Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Momentum in Crisis?

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We publish this without detailed comment.

We welcomed – in broad terms – the creation of Momentum and note that it played a very positive role in trying to win support for a left-wing campaign to vote Remain in the European Referendum.

This dispute has all the air of a typical fight between left political tendencies that ends in a great deal of bitterness and unpleasantness.

It is, naturally, as nothing if people heed this self-serving appeal and admit the Socialist Party (Labour), the actively pro-Brexit Socialist Party –  back in Labour: Readmit expelled socialists,

More than 60 socialists, with over 800 years of Labour Party membership between them, have signed the letter below calling for their re-admittance to the Labour Party. Many of them were expelled in the past for supporting the Militant Tendency. Others have been excluded or expelled in recent months as part of the right-wing Labour Party machine’s attempts to defeat Jeremy Corbyn.

Yes they were expelled, for forming a disciplined ‘leninist’ combat party inside Labour.

And since then they have stood candidates against Labour, up till the very very recent past, pouring scorn on Labour and……

A short statement for the press Jill Mountford. 

I’ve had a couple of requests for comment from journalists. Here is a statement people are welcome to quote (obviously I would urge anyone who does so to not edit it so as to misrepresent what I’m saying!) You can also contact me at jillmountford@rocketmail.com or on 07904 944 771.

“I take no pleasure in sharply and publicly criticising comrades in Momentum. But for the organisation’s National Committee to be cancelled yet again, so that at best it will not have met for seven months – and what months! – smacks at the very least of an inadequate appreciation of the importance of democracy.

“At a time when there is an urgent need for Momentum to take the lead in working for a democratic, campaigning Labour Party and labour movement, a shocking amount of energy is being wasted on these kind of totally unnecessary, bureaucratically-generated internal rows. Normal democratic functioning would allow us to redirect that energy to taking the fight to the Tories.”

Report of controversial 28 October “emergency” Momentum Steering Committee. 

Jill Mountford’s Momentum blog.

Dear comrades – apologies if anything in this report is unclear or confusing. In addition to the events themselves being quite confused, this was written late at night after a very long day at work and then a long meeting. Please feel free to email questions and comments tojillmountford@rocketmail.com. See also my initial brief report here, which includes basic decisions about the NC and who voted how, and Michael Chessum’s comments here.

This evening’s Steering Committee (28 October), called at 21 hours notice on a Friday evening, and against the wishes of several SC members, pushed through most of Jon Lansman and Sam Wheeler’s agenda. Ironically arguing that local groups, regional committees and the National Committee are dubious in their legitimacy. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

The meeting was supposedly called to decide how the liberation groups inside Momentum elect their reps and on whether or not to cancel the long awaited November 5 National Committee. Michael Chessum, Jackie Walker, Matt Wrack and myself had all opposed an emergency SC for tonight arguing as Matt Wrack put it, it is “an outrageous way to do business”.

It soon became clear that Lansman and Wheeler were confident they had a strong majority to push through more than a cancellation of the NC.

Regardless of what you think about OMOV* of some sort vs a national conference based on elected delegates, how the majority on the Steering Committee behaved tonight is nothing short of total disregard for any democratic structures we have, however imperfect they may be, inside Momentum – again.

There was a reasonably quick resolution to the call for delegates from the liberation groups to be done by OMOV in time for the November 5 NC.

Next came the call to cancel the NC on November 5, Sam Wheeler, from the North West, argued we had to cancel the NC because it clashed with the NW Regional Labour Party Conference. Now bear in mind a) the date of the NC has been out for more than five weeks and b) the North West region of Momentum has more members than Scotland and the North East put together, and they only have three delegates. Yet Sam Wheeler said he feared the clash would be of detriment to both events. The arguments went back and forth with Sam refusing to a) to explain why we had to cancel as the NW regional committee given it would only take out three people from the NW and b) tell the meeting how many people from North West Momentum groups were due to go to NW Regional Labour Party Conference.

