Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans
Left Socialist Blog
A ‘New Kind of Politics’?
Responding to the claims made today (Monday 20 March) in the national media by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour party, Unite’s acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Tom Watson has made claims about Unite and its general secretary Len McCluskey which are entirely inaccurate.
“As Unite has made it clear it is exclusively for our executive council to determine which organisations we affiliate to. There are no plans for Unite to affiliate to Momentum. For the record, Len McCluskey has never met Jon Lansman to discuss this or any other matter.
“It is extraordinary that the deputy leader of the Labour party should interfere in Unite’s democracy in this way, and it is very disappointing that he was allowed to make his unsupported claims without being challenged, and that the BBC ignored the Unite statement with which it had been provided well in advance.
“Mr Watson’s latest, and misguided, campaign is part of an unprecedented pattern of interference in the current Unite general secretary election by elected Labour politicians who should, frankly, be concentrating on their own responsibilities.
“Mr Watson is a Unite member with a right to a vote and a view. But he should remember that, first, he is deputy leader of the Labour party with the obligations that this senior post imposes, and second that Unite is not a subsidiary of any political organisation.”
Unite has complained to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the statement the union provided in good faith last night was only used in part and following representations from the union this morning. The union has also complained that Mr Watson was allowed to make his extraordinary claims about Unite and its general secretary without being subject to any demand for evidence.
This is in response to reports, such as this one, in the media. (Guardian).
Momentum’s Jon Lansman has hit back after fierce criticism by Labour MPs of his intention to affiliate trade union Unite to his grassroots group as a way to consolidate its power in the party.
The plans for Momentum to affiliate the UK’s biggest union and take full control of Labour’s structures by electing new representatives were described as “entryism” by the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, and were revealed after Lansman was secretly recorded speaking at a Momentum branch meeting in Richmond, south-west London.
In the recording, the chair of Momentum said the affiliation would require Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, to win his re-election battle against rival Gerard Coyne
A new constitution drawn up by Lansman last year made it clear that activists must be members of the Labour party in order to participate in Momentum, but in the recording, he suggested the restriction would not be enforced.
“It was important to require Labour party membership in the rules but it is down to enforcement. No one from the centre is going to tell you to kick people out,” he tells the meeting.
Watson tweeted Lansman on Sunday night, saying the recording was “very clear” in what it meant. “You’ve revealed your plan. If you succeed, you will destroy the Labour party as an electoral force. So you have to be stopped.”
Lansman replied: “We won’t allow non Lab members to hold office or vote (unlike Coop party or Fabians) but we won’t exclude them from activities/meetings. For 20 years the left was denied a voice. We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, & we need our mass membership to win again.”
Poor old Suzanne Moore, no doubt wishing she were back in happier days ‘punting’ in the river Orwell, has wadded in, waving her pole in all directions.
The insanity of a leader unsupported by his MPs, falling desperately in the polls, inert over Brexit, has the party simply waiting to lose for the reckoning to begin.
The issues raised have now come to the ears of Ken Livingstone (Guardian)
Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans
Ex-London mayor says he finds it ‘bizarre’ MPs have issue over changes that would allow leftwing candidate to stand as leader
Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, has said the grassroots group Momentum should be free to push for changes to Labour party structures that would secure Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy as a leftwing Labour leader.
The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, had accused the radical left group of “entryism” after its chair, Jon Lansman, was secretly recorded at a local meeting describing plans to elect a raft of leftwing candidates to key positions and his hope to seal an affiliation from trade union Unite.
A day of public accusation and backroom briefing by Watson and Corbyn allies ended in a fiery private meeting of MPs and peers on Monday night in parliament, where MPs clashed with Corbyn over Momentum’s influence on the party.
The tension hinges on a clause that Corbyn allies hope to secure at the next Labour party conference, to reduce the threshold of MP nominations needed for the next Labour leadership elections from 15% of MPs to 5%, which would make it easier for a leftwing successor to Corbyn to make it on to the ballot paper sent to members.
Ken Livingstone’s comments are well aimed: the rule change under fire is a reasonable one.
UNITE is right complain about Tom Watson’s comments.
It is both hard to believe that he is unaware of the way they would be used in the union’s internal elections, and that he does not know that UNITE’s Executive is the body to which such a decision – which the union itself says is not on the cards – has to be referred.
But the “aspirational” claims by Jon Lansman, that UNITE should affiliate to Momentum, remain contentious.
It can hardly escape anybody interested – perhaps a declining number – in Momentum that the organisation has serious internal disputes, which led to the holding of the recent ‘Grassroots Momentum’ Conference.
It would be too simple to describe this as a clash between leftist ‘factions’ and those around Jon Lansman. One day somebody may provide a diagram of the disagreements, in 7 dimensions.
This, apparently, escapes the attention of an enthusiast, Comrade Ladin who writes of its success within Labour, “Momentum’s strategy of mobilising members within these structures is undoubtedly the winning one” (Guardian. 22.214.171.124)
Others may point to internal critics’ comments which blow away the idea that this is a head-on battle between the Labour Right (Watson at the head) and Momentum.
As Stephen Wood in The Clarion remarks of the presentation of Momentum as a
….broadly consensual organisation where we “focus on what we agree about.”
The fundamental flaw is that while he is right that most of what was passed at the Grassroots Momentum conference and in fact even argued by his opponents on the Momentum Steering Committee he may actually have agreed to, he was absolutely against and stopped action being taken. Half-hearted support for the Picturehouse Workers Strike, a statement about suspensions and expulsions which has still never materialised were all agreed at what he described as “deeply unpleasant” SC meetings.
