Rebel Notes is the blogg of David Rosenberg. He is an educator, writer, and tour guide of London’s radical history. He is a lifelong rebel and socialist.

When the people of Stockton fought back

David Rosenberg - 8 September 2019
In September 1933, the people of Stockton-on-Tees had a famous anti-fascist victory when around 100 members of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists attempted to march and rally there, but they were chased out of town by socialists and communists in a violent physical confrontation. Last year a plaque was unveiled to honor this battle. I spoke at last year’s event and returned today. This is what I said:

I’m honoured to be here, and so honoured to follow Laura (Pidcock MP), who I have heard speak on several platforms but not had the privilege to share a platform with yet...See more

Who will challenge the Tories’ links with antisemites?

David Rosenberg - 25 January 2019
Last February the Polish ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) passed a law outlawing accusations of complicity by Poles in the Holocaust. A month later the Polish Prime Minister laid a wreath at the Munich grave site of the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, a Polish underground military unit who collaborated with Nazi Germany against communists during the Second World War.

That same month the Latvian National Alliance party took part in an annual event commemorating the Latvian Waffen-SS.

In Bulgaria, every February, the Bulgarian National Movement holds a march through the centre of Sofia to honour Hristo Lukov, an army general who led the pro-Nazi Union of National Legions during the war. The march ends next to the house where Lukov was assassinated by anti-fascist partisans.

What connects these three parties?...See more

Time to hold our nerve

David Rosenberg - 17 January 2019
Luciana Berger, Ben Bradshaw, Louise Ellman, Mike Gapes, Margaret Hodge, Liz Kendall, Chris Leslie, Jess Phillips, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Owen Smith, Wes Streeting, Chuka Umunna…

Do these names look at all familiar? They have been at the heart of campaigns against

Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party, not least on the very largely concocted allegations of antisemitism in the Party, and they have sought to undermine the leadership on several other issues too....See more

Far right footprints?

David Rosenberg - 02 January 2019

My anti-fascist antennae were twitching today. Before heading back to London from a few days break in Stow in the Wold, we took a short diversion to visit to Moreton in Marsh, a small market town at the head of the Evenlode valley, just a few miles a way. We found a good parking spot on the High Street, opposite a pub – a 17th century coaching inn – with a George cross flag: the Redesdale Arms.

Now that was a familiar name. “Family connection with Oswald Mosley. Lord Redesdale. Big-time antisemite!” I muttered to my partner.... See more

Farewell to “Kazik” – the last of the ghetto fighters

David Rosenberg - 23 December 2018

In Warsaw there is a very moving trail of memorials to the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. It starts at the huge monument, designed by Nathan Rapoport and erected in 1948, and ends at the umschlagplatz where the inmates of the ghetto – hundreds of thousands of Jews, and between 1,000-2,000 Romany Gypsies – were deported to the death camp of Treblinka, mainly in 1942.

Along this trail, individual memorial stones recall individuals among the resistance led by the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB – Jewish fighting Organisation). Formed in 1942, it was an alliance of competing left-wing political organisations in the ghetto – Bundists, Communists, Zionists – united in a common struggle for freedom and dignity, or as one of their leaders put it, “to choose our way of death”. When the Uprising started on 19 April, just a few hundred fighters were still alive, all between 13 and 40 years of age.... See more

Facing up to antisemitism – real, denied and invented

David Rosenberg - 14 December 2018

Paper presented at an international symposium on the “Resurgence of Antisemitism: Realities, Fictions and Uses”, Brussels 12/13 December 2018

I want to start with some personal biography. My grandparents came to Britain as Jewish child immigrants from Poland and Ukraine in the early 1900s. I grew up in an economically struggling Jewish family in inner London, that gradually became more comfortable.

My extended family were mostly Labour voters, plus some communist-supporting relatives. My family were traditional; not very religious, not actively Zionist. They had no family in Israel, but sympathised with Israel at a general level.,

I became involved in socialist politics and antifascist activism when I was around 16 years old. My first demonstration was against the National Front, a group formed in Britain in 1967 by convinced Nazis, who recruited a wider layer of supporters from all classes, by condemning black immigration and promoting British nationalism.... See more

A memory and a warning

David Rosenberg - 07 December 2018

“For the first time in the history of the peoples’ struggles, there was the spectacle, breath­taking in its grandeur, of the formation of International Brigades to help save a threatened country’s freedom and independence – the freedom and independence of our Spanish land.

“Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Republicans – men of different colours, differing ideology, antagonistic religions – yet all profoundly loving liberty and justice, they came and offered themselves to us unconditionally.... See more

Right slogan, wrong target

David Rosenberg - 5 December 2018

The slogan “Free Palestine” should be shouted from the rooftops. It needs to prick the conscience of politicians around the world who daily tolerate the discrimination, the abuses of human rights within Israel, where Palestinians comprise more than 21% of the population; within the Occupied West Bank, where armed Israeli Settlers run rampant destroying olive groves and where Palestinians are daily humiliated at checkpoints; within Gaza, still under siege, which Israel uses as a laboratory to test its weapons, and where another story emerged this week of a mother not allowed to accompany her child to a hospital in Jerusalem for cancer treatment.... See more

Don’t play Tommy’s game

David Rosenberg - 25 November 2018

Last week saw a vibrant and united anti-racist and anti-fascist march through London. It was cross-generational and multicultural. It had a big turnout from several trade unions and a bigger Labour Party representation than I can remember over many years. It was built through blocs representing different sections, interests, identities, each of whom gave their segment of the march its own character. And it was internationalist -– personified by the large bloc of Brazilians (which included a separate women’s section) and supporters of the Brazilian left in the wake of Bolsonaro’s frightening victory.... See more

One of the prophets?

David Rosenberg - 26 October 2018

Karl Marx never went to shul (synagogue) despite both his parents being descended from a long line of rabbis. I blame his father, the lawyer Herschel Marx, born in Saarlautern in 1782, who later settled in Trier, a town of 12,000 people by the Moselle, where his brother Samuel was the senior rabbi. In 1817 Herschel the Jew became Heinrich the (Lutheran) Protestant, to sidestep barriers blocking his career. Why did Herschel choose Protestantism in heavily Catholic Trier? Perhaps he still enjoyed being a minority.... See more

It is not only on racism that the far right are mobilising

David Rosenberg - 21 October 2018

“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world. They are not generous but vengeful, and always attack the heart.”

It sounds like classic 1930s Hitler antisemitism.

It is from an election campaign in March this year in Hungary. That was Victor Orban whose party Fidesz won the election, talking about Georg Soros a Hungarian Jew, successful businessman and supporter of human rights, especially pro-refugee campaigns. When Orban won the election Boris Johnson sent a gushing tweet of congratulation.... See more

Tommy Robinson – sharing the hate

David Rosenberg - October 13, 2018

I was lucky enough to be almost born an anti fascist. Before I learned to ride a bike I had heard about the Battle of Cable Street from my grandad – a boxer in the East End – and his escapades fighting Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s.

The fascist, Oswald Mosley, once told a dinner party. “Every successful movement needs someone to hate.”

And that is the only lesson that Tommy Robinson – the two-bob Oswald Mosley – the lummox from Luton – has learned from history. How to hate and get others to hate.

In Mosley’s case he hated was the Jews. In Robinson’s case he hates Muslims.

But racism gets lonely when it is on its own, and is much happier when it extends that hate to other groups.... See more

He didn’t get to first base

David Rosenberg - 3 October 2018

October 1934: The British Union of Fascists celebrated the launch of their first branch in London’s East End. Oswald Mosley, writing in The Blackshirt could barely contain his excitement:

Thursday October 4th… The Blackshirts marched in procession from Bow Branch premises … into Stepney Green, where a large crowd … had gathered which later increased to well over 1,500. The Blackshirts had a very noisy reception as the larger part of the audience were aliens who resented British people holding a meeting in what they considered to be their own territory… October 4th will go down in Blackshirt history as a memorable day

But October 4th became our memorable day. Two years later it fell on a Sunday. By then the British Union of Fascists (BUF) had four well organised branches in the East End, with Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Limehouse augmenting its Bow branch. Together they formed a horseshoe around the 60,000 strong, beleaguered Jewish community of Whitechapel, which bore the brunt of sickening verbal abuse from BUF street orators and physical violence from those they incited. Half the BUF’s national membership was in those four East End branches.... See more

Don’t be disappointed, get angry!

