Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Factionalism in the Time of Coronavirus Part 4: Momentum’s Internal Elections and Future.

with 8 comments

Momentum: what is it for, who can join, how does it work – and ...

What Now for New Politics? 

Since its launch in 2015, following Jeremy Corbyn’s election, Momentum has become an important force within the Labour Party, both for its ability to organise for elections, and for the ideas it has broadcast.

Momentum’s ability to get people out to campaign has won it respect. Many people have indicated that the organisation was built around a call to support Jeremy Corbyn – a focus on an individual that not everybody on the left was attracted to, or agreed with. Others have made claims that it can be close to a party within a party, an assertion repeated by rival groups (or ‘factions’) such as Progress and the old Labour right,  Labour First.

A strong point of Momentum was a wish to open Labour up to wider left culture and ideas. Associated with The World Transformed events were held where respected figures like Paul Mason and Hilary Wainwright were given a platform as well as the supporter of Labour Against the Witch-hunt and ‘anti-Zionist’ Ken Loach.

Left Populism.

It was said that Momentum drew inspiration from the Greek left party Syriza and other radical parties that appeared in the wake of the 2008 Banking crisis to oppose austerity. The 2018 World Transformed event attracted attention for starring the leader of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the political theorist Chantal Mouffe. Their speeches, and the association made between Corbyn, Spain’s Unidos Podemos, and the USA’s Bernie Sanders, encouraged the belief that Labour’s new direction was towards ‘Left Populism’.In this some saw parallels between Momentum and the Podemos social media aided ‘circles’ (Círculos). There was even talk of it being a ‘social movement’ in its own rights, as if it had independent activism that had struck deeper chords and popular support, than the Labour Party itself.

Critics observed the weakness of those left populist parties, like La France insoumise (LFI), who relied on the supposed attraction of a single ‘charismatic’ leader (as opposed to the more pluralist Podemos). They lacked internal democracy and appeared more as “rallies”, (“lieu de rassemblement” – LFI) with limited ‘electronic’ internal voting. Some made comparisons with Momentum’s own limited voting system. Supporters pointed to (in the UK) problems created by determined factionalists, and, above all, the need to remove those who supported extreme ‘anti-Zionism’.

It was not difficult to see that not everybody, including on the left, found Mélenchon or, for that matter, Jeremy Corbyn, a compelling leader, or would wish to defer to their authority.

All of these political forces have suffered setbacks, Syriza lost power in Jily 2019, La France insmoumise was down to 7,3% of the vote in the European elections, Podemos in November lost votes, and is now in coalition with the non-populist Spanish socialists, and has just had another split (with the ‘anticapitalistas’),  Labour in December suffered a heavy election defeat. Sanders has now withdrawn from the Democratic Party leadership contest.

Defenders of left populism are still around. Its cheer-leaders in the US Jacobin magazine assert the abstract validity of this strategy (March 2020)

Within societies marked by multiple divisions, inequalities, and polarizations, populism thus indicates a discursive practice that aims at creating links between the excluded and suffering in order to empower them in their struggles to redress this exclusion. These discourses are articulated around “the people” as the central political subject demanding incorporation into the political community — restoring dignity and equality and honoring the commitment to “popular sovereignty.”

Left-Populism Is Down but Not Out GIORGOS VENIZELOS YANNIS STAVRAKAKIS

Chantal Mouffe, by contrast, managed to write a full page in May’s  Le Monde Diplomatique defending left populism against criticisms form political theorist Pierre Rosanvallon, and its importance, in asserting this sovereignty,  as a strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic, without mentioning any of these political set backs (Ce que Pierre Rosanvallon ne comprend pas).

The terms of these debates have changed, first by the election of a new Labour leader, and secondly, by the above pandemic.

After Keir Starmer’s victory in the Labour leadership elections Momentum published this statement,

THE FUTURE OF OUR MOVEMENT: A STATEMENT FROM MOMENTUM’S NCG

Momentum congratulates Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on their election as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. We look forward to working with them to ensure the election of a Government that will carry out the kind of bold, transformational policies our country and planet so badly need.

We also want to thank Rebecca Long-Bailey for running a principled, left wing campaign full of big ideas, building on the programme she has worked on for the last four years. We were proud to support her.

……

We didn’t win – and that failure is ours collectively – but we have transformed politics for the better. While the Tories will always represent the big polluters and tax dodgers, austerity as a political project has been defeated. No major politician of any party talks about ‘belt tightening’ and ‘necessary cuts’ any longer. Investment and pride in our public services is the new mantra, if not the new reality. This is our victory. And we should be proud.

Many will have noticed that Momentum refused to give its members a chance to endorse Keir Starmer, holding a ‘vote’ on who to back in the contest that did not include his name.

What is the future role for Momentum? Who or what are they loyal to?

The present stand appears to be that they will hold the new leader, somebody they tried to block as hard as they could,  “to account”.

…Keir will face pressure from the media, big corporations and the right of the party to break his promises. We have to be there to hold him to account, make sure he sticks to his promises and advances the socialist cause in the party as well as in every workplace and community.

….

Jeremy’s leadership is over and we all continue to thank him from the bottom of our hearts. His legacy is our movement seizing the opportunities ahead. As Jeremy said, there is no such thing as Corbynism. Only socialism.

……

One might suggest that those who encouraged the belief that Corbyn was a special type of new leader, and were determined opponents of Starmer are not best placed to disavow the focus on personalities above socialist politics.

In this statement Momentum sets out broad ideas on” political education” backing trade unions, and  n direct action groups challenging the government on the climate emergency”, training socialist leaders, forming “renters’ unions and “with Coronavirus, we can organise mutual aid to protect those most vulnerable to the worst impacts of Tory rule.”

