Ray Hill – a hero of anti-fascism
In the pantheon of heroes this country’s anti-fascist movement has produced, there is surely a guaranteed seat of honour for Ray Hill, Searchlight’s most celebrated ‘mole’, who sadly died on 14 May. No one (or at least no one who can yet be spoken of) has inflicted such damage on the extreme right movement, nor provided such an inspiration to subsequent generations of anti-fascists.
Ray often told the story of his recruitment by the far right – a young man in Leicester, with a young family but few prospects, drawn into the Anti-Immigration Society, moved along to the Racial Preservation Society run by former Mosleyites, and eventually introduced to the national socialism of Colin Jordan: a recruitment that was subtle, seamless and ineluctable. That was the reason Ray understood, and hesitated to criticise, young, white, working class men seduced by the same vile process of indoctrination. He knew how irresistible it could be. By 1968 he had hooked up with Colin Jordan’s British Movement and thrown himself into the nazi movement wholeheartedly – two years later he was Jordan’s election agent in a Birmingham by election.
But his activism got him into trouble and in December 1969, facing criminal charges in Leicester, he boarded a plane and emigrated with his young family to South Africa where they lived for the next decade. When he returned to England in 1979, he was a man transformed. It wasn’t just his experience of apartheid that had changed him, though that played a big part – not least of all seeing an Asian family being evicted from their home as a direct consequence of a campaign for stiffer enforcement of the racially-based Group Areas Act he had run with the South African National Front. It was also the fact that when his family was struggling he received help from the most unlikely quarters – from Jewish people who became lifelong friends. Agonising over his past – and his future – he decided, “It’s over”. But he also resolved to make amends.
And so he did – and then some. Back in England he operated for the next five years as Searchlight’s mole, gathering intelligence on the fascist groups but also disrupting and frustrating their activities on an industrial scale. A major terror attack in London was averted. Entire organisations, not least of all British Movement, were destroyed by his efforts. It was a breath taking achievement, carried out with intelligence, wit and real bravery. His exploits were recorded over the three most recent issues of Searchlight, to mark their 40th anniversary.
When he “came out” in 1984 the fascists were at first speechless and then apoplectic with rage at, as they saw it, the scale of this betrayal. Then he followed up with a film and book, both called The Other Face of Terror, exposing the acts of his erstwhile comrades to a much wider public, to devasting effect. His book has become a classic text for anti-fascists. Inevitably, death threats and even vicious attempts to exact revenge followed. But he wasn’t to be stopped.
For the rest of his life, Ray threw himself into campaigning against them, educating other anti-fascists, particularly the rising generation in schools and universities, and striving to build the sort of unity that alone, he believed, could defeat this evil. Over 40 years Ray’s part in the successes of our movement has been immeasurable.
His was an extraordinary life, of extraordinary achievements, lived by an extraordinary man.