Resist Trump!

January 20, 2017 at 7:09 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, campaigning, civil rights, fascism, misogyny, populism, posted by JD, protest, Racism, Trump, United States)

From the (US) Socialist Worker.org website (nothing to do with the UK paper and organisation of a similar name):

The challenge for all those who feel dread and anger on Inauguration Day is to organize direct resistance to every attack and lasting organization that can provide an alternative.

LET THE resistance begin.

The churning fear and revulsion swirling inside us as we watch Donald J. Trump take the oath to become the 45th president of the United States will be at least somewhat balanced by the satisfaction of watching inspiring and unprecedented levels of protest rising up to greet an incoming president.

Trump’s approval ratings have dropped to around 40 percent before he’s even taken office, undermining his claim to have a “mandate” to enact his racist and reactionary agenda.

The widespread disgust has led to a virtual cultural boycott of the White House. Professional athletes have spoken out against Trump and hinted at ending the tradition of visiting the Oval Office after winning a championship, while musicians seem to be jostling each other for the honor of refusing to play the inauguration.

What you can do

If you’re in Washington, D.C., to protest Trump on Inauguration Day weekend, Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Organization endorse and urge you to participate in the following:

January 20 at 7 a.m.
Inaugurate the Resistance: Mass Protest at Trump’s Inauguration
Navy Memorial, Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue
Find out more at the ANSWER website

January 20 at 4 p.m.
Meet the ISO gathering
Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW

January 20 at 8 p.m.
The Anti-Inauguration
Featuring Naomi Klein, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Jeremy Scahill and others, a forum sponsored by Jacobin Magazine, Haymarket Books and Verso Books
Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.
Tickets are free, but required for entry, doors open at 7 p.m.
Find out more at the Lincoln Theatre website

January 21 at 10 a.m.
Women’s March on Washington
Gathering point at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW
Find out more at the Women’s March website

Not surprisingly, Trump is tweeting that the polls are “rigged” and “so wrong”–and his supporters will no doubt dismiss critics in the entertainment world as out-of-touch elitists.

But the truth will be plain to see–for all those willing to look, anyway–on the streets over the next two days, as the number of Trump supporters at the inauguration will almost certainly be dwarfed by those coming out to protest him, both in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

Thousands of people are taking off work today to directly confront the inauguration, and hundreds of thousands will rally tomorrow at the National Women’s March, as well as hundreds of “Sister Marches” across the country and internationally.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats have said they will boycott the inauguration after Trump belittled Georgia Rep. and civil rights movement hero John Lewis for calling Trump an “illegitimate president” because of allegations of Russian interference in the election.

It’s nice to see our country’s official opposition party actually engaging in some opposition after most Democrats spent the first weeks after the election pledging to find ways to collaborate with Trump. But let’s be clear that whatever the Russians did or didn’t do is a drop in the ocean compared to the many more important reasons why we need to oppose Trump.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IF WE want to talk about what makes Trump an illegitimate president, let’s start with the criminally underreported fact that Trump’s margin of victory in key states that gave him the White House is lower than the number of voters–most of them people of color–whose ballots were never counted or who were improperly purged from voter rolls.

Let’s talk about the fact that despite voter suppression, Trump got almost 3 million fewer total votes than Hillary Clinton–which is actually close to what was predicted by national polls on the eve of the election–but won because of a ridiculous Electoral College system that was created centuries ago to preserve the dominance of slave owners, and that no other country would dream of using to decide its government.

Let’s talk about an entire political system that has become so corrupted and undemocratic that we somehow ended up having to choose between the most unpopular pair of presidential candidates in the history opinion polling for popularity.

It’s revealing, after all, that the main way Russia allegedly meddled with the election was not with “fake news,” but by hacking and leaking genuine e-mails that offered a rare glimpse of the truth: The cynical disdain of Clinton campaign for its supporters.

Now, thanks to this thoroughly undemocratic election, we have an incoming administration led by a blustering bigot and filled with a motley crew of greedy bankers, “alt-right” racists and free-market ideologues intent on destroying the very departments they’re supposed to be leading.

It’s a right-wing cabal that wants to implement massive tax cuts for the wealthy, starve Medicaid, and privatize public education, Medicare and Social Security. And they plan to get away with it by scapegoating immigrants, whipping up fear of Muslims and repressing protest movements like Black Lives Matter.

Their goal is another wave of reaction like the one ushered in by Ronald Reagan in 1980. But unlike Reagan, Trump isn’t going with the stream of a widespread rightward shift in society. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, we live in a polarized moment in which many people have radicalized to the left, but for the moment, the right wing is more powerful and organized.

Trump has already proven that he doesn’t need to be popular to win elections, and he doesn’t need his policies like mass deportations and repealing Obamacare to be popular–they’re not–in order to carry them out. He just needs us to not be able to stop him.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE PROTESTS against Trump’s inauguration are a necessary start to what needs to be a strong and lasting resistance on multiple fronts. Let’s carry today’s sentiment that we are up against an illegitimate government into all of our work.

That means creating bases of teachers, students and parents who will fight for our schools and refuse to accept the reactionary agenda of incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose policies are designed not to help public education but destroy it.

It means growing immigrants rights organizations that can challenge every deportation and detention on the orders of an administration staffed by racists with ties to white supremacist groups and led by a president who infamously launched his campaign by calling Mexican migrants “rapists.”

