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Ray Hill – giant of the anti-fascist movement

‘Insider’ who wreaked havoc in the ranks of the far right and who will be much missed by his comrades

FOR a while, back in 1980, staff at the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight puzzled over the identity of the mystery caller who kept phoning with tasty bits of information about the extreme right in Leicester. 

He was obviously well placed — on one occasion, he read out to them the complete membership list of the British Democratic Party (BDP), a highly promising Leicester-based offshoot from the NF. 

But he wouldn’t say who he was. When he finally agreed to meet, it was something of a shock.  

Ray Hill, who has died aged 82, was well known to the magazine. In the late 1960s he had been a member of Colin Jordan’s neonazi British Movement and Jordan’s election agent in the 1969 Ladywood by-election. 

But he had been off the scene for 10 years — he’d emigrated to South Africa in 1969, facing possible prison after a fight with some left-wing opponents.

What Searchlight did not know at that stage was that, in South Africa, Ray Hill had become a changed man. 

Things had happened which gnawed away at his fanaticism, and the crunch came when, as a member of the South Africa National Front, he was involved in a noisy campaign for stricter enforcement of the racially based Group Areas Act, which the authorities were forced to accede to. 

But an encounter in the previously mixed Hillbrow district of Johannesburg with an Indian family evicted from their home as a direct consequence of the SANF’s campaign was the real turning point. 

He began feeding bits of information about far-right activity to a local Jewish organisation, and a few months later decided to return to Britain. Back in Leicester, and having hooked up with the BDP, he phoned Searchlight…

For the next five years he caused total havoc in the ranks of the far right. Working with ITV’s World in Action programme in 1981, he helped expose gun-running by members of the BDP. 

The organisation imploded. When they shipped off one of their members, heavily implicated in the plot but highly unreliable, to a rundown hideaway cottage in Ireland, the man they sent to babysit him was the one person they felt they could trust with the job — Ray Hill. 

But there, he linked up with journalists from World in Action and Searchlight, and between them they persuaded the guilty nazi to sign a full confession, return to England and hand himself in to the police. Then Ray became deputy leader of British Movement and challenged its fuhrer Michael McLaughlin for the leadership. 

Expelled for his temerity, he issued a writ to be reinstated, embroiling McLaughlin in a costly legal action which drained the British Movement’s funds and forced him to shut down the organisation. 

Then, in 1982, when John Tyndall launched the British National Party at a London press conference, Ray Hill was sitting on the platform with him. 

Possibly Ray’s greatest achievement, however, was infiltrating the network of Euro-nazis behind a wave of bombings in Bologna, Paris and Munich in 1981, and thwarting a conspiracy involving French nazis and a small fanatical English nazi group to bomb the Notting Hill Carnival.

Ray’s role was eventually revealed in a Channel 4 documentary, The Other Face of Terror, broadcast in 1984, and in a book of the same name published in 1988. 

The reaction on the far right was stunned shock; and then of course, the likes of Tyndall and McLaughlin explained to their members that they had known all along he was a “wrong ’un.” Of course they did…

But he didn’t stop there. Despite death threats and actual attempts on his life, Ray devoted himself to speaking and campaigning against the fascists, taking his message into schools and colleges in particular. 

Many anti-fascists around today fondly recall his passionate, hilarious, vitriolic attacks on his former comrades.

One thing he would never do, however, was pour scorn on young working-class whites who were seduced by the simple messages of racists. He had been there himself, and he knew too well how easily it could happen and be exploited.

Ray died at home on May 14. Coincidentally, it was the anniversary of Searchlight magazine’s co-founder Maurice Ludmer — also the Midlands football correspondent for this newspaper — who died in 1981, only shortly after Ray and Searchlight began working together. 

In Ray Hill the anti-fascist movement has lost a genuine giant. We will be forever in his debt. 

ANDY BELL

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