By Mohan Sen
The Momentum Renewal group – essentially bureaucratic, Stalinist- and nationalist-influenced “continuity Momentum” – accuses the Momentum reform group Forward Momentum of an inward-looking obsession with the organisation’s processes. There is some truth to that. But in fact Momentum Renewal has little to say concretely about what policies and struggles it advocates, beyond buzzwords like being “rooted in working-class communities”, which serve as code for its conservative-left agenda.
Neither group seems to have much to say about the class struggle under the pandemic and lockdown, against the Tories, against Labour’s rightward shift, against the climate crisis…
We need a Momentum which is both outward-looking – mobilising for struggle in society and in the Labour Party – and inward-looking – with a vibrant internal democracy and political education.
There are many democratic reforms, policy proposals and struggles the left should take up and promote. See the program put forward by Momentum Internationalists here and here for numerous ideas – the ideas below are largely drawn from there, as possible things to focus on. They are suggestions for proposals to be raised in Forward Momentum, and to raise in Momentum’s National Coordinating Group election through any channels available. I would encourage supporters of Momentum Renewal to take them up too!
1. A sovereign Momentum conference. Let’s cut through and do better than vague and qualified talk about “strategy conventions” and “strategic reviews”. To be meaningfully democratic, Momentum needs a sovereign decision-making conference which debates, votes on and sets the organisation’s policy, direction and broad strategy. To be genuinely democratic and empowered this conference must be based primarily on delegates from local groups and affiliates, take motions from them and elect at least part of the leadership.
2. Active support for working-class struggles. Momentum must make, and fight for Labour to make, support and mobilising for workplace organising, strikes and working-class struggle more generally central. That must clearly include campaigning around clear, radical demands for workers and communities to defend and assert their rights in the Covid-19 crisis – demands like cancelling rent, the right to isolate on full pay and public ownership of social care. As a demand which is essential for a Labour-focused organisation and a clear immediate test of going beyond warm words: vocally campaign to repeal all the anti-union laws. Momentum should work to develop strong relationships with rank-and-file trade unionists, not just top officials.
3. Migrants’ rights and free movement. In this crisis more than ever, Momentum must fight to defend and extend migrants’ rights, including freedom of movement, and for Labour to campaign for the full pro-migrants’ rights policy passed at conference last year. Fight for extension of the Brexit transition period to prevent a worker- and migrant-bashing hard Brexit and allow society to focus on tackling the pandemic.
4. A radical and internationalist Socialist Green New Deal. The importance of Momentum campaigning on this is hopefully self-explanatory. It should include fighting for the policies passed at the Labour and Fire Brigades Union conferences last year.
5. As implied by the above, a serious fight to transform Labour. Momentum must fight for conference to become genuinely the party’s sovereign decision-making body, setting policy, direction and broad strategy, and for the policies agreed by conference to be campaigned for – really campaigned for – and implemented. Build Young Labour groups everywhere. Build the maximum left pressure on, and as necessary opposition to, the Starmer-Rayner leadership.
6. Part of that must be a serious debate about local government. More “left” councillors is all very well – but to do what? Faced by an imminent disastrous crisis in local government funding, what strategy do we advocate to resist and reverse cuts?
7. A consistent fight for liberation. Momentum must push for the whole left and labour movement to take strong stands against all forms of oppression and bigotry, including anti-Muslim racism, antisemitism, women’s oppression and sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and against tendencies to dismiss or downplay these or other oppressions.
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