I have been to several walking tours recently. The one titled “Anti-Fascist Footprints” in March I went with my colleagues. We are planning our own walk on the history of our federation. As much as we were interested in the key social episodes of East London, we wanted to learn from a professional walking guide how one would organise such a tour.
As you would expect, Oswald Mosley and Battle of Cable Street (Sunday 4 October 1936) were featured in this walk; what Mosley did (or tried to do) in East End and how people reacted to his offensive; what happened on the day of the battle, etc. It was well-attended with more than two dozen people taking part.
Our guide, David, made more than ten stops during his 2.5 hour tour. An interesting and important point to note here is that not all were at historic sites. In fact, such places were less than half of where he stopped. Rather, he touched upon his wealth of knowledge on the anti-fascist history by finding quiet places along the walk (and shelter from the English rain) and talked.
Unsurprisingly, he is finishing a book on this theme. He had lots of pictures and photos that he kept in a folder booklet which he showed as he spoke. Whilst moving from one place to another, he walked fast and did not talk to us, though one may chat to him and ask some questions. All these observations will be useful when we complete our program.
I learnt a few things that day. Commercial Road which connected the docks along the Thames and the warehouses was built exclusively for transportation of cargoes so that they won’t stay at the docks where “sampling” may take place. And the same dockers came to the Battle of Cable Street with their hooks, turned over the bricks in the pavement and supplied the anti-fascist protesters with their hurlings. Members of the Communist Party were deeply involved in community campaigns to reconcile the Jews with British population and to fight against fascism, said our guide.
Though David kindly spent lots of time on questions and answers, there is something that I did not ask. How did those dedicated rank and file communists in this East End community take the Hitler/Stalin Pact of 1939? It may have had a devastating effect to those activists? Or they just carried on, business as usual. I know there are both types of communists.
David told us that the mural (top photo) which commemorates the 1936 incident has been damaged by right-wingers since its depiction started in the 1980s and had to be repaired each time until its completion in 1993. So our battle against fascists still continues. Stay vigilant.
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The other walks were on the Beatles and Karl Marx. I will find another time to talk about them, perhaps.