It would be easy to continue in this vein, and discuss the internal divisions of Momentum.
One thing is certain (at the risk of sounding the voice of ‘reasonableness’, but this is very much the case) that this is not a matter of virtue , the leadership, and faults, “trots and the hard-left”.
Problems are not confined to one ‘camp’ or the other.
It is also the case that UNITE members who are active in the Labour Party, including those with positions of responsibility, are far from agreed on the merits of Momentum, whether on its general strategy, or the details of its demands.
UNITE is a “political union” that sees the best way of pursuing the interests of its membership lie in the Labour Party, above all a Labour Party in office.
Now would seem not a good time to divert attention away to other power struggles.
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,
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,
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, 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.
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.
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:
To continue on last Saturday’s meeting.
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):
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:
More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).
From Socialist Movement to…..Momentum?
“Momentum exists to build on the energy and enthusiasm from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign to increase participatory democracy, solidarity, and grassroots power and help Labour become the transformative governing party of the 21st century.”
A common assumption on the Labour Left, so deep rooted that it almost never said, is that the main failure of previous Parliamentary left groupings is that they needed organisation in the country. At the back of their minds I imagine are the “Brains Trusts” set up up in support of Bevan’s ideas in the 1950s, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the 70s and 80s, and the Socialist Movement.
If the first had problems in moblising and co-ordinating with the Parliamentary left around Aneurin Bevan and his (dispersed) successors, the second was and is a grass-roots body focused on labour constitutional issues (MP re-selection), NEC elections, the third came closest to the Social Movement model some saw in Momentum.
The Socialist Movement grew out of the Socialist Conferences held in Chesterfield, Sheffiled and Manchester, in the years following the defeat of liners’ strike. Initiators included the Socialist Society, an organisation of left intellectuals including Raymond Williams, Richard Kuper, and Ralph Miliband, the Campaign Group, a left-wing group in the Labour Party, the Conference of Socialist Economists, and the network generated by the socialist feminist book Beyond the Fragments. The largest conferences were in 1987 and 1988.
The Socialist Movement was open to different left traditions, green as well as red, for exploratory, grassroots debate and research on socialist policy making.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
Is Momentum A Socialist Conference bis?
Unlike the Chesterfield events, still cresting the ebbing Bennite wave, its role was not clear from the start.
Is ‘participatory democracy’ channeled into supporting Corbyn the Labour Leader?
That would result in the kind of ‘left populism’ attempted by Jean Luc Mélenchon in La France Insoumise and (in a different more democratic way) Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias, around a rather unlikely figure, who, to his credit has always refused the role of Chief around which everything else revolves.
Or does it mean trying to work in the policy areas that the Socialist Movement tried to think out? Given that Labour seems short of clear policies on a variety of issues – the Welfare state, a recent announcement of a group looking into Basic Income might be one sector where Momentum could contribute?
What structures does it have for this purpose?
Does it mean taking up issues of ‘grassroots power’, which many would take to imply changing the Labour Party’s present make-up with a “movement” that moblises on more than electoral issues?
Or is to be a kind of super Bevanite Brain’s Trust, that Bean never managed to hook up with, that can carry Corbyn’s message from the party into the country?
These are just some of the background issues behind the present crisis in Momentum.
The most recent Workers’ Liberty carries this exchange: A debate about Momentum (Solidarity. 15.2.17).
“This explanation by Jon Lansman of recent events in Momentum was circulated in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Since it contains nothing confidential, and is the only political explanation available from the Momentum leadership other than the article by Christine Shawcroft in Labour Briefing (Feb 2017), which we replied to last week, we reprint it here.”
I wanted also to counter the lies and misinformation which are widely repeated by sectarian elements on the Left who wish to turn Momentum from a broad alliance it was intended to be, seeking to maintain the broad centre-left coalition that elected Jeremy Corbyn to support his administration, democratise the party along the lines long advocated by CLPD, and help Labour win elections into a hard-Left organisation reminiscent of the LRC designed to put pressure on Jeremy from the left.
There has been no “coup” within Momentum, though there had been an attempt over the last year by various Trotskyist and other sectarian organisations to use Momentum local groups, often at the cost of driving away non-aligned activists, as a basis for seizing control of regional networks and the former national committee of Momentum. It became very clear how wide the disparity had become between these bodies and the membership of Momentum from the survey conducted in conjunction with a pre-Christmas message from Jeremy Corbyn.
Lansman takes account of what observers have predicted for months, that a National Momentum Conference risked becoming a sectarian bear-pit,
- We could battle for two months in the run up to a planned national delegate conference narrowly foisted on the national committee — with some delegates who disagreed being forced to vote in favour in spite of having been elected by STV in order to preserve the pluralism of regional representatives, which would inevitably have undermined efforts to maximise left representation at this year’s conference, support local Momentum activists in preparing for CLP AGMs, and mobilise for by-elections and a possible early general election.
- We could avoid this internal battle, by calling immediate elections for a new national body based on a new constitution reflecting the wishes of members as revealed in the survey and circulated for agreement of members in the way we would have had to do at some point anyway.
Avoiding this predictable fight was the goal.
This is something critics have to grapple with.
Lansman also notes,
I have personally been subjected to appalling abuse to which it is difficult to respond without simply perpetuating their attempt to personalise “blame” for the alleged wrongs of which they unfairly accuse me. I regret that Martin [Thomas] has chosen to act in this way. I have worked with him within CLPD since the early 1980s. I have done so because he and his colleagues from Socialist Organiser, as his organisation was originally known, showed a genuine commitment to CLPD they never showed to the LRC or any other left organisations in which they pursued the opportunistic self-interested methods we are used to from all Trotskyist sects.
