Journalist, author and NATO PR flack Paul Mason now wants to add Member of Parliament to his CV.

After unsuccessful bids to be selected for seats in Manchester and London, he is now in contention for the Labour nomination in Sheffield Central.  His views and conduct should therefore be subject to special scrutiny.

Mason’s political career has so far constituted a weary trudge from the far left to hard-line Starmerism.

He sought to promote Keir Starmer as leader of a cross-party anti-Brexit bloc in the last parliament, and became one of his foremost protagonists on the left in the 2020 Labour leadership election.  Others from the collapsing Corbyn camp made the same misjudgement and have since publicly recanted.

Not Paul Mason.  He has stayed strong for Starmer through every abandoned policy commitment and every onslaught on the Labour Left.

Evidently, that is the price of being given the go-ahead to seek selection in a safe Labour seat. However, it would be wrong to paint Mason as simply a parliamentary opportunist.

His devotion to NATO and his hostility to the politics of anti-imperialism have been consistent. It was one of the issues which made him a poor fit for the Corbyn-era leadership.

This year, the war in Ukraine has provided broad scope for his activities. He has been at the forefront of agitation in support of NATO policy and in opposition to any suggestion of negotiations to bring the conflict to an end.

He is blind to the realities of western policy, in Ukraine and in general.  For example, he recently wrote: “I understand the cynicism about ‘Western values’ when they’ve been used to justify the destruction of Iraq, the catastrophe of Afghanistan, numerous tawdry coups in Latin America and global wrongdoing by the CIA. Fine, let’s critique our governments against the values and the treaties they purport to uphold.”

That purblind position does not grasp that if there is one deviation after another from purported “western values” it is because the deviations actually are the values.  If the same “mistake” is made time and again, it is not a mistake at all, but the actual essence of those states’ policy.

Mason was reduced to spluttering incoherence when questioned by Owen Jones – it’s available on You Tube – as to why it was appropriate to threaten any NATO-critical Labour MP with loss of the whip, but not to so sanction parliamentarians who defied the whip under Corbyn to support arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Supporting NATO and aligning with Saudi Arabia are both key strategies of British imperialism, so his position actually has more coherence than he can acknowledge.

Mason does not see any inter-connection between the domestic and foreign policies of states, as if they are shaped by entirely different interests.  He does understand that foreign affairs are class questions too.

In this he represents a familiar problem on the left, dating back to the days when social democrats found excuses for colonialism and for going to war in 1914.

There are two aspects which make Mason still more menacing, however.  Firstly, he is advocating a massively intensified militarism, the present crisis in public finances notwithstanding.

He has recently proposed an increase in military spending by Britain from the present two per cent to “between 3 and 5 per cent of our GDP”, an increase of around £65 billion a year.

The problem with this has been highlighted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). It looked at the Tory government’s commitment to raise the arms bill to 3% of GDP – much less than Mason is urging.

RUSI calculates that the government will have to increase the military budget by 60% in real terms to meet the target.  Income tax would have to go up by 5p in the pound, or the VAT rate from 20% to 25% it calculates.

Alternatively “significant” cuts to public services would be needed – a further austerity on top of that Sunak is already promoting. How would Mason fund the still greater increases he champions?

If Mason wants to put the generals at the front of the queue for the public purse when Labour is in office, it is better that he is not doing so as an MP. Working people would pay the price for his benevolence to the brasshats.

The second area for alarm is that Mason has been aggressive in witch-hunting anyone on the left who disagrees with his positions. His recent championing of a new pro-Starmer left, shorn of anti-imperialism, “Stalinism”, the Morning Star etc has drawn some attention.

Mason’s left would be at the service of British imperialism. It would also require the actually existing Labour left to forget that the Starmer leadership has taken every opportunity to harass, extirpate and mutilate it. It is being invited to connive in its own humiliation.

But for Mason, Starmer’s authoritarianism is scarcely a problem. If anything, he wants to go further.

Apparently haunted by the fear of a “left anti-imperialist identity” gaining traction he has been working with, amongst others, state disinformation officials to campaign against sections of the left.

Leaked emails – he claims to have been the victim of an unproven Russian hack – show him to be collaborating with a Foreign Office propaganda expert in a campaign to undermine the anti-war movement.  Even those who disagree with the anti-war movement over Ukraine would draw the line at collaborating with state operatives against it.

Full details are available on US website The Grayzone, which published the material, which Mason has stated “may be altered or faked.”  “May be” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, given he would be in a position to enlighten us.

The choicest item was a graphic chart mapping individuals and organisations on the British left with the insinuation that they are vehicles for pro-Putin or Pro-Chinese influence seeking to pervert British politics.

Jeremy Corbyn and Stop the War feature prominently, and the present author is there too. The chart reflects a paranoid and witch-hunting mentality, whoever its creator may be.

Mason shared this chart with his foreign office friend along with suggestions for overt and covert initiatives to undermine the left.  Some ideas are bizarre – suggesting that the law of libel should be suspended for “foreign agents” – and there are some interesting revelations, including confirmation from Mason that investigative website Bellingcat is a conduit for “a steady stream of intel from Western agencies”, something the site continues to deny.

Mason wrote to the man in the Foreign Office with a proud boast: “We have successfully cauterised Corbyn/STW– not a single Labour MP will touch them. We are building a trade union support demo for Ukraine next Saturday – and the naysayers are a map of Russian influence. If you’ve time for a pint next week we could swap notes.”

Stop the War has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  It’s sins in the Masonic worldview are that, first, it insists that NATO’s conduct over the last thirty years bears much responsibility for the crisis and, second, it opposes pouring arms into the war zone unaccompanied by any efforts at securing a negotiated settlement.

Neither opinion is exactly outlandish around the world, but both challenge the Starmer-Mason dictat, which demands a fight to the death with Russia.

Mason’s claim to victory in his struggle with StWC needs closer examination.  The “trade union demo” he hyped up was risibly small.

It is true, however, that Starmer bullied Labour MPs into withdrawing overt support from Stop the War because of its criticism of NATO.  He did this by threatening the removal of the whip, a sanction which would mean them losing their jobs.

It is remarkable that Mason could regard this as any sort of a victory. There is no suggestion that the MPs in question have changed their mind on the matter.

They simply bowed to a measure of coercion not deployed in the Parliamentary Labour Party since the high days of the Cold War seventy years or more ago. Mason backs this dictatorial approach, raising concerns as to how these folk would operate in government.

Labour members in Sheffield Central need to be aware of this record. If they want a representative who has the practitioners of dark arts on speed dial and wants to stuff military mouths with gold, it should make that choice with its eyes open.

03 Nov 2022 by Andrew Murray

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