What Kind of New Politics?
I am a difficult position commenting on the crisis of Momentum.
Not a member, but sympathetic to its broad direction, not with a card, but knowing many of the people involved in the dispute, in some cases for many years..
Like many my basic principle is that I would like to see a strong Labour democratic socialist left.
As Tony Benn often said, politics should be about issues, not personalities. He was optimistic, and perhaps ignored the history of democracies since Pericles, but in the Labour Party one ought to try to focus on this, rather than the merits, or otherwise of Jeremy Corbyn and the Shadow Cabinet.
Firstly, I would like to see some meat on the bones of anti-austerity politics. That is serious policies on issues like public ownership instead of private public services, social security (Labour has no developed ideas comparable to the TUC/Unemployed Centres’ Combine Welfare Charter), housing, education, health, renationalisation, union rights, low pay, local authorities, what UNITE calls Brexit on our terms, that is trying to salvage what we can, (not the ridiculous denial strategy of those who propose a ‘People’s Brexit’ after the defeat of collectivism and Another Europe is Possible in the Referendum), and…. I could continue the list.
Campaigning on these topics in the wider community is a way of connecting with our electorate and helping make it grow.
Secondly, like many I am not prepared to be silent about the disagreements left-wing internationalists have with the party leadership on issues such as Syria and the need to fight all forms – state or not – of reactionary Islamism.
Finally I would like to see Labour win elected positions, from councillors to MPs.
Momentum has become central to this democratic socialist project and therefore I, and others, are bound to react to the present dispute.
I do not want a fight between different tendencies, factions, and let’s be frank, groupuscules.
The present dispute centres on this, “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.” (Steven Bush New Statesman.)
This decision was opposed. The following resolution explains why,
“This meeting of the London Momentum censures the national Steering Committee for cancelling the meeting of the National Committee that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the National Committee to discuss it.
“We do not recognise the legitimacy of the Steering Committee to make those decisions.
“We call for these decisions of the national Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”
Christine Shawcroft explains why Momentum decided as they did.
These are the key sections of her article published today.
Members can vote for what ever kind of Momentum they want (Left Futures)
..what works as a temporary expedient when an organisation is first being set up and finding its feet is not necessarily what would work best in the long term. Like all new organisations, Momentum has had its teething troubles (as I run a day nursery, I know all about those!). The first people involved in trying to get it going were, by definition, more versed in the ways of the ‘old’ politics than the ‘new’. Working with enthusiastic young people with a different perspective on things has meant we’ve all been travelling along a learning curve. The temporary structures that were set up tended to be modelled on those of the Labour Party – decidedly not the new politics! Many local groups felt that a delegate structure tended to prevent grassroots participation by default.
The (temporary) Steering Group has therefore decided that the best way of involving all the members is to, well, involve them. Proposals for how we organise will be put out to the whole membership, any one of whom could also put their own proposals or amendments. There would still be a place for local groups and delegate structures, but final decisions on Momentum’s core politics, our code of conduct, and our democratic structures could be voted on by our greatest resource – the membership. A Founding Conference in spring next year could be live streamed and proposals voted for online.
On the Steering Group we feel that this could well answer the call for a new, inclusive and democratic way of doing things. And if the members disagree, and really want to ape Labour Party structures and have rigid decision making delegate bodies – well, it’s up to them. They can vote for whatever kind of Momentum they want: not only is that the new way of doing politics, that’s democracy!
Tony Greenstein has stuck is oar in and given the reasons for objecting to this idea.
Jon Lansman stages a Coup D’état in Momentum as the National Committee is cancelled by the Steering Committee.
The Long Awaited Founding Conference of Momentum Will Be a Virtual Conference!
Describing this in typically restrained manner (“Coup D’état”) Greenstein notes of Momentum’s way of evolving more permanent 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.
As somebody who respects (most, Greenstein being a major exception) individuals on both sides of this controversy (and if you look at the names who have backed Lansmann you will recognise that is not a straightforward division between ‘right’ and ‘left’), it would appear that there are merits in the majority’s decision.
It is also possible both to understand exasperation at it, and the way it was voted on.
At the same time many will harbour the feeling that some figures emerging in the local groups, including those with very very long histories of non- and even anti-Labour activism behind them, are not always greeted by people, like Christine, who have been Labour stalwarts for their entire lives.
One can also agree that a meeting called with 19 hours notice is not the best forum for such a controversial decision.
But if a Conference is not to be the traditional sectarian bear pit there needs to be this kind of participation.
If it One Member One Vote (OMOV) was good enough to elect the leader of the Party it must have some virtues.
To repeat: I want to see a strong democratic socialist left, not the left of the party riven by factionalism.
Update: Latest in the growing Row.
Dear Comrade, 31 October 2016
Re: A meeting of Momentum National Committee delegates to discuss the present situation & consider solutions
Over the past few days we have all been involved in discussions with Momentum members about the concerns which have arisen from the decisions of the Steering Committee to cancel the meeting of the NC due to take place on 5 November and to go ahead with a national conference with online voting of all members.
You will also know the consternation these decisions have caused and the response from London, Eastern, Northern and South East regions.
Below is an email sent yesterday (30 October) to the Steering Committee members from Matt Wrack who is a member of the National Committee and Steering Committee. We echo those observations and comments.
We are extremely concerned that we overcome this current difficult division that has arisen as quickly as possible. Therefore, we are proposing to convene a meeting of as many NC members as possible in Birmingham next Saturday 5 November to discuss the recent events and, most importantly, consider ways to overcome the resulting differences and to move forward together.
There is no desire or intention to create any separate or parallel organisation within or in opposition to Momentum. We are all committed to building Momentum, as we are all doing at a local level. We simply want to address what we perceive to be a democratic deficit in its decision-making at the present time.
Please let us know if you can attend. If you can’t, is there someone you can send in your place?
We will send out further information about the venue and starting time along with a provisional agenda as soon as we can.
Delia Mattis ) London NC delegates
Jill Mountford ) “ “
Nick Wrack ) “ “
John Pickard ) Eastern NC delegate
Steve Battlemuch ) East Midlands delegate
Michael Chessum ) Member of national Steering Committee
More: Momentum chiefs accused of “coup” over adoption of all-member ballot Conor Pope. Labour List.
Further splits have emerged within Momentum amid claims of a “coup” after the introduction of reforms to the way it makes internal decisions.
The Corbynite group spent much of the weekend debating internal divisions over direction, structure and accountability while one senior member has forecast a “revolt for democracy” in the organisation, which recently marked its first anniversary.
The group’s founder, Jon Lansman, is at the centre of the row, having given his support to a controversial move to hand a vote to every Momentum member about how the organisation should function.
The latest tensions emerged over the decision to call an emergency meeting of Momentum’s small steering committee on Friday to discuss postponing a meeting of the much larger national committee, which had been scheduled for later this week.
See link for rest of the article.