And it means confronting every other aspect of the Trump agenda–from busting unions to closing abortion clinics–rather than searching for “common ground” with an enemy who is promising an unrelenting assault on everything we care about.

This type of determined resistance is well beyond the tame opposition of mainstream politics–in fact, it already is.

In the days after the election, Democrats who had been calling Trump a fascist in an effort to scare up votes for Clinton instantly began to “normalize” the grossly abnormal, pledging to find issues where they could work together with the incoming president.

It was only the surging momentum for the Women’s March over the past month, which pressured a number of unions and liberal organizations to mount a mobilization for Inauguration Weekend, that has pushed the Democrats into a more confrontational stance.

Yet even this feeble sign of oppositional life has been framed in the most conservative possible terms: as a patriotic response to those darned Russkies fixing our election, rather than the homegrown injustice and racism of voter disenfranchisement.

The Democrats don’t want to raise the real issues of Trump’s illegitimacy, because they could lead to further questions about the legitimacy of the corrupt political system that they help maintain. The “party of the people” is hoping that the inauguration protests will be a one-off event so its leaders can quickly get back to serving the corporate elite, while safely channeling popular discontent into campaign donations.

We can’t let that happen. Our task is in the months ahead is to build both direct resistance to Trump’s policies and durable movements and socialist organization that can chart an alternative way forward, combining the fights against economic inequality and oppression.

We pledge to do everything in our power to make sure that the inauguration protests mark not the high point but the starting point of the anti-Trump resistance.

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Open Letter to the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party

January 10, 2017 at 6:40 pm (labour party, democracy, reformism, posted by JD, campaigning)

labour-party-logo

From Momentum South Birmingham to the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party

Dear Comrades

Regardless of your views on the leadership election and the movement around Jeremy Corbyn, it is clear that the Labour Party faces a huge task locally and nationally. The polls are unlikely to be that out of kilter with reality and if there was a general election tomorrow in all likelihood the Labour Party would lose, and badly.

More specifically, here in Birmingham we also face big challenges. With the Midland Metro Mayor election next year and “all-up” council elections in 2018, we will need a large, motivated and dynamic ground operation to achieve the results we want. In particular with the Metro Mayor, the Conservative candidate, Andy Street, is clearly no fool and the contest will be a very tough one. Without a significant Labour presence on the streets and in our communities, we won’t win.

The Tories have vast amounts of money and plenty of friends in the media to help put their case. The Labour Party has the overwhelming case that exists for a democratic socialist society, obviously, but more prosaically, it’s huge membership, which has more than trebled nationally in just over a year.

That membership will need to be mobilised. And in order for it to be mobilised it will need to have a say in how the party is run.

It was therefore with huge disappointment that we learned that the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party voted to exclude all members who had joined in or after July 2015 from selecting our candidates for the 2018 local elections.

Two thirds of Labour Party members have been disenfranchised at a stroke. It is also worth bearing in mind that the next local elections after 2018 will be in 2022, so selection will take place in 2021. Therefore if you joined the party in July 2015 you will face a six year wait to select a council candidate. The national Labour rule is 6 months.

This cannot be right. There needs to be a freeze date, but the one imposed by the Birmingham Board is ludicrously excessive and smacks of cynical gerrymandering.

It is also self-defeating.

How do we expect to have a motivated membership knocking doors, delivering leaflets and taking the case for Labour candidates into our communities if we won’t even let that membership select those candidates? How will we build the big, lively, well-resourced campaigns that we will need to get Sion Simon elected in 2017?

Momentum South Birmingham calls on the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party to overturn the decision and instead have the usual six month freeze date. It is in our party’s interests to do so.

In solidarity

MSB

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Martin Thomas writes to Jon Lansman

December 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm (AWL, campaigning, democracy, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, trotskyism)

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Martin Thomas is a prominent member of the Alliance for Workers Liberty; Jon Lansman founded Momentum.


Jon Lansman and Tony Benn in 1981

Dear Jon,

I’m glad to read your statement to the Guardian that you’re “not walking away from Momentum”. I hope it will help quiet the split talk from some high-profile people around Momentum – Paul Mason, Owen Jones, Laura Murray – since the 3 December national committee meeting.

I hope, even, that it means it may be possible to talk quietly, without media-provided megaphones and howling about sabotage, to discuss what adjustments or compromises can best keep Momentum on the road.

We are for unity. If we find ourselves on the losing side in some future votes about Momentum structure or policy, as we’ve found ourselves on losing sides in the past, we won’t split. We’ll only take up the democratic rights that every minority should have, to try to convince the majority.

As you know, I’ve sought you out for off-the-record conversations about Momentum, to find common ground and to clarify and explore ways of dealing with differences, since before Momentum was launched. I’m glad you agreed to those conversations, and disappointed that more recently you haven’t responded to requests for further talk.

This has to be an open letter; but it is also a letter, an attempt to restart dialogue.

You and I were effectively co-organisers of the Labour Party Democracy Task Force in 2010-11, when Ed Miliband made a promise (effectively, in the end, annulled) of an open review of Labour Party structures. We were also effectively co-organisers of the campaign against the Collins Report in 2013-14.

Further back, we worked together in the Rank and File Mobilising Committee for Labour Democracy in 1980. I was only a backroom activist, while you were the secretary of the committee, but the organiser of the committee, your partner in the day-to-day running of that campaign, was my Workers’ Liberty comrade John Bloxam.

