Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Momentum Grassroots Conference: Why much of the Left Keeps its Distance.

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Grassroots Momentum,  “packed out” meeting says Monster Raving Greenstein Party.

Many people on the left have been wary of Grassroots Momentum and its Conference.

A clear indication of why comes in this report from the Monster Raving Greenstein Party,

A Fighting Start but It is Only the Beginning

Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.

As the said “Zionist” AWL have commented,

On the “anti-semitism witch-hunt”

An amendment was carried which was written down on a flipchart on the platform (illegibly to many) as “opposition to the antisemitism witch-hunt” and read out (inaudibly to some) as “opposition to the false antisemitism witch-hunt”.

This was done without debate, and with a fair scattering of abstentions, votes against, and people just not voting.

Why? Most people surely voted for the amendment because they oppose the Compliance Unit’s arbitrary ways, know that some charges of antisemitism have been invented or inflated arbitrarily, and anyway believe that prejudice is best dealt with primarily by discussion and education.

However, the term “antisemitism witch-hunt” is ambiguous and slippery. In some of the arguments elsewhere of those backing the amendment, it is taken to mean that any charge of antisemitism against anyone on the left must automatically be assumed to be witch-hunting invention motivated by hostility to the Palestinian people.

That is not true. There have been streaks of antisemitism in the left throughout our history – and, where Stalinism has been influential in the left, more than a streak – and the best sections of the left have sought to clean up that antisemitism and educate ourselves, rather than wave away all concerns as fabrications by the right wing.

We have called for an amnesty for all those summarily suspended or expelled by the Compliance Unit. We have opposed the suspension of Jackie Walker. Those stances can and must be combined with a proper recognition that the left must put our own house in order on antisemitism, and that someone being targeted factionally and arbitrarily by the right does not make everything they have said automatically ok.

There was another problem with the amendment. A number of people have been suspended on charges to do with antisemitism. Mostly they will get a hearing with at least some rules and safeguards. Some have had their suspensions lifted.

The far bigger section of the victims of the Compliance Unit are those excluded just for being left-wing, for allegedly sympathising with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal or Left Unity. Almost all of them have been denied a hearing, or an appeal, or even what would in any halfway fair system be considered definite charges.

That is the larger part of the Compliance Unit’s work. An amendment which just said “opposition to the witch-hunt”, reinforcing the already-included “opposition to unjust expulsions and suspensions”, would have been much better.

Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing – in their different ways, the most vocal advocates on the web of the view in which the core of politics is about the heroic resistance of “anti-Zionists” such as themselves to the supposedly all-powerful, all-pervading, ever-conspiring “Zionists”, and the most strident denouncers of leftists such as Rhea Wolfson (“Zionist ally of Jon Lansman”) – stood for election to the committee. We are glad to report that they both failed, with Downing coming bottom.

Greenstein and Downing stood for election…

The Monster Raving Greenstein Party got 49 votes,  and Downing got 11 coming last in the poll, but he still stood.

Greenstein.

Greenstein, as the above article states, has denounced Rhea Wolfson.

Denounce is perhaps too weak a word.

This is what he says of her support for Momentum’s Jon Lansman’s exclusion of Jackie Walker from her position..within Momentum, “a White woman who supports the racist Israeli state scapegoating a Black woman.” (Blog)

Comrade Rhea is not the only person individually targeted for Monster raving abuse.

There is a long, a very long list, but we will limit this post to a special case, in Momentum...

Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel“, (June 2016), “I could also ask Jon Lansman a few of those questions that Tony Benn once suggested, such as ‘who put you there’ ‘from where does your power derive’ and the clincher ‘how do we get rid of you’? There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.” (January 2017).

Here is how he attacked the Jewish Socialist Group: Bundists behaving like Stalinists – JSG Leaders Remove Critics of Lansman from Jews 4 Jeremy FB Group (February 2017).

Here is the most recent raving limits of Greenstein, a call to create a separate ‘democratic’ Momentum, “The fight for democracy is not a split. Lansman’s coup should be resisted by founding a democratic Momentum, urges Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker. 23.2.17)

Small wonder that he was suspended from Labour, the old charge of bringing discredit on the party  would alone be enough.