David Rosenberg - 14 September 2018

Even if you feel internationally minded, and you like to move in cosmopolitan circles, here is a group of people you might choose not to socialise with: Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Italy’s League, Ukip, the French National Front, the Sweden Democrats, and Austrian Freedom Party. The common factor among all of them is of course that commentators regularly refer to them as “extreme right”, “far right”, or “right wing populist”. The last three have a further similarity. They all have their roots in post-war pro-Nazi circles formed by people either didn’t think the Holocaust happened or that it was no bad thing. But they have sought to rebrand and present themselves now in a more respectable way. Nevertheless, they are still described by commentators as “far right” especially for their extreme nationalism and very negative attitudes towards migrants.... See more

Britain’s first anti-fascist street battle?

David Rosenberg - 9 September 2018

A long neglected piece of radical working class and anti-fascist history was movingly celebrated at a ceremony in the Market Square of Stockton this morning. In September 1933, it was one of several small towns in the North East of England devastated by the economic depression that was targeted by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists for recruitment to his street army and political project. The 30 or so members of the fascists resident in Stockton were joined by 100 more drawn from other northern towns and cities. They planned to march along the high street and then rally in the Market Square by the Town Hall. Local anti-fascists had got wind of this but the police hadn’t. Barely a handful of police were present when the BUF were ambushed by more than 2,000 anti-fascists drawn from the Communist Party, Independent Labour Party, National Unemployed Workers Movement, Labour Party and trade unions. It was a violent clash. The BUF rally was closed down and their activists chased out of the town.... See more

You were never my Chief Rabbi, bruv

David Rosenberg - 29 August 2018

There is a queue of people waiting patiently in line: long forgotten Labour and Conservative figures, one-time respected journalists who have gone sour, barely repentant former racists and warmongers…

Yesterday, the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, reached the front of the queue. It was his turn to put the boot in to Jeremy Corbyn, as the crude attempt to weaken and isolate Labour’s leader continues, and Theresa May is surely pondering a snap election.

In a New Statesman “interview” – well, platform, really: interviewers are supposed to probe and challenge – Rabbi Sacks thundered: “The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.” These were so significant apparently, and so offensive, that, as one commentator put it yesterday, they only took five years to notice them! They also needed to splice out two minutes from the video of Corbyn’s 2013 speech immediately before the allegedly offensive remarks, in order to completely distort the context.

Sacks condemned Corbyn’s remarks about Zionists and chose to read them instead as being about Jews. Either he was shown the ubiquitous doctored version of the speech by those who knew better, and he didn’t bother to look further, despite Labour’s Press Team pointing out the discrepancy within 24 hours, or he saw the full version and deliberately spun it as antisemitic for nefarious political purposes. Either way he owes Jeremy Corbyn a big apology.... See more

Staying close to our friends?

David Rosenberg - 24 August 2018

While the mainstream newspapers have tried to fill every space in the last few weeks with false and ever more ridiculous allegations against Jeremy Corbyn, and claims that he is an existential threat to Jews(!) , there is another story about racism that can’t help but push its way back into the crevices between some of those headlines, one that they can’t put a lid on because it is based on shocking truths, and it is about people who have faced, and continue to face a real existential threat.

A few days ago we read that 18 members of the Windrush generation will be receiving formal letters of apology from Home Secretary Sajid Javid for being “removed” (deported), “detained” (in the appalling network of detention centres that have a high suicide rate), or stopped (humiliated) at the border after returning from a visit abroad. Most of these 18 cases occurred under Theresa May’s racist hostile environment.

Read a little further beneath the headlines and you find these are merely the 18 clearest cases out of 164 that have been identified and are being seriously investigated at present. There are many more potential cases arising from complaints yet to be properly investigated.... See more

Who is stepping over the line

David Rosenberg - 17 August 2018

Last night I was outraged by Margaret Hodge’s disgusting abuse of the Jewish experience in the Holocaust to shield her appalling behaviour over a political difference with labour leader jeremy Corbyn on how the Labour Party combats antisemitism. Today I’ve been getting more and more wound up by her outrageous assertion in the same interview (or rather “platform” – because in an interview you might be challenged), that there is “a very thin line” between supporting Palestinian rights and antisemitism.... See more

Terrorists and peacemakers in Tunis and Israel – what the papers won’t tell you

David Rosenberg - 15 August 2018

While controversies rage on over Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Tunis in 2014, and whether he was standing near the grave of Salah Khalaf (AKA Abu Iyyad), or not, one of the greatest advocates for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, 94 years old Uri Avnery, lies unconscious after a severe stroke from which he may not recover.

