The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight announces in its October issue that “Nick Lowles, the prime creator of the very successful Hope Not Hate [HnH] campaign, decided to stand down as editor.” Lowles has been replaced by former (and founding) editor Gerry Gable.
All fair enough, you’d think. However, not only has Lowles stood down, he has completely disappeared from the pages of the magazine. Also notable by their absence are Matthew Collins and Graeme Atkinson, both prominent Searchlight associates. The only British contributors to October’s Searchlight are Gerry and Sonia Gable. Add to this the absence of any links from the magazine’s website to HnH and it looks like more than an amicable parting of ways has occurred.
Why is this important? Gable and Lowles, through Searchlight and HnH, represent one of the two distinct trends of “official” anti-fascism (the other being the SWP-run UAF). Together, these groups benefit from the vast bulk of trade union funding and support. They represent “anti-fascism” per se in the imagination of most activists.
If there has been a sharp political disagreement at the top of the organisation, then the unions which put up large amounts of money and the activists who pound the streets with leaflets deserve to know about it. Carefully-worded editorials and suggestion by omission do not add up to political accountability.
Although Searchlight provides useful information and intelligence, it has always been a factional publication, representing and promoting a particular brand of anti-fascism. Real debate and discussion on tactics and strategy for the anti-fascist movement rarely grace its pages and unlike UAF — which at least goes through the motions of holding annual “conferences” and maintaining a steering committee — Searchlight’s campaigning arm appears to have no structure at all.
At a time when the fortunes of the British National Party look grim, and when the English Defence League’s support seems to be plateauing out, we need a serious discussion about what is to come and how to counteract it. The present social, economic and political conditions are just as favourable for far-right/fascist regroupment as they are for building the labour movement and socialist organisation.
Neither of the official anti-fascist campaigns are up to the task of seriously assessing, mobilising the working class against and combating the rise threats to come.
A weakened and divided Searchlight/HnH that continues to benefit from trade union and activist support can only be a block on the road to effective, working-class anti-fascism.