Downing.

Gerry Downing, be it noted, is famous for his writings, and those of his comrade, Ian Donovan, on the Web site Socialist Fight, on the ‘International Jewish Bourgeoisie”.

This is located Donovan writes, in Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism 6-9-2014.

Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes. For the United States, which is the most powerful state in human history, you can easily find informed Jewish sources that place the representation of Jews among billionaires, the most powerful elements of the capitalist elite, at between 40 and 48% – nearly half (for example see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/joe/aaron101007.php3). This is the only logically coherent explanation for the power of the so-called lobby. It must be faced fearlessly by Marxists, irrespective of any discomfort that may result from confronting the widespread prejudice (for that is what it is) that to mention, let alone try to analyse, such factual matters is in some way racist. To ignore them in this way is itself an act of betrayal of those on the receiving end of the crimes that result from this state of affairs, and in that sense a chauvinist position.

After a lengthy ‘analysis’ he concludes:

The Jews are not a nation, but they have a pan-national bourgeoisie that had national aspirations and wanted a territorial asset to give expression to that.

This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians.

Downing has been expelled from membership of the Labour Party.

Why?

Few would be bothered to read the above drivel but they will look at what the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes revealed.

“An unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is headlined: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. The piece speaks for itself:

“The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious… Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”

Downing appears to have an obsession with “Jewish” people”

Given this background it is not surprising that Downing was thrown out of the Labour Party,  and claims about “witch-hunting invention” are distasteful, to say the least.

Is Grassroots Momentum going to campaign to get him back?

Then there is this, which is equally serious, politically if not ethically.

Socialist Fight recently helped organise this pro-Assad  meeting on Syria:

Socialist Fight Public Meeting Vanessa Beeley Speaks

To continue on last Saturday’s  meeting.

Grassroots Conference 11 March 2017 Steering Committee Election Results

The candidate for this group, Labour Party Marxists, Stan Keable, got 13 votes.

The Latest Labour Party Marxists Bulletin describes the conflict within Grassroots Momentum.

Against Jon Lansman, but for what?

The outline three tendencies (how far they are organised factions is left open):

  • Some want a clean split from Momentum – the sooner, the better. There are, naturally, differences over with whom to split, to form what exactly and on what political basis.
  • Some want to continue to work in Momentum for now, while at the same time almost replicating the official body – with parallel structures and similar political limitations, but on a lower level: similar campaigns, similar leadership elections, etc.
  • Some – and LPM belongs to this third group – agree that we should continue to work within Momentum for the time being, but with a clear understanding of its limited shelf life, openly criticising its exceedingly pinched political outlook and subordination to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges.

But essentially it boils down, apparently, to two.

Tina Werkmann of Labour Party Marxists, the New Steering Committee, and, I am not spilling any beans, the group that produces the Weekly Worker,  gives an  overview.

Are political differences between the two groups?

Definitely. This is reflected in Grassroots Momentum as a whole: Those left on the old steering committee included Alliance for Workers’ Liberty supporters Michael Chessum and Jill Mountford (plus Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and Jackie Walker); the CAC is made up of Jackie Walker, Alec Price and Delia Mattis (Josie Runswick resigned early on and was replaced by Lee Griffiths). The CAC took control, chaired the whole day and managed to almost totally sideline the AWL.

Jackie Walker and her supporters hate the AWL with a passion, of course.

And I totally understand why. The ugly truth is that AWLers have actively participated in the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt against her. They supported Jon Lansman in sacking her as Momentum vice-chair in September 2016. In effect, this was a dry run for the next coup – the ‘big one’ on January 10 – when Lansman crushed any democracy in the organisation and simply imposed a new, crassly undemocratic constitution.

