By New Worker correspondent
SEARCHLIGHT anti-fascist magazine marked its 50th anniversary with a two-day conference last week hosted by Northampton University and attended by a wide range of anti-fascist activists, intellectuals, journalists, teachers, lawyers, photographers and retired “moles”.
Northampton University is now the home of Searchlight’s archives, covering the history of fascist and racist activity in Britain and most of the rest of the world and the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement that arose to oppose the violent and extremist right-wing.
Archivist Dan Jones is now working through several thousand archive boxes, sorting and cataloguing the material and preparing to make it available to researchers.
It is an ongoing project but what has been processed so far can be researched on http://library.northampton.ac.uk.archive
The archive is open from 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday and can be visited by appointment.
Searchlight arose from within a group of progressive Jews, ex-servicemen, and former International Brigaders in the post-war years who were horrified to see fascism raising its ugly head again among the followers of Oswald Mosley, Colin Jordan and others.
They decided that to be effective anti-fascist and progressive forces needed a reliable source of accurate information about the various fascist and racist organisations and set about creating an anti-fascist intelligence network, delivering high quality information for anti-fascist activists to use – turning a searchlight on the activities of the fascists.
The leaks from among the fascist organisations that it has published have proved a serious embarrassment to the fascists over the years and led to many splits and divisions among the fascists.
The first editor was Maurice Ludmer and the magazine was based in Birmingham. Ludmer had been a member of the Young Communist League in his youth in the 1930s. During the Second World War he served in the British Army. He witnessed the relief of the Belsen concentration camp and it changed his life; he became a dedicated anti-fascist.
He died at the age of 54 and the editorship passed to Gerry Gable and Searchlight moved its base to London.
Throughout its existence Searchlight has informed not only the anti-fascist movement but also the mainstream media and became the authoritative source of reference on extreme right-wing activity in Britain.
On occasions it has also supplied information to the police, for example passing on a warning that a group of fascist terrorists was planning to explode a bomb during the Notting Hill Carnival and helping the trace the youthful nail-bomber David Copeland who planted bombs in Brixton, Brick lane and the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho's Old Compton Street, the heart of London's gay community.
Speakers at the first day of the conference included Gerry Gable, playwright David Edgar, human rights expert Ciaran O Maolin, photographer David Hoffman, Gavin Millar QC.
International speakers included Alfio Bernabei, Searchlight’s Italian correspondent, Professor Maria Nikolakaki from the University of Peloponnese, Leonard Zeskind and David Burghardt from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
Speakers on the second day included Andy Bell – deputy editor at [Panorama] and producer at World in Action, Ray Hill former British Movement organiser and Searchlight mole and Sonia Gable – Gerry Gable’s partner and a former Inland Revenue tax inspector with specialist research skills on the financing of fascist groups.
Cathy Pound from Trade Union Friends of Searchlight and NUT member Bob Archer spoke on working with the trade unions.
David Rosenberg from the Jewish Socialist Group and Daphne Liddle from the New Communist Party spoke on working together and overcoming sectarianism.
In the final session historian Dr Paul Jackson of the University of Northampton, archivist Dan Jones and Gerry Gable spoke on the future of anti-fascism and the challenges ahead.