Socialist Workers Party to “build Momentum” group for Jeremy Corbyn.
SWP to use ‘United Front Method’ in Momentum to bring “Ideological Clarity”.
Socialist Worker announces.
Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have launched a new initiative to galvanise the enthusiasm generated during his leadership campaign.
Called Momentum, it says it wants to build a “mass movement for real progressive change”.
It commits to organise “supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up.”
Corbyn has been under constant attack from the Labour establishment and the right.
This is a welcome sign that he wants to build a broader base to take up the fight. And one that is prepared to move outside of the machinery of Labour.
Some of his most trenchant opposition comes from the Labour benches in parliament—including his cabinet.
But his largest support comes from grass roots campaigners and newly politicised young people who want an alternative to austerity and racism.
The new group’s stated aim is to pull people into Labour—at the moment it is not a membership organisation and is calling for supporters.
This is a chance for activists in and out of Labour to cooperate in activity. It increases the space for debate about how to fight back.
Corbyn’s campaign promised a different sort of politics.
Momentum’s call to mobilise those people to be active in their localities with others on the left can help that political mood. And it can feed into strengthening working class organisation.
Socialists in and outside Labour should support it.
The last sentence is SWP-speak for “SWP members to join Momentum”.
These are the new group’s core objectives.
What will Momentum do?
What does Momentum want to do?
- Organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real progressive change.
- Make Labour a more democratic party, with the policies and collective will to implement them in government.
- Bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.
How will Momentum do this?
- Organise events, rallies, meet ups and policy consultations to encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society.
- Encourage those inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to get involved with the Labour Party. Assist members in making their voice heard in Labour Party debates.
- Facilitate and coordinate people to build new and support existing organisations that can make concrete improvements to people’s lives. Through these actions, we aim to demonstrate on a micro level how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better.
This is what the SWP intends to do about this (internal Party Notes 12th October):
3) We need to constantly seek opportunities to engage with Corbyn supporters in common activity and political discussion. This involves united front activity, for example over Stand Up to Racism and refugee solidarity, building opposition to the Trade Union Bill or starting to build the CND demo against Trident called for 20 February.
4) We should also go to Labour Party meetings to sell Socialist Worker and invite people to join us in activity etc.
5) There are also various initiatives to re-launch the Labour left. Momentum which has the backing of a group of newly elected Corbyn-supporting MPs such as Clive Lewis and Richard Burgon, looks like it might be the most significant to date (Corbyn and McDonnell have also made supporting statements backing it). It does not seem restricted to Labour members, though it says it will aim to encourage people to join Labour. We should go along to any local Momentum meetings with the aim of taking part as open SWP members, suggesting joint activity, and sign up to be on the email lists. A launch meeting in Manchester last week attracted 70 people, many of them new and comrades had a friendly response when they raised common activity.
6) Common activity, a repeated united front method and relating to Labour party meetings etc. and raising the argument that we can’t wait for 2020 are the key to finding an audience among Corbyn supporters. But we then also have to engage in fraternal debate about the way forward. Here the lessons of Syriza are extremely important, where the combined pressure of European capital has turned Syriza from a beacon of hope against austerity into its enforcer within nine months.
7) If we combine a united front method with ideological clarity, the SWP can make the most of an exciting, but testing, new political situation.
Translated from SWP-speak this means that they will turn up at all Momentum meetings they can, demand a ‘united front’ (agreement with whatever the SWP ‘s favourite causes of the day are) and seek “ideological clarity” by making sure that as “revolutionaries” they will expose the weakness of ‘reformists” and “build the SWP”.
Or, as classically formulated, the “united front” means this, (Duncan Hallas, writing for the forerunner of the SWP, the International Socialists in 1976),
It is not a substitute for a revolutionary party. The united front tactic can never, under any circumstances, mean the subordination of revolutionary politics and organisation to reformist politics and organisation. It presupposes the existence and independence of a revolutionary force. The bigger that force, the greater the united front possibilities.
It is not a “let’s forget our differences and unite” approach. On the contrary; the united front tactic always and inevitably involves a political struggle to compel reformists and centrists to to live up to their own pretensions, to break some of their ties with the capitalist establishment (both direct and through the trade union bureaucracy) and to engage in a fight, alongside revolutionaries, for objectives they themselves profess to support.
