Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

After SWP Involvement Makes News, Momentum Publishes Ethical Code – is this enough?

with 14 comments


Enfin, les difficultés commencent !

By a route leading back to, amongst others,  Tendance Coatesy the New Statesman has published this:

When new group Momentum was launched by Jeremy Corbyn supporters, Labour MPs were immediately alarmed by its decision to allow non-party members to sign up. This, they warned, risked far-left entryism and the creation of a Militant-style “party within a party”.

Their fears were given greater credence yesterday by the announcement by the Socialist Workers Party, the most loathed Trotskyist groupuscule, that it intends to participate in Momentum. The SWP’s “Party Notes” stated: “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.”

For Momentum’s Labour supporters, the involvement of the SWP (see Edward Platt’s 2014 NS piece for an account of the party’s multiple woes) would be a political catastrophe. Indeed, it is precisely because the SWP recognises that its participation would discredit the group that it has adopted this strategy. It intends to support Momentum as the noose supports a hanged man.

It is notable, then, that the group’s founders have moved swiftly to repudiate the SWP. An article on Left Futures, the site edited by Momentum director Jon Lansman, declares: “There are extremely good reasons why the SWP and my erstwhile comrades in the Socialist Party should be told to sling their hook when they try and get involved. A passing acquaintance with them is all it takes to understand that they’re fundamentally uninterested in building the wider labour movement, let alone the Labour Party – which is one of Momentum‘s explicit objectives. During the summer the SWP looked upon stormin’ Corbyn with indifference and barely any comment. For the Socialist Party, because Labour was a “capitalist party” Jeremy couldn’t possibly win and it was dead as far as socialist politics were concerned.

But the suspicion that Momentum will be infiltrated by hostile left-wingers is likely to endure. If SWP members are to be formally excluded from meetings, the new fear is that its activists go undercover (though it is worth recalling how few there now are). Shadow minister Clive Lewis, a Momentum director, told me this week: “If people are concerned about Momentum, all I would say is judge it on what it does.” But for Labour MPs, the jury will remain out for some time.

Momentum published this yesterday

Interim Ethical Code for Individuals and Local Groups Associated with Momentum

Individuals and groups using the Momentum name and branding must operate according to the following principles at all times:

• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the values that Jeremy popularised during the campaign, of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment.
• Momentum is outward-facing. It seeks to reach out across the community and encourages the participation of people who may not have been involved in political activities before. Ensuring the safety and self-expression of everyone is a priority, especially of those who are often marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religion, class, disability and educational or economic status.
• Groups of individuals may form local Momentum Groups to share ideas, organise and participate in activities at their local level which demonstrate how ‘Labour values’ and collective effort can make a positive social and/or environmental impact. These groups must be democratic in their nature and be organised around a spirit of collaboration, inclusion and respect.
• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the communication of progressive ideas for political change, such as: opposition to austerity, the promotion of equality and participatory democracy. These are the values for which Jeremy Corbyn was elected.
• Momentum is wholly committed to working for progressive political change through methods which are inclusive, participatory and non-violent.
• Momentum seeks to build a social movement in support of the aims of the Labour movement and a fairer and more decent society. Momentum is committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government in 2020 and seeks positive and productive engagement with local Labour Party branches.

Individuals and/or groups who do not adhere to the above principles will not be considered to be part of, or associated with, Momentum. Please note that Momentum is its embryonic stage as a network organisation. Our Code of Conduct is likely to develop further along with the governance structures of our organisation.

Whether these interim  commitments will make a difference, or become fully codified,  remains to be seen.

The principal concern is not setting up measures to avoid being hectored by the SWP/SP. Or even to put a stop to attempts to support break away candidates standing in elections against the Labour Party (which we flagged up).

It is about what the left needs to be done to make itself not ‘populist’ but popular enough to be able to implement our democratic socialist policies.

However democratic and inclusive an internal structure is this Blog’s own view that a lot more needs to be done to reach out not just to ourselves, to ‘new’ people, and movements in civil society. Particular attention should be given to the views of Trade Unions on issues concerning not just budget austerity but privatisation, hiving off local services, and to groups fighting, what is effectively the dismantling of the Welfare state.

