Camden Momentum’s rebuke to national re smear response: “with every scalp taken, a new target will soon loom into view”

A Camden Momentum banner

At the beginning of this month, the SKWAWKBOX strongly criticised the decision of the officer group of Momentum’s NCG (National Coordinating Group) to withdraw support from National Executive Committee (NEC) candidate Peter Willsman over misrepresented comments Willsman had made during an NEC meeting, calling the decision ‘idiotic and reckless’. Local Momentum groups in other areas made their own criticisms.

But that criticism pales compared to an open letter sent by Camden Momentum to the NCG issuing a withering rebuke regarding its ‘cowardly’ reaction to the attacks on the party and its leadership.

And pointing out what observant Labour members have been shouting for so long: giving a millimetre to the critics gains nothing – “with every scalp that is taken, a new target will soon loom into view”.

To the National Coordinating Group of Momentum,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our severe dismay and disappointment at the National Coordinating Group’s latest farcical attempt to alienate the bulk of Momentum’s membership. Your decision to withdraw support for the NEC candidature of Pete Willsman, which has now been widely reported on new left media platforms, such as Skwawkbox and the Jewish Voice for Labour blog, is not only short-sighted, inept and ‘idiotic’; it is also cowardly [1].

It represents a craven betrayal of Willsman, whose long years of service to the movement should not have been cast aside so crassly. Had you acted with deliberation, rather than such unseemly haste in the face of the latest iteration of the smear campaign, you would have realised that there is, in fact, no valid reason to withdraw support for Willsman [2]. If, on the other hand, your intention was to further widen the chasm between Momentum’s leadership and its membership, then you have succeeded with merit.    

As members of Camden Momentum, we have felt it necessary to communicate to the NCG – our supposed national ‘leadership’ (although we use that word very lightly in this case) – the views of local members. With regard to this latest NCG vote, we have heard nothing but disdain and derision, and we hope that it will be reversed at the earliest possible opportunity. Several members have considered cancelling their membership, and some have already done so. This is but the latest in a long line of cowardly betrayals, and it vindicates a view that has been widely expressed on the left: if Momentum’s leadership is not prepared to stand up to the ongoing witch-hunt, it will simply create the conditions for further attacks and smears.

That scenario is now playing itself out like a train crash in slow motion, but you cannot say you were not warned. The NCG must by now have begun to realise that with every scalp that is taken, a new target will soon loom into view. This time it is Pete Willsman’s turn, and it just so happens to coincide – strange coincidence! – with the period of the Labour Party’s NEC elections. The ultimate target is Corbyn himself, as is clear from the increasingly shrill and desperate attempts to tarnish him with the absurd and demonstrably false charge of antisemitism (an insinuation which dates back to his very first leadership campaign).

You have led large numbers of people to believe that Momentum’s main purpose is to defend Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, and, to do that, you need to fight on all fronts, which includes the detailed and patient rebuttal of malicious and mendacious smears. If the NCG is unable to do that, for whatever reason, you should resign your positions of political leadership and make way for people who can.

There were, at least, some promising signs that you are beginning to recognise your own failings in the decision to allow Barnaby Raine to defend the party’s position on Channel 4 [3]. He did a far better job than Jon Lansman, who had appeared on the same programme several days earlier. So more of this, please. If, on the other hand, the NCG is not, in fact, particularly concerned to defend Corbyn’s project to transform and democratise both the Labour party and British society then you should make that clear at the first available opportunity, if only to dispel the painful illusions that currently exist amongst many of your members.

It is, perhaps, not too late for you to reverse the already considerable damage which you have inflicted on Momentum’s credibility as ‘a people-powered, grassroots movement working to transform Britain in the interests of the many, not the few’ [4]

To do so, you would need to start seriously pushing back against the ‘alliance between disgruntled right-wing Blairites and pro-Israel activists to discredit and destabilise the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn […] the only leader […] who has always had a principled position in defence of Palestinian rights’ (those are the words of Professor Avi Shlaim) [5]. That you have so far singularly failed to do this is perhaps due to a mixture of tactical prudence, bred of long years in the wilderness of the Labour ‘left’ (when there was no such thing), and a mistaken belief that Labour’s so-called ‘broad church’ will mean that your political enemies on the right will give you an easy ride if only you find the right kind of compromise.