No doubt the SWP will also cite the example of the left that they backed as an alternative to Syriza whose electoral results in the September elections were outstanding. Or as they said “the anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya made modest gains despite a split from one of its components to join Popular Unity.” (Socialist Worker.)
|Greek Anticapitalist Left–Workers Revolutionary Party (ANTARSYA-EEK)||46,096||0.85||0.17||
There are many other points to make but one stands out: no doubt those who left the SWP in recent years, a result of, amongst other things, the Comrade Delta case, will equally be delighted to be lectured by the old comrades.
Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty comments in a vein which goes into greater detail than our Blog comments a few days ago.
Momentum is proposed as a composite structure, with an inside-the-Labour-Party element, and a “social movement” element. At present there is no way to join Momentum, rather than just to sign up to keep in touch with it, but the plan is that non-Labour people will be able to join equally with Labour people.
Naturally enough, the Socialist Party has indicated that it will join Momentum en masse, and so probably will the SWP, the Communist Party of Britain, etc. Local Labour left caucuses organising under the Momentum umbrella will have to call themselves “Labour Momentum”, not just “Momentum”.
Unity with SP and SWP people, and even with CPB people, is desirable in campaigns where we share clear-cut aims, and regular organised debate with them is desirable where we do not.
But this pantomime-horse structure makes Momentum effectively a new party intertwined with the Labour Party. (Except with no clearly stated political programme. And except that it will not stand candidates. But won’t it? What if a local Momentum group, angry at right-wing Labour councillors, wants to challenge them next May?)
The structure of the Labour Party has, historically, given enough of a frame to Labour left organisations (local left caucuses, and wider groups too: the Campaign Group Supporters’ Network, Labour Party Socialists, the Rank and File Mobilising Committee, the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory… back to Victory for Socialism or the Socialist League) that they can operate usefully and have at least some democratic mechanisms (conferences, named committees, elections) without demanding “discipline” and without being continually convulsed by battles for control.
Those have always been much weaker and more blurred than the informed democracy which an activist Marxist organisation needs and can generate, but they have served their limited purpose.
For a notionally more ambitious operation, effectively a near-full-fledged party, to have structures which are, as some in the Labour Representation Committee group (LRC) have said, “an amorphous mess” — that makes for rancour and squabbles, not democratic cooperation.
Both the lack of democratic mechanisms, and the Rube Goldberg structure, are defended as necessary to give equal weight to sympathisers who participate only online with those who come to meetings.
The following will no doubt not have escaped the attention of Labour Party activists:
The Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party stood in the 2015 General Election – their candidates were presented as an alternative to the Labour Party.
TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland, as well as 619 council candidates in local elections.
The organisation announced in October 2014 that it had received a guarantee of funding from Socialist Alliance. The funds would provide for one hundred deposits in parliamentary contests, as well as a Party Political Broadcast.[39
The party performed badly at the election, winning 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.
This is what the Socialist Party said of Labour this year (The Socialist 15th of April)
Labour remains a capitalist party committed to austerity and sticking to Tory spending limits. Shadow welfare minister Rachel Reeves has promised to be tougher on welfare than the Con-Dems.
This (The Socialist. October the 14th) is their balance-sheet of their TUSC campaign,
TUSC has stood widely in elections over the last five years, with many candidates coming from the unions, including the RMT and FBU.
Actually, this was a major factor in pushing Labour lefts to ensure that the Blairites were challenged in the leadership election by Jeremy Corbyn‘s candidature.
We support Jeremy and John calling a conference of all the anti-austerity forces inside and outside Labour, including non-affiliated unions and parties like ourselves, to build a movement to defeat the Blairites. The question is, does re-affiliating help that process?
The party machine is still in the hands of the Blairites. The launching of Momentum is a recognition from Corbyn’s supporters that there is a struggle taking place and that the left needs to operate inside and outside the party.
But should non-affiliated unions rejoin the Labour Party?
It is to the current Labour’s undemocratic structure that unions would be re-affiliating, where the constitution has been fashioned by the Blairites to maintain their pro-market policies.
They would be spending hundreds of thousands of pounds for a tiny proportion of votes and influence. On the existing basis, the RMT could have to pay £250,000 to affiliate for around 1.8% of the vote at Labour’s annual conference which doesn’t even decide party policy!
They would also be giving up their independence at this stage where the die hasn’t been cast, rather than use the possibility of supporting anti-austerity candidates against the Labour right as an important lever to supplement the struggle against the Blairites from outside.
There remains the question: is the Labour Party still a “capitalist party” or not?
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