Turning the searchlight on the enemies of democracy

By Gerry Gable

Welcome back to the Searchlight website. After we posted several reports that exposed the increasing violence of the British extreme right and their international links, we were bombarded with attacks. As we were planning a relaunch of Searchlight later in the year, we temporarily suspended the website, but of course carried on with our work of investigating the activities of the far right.

The first issue of the revised magazine has been posted to subscribers and supporters and placed in delegate packs for the Trade Union Congress in Brighton, something we have done in cooperation with the TUC for many years.

I wrote in the editorial for the new magazine that the recent period had been one of the busiest ever for far right activity. That period included the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP on 16 June. West Yorkshire Police quickly arrested Thomas Mair and stated that his links to far-right extremism were a priority line of enquiry. Mair was charged and Westminster Magistrates’ Court remanded him in custody, setting a provisional trial date of 14 November.

One of our photographers was the victim of a murderous assault in Dover on 30 January. He is lucky to be alive and is making a slow recovery. His attacker, Peter Atkinson, is now serving a seven year sentence for causing grievous bodily harm, in our view not nearly enough. A large number of key Nazi activists have been rounded up over the past few months. We identified to North Wales police two of the Nazis whom we saw on video footage attacking people in Dover, and they have now been imprisoned for two years. While those who knew the police were after them engaged in a lot of “heroic” posing in front of their comrades, in the event almost all of them pleaded guilty to get shorter sentences. The police pressure on the Nazis has however not brought about a halt to their paramilitary training here.

Nazi Peter Atkinson attempts to murder anti-fascist photographer Kelvin Williams in Dover on 30 January 2016
Nazi Peter Atkinson attempts to murder anti-fascist photographer Kelvin Williams in Dover on 30 January 2016

Searchlight welcomes the ban on Britain First activists entering mosques in England and Wales for the next three years. Bedfordshire Police obtained a High Court injunction in August, which also prohibited the extreme-right group’s leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen from entering Luton. The persistence of Searchlight and other anti-fascists who have long complained about the violent actions of Britain First, and accusations that the authorities were treating them with kid gloves, seem to have paid off.

During the Euro 2016 football championship this summer, the Russian Nazi Denis Nikitin was named as the leader of the Russian army of thugs who caused mayhem in Marseille. Nikitin trained Nazis in the UK in 2014 and spoke at a meeting of Jez Bedford Turner’s London Forum alongside Arkadiusz Rzepinski, leader of the Polish far right group, the NOP. Searchlight has been exposing the violent Polish Nazis living in the UK for several years. We have been helped enormously by anti-Nazis in Poland who are very well organised and monitor the NOP.

A few days after the murder of a Polish man in Harlow on 27 August, hundreds of local residents held a silent march through the streets of the town. What was not reported was the presence of a group of tough looking Polish men wearing dark glasses hanging around with a group who appeared to be English and were wearing hoodies with the words “Patriots Slough” emblazoned on the back.

Searchlight supports the initiative of the South East Region of the TUC (SERTUC) to build solidarity between British trade unionists and Polish and Portuguese workers. The fleeting visit to the UK by a senior member of the right-wing Polish Government at the beginning of September cannot provide much assurance when his Government is linked to one of the worst Nazi scenes in Europe.

Searchlight Research Associates

In June at a successful international conference in London held at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers, we launched a new initiative: Searchlight Research Associates. Its purpose is to expand our intelligence and analysis work and continue working with our partners at the University of Northampton to produce publications and research documents on various aspects of the extreme right. Searchlight continues its international work on the committee of the Greek Solidarity Campaign and has for some months been part of the steering group organising the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. We must salute the very hard work that has been conducted by our colleagues on the steering group, who have given hours of their time to overcome a mountain of red tape to get us to 9 October.

We hope to see our readers putting their support into action whenever and wherever a call is made to oppose far right street action. So far the anti-fascist movement has been sharp off the mark even at very short notice to confront the enemies of democracy.