So, what’s the connection?

Avnery, a prolific journalist, came to Palestine as a child in the 1930s when his family fled from Nazi Germany. He did not just talk peace: he put himself on the line by meeting with high up figures in the PLO including Yasser Arafat, at a time when governments and mainstream press outlets in Israel, Britain and the USA all cast Arafat as a terrorist, and leader of a terrorist organisation. In the late 1940s, Avnery was a member and activist of Irgun the same right-wing Israeli nationalist and terrorist body that Menachem Begin was so proud of being part of. But Avnery broke from their politics in the mid-1950s and never looked back.... See more

Labour’s centrists can’t ignore the threat from the Tory right and their far right allies any longer

David Rosenberg - 11 August 2018

Jacob Rees Mogg’s open support for Boris Johnson after yet another of his outrageous racist statements, is a calculated move. And it is not only about throwing down a challenge to Theresa May at a time when she is clearly floundering on a host of issues, not least Brexit.

The forces of the right and far right are re-aligning. UKIP has openly shifted towards a more fluid relationship with the menacing street forces that have coalesced recently around the “Free Tommy Robinson” Campaign. As a result it is experiencing a revival in its cross-class support.

In response to this, Johnson and Rees Mogg are deliberately seeking to strengthen support among Conservative voters for the openly racist right-wing of the party, and reassure those considering ditching the Tories for UKIP, that the space for their views and the policies they inspire not only exists within the Tory Party, but it is getting wider... See more

Time to call their bluff

David Rosenberg - 6 August 2018

It is surely getting near to the time when Jeremy Corbyn will need to call their bluff. Whose bluff? The self-proclaimed and self-important leadership of the Jewish community, who don’t want to talk to Jeremy at all – they just want to talk at him. When Jesus said “It is better to give than receive”, the Board of Deputies thought he was talking about “advice”. They want to humiliate him. They want to drive him from office, to save Theresa May’s bacon (or salt beef, if you prefer), and keep us all nervous about discussing the rights of Palestinians.

But he’s got to speak to Jewish leaders – we elected them. Didn’t we? No, very few of us Jews did that. Jewish Leadership Council? Unelected. They just announced themselves. Chief Rabbi? No, appointed not elected. Campaign Against Antisemitism? Where the hell did they come from? Completely unelected. Ah, but the Board of Deputies – some of them are elected. No? Well, in theory, yes. If you are a member of a synagogue you might get a vote, but in some synagogues not if you are a woman. How many elections are contested? What percentage of voters take part? When did your synagogue last change its deputy? What – as long ago as that? And then there are a lot of Jews are not members of synagogues. Hmmm, that’s a problem. And, at the end of the day, decisions of the Board are made by paid officers not ordinary elected members... See more

Stephen Pollard’s crocodile tears about the threats to Jews

David Rosenberg - 4 August 2018

The Jewish Chronicle editor, STEPHEN POLLARD, portrays himself as a great defender of the Jewish community against all antisemitism. He has shown a sharp eye for any antisemitism that he can try to link in some way to the Labour Party and its twice elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. On Friday 27th July he was especially proud that three Jewish newspapers, of which his was the biggest partner (though with a significantly declining circulation), all published the same front page leader claiming that a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country” in their print and online editions. I presume that as the senior partner in this venture, these words are his.

How would it look if an example came to light of a member of the Jewish community who faced a real existential threat from neo-Nazis, and the actions of Stephen Pollard increased the danger to him and his family, rather than acting to protect them? What if the evidence showed that he had been privately asked by that family to take one small action that would mitigate this threat, and he refused point blank to do so?

I know of such a case. It happened to our family. It was one of our sons who faced death threats from neo-Nazis. We did not go public at the time because we were worried that doing so would place our son at greater risk. In the light of Pollard’s claims about an ‘existential threat to Jews”, our son has decided to make this public in the last few days... See more