Sam Wheeler and Jon Lansman spent far too much time arguing that local groups and the regional committees were undemocratic and unrepresentative. Lansman illustrated his point by telling us he’d attended one meeting recently where the Chair hastily proposed himself and another incumbent to continue to be the delegates to the regional committee from that group. He said someone from the floor of the meeting asked if there was to be a vote and the Chair swiftly went to the vote without asking for other nominations. When I asked him which group this is and who is the Chair, he said “Southwark and Nick Wrack”. Lansman has it in for local groups, always has had because he knows local groups often represent serious activists who both campaign in their localities, want to transform the Labour party and understand the need for an actively participatory membership to do this.

Throughout the debate arguments for a form of OMOV were frequently put by Lansman, Sam Wheeler and Sam Tarry. Lansman then moved a procedural motion that the meeting goes to a vote on conducting the National Conference by OMOV. Michael and myself argued that this was not the business of the meeting, that it had not been put on the agenda, either as a discussion item or a motion to be voted on and that it was therefore not legitimate business. Regardless of what you think of OMOV, this committee did not have the legitimate power to make this decision.

Lansman pushed his procedural motion to go to the vote, confidently knowing he had a majority; and he won his procedural motion by 7 votes for, 2 against and 1 abstention (Martyn Cook – Abstained, Darren Williams, Cecile Wright, Sam Tarry, Marsha Jane Thompson, Christine Shawcross, and Jon Lansman in favour and Michael and myself against). Then we went to the vote on an OMOV conference with the same votes cast. This should have been the legitimate business of the National Committee.

Sam Tarry ended this part of meeting by asking: “Why bother with a national committee, let’s go straight to an OMOV conference!” And who sorts out the OMOV conference? Not a National committee made up of 50 or so recently elected delegates, but a steering Committee made up of a dozen people who were elected in February supposedly until August when a new Steering Committee was due to be elected and, of course, it never was because we haven’t had a national committee for six months.

Next Sam Wheeler moved his motion to cancel November 5 National Committee and the votes were same with the exception of Cecile Wright who voted with Michael and myself against the cancellation of the NC.

The only thing left at this point was for me to propose a date for another an NC on Saturday 3 December. This was carried by 6 votes in favour and 4 abstentions. The votes were cast as follows: In favour – Darren Williams, Martyn Cook, Cecile Wright, Michael Chessum, Christine Shawcross, and myself, while no one voted against, Sam Tarry, Sam Wheeler, Jon Lansman and Marsha Jane Thompson all abstained on a new NC date set for December 3.

This date has since been changed – by text! – to December 10.

A fine example of how to bureaucratically carve up an organisation of 20,000 members while arguing what they were doing was all about democracy and everyone having their say. What it will mean in reality is that a small clique will seek to run Momentum, calling the odd electronic plebiscite and or survey of the membership, in between members being called upon to defend the leadership at the next challenge. Such manoeuvres cannot build an open democratic organisation that is active on the ground, organising in the Labour Party to transform its structures, and building community and labour movement wide campaigns.

Time for the membership, activists, groups and regions of Momentum to fight back for democracy.

* To clarify what I mean by OMOV (One Member One Vote). Jon Lansman and co are not always clear, but it seems what they mean is that delegates to Momentum conference will not take any decisions but votes will instead be taken by an online ballot of all members afterwards. This is bizarrely reminiscent of Blairism, bureaucratic manipulation veiled in plebiscitary pseudo-democracy.

We are aware that support (including from forces wider than the above, that is, people I know) is gathering for a campaign to support a motion based on this:  Emergency motion for London region Momentum network (29 October) and this, “condemns the decision of yesterday’s Momentum SC to cancel the scheduled NC for 5th November and its decision to abandon a delegate conference in February.”

I would like to hear the reasons for these decisions from those who made them, but in principle I personally would be wary of going to, or delegating people to,  a conference that was a rally pure and simple or, as seems possible, could easily be a sectarian bear-pit.

