By Mohan Sen
About 200 people attended the Momentum meeting on its new strategy document on 18 March. Not so big, but to be fair it was at the same time as huge anti-Policing Bill meeting organised by Sisters Uncut.
The discussion was interesting and there were some useful points made, but it was all rather meandering and unfocused. I did not get a clear picture of what Momentum’s leadership and organisers want.
A few things jumped out at me:
Someone asked about “democratising” Momentum, and whether this means having a national decision-making conference. A National Coordinating Group member who essentially said it was up to the members whether they wanted that. This reaffirmed my impression that most or much of the new, post-2020 Momentum leadership (“Forward Momentum”) are not keen on establishing such a democratic sovereign body.
To be fair, the meeting reinforced my picture of a problem which would make a well-functioning national conference difficult, namely that most local groups no longer function. Another NCG member made big claims about the recent revival of groups. What is the situation in your area?
A number of speakers talked about the soon-to-be-launched Momentum trade unionists network. It wasn’t made clear what this network will be for. An NCG member reported that there are (reasonably enough I’d say) differences on whether Momentum should take stances in internal union elections (and presumably other internal debates and arguments). Useful things a Momentum trade unionists network might do included helping mobilise Labour Parties and party members in support of workers’ struggles, and working with Free Our Unions to establish clear Labour policy and campaigning on the right to strike and repealing the anti-union laws.
Last but in a way most importantly there was – as in the strategy document itself – quite a lot of mention of local government, but a complete lack of substantive proposals about what Momentum should actually advocate and campaign for. The focus seems to be predominantly on getting more “left” councillors.
Pushed on this a bit at the meeting, several Momentum organisers advocated Preston and Salford councils as a model. But neither of these councils is doing anything to fight and reverse cuts, despite the increasingly apocalyptic financial situation councils face. In a break out session on local government, I asked about the lack of even a mention of fighting cuts. A Momentum staff member replied, very tellingly I thought, that the key thing was how to make up money lost from central government funding by other means, such as Preston’s “community wealth building”.
In other words, Momentum has no perspective of even advocating the restoration of government funding for councils, let alone fighting for it. (This despite the organisation sponsoring the meeting on this organised by Lambeth Unison and other trade unionists last month.)
There were a number of mentions of the Momentum councillors network, but it’s not clear if this network does anything or even really exists as something coherent.
Momentum really needs shaking up on this point.
• More: ‘An open letter to my fellow Labour councillors, by Hertfordshire councillor Josh Lovell