Harold Rosen, one of the surviving veterans of the struggle against Oswald Mosley’s fascists in east London in the 1930s, has thrown his weight behind George Galloway’s election campaign.
Harold, now aged 85, was 16 years old when he took part in the Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936.
On that day tens of thousands of East Enders blockaded the streets to stop Mosley’s fascists storming through what was then a mainly Jewish area. He is also a distinguished educationalist and chronicler of the Jewish East End he grew up in.
Harold returned to those streets on Tuesday of last week to meet George Galloway at the mural on Cable Street commemorating the anti-fascist battle — and to endorse Respect’s bid for the neighbouring Bethnal Green & Bow seat.
“Much has changed in this area, but poverty and racism remain,” he told George. “You and the Respect party are standing in a great tradition of bringing the people of the East End together against tyranny and all attempts to divide them.
“Back then Jewish immigrants were the main target for racism in this area. Today it is Muslims living on the same streets.”
Harold recalled how he had gone to join the historic 1936 demonstration with his girlfriend. “But we took a wrong turn and found ourselves on the wrong side of the blockade preventing the police clearing the way for Mosley’s march.
“Someone pulled us through their front doorway, away from the danger, and then we were able to take part. It’s always important to know which side of the barricade you are on — literally and metaphorically!”
Harold was delighted that Respect’s candidate in the constituency containing Cable Street, Poplar & Canning Town, is also a young man from an immigrant family — Oliur Rahman.
Last summer Oliur, a 24 year old trade unionist, became the first councillor to be elected under the Respect banner, winning the St Dunstan’s & Stepney Green ward in Tower Hamlets from Labour.
George, Oliur and Harold were joined by leading pensions campaigner Gordon McLennan, aged 80. As a teenager in Glasgow Gordon helped organise solidarity for the democratic government of Spain against the fascist coup led by General Franco. Gordon later became general secretary of the Communist Party.
“George has done so well in opposing war and racism,” he said. “It’s great to be here to lend him my support in person. I’m going to be travelling up from Lambeth over the next two weeks to help get him elected.”
George said, “It is a privilege to be here with two such fine representatives of the generation who fought fascism at home and abroad. And I am honoured that they are offering their support to me and Respect in east London. We are the people who stand for unity against all racism.
“We are the people who seek to bring people together, whatever their background, to fight to improve the lives of working people, just as Harold and Gordon did.”
Oliur added, “We owe the generation of the 1930s and people like Harold and Gordon a huge debt of gratitude.
“Those like me from the younger generation should take encouragement from what they achieved. We should learn from them, not patronise them as so many politicians do.”
Harold signed a copy of his East End memoirs for George and a volume of his poems for Oliur. Both are reading them on the campaign trail before meeting him again, soon after election day.