Peter Rushton's review of No Retreat by Steve Tilzey and Dave Hann

[Page 15] The most usual criticism of the racial nationalist movement in Britain is that we are a gang of violent morons devoted to racial attacks and mindless vandalism. One national newspaper columnist recently described us as "racist thugs whose whole politics are based on violence and hate."

Our anti-fascist opponents have enjoyed a more benign public image. Their researches and exposés, endorsed by mainstream print and television journalists but usually originating from the magazine and intelligence network Searchlight, have been trumpeted widely by media magnates such as Robert Maxwell and Richard Desmond. Bishops, actors and pop stars have lined up for the cameras alongside Auschwitz survivors to denounce the politics of hate.

Yet there has always been another face of anti-fascism. For more than forty years Sir Oswald Mosley's political organisations faced well-financed and extremely violent efforts to drive them off the streets and wreck their meetings. The National Front, British National Party and others later became the main targets for this mostly Jewish and/or communist opposition, which was augmented from the early 1970s by new generations of anarchists and Trotskyists, and by the Irish republican movement which now saw itself as part of a worldwide anti-imperialist coalition (except when soliciting funds from Irish-Americans).

The new book No Retreat by two prominent anti-fascists from Manchester openly admits this aspect of their struggle. Steve Tilzey and Dave Hann were active in 'The Squad', a violent faction of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party which was expelled from the SWP and later became a tiny pro-IRA group called Red Action allied to other groupuscles in an umbrella alliance called Anti-Fascist Action.

The authors positively revel in their violent exploits, which mostly took place between 1977 and 1994 in South-East Lancashire and especially Manchester – then as now the capital of militant anti-fascism.

Here, for example, is Tilzey's account of an attack on NF paper sellers in Manchester city centre in 1978:

I was right at the front of our lot as we steamed in, hitting anyone who got in my way with a lead-filled chair leg. The element of surprise was on our side, and the Fronters were caught cold and flat-footed as we tore into them. Five or six of them were battered into the ground and stayed there. They were hit with all kinds of weapons, and a couple of them were begging for mercy as they attempted to shield themselves from the blows raining down on their heads. Not one of them fought back, or rather they were not given the chance to.

And here is Hann's description of an attack on BNP members at the Brunswick pub in Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1992:

I was about the fifth or sixth in the pub and the scene was already one of complete carnage. Bottles, pint pots, barstools and pool balls filled the air as the whole place erupted into complete mayhem. I saw Gerry battering some bonehead over the head with a bottle as he tried to make good his escape out the back door, and everywhere you looked anti-fascists were brawling with fascists... To add to the general confusion someone threw a big glass chandelier into the bar from the room upstairs, which exploded on the floor sending shards of glass flying everywhere.

Superficially then No Retreat seems more honest about the true nature of anti-fascism than almost all previous accounts. Yet on closer examination this book is revealed as yet another self-serving concoction of lies, evasions and distortions.

One of the most infamous incidents in Steve Tilzey's career was his imprisonment for kidnapping a young skinhead. Chapter 3 of No Retreat gives a partial account of this case, omitting several key facts. Tilzey does not tell us that the main purpose of the kidnapping was to threaten his victim and discover the address of the Barker family, well known NF activists who then lived in the Lancashire town of Littleborough.

He plays down the violence involved in the case – in fact the judge passing sentence said "the weapons you took with you are quite dreadful, capable of inflicting the most serious injuries and of killing in many cases."

And he attempts to disguise the identities of his accomplices in this and other acts of violence. One of the main characters in Tilzey's early chapters is identified only as JP. This is John Penny, SWP branch organiser and founder of the Squad, then a sociology lecturer at Mid-Cheshire College of Further Education, now 51 years old and living in Scotland.

