Tragedy of a serious split between anti-fascists

By Martin Bright, August 9, 2012

For more than two decades, the magazine Searchlight has been synonymous with the fight against the extreme right in the UK. Its founder, Gerry Gable, deserves his place in the pantheon of British anti-fascist heroes.

Over the years, Searchlight has provided an invaluable service to those investigating British fascist organisations, whether it was the street-fighting thugs of the National Front in the 1970s, or their slicker, be-suited successors in the British National Party.

This is a nasty, dangerous job, often involving the infiltration of the violent world of neo-Nazi groups and Searchlight did it brilliantly, sometimes by "turning" far-right activists to work for the anti-fascist cause.

For obvious reasons, Searchlight has also had strong support from within Britain's Jewish community and enjoyed a close working relationship with the Community Security Trust.

In recent years, a new generation of activists, led by Mr Gable's heir apparent Nick Lowles and Labour Party rising star Ruth Smeeth, have transformed the organisation with the creation of the Hope Not Hate movement. With particular attention to tackling the electoral threat of the BNP and the rise of the English Defence League, Hope Not Hate has worked to unite communities in the face of Islamophobia and racism.

I am proud to say I helped provide support through my charity, New Deal of the Mind, for young unemployed people to work on the oral history of the anti-fascist movement at the Searchlight Educational Trust.

There could not be a better tribute to the anti-fascist work of Gerry Gable than Hope Not Hate. Which is why it so saddening to report that the two have split in an increasingly bitter dispute over the direction of this most honourable of causes.

The word "tragic" is overused in politics, but there is something genuinely Oedipal about the way the Lowles-Gable narrative has played out. The Byzantine detail of the dispute is the subject of frenzied debate by various obsessives and conspiracy theorists on the web. But, at its simplest, Mr Gable has retained control of Searchlight magazine and its website, while Mr Lowles has effectively spun off Hope Not Hate as a separate organisation.

There is no need to take sides. It is quite possible to pay tribute to the contribution made by Searchlight and Gerry Gable, while recognising the need for the more modern approach of Hope Not Hate.

Last updated: 4:29pm, October 16 2012