Momentum Youth and Students founding conference in Manchester on 5 June was a big step forward towards creating a radical democratic youth movement. 200 young Labour Party and socialist activists attended.
The conference opened strongly with an all-women plenary. Hannah McCarthy, the Campaigns and Citizenship Officer at the University of Manchester Student Union, set the tone with news of an inspiring victory for low-paid catering workers at the university, and the importance of fighting explicitly for socialist ideas. We also heard from left-wing Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, the new chair of Young Labour Caroline Hill, and left-wing candidate for Labour National Executive Committee Rhea Wolfson, who struck a defiant note against the Blairite attempts to prevent her standing in the NEC elections.
One of the other highlights of the day was a series of workshops on young workers and trade unions, the threats to higher education, and the junior doctors’ struggle in the NHS. In the NHS session, we discussed campaigning in communities and on campuses around local NHS struggles, but also how Momentum must play a role in pushing big-picture demands through the Labour Party in order to rebuild the NHS as a comprehensive public service.
With the exception of the liberation and regional caucuses, the rest of the day was given over to constitutional discussions and the elections for a committee block of 15. The lack of any real time for discussions of strategy for the young left in Labour or for any discussion of big political issues, was disappointing. To inspire activists and really cohere a movement, we need to talk about what we think, what we believe, what we are fighting for. Not just talk about the remit of a committee!
After an attempt to scrap all committee elections was averted, a degree of unnecessary confusion on the day was caused by some delegates attempting to force unwritten amendments from the floor to the effect that the committee would only be interim.
In the end, conference voted that the committee would carry out a review into the organisation’s structures as it develops over the next six months, and produce a recommendation to be put to a future conference. Regional reps will be added later as regional structures get off the ground.
As well as arguing for a democratic Momentum Youth and Students, Workers’ Liberty activists took the opportunity of the conference to discuss with young activists about socialism.
We argued that Momentum should campaign for a Workers’ Government, a government which fights for the working-class as hard as the current government fights for the bosses, and which is accountable to the labour movement.