I halt at this point because there is little doubt that Jon Lansman is absolutely right to complain about the abuse.
This is how one of his leading critics, Tony Greenstein, thought by some people to be a “genius” described his action in promoting an on-line survey of Momentum members, all too recently ( Jon Lansman’s Xmas Punch Could Sucker Corbyn)
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.
Greenstein some might say is a special case, whose vitriol is hurled at present lie at another target: Owen Jones – the Final Betrayal – Supporting Zionist Apartheid & the Jewish Labour Movement. Supporting Israeli Apartheid and the Palestinians is not compatible.
But he is far from alone.
It would take a moment’s Googling to find more abuse.
Now Alan Thomas is, from the AWL, a respected activist and writer, but his reply on this point, is not convincing,
Jon Lansman identifies “sectarian elements” almost entirely with us (“Trotskyists”), but at the same time finds these “sectarians” so numerous among Momentum’s 21,000 members that the clash can be resolved only by abolishing Momentum democracy. At stake here is no “sectarianism” of ours, but the issue of what socialism is and how it can be won.
The liberation of the working class can be won only by a vivid movement where each participant is a lively contributor with her or his own ideas; which is full of bouncy debate; in which even the deepest prejudices and the most revered leaders are subject to question. In a new movement like Momentum, we have reasoned patiently and tactfully, rather than bloviating.
I leave to one side the claims about the AWL, often made by people with their own political – ‘sectarian’ agenda.
The fact is that if we can define sectarians at all – a hard task – it is that they are loudmouths who are in a permanent storm of self-righteous attack.
Often they come out of the pages of William Hazlitt’s People with One Idea,
People of the character here spoken of, that is, who tease you to death with some one idea, generally differ in their favourite notion from the rest of the world; and indeed it is the love of distinction which is mostly at the bottom of this peculiarity.
Table Talk : Essays on Men and Manners (1821 -22)
Other times they are loyal simply to their faction, with no other loyalties.
Those familiar with the left could write a new essay, People with Too Many Correct Ideas…
One is always the Other Sectarian for a Sectarian…..
But I digress…
There are many other problems about Momentum, but whether they are numerous or not, they are still loud. Shouty. And, in Greenstein’s case – I single him out for his visibility but he is far from alone – highly unpleasant.
Greenstein and another ‘anti-Zionist’. Gerry Downing, are very active in the Momentum Grassroots Moblising Conference.
This is what the former says, “Lansman’s Momentum is destined for the knackers yard because without democracy you cannot have a movement.”
More simply many people do not want to become involved in a shouting match between different left groups, or, if it happens on more cordial terms, a struggle for influence.
Alan is nevertheless spot on to comment,
Yet Momentum would have contributed more, not less, if it had actively promoted a left Remain vote, free movement across borders, opposition to Trident renewal. It would be stronger now if its national office as well as its local groups had campaigned in support of workers’ disputes like at Picturehouse, and for the NHS. It would have done better if (as we urged) it had organised a presence at Labour conference 2016. It would be healthier if it had had a proper discussion on left antisemitism (in which Jon Lansman and we would have been broadly on the same side), rather than trying to quell the issue administratively. All those things are not “sectarian” caprices, but would have happened if Momentum had been allowed to develop “normally”, democratically.
This is something that Lansman ignores, many people on the democratic left, and this includes the AWL agree on these policies.
We certainly need a voice for them.
Alan may equally well be often right to say,
The new imposed constitution is out of line even with the (heavily manipulated) online survey over Christmas. That suggested decisions by online voting of all members. Under the new constitution, online votes can scarcely even stall office decisions in extreme cases. Real power rests with the office and with a seldom-meeting “coordinating group” in which only 12 out of 28 or 32 places are elected by Momentum members.
10 January was a coup. Imagine its analogue in general politics: Theresa May declares that, on the strength of a 50%-plus-one majority got in an hour’s emailing round the Cabinet, she is abolishing Cabinet, Parliament, and an imminent general election in favour of office rule plus a future “coordinating group” in which elected citizens’ representatives are a minority. Or, if that’s too much, imagine the analogue in any other left movement. Despite it all, Momentum’s local groups will continue to organise, and I don’t think the panic-stricken officials can stop them.
But the real issue is not an organisational form, and behind that whether this or that factional grouping, or alliance, is competing for power in the structures.
It is what aims and functions does Momentum have beyond rallying support for Corbyn.
Nothing that’s happened so far has disproved the judgement of many left-wingers that clear goals, from ‘think tank’ policy-formulating (that is as a pressure group within Labour with specific ideas), and a hook between Labour and a variety of campaigns (such as Stop Trump!, or union disputes) already have vehicles in Constituency parties, Trades Councils and other bodies.
Many of us are all in favour of Momentum finding some way out of this dispute, a modus vivendi.
Momentum includes people like Nick Wrack who state (RETHINKING LABOUR: MORE OF THE SAME OR CHANGE OF COURSE?)
… it is important to recognise that there is a huge difference – a vast chasm – between what is called social democracy and socialism or communism. I use socialism and communism as synonyms for a system that is based on a complete transformation of society, breaking with the present capitalist system and the exploitation of labour to make profit. Socialism is a society based on democratic common ownership of the means of production – land, factories, transport, technology and science. It is a society based on production for social need rather than for private profit.
