October 09, 2008

400 and not out - Searchlight celebrates its 400th edition (part two)

400 and still fighting - Nick Lowles looks at how Searchlight has changed in recent years

Searchlight magazine has evolved over the past 33 years and will no doubt do so again in the years to come. However the fundamentals will remain the same.

During the early 1990s Searchlight reflected the changing scene on the British far right. The traditional fascist parties, the National Front and British National Party, were small and politically irrelevant and much of our focus was on the extra-parliamentary right, especially the emergence of an anti-state and terrorist ideology that derived from the United States.

Issue 126: December 1985
Initially this was spread through a number of nazi book clubs but later it was crystallised through Combat 18 (C18), a violent nazi group that took its name from the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, 1 and 8 – AH – Adolf Hitler.

Searchlight followed the formation of C18, from its early days as a stewards’ group for the BNP to its attempted bombing campaigns in the late 1990s.

As always, Searchlight combined reportage with propaganda and we can take partial credit for C18’s demise in 1998, as the group descended into internal warfare and many of its leaders were imprisoned.

A particular success occurred in the 1996-8 period when a succession of Searchlight exclusives shut down the production of nazi music in this country. This cut off a very rich seam of money flowing into the movement, some of which went directly into funding terrorism.

It was also Searchlight, in March 1999, that broke the story of nazis serving in the British Army. This was just one of several stories that was taken up by the national press. It was Searchlight that first revealed that David Copeland, the London nailbomber who killed three people and injured hundreds more in 1999, was an active fascist.

Three investigations that really stick out for me were the three-part exclusive into attempts by British and European fascists to launch a race war in South Africa shortly before Nelson Mandela became President; the exposé that the BNP leader’s personal bodyguard was suspected of being a Liverpool gunman responsible for several murders; and a two-part story about human trafficking from North Africa.

All three stories were not without personal and organisational risk. Our investigation into the fascist mercenaries heading to South Africa caught the interest of South African intelligence and we spent several weeks dodging the attention of Cliff Saunders, one of the main apartheid intelligence operatives in Europe during the 1980s.

The revelations about gunman Joey Owens led the police to warn me personally that they had picked up intelligence that my life was in danger. The third story, the appalling tale of human misery and exploitation, led a journalist to put his life at risk in North Africa while posing as a people smuggler.

Issue 256: October 1996
However, the real heroes of our magazine are those who feed us the information in the first place. There have been dozens of people who have infiltrated nazi and racist organisations for Searchlight over the years, and many more who realised the errors of their ways and came to us with information. I would like to pay tribute to Matthew Collins, who provided information during the early C18 phase, and Darren Wells, whose inside information from within the leadership of C18 helped stop further disturbances in Oldham and at least one bombing campaign. Finally, I would like to mention Andy Sykes, whose role as Bradford BNP organiser helped oversee the demise of the party in that city. Both Collins and Sykes are now dedicating themselves to fighting fascism.

In more recent years Searchlight has taken on a more campaigning role and this has been reflected in the magazine. On the ground reports, campaigning tips and more strategic overviews are now commonplace in the magazine.
Searchlight is a terrific campaigner and the Daily Mirror’s delighted to work very closely with it to champion Hope not Hate. The rise of the far right and BNP underlines why Searchlight will be as important over the next 400 issues as it was in the last 400.
Richard Wallace, Editor, Daily Mirror
In 2006 the HOPE not hate campaign was launched and over the past two years our work has been supported by the Daily Mirror. Two national bus tours, campaign videos, localised leaflets and tabloid newspapers have all taken Searchlight’s expertise into the community.

The magazine has also changed. In 2007 we began producing a quarterly full-colour Extra and also raised several thousand pounds for our colleagues in Russia who are facing an unbelievably violent onslaught.

Issue 379: January 2007
In June 2008 Searchlight produced a seminal article about the future of anti-fascism. Entitled Where Now? it challenged many of the orthodoxies of traditional anti-fascist activity and called for a more localised strategy to defeating the BNP.

Nothing is static and Searchlight will continually change to adapt to the challenges we face. However, our basic approach will remain the same as those set out when Searchlight first appeared in 1975. Searchlight will remain dedicated to defeating fascism.



tg said...

Fab stuff. Is this going to be a series?

Stu said...

Hell of a difference in quality between issue one and the Barnbrook edition. How things change huh.

Anonymous said...

What's happened to the images over on the right of the page? None of them are showing up in any of my browsers.

Antifascist said...

'Is this going to be a series?'

Yep. Next part comes out at the same time as Issue 500. ;-)

'What's happened to the images over on the right of the page?'

There's a problem at Zen apparently, where all the images are stored. They'll be back soon. Hopefully...

Anonymous said...

More covers on their way.

Dave said...

The site looks weird without the images. The contents fine though and the Searchlight articles are very interesting. I'd love to see some other old covers too.

Anonymous said...

"Next part comes out at the same time as Issue 500."

I hope we're all still around to see it.

Flakey said...

Just had a look at SF and suprised to see the Tyndallite and ex NFer Richard Edmunds has been promoted onto the BNPs "Advisory Council".

To me this, and the news that the BNP is contemplating two more street demos, suggests that it is aware its chances at the polls are diminishing despite the fertile opportunities events are favouring it with, and signals a return to the old BNP ways. A lot of noise and bluster but nothing in the way of substance, ie election wins, to show for it.

It could also give Gri££in a way out when the results in the Euros dont go the BNPs way:-

"We should have stuck to electioneering but some favoured other routes, it is they who are to blame for our poor performance".

After all Nick Gri££in certainly does know how to set them up to knock them down.

Mr Fister said...


Your analysis will surely have the fash sleeping soundly in their beds tonight.

However, no-one listens to you among antifascists either, anyway.

Regardless of whatever the BNP choose to do, you'll be nowhere to be seen either way.

Anonymous said...

Are there more old front covers?

Anonymous said...

The front page with Dicky was taken some time ago now, but is well remembered event, he made such a prat of himself.

Mind you he is still wearing the same suit.


Anonymous said...

"The front page with Dicky was taken some time ago now, but is well remembered event, he made such a prat of himself.

Mind you he is still wearing the same suit."

Take a look at the video Barnbrook posted on his blog last Tuesday, in which he tries to wriggle out of his "slight geographical error" over a murder in a school and other incidents that did not take place in Barking and Dagenham, all dressed up in a new dark suit and tie.