Thus you know from long experience that Owen Jones’s, or Laura Murray’s, squalling about us as “saboteurs” and “sectarians” is nonsense.

We have never agreed on grand political philosophies. I am, or try to be, a Trotskyist, a revolutionary Marxist. As you said in an interview with me in 2014, you are “not from [our] political tradition”; if I understand right, you are a reform-socialist, a “Dererite” in the sense of the gradualist strategy advocated by Vladimir Derer (founder of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy), but, unlike Derer, not a Marxist. Read the rest of this entry »

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Momentum: don’t break it!

December 5, 2016 at 5:30 pm (campaigning, Johnny Lewis, labour party, political groups, reformism, sectarianism, stalinism)

By Johnny Lewis

From Labour’s defeat in 2015 socialists were confronted with two tasks: organising for Labour to win the next election and – regardless of its outcome – establishing Labour as a social democratic party; in effect transforming the Labour Party. While it is possible to work for a Labour victory without working for Labour to become a social democratic party it is inconceivable that transforming Labour can be achieved outside of the campaign to win the next election. These tasks were equally applicable in the wake of the 2010 defeat, the major changes being that Corbyn has massively increased the possibility of achieving the second of these goals and Labour is much closer to fragmenting under the impact of the populist Right.

It may be this timeline is truncated by a snap election (a disaster) it may be the tempo of the class struggle changes demanding a change in approach but these are maybes and we need to work from where we are rather then speculate on what might be.

Rather than seeing these tasks as a `struggle for socialism’ they are concerned with class power as both an election victory and Labour becoming a stable left wing party are predicated on how far we are able to halt the competition between workers and develop the class as a whole both in its material well-being and organisational strength. This approach stands in contrast to the idea of a faction which sees the Party as a recruitment opportunity or as a vehicle for the politics of identity. In the latter case parties, movements or campaigns are an aggregation of identity based groups and individuals are understood by, and political activity is mediated through ascription.

The class-based approach can only be undertaken by a tendency which holds on tight to the Labour Party, and is concerned with putting down roots in the working class movement and through its activity bring into its orbit existing labour movement activists, radicals who have joined through Corbyn and most importantly the union rank and file. The Party membership provides fertile ground for such a tendency as a majority of long-term constituency members are on the left alongside the Corbynistas

The many thousands who have joined in support of Corbyn fall into two groups 58% (106,521) were never in a political party – of the 42% ‘retreads’ 31% (56,933) are re-joining the party, the other 11% coming from the Greens and the far left. While the dominant ideological trend among the `never beens’ is  heavily influenced by identity politics (something many of the retreads have also absorbed), their core views are rooted in various strands of neo-Stalinism: support of Stop the War, failure to understand the importance of bourgeois democracy and the view of Jackie Walker as a ‘victim’.

Some 20,000 of these Party members are now in Momentum and it is Momentum which should be the crucible in which this class tendency is formed. It would do so by combining three interlocking areas of activity:

  1. Winning over other Labour Party members and pursuing the internal struggle to democratise the party.
  2. Taking part in Labour’s policy debate not by putting forward a programme rather taking proposals for discussion and debate. The model here is the Fabians and the most pressing proposals need to focus on an economic alternative.
  3. Campaigning activity: the primary aim of such activity would be to decouple the white working class vote from the populist right, to develop class consciousness to a point where workers are ready to vote Labour. Such campaigning activity should be undertaken jointly with the unions and dictated by Labour and the unions rather than Momentum or non-Labour party campaigns or organisations.

It is these practical and common tasks that should bind Momentum together as a class tendency while its activity would transform the Party, reconfigure relations between Party and unions and ‘reset’ Labour’s relations to the working class.  

Momentum is very far from becoming that tendency. They show little interest in such prosaic matters, rather they are focused on the three way factional dispute between the organised left, the neo- Stalinists (animated around Walker’s removal) and the leadership. By all accounts this is a vituperative fight infused by identity politics and has effectively paralysed the organisation: it would be astonishing if it were to survive another six months in its present form.

Standing behind the immediate issues which generated this faction fight is the broader question of Momentum’s relationship to the Labour Party. Although a majority view themselves as Labour Party supporters, the organised left and the retreads have introduced the ‘New Party’ question: ie the formation  of a new party or social movement (I use the shorthand NP to cover both) to supersede Labour. It is this conflict between transforming Labour and the NP which underpins the faction fight.

The NP proposition came to prominence during the heyday of anti-austerity campaigning and should have died with the 2015 election results.  At first glance its representation inside Momentum seems absurd but many of the  Corbynistas are but a sub-set of anti-austerity movement transposed into the Labour Party, and for many of them NP ideas are deeply embedded in their political makeup. This ambivalence towards Labour is also reflected in Momentum’s structure with its adherence to social movements and the frankly bizarre notion that it should be open to non-party members.

There are two types of NP advocates – those who have a casual attitude to the LP, viewing it as a convenient staging post to some undefined alternative and those who argue Momentum should take programmatic positions on a range of issues. Whatever type of alternative they may wish to peruse the crux of the matter is they view Momentum as the embryo of the NP and so its focus is always something other than the Labour Party. NP ideas are wrong-headed for a number of reasons – most obviously the lack of a mass movement to which they can engage.

