London Momentum discusses expulsions

Submitted by Matthew on 19 October, 2016 - 12:37 Author: Sacha Ismail

The London regional Momentum meeting (15 October) revealed a growing organisation with substantial life, but one that needs much more organisation. Hopefully this meeting represents the start of that process.

In February, following a grassroots revolt against attempts to create undemocratic structures appointed from above, the organisation established regional networks to co-ordinate groups and elect the bulk of the National Committee.

The London region met twice but then did not meet for six months, despite attempts to get it to do so. Did this reflect lack of confidence from a new organisation, exacerbated by pressure from the Momentum office, which shut down the NC and discouraged regional meetings during the Labour leadership campaign? In any case, when convened, the regional meeting was attended by about 45 people, 35 of whom were delegates representing between 15 and 20 London groups (with some groups not present) and a smattering of other Momentum organisations (including youth, disabled, LGBT, women).

There was wide political diversity in the room. Each group present reported on their activity, which was actually very helpful and encouraging —there is a lot of good work being done, from supporting cleaners’ struggles in the City of London to winning the nomination for a marginal council by-election in Tory Wandsworth. New groups are still appearing.

There was controversy about whether to take motions. Underlying this was a wider disagreement about whether the region should take motions at all. Having every meeting entirely taken up by motions would be undesirable, but without the ability to put proposals there is surely no possibility of democratic decision-making.

In the end, the meeting voted on two things: a proposal about campaigning against expulsions and suspensions from the Labour Party, from Lewisham; and a statement about Jackie Walker’s removal as Vice Chair of Momentum, which supporters of Global Women’s Strike had put forward.

This did not come from a group but de facto represented a number of groups who have voted for Walker’s reinstatement. The motion about expulsions and suspensions was passed almost unanimously, to go forward to the 5 November NC, with a clear consensus that Momentum’s inaction on this issue is a real problem.

Unfortunately a line supporting the Stop the Purge conference in Nottingham was deleted by a margin of two votes after some bizarre attacks on the AWL. (We are “Zionists”, supposedly; we are involved in Stop the Purge; therefore Stop the Purge is Zionist and cannot be supported... I think most delegates felt they didn’t know enough about the campaign and this crazy, sectarian stuff made some feel uncomfortable).

An attempt to delete a call for Corbyn and McDonnell to be bold on these issues, motivated by Global Women’s Strike supporters on the explicit grounds that Momentum should not even criticise the Labour leadership by implication but simply support what they say, was overwhelmingly defeated.

On the removal of Jackie Walker as Vice Chair there was a long debate. London NC reps Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum, who both also sit on the national Steering Committee and voted to remove Walker, explained their decision. Fellow rep and London regional chair Delia Mattis explained why she disagreed and criticised how the decision-making process had been handled by Jon Lansman.

Eventually, by a margin of three, the meeting deleted the call to reinstate Walker as chair and substituted a call to campaign for her reinstatement in the Labour Party. The meeting will reconvene on 29 October to discuss Momentum structures, as well as other issues, and to hold a new election for representatives on the National Committee. A collection for striking Picturehouse workers was taken.

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