The Momentum election, lying, hypocrisy and transphobia

Submitted by AWL on 24 July, 2020 - 2:18 Author: Keith Road
Haringey Labour trans solidarity

The sweeping victory of the Forward Momentum slate in the Momentum national coordinating group election means that every candidate elected bar one signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges. Candidates in the Momentum election supporting the Momentum Internationalists platform signed up to them, but criticised the pledge which suggests an emphasis on exclusions from the party rather than challenging transphobia in vigorous debate.

Many candidates on the conservative left/Stalinist Momentum Renewal slate signed the LCTR pledges but four did not, for reasons that are worth paying attention to.

During the campaign, many people associated with Momentum Renewal bandied around accusations of transphobia quite freely. In the discussions around a united left slate for Labour’s NEC, they have suggested the new Forward Momentum-dominated NCG has not taken the issue of trans rights seriously. Even more strikingly, a major part of the MR campaign in the NCG elections was an attempt to witch-hunt Workers’ Liberty.

An important part of this was the totally fictitious claim that WL is transphobic. In so far as any evidence was cited for this, it was an attempt to misrepresent a pro-trans rights meeting organised by Lewisham Momentum in 2018 as anti-trans rights, on the bizarre basis that a prominent trans-exclusionary radical feminist turned up and argued – from the floor – against the organisers and the speaker! (See the statement from speaker Maria Exall here.) This nonsense, originally claimed as part of an attempt by people who would go on to support MR to take over Lewisham Momentum, was recycled as a weapon in the NCG election. (For an example, see here.)

Such lying and ill-informed repetition of others’ lying would be bad enough in itself. It was all the more glaring given the actual stance of some of the Momentum Renewal candidates on trans rights. The hypocrisy was staggering.

Two of the MR candidates who did not sign the LCTR pledges, Emine Ibrahim and Seema Chandwani, are councillors in Haringey, in North London. (One of the others is Jon Trickett MP.) Haringey is one of the few places where the issue of trans rights has become a major point of contention in local Labour Parties.

Both Haringey CLPs, Tottenham and Hornsey and Wood Green, have passed transphobic motions (under the guise of being for free speech and debate). The key line in both motions is: “To make clear it supports the right of women to self-organise and freely campaign and advocate for women’s sex-based rights”. In both CLPs a very vocal group of General Committee delegates push support for Women’s Place UK and make arguments about “single sex spaces”.

Much of the discussion has been very unpleasant. In a meeting held to support trans rights in the borough, attended by many local Laobur members, one anti-trans member had to be asked to leave because they would not stop shouting down speakers and trying to intimidate other attendees.

A terrible atmosphere has been created in the local party where people who support trans rights – and specifically the idea that trans women are women – have been heckled and shouted down. One Tottenham EC member has compared the idea that trans women are women to Holocaust-denial. Attempts have been made to weaken a proposed Haringey Council policy on trans rights.

Tottenham CLP Chair Nick Rogers has authored two blostposts setting out his and other Tottenham activists’ position: see here. As chair he allowed the passing of an emergency motion supporting the Women’s Place UK position but blocked an emergency motion condemning the government’s lack of movement on reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

Seema Chandwani, when challenged over her stance on trans rights, has refused to say what she thinks. She claims that to state a position is too divisive! It is eminently clear that this is a way of not stating that she is opposed. In the current climate, particularly in Tottenham, what such silence gives a free rein to those who want to push transphobia and make the CLP a vanguard for anti-trans activism.

In a series of now deleted tweets, Chandwani also defended a crowdfunding campaign to stop trans women being included on all women shortlists.

Note that supporters of Workers’ Liberty and other supporters of Momentum Internationalists in Haringey Labour Party have been central to pro-trans rights activism there, while supporters of Momentum Renewal have played a terrible role. This did not inhibit MR supporters from accusing Workers’ Liberty of transphobia in the Momentum election.

There is also a Haringey connection back to Lewisham. Noah Tucker is another Momentum Renewal-supporting Haringey councillor associated with the transphobes. Hosted at a Lewisham public meeting by people who would go on to support Momentum Renewal after they took over the local Momentum group, he refused to answer a question about his position on trans rights (and one about council cuts). After the meeting the person who asked the question was physically assaulted, punched in the face, by a supporter of “new model” Momentum; this after the assailant had accused him of being a “troublemaker” for asking the questions. (Of course this further undermines the claims of anti-trans right activists who say what they really want is debate and discussion.) For a report at the time see here.

The Lewisham Momentum people who hosted Noah Tucker do on paper support trans rights. But this did not stop them inviting Tucker, from allying with foul transphobic Stalinist-nationalist group Red London in order to take over Lewisham Momentum, or from along with the rest of Momentum Renewal supporting Seema Chandwani, Jon Trickett, etc, in the Momentum NCG election.

We have published this because accusing supporters of trans rights of transphobia for factional advantage undermines the fight against transphobia; and because it is part of a broader political culture of lying and dishonesty which is utterly corrosive for the labour movement and left. When such lying is combined with tolerating actual transphobia or acceptance of transphobia in one’s own ranks, of course, it is even more of a problem. People need to understand what took place around the NCG election and supporters of Momentum Renewal should be held to account for all this.

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Submitted by AWL on Fri, 24/07/2020 - 17:05

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