of the age-old right-wing divide-and-rule tactic — it is an approach straight out of the Trump playbook.

As we approach a massive unemployment crisis, as socialists we have a duty to say that this — alongside other issues such as housing shortages, NHS under-funding and many more besides — is the fault of a decade of ideologically driven austerity and this Tory government’s wrong priorities; not the fault of migrants or refugees.

To put it simply, these economic and social problems are the result of a rigged and broken system that needs to change.

Indeed, a lot of these problems would be much worse without the contribution migrants, their children and their grandchildren have made and continue to make to our economy and society, not least to our public services including our beloved NHS.

This means that we must never turn our back on those values that bring us together, and we must never stop standing up to those who seek to scapegoat some of the most vulnerable people in our society and drive a wedge between different communities.

The only way to defeat division and hate is to confront head-on those who fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. 

It is not enough to just declare our strength of community and unity on anniversaries like this; it is about our ability and willingness to do that every day, all the time, if we want to live in the decent non-racist society that we all crave.

And it also means we need to offer people hope — hope for a better, fairer and more equal future in a world of unity and peace.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

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