It was the depth of the recession that determined one of two types of working class response to the economic crisis. Where the crisis was severe in Europe, political and state institutions come under pressure from below. Witness Spain where some 8 million participated in the 15-M Movement or Ireland where around 17% of the population demonstrated – equivalent demonstrations in the UK would have mobilised 4 million on the streets. In these cases, as with Greece, mass movements fragmented existing left parties and a process begun of establishing new political formations which have yet to mature into political parties. A second permutation which was seen in the UK was one where the crisis was limited. In this instance while the anti-austerity movement drew many into political activity it never reached the scale where it constituted a mass, insurgent, or social movement. Without such a mass base there was no pressure from below to challenge Labour to the point where it would fragment. Instead political institutions have remained largely intact with right wing populism and left wing radicalism flowing into their respective parties which moved them away from the centre ground to the political poles. This is not to argue these political institutions are not undergoing a process of degeneration rather the tempo and character is very different from counties where the recession was deepest.

As important as the scale of the movement is its social composition: where mass movements emerged there was a definable working class element, but this was not the case in the UK. The social profile of the Corbynistas, (a proxy for the anti-austerity movement) shows them to be similar to the pre- Corbyn Labour Party membership except a tad more middle class, socially liberal, politically radical and older.

Whatever variant of the NP project some Momentum members might hold, without a mass movement attempts to will the NP into existence are futile. Such NP supporters are, `trapped’ within the confines of the Labour Party’s existing structures and routines, and it is this reality Momentum’s NP supporters refuse to acknowledge.

Non-acceptance of this reality is expressed through counterposing a NP belief to the actual struggle taking place within the Labour Party. In practice this ‘non acceptance’ can take a number of forms, for example refusing to support a Labour Party campaign because its demands are not radical enough or believing one should run a Momentum campaign separate from the Party because `your’ demands are more radical, or attempting to get Momentum to adopt ‘your’ programme. In this manner the NP advocates separate themselves off from the struggle in the Party: this represents another form of sect building, well described by Hal Draper. The practical consequences are to separate themselves off from Momentum members who disagree with their programme and stymie Momentum’s activity within the Party.

While sect building is as old as the left, what is an altogether new twist (at least outside of a Stalinist state) is how the left has substituted Corbyn for the mass anti-austerity movement and in so doing has raised him up as the personification of that movement. His deification obscures any understanding that it is the Labour Party which oxygenates both Him and the Corbynistas. Without the Labour Party you could not have Corbyn, and outside of the Party he would rapidly wither on the vine while the Corbynistas would find themselves thrown back onto another imagined mass movement, the People Assembly. However to grasp this point would mean facing the fact the Party is not the repository of a mass movement which Momentum can somehow lead to a life independent of the Party.

It may be Momentum can pull back from the brink, although I doubt it has either the collective will or for that matter the interest. While the consequence of a split will lead to rancor and recrimination among the combatants it will also provide an unpalatable lesson for NP proponents. A cold wind will blow around the would be masters of the universe as they find there is no mass movement for them to lead rather like Corbyn they draw sustenance from the Labour Party and that their relationship is first and foremost with the Party not the Corbynistas.

A split however will do so much more. One has to ask what lesson those outside the faction fight will draw when they see on the one hand the populists at the gates and on the other hand Momentum’s response – a faction fight. While the factional participants will rationalise ‘the struggle’ the lessons most will draw is the inability of the left to ‘make’ anything of value. However the real tragedy is that the potential for transforming Labour will at best be set back indefinitely, but all too likely lost altogether. Such an outcome will play no small part in letting the populist Right breach Labour’s walls.

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The crisis in Momentum: two views

November 1, 2016 at 11:49 am (Andrew Coates, campaigning, democracy, labour party, left, political groups, posted by JD, reformism)

Image result for momentum

There is what may be a serious crisis developing in the pro-Corbyn Momentum group. We publish, below, two somewhat differing views.

Michael Chessum, a member of the minority on the Momentum Steering Committee, wrote on Facebook (28th Oct) :

What do you call it when an executive votes to abolish the legislature?

I don’t like using Facebook like this but somehow I don’t think this is going to be a quiet controversy anyway.

Momentum’s steering committee met tonight in a meeting that was called with less than a day’s notice, ostensibly to consider delaying the National Committee meeting which was due to meet on November 5th. I went to the meeting prepared to oppose the move (it’s already 6 months since our democratic structures met) and expected to find myself in a minority. The NC was due to discuss (among other things) the composition and processes for Momentum’s February conference, which would in turn decide our structures. In advance of it, local groups and regions had patchily met to discuss various proposals.

But my initial concerns were blown out of the water. Instead, the meeting not only voted to postpone the NC to December, but to bypass the NC entirely and make the decision that Momentum’s conference should effectively not happen (instead being a live streamed national gathering), and momentum’s structures decided by e-ballot. This was in a meeting called with 19 hours notice.

A lot of this was justified with an attitude of “it can’t possibly be undemocratic to let all members vote, so pack up your deliberative structures and democratically agreed processes”. Now I don’t know about anyone else who’s been around the Labour movement for more than 5 minutes, but I’ve heard that strain of logic before – and I dont mean from the left.

Now even if you think that literally all of the organisation’s decisions should be taken by OMOV (personally I favour a mixed system with both OMOV and delegate meetings; but I can quite see how with a complex conference structures debate you might want a delegate debate rather than an atomized online vote), but whatever your view, this is just an outrageous, farcical way for that decision to be made.

