Apart from a few notable exceptions, there’s been an indefensible level of silence about the firebombing of Freedom Bookshop on Friday morning. Only one TV channel, Press TV, bothered to send a camera crew to East London. ITV, the Evening Standard and the Guardian did write stories about it, even if the latter did use the bizarre phrase about the shop that “[i]t claims to stock thousands of books, newspapers, pamphlets…” It’s a bookshop, what exactly makes a statement of easily verifiable fact a claim?
Many years ago, I was reading Emma Goldman’s autobiography sitting beside the pool while on holidays in Greece (not necessarily everyone’s idea of relaxing, but I’m not everyone). I sat bolt upright in my sun-bed when I got to page 567 and Goldman writes of lecturing in Philadelphia. There, she writes, she met “two persons whose friendship recompensed me for the otherwise dreary experience, Harry Boland and Horace Traubel.” Harry Boland! She goes on, “Harry was an old devotee and always generously helpful in every struggle I made.”
This month marks the centenary of the great 1912 East End Jewish tailors’ strike, which saw 13,000 immigrant sweatshop workers walk out on strike. Three weeks later, on 25 May 1912, the bosses capitulated – they’d won.
The Budget is out – tax cuts for the rich on top of trying to destroy the NHS, welfare cuts, tax avoidance, university fees, post-riot sentencing, hackgate, occupy evictions – the reasons to be angry go on and on and on and on. But, after the massive student demos of just over a year ago, the 26 March demonstration and the 30 November strikes, things seem to have gotten fractured. Lots of small demonstrations and actions, but what we need to do is bring everyone together and create a massive force to take down this government and scare the next.
Apparently, militant secularists are threatening Britain. Well, according to the unelected Tory loud-mouth Baroness Warsi. It appears the Tories have decided that the Daily Mail-promoted bleating about Christians under attack is reaching the upper echelons of British political life.
Right-wingers seem to have gotten a bee in their bonnet about development funding to parts of India by the British government. Incredibly hypocritically, they point to cuts being made in the UK to argue that we shouldn’t be wasting money on an increasingly rich country.
Following the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, it is important to remember not just the day itself, but where it came from. The most important thing about what happened on that day was how the other major East End community – the largely Irish dockers – came out in solidarity with the Jewish community in Whitechapel. The roots of this solidarity lie in the strikes of the Great Unrest period more than 20 years before.