Many other people in the Labour Party will have thought of these ideas without help from Momentum.

Reflecting Momentum’s strongest point, the mobilisation of people to campaign in elections,  they promised to continue to do all they could “help Labour win elections at every level” .

It’s one election that has opened up a new phase: the election for the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG).

This announcement marked the opening of the contest:

It’s time for a new generation. Why I’m not standing in Momentum’s elections

Jon Lansman

Nominations for those wanting to stand for our NCG will open at midday on Thursday 28 May and end at midday on Thursday 11 June.

“A one-member-one-vote ballot will then be held from midday on Tuesday 16 June until midday on Tuesday 30 June.

We have two main factional blocs vying for votes.

Momentum Renewal.

Site: ”  A grassroots initiative to reform Momentum and unite the left.

These are described as the “continuity current”.

Forward Momentum.

The “refounders”.

 

Useful article from ‘Momentum internationalists’: What should (Forward) Momentum stand for?

More background: Forward Momentum: radical reformers or new establishment?

And, as the Newshounds of Labour List have found there is this:

 

The Anticapitalist Platform for Momentum

Aka, Red Flag (Plaform), (‘The Anticapitalist Platform is an initiative by supporters of Red Flag in Momentum.) Workers Power, the League for the 5th International.

On one issue, opposing Brexit, they look in the right direction,

Electoral triangulation and strategic dependence on unity with the right forced Corbyn into damaging concessions on free movement and Brexit, which disoriented the left, disillusioned voters, and strengthened his enemies.

A central focus of debate between the contenders is Momentum’s internal structures, which critics say leave little space for democracy.

Some of the rows between these tendencies and candidates have not been up to standards of respectful, polite and friendly debate that marks the Tendance Coatesy blog.

This is could be an occasion to vent these views, and looks like fun….or not

Activists demand online hustings for internal Momentum elections

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2020 at 11:34 am

8 Responses

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  1. Momentum, they’d come fourth in an election with three options.

    Steven Johnston

    May 27, 2020 at 3:15 pm

  2. More factional bust-ups over appointment of David Evans as Labour’s new general secretary.

    Andrew Coates

    May 27, 2020 at 3:40 pm

  3. What confuses me in the term “new politics”, what on earth was new about Momentum?

    What is this rubbish about brexit though? It was because Corbyn was not in favour of Brexit that cost him the election. That old chestnut about Labour losing because they were not radical enough line. Can anyone really believe that? That the voters went to the Polling stations to vote for the Conservatives because the Labour party were not left-wing enough? Are they still trying to flog that dead horse?

    Steven Johnston

    May 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm

  4. Where exactly did Momentum spring from? I have always been interested in this as I have never been able to find out where Respect started.

    Dave Roberts

    May 28, 2020 at 8:28 am

  5. Momentum was the brain-child of Jon Lansman and was initially intended to be a grass-roots movement to back up Corbyn. Respect was the bastard child of the SWP (specifically, the Rees-German leadership faction at the time, now split from the SWP and calling themselves ‘Counterfire’) and George Galloway MP, after he was expelled from the Labour Party. They reckoned the existing ‘Socialit Alliance’ was too obviously socialist (clue in name) and not willing enough to do deals with Islamists like the Muslim Association of Britain.

    Jim Denham

    May 28, 2020 at 11:03 am

  6. One of the leading ideologues behind Momentum Renewal is ‘total luxury communist’, writer Aaron Bastani and the hard-line anti-EU sovereigntist, Grace Blakeley both from the fading alt-left site Novara Media.

    https://labourlist.org/2020/05/momentum-renewal-launches-slate-of-candidates-for-ncg-elections/?fbclid=IwAR3jgaMJkpf5EAT4qtPNIEOSB06Jrucw-ZeUjCHNB_se82gsh_-gHXynDLQ

    Grace Blakely,

    Blakeley is a prominent Eurosceptic, and has branded the European Union as “neoliberal”, “neo-colonial” and “run in the interests of financial and corporate elites”.

    Blakeley supports Brexit, arguing that the EU is a barrier to a socialist economy and that building such an economy outside of it could serve as a “beacon of hope” to member states that are “struggling under the weight of the EU’s neoliberal technocracy”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Blakeley

    Novara Media (ten re-tweets):

    Andrew Coates

    May 28, 2020 at 12:38 pm

  7. Morning Star on the Momentum election (Nick Wright of the Communist Party of Britain),

    “Not much purpose here is served by a forensic dissection of the superficial differences which lie behind the rhetorical stance taken by each of the Momentum platforms, save to point out that little divides them in formal policy terms.

    In renewing Momentum the key test of maturity is how the general election defeat is understood and what is proposed to root the party more deeply in the working class and find a point of contact with the millions angered at the subversion of the referendum result.

    An additional factor bearing on the choice is the priority assigned to left unity and in this respect any list unable to divest itself of suspicion that it might be the instrument of the divisive neo-Trotskyite AWL sect has undermined its legitimacy.

    Each of the tendencies seize on the inescapable fact that the Corbyn moment is over and that, despite Momentum’s great achievements, the inner-party struggle has entered a new stage.

    Charting a new course for Labour is not only a question of who is leader, or what policies conference decides upon but is as much about organisation and institutional power.”

    https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/charting-new-course-labour

    Andrew Coates

    May 29, 2020 at 6:58 am

  8. At least the little-Englander Wright knows who his most militant enemies, on the internationalist left, are.

    Jim Denham

    May 29, 2020 at 1:01 pm


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