Mick Mindel, a lifelong trade union activist, was a cutter in the tailoring trade, making womenswear in London’s East End. He joined the United Ladies Tailors Union in 1932 and became chair of the union in 1938. He took part in ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ in 1936, when more than 100,000 East Enders – Jews and non-Jews – took to the streets to physically prevent thousands of Oswald Mosley’s fascists invading the area, despite the fact that the police were protecting the Blackshirts.
“The 1930s saw many highly political events. Hitler came to power in Germany and you had the Blackshirts here. Apart from anti-semitism and fascism there was the destruction of working class organisations, the impact of the hunger marchers, the struggle for wages.
“I saw the importance of fascism very early on. In East London, anyone who was active in the union knew about the issue. I had argued for many years that fascism wasn’t just a Jewish problem, it was a threat to society as a whole. Fascism was a living issue with the Blackshirts on the street in their uniforms and jackboots.
“And then there was Cable Street. There was such a feeling of achievement, of working class unity – They shall Not pass! It wasn’t any of the Blackshirts we fought, mind you, it was the police. I was so elated running all over the place – the sheer excitement of it all.
“These were days that it was worth living through. I saw it through the eyes of a trade unionist – appealing to workers to come out. I can’t tell you how many of our members were there but the following day everybody was talking about it and you would think everyone organised it!”
Mick Mindel was born in 1909 and died (on May Day) in 1994. This is an excerpt from an interview with Mick Mindel by David Rosenberg, published in Jewish Socialist magazine in 1986.