Momentum is fantastic – and so are many of the people who frankly found themselves on the wrong side on this – but I really worry about the left sometimes, and how some bits of it have absorbed the modus operandi of Blairism during the wilderness years.

(Republished from Jill Mountford’s Momentum Blog)

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Andrew Coates takes a more sympathetic view of the Steering Committee majority’s position as well as providing some useful background (extract from a longer piece):

Momentum has become central to this democratic socialist project and therefore I, and others, are bound to react to the present dispute.

I do not want a fight between different tendencies, factions, and let’s be frank, groupuscules.

The present dispute centres on this, “Lansman, the founder of Momentum, was tonight accused of behaving in an “autocratic” manner after the organisation voted to delay a meeting of its national committee to December and that the vote on its founding principles in February 2017 would be using a one member, one vote system rather than a delegate system.” (Steven Bush New Statesman.)

This decision was opposed. The following resolution explains why,

“This meeting of the London Momentum censures the national Steering Committee for cancelling the meeting of the National Committee that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the National Committee to discuss it.

“We do not recognise the legitimacy of the Steering Committee to make those decisions.

“We call for these decisions of the national Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”

Christine Shawcroft  explains why Momentum decided as they did.

These are the key sections of her article published today.

Members can vote for what ever kind of Momentum they want (Left Futures)

..what works as a temporary expedient when an organisation is first being set up and finding its feet is not necessarily what would work best in the long term. Like all new organisations, Momentum has had its teething troubles (as I run a day nursery, I know all about those!). The first people involved in trying to get it going were, by definition, more versed in the ways of the ‘old’ politics than the ‘new’. Working with enthusiastic young people with a different perspective on things has meant we’ve all been travelling along a learning curve. The temporary structures that were set up tended to be modelled on those of the Labour Party – decidedly not the new politics! Many local groups felt that a delegate structure tended to prevent grassroots participation by default.

The (temporary) Steering Group has therefore decided that the best way of involving all the members is to, well, involve them. Proposals for how we organise will be put out to the whole membership, any one of whom could also put their own proposals or amendments. There would still be a place for local groups and delegate structures, but final decisions on Momentum’s core politics, our code of conduct, and our democratic structures could be voted on by our greatest resource – the membership. A Founding Conference in spring next year could be live streamed and proposals voted for online.

On the Steering Group we feel that this could well answer the call for a new, inclusive and democratic way of doing things. And if the members disagree, and really want to ape Labour Party structures and have rigid decision making delegate bodies – well, it’s up to them. They can vote for whatever kind of Momentum they want: not only is that the new way of doing politics, that’s democracy!

Tony Greenstein has stuck is oar in and given the reasons for objecting to this idea.

Jon Lansman stages a Coup D’état in Momentum as the National Committee is cancelled by the Steering Committee.

The  Long Awaited Founding Conference of Momentum Will Be a Virtual Conference!

Describing this in typically restrained manner (“Coup D’état”)  Greenstein notes of Momentum’s way of evolving more permanent structures and policies,

Over the coming months, members will propose their ideas on Momentum’s aims, ethics, and structure. We will use digital technology to ensure that all members can be involved and shape Momentum’s future.”

This is the very opposite of democracy.” “It is designed to atomise individual members and undermine conference as the collective decision-making body of Momentum. It underlines the extent to which sections of the left have internalised the defeats of the past decades. It is Thatcher’s union ‘reforms’ writ large.

As somebody who respects (most, Greenstein being a major exception) individuals on both sides of this controversy (and if you look at the names who have backed Lansmann you will recognise that is not a straightforward division between ‘right’ and ‘left’), it would appear that there are merits in the majority’s decision.

It is also possible both to understand exasperation at it, and the way it was voted on.

At the same time many will harbour the feeling that some figures emerging in the local groups, including those with very very long histories of non- and even anti-Labour activism behind them, are not always greeted by people, like Christine, who have been Labour stalwarts for their entire lives.

One can also agree that  a meeting called with 19 hours notice is not the best forum for such a controversial decision.

But if a Conference is not to be the traditional sectarian bear pit there needs to be this kind of participation.

If it One Member One Vote (OMOV) was good enough to elect the leader of the Party it must have some virtues.

To repeat: I want to see a strong democratic socialist left, not the left of the party riven by factionalism. 

Update: Latest in the growing row.

Dear Comrade, 31 October 2016

Re: A meeting of Momentum National Committee delegates to discuss the present situation & consider solutions

Over the past few days we have all been involved in discussions with Momentum members about the concerns which have arisen from the decisions of the Steering Committee to cancel the meeting of the NC due to take place on 5 November and to go ahead with a national conference with online voting of all members.

You will also know the consternation these decisions have caused and the response from London, Eastern, Northern and South East regions.

Below is an email sent yesterday (30 October) to the Steering Committee members from Matt Wrack who is a member of the National Committee and Steering Committee. We echo those observations and comments.

We are extremely concerned that we overcome this current difficult division that has arisen as quickly as possible. Therefore, we are proposing to convene a meeting of as many NC members as possible in Birmingham next Saturday 5 November to discuss the recent events and, most importantly, consider ways to overcome the resulting differences and to move forward together.

There is no desire or intention to create any separate or parallel organisation within or in opposition to Momentum. We are all committed to building Momentum, as we are all doing at a local level. We simply want to address what we perceive to be a democratic deficit in its decision-making at the present time.

