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Momentum NCG: Fight for Labour Party Democracy, Defend Conference Gains

By Josh Lovell

It is now one year on since the Labour Party’s 2019 national conference – arguably the most radical Labour Party event in decades. Delegates passed resolutions committing the party to 2030 decarbonisation as part of a worker-led just transition, to support the abolition of academies, and private schools, and – arguably in its biggest shift on immigration policy ever – to defend and extend free movement, ensure voting rights for all UK residents, abolish No Recourse to Public Funds, and to close all detention centres (to name but a few).

What made some of these so distinct was that they were almost entirely led by grassroots campaigns and explicitly to the left of promises made in the 2017 Labour Manifesto – already touted as the most left-wing set of Labour proposals since 1983. Although the Labour’s “Clause 5” meetings undemocratically binned almost all of these when writing its’ 2019 Manifesto just one month later, these remain the Labour Party’s official position on climate change, education, and immigration.

But as with all democratic gains – they must be continually fought for and defended. The 2019 general election defeat was crushing, and the leadership election of Keir Starmer – who campaigned to maintain the radicalism of these policies – has sharply diverted attention away from such activist gains, towards far more modest and “respectable” proposals (that is respectable in the eyes of the ruling class). Within just one year it feels like the energy and enthusiasm of rank-and-file Labour members – who won so emphatically in Brighton – has been drained away. We cannot let ourselves lose the socialist militancy needed to build and win such a program.

The organised left, despite being on the back foot, has an urgent job before this is all canned entirely; defend conference democracy. Be that within local CLPs, union and momentum branches, activists must start putting pressure on to stop any further retreats; and this applies at all levels of our movement. Momentum – with around 25,000 members, and by far the largest organisation on the Labour left – undertook its National Coordinating Group (NCG) elections earlier this year, ending on the 1st of July. Since then, there have been positive steps towards some of the pledges made by the victorious ‘Forward Momentum’ slate, but crucially on the level of policy, the organisation has been inadequately vocal.

On paper Forward Momentum supported “defending and building on the 2019 manifesto: a Green New Deal, […], repealing all anti-trade union laws, advancing migrants’ rights, international solidarity, and more”. However in reality, Momentum’s main thrust has been towards winning a left-NEC and anti-evictions campaigning – both important and necessary tasks – but ones that cannot be done at the expense of keeping labour committed to fighting climate change, ending educational injustice, and radically expanding migrants’ rights.

The NCG – with a clear majority of Forward Momentum candidates – now must act to defend party democracy, make clear its own commitment to every single socialist policy passed at Labour Conference in recent years, and use Momentum to put their own campaign pledges into action. And with the NCG nearing its first 100 days milestone, Momentum members must call on them to do just this, and for them to empower local groups to take this battle into their local labour and union branches, in a struggle against the Labour right who would rather all Corbyn-era victories were totally quashed. Momentum can and must bring together the grassroots campaigns and activists to build a programme to defend and expand conference policy, ready for a clash at Labour’s 2021 conference, where without an organised presence, the left could be routed.

And in advance of that, the NCG must ensure that Momentum uses every opportunity it can to amplify struggles in line with conference policy, such as those demanding Labour Party support for EU residents’ Right to Stay, and anti-racist, anti-deportation battles such as the urgent one to Free Osime Brown, which sadly the organisation has been silent on. We need the Momentum NCG to come out swinging for grassroots activism, and party democracy.

Josh Lovell (pc) is on the steering committee of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, is a Momentum activist in Stevenage, and stood in Forward Momentum’s primaries on the Momentum Internationalists programme

27/9/2020

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Young Labour Internationalists – for a vibrant, class struggle youth movement!

By Sacha Marten, candidate for Young Labour NC Student rep

We are Young Labour members who want to get organised, in the upcoming Young Labour elections and beyond, for a radical and active young socialist movement. Coming from a generation for which the unsustainability of capitalism is all too clear, we want young Labour to establish a clear alternative based around democracy, class struggle, internationalism, and protecting life on Earth. To the millions of young people angry and dissatisfied with the status quo, we want to show the power of getting organised on the street, in schools, workplaces and universities. Learning from history and looking to the future, bold politics can win  pay rises for young workers, bring together students and teachers to democratise education, and change the conversation to build a genuinely worker-led Green New Deal.

The climate strikes, the Black Lives Matter movement, the A-Level U-Turn protests all show passion and potential for change when young people get organised. It is a shame that Young Labour has not been there in the past to act as a link between grassroots movements and the organised labour movement. Beyond holding posts on committees and an unhealthy clique culture, we want to transform Young Labour into a significantly more outward facing organisation that is active, radical, and relevant to young people up and down the country.

