Momentum has the potential to be a genuine grass-roots, popular movement that could sweep Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to power.
Some people – including a large section of current Labour MPs – will wish to pour water on that idea, but to do so they must wilfully ignore the upheaval and volatility in politics in an array of countries, including the UK and, negatively, in the US, that have meant a string of wrong predictions by pollsters in elections large and small.
Recent developments in Momentum have generated grave concern among those who see its democratic potential to lift Labour to victory in the next General Election. A tiny number of people experienced in political manoeuvering have narrowly managed to push through a delegate-based structure in the group’s decision-making processes as a means of controlling it, perhaps with a view to turning it, eventually, into a new party.
Delegate structures in the Labour party allow small factions to exploit them for anti-democratic aims, as the recent manoeuverings of the Labour right have shown all too clearly. They also mean that many members have felt disengaged from decision-making processes and members who feel that way are unlikely to campaign energetically and effectively, whether ‘on the doorstep’ or online.
Replicating these structures in Momentum is therefore a sure way to kill its genuine significance and potential.
Non-factional grassroots members of Momentum across the country are worried about what’s been happening in Momentum and deeply concerned that in a time when the country needs Momentum firing on all cylinders there are internal squabbles and power-plays at the top.
These are now making it clear they want an outward facing, grassroots, bottom-up and pluralistic organisation, with real, straightforward democratic processes that are focused on getting Labour elected to bring about the real change in society that the majority of people are so hungry for (as even the government has indirectly acknowledged with its recent ‘JAMs’ soundbites – the ‘Just About Managing’).
To gain critical mass – and with the low-profile support of a number of highly-placed Labour figures – some of these members have started a petition aimed at bringing Momentum back to its true, original nature as an authentic grassroots movement:
Here are some extracts from statements by the originator of the petition and a couple of its core supporters – the full statements are available as PDFs at the end of this article. Emphases are mine.
Matteo Tiratelli, petition creator
When I joined Momentum last year I was excited at the prospect of a modern and open group which could reinvigorate grassroots politics in this country. But I’m really worried that we’re heading down a totally different road.
Part of it is the way this decision about delegates has been made…there’s no need for Momentum to have hierarchical, representative structures. Face-to-face local groups are essential for getting people involved in local politics but those groups need the freedom to campaign without wasting time and energy in internal elections and factionalism…space for us to use online tools…would be transformative for those with disabilities, caring responsibilities or irregular work…
That’s exactly what was inspiring about Momentum. Bringing in people who have never been involved in politics before. Momentum should be sticking to those values and trying to build on that excitement. Because we need to ready for 2017, not stuck fighting out old battles.
Jack Witek, supporter
The last thing I wanted to be doing this Christmas was concerning myself with factional leftwing politics inside Momentum. But..[the delegate system] just seems a huge waste of time and energy, putting attention to creating a structure which would operate like a shadow Labour Party…
There’s not much room for any of that [old-style politics] in my life, and certainly not if you want a populist leftwing politics currently. That is not the spirit that drew me to Momentum. Right now it is imperative we focus on building up Labour, and Momentum is uniquely positioned to facilitate that. That’s where we should be focused, with Momentum fluidly and democratically facilitating action and connectivity, not naval gazing and having arguments with itself.
Ali Dogan, supporter
I believe Momentum should primarily be driven by local groups and the wider membership. This is the essence of The New Politics and the grassroots resurgence and mass political participation Momentum wants to be a catalyst for.
Our local group in Hackney is effective and enthusiastic, a good example of what Momentum should be. A mixed bag of experienced hands and new blood, working hard to push Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda to the mainstream through local campaigns…organise in the Labour Party to make it more democratic…getting out the vote and canvassing for no less than 7 elections locally this year.
..it is problematic that a group of delegates to the National Committee, selected without clear and transparent structures and processes in place, want to set the agenda for Momentum going forward…
…we have comrades, whose best intentions we don’t doubt, who..think it is okay that they as a self-selecting minority…had the right to set up structures without a wider debate…to mould the direction of travel for Momentum when some of our most enthusiastic members locally wouldn’t even know what a motion really was..
…a group of experienced delegates are using their knowledge of existing left structures to push Momentum in a particular direction without even pausing to think about the pluralistic and grassroots nature of Momentum or the varying opinions and political experience levels of the wider membership, is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
I don’t think anyone who joined or supported Momentum in the hope of something genuinely different, genuinely grassroots and popular in the sense of being driven democratically by its ordinary members and supporters. would find anything to disagree with in the motives or aims of those who have set up this drive to bring Momentum back to those very roots.
This writer supports those aims, values and motives wholeheartedly and urges you to do the same. Sign and share the petition so it’s clear that the mass of grassroots supporters is 100% behind its substance – so that if and when moves are made to drive the group back to its (grass) roots, nobody can argue that it is not the will of the members.
That it doesn’t have, well, momentum.
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Statements in full: momentum