Momentum’s conference must be a real decision making body, not a talking shop PREPARATIONS FOR Momentum’s national conference hit a snag after the Steering Committee cancelled the National Committee for the seventh month running and asserted that the conference would take place through an online ballot of all members, rather than with delegates.
Following protests from branches and regional committees, the Steering Committee has agreed to convene the National Committee in December.
As we go to press, a vague statement from the Steering Committee appears to indicate that a fake compromise has been reached, which will involve a delegate conference that won’t be able to vote. Instead votes will be carried out online after the conference.
If true this means that those who originally cancelled the National Committee and tried to impose an online ballot have got their way. If the delegates sent to conference by the branches are not able to vote following their discussions, then the meeting will effectively be a talking shop and a waste of time and money. The National Committee in December should overturn this decision.
Coming well over a year after the organisation was founded, this will be the first chance members will have to debate and decide what Momentum stands for and how it works.
It’s important that we get this right. Momentum has had a number of successes in its first year. Most important was the huge mobilisation of members and supporters around the country, phone-banking, leafletting, tweeting, organising rallies and meetings, to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn.
Momentum’s 20,000 members and 150-plus local groups are a testament to the hard work of its activists. The World Transformed event in Liverpool was a high point, demonstrating what the commitment and enthusiasm of volunteers can achieve. But there have been problems too.
Local groups have complained about the lack of access to databases of members and supporters. Emails have to be vetted by the “centre”. Endorsements for elections are agreed without democratic oversight. If there was a Momentum presence at the Labour Party conference, most supporters didn’t know about it. Jon Lansman’s statements that Momentum does not support mandatory reselection get publicity – but they are not our policy.
On the two most serious political offensives carried out by the right wing – the weaponisation of antisemitism to smear anti-Zionist activists and the purge of socialists and Corbyn supporters – Momentum has failed to give adequate leadership.
In the end these problems revolve around competing visions of what Momentum is for. We believe that Momentum should be a democratic organisation that develops socialist policies for the movement and a strategy to implement them – a big part of which is campaigning within the Labour Party. People like Jon Lansman and Paul Mason believe that Momentum should not have policy, that it should just be a database for influential Labour lefts to mine for internal elections and twitter campaigns. This will dissipate its potential.
The failure to hold a national conference has left Momentum members without a clear perspective or concrete policies we can fight for.
This has been a particular problem for those trying to organise opposition within the party and in the community to local government cuts – the bread and butter work of many Momentum groups.
It is locally, at the sharp end of the struggle, where the potential of Momentum is clearest, members have been working hard across the country, on their own initiative, using their own money and resources, to draw new members into activity, to develop democratic structures, to discuss political issues great and small, to revive links with trade unions, using new and traditional means of communication.
In short, by simply getting on with it, many Momentum groups have started to create embryos of what the Labour Party could become if we accept the full implications of the new mass membership: a party run by its members that measures its relationship with local communities not by vote share alone but by collective interaction and participation. Then a genuinely working class party could develop a common vision and wage a collective struggle to achieve it.
What we need now is to develop a national structure that enables the local groups to build on the excellent work being done by coordinating their efforts within a democratically-agreed strategy.
That’s why we will fight for a Momentum conference which
- adopts a clear perspective and strategy to focus our efforts and guide the leadership
- elects a collective leadership which controls the party’s office and resources and is recallable by and accountable to the conference
- adopts a constitution which preserves the autonomy of local groups, implements the principle of election and recall for all positions and empowers all members through collective decision making at every level