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Scrap the fake seats on Momentum’s NCG

One of the most bizarre of the many undemocratic aspects of Momentum’s contitution is the National Coordinating Group seats reserved for supposed Labour left organisations. This has been used to pack the NCG with votes congenial to the office-faction which runs the organisation, guarding against any possible oppositional/ dissenting/ left-wing takeover of the seats actually elected by Momentum members.

The constitution, as imposed by the January 2017 coup against Momentum’s democracy, lists a number of organisations specifically (see here, point 11).

Organisations run or heavily-influenced by the secretive moderate-left/ Stalinist faction Socialist Action are over-represented (CLPD, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Labour CND). Several of the organisations do not represent much or are not really organisations at all.

They include barely functional and barely left-wing pressure group Compass, which includes Lib Dems and Greens in its leadership! Plus the “Labour Briefing Coop” which produces the small magazine Labour Briefing; the Facebook page Red Labour; and best of all Jon Lansman’s blog, Left Futures, which has not been updated since February 2018. The last is how Lansman had a place on the NCG between 2015 and 2018, until he finally stood in the NCG election two years ago.

The constitution also allows “affiliation” of “other groups as agreed by the NCG, provided that the NCG may not agree to the affiliation of groups whose programme and policy is incompatible with that of Momentum or the Labour Party”, ie whoever they feel like.

Apparently some groups have declined their right to representation. There is a total lack of transparency about the whole thing.

The April 2020 NCG (minutes here) agreed new “affiliations” from Tribune magazine, Labour for a Green New Deal and the low profile website Labour Hub – again, all likely to provide support to the existing leadership.

The system of affiliations from political organisations should be made properly transparent, with clear rules, procedures and criteria, so that it is no longer just a way for the leadership to shore up its support by adding fronts run by its mates; or scrapped.

Moreover, and in some ways this is an even bigger issue, the constitution also gives the NCG the right to co-opt members!

That should be scrapped too. So should the special seats for “elected representatives”. Last but not least, the electoral system should be changed so it is not based on first past the post in giant, nonsensical regions.

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Councils on the chopping block. Where is Momentum?

By Ruth Cashman (Lambeth Unison secretary, standing for Momentum National Coordinating Group in London) and Josh Lovell (Hertfordshire county councillor)

• For ideas on what Labour and union members can do to help get a fight against council cuts started, see fightcouncilcuts.carrd.co

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Since 2010 the Tories have cut local government to the bone, removing a majority of its central government funding and destroying vast swathes of public services and infrastructure. Last year, the cuts briefly came to a halt. Now, in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, councils are facing financial melt-down, with even deeper cuts on the cards.

Putting together estimates from the Labour Group on the Local Government Association of the amount extra needed to keep providing existing services, and party figures on councils’ likely losses due to the pandemic, we estimate about £20bn in extra funding is needed just to stand still.

At a time when our communities are going to desperately need radically more public provision, they are going to be forced to do with even less – unless we actually start to fight back.

We have to confront the reality that the Labour Party has been effectively complicit in the virtual destruction of local government over the last decade. And not just its right wing.

The past record of the Blairites in local government – promoting privatisation and the dismantling of democratic structures under Blair, and then insisting at the start of austerity that there was nothing to do but take it – is dire. Their more recent record of loyally implementing cuts, including by pitching themselves into conflict with their own communities and workforces (eg the Durham and Derby teaching assistants, Lambeth libraries) is just as bad.

But the rise of Corbynism brought nothing better.

If anything, since 2015, the Labour right has been bolder on local government funding than the Labour left. The right-wing council leaders established a sort-of campaign, Councils at Breaking Point, which did call for an end to cuts, emergency funding to plug the gaps and then speedy reversal of all cuts.

Unfortunately, they did very little with it – but then that was sort of to-be-expected. Instead of jumping on this opportunity to launch a real campaign, the Corbyn leadership and its leading supporters did nothing, not even making the demand to reverse all the cuts.

This while many thousands of Labour members and affiliated trade unionists were involved in struggle against cuts on the ground – but without any wider support, national campaign or political leadership.

Local government spokesperson Andrew Gwynne was allowed to brief the press that a Corbyn government would not reverse all the cuts – and as late as month before the 2019 manifesto, he refused to commit to a call from Labour council leaders to commit to this. (It then appeared in the manifesto, years too late.)