It is unlikely that this view is not shared by others.

Update:  Jon Lansman branded “autocratic” as Momentum splits turn acrimonious. Steven Bush New Statesman.

Lansman, the founder of Momentum, was tonight accused of behaving in an “autocratic” manner after the organisation voted to delay a meeting of its national committee to December and that the vote on its founding principles in February 2017 would be using a one member, one vote system rather than a delegate system.

The move will make it harder for the Alliance of Workers Liberty, Lansman’s major internal opponents, to win key votes, as they are well-organised but have limited numbers.

Michael Chessum, a member of Momentum’s steering committee and a regular contributor to the New Statesman, accused elements of Momentum of having “absorbed the modus operandi of Blairism” in a post on Facebook.

The meeting was held with less than 21 hours notice, which led to Matt Wrack, the head of the Fire Brigades Union, and Jackie Walker, who has been stripped of the role of vice-chair but remains a member of Momentum’s steering committee, being unable to attend.

Jill Mountford, of the Alliance of Workers Liberty, said the decision to delay the national committee meeting again  “smacks at the very least of an inadequate appreciation of the importance of democracy”, and that a “shocking amount of energy” is being wasted on “totally unnecessary, bureaucratically-generated internal rows”.

Separately, Cecile Wright, who sits on Momentum’s steering committee as a representative of the organisation’s ethnic minority wing, has come under fire after replacing Walker as a vice-chair. One figure accused her of being “desperate for a seat”. However, Wright voted against cancelling November’s national committee meeting.

The divides within Momentum have spilt out into the open, with the removal of Jackie Walker as vice-chair the catalyst. Although the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty did not support Walker, they have cited the row as an example of their wider criticisms of the organisation’s democratic direction.

On a lighter note people may be amused by this weighty correspondence, from the august pages of the Weekly Worker, (Correspondence)

October 13

Hi Norrette

Please renew the affiliation of Labour Party Marxists to the LRC. I paid £50 affiliation fee online today (October 13), using the ‘donations’ button on the LRC website. Our contact details are unchanged.

Stan Keable

October 13

Dear Stan

You might recall that at the SGM earlier in the year the rules for national affiliates changed – as a result organisations are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NC that there is evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation. When the current list of affiliates were reviewed, several were not deemed to have met this test, including Labour Party Marxists.

Whilst individual members of those organisations are welcome to renew their membership and attend the AGM, they will as a result not be able to attend as delegates from those groups.

If any payment has already been processed I’m sure we can arrange for a refund.

Michael for the EC

October 13

Dear Michael

No, I was unaware of such a rule change. This is the first time I have heard that Labour Party Marxists has been excluded from affiliation to the Labour Representation Committee. Surely I should have been informed, as LPM secretary?

May I ask which are the “several” other affiliates which were disaffiliated in this way?

Stan Keable

October 23

To: Michael Calderbank, secretary, Labour Representation Committee

APPEAL TO LRC NC

Dear comrade Michael,

Renewal of Labour Party Marxists affiliation to LRC

I am writing to appeal against the disaffiliation of Labour Party Marxists from the LRC.

Labour Party Marxists has been an affiliate of the LRC for several years now – at least since 2011, when we submitted our contribution to Peter Hain’s ‘Refounding Labour’ consultation – ‘Refound Labour as a real party of Labour’ – published in the first issue of the LPM broadsheet, and distributed at the November 2011 LRC annual conference.

Our members and supporters have participated in every LRC conference since then, including the special general meeting in February 2016, and have routinely paid our annual £50 affiliation fee in the period before each annual conference.

It therefore came as a surprise, when I paid the £50 affiliation fee on October 13 2016 to renew our affiliation for the coming year, to be told that LPM’s affiliation was rejected.

You wrote: “You might recall that at the SGM earlier in the year the rules for national affiliates changed – as a result organisations are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NC that there is evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation. When the current list of affiliates were [sic] reviewed several were not deemed to have met this test, including Labour Party Marxists.”

