August 13 marks the fortieth anniversary of what has become known and celebrated as The Battle of Lewisham. On that day in 1977, a fascist organisation, the National Front (NF) attempted to march through Lewisham and New Cross, in south London. It was a deeply provocative move in an area with a sizeable black population. Violence, arson and fear accompanied the NF. Swatting away concerns about the Front’s incitement to race hate, the Met’s Chief Constable Sir Robert Mark determined the march should pass.
Eight hundred National Front members were flanked by mounted police. Some 3,500 officers were on foot, equipped with riot shields for the first time on mainland Britain. The march did not pass. Around 8,000 thousand demonstrators resisted the NF. The fascists were stopped and beaten. Trade unionists, socialists, local black youth, gays and women were instrumental in that. Not since Cable Street in 1936 where Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts were stopped, had intimidating fascist street marches been so trounced. The victory led to the formation of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL).
Jean Marie Le Pen, former leader of the French fascists, the Front National, was also at Lewisham. He licked his wounds and remodelled
the Front National, though it remains a fascist organsisation.
Since that heady day, in the wake of the NF’s defeat in the late 1970s at the ballot box, as well as on the streets, fascists have re emerged. However, via inspiration from the battle of Lewisham, anti fascists were able to stop the growth of the British National Party.
A number of initiatives have been organised to mark this anniversary. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has initiated a commemorative march
on Saturday 12 August at 1pm on Clifton Rise. Come along and meet some of the key individuals who were active in seeing off the fascists.
UAF and LMHR are part of organising; eyewitness accounts and archive footage. The march will be followed by a Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) event at The New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road SE14. On Sunday 13 August at 7PM LMHR, are proud to host, alongside Goldsmiths College, an evening gig featuring Grime, Hip-Hop, Reggae and Rock artists at The Albany.
Weyman Bennett, joint Secretary of UAF, argues that ‘The stopping of the Nazi, National Front march, set back the fascists for a generation. Anti-fascists took the methods that those who had fought the Battle of Cable Street, carried out. Lewisham represented thousands standing up and saying, ‘No, we will not let violent fascists march through our streets.’ It is part of a struggle that is still ongoing today. More recently, anti fascists have had to stop the BNP and EDL, at the ballot box and on the streets. United action has been central to this and we stand proudly in the tradition that Lewisham represented’.