He may have just celebrated his 80th birthday, but the renowned anti-fascist activist Gerry Gable is fizzing with plans to continue his great life’s work.
And though he began his war against fascism and racism after the Second World War — and has seen off the likes of the National Front and the British National Party — Gable warns that the threat “is greater than ever. They [the fascists] are much more sophisticated and we are seeing situations where the Russians are backing them, and in turn they are recruiting not just skinheads and bovver boys, but kids from upper-class backgrounds.”
Gerry Gable’s CV defies belief in its breadth of activity, from journalist to TV documentary maker, from academic to specialist adviser to the police. His targets have included “politicians, bent cops and organised crime”, but this tough Jewish campaigner is best known for his role on Searchlight, the anti-fascist publication, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the dark world of the extreme right.
Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust (CST) is well aware that Gable is a one-off. He says: “Gerry is extraordinary. For decades, he has made an utterly unique contribution to the fight against fascism, racism and anti-Semitism. His impact is an enduring one, because he has not only undermined the far right at every turn to all our benefits but his research also underpins our knowledge of this entire political area.”
Throughout his long career, Gable is proudest of having been a constant thorn in the side of the Holocaust denier David Irving, beginning back in 1963 when he confronted Irving in Irving’s own home.
As Gable tells it, he and other young anti-fascists were deeply concerned at the kind of material Irving was producing in his early books, and, aware that Irving had spent time working in the Krupps steel mills in Germany, were convinced that the writer was getting help from some unsavoury sources.
“It became more obvious, as he had access to documents that no-one else had — and with the kind of work he was doing for Krupps, he didn’t have time to go to archives and do the type of detailed research necessary.”
With two other men, Gable devised a plan to enter Irving’s home, posing as a telephone engineer. He was genuinely working as an electrician and trade union organiser at the time, and decided his cover story would be the need to rewire Irving’s phone for a different voltage.
Unfortunately this had actually taken place in the neighbourhood six weeks earlier, and Irving, having let two of the three men into his flat, grew suspicious.
He said he was popping out for cigarettes, but returned bearing a hammer, saying: “I think you should know I’ve called the police.”
Gable meanwhile had found disturbing material in Irving’s flat and invited the police who arrived to arrest him. Eventually he and his colleagues were charged with the crime of “entering by artifice”, rather than burglary, as Irving has consistently referred to the incident ever since. The two who actually entered the flat were given nominal fines (the third man stayed outside and the case against him was dismissed).
Irving, says Gable, has never recovered from the encounter, complaining bitterly of him more than 30 years later, “This man [Gable] has made my life a holocaust for the last 30 years.”
Gable’s succinct response: “I plead guilty on all counts.”
Because of the very public challenge to Irving, Gable says he has had “no choice” but to be on the fascists’ radar. Twenty-two years ago, when his wife Sonia was pregnant, an unexpected package arrived at the family home. It turned out to be a parcel bomb, filled with lethal ball bearings.
But Gable is unfazed, and continues to turn his forensic attention to numerous aspects of crime and terrorism. For example, his team at Searchlight Information Services worked closely with BBC TV in a lengthy investigation into the criminality of the British National Party. The resulting programme, Spy Story, led to the arrest of eight members of the BNP.
In July 2011, Gable was awarded an honorary doctorate from Northampton University in recognition of his lifetime’s work in defending liberal democracy and fighting racism and fascism. Searchlight’s rare archive of fascist and anti-fascist material is now on long-term loan to Northampton as a digital research resource.
Gable himself acts an adviser to the police murder case closure review group and continues to work as an independent adviser to the Metropolitan Police through the Hate Crime Independent Advisory Group.
He has also just joined the London board of Tell Mama, which works in co-operation with the Asian Police Officers’ Association.