Socialist Worker

As tensions pull Labour left group in two directions - is Jeremy Corbyn losing momentum?

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2488

Many people who want change celebrated Jeremy Corbyns election victory

Many people who want change celebrated Jeremy Corbyn's election victory (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Momentum, the network set up to organise Jeremy Corbyn supporters, holds its first national meeting on 6 February.

Its debates will mirror wider discussions about how to sustain the movement that swept Corbyn into the Labour leadership.

Momentum has held dozens of meetings across Britain. It has built up a formidable database of contacts.

It says that over 30,000 of its supporters used the Momentum lobby tool to email their MPs, urging them to vote against bombing Syria. It also mobilised people to campaign in the Oldham West by-election.

But now there are sharp debates about the way forward.

One grouping sees Momentum as an instrument to work inside the Labour Party, pushing policy leftwards and securing more MPs and councillors who back Corbyn.

This group fears that “distracting” campaigning issues will get in the way of the focus on Labour structures. And it worries that the Tory press will raise a furore about “Trotskyists” flooding into Labour.

A “Labour-only” approach risks Momentum becoming inactive and repels the enthusiasm that helped Corbyn win. People want activity, not bureaucratic wrangling.

There are already signs of this in some areas where Momentum held an initial meeting but very little has happened since.

In Birmingham the first meeting had 100 people, but there were attacks on people outside Labour.

The second of around 50 people started with the chair reading a ruling about only Labour members being on the national committee.

Restricted

This led to a protracted internal debate. By the time the vote was taken only 20 people were in the room. And, restricted to Labour Party members, only 12 were allowed to vote

Another group hopes Momentum can become a broader social movement. In many areas this is the approach.

At a recent meeting of 50 people in Hackney, east London, there was widespread support for the 19 March anti-racist demonstration and solidarity with refugees.

In a Sheffield Momentum meeting people inside and outside Labour united to put forward plans to build the anti-Trident demonstration on 27 February.

A meeting in Tower Hamlets, east London, last week agreed that delegates to Momentum’s national committee should say East London Momentum wants to include people outside Labour.

In Lambeth, south London, Momentum recently passed a motion by 40 votes to four with seven abstentions.

It said it was “deeply concerned at the attempt to narrow democracy in Momentum by excluding of non-Labour Party activists”.

And it feared that this would “destroy the concept of Momentum as a broad, activist social movement”.

Socialist Worker supporters attend Momentum meetings because we want to cooperate in campaigns against austerity, war and racism.

We also want to help defend Corbyn against the Tories, their pliant media and the Labour right.

Corbyn will be sustained by the movement in the streets and the workplaces, not by manoeuvres. Without more struggle the pressure to compromise with the right will grow stronger.


Trade unions for Corbyn

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, told a rally of the Trade Union Coordinating Group last November that there were discussions about a Trade Union Momentum.

It was hoped this “would bring together trade unionists in the Labour Party and outside it to support Jeremy and anti-austerity policies”.

Serwotka said, “We want everyone to come together, and if that movement is led by the trade unions, we don’t have to be mealy mouthed.

“We don’t have to mind our ps and qs. We can say, ‘We support Jeremy, we support John and we support everyone who is fighting against austerity’.”

Such a development would be wholly welcome. It could push for Labour to back strikes such as that of the junior doctors.

And it could throw its weight behind resistance that defies the anti-union laws.

It could add its support to those who think Jeremy Corbyn is right about refugees.

It would boost those who think that Labour policy must never again be dictated by fear of the Daily Mail newspaper and the rest of the right wing press. And who reject a Ukip-lite belief that says migration is a problem.


Democracy row looms at the top of Labour Party

Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) was set to meet this week.

Deep divisions are expected as Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters seek to democratise the policymaking process.

One set of proposals is tabled by a founder of Momentum.

It calls for a NEC policy and coordination committee to “oversee and coordinate all aspects of the party’s policymaking process”.

The Labour left hopes this will enable the launch of a quick process to involve the wider membership in issues such as Trident renewal. They hope this will bypass the MPs who overwhelmingly oppose Corbyn.

At stake is whether the 400,000 Labour members determine policy or whether the party hierarchy, the MPs and the shadow cabinet decide.

Some 20 of the 31 shadow cabinet members back Trident renewal according to responses to a Telegraph newspaper survey this week.

There will be opposition to taking power over party

policy-making from where it is at present.

Bex Bailey, a representative of Young Labour on the NEC, said, “I am completely opposed to any move to centralise policymaking powers to the NEC or to Labour party conference”.

She added, “If we are serious about regaining public trust in the Labour party and politics more widely, we should allow our parliamentarians to get on with the job they are in Westminster for.”

Leaving it to the MPs means blocking the Corbyn surge and stopping real policy change on a host of issues.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.