By Steve Dobbs
Yesterday, the results of the recent online survey sent to Momentum members by the Steering Committee were revealed via an email. The survey asked the following questions:
- How are you currently involved in Momentum?
- What should be the priorities of Momentum in 2017?
- How should Momentum’s national office support local groups?
- How should key national decisions be taken in Momentum?
- How should Momentum members elect representatives to its democratic structures?
The email summarised the results:
A huge 40.3% of members responded to the survey. The responses clearly set out members’ views on the way forward for our movement. Campaigning for Labour victories and helping members become more active in the Labour Party were the most popular options for Momentum’s priorities in 2017, chosen by 71.7% and 68.2% of respondents respectively.
80.6% of respondents said that key decisions should be taken by One Member One Vote [OMOV], rather than by delegates at regional and national conferences and committees (12.5%). 79.3% of respondents said all members should have a say in electing their representatives, as opposed to national representatives being elected by delegates from local groups (16.2%).
Following this initial survey (usually used for marketing purposes), one would have expected the Steering Committee to put forward a series of proposals to the membership, which could be further debated and ratified by the membership.
However, the Steering Committee took it upon themselves, without any warning, to take the unprecedented action of introducing a new constitution and converting Momentum into a OMOV organisation, effectively de-recognising the local and regional groups that had been set up over the past period. As Nick Wrack noted in a Facebook post,
The results of the online survey conducted by Momentum are very interesting. Perhaps the most important question, in light of last night’s imposition of a new constitution and the abolition of the existing national and regional structures, was Q4: How should key national decisions be taken in Momentum?
The answer relied on by Jon Lansman to justify his actions was this: “Key national decisions should be made by all members via One Member One Vote, where every member of Momentum is able to vote online or by other accessible means. (1)” which was ticked by 80.60% or 6,426 out of 7,973.
Now the question itself is open to interpretation and normally, after such a survey, those commissioning the survey would meet to discuss the significance of the answers. Not on this occasion.
However, surely the imposition of a new constitution; the scrapping of the existing Steering Committee, National Committee, Conference Arrangements Committee, Regional Committees/Networks; the overturning of the decisions of the 3 December National Committee (in which Jon Lansman participated without complaint); the expulsion/exclusion of non-Labour Party members (including those expelled) in defiance of the NC motion and previous NC/SC decisions, ARE ALL KEY NATIONAL DECISIONS.
Given the answer to Q4, why has no online ballot of all the members on each of these issues, or even as a package, been conducted?
So these fundamental changes in structures fall short of the OMOV standard!
What is (or was) Momentum?
Momentum grew out of the campaign for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership bid in 2015. In fact, a limited company was set up, ‘Jeremy Corbyn Campaign 2015 (Supporters) Ltd’, with its sole director the veteran Bennite and millionaire property developer Jon Lansman. This campaign provided the details of contacts that would then go on to form the membership of Momentum.
Initially, the general understanding was that Momentum was an organisation to promote grassroots activism, education and organisation for the Left that supported Corbyn. It had one foot in the Labour Party and one foot outside in recognition of the fact that many people had registered to become Labour supporters in order to vote for Corbyn in the Labour leadership election, but were not necessarily willing to become Labour members. This meant that Momentum had the potential to organise ‘extra-parliamentary’ activity that wasn’t directly reliant on Labour officialdom, but could still provide a sort of stepping stone to becoming an organised faction within the Labour Party. A social movement supportive of Corbyn’s platform, if you like.
The right-wing of the Labour Party could not stand for such a danger as grassroots organising independent of the bureaucracy, and launched a media campaign against ‘hard left Momentum thugs and violent militants’ (for example ‘Ben Bradshaw tells Corbyn, “Call off these Momentum thugs”’, ‘Revealed: The radical hard-Left Momentum activists mounting a ruthless purge of Labour’, ‘Labour’s Dugher calls pro-Corbyn group Momentum a “mob”’).
Another weapon in the right-wing’s arsenal was accusations of anti-Semitism, resulting in the Kafka-esque suspension of Jewish Labour member and Momentum Vice Chair Jacqueline Walker. Yet every day more evidence is surfacing of Labour right-wingers colluding with Israeli government figures and Israeli nationalists to oust left wingers and those critical of Israeli state policy in the labour movement (for example, ‘UK Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was funded by Israel lobby‘, ‘NUS Vice President Richard Brooks Caught In Undercover Sting Offering To Help Oust Malia Bouattia’).
Another aspect to recent events was the hysterical witch hunt against ‘Trotskyists’ within Labour, with the main target being the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). Lansman, along with his bureaucratic and Stalinist allies, saw OMOV as a method to reduce the influence the AWL would otherwise have under a delegate model. Whilst the AWL probably represents the worst form of ‘Trotskyism’ one could conceive of, the delegate model is generally superior to OMOV in that it allows the most active and committed members to make decisions and be held accountable for their actions. Whilst on the surface appearing more democratic, OMOV favours a passive membership who is not necessarily active and involved in the actions and decisions of the organisation itself. Inactive members are more likely to be right-wing and/or support the status quo, whereas a delegate system means that delegates require a higher degree of political consciousness and activity to win and maintain their positions.
Lansman has continued to cave into pressure from the right-wing and has now made Momentum a Labour-only organisation. Momentum is basically now a soft-left faction of the Labour Party, but one that is not democratic and accountable. It has been neutralised and made a ‘safe space’ for the legions of soft-left careerists, academics and bureaucrats that comprise of the bulk of the labour aristocracy. As the reformist academic Nick Srnicek, author of ‘Inventing the Future’, on facebook posted ‘If you’re wondering how to take the Momentum email, just note that all the Trots are angry.’ Except it’s not just ‘the trots’, Nick. It was everyone hoping to build grassroots groups and organisations independent of Labour right-wing machinations. That is now not possible within Momentum. Instead we should heed the advice of Lenin when it comes to millionaire property developers like Lansman and those who look down on the working class with contempt:
Engels draws a distinction between the “bourgeois labour party” of the old trade unions—the privileged minority—and the “lowest mass”, the real majority, and appeals to the latter, who are not infected by “bourgeois respectability”. This is the essence of Marxist tactics!
… And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism…
The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism, to utilise the experience of the war to expose, not conceal, the utter vileness of national-liberal labour politics. (Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism)