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.
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.
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.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.
Richard Wallace, Editor, Daily Mirror
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.
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.