Of course, we accept that the LRC national committee has the right, within the LRC constitution and in line with its aims and objectives, to accept or reject applications to affiliate. But I confess that, although I personally attended the February 2016 SGM along with other LPMers, we were unaware of the rule change, and unaware that LPM had been disaffiliated, or that our affiliation had been “reviewed” by the NC.

We were not informed of this decision, whenever it was taken. Indeed, we were not asked to provide “evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation” – whatever that means. In these circumstances, perhaps you can understand my suspicion that this might be simply a bureaucratic method of excluding unwanted political views, instead of sorting out differences through open debate. The immediate effect of our disaffiliation is that we are unable to submit amendment(s) or nominations to the forthcoming October 29 annual conference.

May I ask some relevant questions:

l Which are the “several” affiliates which were disaffiliated, being “not deemed to have met the test”?

l Have they been informed?

l When was that decision taken – at which NC meeting?

l Why was LPM not informed that it had been disaffiliated?

In a subsequent email message, on October 16, you explained: “if you are able to provide the NC with supporting evidence that you meet the criteria (eg, evidence of your national membership, minutes of national meetings, etc), they would be able to reconsider on appeal.”

In fact the LPM steering committee (presently five comrades) meets regularly, usually weekly, on Skype. Please see below, as a sample, the agenda and notes/minutes of our October 3 meeting, and agenda for October 10. Some comrades use cadre names. As you can see, we have members and cells in different locations around the country, not just in London.

We produce a widely circulated, irregular LPM broadsheet with increasing frequency, and produce frequent articles on our website and Facebook page, and in the Weekly Worker.

LPM national membership aggregates are held, jointly with the CPGB, roughly every two months (eg, January 24, March 6, May 8, June 26, September 4, October 16) and reports of these meetings can be read online in the Weekly Worker. Likewise, LPM organises, jointly with CPGB, the annual Communist University in August, which attracts a wide range of supporters from around Britain and beyond.

Membership is open to those who accept the LPM ‘Aims and principles’ (available on our website and in every issue of the LPM broadsheet), who contribute financially, and who actively participate in the work of the organisation through one of its cells. Isolated members meet regularly on Skype.

I trust this information satisfies the NC that LPM is a small, but effective, national organisation, with a positive contribution to make to the work of the LRC. If the NC requires further information, please ask.

Stan Keable

LPM secretary

October 23

Dear Stan

Thanks – I acknowledge receipt. It will be forwarded to the incoming national executive committee, once they are elected from the AGM.

Michael

Corrected: had problems with the Library’s computers yesterday: the main ones were out of of order and I was using ones limited to 30 minutes.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Momentum is very good thing. Its main weakness is that it lined up with the Cameron tendency in the `Tory `Party, the Labour right, big business, the City, the banks and the US-linked defence and intelligence nexus in the referendum campaign.

    Nick Wright

    October 29, 2016 at 9:49 pm

  2. Cults of personality and democracy don’t mix.

    @pplswar

    October 30, 2016 at 5:53 am

  3. Some Sanders supporters were doing the cult of personality thing over here too, even if Sanders himself didn’t deliberately encourage it.

    jschulman

    October 30, 2016 at 7:08 am

  4. Have you ever thought of joining the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID)Nick – the Editor of the Morning Star wished them well during Brexit so I assume it’s already on your mind.

    You’d find one of their leading figures, Gérard Schivardi, particularly sympathique.

    His idea for a “Europe des peuples”his curfew for under 17 year olds in the village he’s Mayor of, Mailhac., his warnings about an imminent 3rd World War, but more particularly his courageous patriotism.

    Claiming a wish to stand in next year’s presidential elections he has said – before the split that led POID to leave the Parti ouvrier indépendant (POI):

    » L’élu local veut «se retrouver face à Marine Le Pen pour lui dire «d’arrêter de (lui) piquer (ses) idées»,

    The local councillor want to find himself facing Marine Le Pen so he can tell her to “stop nicking my ideas...”

