Secret bid to infiltrate far-right after Battle of Cable Street revealed

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Secret bid to infiltrate far-right after Battle of Cable Street revealed

Board of Deputies, which was criticised for telling people to stay away from the stand-off, had covertly organised daring attempt to undermine numerous antisemitic groups

Tali is a reporter at Jewish News

Mural on the former St George's Town Hall in Tower Hamlets, London, which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street. ( © Historic England)
Mural on the former St George's Town Hall in Tower Hamlets, London, which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street. ( © Historic England)

Secret attempts by the Board of Deputies to infiltrate the far-right following the Battle of Cable Street have been revealed ahead of the organisations 260th anniversary.

The Board of Deputies have been criticised for advising Jews to stay away from trouble during the Battle of Cable Street in 1935, in which Jewish residents and anti-fascists resisted a march through the East End by Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts.

However, as the Board celebrates its 260th anniversary, historian Daniel Tilles has revealed that, behind the scenes, the organisation made a daring attempt to infiltrate the far-right at the time.

At the organisation’s Sunday’s plenary meeting, Mr Tilles will tell members how the Board worked to successfully infiltrate a number of antisemitic organisations.

Working in secrecy, Board President Neville Laski established a network of informants and moles, beginning in 1936 when, “by devious means”, he recruited an officer within the British Union of Fascists’ (BUF) headquarters.

Battle of Cable Street plaque

‘Captain X’, as he was referred to, passed on details of upcoming Blackshirt meetings to the Board of Deputies, allowing the organisation to plan countermeasures as well as collect the names of BUF members, which were then sent to the police.

Following this success, former Special Branch advisor, Cecil Pavey, under a secret identity, penetrated other groups of Britain’s radical-right on behalf of the Board of Deputies. One of the biggest successes for the Board was when Pavey integrated himself into the Nordic League, a pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish body headed by the Conservative MP Archibald Ramsey.

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