Given your tactical prudence is now beginning to smack of a very real kind of recklessness, it is high time that you convene an urgent meeting to change course. The good will of your membership is not infinite and inexhaustible, and you have tested our patience quite enough already. If you do so any further, you will jeopardise something far wider and more significant than your own trifling positions of political authority.

The British left is currently faced with a unique and historically unprecedented opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people for the better. Your continued refusal to defend the interests of the movement and its members places that project in jeopardy. We cannot afford to allow this first chance in half a century to slip away.

In summary: we ask that a full meeting of the NCG reconvene to overturn the decision to withdraw support from Pete Willsman, and that the Momentum leadership start playing a full role in rebutting the malicious smear campaign against the Labour party’s membership in general, and its leadership in particular.

(List of signatories redacted)

[1] <https://skwawkbox.org/2018/08/01/momentum-withdrawal-of-willsman-support-is-idiotic-reckless-and-must-be-reversed/>; <https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/jvl-says-vote-for-the-full-jc9/>.
[2] <https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/misquoted-and-misrepresented-necs-pete-willsman/>
[3] <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yzSOyqI4Yw>
[4] <https://peoplesmomentum.com/&gt;
[5] <http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/avi-shlaim-video/#sthash.vziglVu5.dpbs&gt;

Momentum needs to take this rebuke on board if it is to remain relevant to its own and Labour members – and the lesson of this hard-hitting letter is one that some in Labour must also learn.

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  1. I have stopped my membership of momentum until something is done about Lansman, on Twitter they are saying he is going to give a speech at JLM conference on the same platform as Margaret Hodge & Wes Streeting. Lansman was quoted as saying he wanted the long term goal to bring the left into accord with JLM???
    I do not want my money funding this goal & until Lansman is removed I want nothing more to do with Momentum.
    I will of coarse reinstate it when they sort this mess out.

      1. Ever since I joined Momentum in 2016 I’ve seen a determined hate campaign waged against Jon Lansman by a sizeable chunk of the ‘old left’, it sickened me then and sickens me now. It seems very like the fabricated hate campaign waged against Corbyn by the right in terms of its irrational accusations and sectional interests, and I’m heartily fed up with it. JC4PM

      2. Paul, it’s absolutely not a hate campaign. It’s about exposing the hypocrisy of Lansman and his self admitted closeness to the JLM who are sworn enemies of Jeremy Corbyn.

        Lansman has openly criticised Corbyn on national TV for not acting quickly enough on ‘antisemitism’ when anyone with any sense knows it is a campaign spearheaded by the JLM to undermine and unseat JC. He is also part of the RW campaign to get Corbyn to adopt the discredited IHRA examples.

        Don’t forget, Lansman also tried to run against Jennie Formby, for Gen.Sec. These are not figments, they are facts.

        Why is Momentum constituted as a private company if it’s not to prevent Lansman from being ousted as its head in a democratic vote?

      3. Jack T Momentum was constitute as a private company at the request of John McDonnell. I gather that was because McDonnell was worried about the old sectarian left taking it over in its early vulnerable days – I applaud McDonnell’s farsightedness because that’s precisely what the old sectarian left tried to do and are still trying to do with their nasty spin on everything Jon Lansman does.

      4. Jack T, Jon Lansman and John McDonnell are on exactly the same page when it comes to strategy, and I don’t see much condemnation of McDonnell from the sectarian left because they know it just wouldn’t wash – if I sound angry it is because when the whole Corbyn/McDonnell project is most heavily under attack from the Right we are invariably under attack from the old sectarian left too, and that kind of back-biting does indeed make me angry.

