Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cable Street & Other Things To Remember Today

So we must fly a rebel flag
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.

We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle.

- Henry Lawson, Oz Nationalist, Rebel.

The photograph depicts the American sprinters Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos, famously speaking a thousand words without uttering a sound at the Mexico City Olympics, in 1968. The sprinter standing with his hands at his sides was the Australian, Peter Norman, whose role in the protest is not so well known.

Norman died a couple of days ago, as Hak Mao has observed. Hak and Will - he of little patience for rubbish - also remember another brave day, in another place and another age, when solidarity was the thing: Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when London's eastenders stood their ground and prevented a march of Mosleyite fascists from defiling their turf.

We were all side by side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of racism.

Francis Sedgemore notices the irony that Cable Street falls within the constituency boundaries of Bethnall Green and Bow, where certain Mosleyites hold the upper hand at the moment.

And it was not just a question of Jews being there on 4th October, the most amazing thing was to see a silk-coated Orthodox Jew standing next to an Irish docker with a grappling iron. This was absolutely unbelievable. Because it is not a question of... a punch-up between the Jews and fascists, it was a question of the people who understood what fascism was. And in my case it meant the continuation of the struggle in Spain.

It is sad, to learn today that the Tree of Knowledge has been killed. But buck up. The tree is dead but the values live on.

Besides, today is also Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine's birthday.

Lafontaine was the first Prime Minister of Canada - the old pre-Confederation formulation of Canada, anyway. He not only managed to push through the Rebellion Losses Bill but also the Amnesty Act, which absolved the rebels of 1837-38. He was invited to Toronto to run for office by his dear comrade Robert Baldwin, and it was the solidarity they showed one another that gave rise to the Anglo-French reconciliation that ultimately allowed Canada to win its sovereignty out of the Empire without shooting its way out.

Solidarity's the thing.


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