Stella Rimington, Communists and the Labour Party leadership — a reply to Paul Mason.

Paul Mason has written in the Guardian attacking Stella Rimington and MI5 for “paranoid fantasies” about Jeremy Corbyn.

He writes about himself at the time—” I don’t advise Corbyn, but I am pretty sure my name is on Dame Stella’s secret list. I was on the far left in the 80s.” Mr Mason then goes on to list various “worthy” campaigns that he was involved in at the time (eg the miner’s strike). The implication is that MI5 were “anti-democratic” in their surveillance of leftists and trade unionists who were campaigning for social justice. For some reason, though, he neglects to omit the organisation he was a part of.

Paul Mason was a member of Workers’ Power who were a 1974 split-off from the International Socialists (IS) (the name of the Socialist Workers Party then). Now why did they split?

It was over what attitude they should take to the IRA’s bombing campaign.

Here’s what “Workers Power” said in relation to the Birmingham bombings, the IRA and IS -

“Socialist Worker completely capitulated to the wave of chauvinist hysteria. It’s front page proclaimed “All socialists must condemn these killings.”

Socialist Worker’s response to Birmingham was an attempt to placate the chauvinism of British workers, rather than challenge it. Not only did IS not subordinate criticism of the Provos to unconditional support for their right to carry through these actions, but the criticisms themselves were made from entirely the wrong standpoint. Socialist Worker did not criticise IRA actions from the point of view of the atomising effect they have upon the anti-imperialist struggle within the working class of Ireland. On the contrary, IS criticised the IRA from the vantage of the injured sensibilities of the British working class”. (The British Left and the Irish War. Workers Power pamphlet 1983. Pg. 7).

Now, to my mind, if MI5 had not taken an interest in the members of Workers Power who believed that the IRA should have “unconditional support” to carry out actions such as the Birmingham bombings (21 civilian deaths and hundreds injured), then they would not have been doing their job.

As for the “Communists”, that Stella Rimington would have been referring to, well, a couple of obvious names come to mind.

Seumas Milne (Corbyn’s “Executive Director of Strategy and Communications”) was a member of the Labour Party and the business manager of the newspaper Straight Left. Andrew Murray (who recently joined Labour from the Communist Party of Britain and helped in the General Election) was also a member of Straight Left. In contrast to Milne, though, he was a member of the (now-dissolved) Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Recently, another ex-member of Straight Left, Steve Howell, was deputy to Milne but has now left that post.

Now, never mind Militant Tendency but Straight Left must be the most successful entryist organisation ever as it had members in both the CPGB and the Labour Party. It grew out of the Stalinist opposition to the Eurocommunist direction of the leadership of the CPGB. In particular, Straight Left were most upset at criticisms of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. That is where they got the nickname “tankie” from.

So, we now have a situation where two leading supporters (Milne and Murray) of the old CPGB’s Stalinist faction (Straight Left) are advising Jeremy Corbyn.

Why wouldn’t MI5 have taken an interest in those two and their organisation at the time? Particularly with Straight Left’s influence among leading Labour Party and Trade Union officials (eg Labour NEC member Joan Maynard MP and Alan Sapper ACTT General Secretary).

I think Paul Mason doth protest too much.