This problem has been reflected in Momentum too, which has encouraged its supporters to become councillors, and engaged in grand talk about councillors “building socialism”, but done nothing to even develop discussion about how to resist and reverse cuts. The head of Haringey council, responsible not only for passively implementing cuts but for the atrocity of the Latin Village redevelopment, sits on the National Coordinating Group.

Now both main Momentum factions, Forward Momentum and Momentum Renewal, say versions of the same thing – let’s get more “left-wing” councillors and organise them better. Without discussion and development of a strategy to mobilise struggle against austerity, it is worse than pointless.

Forward Momentum has been somewhat better, talking about holding councillors to account and occasionally criticising Labour councils (for instance Haringey over the Latin Village). But it still dodges the central issues. Its policy committee voted for text about councillors organising a fight against cuts, but this did not appear in the published “Plan” or elsewhere in their output.

We can talk all we want about “municipal socialism”, but unless we begin to reverse the gutting of local government and win its re-funding and re-empowerment, it is a hollow mockery.

To be clear: whatever the merits of the Preston model, it is not absolutely not an answer to the central problem of cuts and how to reverse them. Whatever else it has done, Preston has led no struggle.

There can and should be a discussion of how councils have in the past defied the law as part of mobilising a mass struggle in the past – inspiring examples like Poplar and Clay Cross. Councils are hardly straining at the limits of creative tactics to challenge financial limits. But we need to establish the even more basic idea of leading a fight, a real, mass-mobilising, fight to win lost funding. Do councillors like having no power? Do they like seeing their communities devastated? If not, how about fighting to change it?

What should we fight for?

• A push to create anti-cuts group in every community, linking up trade unions, Labour Parties, service-users and everyone who wants to fight cuts and win more funding.
• Labour councils and councillors to enter into genuine discussions with these groups about how to fight together, including organising demonstrations, mass direct action, etc.
• CLPs, Labour left groups and union branches to organise discussions across the country about how to organise the strategy we need.
• The party at every level to declare it is going to lead a real campaign to block further cuts, win adequate emergency funding to plug the holes and then ensure a speed reversal of all cuts since 2010.
• Maximum pressure on the national leadership to – lead.
• Momentum to use its councillors’ network to promote these goals and discussion of strategy.

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Expropriate the banks!

By Ruth Cashman, Momentum NCG candidate

The COVID-19 pandemic is a profound public health crisis but it is already snowballing into an economic crisis.

A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report showed clearly that the UK’s economy is likely to suffer the worst economic damage of any advanced capitalist economy.

It is predicting an 11.5% slump in national income for the UK, outstripping France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US. Unemployment is set to increase to 9%, with Johnson’s drive for a no-deal Brexit sure to make the situation even worse.

As with ever previous economic crisis under capitalism, the ruling-class will attempt to make workers pay the costs.

Keir Starmer’s self-styled ‘responsible opposition’ will not raise the key demands to defend and push forward workers’ interests in the crisis.
Momentum needs urgently to raise some key demands and campaign to make Labour and the trade unions fight for them.

Crucial to any workers’ plan for the crisis must be the demand for: 1) the expropriation of the banks and high finance and 2) the four-day week.

Expropriate the banks and high finance
We need the expropriation of finance so that the epidemic is not compounded by a snowballing economic slump resulting from an implosion of credit.

Banks may now be in a better position to weather storms than in 2008; however this will change as the economic downturn drags on and worsens.

As the government’s temporary sticking-plaster measures such as the furlough scheme come to an end, businesses will go to the wall, putting pressure on banks’ balance sheets as returns diminish and loans go bad.
Either loans will be called in, causing further collapse and surging unemployment; or banks will only lend safe in the knowledge that extensive government guarantees (of taxpayers money) will be used to under-write loans.

No matter which way, banks and high finance should be expropriated!
Then, the government can stave off a collapse in the credit system; take a stake in businesses in receipt of public money; and mobilise social wealth to fund investment in: public health, housing, an emergency basic income for the unemployed and job creation to avoid the spectre of mass unemployment.

The four-day week
Another key demand for Momentum to agitate for is the four-day week with no loss of pay.

Not only would this demand create obvious benefits for workers – increased leisure time, greater mental and physical health – but it is also a key weapon in the battle against unemployment.