Tilzey names "the Squad armourer" as Coops – this is Stephen Cooper, then unemployed, from the Wythenshawe district of Manchester. Mick B, named in the book as "a Squad member from Day One", is actually Michael Butroyd who then lived in Stockport. Other communist thugs referred to by Tilzey but not properly identified in the book include Mark Kent, Brian Broadley, Paul Hallatt, Robert Piatt and David Smith.

The subject on which No Retreat's authors are least candid is their relationship with Searchlight. Since Tilzey was Searchlight's main northern operative for many years, they can hardly deny any knowledge of each other, but Tilzey manages only a coy reference to Searchlight "passing information on to groups and individuals best placed to use it."

The Searchlight gang's intimate connections with the Jewish establishment and with British police, security and intelligence agencies make them embarrassing allies for hardcore leftists such as Tilzey and Hann. One imagines the embarrassment is mutual, especially after several incidents in 1992 and 1993, which forced [Page 16] at least a cosmetic split between Searchlight and AFA/Red Action.

In January 1993 a package containing 1lb of Semtex plastic explosive ripped the front off the world famous Harrods store in London. Well placed video surveillance cameras helped the police track down the two IRA bombers responsible, Jan Taylor and Patrick Hayes, who received thirty year prison sentences. There were red faces on the British left when it transpired that Hayes was one of the leaders of Red Action – less than two years earlier he had liaised with police as chief steward for an AFA march through East London protesting against John Tyndall's BNP.

A few weeks after the Harrods bombing Manchester-born Red Action member Liam Heffernan was arrested while trying to steal explosives from a quarry in Somerset. Heffernan was a prominent anti-fascist, but also an active terrorist for the INLA, an ultra-militant splinter from the IRA. He was sentenced to twenty three years in prison for his INLA activities.

The list of AFA contact addresses swiftly disappeared from issues of Searchlight after the Hayes and Heffernan arrests!

Tilzey and Hann choose to ignore the republican terrorist activities of two of their colleagues, but they hint very briefly at the even more sinister criminality closer to home in Manchester.

Hann gives a partly accurate account of the collapse of South Manchester BNP in 1993 after the branch organiser was singled out for intimidation by an anti-fascist gang. One member of this gang is identified in the book only as "Dessie, an anti-fascist from the Eighties who was by now a well-known local 'face' about town." Hann gleefully tells the tale of how Dessie personally threatened the BNP organiser, ordering him to tell AFA everything he knew about the party in the region.

This gentleman's full name is Dessie Noonan, recently described by a Manchester journalist as "the underworld equivalent of Robocop." He was head doorman at the notorious Konspiracy Club in Fennel Street, Manchester, from November 1989 until police closed it in December 1990. This was the era of 'Madchester', when Salford's white gangs controlled the booming ecstasy and amphetamine trade, while the black gangs of Moss Side and Cheetham Hill dominated the heroin business.

Noonan has several brothers whose names all begin with the letter D – their father's tribute to Dublin, the city of his birth. Dominic Noonan is a convicted armed robber; Damian became head doorman at the Hacienda, the most famous club in Europe and centre of the dance music craze until rampant drug dealing forced its closure in 1991; Derek was a partner in the Penny Black pub in Cheetham Hill, headquarters of Manchester's leading criminal gang.

Dessie himself, in the words of Manchester Evening News journalist Peter Walsh, "was a notorious enforcer who had emerged from a jail term for conspiring to pervert the course of justice by threatening to kill witnesses in a robbery trial – the witnesses were police officers."

In 1989 Dessie had joined members of the Manchester anti-fascist Squad in a brutal attack on a group of Ulster Loyalists in the Rusholme district. One of his cronies, Paddy Logan, infamously bit the earlobe off one of the Loyalists. Many years later in July 1999 Logan was shot dead by a hooded assassin at his home in the Withington area of Manchester, sparking off a bloody gangland feud. Dessie Noonan preferred life at the safer end of a gun.

