By Nick Clark
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Changes in Momentum won’t solve problems for Labour left

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Issue 2705
Momentum was supposed to be a mass movement outside of parliament
Momentum was supposed to be a mass movement outside of parliament (Pic: flickr)

Left wing Labour MPs and prominent activists have called for a “renewal” of Momentum, the organisation founded to support former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The call—backed by 11 MPs and dozens of activists—comes as the Labour left tries to reorganise after Labour’s 2019 general election defeat.

Their statement released last Sunday announced the launch of a new group to “transform” Momentum—Momentum Renewal.

Momentum, launched after Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015, became the focus for many activists in Britain, and once claimed 40,000 members.

Yet its pledge to become a mass movement outside parliament never came to fruition. It focused instead on winning positions inside Labour and running election campaigns. 

It also suffered disagreements and splits, with activists complaining that it was undemocratic.

The new group said Momentum should become an organisation “rooted in working class communities”.

Yet it echoed the right wing argument that working class people outside cities didn’t vote for Labour because the party was too focused on “metropolitan” issues such as climate change and racism.

Momentum Renewal said people involved in anti-racism, anti-war or climate activism had to be tied to “serious” working class politics. This means a narrow focus on trade unions and the priorities of union leaders.

The group also called for “local campaigns”. But these will be focused on electing left wing Labour councillors who—if elected—still face pressure to implement austerity.

The launch of the group came a day after Momentum’s chair Jon Lansman said he would stand down in upcoming internal elections.

Momentum Renewal called for “new leadership and a new politics”. It also called for “unity” of the Labour left.

But it will campaign in internal Momentum elections against another faction, Forward Momentum. 

This is linked to activists who campaigned for Labour to back remaining in the European Union.

Both factions talk about unity, democracy and building an outward-looking campaign. 

Yet both are spending time and energy fighting internal battles inside an organisation—Momentum—that was set up to fight internal battles inside Labour.

And that’s because both prioritise winning parliamentary and council elections, which pulls them away from broader campaigning and towards the right.

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