…..I am now of the opinion that all Marxists should, at the very least, join Momentum. We can play a key role in helping to defend Corbyn and defeating the right. Where possible, therefore, Marxists should also join Labour. This is best done as an organised group, rather than as individuals. The purpose of joining is two-fold: to strengthen the forces in defence of Corbyn and against the rightwing in Labour and the trade unions and to argue for a Marxist ideas in the mass movement around Corbyn. There is no knowing how long this battle may last or what the outcome will be. Those coming into Momentum and into the Labour Party will include thousands of people who simply want change. But many will have no clear idea of what that change should be or how it can be accomplished. Marxists have to engage with the debate. What change? How can it be achieved? What programme is necessary?
So what is he doing trying to join or influence a social democratic party?
Wrack’s position, which is shared by others, is not so easy to dismiss as the notorious cranks who insult ‘reformists’ , ‘Zionists’ and the rest.
It is, crudely, that Momentum should be a kind of political mill pond for them to fish in to build their ‘Marxist’ line.
Never forgetting the “vast chasm” that separates them from social democracy, that is a very substantial chunk of the Labour Party membership and support.
Founder Jon Lansman convinces committee to sign up to new structure and rules in attempt to settle disputes.
Momentum, the grassroots pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group, has agreed a new constitution that will require its members to join the Labour party, in an attempt to resolve a bitter fight about its future.
After Corbyn emailed Momentum’s 20,000 members in December to ask them to respond to a survey about how it should be organised and run, its founder Jon Lansman drew up a new structure and rules, which he then persuaded members of its steering committee to sign up to.
In an email message to the committee, seen by the Guardian, Lansman said: “We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months.”
(NOTE HERE IS THE e-mail, An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee
I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:
The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
A paper on interim governance
A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.
The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:
Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.
If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
Momentum National Steering Group
Lansman claims to have drawn up the proposals “in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn”.
The group had been riven by factional disputes since Corbyn’s re-election in September, amid reports that it had been infiltrated by Trotskyists. Corbyn had urged its members to resolve their differences, telling the Guardian in December that he would like to see them join Labour.
Momentum issued a public statement on Tuesday night that said elections would now be held to a new ruling body and its existing governing structures dissolved. It will then seek to become an affiliate of the Labour party.
“Momentum is moving forwards as the outward-looking, campaigning movement that our members want it to be. Over the coming months, Momentum will continue to grow, building our movement to encourage more people to participate in politics and help Labour harness its new mass membership to win power and rebuild and transform Britain,” the statement said.
Under the new constitution, decision-making will be thrown open to votes by members. In the survey, 80% of members favoured decision-making by one member one vote, rather than a delegate structure.
Members will also have to join Labour – a new rule that could force out figures including Jill Mountford, of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, and former Militant member Nick Wrack, because they are excluded from the party. Fellow Momentum activist Jackie Walker is suspended over antisemitism claims, which she denies.
Mountford accused Lansman of staging a coup that she and other Momentum activists plan to fight. “This is a coup. We are not splitting and we are not going to be provoked by this,” she said. “We are going to call a conference for grassroots activists and we will to seek to reverse these changes. The constitution has been imposed, we are going to continue to fight for a democratic organisation.
“We still have local organisations to attend and I don’t think activists are going to accept this lying down. We will campaign to reverse this,” she said.
“I am in shock. Jon called tonight for an impromptu, unplanned steering committee meeting which was conducted online between 7.40pm and 8.30pm. The upshot is that Momentum’s steering committee, the national committee and the conference arrangements committee, have all been dissolved.”
Mountford and Wrack have been among those fighting against Lansman’s plans to throw open decision-making to one-member-one-vote by the membership. At a fractious meeting of the national committee last month, they narrowly won a battle to make February’s planned Momentum conference into what Mountford called “a national delegate based conference with decision-making powers” which would debate the details of a policy platform.
But to Lansman and his allies, that strayed too close to replicating the structures of a traditional political party. Momentum sources said the conference would now be “an exciting day of activist training, workshops and networking”.
According to Mountford, Lansman has not been in touch with her since the national committee meeting on 3 December. She said the steering committee had sent out plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday at Tessa headquarters in London, an event she believes prompted Lansman’s actions on Tuesday night.
The relationship between the steering committee, which has agreed the new constitution, and the national committee, where some of the most contentious debates have been held, is disputed.
I have argued, as people know, that although it has done sterling work, Momentum risked become a sectarian playground.
This is one of the reasons I have not become a member, the other being that round here it is not needed.
I have sympathy with with those like Jill Mountford, who are true labour movement people,
I have none whatsoever with those who wish to turn Momentum away from Labour and make it a vehicle for their own projects, and in particular with at least one person (see above) who has indulged in factionalising from Militant, the SWP, Socialist Alliance, Respect (!), TUSC and – I could list a lot lot more.
1. SUMMARY OF CONSTITUTION
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.
If you are currently paying Momentum membership fees but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.
How key decisions are made:
Under this constitution decisions can be made either by the National Coordinating Group (NCG) which includes representatives of members, affiliates and Labour public office holders, or by ordinary members through a digital democracy process. This aims to achieve a broad and representative group to regularly meet and discuss the needs of the organisation while maintaining the membership as the ultimate decision makers on key issues. The NCG is also overseen by a Members’ Council consisting of 50 members randomly chosen by lot.
1) National Coordinating Group (NCG):
The National Coordinating Group will comprise:
12 members, four from each of three divisions (a) North and Scotland, (b) the Midlands, Wales and the West, (c) the South East. At least two of the members elected from each division should be women, and at least one should self-identify as BAME (black, Asian, ethnic minority).
4 Momentum members who are Labour public officer holders (of the UK, European or Scottish Parliaments, Welsh or London Assemblies, Elected Mayors or Police Commissioners, or Labour members of a British local authority).
