Momentum has now launched its long-awaited refounding process, and a debate should now open up about the future of the organisation.
While we don’t expect Momentum to become perfect through this (rather labyrinthine and heavily filtered) process, we do welcome the fact that it is happening. This is a real opportunity to build a better left.
The overriding priority for Momentum in the coming years must be the regrowing of a dynamic, outward facing grassroots infrastructure – in the form of local groups and a network of activists in trade unions and communities – and a democratic system which allows that grassroots to thrive and puts it in charge of what the organisation does. At the moment, Momentum is little more than a leftwing NGO – highly centralised and dominated by the office – and that must change.
Here are our top two proposals for the Refounding Process. If you agree with them, submit them either to your local group or the process directly – and let us know at [email].
1. Regional networks
One of the most important aspects of renewing Momentum is about giving members and local groups the opportunity to coordinate horizontally with one another in their areas, without constantly having to go through the office. This makes for better, more dynamic campaigning activities and helps new groups develop by giving lay activists the opportunity to lead local group development in their region.
It is also essential that, as the grassroots rebuilds, it has representation at a national level. No one on the NCG is currently accountable in any meaningful way to Momentum members: they are elected every two years and then do whatever they want. Having people elected more regularly from a defined local conference to which they must report and be accountable will create a direct link between the grassroots and the leadership.
We are therefore proposing that in each Labour Party region (or a similar set of boundaries drawn up by the NCG) there are regional networks which:
- Hold a conference twice per year which is open to all members in that region (i.e. which is not delegate-based).
- Have autonomy to run campaigns, coordinate and communicate with members and supporters in their region.
- Have the ability to set up their own Steering Committee (however informal) to help coordinate.
- Elect representation on the NCG equal to the number of NCG members elected online. These elections should happen at the all-member conferences, and representatives should be accountable to members in their region.
2. A sovereign annual conference
What is Momentum’s policy? Who decides it? How do you change the constitution? At present, things are basically run by the NCG, with an occasional – and it really is very occasional – plebiscite in which there is no proper deliberation and the centre of the organisation can endlessly manipulate the process.
Every single organisation in the labour movement – every union, most factions and the party itself – has an annual conference, and there is a reason for this. Having a conference, with delegates representing local groups and others representing members who don’t have a local group, is a crucial mechanism for putting the grassroots back in charge. It can also be an annual focal point for Momentum, with a big events fringe, and could be open to any member to attend and observe. This doesn’t have to replace other forms of democracy, but it is a basic part of having a thriving activist organisation.
At the moment, Momentum’s grassroots are so weak (and there are so few local groups) that it would be almost impossible to hold a sizeable conference, so we aren’t proposing holding one immediately. But it must be a priority. The drive for democratisation should work alongside the drive to rebuild local groups.