At a New Year party in 1991 some of Damian Noonan's successors on the door at the Hacienda were threatened by a gun-toting 22-year-old named Tony Johnson. Known as 'White Tony' because he was the white co-leader of a predominantly black gang of drug dealers, Johnson was already in trouble with members of the Noonan family because of a dispute over the division of the spoils from a £362,000 security van robbery at Mumps Bridge, Oldham, in November 1990.

White Tony was pushing his luck. On February 22nd he was driving with a friend past Derek Noonan's Penny Black pub when his car was flagged down. Johnson was shot several times, and then finished off at point blank range while lying on the ground in the pub car park. Manchester police were instantly aware that this was one of Manchester's most important gangland murders. They arrested Dessie and Derek Noonan, together with two of their known criminal associates.

The Noonan gang were tried twice for Tony Johnson's murder. The first trial in 1992 collapsed, the second in 1993 ended in acquittals. Greater Manchester Police are not looking for any alternative suspects. In 1999 Damian Noonan was shot while on the door at the Phoenix Club in the city. He refused to cooperate with police inquiries.

It's no surprise that the authors of No Retreat are economical with the truth about their good friend Dessie, but what angers me far more are the devious attempts to advance Searchlight's disinformation agenda. Even while the authors (especially Hann) try to distance themselves from Searchlight the continuing connection is obvious. The book's first photo is of early Squad hero Graeme Atkinson – but readers are not told that Atkinson is the current European editor of Searchlight.

Someone called Mike L is given several favourable mentions. This is Mike Luft, the organiser of Searchlight's campaign against the BNP in Oldham.

Either directly or indirectly the book tries to promote Searchlight-inspired smears against several active nationalists, sometimes without giving their names but phrasing things so that any BNP or NF veteran would know who's who.

Most tiresome are the frequent exaggerations employed to make the Squad members sound more heroic and influential. A lengthy account of AFA's attack on Rochdale BNP at the Lord Nelson pub in 1992 omits to mention that the pub landlady praised the BNP on local radio that evening, saying that her premises would have been wrecked by the left-wing mob if the nationalists had not put up such able resistance! Moreover, no mention is made of the infamous Searchlight spy Tim Hepple, who provided most of the intelligence on which the later attacks chronicled in No Retreat were based.

Hann's story of AFA's attack on a BNP rally in Colne, Lancashire, in May 1993 suggests that the BNP members ran away from the fight "nearly fighting each other in their haste to get away." The truth was that (heavily outnumbered) the BNP took up position on [Page 17] a narrow bridge to even the odds, and AFA prudently decided to hold back. I know, because I was there!

The most ludicrous exaggeration involves AFA's trashing of the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden in June 1993. A photograph in the book shows BNP leader John Tyndall, regional organiser Ken Henderson and many other party activists outside the pub, with the caption "BNP supporters gather shortly before a violent visit by Anti-Fascist Action." The truth is that AFA deliberately attacked the pub before the main BNP force had arrived – only a handful of us were inside at the time to have our lunch spoiled and our beer spilled.

Hann's tale of the May 1994 local election in Rochdale is equally distorted. He brags that "the three BNP candidates and their agents had been smuggled into the town hall in the back of a police van" and that this must have been "pretty humiliating" for candidate Janet Appleyard, "who was also rumoured to be a member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan." Since I was Mrs Appleyard's agent at the count I can say that no such humiliation occurred. We entered the town hall on foot through the front door, and we left via the front door as well (dodging a hail of bricks and bottles). Some of Hann's stories of violence during the count are correct, though he fails to mention the disgraceful partiality of the police and courts, who punished nationalists severely for defending themselves against the red mob. One nationalist, Mark Priestley, was dealt with especially severely because he was already serving a bind over.

