What's coming up at the Momentum national committee?

Submitted by AWL on 3 February, 2016 - 12:08 Author: Jill Mountford (London region Momentum NC delegate, pc), Ed Whitby (Northern region delegate, pc) and Sacha Ismail

The process of preparing for Momentum’s first national committee meeting has had negatives but also definite positives. Things seem to be taking a step forward. We need to make the most of the positives to push things forward further.

A sort of NC meeting was due in January, made up entirely of appointees. There was outcry, the meeting was delayed to 6 February, and a system of elections was put in place, with local groups electing delegates to regional meetings, which elected delegates to the NC.

Even then, there were only three weeks to meet and elect delegates, leading to various problems. These procedures that still need improving: for instance the lack of clarity and consistency about election or appointment of equality reps, and who they are accountable to.

However, the push for democracy had a real effect, which is more than you’d get in many parts
of the Labour Party, the trade union movement, or indeed the revolutionary left. Moreover, the process of electing delegates and meeting up regionally has itself been a positive one and had a positive impact locally.

In Lewisham and Southwark, and no doubt many other groups, there were lively elections for delegates to the London regional meeting. In Haringey, the process of elections allowed the dislodging of organisers who had dominated the group and stopped it functioning. A similar thing happened in Manchester, and in the North West, which elected a committee to get democratic control over Momentum’s affairs in the region.

Workers’ Liberty supporters served as delegates to the London, Yorkshire, Northern and South East meetings; and three were elected NC delegates (one as a jobshare).

Depending of course what happens on 6 February, all this is progress towards Momentum becoming a proper, democratic national organisation.

Judging by the debates so far, these are some of the big issues coming up at the NC.

1. Progressive, socialist, working-class?

Should Momentum be distinctly socialist, or go for a much softer, more ambiguous “progressive” change? Limited discussion has meant some debate hinging, for instance, on whether to include the word “socialist”. But there is a much bigger and much needed discussion here about attitudes to capitalism, class struggle, the labour movement and working-class politics.

It would be false at this stage to push for anything like a clear, sharp statement of socialist aims, but we need to go beyond Lib Dem-style platitudes and commit to goals for changing the labour movement and developing workers’ political representation.

Momentum also needs a clear orientation to supporting workers’ and social movement struggles, and taking them into the Labour Party.

2. Clear tasks inside Labour

Momentum needs clear objectives inside Labour, which in our view should include:

• Getting more Corbyn supporters along to party meetings;
• Changing policy and highlighting/activating dormant policy;
• Taking class struggles into the party, and getting it out campaigning on issues and not just in elections;
• Fighting for democracy, including a sovereign conference and an end to exclusions and
witch-hunts against left-wingers; and
• Using selection processes to choose candidates who share our politics and commitment to representatives democratically accountable to the mass membership.

All this while actively building the party and supporting its campaigns.

3. Who can join, who can be an officer?

It is good that Momentum will have a membership structure, and that there seems to be consensus on making it open to anyone who does not support anti-Labour candidates.

However, the draft document says that only party members should be eligible to become Momentum representatives, officers, etc. The London meeting overwhelmingly amended this to include those unjustly expelled or excluded: the NC should endorse this, at least.

However there is a compelling case that, given a minority of Momentum supporters are willing to
support Labour but not join (yet), the officer criterion should simply be the same as for membership.

Other organisations do this, for instance the Socialist Health Association, which is an official Labour Party affiliate.

4. The right to distribute literature

The documents going to the NC propose banning literature from other parties being distributed at
Momentum events. Despite supporters insisting this would not apply to pro-Labour publications,
the wording is ambiguous. Moreover, what is the problem with others selling their literature at events?

Bureaucratically stopping the distribution of certain ideas is not a good road to go down. We need a culture where freedom of speech is valued, and vibrant exchange of different left-wing ideas encouraged. We will argue for delegates at the NC to think again.

5. Democracy

Last but not least, the national committee must ensure Momentum has genuinely democratic
structures, including regular NC meetings, a properly representative conference soon (before the
summer), and spokespeople and organisers accountable to these bodies.

• You can contact the comrades who wrote this article by emailing Ed Whitby
• Pete Radcliff, activist in Broxtowe Labour Party and Nottingham Momentum, has published
notes on the kind of movement Momentum should be here

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 06/02/2016 - 11:13

By Sacha Ismail

1. A socialist statement of aims should not just use socialist as another word for "left wing", ie Labour having "socialist policies". It should have at least some goal and vision of a different society from capitalism. And it should put the interests, struggles and agency of workers centre stage, not just list them as another interest group.

2. If the organisation is going to be Labour-focused, it needs clear goals to pursue inside Labour - about getting left people active in the party, changing and activating policy, getting the party active around class struggles, pushing forward left candidates, fighting for democracy. Otherwise it will not have a serious impact.

3. It is factually false to say that Labour doesn't organise in Northern Ireland - in fact it does, it just doesn't stand candidates. More than that, it is wrong to endorse Labour's reasons for not being fully active in NI - which, even if some people endorse them for republican motivations, are essentially conservatives reasons to do with not upsetting the "peace process" and the operation of "normal" sectarian politics. Banning Momentum supporters in NI from organising is not good.

4. It is wrong for the Labour left to be "wholly" committed to winning change through "non-violent" means. What about a strike where workers have to meet police force with force? And you could give many other examples... I suspect this reflects Corbyn's pacifistic bent, but also pressure from the Labour right and official society - hypocrites, of course, since they are support all kinds of violence from above. Down this road lies Kinnock condemning both police and miners' violence and refusing to support the miners.

5. Many of the demands listed, eg for the People's Assembly march, are quite conservative - eg it says scrap the Trade Union Bill, which is weaker than official Labour Party policy passed at the last conference to legalise solidarity action. Similarly, nothing in the section on housing about building council houses. Scrap tuition fees rather than free education and living grants. And so on...

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