As recession bites, bosses are already laying off workers, and forcing those still on the payroll to worker harder and for less.
Labour and the unions should demand a four-day week as a legally enforceable limit, with no loss of pay.
In addition to legal enforcement, the measure should supervised in the shop floor by unions or committees of elected worker representatives.

This will ensure that bosses cannot squeeze more labour out of their existing workforce and will be obliged to hire more workers to ensure that work is done.

Such a demand binds together those currently in work with those thrown out of work in mutual solidarity. It can stop a race to the bottom and a scrabble for jobs, conditions which fragment our class and allow racism to flourish and thrive.

Momentum must raise socialist solutions to the crisis
The socialist and wider labour movement are entering a struggle, the outcome of which will determine the future for workers for decades to come.

Either we raise key socialists demands for the expropriation of the banks and high finance and for the four-day week, or we allow the capitalists to set the agenda and make us pay for the crisis through renewed austerity, racist scapegoating and authoritarianism.

Momentum must take a lead in raising socialist ideas and demands in Labour and the wider movement.

I am standing in the Momentum NCG elections to put these ideas on the table. We need socialist demands to effectively fight back in the current crisis and to build a movement which can bring our class to power.


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Trans Exclusionary Moderate Labourism

By Ruth Cashman & Kas Witana candidates for Momentum NCG

The government have leaked plans to drop changes to the Gender Recognition Act to The Sunday Times. Changes drawn up under Theresa May’s government would have streamlined the legal process of changing a birth certificate by removing some barriers like medical diagnosis and lengthy and intrusive evidence procedure. Consultation on the updated Gender Recognition Act (GRA) closed in 2018 but the government has since dragged its feet on implementing it following a spectacular and well-organised backlash from opponents.

Labour seem to be doing their best to avoid taking a position on the issue, raising concern that previous support for changes to the GRA have been dropped. Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds criticism of the government was to say it was wrong to announce changes to an “extremely sensitive” policy area by leaking them to a newspaper.

This is a terrible failure in solidarity for our trans comrades. Not only should we campaign for changes to the GRA, but we must also go much further.  The labour movement should be looking to integrate fights against oppression and bigotry into the broader class struggle. We should support changes which make it easier, cheaper and less degrading to change our legal gender. Self-declaration helps trans people by removing some difficulties in social recognition of their identities, helping to counteract their marginalisation. We must challenge misinformation and scaremongering about single-sex spaces. It is austerity and chronic underfunding that endanger domestic violence services and refuges, not trans women. We must campaign for better provision of holistic gender identity services and trans healthcare, which are currently seriously underfunded and inaccessible. This should be provided in an NHS in public ownership, with adequate funding and under democratic control.

Unions, the Labour Party and the labour movement must organise to tackle transphobia, sexism and harassment at work and in wider society. We have signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges as an act of solidarity and recognition that trans people in the party and in the wider labour movement are facing a sustained period of abuse and opposition to their rights and dignities. However we have serious reservations about pledges 8 and 10. We feel that these run contrary to democratic norms and in fact do very little in terms of challenging and overcoming transphobia that does exist within our movement. The problem of transphobia in the party is not overcome by expelling X transphobes but by a serious political intervention & equipping activists with the tools to educate those around them and change people’s minds on this issue.

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The war on drugs is a poison

By Simon Hannah

Since the 1970s countries around the world have been waging a war. It is a war across borders, across generations, a war against many government’s own populations, a war that has killed… we don’t know how many. 

We will probably never know. 

This is the war on drugs. Launched by Nixon in 1971, the US government used the excuse of the growth of drug cartels and narcotic addiction in American cities to flex its imperialist muscles. It led to extensive clandestine security operations in Central and Latin America, money pouring into military operations by pro US governments. It snowballed out of control as drug cartels armed themselves and an arms race began. This is what led to periods of violent instability in Colombia and the murderous state of societal breakdown along the Mexican/US border. 

The war spread as various embattled national liberation groups and guerrilla movements saw the lucrative money to be made in the drug trade and started to develop drug growing, manufacturing and smuggling operations. This gave those governments fighting the war on drugs an excuse to fund right-wing governments around the world to counteract these forces. Policies like these have led to the bloody carnage in the Philippines today as President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light for the police to carry out extra-judicial assassinations of anyone even ‘suspected’ of being involved in drugs as part of the war against the New People’s Army.

The violence perpetuated globally by this ‘war on drugs’ is only an extension of the violence meted out domestically. The war on drugs was immediately racialised. It was about poor black men in cities taking heroin, then it was crack cocaine. Drug use among whites was higher but that didn’t matter – it was used as an excuse for the police to target black people, arrest them and imprison them. As the decades rolled on the prison sentences got longer and longer. 

The fact is that none of this is working. The war on drugs has been a dismal failure. If it was intended to stop being getting addicted to harmful narcotics, it hasn’t worked. Drug abuse is far higher now than it was in the 1970s. 

This is not just a US issue, what the US does the British government is often not far behind. 

The criminalisation of drugs in the UK began during World War One. The Defence of the Realm Act that made it illegal to sell cannabis and opiates as part of the drive to keep the population useful for the war machine. Now over 100 years later drug addictions are still with us. The danger is that because drugs are criminalised it makes it harder for people to get help – it makes drugs into an issue of crime, not public health. 

Some people think that arresting drug addicts and shooting drug dealers will solve the problem. But getting high has always been something humans have done. Since primate society we have been making beer and eating weird mushrooms. You can’t stop that kind of activity (any more than you can stop people having consensual sex) but if drugs are very powerful and addictive you can ensure they are as safe as possible and mitigate the social problems associated with them (for instance addicts becoming criminals to feed their habit).

And we have to have the tough argument. It is easy to call for drug addicts to be treated in hospitals and not prisons, but addiction is only one end of the issue. Around the world there are more and more calls for the decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs, to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a criminal matter, for the trade in drugs to be taken out of the control of gangs, to be regulated, taxed and properly checked. 

The war on drugs is a poison. It is a poison that is destroying communities and killing thousands every year. People are dying due to over policing, violent conflicts, taking bad drugs, overdosing, turf wars between drug gangs and everything else associated with the disastrous and fatal global war. It is time for it to come to an end and for common sense to prevail. 

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Labour Left Porkies – Momentum needs to get its story straight on policing

By Ruth Cashman, candidate for Momentum NCG

The murder of George Floyd has sparked a global movement against police brutality and racism. Floyd’s death is not even the most recent a long line of police killings of black people in the USA. African Americans have suffered 30 police shootings per million since the start of 2015, compared to 22 per million for Hispanics and 12 per million for whites. The movement, which builds on years of Black Lives Matters organising in the US is raising politics that seemed unimaginable until recently. A majority of Minneapolis City Council has pledged to dismantle the local police department, to be replaced by “new model of public safety”. We don’t yet know what this will mean. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had already said he would divert money from the city’s police department to social services.

Momentum rightly reacted to the global protests with support. They released a video “Spot The Difference” outlining racism in the British criminal justice system and that racist policing is not an exclusively American problem. Nothing in their reaction has acknowledged the failures of the Labour left on policing since 2017. Under the left’s leadership Labour adopted a generally “pro-police” line, including campaigning vocally to increase police numbers.

In 2017 Labour’s manifesto promised 10,000 more police officers and 500 more border guards. In 2019 the party promised to top the Tories’ police recruitment by 2,000.

In the intervening two years more police was a major campaigning demand for Labour; sometimes it seemed like its only campaigning demand. In 2019 there was a day of action against police cuts. Many left-wing policies included in the 2019 manifesto were never even mentioned before then, let alone campaigned for.

Tellingly, for instance, the party never demanded the restoration of all the funding councils have lost since 2010 until it appeared in the 2019 manifesto. More police – but not reversing the council cuts which have devastated our communities!

Under left-wing shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, Labour rightly criticised prison privatisation but said nothing about the crucial issue of reducing the prison population, let alone anything more radical (it was just about hinted at the in the 2019 manifesto). Nor did it discuss ending the disastrous reality of most drugs being criminalised.

At the 2019 London Labour conference, a delegate from Haringey, a young, BME, migrant woman, spoke against a “more police” motion and was heckled repeatedly – though she gave as good as she got and, despite losing heavily, made the case effectively.

