How Momentum’s core principles were rewritten

By Simon Hannah

Who cares that Momentum’s statement of principles has changed?

There’s this thing. Ah, it probably doesn’t matter.

No don’t worry about it, really…

Well, I guess something just feels a bit odd though, like a bit off?

Well I was just doing some research on the Labour left (as you do) and I looked at Momentum’s current statement of principles (see here) and I thought. Hmm, that isn’t as good as it used to be? Wasn’t it longer? Like, something is missing, right?

So I checked previous versions of the website, and compared the two ‘About’ sections. Anyway, here they are:

What does Momentum want to do? (from July 2016)

Organise in every town, city and village to secure the election of a progressive left Labour Party at every level, and to create a mass movement for real transformative change to:
Redistribute wealth and power from the few to the many;
Put people and planet before profit and narrow corporate interests;
End discrimination, advantage and privilege based on class;
Target growth not austerity, invest to create tomorrow’s jobs and reverse privatisation of railways, the energy sector and public services.
Provide protection at work and strong collective bargaining to stamp out workplace injustice.
Ensure decent homes for all in public and private sectors through a big house­building programme and rent controls.
Support workers and their trade unions defending the interests of their members, families and communities.
End discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or age.
Transform Labour into a more open, member-­led party, with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government.

What does Momentum want to do? (from November 2017)

Organise with communities across the country to put forward Labour’s ambitious plan for Britain and secure a Labour Government that:
Redistributes wealth and power from the few to the many;
Puts people and planet before profit and narrow corporate interests;
Builds a society free from all types of discrimination;
Invests to create high-quality jobs and infrastructure;
Reverses the privatisation of railways, the energy sector and public services;
Provides protection at work and strong collective bargaining to end workplace injustices;
Provides decent homes for all in both the public and private sector.
Transform Labour into a more open, member-­led party capable of winning elections. Bring together individuals and groups in our workplaces and communities to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.

Now maybe I’m being a pedant, but I don’t know… the stuff missing from the original seems kind of important. It also demonstrates how Momentum has rebranded itself from its original conception to something far more tepid, far more typical of the old Labour left.

Taking out “to create a mass movement for real transformative change” seems like a big deal as without that mass movement a left Labour government is pretty much doomed to defeat. Replacing it with “bring together individuals and groups in our workplaces and communities to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us” just doesn’t seem as good — like one is a transformative mass movement linked to a Labour government and the other is just campaigns on “issues that matter to us”.

They also got rid of “End discrimination, advantage and privilege based on class” and replaced it with the more generic “builds a society free from all types of discrimination”. Now the original statement is kind of weird, a society without any class privilege is basically communism, which is cool with me, but is that what they were going for? I mean you can’t really end class advantage under capitalism without ending capitalism itself, so it implies an anticapitalist future of some kind. Ending discrimination of all types just reads like a standard ‘we oppose prejudice’ which is cool, but pretty mainstream these days (which party says they support prejudice?)

Then the real social democratic kicker. The original statement says:

“Support workers and their trade unions defending the interests of their members, families and communities.” Now I like this one because it signals working alongside workers in struggle to improve their conditions and fight their bosses. Solidarity forever!

But the new one avoids any mention of trade unions, instead meekly calling for a government that “provides protection at work and strong collective bargaining to end workplace injustices”. Now obviously I am down with that but that just sounds like the usual ‘vote Labour and we will do nice things for you’ rather than the far more transformative agenda of actively supporting workers in a campaign or industrial dispute to win. In the first one the working class is active and fighting and supported by Momentum, in the second it is reduced to the role of passive voters.

Then like a grasping politician, squirming in a TV interview under attack from a Fox news anchor, it drops the excellent proposals of a ‘massive’ housing building programme and rent controls to instead meekly call for “decent homes for all in both the public and private sector” — What?! How mild is that? Why drop one of the few policies that would actually tackle the housing crisis and improve so many people’s lives (rent controls) for something so offensively bland?

Then the real let down. That sad moment when you realised your dad was just as flawed as anyone else or you watched the Star Wars prequels for the first time.

Original: “Transform Labour into a more open, member-­led party, with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government.”

Replaced with: “Transform Labour into a more open, member-­led party capable of winning elections.”
Capable of winning elections?

Capable of winning elections?

What does that mean? If it means encouraging thousands of people to go out canvassing at election time and ‘get out the vote’ then fine — whatever — that’s what you’d expect as a bare minimum. But by focussing on something so anodyne and deleting “socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government” it makes you wonder what the thought process was. Like, they straight up replaced one with the other. Someone deleted socialist policies and the will to implement them (historically a huge problem for Labour by the way!) with some trite about winning elections, as if it was a choice between one and the other. Someone sat down and said “hey let’s get rid of that socialist bit and make a point that we want to win elections instead” and then someone else or worst, a committee of someone elses went “yeah great idea, love the changes.”

Anyway, it probably doesn’t mean much. I mean no one really cares what Momentum’s ‘about us’ section says anyway since Momentum clearly doesn’t really care about the politics of the thing in any meaningful way. I mean who cares that they took out reference to a mass transformative movement and socialist policies and trade unions? I guess viral videos matter more than that other stuff, I’m just being old fashioned.

EDIT: The changes occured a while ago, November 2016 so it isn’t new, but I guess it shows you how quickly the style and philosophy behind Momentum, got integrated into a less radical framework.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

1 Comment

  1. Sounding a bit like Progress are trying to re-write Momentum. I hope that I am wrong , but it does sound a bit watered down.
    Tony Blair did not immediately get rid of clause iv. , but never the less it went.

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