6 members nominated by affiliated trade unions
4 members nominated by other affiliated organisations
If the 12 members who are elected do not include one person who self-identifies as disabled, one person who self-identifies as LGBT+ and two young persons under 30, then up to 4 more places will be elected to ensure these groups are represented.
All members can stand and vote in elections for positions on the NCG. Elections to the NCG will take place online or by other accessible means, with each member having a vote. Please find details of the election process and timetable here.
The constitution stipulates that the NCG should facilitate self-organisation for members of liberation groups within Momentum – LGBT+, disabled, women and black Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) – and campaign for increased representation for liberation groups within the Labour Party. The NCG must ensure that Momentum liberation networks have the support to organise campaigns and are able to advise and make recommendations to the NCG.
2) Members Council:
So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.
3) Digital Democracy Platform:
Momentum will provide a digital democracy platform to ensure that all members are empowered to initiate and vote on campaign priorities, constitutional amendments or overturning decisions by the NCG. All members will be able to vote online with each member having a vote. Any members who are unable to vote online can contact the National Office to vote via other accessible means.
2. WHY WAS THE CONSTITUTION ADOPTED?
The results of the survey sent to Momentum members show that there is a widespread consensus about the type of organisation members want – a grassroots, campaigning political movement that can help Labour win power on a transformative platform. 40.35% of members responded to the survey. Campaigning for Labour victories and helping members become more active in the Labour Party were the most popular options for Momentum’s priorities in 2017, chosen by 71.71% and 68.23% of respondents respectively.
80.60% of respondents said that key decisions should be taken by One Member One Vote, rather than by delegates at regional and national conferences and committees (12.50%). 79.29% of respondents said all members should have a say in electing their representatives, as opposed to national representatives being elected by delegates from local groups (16.16%).
Following this decisive response, the Steering Committee voted to introduce the constitution for Momentum to deliver the kind of action-focussed, campaigning, Labour-focussed organisation our members have said they want. The constitution puts decision making power in the hands of members with direct democracy and OMOV elections central to the organisation.
3. DEMOCRACY Q&A
How can the constitution be changed?
A member of the NCG can propose an amendment to the constitution or members bring a petition proposing an amendment to constitution with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.
The NCG will consider the proposed amendment. If the NCG unanimously agrees to the amendment it will be adopted. If the NCG passes the amendment, but not unanimously, it will go to a one member one vote (OMOV) online ballot and will pass with 50% of votes casts. If the NCG rejects the proposal, members can bring a petition signed by 10% of membership, which will trigger a vote among all members online or by other accessible means. An amendment will then be adopted with the support of at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership and at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.
How can members vote on campaign priorities?
A proposal on Momentum’s campaign priorities can be made by a member of the NCG, or by members’ bringing a petition with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.
The NCG considers the proposal. If the NCG approves the proposal, it will be adopted. If the NCG rejects the proposal, but a petition is brought with support of 10% of the membership, then the proposal will go to a vote among all members, via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. A campaign priority will then be adopted where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.
How can other key decisions be taken to a vote by members?
If a member wants to challenge a decision by the NCG in relation to guidance or directives issued to members, groups or networks, a petition can be brought signed by 10% of the membership. This will take the decision to a vote among all members via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. The decision will be overturned where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of members eligible to vote are in favour of doing so. Additional proposals to the NCG can be made by the Members’ Council.
Moreover, a majority of the NCG can vote for any decision to go to an OMOV ballot of all members.
How do I participate in the elections for National Coordinating Group (NCG)?
You can find details of the election process and timetable here. When the election takes place, statements by all candidates will be circulated and all members will have an online vote.
If any members are unable to vote online, please call 07508255697 before 17 February, to vote by other accessible means.
What does this mean for my local group or network?
It is hoped that your local group or network is able to continue as usual within the framework of Momentum’s constitution. The constitution is intended to bring clarity to Momentum’s purpose, goals and organisation, improve transparency and reduce internal bureaucracy. Therefore, there will be more time, energy and resources directed at supporting local organising, activity and campaigns.
What is happening to Momentum’s Conference?
Momentum’s Inaugural National Conference will take place on 18 February. This will be organised by the National Office and will be open to all members. To reflect the priorities of the membership, the Conference will focus on the theme ‘Momentum’s role in Labour’s General Election Strategy.’ It will be a day of activist training, political education workshops, networking, political discussion and debate. More details will be announced soon.
What is happening to Momentum’s Regional Networks, National Committee and Steering Committee?
Momentum’s constitution does not include Regional Networks, a National Committee or Steering Committee.
It is hoped that members will still wish to organise and coordinate activity, network and share best practice within regions and areas, which can be done informally online or at meetings and events, providing it is within the framework of the constitution and the code of ethics. However, the Regional Networks will no longer be formally convened as part of the governance structure of the organisation.
Momentum’s business will be carried out by the National Coordinating Group (NCG). All members will be able to stand for a position on the NCG and vote for their representatives.
So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.
4. MEMBERSHIP Q&A
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.
If you are a Momentum member but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.
Who can be a member?
Membership is open to anyone who:
Is 14 or over
Is a member of the Labour Party and no other political party nor an organisation disallowed by National Coordination Group
Agrees to be bound by the rules of Momentum, including its code of ethics
What do I do if I am not a Labour member?
In order for Momentum to achieve its aims of helping Labour become a transformative and socialist party of government, Momentum is aiming to affiliate to the Labour Party. New members of Momentum must be members of Labour to join Momentum, and existing members of Momentum the opportunity to join the Party by 1 July. You can join Labour here.
What do I do if I was suspended from Labour or if I was rejected as a Supporter?
Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.
If you have been suspended from the Labour Party you can appeal your suspension. To appeal, email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 092 2299.
If you have previously applied to be an Affiliated or Registered Supporter of the Labour Party and your application was rejected, you cannot appeal. However, this does not preclude you from applying to become a full member of the Party now. We encourage all Momentum members to join Labour as a full member. You can join here.
If you have been expelled from the Labour Party or were prevented from joining, you may be deemed to have resigned from Momentum. While you can participate in campaigns and activities organised by a local group, network or Momentum nationally, you are not able to be a member, and therefore cannot hold a position within Momentum, vote in elections or hold other membership rights.
If you are not able to be a member of Momentum, please email email@example.com.
If you need to change the name of a key contact or position holder in your group, please fill in the group verification form with the new details.
How do I cancel my membership?
To cancel your membership, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I agree with the constitution – what shall I do?
You don’t have to do anything; by continuing to pay your membership dues, you are consenting to the constitution.
I don’t agree to the constitution – what shall I do?
It is hoped that this constitution will satisfy members by ensuring that the overwhelming majority of time, energy and resources is used supporting members, local groups and networks to achieve Momentum’s aims. The constitution makes it possible for members to change its rules and make amendments, so it can be altered over time to reflect any changes in the wishes of the membership.
However, if you wish to opt-out, you can email email@example.com to cancel your membership.
5. OPERATIONS AND STAFFING
How does the constitution affect the day to day running of Momentum?
The staff and volunteer team at the National Office will continue to support local groups, facilitate the formation of new groups, handle enquiries, coordinate Momentum’s ongoing national campaigns, support members to get more active within the Party and campaign for Labour in elections.
There are currently a number of permanent and temporary staff. The staff team will organise elections to the National Coordinating Group (NCG) in the coming weeks. Once these positions have been elected and the NCG has been formed, the NCG will review Momentum’s staffing structure and establish an open application process for all permanent staffing roles.
Who should I contact if I have further questions?
If you have any further questions about the constitution or the implications for your local organising, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is hoped that the constitution will enable members to draw a line under the confusion, internal squabbling and lack of transparency within the organisation. It will enable the majority of time, energy and resources to be used to develop local groups and members.
Labour Party Marxists: Corbyn’s disastrous intervention in Momentum.
“what increasingly looks like an existential crisis in Momentum drives us to get in touch again. Jeremy Corbyn has taken a stand on this controversy – but unfortunately, on the wrong side.”
Momentum grew out of our first campaign for a new kind of politics, to channel its drive and optimism into a movement that can help Labour win power and transform our society. That enthusiasm is already changing our movement and the country’s political debate on crucial issues like austerity.
As 2016 draws to a close, I wanted to share some thoughts about how that could be developed further and ask you to share yours.
‘The World Transformed’ at Labour Party Conference and new techniques to increase participation in Labour, such as the Grassroots Now phone-canvassing website, are exactly the participatory activities Momentum can organise to help secure a Labour government that will rebuild and transform Britain. Let’s do it together; Labour’s next big campaigning day is on 21 January. I hope you’ll join us for it.
This moment in our history is too important for us not to seize it. We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections.
Momentum needs to be an organisation fit for purpose – not copying the failed models of the past but bringing fresh ideas to campaigning and organising in communities, helping members be active in the Labour Party and helping secure a Labour government to rebuild and transform Britain.
That’s why the Momentum team has drawn up a survey to give every member a direct say in its future.
We are all part of this historic movement. Let’s seize this moment together.
Thank you for all that you have done in 2016. I wish you a Merry Christmas, a peaceful holiday period and a happy new year.
Labour Party Marxists. Latest Bulletin.
In a December 20 email to every member of Momentum, Jeremy Corbyn warns that, “We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections.” There are two clear implications from Corbyn’s intervention. One, that he believes the controversy about accountability and internal democracy is just diversionary chatter. Second, that the Labour leader is on board with Jon Lansman’s plan to do without a democratic conference, elected delegates, self-activating local branches, regional committees, etc. Instead, the wonders of “participatory activities” like “phone-canvassing” are recommended, along with events such as the September 2016 (non-voting) ‘The World Transformed’.
Corbyn’s communiqué was followed by similar emails fronted by Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis to all 160,000 contacts on Momentum’s database. Momentum members and supporters are asked to complete a ‘survey’ which – in addition to commonplace queries about their current activities and Momentum’s future campaigning work – asks them to opt for either a delegate-based-conference or decisions to be made by atomised individuals via online plebiscites, misleadingly summarised as “One Member, One Vote” (Omov).
It would be a shock if this survey does not deliver the result ‘Team Momentum’ wants (ie, Omov – no democratic conference). They have phrased the questions. They will count and interpret the results. They decide when, where and how these results are disseminated and used. It’s a done deal, we anticipate.
The current issue of the Weekly Worker features Mike Macnair on the anti-democratic nature of referendums, including the membership ‘survey’ just sent out by Lansman & Co. Take a look – it’s useful stuff.
It is quite clear that this ‘survey’ scam is intended to trump the decisions of the December 3 meeting of the National Committee and the subsequent deliberations of its Conference Arrangements Committee. Proposals from the CAC (which has a 4-3 leftwing majority) on how conference should be organised were supposed to be sent out on December 16. But, six days later, ‘Team Momentum’ is still sitting on the info and refusing to disseminate it to the membership – you can read them on our website. (Remember, ‘Team Momentum’ can get away with this crass behaviour because Jon Lansman owns the Momentum database and can do with it whatever he feels – a scandalous arrangement in any leftwing organisation.)
