The British left’s red-brown problem

Stalinist nostalgia, Putinism and anti-Semitism prove a toxic mix

Paul Mason
24 min readJul 13, 2023

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[This is a long-read. It originally appeared on my Substack newsletter in two parts. I’m making it available here because it has stimulated an sharp political debate in the UK.]

I was recently alerted to an anti-Semitic post by a participant in the 5,000-strong private Facebook group “Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance” (OCISA), which has been formed to unseat Keir Starmer. It reads:

“Starmer is a Right wing Red Tory Zionist Israel paid Scab along with Berger, Smeeth, Coyle, Hodge…”

…followed by a list of Labour MPs, both Jewish and non-Jewish. When challenged by another member of the group, the author replies:

“Starmers wife is Israeli her relations in Israel or all Zionist supporters of Extrem right wing Naitinhau and one or more of Starmer’s wife’s relations or members of Mossad Starmer was could still be MI5” [all errors in the original].

The author spends much of his time on Facebook posting pro-Russian content, plus conspiracy theories about US biolabs and Hunter Biden. He predicts a new American civil war between “Democrats Zionist Vs Republican Nazis”. He habitually slanders Ukrainians as Nazis and is obsessively hostile to President Zelensky.

He is, in short, a long way down the rabbit hole of red-brown politics — where the conspiracy theories and obsessions of the far left and far right are becoming merged.

But who has led him there? Who has given him permission to believe his politics are in any way “left”? What kind of politics does his brand of conspiratorial folklore represent? And what should the labour movement be doing to fight it?

The Big Lie film

Last month the Glastonbury Festival cancelled a screening of the documentary Oh Jeremy Corbyn: The Big Lie, after I (in addition to the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Security Minister Tom Tugendhat) pointed out that a sequence in it — implicitly accusing Jews of orchestrating Corbyn’s defeat, alongside Israel — breached the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism.

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Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.