In the face of a pro-police stance from our left-wing leadership, much of the left went quiet. Some endorsed the “more police” line: most notably Momentum, who repeated promoted the demand and produced a video bracketing the police with firefighters and health workers and describing them as “heroes”. In 2017 Momentum promoted the Tory Police Cuts Calculator criticising Tories for defunding the police. In 2019 Momentum released the “You Are A Socialist” video, giving the police force as an example of socialism in action!

There is nothing wrong with changing your mind or an organisation changing its position. Hopefully the current movement will educate people on the role of state apparatus like the police in repression of working class struggle and oppression of minorities. But Momentum must be honest about its position and why has it changed. Are we the Momentum that supports the defund the police movement or the Momentum that calls for more cops on the street? Labour and Momentum activists cannot take part in and cheer on anti-police demonstrations without fighting for our party to adopt an adequate stance on crime and policing.

This is doubly important because under Keir Starmer the party seems likely to adopt even more regressive positions. His record as Director of Public Prosecutions was not good; and he has already criticised protesters for their disposal of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

There will be different views on the left about how comprehensively we want to see the police force as it exists transformed and/or abolished or replaced. But central to the debate needs to be the idea, at the moment largely absent from the official labour movement, that the police as they exist are fundamentally one of the problems confronting working-class people (particularly black, brown and migrant working-class people), not part of the solution.

The labour movement needs to drop the “more police” line, advocate serious measures to rein in police repression, violence and bigotry, and argue to radically transform society to at the very least radically reduce their role. Socialists in the labour movement must urgently engage with the anti-police movement now burgeoning to launch a serious debate about the demands we need.

Get in touch: info@momentuminternationalists.org

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Keir Starmer: Back the Colston Protestors

Add your name to this statement here

Dear Keir

We are Labour Party members and supporters who are disappointed and angry that you condemned the disposal of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston. We want the Labour Party, including Labour Councillors and MPs, to call for there to be no prosecutions arising from the destruction of this statue.

Interviewed on 8 June, you described the action as ‘completely wrong’. In contrast, we think that the protesters’ removal of this statue was a long-overdue, non-violent action, which finally rid Bristol’s streets of the stain of this tribute to a man who oversaw the abduction, enslavement, buying, selling and killing of ten of thousands of African slaves.

It is important that we know and learn from history. We can do this without having to look up to a statue erected in admiration of one of the perpetrators of one of the greatest crimes in human history.

You argued that the statue should have been removed and placed in a museum. However, anti-racists had been campaigning for this for a long time, to no avail. Finally, in the wake of international outcry against racism and police brutality, people took matters into their own hands.

We want the Labour Party to support them, not condemn them.

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Free the Uyghurs

In a world filled with horrendous oppression, that suffered by the Uyghur people in China nonetheless stands out.

Long held within the Chinese state against their will, in the last six years this mainly Muslim people has been subjected to an almost unbelievable campaign of repression. This includes the internment of many hundreds of thousands — possibly over a million out of about 11 million — in “re-education camps”; forced labour; forced separation of vast numbers of children from their parents; a mass surveillance regime including the installation of cameras in private homes; and vicious suppression of the Uyghurs’ culture, religious rights and political expression.

The Chinese government justifies its policy on the explicitly Islamophobic basis of “combatting terrorism” and so on. It is like the policy of the US government, but on steroids.

The underlying reality is that, in addition to its racist and imperialist ideology, the Chinese regime wants to crush the Uyghurs, and in fact obliterate their existence as a distinct people, in order to ensure future control of a region which it regards as vital for profitable resources and international trade links.

For more, see the Uyghur Solidarity Campaign.

If the left is against oppression; anti-imperialist; against Islamophobia; and for workers’ rights – then we must back the Uyghur struggle 100%.

In the coming weeks Momentum Internationalists will be supporting UK protests and actions in support of the Uyghurs. Please get involved!

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Forward Momentum’s ‘Plan to Take Momentum Forward’ – what we’re fighting for

By Kas Witana, BME delegate to Forward Momentum policy committee (pc)

Forward Momentum has published a “Plan to take Momentum forward”. This is a good step forward, in that Forward Momentum now potentially has a much clearer outward-looking, class-struggle set of demands for the crisis, as opposed to earlier ones which were much more heavily focused on Momentum’s procedures.

You can read the Plan here.

Momentum Internationalists should be proud of the contribution we made to this process. Among others, myself, Michael Chessum, Roxana Fraser and Abel Harvie-Clark from MI contributed extensive proposals, which you can read in the full document of submissions here.

