By Theodora Polenta, West Bridgford Labour Party activist and Nottinghamshire Momentum member
The most important word in the language of the working class is “solidarity” — Harry Bridge
The standing orders adopted at the Nottinghamshire Momentum meeting on 30 March said that AGMs should be advertised 28 days in advance – but the meeting that adopted them was advertised with only ten days’ notice.
This was one of many problems with the meeting, and I plan to publish a much longer report this week. However, I want to focus on the shocking fact that, going further even than the imposed national Momentum constitution, the meeting voted for rules that mean that socialists expelled or “auto-excluded” from the Labour Party by the Compliance Unit will now be barred from taking part in Notts Momentum!
Shamefully, the national constitution bars those expelled from Labour from standing for elected positions. It also implies that that these members could be expelled from Momentum after 1 July, although it seems the office is now backtracking from this. However, the new Notts rules go far beyond that. Expelled members will now be barred from:
• Attending constituency caucuses;
• Attending Nottinghamshire Momentum all members meetings;
• Participation in online forums of both of the above;
• Of course, following from this, standing as delegates, officers etc within the Nottinghamshire Momentum structures.
I proposed an amendment saying that the insistence that those participating in these things must be Momentum and Labour Party members should be qualified to ‘rule in’ “comrades that have been expelled, auto-excluded and suspended during the ongoing Labour Purge by the unelected, unaccountable Compliance Unit for the “thought crime” of endorsing socialist ideas”.
The speech I gave for this amendment is below. After I finished speaking I was informed that I needed a seconder for the amendment, which had not been said in advance. Several members put up their hands to second, but the amendment was defeated 18-8.
In my longer report I will say more about the “arguments” use to justify this purge. At least two leading members have said since the meeting that the rule shouldn’t be interpreted as it is is written! But it is clear that those who wrote it were fully aware of their implications, as this is something that has been discussed in the Notts group since January, as well as explicitly in the 30 March meeting.
It is clear that many of those running Nottinghamshire Momentum have no desire to oppose the expulsions of radical socialists from the Labour Party, but every desire to exclude them from their Momentum group – at a time when we need unity of the left to challenge the Labour right and fight the Tories more than ever.
This is appalling. Momentum members in the county and across the country must raise a storm of protest against what is happening in Notts!
My speech against the expulsions:
“Nottinghamshire Momentums New Standing Orders and Procedural Rules bar Labour Party members who have been unfairly expelled from the party by the Compliance Unit from being members of Momentum. This has the implication of indirectly handing over control of Momentum’s membership criteria to Iain McNicol, expressly contradicting Momentum’s voted-on policy to fight the witch-hunt of socialists. The Compliance Unit operates in the murky shadows, it violates natural justice, it routinely leaks to the capitalist media. Full membership rights must be restored to all those cynically suspended or expelled. More than that, welcome in those good socialists barred from membership because, mainly out of frustration, they once supported a radical socialist alternative (or the Green Party etc), against the dark 1997-2010 Blairite Years and the Austerity-Light uninspiring narrative of the Labour Party under Ed Miliband.
“Momentum needs to campaign to open up the Labour Party, end auto-exclusions and suspensions, and fight for natural justice against bureaucratic manoeuvres. Membership should be based on supporting Labour in elections and helping the party in its activity.
“There should be proper procedures for disciplinary action based on standards of natural justice. In the run-up to the 2015 Labour Party leadership election hundreds of exclusions were made by the Compliance Unit, an unelected body with no clear status in the Party rules. The possible grounds for these “automatic exclusions” are so broad that probably the big majority of Party members could, in theory be “automatically excluded” if a Compliance Unit official so wishes. The grounds for exclusion need to be made much more precise and should be based on current, active hostility to Labour (such as being a Tory), or being shown to be (through evidence and investigation) guilty of such things as racist or sexist abuse.
[I ended by quoting comrade Jill Mountford on the historicity and the role of the distinct Marxian components from the inception and across the 100 year history of the Labour Party:] “‘Socialist ideas were important at the founding of the Labour Party more than 100 years ago. And they should remain so now. We need to build a truly democratic Labour Party that fights for a working-class agenda. We have to fight against every expulsion and exclusion of socialists and other radicals from the Labour Party or we’ll just get more of the same from Labour.'”
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