For this to have a real impact:

  • The left has to appeal, and listen to, those already in the Labour Party who did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
  • We have to respect the hard work they have put in, over many years, as activists, as Councillors and MPs.
  • We have to offer rational well-thought out policies – on austerity, on broader economic issues, on social policy, and on international subjects.
  • It is important, therefore, that supporters of Team Corbyn and the new Shadow Cabinet more broadly, work with that section of the Party which  wants to see a Labour government elected, our representation on local councils increased and effective policies carried out in local government.
This means listening and trying to convince the ‘centre ground’ of the Party.

This will not help:

“Momentum England an Unofficial page supporting “Momentum” the movement inspired by Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Labour Party #ANewKindOfPolitics.”

2,093 people like this.

The Facebook page (Here)  is managed by one Mark Anthony France,  Republican Socialist and Labour Party Member.

Politics in Britain and Ireland is being transformed.
We have seen a powerful rebellion in Scotland in support of a radical movement for Independence and the spectacular rise of the Scottish National Party.

We see the growth of Sinn Fein both North and South as we approach the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.

In Wales Plaid Cymru is a potent force led by Socialist Republican Leanne Wood
In the Summer of 2015 came an unprecedented mass movement mainly based in England that led to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader of the Labour PartyThere is tremendous momentum for change.

One of the biggest issues that confront all the peoples of these islands is how to manage dynamic towards the break up of the so called ‘United Kingdom’ in a peaceful, democratic way.
We encourage debate and discussion about the movement for change and how to maintain and accelerate the Momentum for change towards a genuinely democratic future based upon peoples power.

This chap has a bit of a ‘history’.

With John Tummon Mark Anthony France was the seconder of the (roundly defeated) notorious Caliphate motion at the Left Unity Conference in November 2014 (Extracts: original here)

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’.

Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.

We also distance ourselves  from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that  believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning  their religious faith to a separate part of their  lives from their political aspirations, if they are to  develop progressive societies.

The story got national attention,

Islamic State’s ‘Progessive Potential’ As ‘Stabilising Force’ Debated By New Left Unity Party. Huffington Post.

The “progressive potential” of Islamic State (IS) had been discussed by a British political party, which also claimed a caliphate created by the brutal Islamist terror group would be a “stabilising force” in the region.

The bizarre proposition was put to members of a new left-wing party in an amendment that said IS’s territorial ambitions were a break from “framework of western-imposed nation states” in the Middle East.

The Left Unity motion added that Islamic State’s call for a pan-Islamic Caliphate to replace the various states of the Muslim world was “an authentic expression of … anti-imperialist aspirations.”

No more than ‘debating’ with the SWP would we wish to ‘discuss’ the idea that we should be sympathetic to an Islamic caliphate.



14 Responses

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  1. What the SWP and indeed the Socialist Party must do if they want to work constructively with momentum and the Labour Party is to renounce standing candidates in elections where there is an official Labour candidate. which in reality means all British elections but not elections in Northern Ireland. Announce that they support Labour candidates in all elections and work for the election of Labour mayors, Labour councils and a Labour Government. I understand that left unity is about to do this. They will have to disband or at least change their names Both the S.P and the SWP used to be in the Party as Militant and I.S and the whole of the Labour left then never opposed them being members of the Labour Party.

    Scott Reeve

    October 17, 2015 at 12:47 pm

  2. Indications are that unlike Left Unity these groups will use the opportunity to protest against their “exclusion”, or find ways to question the structure of Momentum and/or these guidelines, and create a nasty row that way: it’s hard to avoid a clash once these people attempt ‘ideological clarification’.

    Andrew Coates

    October 17, 2015 at 3:57 pm

  3. “Today, Mr Kimble spelt out to The Huffington Post UK how he saw the SWP becoming involved in the group.

    He said: “We see Momentum as a opportunity to join with the Labour Party in support of the anti-austerity policies that Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership on.”

    The SWP, which Mr Kimble claims has “thousands” of members, are advocate a revolutionary form of socialism as “only the mass action of workers themselves can change the system”

    Mr Kimble ruled out his party running joint-ticket candidates with Labour in any election, but said: “We will have to consider carefully if and when we stand against Labour.”

    When asked under what circumstances the SWP would stand against Labour, he said: “When you have a right-wing Labour council sticking two fingers up to Jeremy Corbyn.”