A number of important ideas we contributed were included in the composited proposals and then passed. (For what was passed and not, see here). That includes fighting to make Labour conference genuinely sovereign; democratic public ownership of energy and banking / high finance; developing a strategy for Labour councils / councillors to fight cuts; fighting to repeal all the anti-union laws; and a series of demands for migrants’ rights including the right to vote, access to services and freedom of movement.

More generally we think our contributions shaped the final document significantly. For instance, the focus on the role of local groups and the proposal for reborn regional Momentum networks seem inspired by our submissions.

There some important caveats:

• Some important proposals we (and perhaps others) made were not included in the proposals for voting, eg working to build local anti-cuts committees.
• Some of our proposals that were put to a vote were voted down. Notably: an annual sovereign Momentum conference to decide strategy; all-member regional conferences; regional conferences electing some representation to the NCG; building networks in trade unions to push for democracy and radical action in unions; and campaigning to extend the Brexit transition period.
• Concerningly, important ideas which were passed were not included in the published document, eg the hugely important one of fighting for Labour conference to be sovereign. Also public ownership of finance and reference to councillors fighting cuts. Free movement seemed to be left out but was then added back in.
• There are some important things that no one, including us, though to raise – eg the crucial campaigning demand for full sick pay/isolation pay for all workers.

Momentum Internationalists should both keep up the pressure to shape Forward Momentum policy in the right direction – consistent democratisation of Momentum, class struggle, socialism and internationalism – and raise ideas which it won’t.

Get in touch: info@momentuminternationalists.org

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How Forward Momentum banned me from standing

By Ruth Cashman

I stood in the Forward Momentum primaries to be a candidate for the Momentum NCG. Like many I have been incredibly frustrated with Momentum over the last few years. Whether you thought its purpose was building a mass social movement, winning a Labour government, holding left control of the Labour Party, democratising Labour, transforming the Labour movement, socialist education – it is fair to say it has failed so far. But in 2019 Momentum claimed 40,000 members, and that is not to be sniffed at. Even if it has lost a lot of members in the last year, it’s a left group with tens of thousands of people and we need to engage with it. I didn’t stand because I thought Forward Momentum or its leadership were perfect but because it seemed to be a campaign that came down on the right side on the need to democratise Momentum, and would attract many of the people who took that democratisation seriously. Some of the key figures in Forward Momentum have had a platform for some time and had not taken up Momentum and Labour democracy seriously but some had – for example, the FBU played a positive role in trying to stop the Momentum coup in 2017.

On 11 May I received a call from a member of the Forward Momentum Election Committee who told me I had been flagged in the candidate vetting process. The reason for my exclusion was an article five years ago in the Weekly Worker where I was asked about an article written fourteen years ago by someone else – Sean Matgamna. I explained on the phone, as I have in one to one conversations over the years that I believed the article was badly phrased and that though its intention wasn’t racist and each point can be explained, it was insufficiently sensitive to a group under attack by using language that could offend people. However, I believe anti-racism is not simply a case of not being racist, but the extent of your solidarity with oppressed people.

That is not the answer I gave to the Weekly Worker because that article was not intended to develop antiracist politics, or even to debate the nature of anti-imperialist struggles, it was an article written to stir up trouble. It is a cheap rag with no interest in showing the nuance of the debate, only looking for gossip. The same year they published this article, they hosted a long running debate on whether the moon was built by reptiles. I don’t think I owed them a back and forth on the subject, and I probably should not even have bothered replying.  You don’t throw comrades under the bus whenever someone with an axe to grind asks you to. I would be much less suitable as a candidate if I was in the habit of denouncing all my comrades as racists for political convenience.

I explained in a later email to the election committee that I wouldn’t have phrased the article the way it was phrased. Not because the argument or intention of the piece is racist, but because it obviously has been offensive to some, and the political argument of the article gets lost as a result. Many Islamic fundamentalist groupings see the 7th century companions of Mohammed who embodied original (or “primitive”) Muslim virtue and made the first great Muslim conquests as a political model. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other extreme-right groups are very explicit about this. This is an issue close to my heart as in 2007 I was the only representative of the UK trade union movement to attend a trade union congress in Iraqi Kurdistan, at which workers were discussing their armed struggle against these far-right organisations and American mercenaries.

