By Rosie Woods, committee member
The committee elected at the 11 March Grassroots Momentum conference meets for the first time this weekend. The announcement of the General Election should focus discussion on the kind of campaigning we need to have any hope of getting a Labour Government that carries out left-wing, pro-working class policies, in the spirit of the statement agreed on 11 March.
The committee needs to establish a way of meeting regularly and developing various areas of work. Those elected clearly have widely varying political views but we need to establish an honest and cooperative working relationship or there is no point at all. That means the bulk of the committee’s members being given organising roles rather than just a few, and accountability to the committee as a whole.
We should work with Momentum groups that are continuing to meet and encourage others to do so. Groups were at their biggest and most active during the last leadership election. Obviously the focus is different here, both because of electoral law/spending limits and the need to get people out on the doorstep. However, meetings are still worthwhile, both to keep people together and prepare the way for after the election, and in order to coordinate activity and prepare people for making arguments on the doorsteps and the streets. Momentum meetings can play a crucial role in mobilising members standard Labour routines may find it hard to reach, including the thousands of new members joining now – drawing them in in order to get them into Labour activity.
Momentum groups should prepare people to highlight and argue for the best Labour policies, such as rail renationalisation, free school means, free education and a £10 an hour minimum wage, as well policies passed at conference like public provision of social care. Beyond that we need to be able to make class-based and socialist arguments to the working-class electorate – particularly on free movement and fighting a “Hard Brexit”. These are skills the Labour Party in most areas will not instilling in people. Obviously we should work to get branches and CLPs doing this kind of training when we can.
Groups should find nearby marginals and organise to take people down to campaign in them, as well as getting people involved in party activity in their own area.
Grassroots Momentum should argue for Corbyn to hold the kind of mass rallies he did during the leadership campaign, using them to draw in and organise new campaigners.
We should get the comrades who sit on the Momentum National Coordinating Group to raise similar proposals there. This is assuming that the 13 March NCG meeting is not cancelled. Given Momentum’s record, I fear it will be. We must also make sure comrades publish stuff about what is coming up at the meeting and what they are proposing, and reports afterwards.
While the election is central, there are other issues we need to think about beyond it. A crucial one is preparing for Labour Party conference. With party meetings suspended, it is hard to do much in CLPs, but that also means we have more time to prepare. GM should establish a working group to prepare and promote rule changes and contemporary resolutions on policy to this year’s conference, as well as organising coordination of left-wing delegates.
In terms of rule changes, we would suggest taking up the so-called “McDonnell amendment” to lower the number of MPs to needed to stand for leader. (On this note: we should argue that, even if Labour loses the election, Corbyn should not stand down but stay on at least until democratic changes in the party have been carried out.) We would also suggest the rule change being worked on by activists in CLPD and others to make it easier to stop the exclusion of left-wing activists from the party for organising around their ideas or for having previously belonged to a rival party. More generally the “purge” is an issue GM needs to take up and fight for Momentum to take up, even if this is now somewhat delayed.
In terms of contemporary resolutions, we have longer to prepare, but we need to get working now. There are both immediate issues, like defending free movement and what is happening to schools, and important longer range ones such as nationalisation of the banks and energy companies, that can be raised. The work Momentum NHS did last year, getting numerous CLPs to submit its text despite the shutting down of meetings and significantly changing Labour policy should be a model. We should also argue for Momentum to launch a campaign for Labour Party conference policies to be carried out, both a way of moving the party to the left and democratising it.
Lastly, Grassroots Momentum should respond positively to proposal from The Clarion for groups on the radical left of the Labour Party (those two, plus Red Labour, LRC, Labour Socialist Network, Red Flag, Socialist Appeal and Workers’ Liberty) to meet and discuss collaboration, even if this now does not take place till after the election.
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