It was clear at the GM conference that the AWL has really made a lot of enemies in all of this – just to add to those of us who already opposed their pro-Zionist social-imperialism. There was a great deal of hostility against them on display – and it only increased during the day. I must confess, I almost felt a bit sorry for them. Almost

Because the few proposals on display were presented so out of context and in a truncated manner, AWL members tried to make various ‘points of order’ throughout the day. Some were more useful than others; some were presented more coherently than others. The AWL’s Rosie Woods, who had taken up a position near the stage, was greeted, after she’d been on her feet a few times, with a rather sectarian chorus of “Sit down, sit down” (led by Gerry Downing, of all people – he’s been on the receiving end of people’s displeasure a few times, so probably should know better). But to claim that they “disrupted” the conference, as some comrades have since done on Facebook, is seriously misleading and excuses the CAC’s role in the often disorganised and muddled way conference was planned and conducted.

Actually, it reminds me of the way Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Paul Mason have tried to blame ‘the Trots’ (ie, the left) for the failures of Momentum to take off. Not a healthy response …

I happen to be one of those who thinks that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have sane politics on a variety of issues, from Europe (they are pro-Another Europe is Possible), the Middle East (as for their ” pro-Zionist social-imperialism“, they are for a democratic ‘two states’ solution to the Israel/Palestine issue, and back democratic secular forces against both Islamists, genocidal or ‘moderate’,  and tyrannies like Assad’s), and on the need for radical democratic socialist politics in the UK.

Many of us hold these views, without a need to ‘join’ anything more than pressure groups within the Labour Party.

We want to see a Labour government and  are intensely  aware of the difficulties that presents at the moment.

To that end wish to co-operate with the full range of party members, to reach out to the electorate, while trying to promote ideas of democratic socialism.

The above reports on Momentum Grassroots confirm that we are right not to get directly involved in this particular war, which involves those of the stripe of Greenstein and Downing, however much on the margins.

Regardless that is, if “Our comrades elected to the leadership of this new network will try to work seriously, constructively, and in cooperation with others, to make that happen” this will, I suspect, be the attitude of many on the left.

Meanwhile this is taking place in a couple of days:

CONFERENCE 2017  Momentum’s Inaugural National conference – Building to Win – Saturday 25th March

 9ac7b73e-a65d-4746-9234-2fbb4b9cf077.jpg

More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Andrew Coates

    March 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm

  2. “Differences

    At the Grassroots Momentum networking conference last Saturday, the differences came out around two motions on the way forward. Motion 2 was from the Wrackite wing (Matt Wrack and Nick Wrack, supported by Red Flag/Workers Power, etc), which acknowledged that a split had already happened and we needed to gather together those excluded by Lansman to mobilise the base. The second, backed by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and CPGB, wanted to fudge the question, to pretend a split had not happened and to keep that base in check.

    And it was all about genuinely mobilising the base – those mobilised in the first and second Corbyn surges to fight austerity. Now using them simply as a stage army to get Corbyn elected in 2020 and not to fight austerity, including that imposed by Labour councils, will ensure he won’t get elected.

    That was the difference between motions 2 and 3. Motion 2, of course, could have been better formulated (the conference itself could have been better organised), but clearly No2 did not seek a bureaucratic cap on the movement in case it would embarrass Corbyn to the same extent as No3.

    Crucially No2 proposed that “Local groups meet as normal, but affiliate to Grassroots Momentum”, which should have a proper democratic structure: “All affiliated groups send two reps to meet quarterly at a forum for networking and discussing good practice, perspectives, policy, campaigning priorities, etc. (This replaces the current NC).”

    The AWL and CPGB did not want a split. As if it had not already happened and the clear choice now was whether to capitulate or fight. No3 wanted the fudge and it won by 89 votes to 83 – to much whooping from AWL youth. (It turns out that only 134 registered at the door and the delegates voted right at the start to abandon the delegate structures, so everyone got to vote. There were floods of AWL student youth in the seats in front of me.)

    But this is unsustainable, as demonstrated by the West Lothian question for Grassroots Momentum: what happens to the expelled members from Labour in July, when they are automatically expelled from Momentum? In practical terms to whom do I pay my £1 a month, if Grassroots Momentum is not a separate organisation with its own bank account and structures by then? It irks me to have to pay it up to July, as it goes into the pocket of a private company, owned by the corrupt, bureaucratic millionaire/property speculator monster, John Lansman, but I will do so until then.

    Gerry Downing
    Socialist Fight”

    http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1146/letters/

    Andrew Coates

    March 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm


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