      5. Paul, I wasn’t aware that it was advice from John McDonnell to constitute Momentum as a private company with Lansman as it’s head could you please provide substantiation for that.

        You keep referring to the ‘old sectarian left’ who are they? If as you say McDonnell was concerned at them taking over Momentum surely they are still in the Party?

        You didn’t address the point about Lansman being sympathetic to the JLM who, because of their Zionist affiliations, are Corbyn’s biggest critics.

      6. Jack T, I haven’t kept anything about McDonnell asking Lansman to form Momentum into a company (partly for reasons of legal protection on members’ information, finances etc) because it was/is no secret and has been discussed from time to time on various online platforms, but I will try to find an article or something about it when I’m back home this evening.

        The ‘old left’ I’m referring to are mostly the AWL and Labour Party Marxists (who hate each other as much as they hate Jon Lansman) plus an assortment of other tiny sectlets.

        I didn’t and won’t address McDonnell and Lansman’s thinking in respect of the JLM because I am not well enough informed to do so, but they are sussed people and I presume they have a shared strategy (as they generally do) that is geared to assisting Jeremy Corbyn getting into No.10.

      7. Jack T, OK, I’m back home, got the dog walked and fed, done my carer’s duties, got the dinner on simmer and now have a few minutes to fulfil my promise to find stuff about McDonnell and Lansman being of one mind – and now I’m thinking, what the frigging heck am I doing this for? Do it yourself – YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ON OUR FUCKING SIDE!!!!!!!

      8. Paul, my points to you over Lansman still haven’t been addressed and all you can rudely say is I am supposed to be on YOUR side. Actually, I am on Jeremy Corbyn’s side,which is the side Landsman is not making a very good fist of helping.

        Lansman’s record of adding to the antisemitism smears by publicly criticising Jeremy Corbyn speaks for itself. Let alone his role in the suspension of Jackie Walker and support for the Zionist JLM. These facts and others cast serious doubt on the direction Lansman wants to take the Labour Party.

      9. Jack T, please accept my sincere apologies, I have been getting cranky and bad tempered of late and need to take a break from politics. How on earth Jeremy keeps going under all the pressures and assaults is totally beyond me, thank goodness there are people like him who don’t let it get to them like it’s got to me recently. JC4PM

    1. SKWAWKBOX – I’m very disappointed that you would fall for a Pythonesque sectarian hate campaign against a life-long socialist like Jon Lansman, which to me seems so like the irrational hate campaigns waged against Corbyn by the Right. Please be so kind as to reply.

      1. Hi Paul why would he share a platform with the very people that are trying to undermine/destroy Jeremy Corbyn, if he didn’t have ulterior motives?if you check out the JLM website you will see for yourself. He is also quoted as saying he wants to bring Momentum in accord with JLM.
        As I said I will reinstate my Membership once it is clarified one way or the other.
        Why did he withdraw support for Peter Willsman if he hadn’t fallen for the hate campaign, I heard nothing that was anti Semitic in the conversation, I expected more from Momentum.

      2. Hilary, thank you for replying. As far as Momentum is concerned there has been no question of Willsman being anti-Semitic, just foolish and lacking self-control at a time and place that requires great self-control – I thoroughly sympathise as I certainly don’t have that level of self-control either, but if I were Willsman I would probably have resigned rather than risk damaging the ‘Corbyn project’, no matter how unfair and unjust the right-wing attacks on us are.

