Searchlight are all grasses
One of the most risible myths promoted
on the left is that we shouldn't trust the anti-fascist organisation
Searchlight, because they are grasses. To be fair this accusation is
more from anarchists that socialists, but nevertheless it does get a
hearing. This hostility goes so far that some anti-fascist campaigners
refuse to distribute the excellent anti-BNP material produced by
The accusation from the anarchists and
ultra-lefts is specifically that Searchlight cooperate with police
Special Branch and inform on left and anti-fascist activist in exchange
for information about the far right. Apparently, Searchlight collaborate
with the police; and are allegedly completely opposed to any
self-defence activity that involves violence against fascists.
Now I don't have any special
relationship with Searchlight, although over the years I have had a
couple of phone conversations with Gerry Gable, so I don't really know
what they get up to. But let us look at how well these accusations stack
Searchlight get some information from
moles and informants within the far right organisations. Some of these
informants, like the recent case of Andrew Sykes the Bradford BNP
organiser, cooperate with Searchlight out of principled rejection of far
right politics. Other informants sell information to Searchlight for
money. Others inform on the activities of rival groups out of spite.
Searchlight magazine understandably has a wide readership from the
far-right and I am sure that the magazine's researchers learn quite a
lot just from their own subscription list! Many individuals on the left
also pass tit-bits of information to Searchlight that they pick up, and
sometimes employees of Racial Equality Councils include this as part of
In the case of Nazi nail bomber, David
Copeland, Searchlight knew more than the police, and it was evidence
from Searchlight that helped the police catch Copeland.
In short, Searchlight are much better
informed on the far right than Special Branch anyway.
Secondly, what information on the left
would Searchlight have that Special Branch would be particularly
interested in. Those who have a "squaddist" strategy of direct physical
confrontation with the fascists have kept well away from Searchlight for
years. Relations are also strained between Searchlight and the SWP, the
largest group on the left.
So this two way trade of information
seems very unlikely.
And yes, Searchlight do cooperate with
the police. This may come as a shock, but most people in Britain think
that the police do play a useful role in fighting crime. When
Searchlight uncovered the identity of mass murderer David Copeland, they
had three options: i) inform the police and help ensure he was captured,
convicted and imprisoned; ii) wait until after the revolution and pass
the details to a workers militia; or iii) post the details on IndyMedia,
or anarchist discussion lists and join in a long debate about whether
state violence was worse than fascist violence anyway. Mmmmm. Hard
So are Searchlight opposed to violence
against fascists? Strangely the much derided 12 page tabloid that
Searchlight produced for the 10th June elections has the
answer. Some 13 million of these were produced I believe, paid for by
the TUC, and distributed by Labour movement and other anti-racist
activist to homes up and down the country. So the contents were anything
but a secret - and in there is a full page article on Vidal Sassoon.
Hairdressing tips? No, a report of the "43 group" an anti fascist
militia originally formed by 43 Jewish ex-servicemen after the second
world war. This paramilitary force of up to a 1000 members fought
Mosley's newly reformed fascist in the streets of London, smashing up
Fascist meetings wherever they could. I quote Searchlight:
"Many former 43ers remember Vidal well and
his solid reputation for standing firm when the fists started flying ...
Inevitably the police arrested hundreds of people during the 5 years of
It seems that Searchlight believe in
fighting the fascists "by any means necessary", but as Malcolm X
explained that does not imply any means at all. "Any Means Necessary"
requires us to use the best weapons and tactics for the task at hand:
sometimes the leaflet (or 12 page tabloid newspaper) is more powerful
than the baseball bat