Sonia Hochfelder and the UVF Death Squads

The final 1970's 'team' member analysed here, Sonia Hochfelder, is today married to the editor of Searchlight, Gerry Gable, and was a co-founder in 1992 (later Executive Director) of the 'Searchlight Educational Trust'. Back in the mid-1970's she was in a tiny but militant Maoist group, the self-styled 'Communist Party of England-Marxist Leninist' (hereafter CPE-ML). Nothing remarkable in that, but while a student at Imperial College (London) she jumped ship in late 1974 and threw in her lot with the fascists, becoming the girlfriend of another student at the same institution, the well known Northern Irish fascist Steve Brady, about whom Searchlight (edited by her future husband) were to print all manner of lurid stories. [32] In March 1975 the fascist paper Britain First, produced by a National Front faction with which Brady was closely involved, reported on a 'National Front Students Association' meeting at Imperial College, attended by Richard Lawson and the late Dave McCalden as guest speakers. [33] Lawson, a key fascist strategist from that time to this, was the editor of the paper. McCalden, some US readers may recall, was in charge of California-based revisionist outfit the 'Institute for Historical Review' between 1978-81 before he parted company with Willis Carto. Hochfelder, according to a well-informed source, booked the room.

On March 8th 1975, Irish Republican Socialist Party member Michael Adamson was shot dead at home in Belfast by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force. [34] Speaking of this murder, a letter from Brady to Hochfelder circa March April 1975 refers to CPE-ML members "apparently they had been carrying on a friendly correspondence with an IRSP student Michael Adamson, and the letters were [Page 10] discovered when the UVF Auxiliary Unit (i.e. 'Death Squad') officers searched Adamson's flat following an 'exchange of views' between the UVF and Adamson which the UVF men won with that most forceful and final argument a .45 calibre bullet! Rifkin, Rowe, Evans and Reakes have incurred the displeasure of UVF Brigade Staff over this; not a situation particularly good for the future health and prospects of the individuals concerned – their activity in certain fields, such as politics, revolutionary mobilising of the glorious proletarian masses, eating and breathing may shortly be permanently discontinued." This was reproduced in Searchlight (May 1983 p. 3; April 1992 p. 6). In 1983 it was described as being written "to another fascist", by 1992 it was now said to have been written to Andy Tyrie of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) a rival paramilitary grouping. This second attribution is clearly fictitious: a 1980 letter from Brady to Tyrie (that I have stated before was most likely passed via intermediaries from British Army Intelligence to Searchlight, a contention I stand by) clearly shows that five years after the Adamson letter Brady hardly knew Tyrie. Note also that Brady didn't feel necessary to give the full names of the CPE-ML members, who had clearly been discussed before. Brady was not exaggerating UVF hatred for the CPE-ML, first featured in their publication Combat January 1975. In July 1975 Combat referred to them as the "most violent Communist organisation in the UK" and confirmed Brady's reference to correspondence with the CPE-ML having been stolen from Adamson's home. CPE-ML individuals named were Adrian Rifkin, Paul Rowe and Alan Evans: three of those featured in Brady's letter. In May 1975 the UVF reminded Combat readers that Adamson had been "a legitimate military target. He was a revolutionary socialist... when the UVF executed Michael Adamson they were not engaged in a murderous act, they were simply eliminating a revolutionary terrorist who, one day would perhaps murder scores of British citizens."

According to Searchlight in 1983 the letter was to be interpreted as "showing his close knowledge of UVF violence." [35] By 1992 we were told "this extract... shows how closely he is linked with the Ulster Volunteer Force Death Squads." [36] I see no compelling reason to set aside my 1992 opinion that this letter isn't hard proof of operational links between Brady and the UVF [37] but there are doubts now concerning this episode that weren't there before. These centre around subsequent research into the Adamson killing. A worrying aspect of the murder is the UVF claim (Combat May 1975) that letters were taken from Adamson's home "some days prior to his execution." This is more likely than Brady's assertion the letters were taken after the death, for Adamson was killed while the family home was being used for a wedding, and UVF gun-men staying to rifle the premises would hardly have gone un-noticed. It is reasonable therefore to infer that Adamson's correspondence was used to determine whether or not he should be executed in the first place. Burgling the residence so soon prior to his murder was intrinsically risky, and points to the strike against Adamson not being the result of their own intelligence-gathering but a consequence of information [Page 11] received from outside 'normal channels'. Holland & McDonald point the finger at the 'Official IRA' from whom the IRSP were a split, and they may well be right. [28] However there is another disturbing possibility worth airing. Was Adamson set up by someone in England, well aware he was in correspondence with prominent CPE-ML members? That would explain why the information had to be riskily checked out locally before action. In this light, a throwaway remark by Holland & McDonald that the UVF paying such attention to the CPE-ML was "Loyalist naivety" (p. 57) can be viewed another way. The CPE-ML, small as they were, did play a highly visible and aggressive part in English anti-fascist street demonstrations. And in any event, it was the intention of some part of the secret state (such as Special Branch or MI5) to stir up political strife, exaggerating the significance of Republican-Leftist links and implying they were operational is a well-worn stratagem.

If we follow Searchlight's stated position, that the above quoted letter really does illustrate Brady's links with 'UVF Death Squads', then it must also denote Hochfelder's links, and raises the question as to whether she transmitted information about the CPE-ML and their affairs (such as dealings with Adamson) to the UVF either via Brady or some other conduit – a well informed source has stated that she was Intelligence Officer for the Nazi League of St George at this time. That such an obscure group as the CPE-ML appeared in the UVF's sights shortly after Hochfelder began consorting with fascists in late 1974 is hardly coincidental. The CPE-ML were of interest to the British state too: their 1975 conference was raided by police looking for weapons, who found some bullets. Such a raid is likely to have been a late phase in a state operation that would have started covertly earlier. Being Intelligence Officer for the League of St George almost by definition implies gathering information on Leftists, but might she have contemplated setting up former comrades for attack by disclosing information to the enemy? An answer can perhaps be found in the July 1975 edition of Britain First, which carried another article penned by McCalden, this time on the CPE-ML. It divulged members personal details (including addresses) that could only have come from someone with detailed knowledge of that tiny milieu. All four activists referred to in Brady's letter were fingered, three of them named previously by the UVF. Even if Adamson himself was not set up for murder by Hochfelder, the above matrix connecting her to Brady and McCalden (both from Northern Ireland) is highly suggestive of her knowing full well the implications of targetting Leftists in this way. The balance of probability has to be that despite being well aware (from private correspondence and the UVF's public pronouncements) of lives being in danger, Hochfelder passed CPE-ML details to McCalden nonetheless. Not until I had publicly made known to the Left her relationship with Brady and speculated in general terms about her 1970's activities in 1993 [39] was a very half-hearted attempt to paint her as an anti-fascist 'mole', with little believable detail. [40] A related article clouds the issue even further, describing her as "an infiltrator in the BNP for several years." [41] [Page 12] Yet the BNP wasn't founded till 1982, and she was involved with Brady/Nazism as early as 1974. Debate about the nature of links between Hochfelder-Brady and UVF/fascist/state targetting of anti-fascists can only now be carried forward by Searchlight fully revealing the complete text of the Brady/Hochfelder letter; the exact dating of which and comparison to information in the public domain would be most helpful.