Please let us know if you can attend. If you can’t, is there someone you can send in your place?

We will send out further information about the venue and starting time along with a provisional agenda as soon as we can.

In solidarity,

Matt Wrack
Delia Mattis    ) London NC delegates
Jill Mountford   ) “ “
Nick Wrack      )  “ “
John Pickard    ) Eastern NC delegate
Steve Battlemuch ) East Midlands delegate
Michael Chessum ) Member of national Steering Committee

More:  Momentum chiefs accused of “coup” over adoption of all-member ballot Conor Pope. Labour List.

Further splits have emerged within Momentum amid claims of a “coup” after the introduction of reforms to the way it makes internal decisions.

The Corbynite group spent much of the weekend debating internal divisions over direction, structure and accountability while one senior member has forecast a “revolt for democracy” in the organisation, which recently marked its first anniversary.

The group’s founder, Jon Lansman, is at the centre of the row, having given his support to a controversial move to hand a vote to every Momentum member about how the organisation should function.

The latest tensions emerged over the decision to call an emergency meeting of Momentum’s small steering committee on Friday to discuss postponing a meeting of the much larger national committee, which had been scheduled for later this week.

See link for rest of the article.

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To see the World Transformed, Momentum first needs to be able to transform Labour

October 4, 2016 at 8:43 am (campaigning, labour party, left, posted by JD, socialism)

By Rachael Ward at Novaramedia

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Last weekend saw Momentum’s celebrated The World Transformed (TWT) festival of politics, art and culture run alongside a Labour party conference where the left sustained one of its most catastrophic conference defeats for years.

Rule changes mean the left has now lost its majority on the national executive committee (NEC), which could well cost Jeremy Corbyn his leadership and will certainly be a block to many of the party reforms the left needs to make (say goodbye to a fair trigger balloting process or shadow cabinet elections). How did this happen? And what tensions does TWT expose in Momentum going forward?

TWT didn’t integrate with the Labour conference.

As with many things, location is everything. The way a space works makes a huge difference to the success of something like conference where you have thousands of fringe events. Liverpool’s conference centre was actually not ideal itself, with spaces that felt far too large and too far apart, and there was a shortage of communal spaces to mingle. Likewise, the extent to which TWT felt like a part of conference was always going to hinge on its physical proximity to the main complex. Unfortunately, with the venue over a mile from the conference centre, movement between the two was limited and impractical.

Even small tokens of integration – for example an advert in the conference fringe programme or leaflets for the festival – were completely absent from the main complex. At the conference centre the only sign that something new and exciting might be happening down the road were a handful of people like myself donning stickers on the back of their conference passes, wearing them like bizarre envoys between these two distinct worlds.

Why hold TWT during conference?

You could argue it doesn’t matter whether or not TWT integrated with conference. After all, TWT was hugely successful in bringing in new people who would usually find conference too expensive or ‘wonkish’ to contemplate going. However, if the primary function of TWT was just to engage the new membership then why hold the festival the same week as conference? Surely the purpose of TWT should have been to shape the narrative at conference, influence delegates and organise for votes?

TWT could have been an opportunity to lead the conversations which were rife at conference itself about how Labour can meaningfully engage a mass membership, and how Labour can update its party structures to suit this. Conference always has ‘themes’ of conversation; this year the theme was the rule changes (to gerrymander the left out of its majority on the NEC) and a growing sense from left and right that the party structures are ill-quipped to deal with the new membership surge (the left thinking the structures need updating, the right thinking the membership needs to stop surging).

Momentum, as the champion of the new members, should have been at the heart of these discussions – it was the question at conference. Instead TWT focused on big ideas about socialism and crafting a new vision for the world, whilst seemingly oblivious to the huge defeats the left was sustaining on conference floor.

It wasn’t Labour right-wingers who were annoyed by TWT.

Considering the uproar the right made about a ‘rival conference’ when TWT was first announced, you could be forgiven for thinking they complained about it non-stop at conference. But they didn’t – they didn’t care, it made zero difference to them. For the left, however, it was intensely irritating to be moving back and forth between two events a mile apart. Most people at conference have stuff to do – whether a delegate, a fringe organiser or just leafleting. Rule number one of being a faction: don’t make it harder for your own people to organise.

Conference is about winning votes – not art, workshops and fringes.

It’s not just that TWT’s separation was often a hindrance for the left organising at conference; its stated aims also mark a peculiar departure from the fights of the established Labour left. TWT’s programme tells participants they can expect to ‘participate in discussions, learn new skills and meet new people’. This all sounds fantastic, and is absolutely a part of what the left needs to do in general – but it actually has nothing to do with conference.

First and foremost, conference should be about winning votes. It is the highest decision-making body in the party. Tony Blair depoliticised it and turned it into the collection of boozy fringes we have today. For decades it has been the left who have been fighting for it to be the sovereign decision-making body again. Indeed, the first point in the mission statement of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (a left faction that predates Momentum but is politically close to it) is to fight for ‘a real policy-making annual conference’.

For Momentum to host a festival that barely acknowledges conference, does not discuss its votes, and takes people away from conference floor is a real divergence from old Labour left. It is a step backwards from conference as a place to make democratic decisions, and a move towards conference as a place to just hear from interesting speakers. Of course those of us on the left want both, but the emphasis should very much be on the former. Discussing socialist utopia is all well and good but it will not happen if the left loses votes in the very place Labour party policy is set.

