Britain: Paul Mason – from class collaborator to outright renegade

The US blog, Grayzone, has published what it claims are leaked emails showing British journalist and ex-left Paul Mason discussing plans to involve the state to silence anti-war, anti-NATO media outlets. Mason has neither denied nor confirmed the veracity of these emails (although he has claimed they “may be altered or faked”).

The leak would appear to show exchanges of emails between Mason and Amil Khan, the head of intelligence contractor Valent Projects. In the exchanges, ideas are discussed for financially and legally targeting Grayzone. The exchange then appears to show Khan suggesting a “brain storm session” at his agency’s office, and inviting state agents to join them, but that his friends in the state suggested another course of action:

“[S]poke to a friend at National Security Council comms directorate... He says govt wouldnt want to send someone to a meeting as it could jeopardise outcomes later. But he says a plan of action could include a bunch of us who have been targeted putting evidence together for OFCOM and.or DCMS as part of a formal complaint, which would then kick off an investigation into GZ's funding and activities - at which point govt can get properly involved."

The email exchange then appears to show Mason welcoming these attempts to trigger a government investigation as a “good idea”.

If these emails are accurate, then their contents are scandalous. But whatever the truth, Mason had already made his support for state action against what he calls the ‘pro-Kremlin’ left abundantly and publicly clear.

Mason has been a vocal advocate of aligning the left with the aims of warmongering governments in the West in order to ‘defend democracy’ against Putin. And, as he recently explained in a New Statesman article, part of this must include a response to what he calls Putin’s “hybrid strategy” of “undermining of belief in democracy”.

Anyone critical of western ‘democracies’ and their imperialist endeavours immediately becomes a legitimate target in this ‘war against disinformation’. “The left should champion state and community action to challenge the lies of its own pro-Kremlin fringe,” he explains. We are left with the irony of ironies that, in this putative ‘war for democracy’ … we must curtail the democratic rights of those who oppose NATO in this war!

What is being waged in Ukraine is not, of course, a war for the defence of ‘democracy’ at all (the Ukrainian government’s credentials for which are dubious, to say the very least) but a proxy war between western imperialism and Russia.

Mason is a graphic representation of a tendency on the left: of those who, having abandoned a class position, have ended up as complete renegades in the camp of the ruling class and of imperialism.

Shameless class collaboration

Once upon a time, Paul Mason considered himself to be a Marxist. In more recent years, he has made his career as a journalist: first at Channel 4 then the BBC. He was initially a keen supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and was able to gain some political authority among Corbyn supporters. And how did he use this authority? He used it to provide left cover for the campaign to commit Labour to a second referendum and to stop Brexit, which played a substantial role in undermining Labour in the 2019, bringing down Corbyn and paving the way for the rise of Starmer as Labour leader – whom Mason has supported!

His latest crackpot ideas such as ‘democratising NATO’, are easy to mock, but they are the logical conclusion of the same policy of class collaboration. The leap from imagining that the EU, with German imperialism at its core, is the defender of workers’ rights to imagining that NATO, with US imperialism at its core, is the defender of democracy has proved a very narrow leap indeed.

This is where class collaboration ends: from ‘progressive alliances’ to ‘defend democracy’, he has turned to the state to curtail the democratic rights of those who oppose imperialism.

The leaked emails published on Grayzone also include a (now widely circulated) attachment that Mason is alleged to have put together of a (laughable) network map of how Russia and China are pulling the strings of the left in Britain like marionettes. The left in turn are depicted manipulating public opinion.

Whatever the truth about this network map, it is also wholly in line with the behaviour of the liberal establishment in recent years, which has raised a tremendous hue and cry about ‘misinformation’ – but which sees conspiracies by ‘Russian bots’ everywhere. The network map (which includes Socialist Appeal manipulating Young Labour, and other lefts apparently manipulating the ‘Black Community’ and the ‘Muslim Community’!) gives a new twist to that old saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Now the enemies of our imperialist friends are also presumed to be friends!

Mason has stated in the past that the left has been exposed “to the ideological influence of Xi Jin Ping’s “Sinicised Marxism”, (!!) [and] to a large scale Russian influence operation”. Unable to imagine anyone having an independent class position, Mason can only assume that lefts who do not support their own ruling class must presumably support some foreign ruling class, and are therefore nothing but Putin stooges.

In this, as in much else, Mason is simply aping the capitalist establishment, which attacked Corbyn as a Moscow stooge long ago for opposing war, nuclear arms and western imperialism. And indeed, in the same blog post, he repeats the same ruling class lies about Corbynism, made all the more delusional (or cynical?) by the real role Mason and co. played in destroying the Corbyn movement:

“…I watched Neo-Stalinism destroy Corbynism — as it destroys everything it touches — by embracing Brexit, adopting a fatally complacent attitude to Putinism and launching a bureaucratic attack on those who disagreed.”

Unforgivable

In the capitalist press, a renegade like Mason is granted reams of space to make the ‘progressive’ case for western imperialism. There is nothing to stop Mason responding politically to his opponents. But seeking the assistance of the British state to silence those on the left who don’t tow imperialism’s line (as he had done before these leaks were published) represents a sinister point of no return for an ex-left.

The British state is a powerful machine for disrupting, undermining, and pacifying organisations it deems as a threat to the interests of the ruling class, such as the Militant tendency during the 1980s and more recently Black Lives Matter

Of the one thousand groups infiltrated by the police in the last 50 years, only three were linked to the far-right. Thousands of workers have been systematically spied on by police and the secret services. Many have had their lives destroyed.

As Mason himself states in the New Statesman article, “Yes, there are risks. The British state under Conservative rule has developed the muscle reflex to see the entire left and progressive movements as an enemy within. As someone targeted daily by the disinformers, both right and left, I do not trust the state to distinguish genuine security threats from legitimate criticism.”

Yes there are risks… but these are risks Mason is willing to take. To call for the British state to take action against socialists is not just a statement of political bankruptcy, it is the act of a class traitor.

The Rt. Hon. Renegade for Stretford and Urmston?

In the labour movement, meek-and-mild reformism and class collaborationism has had its day, as demonstrated by Starmer’s tepid performance despite the Tories’ meltdown.

And so it is precisely through organisational methods: bans, proscriptions and repression against anyone on the left, that the right holds on inside the Labour Party. Guilt by association (such as being at a Socialist Appeal meeting or just liking a Socialist Appeal tweet) is enough to get the boot from Starmer’s party.

And so we have no doubt that Mason will be very much at home if he is successful in his latest endeavour: to become a prospective Labour MP. He has pitched himself as the candidate of the ‘belligerent left’ capable of defending “democracy at home and the rules-based global order abroad”. In other words: capitalist democracy and western imperialism. We only wonder why he continues to use the epithet ‘left’ to describe himself at all?

History is littered with the sorry sight of ex-socialists and former left-wingers who betrayed their erstwhile comrades and enthusiastically signed up to fight in the interests of the ruling class.But British capitalism is in a deep crisis. The ruling class and its strategists are growing increasingly desperate to keep this rotten system alive. Ultimately they will fail, and the ex-left cowards and traitors who went over to their side to assist them will go down as a very small and sad footnote in history, if they are not forgotten entirely.

Cowards flinch and traitors sneer, Mr Mason, but we'll keep the red flag flying here.