Article from Black Flag in 1986 about Searchlight's attempts to influence Anti-Fascist Action.
Anti-Fascist: Or Pro-Police? - Anarchist Black Cross
Anti-Fascist Action, the London based defence group, is guaranteed an unspectacular demise given that Trotskyists — and, more importantly, a pro-police lobby — have gained a controlling interest/influence within the organisation. The pro-police lobby in question mainly consists of certain representatives of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, whose guru, Gerry Gable, is a self-confessed confidant of Special Branch. As has been demonstrated in earlier reporting (see Anarchy magazine) Gable and colleagues were able to get much of their information on British based fascists direct from police intelligence. The traffic was by no means one way.
Needless to say the police haven't the slightest interest in helping anti-fascists. Tossing a few tit-bits of low-grade information now and then to keep Searchlight happy helps ensure that the cosy relationship continues. There is very little within Searchlight that can be criticised: it is not what is said that is at fault, but what is left out. The full story — the passive (and sometimes active) support the fascists receive from the police and how they are employed on a global scale by the world's security forces and intelligence agencies, etc — has been exposed in successive anarchist publications. Searchlight will make the odd swipe at the police, especially their racism, but will always stop short at condemnation. Like any good statist, what they seek is a strong state (preferably headed by the Labour Party) where the police (controlled by Labour Party dominated committees) maintain Law and (dis)Order. More community policing (ie. intelligence gathering), more accountability (to Council bureaucrats), less institutionalised racism in the police (as in the USA, where black cops are happily incorporated into the repressive state machine): these are the objectives sought by Searchlight. With these sort of objectives it is hardly surprising to find that Anti-Fascist Action are being asked by the pro-police lobby to work with the police and not against them, to pass on information, to place trust in Law and Order to deal with fascism, to reject direct action against fascists, and to reject those who flout Law and Order and who use violence against fascists.
And it is the latter consideration that especially has prompted the pro-police lobby to attempt to stir things up against the anarchist contingents that were within the AFA from the beginning. Originally AFA was set up as a result of increased racial attacks on ethnic communities, particularly in East London. Some anarchists immediately formed a community militia and regularly undertook attacks on fascist gangs who had, mainly in the Kings Cross area, been preying on lone Asians, women and leftists. Neither the police nor the rhetoric of Searchlight were able to limit the activities of the fascists. But neither will the direct action of only a few anarchists — instead a concerted direct action move by those who suffer the main brunt of fascist violence can achieve that. The Asian communities of East London have refrained from mass opposition, mainly be of the ever-present danger of a 'white-backlash'. And for this reason it is even more imperative that white anti-fascists take action alongside any defence work initiated by the ethnic communities. Such initiatives and support for those initiatives necessarily imply that defence work has to be undertaken outside of any open platform especially one which includes a pro-police fiction. The contradiction brought about by direct action versus the implausible argument that fascists can be brought to heel simply through the reformist left putting pressure on an allegedly sympathetic police, in the end caused the pro-police lobby to resort to obvious smear tactics against the direct actionists in particular the anarchists — in order to consolidate their influence within the AFA, which they would hope would become a sort of support organisation to Searchlight policies, relinquishing its non-sectarianism and commitment to defence work (as at its inception).
Forgetting Searchlight's dubious political stance, it has done and still continues to do a more than adequate job on recording some of the goings-on of the fascist movement in Britain and in other countries. However this can lull anti-fascists into a false sense of security: if you believe that you know what the enemy is up to and how it is organised and who the Leaders are, then that information — so the argument goes — is sufficient to keep that enemy at bay. Certainly, one should never underestimate the value of investigative work and given the limited resources within the anarchist movement our own reporting has not been lacking either. The danger has always been that only the tip of the iceberg is shown: the extent of fascist activity, the involvement of the state, especially the intelligence agencies and the security services, and the links with business and crime syndicates, need also to be investigated more.
But behind the Searchlight moves within AFA lies also the fallacy that direct action, because it involves breaking the law usually, is in itself fascist. This mischevious lie is geared to support the equally fallacious contention that only the police state — accountable or not — is capable of fighting injustice (try telling that to striking miners Greenham women, the Newham 7, the surviving crew of the Rainbow Warrior, trade unionists in any country under any political system... the list of examples are endless). That anarchists seek a society where policing is not necessary is only part of the solution, for the police are not a current palliative to the problems of society they are an integral part of the problem itself. That anarchist-syndicalists can equally detest the tyranny of the Bolshevik model of repression as much as the Fascist might confound the staff of Searchlight, but let them explain their objections to Solidarnosc or to Jewish refugees of the Soviet Union.
That fascism itself grows out of statism — contrary to the ravings of certain neo-fascists — has never been, for us, in question nor that classic fascism is a product of -nationalism and state 'socialism'. That all governments — fascist, state socialist, social democratic, conservative or whatever — oppose anarchism is natural in that anarchism opposes all government: government being the enemy of a free and equal society. That millions of anarchists in countries like Spain, Russia, Italy and Mexico were killed and imprisoned by totalitarians of both the left and right because they were among the many that refused to abdicate their freedom to those who would govern on their behalf, places anarchism as the opposite to authoritarianism and tyranny. As an organisation that itself began as an international aid organisation providing practical support for the anti-fascist prisoners incarcerated at the hands of the Francoist state (both during after the Franco reign) and helping CNT (Spanish anarcho-syndicalist labour union) militants at a point in history when it was convenient for the left to forget them... as an organisation whose constituent sections have themselves been the object of vicious fascist attacks, we utterly condemn any anti-fascist that has the slightest dealings with the police or with agents of the state, for all such dealings can only assist the presence of fascism in all its forms.
NB. Perhaps it is no coincidence that within only a matter of weeks after Scotland Yard had passed on disinformation to the Press ludicrously asserting (as they did in 1981) that anarchists had organised the several inner city riots in September/October 1985 a representative from Searchlight at an AFA meeting was making false statements about anarchists in a bid to rid them from that organisation. If they succeed then the Special Branch police would have had its way and another victory for disinformation can be chalked up.
ANARCHIST BLACK CROSS (London section).