Momentum must be the organised faction for left-wingers within Labour, not an alternative space for them.

The left’s defeats on the conference floor – sustained while Momentum held a packed festival a mile down the road – have opened up a tension which has been brewing for some time: the purpose of Momentum. Broadly speaking this is between those on the Labour left who have been party members for years and know how critical internal organising is, and those who came in during the Corbyn surge and see Momentum as a community organising tool.

People from the established Labour left grow exasperated as they ask themselves how can it be that an organisation which has the muscle to muster rallies of thousands at a moment’s notice cannot get a majority of conference delegates elected and can lose such critical votes, all whilst support for Corbyn amongst the membership has been growing all year.

There is a danger that spaces like TWT become safe havens for the new membership, particularly when so much of the party establishment has treated them with contempt. But Momentum must be the mechanism for the left to organise within Labour – not a parallel structure. Right now it sits dangerously close to the ‘party within a party’ criticism. The perception of so-called ‘entryism’ is not the main reason this is dangerous to the left. The main danger is that the left simply cannot win internal battles if large swathes of the new membership do not get involved in Labour party structures and feel a sense of affinity with Labour that can outlast a vulnerable left-wing leader.

Momentum must be the mechanism for this integration, not the alternative to it.

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Sasha Ismail … in the ‘Telegraph’ (!)

September 24, 2016 at 6:19 pm (AWL, campaigning, labour party, Marxism, posted by JD, trotskyism)

John McTernan isn’t the only Labour person who gets published in the Telegraph:

By Sasha Ismail

Most Labour “moderates” must have expected a crushing Corbyn victory, but this result will surely have left many feeling bewildered. As a campaigner for Corbyn, let me explain what I think is happening and offer some advice.

To listen to some on Labour Right you’d think the party membership had lost their minds. This is ironic given the anti-Corbyn camp’s behaviour over the last year, and particularly the last three months. In any case, we’re far from mad; there is something deeper going on.

The movement which swept Corbyn to office, and has just crushed the attempt to remove him, is fundamentally a class movement. It reflects the deep frustration of various sections of Britain’s working population with the bland, technocratic political consensus which has served the interests of employers and the rich so well for thirty years, and spectacularly enriched them during the decade of “austerity”.

Yes, “Corbynism” is primarily based among big city-based and more formally educated workers (which is not necessarily the same as better-off workers – let alone the absurd idea that Corbyn’s support is a movement of the wealthy). But Labour MPs and the whole middle-to-upper-class social layer who make up the main cadres of the Labour Right cannot understand the anger and frustration which has given such drive to the new Labour Left because they have not suffered in the same way that even better-off workers have since the financial meltdown – from falling real wages, gutted public services, and a spiralling housing crisis.

And to those who didn’t share at all in the “boom years” before 2008 but at best trod water, suffering under New Labour’s regime of “flexible labour markets”, privatisation and burgeoning inequality, the Labour Right almost literally have nothing to say – except to pander to the attempts of nationalists to divide workers. Blairism wanted to exorcise the discourse of class from politics to better serve capitalism. But class reasserted itself with a vengeance, in various ways. In that sense, the Corbyn movement and the rise of Ukip have the same root. The latter represents a reactionary revolt against elite-consensus politics, the former the beginnings of a progressive one. There is a similar polarisation in many countries – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders being an obvious example – for similar reasons.

The Labour Right have numerous advantages, but so far they have failed to stifle the Corbyn movement precisely because it is a movement, whereas they are not. Their attacks on us remind Labour members and supporters precisely of what they hate about “New Labour”, reinforcing our determination and our numbers. That is why Momentum as a whole and its groups across the country have experienced such a remarkable surge of support and involvement since the coup. Owen Smith can talk Left, while Corbyn sounds all too moderate – but Smith “smells” like a man of the capitalist establishment, while Corbyn does not. Labour people are not stupid; we have a good sense of smell. And, at the end of the day, like it or not, antagonistic and clashing class interests do exist. As long as they do, labour movements will emerge and re-emerge, no matter how much they driven down (physically or ideologically).

Of course this won’t happen automatically. The Corbyn movement must conceive of itself as an attempt to revive the labour movement and make it a force in society once again. It needs to radically shake up the structures and culture of the Labour Party, rejecting the idea we can go back to the 2015-16 status quo – but conceive this not as an end in itself, but part of a drive to build a social movement which takes on the rich and helps workers and communities organise in their own interests.

Because make no mistake: even at a time of low strike figures and underlying low confidence among workers, there are plenty of struggles Labour can mobilise behind, help win, and help make the beginning of a wider movement. From newly unionised fast food workers and cleaners to growing housing struggles in working-class communities, from the Picturehouse cinema workers striking for the Living Wage to the junior doctors, the Labour Party needs to organise and act to justify its name. There is a new workers’ movement waiting to be born.

A reinstatement of class politics means reviving trade unions. It also means talking about the idea of workers’ representation – not just how we select our candidates for Parliament, for instance, but who they are. Why should Labour candidates be mainly Spads, highly paid lawyers, heads of think tanks and NGOs? Why shouldn’t they be train drivers, teachers, cleaners, fast food workers, social workers, posties, care workers? Why shouldn’t they be people with a record of trade union and community struggles?

