AFA and Searchlight

In an obviously controversial decision, the previous issue of Red Action carried an article by a leading BNP strategist. The article by Tony Lecomber, which was reproduced in full, appraised the political developments within militant anti-fascism since the BNP's abandonment of the 'march and grow strategy'. In particular it focussed on the recognition by some AFA militants of the need for a 'political wing'. Our purpose in publishing the article was to allow militant anti-fascism a unique insight into the perceptions of it's current strengths and weaknesses from an opposition standpoint; to allow militants to see themselves as the enemy do.

Sometimes the opinions of our enemies come nearer to the truth about us than our own opinions. Hence the saying: 'If you know your enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt.' Consequently in this issue we follow-on with the perspective of an equally hostile element, since exposed as entryists from the 'state friendly' Searchlight. Apparently threatened by AFA's interest in a political strategy they sought from the beginning to disable it. With the authors since unmasked as infiltrators and dupes, a closer study of their emasculating technique, and in particular the political logic behind it, is instructive.
Three years ago, on September 23 I995, a forty-strong Northern Network AFA delegate meeting in Sheffield was addressed by three representatives from London AFA. The purpose of the meeting was to counter the growing cloud of mis- and dis-information in regard to what the relationship between AFA and the Independent Working Class Association was, was likely to be, or should become.
The meeting lasted over three hours, primarily a question and answer session on the nature of the IWCA, its structure, the organisations already involved, its proposed method of operation, the specific reasons behind it, its direct relationship to militant anti-fascism and so on. London AFA representatives asked for specific questions to bring the greatest clarity to the discussion and got them. In all of this 'Simon' from Leeds in casting himself as 'devil advocate in chief,' in allowing the most searching, tricky, provocative questions to be competently fielded unwittingly played a constructive role. Despite or more likely in acknowledgement of his relative failure at Sheffield, 'Simon,' using Huddersfield AFA as a flag of convenience, produced two documents in quick succession with the determined intention of undermining growing AFA support nationally for the IWCA strategy. His method was to make the same allegations and 'demand' answers to precisely the same questions - as if the 'clear the air' meeting in Sheffield had never happened! Significantly, both documents were distributed directly to all AFA branches prior to London being notified or afforded the right of reply (in a further twist when the net began to close on the covert Searchlight operation in Yorkshire and his pivotal role in it, in addition to reinventing himself as an anarchist, he suggested that his on the record opposition to the IWCA was the real reason why London AFA in particular were 'out to get him!'). Despite a prompt and detailed 6,000 word rebuttal from London, no response was forthcoming. The intention was merely to inflame or confirm existing prejudices; to smear - not debate.

And as with those initially impressed by his elaborate crochet of lies and energetic defence in response to initial accusations surrounding his involvement with Searchlight, this overtly political sabotage caused considerable confusion in similar quarters. Leeds/Huddersfield branches and temporarily Nottingham registered as casualties. Even now, despite incontrovertible evidence, certain elements within AFA continue to argue that the change of strategy by the BNP is more 'one of style rather than substance'. Consequently the IWCA is presented as 'the cause of AFA's loss of focus' rather than a strategical response to it. In 'private' it is whispered that the 'leadership's' enthusiasm for the political strategy can be primarily put down to 'loss of bottle'. As Machiavelli observed, 'the deciever will always find someone ready to be decieved'.
Twelve years after writing the Communist Manifesto, Marx was forced in 1860 to address a highly publicised attack on him by a prominent political leader, and yet to be unmasked police spy Carl Vogt. His crushing riposte, 'Herr Vogt: A spy in the workers movement' which took a full year to compose, was as Marx emphasised, designed to be a "model for defending the revolutionary movement against lies, provocations and infiltration". As the foreword explains, "the struggle against the agents and their 'patrons and accomplices' is closely related to the struggle for an independent revolutionary working class leadership against all petty bourgeois tendencies and diversions." According to Karl Marx then, 'the fight for an independent working class movement is intimately connected with the struggle against lies, state infiltration, provocateurs and all middle class inclinations and detours'. No change there then.

Reproduced from RA vol 3, Issue 4, Dec '98/Jan '99