        I cannot answer your other questions with any surety as my knowledge of the situation is too patchy, it’s just that I see John McDonnell and Jon Lansman as a team and am inclined to trust their judgement over my own, and I would very much like the default position on our side to be one of trust in our leadership rather than condemnation in difficult situations that are filtered through various media outlets and only partially understood by our membership. JC4PM

      3. Hi again Paul, I understand your position but what I do not understand is no matter what Willsman failings are he is left wing & that is what we are aiming for on the NEC & to split the vote would do damage to that aim.
        Also the conversation wasn’t a public one if it had been then I could probably understand your stance & let’s face it when people are engaged & enthusiastic they do tend to get excited, even MP’s.
        I can certainly understand Willsman’s frustration at what was going on with the ant-Semitic slurs being aimed at JC.
        I am not aware of the McDonnell Lansman alignment All I want is for JC to get into number 10.
        I do believe the person with vitriolic intent was the one that taped & leaked the tape in the first place.
        I wish you well Paul & the party of course.

      4. I wish you well too, Hilary. Btw, I also voted for Willsman and all JC9 for the very reasons you express, but I also understand Momentum’s difficulty in formally backing him and do not see any contradiction in supporting Momentum’s official position and still voting for Willsman. Cheers.

    2. Morning Paul, on that we can agree, the resilience of Jeremy is amazing and totally consistent with his approach to attacks over the years. You mentioned your caring duties, don’t forget you will also need some respite.

      1. Thank you Jack, hope to do so soonish, right now I’m going to take a short break from politics. Best wishes, and as ever, JC4PM

    3. Oops, sorry Hilary but I’m a computer dummy and don’t know how to get in touch with Skwawkbox other than replying to someone …… SKWAWKBOX – please may I ask if you are determinedly against us (self-identified) Lansmanites or could you see us coming to some kind of understanding (beyond JC8 or 9) in the coming critical period that doesn’t involve publicly tearing each other apart?

      1. Not for or against any particular self-identified group, ‘Lansmanite’ or otherwise. I take a position based on the pros and cons of each issue – public criticism only where considered necessary, certainly not interested in any ‘tearing apart’.

      2. SKWAWKBOX, thank you for your reply. Would it be possible for us to chat in private? I’m very easy to find on FB.

  2. If any good whatsoever has come out of the campaign by Zionists and the RW in Labour to smear Corbyn, it has been to force people like Lansman and latterly, Paddy Lillis of USDAW, plus others in the media, to show their hands. These are people, when we get into Government, whom Corbyn would never be able to trust for support when, just like now, he needs it most.

    Members will mark their cards and when the time comes to call them to account, where possible they will get their marching orders.

  3. Great letter, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of Momentum members (and former members) are in complete agreement, as are most people on the Left. And not only should the NCG have NOT withdrawn their support for Pete Willsman, they should have been crying FOUL and doing everything they can to support him AND expose the bogus anti-semitism smear for what it was AND is. But then they should have been doing THAT from the outset of this despicable black propaganda op designed to sabotage JC’s leadership and demonise the Left and, as such, subvert democracy.

    As I’ve said before – and I’ll keep on saying it – what kind of people use the very thing that led to the Holocaust as a weapon against their political opponents. They are of course psychopaths! And needless to say, they don’t give a damn about actual anti-semitism (or racism in general or sexual abuse or homophobia or misogyny etc, except in so far as they can use it – one way or another – for their own ends).

  4. The best letter ever written by a momentum group so far, I am so relieved to read it and to know momentum members aren’t to be fooled. The NCG is the few, they should start to democratise themselves. The fight is on and it is about the real (r)evolution, the one of the many.

  5. Think strategy – we are in a crucial period in which it is sometimes necessary to make a few tactical retreats ahead of the major battles to be fought at Conference next month, such as mandatory reselection, and all the battles between that and the next GE. Millions of people desperately need a Corbyn-led government that will not be sabotaged by right-wing MPs. We cannot afford to put all that at risk for the sake of our own sense of moral outrage or to show how ‘brave’ we are without looking at the bigger picture. I support Momentum’s decision to withdraw support from Peter Willsman because we need people who can remain calm on the national stage. If it were possible for me to be on the NEC I would decline the chance because I do not have sufficient self-control to tread carefully through the minefield that politics is. Not many people do have that level of self-control, but that is what we need from NEC members. This is not fair or just, it is simply a fact of life forced upon us by our enemies.