All this requires us to challenge some of the fuzzier populist ideas among Corbyn supporters. A lot of Corbyn-supporters’ organisational thinking inadvertently mirrors a Blairite, media- and internet-driven version of “democracy” (cleansed of its more unpleasant aspects). A new model Labour Party can and should be much more ambitious about its use of new media, but more “online consultation” and policies cooked up in the leader’s office are not what we need – a structured democracy based on an active membership is. Most urgently, we need to deal with the party bureaucracy. If we don’t it will continue to act as a permanently organised factional machine to undermine Corbyn and trample the membership. A “clean slate” won’t do.

A democratically organised party, freed from its bureaucratic tethers, inspiring and mobilising hundreds of thousands of members and linked to a revived trade union movement, could become powerful, reach out to wide layers of society and win millions over to its ideas. It could finally create a force capable of bridging the divisions of origin, ethnicity and religion which the Right in various forms has so capably entrenched over the last two decades – a force allowing the majority to act unitedly in their own interests.

Potentially, it could go further and restore to the political agenda the unsettled aspiration of the old Labour Left – the task of replacing this society of inequality and exploitation with a new one based on meaningful democracy, collective ownership and sustainable provision for human need.

I don’t think I’m naive. Posing the question of socialism is a long way off. It will be a hard struggle even to transform Labour, oust the Tories and change society’s direction. But we need to begin the work now, not go on as we did before.

Let me finish with an appeal to the Labour “moderate” rank and file. You should be angry at your leaders. You should be angry at self-styled Labour loyalists who have done their best to wreck our party; at self-styled social democrats who have strained every muscle to defend unrestrained neo-liberalism and the interests of the rich. There is a place for you in a transformed Labour Party and labour movement, but not for the professional wreckers. Help us call them to account.

Sacha Ismail is a campaigner in Momentum’s Lewisham branch

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Sasha Ismail of AWL responds to ‘Dispatches’

September 20, 2016 at 8:34 am (AWL, campaigning, conspiracy theories, labour party, mccarthyism, posted by JD, trotskyism)

One of the speakers secretly filmed by Channel 4’s Dispatches (for the programme that went out on Monday 19 September), responds:

Comrade Coatesy comments, here

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Jo Cox’s last statement on immigration and the EU

June 21, 2016 at 5:34 am (campaigning, immigration, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, workers)

In view of the horror and grief that all decent people have expressed following the murder of Jo Cox, and the suggestion that the Remain campaign has sought to use her death to further its cause, it is important to place her views on the EU referendum and immigration on the record. The following piece was posted by Jo at the Politics Home site on 13th June – a just three days before her murder. Readers should not assume that Shiraz Socialist agrees with all of it:

Brexit is not the answer to UK immigration concerns
By Jo Cox MP

With many voters still making up their minds about a decision that will shape the future of our country, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory offered a stark warning that despite offering the world the Leave campaign cannot guarantee what would happen to migration if we left.

Most voters recognise that our country has reaped many benefits from immigration, from the brilliant doctors in our NHS to the skilled workers helping our economy to grow. Yet across the country people face everyday worries about job security, school places and GP appointments.

In the last two weeks of the campaign voters should know that despite these legitimate concerns, Brexit is not the answer. Here’s why:

First, Brexit doesn’t guarantee that migration will come down. In fact a more liberal approach to non-EU immigration – as advocated by the Leave camp – could actually see it increase.

Australia – whose points-based system is so admired by Outers – has twice as many migrants per person than we do. The whole purpose of their system is to allow businesses to control who comes into their country. For us this would lead to an increase in cheap labour, bringing down wages and doing nothing to ease voter concerns about insecure employment.

Voters also need to know that that the free movement of EU citizens to Britain will not automatically stop if we left. The only way to do that is to leave the single market – an act of economic self-destruction that would be catastrophic for businesses and jobs across the country.

Second, we can do far more to deal with the pressures caused by migration from inside then EU. Labour has long pushed for an end to the payment of benefits to people who don’t live permanents in this country, and for a major extension of the time EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim benefits – a commitment secured by the Prime Minister as part of the renegotiation deal.

We can also help communities facing the greatest pressure from migration. Since 2001 EU migrants have contributed £20 billion more to our economy than they’ve taken out in benefits. This money must go quickly to areas where migrants are living, to fund schools and health services.

This will ensure that people come to this country knowing they need to play by the rules and work hard, and will reassure Brits that we have a fair, under control system that works for everyone.

And finally, the overall benefits of EU membership are massive. From businesses in Yorkshire to the President of the United States – and pretty much everyone in between – there is now an unprecedented consensus that leaving the EU would hurt our economy and hit our pockets.

We cannot allow voters to fall for the spin that a vote to leave is the only way to deal with concerns about immigration. We can do far more to address both the level and the impact of immigration while remaining in the EU.  I very rarely agree with the Prime Minister but on this he’s right: was are stronger, safer and better off in.


Above: Stephen Kinnock pays tribute

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Jo Cox MP on Aleppo and the West’s betrayal of Syria

June 16, 2016 at 5:32 pm (Anti-Racism, campaigning, children, good people, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, Middle East, Syria, tragedy)

Jo Cox was both a dedicated constituency MP and a true internationalist. This is what she said in Parliament on 3 May this year about Aleppo, the betrayal of Syria and our duty to refugee children:

RIP comrade

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