Defend the right to criticise NATO

Despite rejecting the “Stop the War” output presenting Putin’s actions as mainly a response to NATO being unfair to Russia, we should defend the right to debate and a range of opinions in Labour

By Mohan Sen

Keir Starmer has forced 11 left-wing MPs to withdraw their signatures from a Stop the War Coalition statement on the grounds that Labour MPs cannot oppose or criticise imperialist military alliance NATO. Media reports say the MPs were threatened with withdrawal of the party whip. And the party machine has seized control of the Young Labour (YL) Twitter account on the same basis – and now Starmer has apparently cancelled this year’s YL conference!

The left should not support the Stop the War Coalition, which consistently apologises for Russia and anti-Western imperial powers. And Young Labour’s weakening and bureaucratisation under “left” leadership since 2016, intertwined with Stalinist-influenced politics, is a huge problem. One result is that, because its “left” leadership has failed to build any real Labour youth movement, actually shutting down YL’s internal democracy and life further itself, it is now in no position to resist Starmer effectively.

Starmer’s moves are an absolutely outrageous attack on Labour democracy. Even Tony Blair never threatened to purge MPs or shut down party units for criticising NATO. The reported abolition of YL conference, as well as outrageous in itself, is yet another step in the leadership simply declaring changes in the party from above.

And while the idea that NATO is as much to blame as Russia for the war in Ukraine is ludicrous – this is fundamentally a war of Russian imperialist aggression – NATO remains far from a benign force. It is imperialist. For a short article making that argument in more depth, see here and for a longer one here.

In the days ahead the left and labour movement should focus on opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But we should also maintain our independence from and criticism of the NATO powers, and resist attempts by Starmer and co. to intimidate those who do so.

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