By Simon Hewitt
The election has inevitably taken our minds away from Momentum’s internal woes, and that is no bad thing. The current election campaign represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to promote working class representation and socialist policies through the ballot box. Nevertheless the need to organise the left within the Labour Party and Momentum hasn’t gone away.
Before the election was called, people around The Clarion made a proposal that various groups on Labour’s left meet this coming summer in order to begin to co-ordinate the organisation of the left in Labour. No matter what happens in the election, this is now more urgent than ever.
If, as we hope, Jeremy Corbyn wins he will be subject to pressure without recent parallel: from his own parliamentary benches, the media, and the financial markets. It is vital that Labour has a strong and vocal left-wing to help him stand up to this. Sadly, the Momentum leadership has made clear that it does not see this as part of its role. In any case, the recently imposed constitution makes the adoption of policy by the organisation almost impossible. Because of this, comradely pressure on a Corbyn government would have to come from a newly organised grassroots left.
On the other hand, if Corbyn loses, the fall out for the Party will be astronomical. If we’re to defend left gains within the Party, and keep new members on board, let alone organise effectively to fight back against a renewed wave of Tory attacks, an active left will be essential. In this situation, the current Momentum model of politics via Facebook memes and phonebank will not be enough. Effective opposition can only come from grassroots activists.
The time to start thinking about this is now, even though we are already busy with the election. As a longstanding Labour activist, aligned historically with the mainstream of the Labour left (through the LRC and Labour Briefing) I’m currently very much a mix of feelings myself. On the one hand, we have the most left-wing leader in Labour’s history fighting an election on a programme that puts the fabled clear red water between Labour and the Tories. On the other hand, the initial enthusiasm of the Corbyn movement has been funnelled in an increasingly bureaucratic direction within Momentum, wasting a chance for the development of working class politics and the spread of socialist ideas.
The radical left has of course worked with the Momentum leadership over the last weeks as we campaign for the election of a Labour government. The fact remains that there is an equal need for grassroots organisation, based on a bottom-up approach and clear socialist policies. There are lots of groups on Labour’s socialist left: let’s bring them together to help build a better future.
• Simon is a Labour activist in Leeds, a member of the editorial board of Labour Briefing, and a UCU member.
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