Faced with this, the CAC has quite correctly decided to act unilaterally, has set up its own Facebook page and started to publish details of their proposals. The comrades are not taking Lansman’s undemocratic manoeuvring lying down. Excellent. But of course, they can reach far fewer members given the Lansman database monopoly.
We can pretty much write the script for Lansman for when his ‘survey’ results are in. He will try to cancel the democratic conference planned for February ‘in light of the overwhelming mandate in favour of Omov…’ All very predictable. Nevertheless, we urge Momentum members to complete the survey … but to denounce the whole fraud and don’t trust the results!
“Fraud” “scandalous”, “scam”: the Momentum crisis is not cooling down over this Merry Christmas….
For a more profound contribution to Momentum discussions see: Policy and purpose are missing from the OMOV debate by Edd Mustill.
I agree that the current debate is happening back-to-front. We are discussing Momentum’s structures without having openly discussed and decided upon the purpose of the organisation. When Momentum was founded in late 2015, it should either have been launched with a specific, well-defined purpose in mind, or come to an agreement on its purpose very quickly, but neither of these things happened. Meanwhile, the large numbers of people who were drawn into Labour politics by the Corbyn campaign’s victory started doing what came naturally: they turned up to their local Labour meetings, and they started meeting together as like-minded activists.
This quickly led to a situation where people developed a very strong affinity with Momentum as a name, an organisation, or (*shudder*) a “brand,” without having necessarily reached any agreement about what it was all for. Being a “Momentum person” could mean all sorts of things, politically, to different people. Ironically, this is similar to the situation in the Labour Party, where everyone professes to holding “Labour values” despite this being an ill-defined phrase which can mean twenty different things to ten different people.
It is this strong sense of ownership over the organisation on the part of its rank-and-file supporters, coupled with a lack of a clear definition of the organisation’s purpose, which has made a seemingly arcane debate about committees so bitter and fractious at times. The structures debate is a cipher for all sorts of other political disagreements. We should have first established our purpose and adopted a structure best suited to that purpose.
The rest of the article is readable through above link.
His first comments on the group’s internal crisis come as the activist accused of leading an alleged Trotskyist takeover said Lansman himself had first raised the prospect of a split last month.
Jill Mountford, who is on the organisation’s steering committee, said that far from being pushed out, Lansman appeared to be reacting to changes to the democratic structures which meant that he could no longer control it.
Lansman in turn indicated that he had not yet given up on the organisation he set up and whose database he controls. “Of course I’m not walking away from Momentum, but I do take the disenfranchisement of most of our 21,000 members very seriously,” he said.
“I don’t want to control Momentum. I want a pluralist organisation that supports Jeremy Corbyn, democratises the Labour party and helps us win the next general election.”
Tensions over control of the organisation emerged on Monday when Momentum’s women’s officer, Laura Murray, wrote a blog claiming that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and others were seeking to wrest control from its founder.
Murray claimed that Mountford had been at the forefront of a takeover, had bullied younger members, reducing one to tears, and ultimately wanted to form a new political party with the organisation.
Mountford, who has been a member of the AWL for 33 years, denies bullying, taking over the organisation or wanting to form a new party.
She claims to have been shocked when Lansman raised the prospect of a split in the organisation at a meeting on 27 November. He did so after it became apparent that he may not get his way over the organisation’s structures, she said.
“The only person who has said there is going to be a split was Jon Lansman. He said: ‘Well I warn you now. If this goes through there will be a split in Momentum.’ That was news to all of us. I have time and respect for Jon but he has not behaved well. I think he has been trying to carve Momentum up so he can control it,” she said.
AWL Statement: Momentum: for unity! Simon Nelson.
After the Momentum national committee on Saturday 3 December voted that Momentum should have a decision-making delegate conference – just that was the big controversial decision! – figures on the fringes of Momentum, and some within it, have launched a social-media and mass-media outcry against Workers’ Liberty and Solidarity.
This outcry should be resisted with an insistence on unity, a focus on positive campaigning, and a refusal to let the mass media or the Labour machine’s notorious Compliance Unit split us.
Although we were only a small part of the 3 December meeting, the whole majority is being denounced as manipulated, controlled, or even bullied by the few Workers’ Liberty people, and the decision to have a democratic conference as a “Trotskyist takeover”.
Some people are signalling that they want to split Momentum on this issue. Our reply is clear:
The majority is much broader than us. It is not controlled by us.
We, and as far as we know all the majority, are totally for unity and against a split. Momentum should unite to fight the Tories and the Labour right wing.
We are not even “hard-liners” on the organisational issues. We, and the majority, do want democracy in Momentum: we believe democracy is necessary for stable unity. But we always have been, and are, open to dialogue and compromise about modalities, details, forms.
We have kept our tone comradely. We have repeatedly sought off-the-record discussions with those who led the minority on 3 December to explore adjustments, common ground, maximisation of consensus.
The ones who are reluctant to compromise, and who run their debates in tones of violent denunciation of those disagree with them, are elements in the minority, and, even more, their media outriders, who are not even active in Momentum.
The writer Paul Mason told the BBC Daily Politics on 8 December that, although he had “never been to a Momentum meeting”, he demanded a purge. “If Jill Mountford [a National Committee member of Momentum]… remains basically an expelled member of the Party and remains in Momentum, I will not remain in Momentum”.
Labour “auto-excluded” 618 members during the Labour leadership contest this summer, and 1038 members are still suspended, according to figures at the last Labour NEC. Thousands more left-wingers (no-one knows exactly) were expelled or suspended during the 2015 leadership contest. Many of those expelled are long-standing Labour Party members, whom no-one talked of expelling during the Blair, Brown, or Miliband years.