Sean’s issue is not racism, it’s favouring style over clarity and ripping off the out-of-date language of Frederick Engels without referencing him. He was paraphrasing the passage from Engels: “The townspeople grow rich, luxurious and lax in the observation of the ‘law’. The Bedouins, poor and hence of strict morals, contemplate with envy and covetousness these riches and pleasures. Then they unite under a prophet, a Mahdi, to chastise the apostates and restore the observation of the ritual and the true faith and to appropriate in recompense the treasures of the renegades…” (On the History of Early Christianity).

That’s Engels who in turn was ripping off the 14th century Muslim writer Ibn Khaldun (summarised, for example, in the Prologue to Albert Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples).

I was in politics at the time the article was written and remember the context the piece was written in. The largest left group at the time, the SWP, lashed up with George Galloway and right-wing religious figures, relegating explicit socialist and working-class politics to vague “aspirations” in order to create an electoral base out of the alliance built around the anti-war movement.

To make it work they softened their line on many things, in particular religion. Lindsay German explained she was “in favour of gay rights [but] not prepared to have it as a shibboleth” They sought alliances with right-wing organisations such as the MAB and the backing of right-wing religious figures at the expense of the independent class interests of Muslim workers. The MAB was as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Its anti-imperialism is a variety of that practised by various radical bourgeois and petty bourgeois formations in the Middle East, Pakistan and elsewhere throughout the world – a more equitable relationship with the imperialist bourgeoisie that allows them a share of valuable natural resources and in the exploitation of the working class. Many socialists in the period reverse-engineered their politics in order to accommodate to this. Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to the working class, in the first instance the Muslim working class. Independent class organisation and struggle by Muslim workers, in alliance and solidarity with other workers, is the key to defeating the fundamentalists, just as workers’ unity is the answer to all bourgeois reaction. Our task is solidarity with workers’ movements and socialists in the Muslim world, and any political concession to Islamic fundamentalism is a barrier to that. To stand against this concession is not Islamophobic, it is an act of solidarity with our Muslim comrades. Much of this politics of accommodation and communalism still exists on the left – see Starmer and Modi. Or Gardner and Modi. Or courting Catholic Priests in the North West.

The debate in 2013 around the article was between groups with different understandings of anti-imperialism, the roots of fundamentalist politics and how you relate to that. In this I am firmly on the side of the AWL. The rise of ISIS, the tragedy in Syria has shifted the debate on the anti-imperialist left.

Following my email submission to the election committee I received a call at 11.30 asking me to call them as they wanted to clarify some matters in order to make their decision. At 11.44 I emailed them to explain that I was a key worker at work and asked that they instead email me. At 14.40 with no response to my request to have the discussion in writing I received confirmation of my exclusion.

I asked for the appeals process and was told there wasn’t one. I was disappointed but not shocked by the politics involved. As a union rep, dealing with a committee containing three union officials, I was however absolutely shocked that I would be asked to give evidence over the phone and when I explained I was working but could answer over email, the chance would be withdrawn.

Over the next few weeks I saw members of the platform I was signed up to, Momentum Internationalists, bullied and harassed online. I don’t think my exclusion was because of an article printed fourteen years ago or because of the Weekly Worker coverage of it. I think it is part of a concerted attempt to push anyone within three degrees of separation from Workers’ Liberty/AWL from participating in Momentum elections. The level of harassment that members of the platform, whether or not they were AWL members, received, was unacceptable. I am sure many at the centre of Forward Momentum would agree but they have not stood up strongly enough against it. The last few weeks for me have been horrible, in the middle of the process I had nightmares and sleepless nights. I don’t say that for sympathy but because if that is how it affected me, someone who has been in the movement for decades and has been charged by police, thrown down the stairs by security guards and fought off fascists – I cannot imagine how horrible it has been for the teenagers for whom this was one of the early experiences of the Labour left. To all those people I want to extend my full solidarity and promise I will fight for a different left where debate and dissent are encouraged.

I would like to thank all those in Forward Momentum who protested on my behalf, including candidates and those on the board. I would also like to thank everyone who has publicly shown solidarity, which isn’t easy in such an environment.

• Ruth is co-secretary of Lambeth Unison and convener of Labour for a Socialist Europe.