A key initial part of this is a democratic rejuvenation of the organisation. Groups need access to their own funds and data to organise locally, and we should all have the chance to come together annually for an independent and sovereign Young Labour policy conference to determine our positions and campaigning. Committee meeting notes should be made available to all members, we should be honest and bold about our politics, we can and should lead by example! In the past young Labour organising has relied far more on who you know than anything else, and this needs to change. An open and inviting space for discourse, learning and debate will only strengthen our movement and encourage more groups to be set up where none previously existed.

The problems faced by our generation are urgent, and cannot wait for (or expect) elections to solve them. Instead, confident and supported Young Labour groups can act as training schools for young members to organise in their workplaces, communities, schools and universities, winning concrete demands to tackle the injustices facing young people. Labour should be the party of the strikes, and Young Labour should be directly supporting the Youth Strike for Climate movement, both practically for demonstrations and with resources, and more widely by spreading climate action more widely through the labour movement. Youth climate strikers have made clear many times the need for a worker-led just transition, but the labour movement is still sleeping. With British Gas workers set to take industrial action and NHS workers mobilising on the streets, it is a crucial time to be bringing climate and workers’ struggles together to effect real change in the fossil fuel industry.

By being radical and practical, a revitalised Young Labour can appeal to the millions of young people who want to change capitalism, but do not yet see a socialist alternative. Whether it be young workers in hospitality or hospitals, there is great demand for an equalised and significantly higher minimum wage, more secure contracts, and a 4 day week. Meanwhile an ever growing number of young people are unable to find work, or see their studies attached to spiralling debt. Young Labour can and should be vocal about fighting back on the basis of working class self organisation, getting young people active in unions or forming new ones where none exist.

Finally, it is clear that our cause for a socialist youth movement cannot be limited by national borders. From striking workers in Belarus, Black Lives Matter protesters in the US, democracy activists in Hong Kong and LGBT campaigners in Poland, we have so much to gain from being connected internationally. We want to learn from these struggles and draw links between our battles here and how they are already being won elsewhere. And where UK organisations ‘offshore’ their dirty practices, we will be vocal and active here to hold them to account. For open borders and practical solidarity, we have far more in common with our international brothers and sisters than we do with the bosses in this country!

Starting during this election campaign, we will be holding a series of public meetings on Friday evenings, beginning this Friday 11th September at 6.30pm when we will be joining up with our friends at Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform to host a meeting on democracy, electoral reform, and republicanism. Future meetings look to cover democratising education, capitalism and climate change, as well as taking a look at global struggles taking place in Belarus and beyond.

If you want to get stuck in to revamp Young Labour as a vibrant, class struggle movement, join us! We will endorse candidates who sign up to our program, and there is plenty more to get involved with – write for our blog, speak at meetings, bring in more young comrades. Let’s make a real impact in these elections and beyond.

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Leaflets for the 12 September NHS demonstrations

The attached leaflets have been done by Momentum Internationalists and Young Labour Internationalists supporters for use on the demonstrations on Saturday 12 September. Please download and use them. Send us a report and pictures of your local demo to team@momentuminternationalist.org

MI NHS leaflet
YLI leaflet

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Debate is more important than optics

By Edward Maltby

Momentum’s “Open Primaries” to select candidates to support in the forthcoming Young Labour elections are a good idea. It’s better for the membership to decide who Momentum backs for Young Labour’s national executive than for head office to announce the line unilaterally.
But the NCG’s decision to exclude Danielle Wright from the running even before the vote got started is wrong.

Wright was booted out of Momentum’s primary as part of a “vetting” process, which unearthed some of her tweets from February, which you can see here.

Wright is a supporter of Socialist Appeal, a left-wing faction in Labour with whom we have some differences. We also don’t agree with the substance of what Wright said in the tweets which have been pulled up, about antisemitism. But we are opposed to her exclusion. Here are three reasons why.

1)“Vetting” is wrong
In general in the labour movement, the membership is sovereign. That’s why conferences or AGMs are generally the highest decision-making bodies; and we regard all-member ballots as the most important kind of ballots. Having someone in head office decide who the membership is allowed to choose between cuts against that principle. The membership should do the “vetting” themselves – by voting against people they disagree with.