Until now the left has agreed that we do not trust the Compliance Unit’s decisions on who should or shouldn’t be allowed in the Labour Party. Momentum has voted to oppose the purge. Other left groups like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy have a long-standing policy of including unjustly expelled left-wingers.
The Compliance Unit wants to split the left. We should not allow them to do that.
Remember: the Compliance Unit could well expel Paul Mason – he is an ex-member of a Trotskyist group, and surely has said unkind things about Labour right-wingers on social media.
Owen Jones, another figure on the fringe of Momentum, another one who could well be expelled by the Compliance Unit if they choose, has used the Guardian to claim that the issue in Momentum is “a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians”.
Mason, Jones, and others should put aside their megaphones. They should come and discuss the best way to build unity and effective campaigning for Momentum.
Voting was quite closely divided on 3 December, but delegates agreed on a decision-making national conference, to be on 18 February, 25 February, or 4 March. Both local groups and individuals (via the online platform MxV) will be able to submit motions to the conference. The existing Steering Committee will remain in place until after the conference. The 3 December meeting elected a conference arrangements committee.
We were not in the majority on everything, but we are confident that the 3 December decisions will command a broad consensus in most of Momentum’s local groups.
As Michael Chessum, a Momentum Steering Committee member (and not one of us), has said: “[if the meeting was polarised] The Steering Committee has to accept the lion’s share of the responsibility …. By bypassing and undermining the national committee – a body to which it was technically subordinate – the Steering Committee substantially overreached its mandate and infuriated grassroots activists. As a result, attitudes hardened and the regional delegates, who make up a majority of the NC, almost all arrived mandated to vote for a purely delegate-based conference.”
More calm, more space for discussion and appreciation of the hard voluntary work of comrades in the national office and in local groups, fewer meeting-cancellations, fewer attempts to pre-empt decisions, would have helped improve the atmosphere on 3 December. Whether it would have stopped the recent Trotskyist-baiting, we don’t know.
In the media storm, our ideas on imperialism, on Israel-Palestine, on Europe have been misrepresented, and the great warehouse of Stalinist slurs against Trotskyists has been called into use.
Yes, we are Trotskyists. We say what we think, and we organise openly for our ideas. We believe Momentum is a tremendous opportunity for the left. We have played a constructive role in it since it started, in local groups, nationally, and in initiatives like Momentum NHS.
20,000 people have joined Momentum as members since it launched. There are 150 local groups.
Those groups must be allowed the means to develop a democracy – a continuously thinking, adjust, rethinking process of debate and decision-making which evolves a collective majority opinion – and that needs a conference, not just decision-making via online plebiscites run by the Momentum full-time staff.
At the 3 December meeting we supported a successful motion from Momentum Youth and Students for a campaign to make Labour stand firm on freedom of movement and to fight against the Tories’ post-Brexit plans. Momentum should be uniting to put such policies into action, not using the mass media to stir a storm against the 3 December majority.
Some in the 3 December minority oppose a decision-making conference because they think Momentum should not have policy beyond being generically left-wing and pro-Corbyn. There is a case, and we accept it, for moving quite slowly and gently on many policy issues in a new movement like Momentum. But without policies – on issues like freedom of movement, for example – Momentum cannot campaign coherently in local Labour Parties or on the streets (or, as we found this September, in the Labour Party conference).
Otherwise Momentum can only be a support organisation for the current Labour leadership, a database or phone bank for exercises like the leadership elections.
Let’s go forward to build Momentum, build the Labour Party, resist the Compliance Unit’s purges, fight the Tories, and argue for socialist policies. Those who disagree with the decisions at the National Committee should discuss within Momentum: on our side, they will find no closed doors, and a strong will for unity.
Jon Lansman has vowed to remain in a senior post at Momentum despite the series of rows over internal democracy..
More on Labour List.
And: The nuclear option. (Weekly Worker) While Jon Lansman considers ending it all, the left majority needs to press home its advantage, urges Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists
it is excellent that the left, pro-democratic wing of Momentum has managed to win a few votes on the NC – clearly, it is all still to play for. But, as long as comrade Lansman is in charge of the organisation, it cannot be anything more than a fan club for Jeremy Corbyn. And not a very dynamic or effective one at that.
We note that the Socialist Party (ex-Militant) have become professional whingers about their exclusion from this tussle,
Momentum left meeting excludes socialists.
Nor does it bode well for the future of Momentum that I was excluded from this meeting for being a Socialist Party member. I am a member of Momentum and have been trying to bring people together in my area in a Momentum group, yet I was told by Nick Wrack – himself undemocratically excluded from the Labour Party – that I cannot be a member of Momentum and a member of the Socialist Party. When I argued against this I was told it would be put to a vote of the meeting. It was voted down without me even being able to put my case.
Wot the popular masses want to know about is not the whines of a sect that would love to join in a faction fight but can’t.
It’s the position of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI) and its esteemed leading cadre, Gerry Downing.
This group, Socialist Fight, is, it is said, active in Momentum.
From its branch in Brent (where is is claimed it acts as an ally of the mighty ‘Brent Soviet’), its Brazilian allies, and its affiliated section on Pluto, the LCFI is a force to be reckoned with.
Yesterday cde Downing was wibbly-wobbling in his support for the AWL.
They have only issued the briefest of statements,
…would oppose the AWL on Israel and imperialism in general but support then in the battle to democratise Momentum against Lansman. And that will win to a large degree, far more than Lansman wanted at any rate.
Meanwhile the LCFI is fully engaged in the international struggle:
Quite a list!