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Geoffrey Smith

(click on images to enlarge)

Geoffrey Hackman Smith was an American who lived in Britain as a resident alien. In the 1950s, he was a victim in a serious road accident that left him totally immobile from the waist down. He had been speeding. He was subsequently confined to a wheelchair.

He was left a small terraced house at 60 St Peters Grove, Canterbury, in the will of a relative, his mother, on the condition that he kept the building in good repair. He failed to do this as can be seen in this photograph taken a few years ago.

He is seen opening the back door to a concerned friend, Frank Vaughan.

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Geoff Smith opening the delivery entrance to the Steven Books publishing empire based in Canterbury

Smith emerged onto the British political scene in the 1970s when he advertised blank audio cassettes in the publication of the National Front Constitutional Movement. It was in Excalibur that Derek Charles Turner (known as Don Turner) was also reported as the chairman of the Bexley branch of the National Front, going over to the NFCM.

The two men would later form a partnership with Steven Books, the successor to Sunwheel Distributors which had handled the merchandise produced by the League of St George in the 1970s and 1980s.

With the League of St George being reconstituted in the 1990s under former NSM member John Harrison, Steven Books took on the task of reprinting old booklets from the Mosley movements for which purpose they acquired a  second-hand photocopying machine with Smith as its operator in Canterbury. Smith was asked to register a PO box number in Canterbury for the purpose of contact address.

Don Turner behaved as Smith’s supervisor in this venture, giving him instructions and collecting monies from the transactions. On one occasion, Smith complained that Turner took out a clothes brush to clean his coat on one of his short visits to him, which offended Smith quite grievously.

The reason for this ‘brush off’ was due entirely to the dilapidated and unhealthy condition of Smith’s home which gave the appearance of never being cleaned. Indeed, it was said that Smith did not bathe himself and had not done so since his car accident in the 1950s.

Nevertheless, Steven Books became “a fund-raising adjunct” to the newly constituted League of St George now run by John Harrison, Brian White and Don Turner.

The booklets sold by Steven Books were first set up on paste-up master copies using Typex, glue and then kept in plastic sleeves. Smith would then copy them on a photocopying machine which often broke down. It was Turner’s job to instruct Smith to contact a repair service and send the invoice to him.

Also involved in this “reprint” operation was Keith Thompson who supplied many of the original publications for the Smith treatment, although it was Thompson, a former Searchlight informant, who designed many of the rather unimaginative covers.

Another colleague of Smith was the shadowy Robert Best who, for years, had been passing information onto Keith Thompson, the aforementioned Searchlight grass.

Best is one of those mysterious people who flits from group to group and spends most of his waking hours writing lengthy letters in ball-point pen to all and sundry, far and wide ... the purpose of which seems to be to ingratiate himself as a supplier of ‘information’. He currently collaborates with the Heritage & Destiny magazine of the Holocaust-denying English Freedom Party, along with Peter Rushton, a suspected Trotskyist of longstanding. Best is known to them as a prolific letter writer of no consequence.

Best attends New Right meetings, the annual saloon bar gatherings of the Friends of Oswald Mosley and anywhere he can find people who share his predilections.

Smith and Best formed a kind of partnership on a different level. Smith had a sideline in the more exotic kind of literature which was advertised by him under cover of the Candlelight Press imprint. These were the more extreme anti-Semitic offerings, the Protocols of Zion, of course, then the more gory classics including The Damascus Affair, various works on the martyrdom of Hugh of Lincoln, the Expulsion of the Jews by King Edward I and much more. He had a particular obsession with the Edict of Expulsion of 1290 which he insisted still denied Jews the right to reside here. Smith’s status as an American citizen, as an alien with residence in the UK, was ironic in that respect.  These were pushed by Smith ostensibly without the knowledge of his more cautious colleagues. Although Turner once confided in me that he “sort of knew” but could do nothing about it.

Smith had previously been the subject of a police inquiry after the Bishop of Winchester received anti-Semitic literature. He was not charged but the curiosity of the police was triggered by Smith’s general notoriety as a peddler of extreme anti-Semitic material.

Robert Best was keen to assist his Nazi-admiring friend in Canterbury, at the same time keeping up his links to Keith Thompson, himself a purveyor and author of hate literature. A small booklet, The Big Lie Technique, being his masterpiece. The booklet was replete with anti-Semitic references and imagery. Smith was responsible for the creation of seasonal booklists for Steven Books His own separate Candlelight Press list was regarded as the “unofficial” list, containing everything that would be illegal.

