Momentum, the Labour left organisation set up by people from the Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign in 2015, will be running elections for its National Coordinating Group (NCG) in early 2020.
Momentum shut down almost all its internal structures in early 2017, and since then has been pretty much run by electronic communications “trickling down” from its office. It has focused heavily on mobilising people for internal Labour Party elections and the general elections in 2017 and this year, rather than creating space for political debate.
However, it still claims 40,000 signed-up members, and some local Momentum groups are still active.
In the last NCG election, in April 2018, the slate backed by the Momentum office had almost a clean sweep. A “Democracy and Socialism” slate backed by The Clarion got good minority votes but won only one place, and there was a scattering of individual candidates outside both slates.
The NCG meets rarely (the only minutes on the Momentum website from the last year are from meetings in July 2019 and December 2018), but the election for it is an opportunity to debate platforms within the Labour left.
So far this time there has been talk of two slates besides the office-backed slate which we must expect.
One is an ultra-Corbyn-loyalist slate, momentum4corbyn.net, devoted to “ensuring that Momentum publicly campaigns for Jeremy’s policies and not for the policies of anyone else”.
Another is Labour Transformed, a grouping apparently centred around organisers of the annual The World Transformed fringe events at Labour Party conference, who are going public at an inaugural meeting on 14 December.
Neither has named any candidates or backers yet. Labour Transformed’s text for their slate (not yet on their website) mentions scrapping all anti-union laws, anti-capitalism (albeit equated with the old Clause Four), and a democratic decision-making conference for Momentum. It says nothing about Brexit or antisemitism, big issues which have divided the left.
Some people in Labour for a Socialist Europe are starting discussions about a third slate around the sort of policies outlined in the following draft.
We propose the organisation of an internationalist, class-struggle socialist slate of candidates in the early 2019 elections for Momentum’s National Coordinating Group.
We are proposing to Labour for a Socialist Europe that it leads in putting together such a slate. We encourage organisations, groups and individuals who agree with all or some of what we advocate here, and are interested in cooperating on this, to get in touch so we can discuss.
We need a Labour left adequate to the battles we will face after the election, a radically better left than Momentum provides at present. Given Momentum’s weight and reach, a fight to change it is part of developing such a left.
We want a slate which reflects the goals and values we believe are needed in a renewed and transformed left:
• Oppose Brexit – Remain (or Rejoin) and Transform. Unambiguous support for migrants’ rights, including for free movement. Campaign to implement the full Labour Campaign for Free Movement platform won at Labour conference.
• Transform Labour – campaign for thoroughgoing structural changes including open selection. Conference should determine party policy and manifestos. Radicalise policy further. For left pressure on a Labour government! Democratise Momentum, including a democratic annual decision-making conference. For bottom-up decision-making, leadership accountability and vibrant political education and debate in Labour and Momentum.
• Fight for socialism – to replace capitalism with a new society based on democratic social ownership of major industry, services and finance, and workers’ control.
• Fight climate change. For a “Socialist Green New Deal” including the full conference policy, expanded to include public ownership of banking and finance and no airport expansion.
• Class struggle. Actively support workers’ and working-class community struggles, and grassroots organising to build and transform the labour movement. Fight to repeal all anti-union laws. Demand Labour councils join their workforces and communities in fighting cuts. Opposition to “more police” politics.
• Strong stances against all bigotry and oppression, including antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and transphobia. Bigotry on the left must be fought specifically – that includes left antisemitism, in the form of equating all “Zionists” with racism or dismissing all complaints of antisemitism as Israeli or right-wing plots. Consistent internationalism, including campaigning for Labour policies like a Palestinian state alongside Israel, self-determination for Kashmir and support for the Uyghurs.
Why we need to stand:
Momentum has attracted and sometimes mobilised large numbers of people. But as a political organisation to push forward the transformation of the Labour Party and wider labour movement, and to educate and organise for class struggle, it is a negligible force. Sometimes its influence has been conservative or even harmful.
This is intertwined with its striking lack of internal democracy and the negative political culture it has generated.
Despite talking about democratising Labour, Momentum has not only hesitated on pushing structural reforms like open selection, but encouraged trends of leadership-adulation, top-down decision-making, and hostility to debate and dissent – the opposite of what we need.
On Brexit, freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, Momentum has failed the test of internationalism and solidarity. At best it has passively tailed the campaigning of others. Mostly it has, beyond platitudes, remained silent, refusing to bring its influence to bear in this movement-defining struggle. It has sometimes promoted nationalistic narratives.
Instead of educating and organising socialists as fighters for a “world transformed” to replace capitalism, Momentum explicitly promotes the idea that partial “socialism” already exists in state intervention and that the job of “socialists” is to fight for more.