    1. Looks like you are on your own Paul,thank goodness.We have had 30 years of “backpedaling” by the left,and look what it gave us,Blair and control of Labour by the far right of the party.The party was almost dead and gone,and if Corbyn hadn’t been elected,it would be gone now,because we would have been wiped out at the last election,instead of nearly winning it.

      1. Hi John, Momentum’s post announcing the withdrawal of support for Peter Willsman had twice as many ‘Likes’ as ‘Angry’, which suggests to me that there are about twice as many members who support the decision as oppose it – could it be that those who oppose it simply tend to be more vocal?

      2. Correct John, the ‘tactic’ of throwing an innocent comrade under a bus is reprehensible and self destructive. Those who advocate it are naive, timid and dangerous.

    2. Er, it was hardly the national stage Paul! As I’m sure you are well aware, it was a private meeting of the NEC, and someone clandestinely recorded Pete Willsman, who was understandably upset about all the people who have been falsely accused of anti-semitism and, in so doing, became a victim himself.

      If it had been a similar situation in a Tory equivalent of the NEC, you can be 150% certain the story – and the recording – would never have made it in to the MSM.

      1. True, but it has happened before (remember the Jackie Walker video) and it will happen again if NEC members can’t keep their cool – we have enemies on the NEC and the MSM are twitching to get hold of anything that could damage Corbyn. We need to assume that all high-level meeting are being recorded, no matter if they are ostensibly private or not – if you listen closely to the Willsman recording you can hear at least one more level-headed person trying to hush him. The stakes are simple too high to prioritise one individual letting off steam over the millions of people who desperately need a Corbyn-led government. JC4PM

  6. As one of the signatories to the letter from Camden Momentum, I have one small objection: it isn’t true that (quote) “…during long years in the wilderness of the Labour ‘left’ (when there was no such thing),…”. I want to salute the strong Labour comrades who stayed in the Party and continued the struggle during those wilderness years. Their long experience is very valuable to us today.

  7. Excellent letter from Camden Momentum. If this does not bring about the desired action I will cancel my membership along with my membership of Unison.

  8. It is a mistake to think that Lansman’s behaviour is a product of cowardly expedience. It is mostly ideological . That is, he is an ideological Israelist.

  9. And here is the problem when decisions are made without recourse to the membership. The actions of the leadership of Momentum strike me as very old school Labour, assumptions and tactics arrived at with little regarding to what others actually think or the reality of the situation. Momentum, if it is to be a grassroots movement needs to grow beyond the control of those more concerned with their own positions. Whilst it is clear to anyone that the antisemitism crisis is one that has been manufacture, the response by many on the left is akin to a rabbit caught in the headlights. If they can’t handle this attack they will be destroyed by the tsunami of attacks if Labour win the next GE.

    1. Lansman’s intention is to lead Momentum with a ‘lead’. Members are showing they will not accept being dragged around as an appendage to boost Lansman’s ego.

  10. Superb letter from Camden Momentum. I too have cancelled my membership until clarity is brought to the situation. I simply will not contribute to an organisation that behaves in the way that Lansman wants it to go, that is not recognizing Palestine’s right to exist in their homeland and not calling out Israel’s genocidal behaviour in Gaza. I would also like to know how the decision to withdraw support from Pete Willsman was taken. Was it a full meeting of the NCG, or if not who was present to make the decision? Many Momentum members I know are deeply upset by the actions of the NCG and I fear for the future of Momentum unless this is sorted out as soon as possible.

  11. We are all going to deeply rue the day we allowed Lansman to get his foot in the door.

  12. Surely Momentum are a modern enough organisation to install a secure online vote for members on important issues like the Willsman fiasco, rather than the NCG blundering in and unilaterally making the wrong decision? Or doesn’t Lansman want it to be democratic?
    Corbyn was elected leader to change the party from a top-down one to a bottom-up one, and if Momentum really are Corbyn supporters, then the same principle should apply to them.

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