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/coulisses/2014/08/11/25006-20140811ARTFIG00205-candidat-en-2017-gerard-schivardi-craint-une-troisieme-guerre-mondiale.php

    Perhaps your lot could do the same with UKIP: challenge them over the way they’ve stolen your ideas.

    Andrew Coates

    October 30, 2016 at 12:45 pm

  5. Protest against the coup in Momentum!

    Labour Party Marxists
    (Weekly Worker).
    The last 24 hours have seen all hell break lose in Momentum. For those comrades who have not kept abreast of the fast-moving developments, we outline the main stages of the anti-democratic coup that has been launched by Momentum supremo Jon Lansman and his supporters in the upper echelons of the organisation.

    We are also issuing an urgent call to all Momentum members and branches to hurry messages and resolutions into Momentum centre to condemn this latest attempt to shut down democracy in the organisation.

    On the evening of October 27, Jon Lansman, the sole director of ‘Jeremy for Labour’ company (renamed from Momentum Campaign Ltd in the summer), called an emergency meeting of the Momentum Steering Committee for the evening of October 28 – ie, with 19 hours’ notice. With some members who would be more inclined to push for democracy in Momentum not able to attend at such short notice (for example, Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union and Jackie Walker), the meeting decided – by a vote of six to three – to cancel the November 5 meeting of the National Committee. This NC meeting was scheduled to take decisions on the organisation of our first national conference in February 2017.

    In an email issued by Momentum this morning to “local groups’ key people” the decision is justified by the fact that “some Momentum members, groups and regional network meetings had raised concerns about the organisation of the 5 November National Committee meeting, the process leading up to it and democratic representation and participation for Momentum members more broadly”.

    This is true, of course … and entirely the fault of the self-same committee that is now shutting down our democracy altogether! This body gave branches and regional committees almost no time to meet and discuss proposals for the conference or to choose delegates for the November 5 meeting. In fact, most members have not even seen the various proposals on the future of Momentum and how the conference might be run.

    So, to summarise, the Steering Committee has conceded that it used crassly undemocratic procedures in the recent past – and now looks to make amends by denying Momentum branches and members the chance to meet, elect delegates and impose their democratic will on our founding conference!

    In addition, the Momentum Steering Committee was elected by the National Committee, which means a lower body has just voted to disallow the higher body from meeting! Both were originally convened on very shaky democratic grounds in the first place. This was partially addressed when February’s National Committee meeting decided to elect the Steering Committee for the coming six months only – ie, up to August.

    But there have been no elections for a new SC. The SC has not called a meeting of the National Committee – the body empowered to actually vote for a new Steering Committee, for six months.

    It’s total shambles – an affront to democracy in our movement.

    http://us9.campaign-archive1.com/?u=ce1d69a0213b818b7b73bdbc8&id=4e102c69a1

    Andrew Coates

    October 30, 2016 at 1:07 pm

  6. Oh dear – the Chamberlain Party of Great Britain will need to find something else to infiltrate and disrupt…

    Francis

    October 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

  7. There is worse to come, Tony Greenstein has stick is oar in:

    Jon Lansman stages a Coup D’état in Momentum as the National Committee is cancelled by the Steering Committee.

    Describing this in typically restrained manner Greenstein notes of Momentum’s way of evolving structures and policies,

    ““Over the coming months, members will propose their ideas on Momentum’s aims, ethics, and structure. We will use digital technology to ensure that all members can be involved and shape Momentum’s future.”

    This is the very opposite of democracy.” “It is designed to atomise individual members and undermine conference as the collective decision-making body of Momentum. It underlines the extent to which sections of the left have internalised the defeats of the past decades. It is Thatcher’s union ‘reforms’ writ large.

    More from the Greenstein central committee:

    http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/jon-lansman-stages-coup-detat-in.html

    Andrew Coates

    October 31, 2016 at 1:23 pm


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