By Mohan Sen
In April members of Labour left organisation Momentum voted in a “policy primary” for motions to promote for this year’s Labour Party conference. Two of the eight motions we decided on called for public ownership and democratic control of the banking and financial sector, to halt high finance’s social and climate vandalism and redirect its vast resources towards tackling climate change and inequality.
One of these motions (“Build back better: attack poverty and inequality”) was motivated on living standards and inequality; the other (“Global climate justice”) on climate change.
The first called for “taking banking and finance into democratic public ownership”; the second for “bringing the banking and financial system into democratic public control to fund a just transition”. (See text here, motions 3 and 6.)
As far as I can see, Momentum has done nothing to promote this crucial policy since then. Now it has put out propaganda which flatly contradicts it.
On 27 August Momentum social media put out a video with economist Grace Blakeley calling repeatedly for “regulation” of the banks to tackle climate change. The Facebook status and tweet promoting the video also call for “regulation”.
The Fire Brigades’ Union’s pamphlet It’s time to take over the banks explains very well why regulation is nowhere near enough to change the role of the financial sector.
And this review of Grace Blakeley’s book Stolen by economist Michael Roberts, who co-wrote the FBU pamphlet, aptly criticises Blakeley’s failure to call for public expropriation of the banks and high finance.
As Roberts has explained, the banks and so on are already heavily regulated. Regulation is ineffective.
By promoting “regulation” of the banks as some kind of solution, Momentum is advocating a very weak policy. In terms of climate change: not only because regulation will be ineffective in changing financial institutions’ behaviour; but also because big fossil fuel companies are not totally dependent on banks etc for their funding; and to have a serious impact we need to actively take hold of the sector’s resources and leverage and use them for positive environmental and social action.
Momentum refers fairly frequently to “socialism”. What does this mean if it is not willing to advocate policies like taking the banks into public ownership, which in fact are a long way short of replacing capitalism with socialism?
At the same time, Momentum – despite its leaders’ rhetoric about “democratising” the organisation – is ignoring policy voted for by its members, in a vote it championed as a great exercise in democratic membership decision-making.
Did Momentum’s National Coordinating Group, or some sub-group of it, decide to put out the weak gruel about “regulation”, in defiance of the policy agreed by members – or was it the Momentum office without regards to the NCG?
We hear a lot from Momentum about “democracy” and “socialist policies”. Momentum leaders who take these things seriously should insist the organisation corrects course and starts calling publicly for public ownership and democratic control of finance. Momentum members who take these things seriously should demand this change.