    He added: “Look at the 21 who defied Jeremy Corbyn in the vote this week. These people are clearly in revolt against Jeremy Corbyn. They want to get rid of him.”

    When asked if he thought the SWP would be one of those consulted about policy if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister, he said: “I hope so. I have been someone who talks to Jeremy and John for the last 20 years. We have a lot of views in common.”

    Richard Angell, director of Progress, the grouping of Labour Party modernisers, said: “The SWP should not be deciding Labour Party policy; not the policy – or deselection strategies – of Momentum or any other groups who want to change Labour or those who won’t back our MPs and councillors.”

    He added: “Momentum should make clear they are opposed to the infiltration of Labour by the SWP and they are neither welcome at their meetings not in their policy making.”

    A spokesperson for Momentum said: “We oppose the infiltration of the Labour Party by the SWP and we would like to meet with Progress and other groups within the Labour Party soon to build constructive relations.”


    Andrew Coates

    October 17, 2015 at 4:18 pm

  4. The SWP and the Blairoids have a common interest in bigging up the SWP’s significance in whatever movement may develop around Corbyn. Of course the SWP will be there, making interventions in meetings which immediately quarantine them from the rest of the people present, and then trying to sell papers outside at the end. But so what?


    October 17, 2015 at 6:55 pm

  5. The SWP, which Mr Kimble claims has “thousands” of members


    Phil Dore

    October 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm

  6. The problems Francis are obvious and are more serious than the ability of small groups to be annoying and operate as Leninist sects.

    The first is their potential role in trying to introduce candidates against Labour in local, and potentially, national, elections.

    The second is their role in pushing support for a No2EU campaign during the referendum.

    Having these people inside a group like Momentum will make it also hard to work with the kind of serious strategy for influencing the bulk of the Labour Party – that is, those people who are not Blairites/Progress.

    Andrew Coates

    October 18, 2015 at 11:55 am

  7. The SWP have a long track record of buggering up united fronts and would-be united fronts. They destroyed the Socialist Alliance in order to turn it into the Galloway fan-club ‘Respect.’ There’s no place for these people in any serious working class-based united front and I for one will have no hesitation in telling them to fuck off.

    As for that lunatic Mark Anthony France … his mere presence is enough to instantly discredit any organisation he associates with.

    Jim Denham

    October 18, 2015 at 6:05 pm

  8. The Socialist Party pose a different problem: that of the European Referendum.

    I think many people will also resent that they seem to think they have a right to feast on a dish that they have done nothing to help prepare.

    Andrew Coates

    October 19, 2015 at 12:49 pm

  9. I’m a Trot but I haven’t been a member of any Trot group years and years. People like me, who remain politically active, must outnumber the combined membership of the SP and SWP (5000?) by a large number – and then add all the others who aren’t in Labour (e.g. Left Unity – I’m a member but very few are so Left; LU members are mainly Corbyn/Benn types par excellence) plus those from a Green, CPGB background – and, by far, the biggest lot: ex Labour Lefts.

    It’s poor (but predictable) that (current) Labour Left types seek to witchunt the small numbers of SP/SWPers (and presumably other Trot groups – such as the AWL) when they are such a small force and will be massively outnumbered by those I list above.

    Many won’t join Labour or are waiting to see how things go for a bit (I’m in the latter category – my local Labour party isn’t just right-wing, it’s a near apolitical group of local businessmen and their cronies and a couple of isolated people with a social conscience.)

    I’m willing to debate the way forward in Momentum fashion in a democratic fashion. I wouldn’t seek to exclude people just because of their history or continuing views;

    it’s a shame reformists seek to do so but I think it’s symptomatic of the Corbynistas – mainly voted for him simply because he wasn’t the old establishment face but their commitment was simply paying £3 for five minutes of click activism. It’s the hard core Benn/Corbyn types who will take all the credit and move to crush any Trots (although noticeably not the Gapes/Mann/Danczuks of this world). For example, this comment by me (save the last para,and which I hope people agree is reasonable was purged as a comment from Left Futures – no democratic rights for Trots, eh?

  10. Southpaw: you may or may not be a “Trot” (you sound more like a Bordegist to me), but to ignore the destructive record of the SWP, and top preach “democratic” tolerance towards them is grossly irresponsible towards the workers’ movement.