Completely absent from No Retreat's narrative are a series of attacks against prominent nationalists and other enemies of Searchlight in the mid-90s. Serious assaults took place at the homes of BNP press officer Mike Newland, West Midlands BNP organiser Keith Axon, author and researcher Alexander Baron, and Heritage and Destiny editor Mark Cotterill, as well as the terrorist bombing of the BNP bookshop in Welling, Kent, which injured shop manager Alf Waite. One can only guess the reason for omitting these significant events. Perhaps some nationalist conspiracy theorists were right at the time in guessing that some or all of these attacks were carried out by professional agents of the state rather than the usual anti-fascist rabble.

The most suspicious cases involved transatlantic cooperation between anti-fascist and "animal rights" terrorists. This came to light in the late 1990s during Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigations into a spate of letter bombings.

Pipe bombs and letters booby-trapped with razor blades were sent in 1995 and 1996 to several prominent racial nationalists including Ernst Zundel, Don Black and Ed Fields, as well as to targets involved in medical research and the fur industry. Surveillance of the principal suspects led to the discovery of student identity cards from British universities stored in deposit boxes alongside bomb materials.

Mysteriously the Canadian authorities delayed prosecution of the terrorists involved – Darren Thurston and David Barbarash – then dropped the charges to avoid exposing their undercover operations.

While Thurston and Barbarash were engaged jointly in anti-fascist and animal rights terrorism, a British animal rights extremist group known as the Justice Department issued threats to British nationalists and carried out a letter bombing at the BNP bookshop in Welling.

Once again there were suspicions that the secret state was somehow involved – especially when it was discovered that the man who bombed the BNP had earlier escaped from police custody in Manchester. Many leftists have pointed out that Searchlight spy Tim Hepple was also involved in animal rights extremism, which is perhaps another reason why Tilzey and Hann make no mention of Hepple – the most important anti-fascist undercover operative of recent years – in their book.

(Many readers will already know that Volkert van der Graaf, who murdered the Dutch nationalist leader Pim Fortuyn in 2002, was also a veteran animal rights terrorist.)

As with their treatment of other aspects of the long war against racial nationalism, the authors of No Retreat step back from telling the whole truth. Even their own former comrades in Red Action have turned against Tilzey and Hann since publication, issuing the following statement:

Due to the controversy surrounding the launch of a book called No Retreat by Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey due out on November 1, which is presented by the authors as a true and honest account of their involvement in militant anti-fascism over two decades, we are now putting out this statement.

As preview copies of the book have not been made available we cannot comment with any authority on the contents.

Of the character of the authors we can say this. As a result of serious breaches of trust, Tilzey and Hann were either expelled or forced to resign from Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) and Red Action respectively.

Following the attempted theft of extremely important AFA intelligence data, Steve Tilzey was shown the door by AFA in 1993. Sometime in 1994 Dave Hann was arrested and charged in connection with a street robbery involving a gay man. It was many months before the national leaderships of RA or AFA were made aware of the charges. An immediate investigation revealed disturbing evidence of Dave Hann's involvement in similar anti-social activity. Shortly after his trial at Liverpool Crown Court, where his co-defendant pleaded guilty, Dave Hann resigned from Red Action. On being confronted with the testimony of former associates, and in the presence of two officers representing national AFA, and a leading anti-fascist resident in the city, Hann confessed his guilt and offered his immediate resignation from AFA. He also surrendered his involvement in the football fanzine Red Attitude with which AFA was publicly associated. Not long afterwards he left Manchester.

Red Action are curiously more worried by Hann's alleged violence when the victims are homosexuals rather than elderly patriots. Typically the Searchlight gang are unworried by this side of their stooge's character!

In conclusion I must echo the American writer Dorothy Parker. This is not a book to be set aside lightly; it should be hurled, with great force.

This review appeared in the Spring 2004 (number 15) issue of Heritage and Destiny, from PO Box 331, Blackburn, BB2 4RG. No Retreat by Steve Tilzey and Dave Hann, published by Milo Books, ISBN 1-903854-22-9, 2003. Softback, 283pp, from Milo Books, 10 Park Street, Lytham, Lancs, FY8 5LU price £7.99.