When the New Statesman published Paul Mason’s provocatively titled article, “How the left could save Nato”, in late November 2019, it attracted a deserved torrent of criticism.
But in the Labour leadership election that followed, neither the eventual left candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey, nor the other tentative left contender, Clive Lewis, opposed participation in NATO. Indeed, Lewis had previously defended it. And from early on, Corbyn’s leadership had reconciled itself to maintaining the UK’s nuclear weapons and commitment to NATO.
Now the Starmer leadership has upped the volume by describing its commitment to NATO as “unshakeable” and its support for the UK nuclear weapons as “non-negotiable”.
For socialist internationalists, throwing in our lot with either imperial ruling class, whether Washington or Moscow, was the wrong answer during the Cold War. Similar stances are wrong today. NATO is not a benign safeguard against Putinist ambitions, but an alliance of imperial powers itself.
In the heyday of NATO, the US repeatedly intervened in its “near abroad”, and its European members, France, the UK and Portugal still maintained colonial holdings across large swathes of the world.
Today there is NATO-member Turkey’s authoritarian, anti-democratic regime and its escalating repression of the Kurds. And Turkey is not the end of the problem.
NATO’s other members have waged military interventions like the invasion of Iraq, and propping up despots like the Saudi royals. The biggest military engagement of NATO’s history has been in Afghanistan, where the war begun by the 2001 invasion is currently grinding bloodily towards the two-decade mark.
NATO intervention in Kosova did disrupt ethnic cleansing. But such operations have been the acts of predatory powers who happened to do some good while pursuing their own interests.
• Adapted and abridged from here