    Jim Denham

    October 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm

  11. Maybe you should reflect on your comment, Denham – perhaps ask some of your comrades whether they agree with you that the SWP is now outside the workers movement, maybe in the way that the RCP became at some point in their transformation to Spiked!

    Do you really think that the politics of the SWP are more destructive than, say, the 30s CPGB, or that, say, Callincos is worse than Palme-Dutt? The CPGB (and the WRP) – even at their low – were always in the workers’ movement and so are the very much better SWP,

    It’s obvious that they should be given democratic rights – what would the composition of a Northampton Momentum be – 2 SWP, 2 SP and up to 50 or even a 100 non-Trot Lefts?? Probably more ex-Greens that current Trots. What are people so scared about?

  12. No doubt you will be giving generously to this appeal:

    Socialist Worker Appeal
    We say fight back

    Socialist Worker is not like other papers. We have no rich backers and no corporate advertisers. We do not rely on press releases or phone-hacking. We do not claim to be unbiased while propping up the rich and powerful.

    Socialist Worker is proud to take sides. Across the world, wherever struggles take place, we are with the poor and downtrodden against the bankers, dictators and bosses.

    Socialist Worker doesn’t just report the news; we set out the arguments for why people should join protests, support strikes and fight for a better world.

    No donation is too big or too small.


    Andrew Coates

    October 20, 2015 at 11:54 am

  13. Join Labour? No, vie with UKIP. Colin Foster

    The TUSC electoral coalition, mainly organised by the Socialist Party, will continue to stand candidates against Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

    A member of the Labour Representation Committee (a Labour left group) reports: “It was confirmed to us that TUSC would be standing candidates… in the coming local elections in May 2016. They also said they would oppose trade unions re-affiliating to the Labour Party, and were against re-joining the Labour Party”.

    The Socialist Party’s line is that TUSC should contest council seats, wherever they are able, unless the Labour candidate commits to oppose all cuts.

    The SP is right to oppose all cuts, but instead of working with others on the left — and mainly, now, within the new Corbyn Labour Party — to assemble an effective force against cuts, they use the “oppose all cuts” formula as a sect badge.

    In January 2011 they used the National Shop Stewards Network, which they control, to set up a new “national anti-cuts campaign” counterposed to the Coalition of Resistance, People’s Assembly, Right to Work, Unite the Resistance, etc. on the grounds that those groups are allegedly not as strongly anti-cuts as the SP. The new “campaign” never did much, but its launch did disperse almost all the non-SP people previously active in the NSSN.

    The drift, never clarified, was that it was wrong to join campaigns opposing one lot of cuts unless they are equally intransigent against all other cuts. (The SP suggest that their forerunners, Militant, didn’t make cuts when they led Liverpool Labour council in 1984-6. In fact they did).

    In 2001, when the SP were in the Socialist Alliance, they rejected the view of everyone else in the SA (including AWL), that the SA should target its candidates so as not to oppose left Labour people or run a risk of letting in the Tories. The SP insisted on running a candidate against John McDonnell in the 2001 general election, and the rest of the SA had to refuse to back that SA candidate and explain we backed McDonnell.

    The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) is also in TUSC, and less gung-ho than the SP about TUSC candidates against Corbyn-Labour, but the SP has the decisive voice. The RMT rail union is affiliated to TUSC; it is not reported as having been represented at the meeting with LRC.

    The smaller Independent Socialist Network seems unhappy with this TUSC policy, and also with TUSC policy on the European Union.

    TUSC emerged from a “No2EU” slate in the 2009 Euro-election. On 8 October TUSC declared, under the headline “Socialists to challenge UKIP for Exit EU crown”, “that it would officially register as an exit campaigner in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership”.

    No2EU has denounced “the so-called ‘free movement’ of labour” in the EU and “the social dumping of exploited foreign workers in Britain”, which is really a would-be “left” way of vying with Ukip to capture anti-migrant votes. TUSC has toned down that stuff; but in the 2010 general election leading SP and TUSC campaigners explained to us that it was deliberate that they said nothing on migrant rights.

    That is not a constructive left-wing alternative to the battle inside the new Corbyn Labour Party.


    Andrew Coates

    October 21, 2015 at 5:12 pm

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