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Geoff Smith showing off one of the illegal publications from Candlelight Press

Geoffrey Smith regarded himself as a very important person doing a very important job. His main admirers were on the very extreme of right wing racist politics, meaning regular contact with members of the British Peoples Party based in Leeds, Yorkshire. These were the people who would buy the Candlelight Press publications without fail.

His greatest admirer, however, was the lonely Robert Best who would buy just about everything that smacked of extremism. He was an obsessive in this respect and even attempted some writing and publishing himself, albeit largely plagiarised material. For this, he needed Smith.

He authored a small pamphlet entitled Fascism and Religion and insisted Smith use a photograph (supplied by Best) depicting Adolf Hitler glad-handing Roman Catholic cardinals during a Nuremberg Rally in 1936. Smith’s original rather benign cover design was not ‘Nazi’ enough for the crackpot Best.

Best has sympathies for the ‘ultra-traditional’ Roman Catholicism of the reactionary Tridentine mass variety (they want to blame the death of Christ on the Jews) and sympathises with extreme and violent Irish republicanism. He defended Karl Winn, the webmaster of the Friends of Oswald Mosley’s website, when Winn was exposed in The Sun newspaper as a Sinn Fein supporter attacking British ex-servicemen as being lower than paedophiles. Best said Winn had “made a bad choice of words”.

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Robert Best

This pro-IRA position leads us onto another small booklet on which he was to collaborate with Smith and the others in Steven Books.

This was another largely plagiarised version entitled The British Free Corps which Best was to dedicate to traitors in wartime. It was undoubtedly an attempt at idealising these turncoats on purely ideological grounds. They wanted a Nazi Europe, as does, presumably, Best.

In the copy I received, it is published by League Enterprises (SB) at the mail drop address in Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3XX. SB stands for Steven Books and there is a link to the Steven Books website.

Some time in 2010, Geoffrey Smith had ceased operations from the PO box number in Canterbury and seemed to disappear completely from view, becoming non-operational. The Canterbury PO box number was given up by Smith and all operations transferred to the Old Gloucester Street mail drop facility used by John Harrison. Last year, an issue of their League Sentinel magazine included a flyer stating clearly, “Steven Books have [sic] moved.

The Mosley booklets (cheap photocopies) on the Steven Books website were now designated as “unavailable”. The same with their booklets up on Amazon.co.uk. Many have now been replaced on Amazon by the better quality facsimiles from European Action Books. These are available.

We can reasonably conclude from this that Steven Books no longer had the services of such as Smith, a man completely dedicated to the production of photocopied booklets (many of dubious provenance) and that there was no one to replace him. As such, production came to an end.

Keith Thompson once boasted that he had all the master copies (plates) in pdf format on his hard drive but this turned out to be untrue. They had left all the donkey work to Smith, typing the text of the pages, setting up graphics, pagination, photocopying, folding, stapling and despatch. This total reliance on Smith was their undoing.

I am told Steven Books is now run exclusively by John Harrison of the “two men and a dog outfit” known as the League of St George.

The glossy cover of League Sentinel is still printed by the long-standing and long-suffering South Coast printer Tony Hancock but the inside pages are now photocopied by Harrison. Gone are the days when Hancock would do the entire glossy magazine as a “charity case”, as he used to put it, at a special price.

League Sentinel appears to have reverted to its lumpen-style of prose, of the “the geezer what done it” type of bad grammar and in recent issues declared for the pro-Zionist, Islamophobic English Defence League ... No doubt self-confessed Sun readers on a par with the League Sentinels editor in Dagenham, Essex.

Geoffrey Smith had a long relationship with the ‘Aryan supermen’ of Steven Books/League of St George. His ‘international publishing empire’ in St Peters Grove, Canterbury, eventually invited the attention of most of his neighbours  and even a bit beyond.

I visited the area with a colleague quite recently in order to enquire after his health. The sight of workmen on the site triggered a deeper concern and so we asked after him.

They informed us he had gone upstairs, gesturing with an index finger and then we discovered he had popped his clogs.  All the three men there, one of whom had bought the property, were acquainted with his reputation and used the words ‘Nazi’ and ‘racist’ several times. He was regarded as a notorious hate-monger ... and they were not far from the truth.  One quipped, “Just a few more swastikas to scrape off the walls”.

As we spoke to them a passerby stopped to give his observations. Apparently, Smith was notorious for placing racist leaflets up on his windows to the full embarrassment of the entire street. The level of behaviour was hitherto only guesswork on our part but on that day  (October 20th) we realised the full extent. His ears must be burning somewhere.

Geoffrey Hackman Smith died in August aged 84 years old and left no family. We were told he was cremated locally.

Published in European Socialist Action No 37, November/December 2011

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