Dirty Tricks Against the Left

Searchlight have shown themselves willing and able to play their part in dirty tricks against the Left, especially anarchists, something obviously related but not reducible to, the Stalinist origins of many Searchlight personnel. In 1985 close Searchlight associate journalist David Rose printed lies about the militant anarchist group 'Class War' implying they were "run by former leading figures in the National Front," [17] lies he later admitted came from Searchlight. [18] A couple of weeks later, Rose (who is always very well informed as to the opinions of Special Branch) retracted this specific charge in the course of making more general insinuations about Class War. [19] The (intended) damage had been done, and the recently formed street-oriented 'Anti-Fascist Action' suspended Class War's membership, and set up a Commission of Enquiry. When AFA's report into the matter was finally published in 1986, they exonerated Class War, and had this to say: "Despite the leading role of Searchlight magazine in the affair, and despite many approaches to the magazine for evidence, the sum total of material from Searchlight to the enquiry was nil. We are bemused by Searchlight's role in this affair." [20] They shouldn't have been bemused: this was yet another instance of Searchlight running errands on behalf of the state, disorganising the anti-fascist movement by spreading disinformation. A fascinating article in the now defunct International Times (IT) illuminated the state operation against Class War and the similarity of specific lies spread by Gable to those coming more directly from the [Page 17] state. [21] When the IT reporters caught up with Gable, he repeated the assertion that "Class War is being manipulated by the state" (p. 3). There was, needless to say, no evidence for this in the slightest, but the episode shows how, as IT speculated "Gable is using Searchlight's street-credibility and Fleet-street credibility to spread rumours about anarchists" (p. 3). This is precisely the point – by getting close to militant anti-fascists, Searchlight have been able, not just to spy on them, but disseminate tit-bits of genuine information, and thereby use this leverage to more effectively aid state operations of various kinds, including those against sections of the Left. The first lies about Class War surfaced in 1985 in the aftermath of the Brixton riots which had followed the shooting by police of a black woman in her home. [22] In October 1994 there was again rioting on the streets of London, this time against the Criminal Justice Bill (now Act) which curtailed many political and civil rights. As sure as night follows day, the lies about Class War were recycled, and one instance, not sourced to Searchlight freely admitted the state was the origin of the fantasies. It was reported that "Special Branch officers believe that Class War itself has been infiltrated by elements of the extreme right... in an attempt to stir up violence and thus encourage draconian laws banning all public protest." [23] That this story does not mention Searchlight shows very well the ultimate source of the disinformation being the state and not them. Which is not to say they didn't get in on the act: regular team associate Julian Kossoff in Time Out quoted Gable without criticism as stating that "one of the leading members of Class War in the '80s fed information to the far right." Kossoff supplemented this clear reference to Tim Scargill with his own slur: that "Class War has attracted fascists to its ranks with their own sinister motives for creating chaos." [24] In this (ongoing) operation against anarchists, Searchlight have only been one (albeit at times crucial) conduit. Not all 'favours' Searchlight performs in this way are on behalf of the national state or security agencies. A good example of a 'ground setting' operation intended to have local effects were the smears against anarchist squatters describing them as heavily infiltrated by nazis in Hackney (East London) which began in January 1988 (p. 2) and culminated in a lying one page spread in the March 1988 issue, which came out just a couple of days after a massive police operation evicted the squatters. [25] It shows how useful Searchlight were to the local (Labour) Council in suppressing Left-field dissent and sowing dissension between the squatters and potential supporters. [26]