This kind of “vetting” comes from an obsession with “optics”, “PR” and with social media. It’s like Peter Mandelson with his “message discipline” – regardless of the rights and wrongs, you use administrative measures to hide anyone who might “look bad”. Our side shouldn’t be doing that. It creates an anxious, panicky and authoritarian organisational culture. This is worse than “cancelling” people: it’s shoving people out of the limelight because you’re worried that they might get cancelled, by someone else. And it means saying that it’s not the members who get to decide on that, but “experts”, who know better. It puts members off engaging in debate: if you might get “vetted” three months or years down the line for reasons you don’t understand, then it’s better not to say anything. Wanting members to speak their minds means wanting them to risk saying the odd wrong thing too!

It is particularly bad that after removing Wright from the race, Momentum declared her opponent to have won “uncontested”. That effectively removes Wright’s ability to appeal. We don’t want the left to internalise the idea that it’s good to stick the boot in to people you disagree with and have power over. Due process has to be for everybody. That is especially important where we disagree with each other strongly.

2) Wright’s tweet expresses views that are very widespread in Momentum
If Wright gets booted for calling Israel an “apartheid state” or saying that the outcry against antisemitism in Labour was a put-up job, then you’re going to have to boot out a very large chunk of Momentum’s membership. Regardless of the political rights and wrongs here, Momentum’s leadership cannot change attitudes such as these by attempting to ban them. Education – such as promoting the reading of That’s Funny You Don’t Look Antisemitic by Steve Cohen – is a better approach.

3) What’s wrong in Wright’s tweet can’t be solved by bans and exclusions.

It is perfectly fair enough to debate whether or not Israel operates a system of “Apartheid”. It is also perfectly fair to say that some of the claims of antisemitism against Labour are overblown, and then argue over where the line is. But if you police those debates too strictly, they stop happening. Wright’s tweet comes down hard on one side of these arguments, and potentially feeds into two bad narratives.

Firstly, that people who are upset about antisemitism in Labour are making it up (or have been fooled by others); and secondly, that if you support Israel’s continued existence, then you’re a racist. The implication of both of these narratives is that the left should be at loggerheads with most Jews (as polling consistently shows that most Jews support the continued existence of Israel, whatever their criticisms of the country’s rulers; and at least a large minority of UK Jews think that Labour has issues with antisemitism). That’s bad. But it is only anti-Jewish indirectly, after several logical progressions.

That’s not to suggest that left antisemitism is less bad because it is often only “indirect” or implied. However, drawing out its logic requires argument, debate, education, etc., necessarily conducted in an atmosphere of free speech; attempting to police such comments as being so beyond the pale as to warrant instantaneous exclusion from elections without no right of appeal cuts against that patient work of political-educational campaigning.

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For democratic education! The exam fiasco, higher education and activism in schools

Since the Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of exams for GCSE and A-Level students this year, there has been confusion over how, if at all young people would be graded. Exams have come to play a decisive factor in an increasingly marketised education system. From primary school to universities, results and grades are used to rank educational centres by “performance”, whilst universities offer more conditional offers than they have places, relying on students missing their offers.


The mysterious algorithm that emerged to collate teachers’ assessments of their students with historical achievement of each school led to a massive downgrading for working class young people, while students at privileged private institutions rarely lost out at all. This exaggeration of an already discriminatory grading system quickly provoked outrage, with students organising demos up and down the country, demanding and soon winning a U-Turn from the government on awarding centre assessed grades for A-Level and GCSE Students.

Although the Labour Party and NEU declared victory, BTEC students still missed out on the regrading, and for many students the U-Turn came too late for their first choice university, and could not reverse the days of stress and uncertainty. People connected at different stages of education give their take on the fiasco, below:

Given the Government’s U-Turn, is this “victory”?

Miranda Williams,18, is an activist with the UK Student Climate network in Newcastle and received A-Level results this year:
The U -turn on the A Level results should be viewed as a victory for students and I hope my peers have realised the strength of youth power and protest: by fighting back, we put enough pressure on the government to listen to us. But we are still angry. It is already too late for many students who have fallen through the cracks due to Gavin Williamson’s ‘mistake’ and who are unable to make it in to their first- choice university this year, despite achieving the correct grades after the U -turn. We cannot fully view this as a victory until Gavin Williamson is sacked, there is guaranteed support for students whose futures were hijacked by the classist algorithm and there is a complete reboot of the education system.

Will “back to normal” improve things?

MW: The disregard for young people’s futures due to this recent unjust algorithm only highlights the ever-prevalent classism, racism and elitism within our education system. We cannot return to ‘normal’ if we are to eradicate these. On top of this, young people’s mental health should always take priority and a culture in which there are barely any opportunities for those who do not achieve the highest (i.e. those who are already the most privileged in the private schools) should be re-thought. In September, there needs to be real support for students on returning post lockdown and reduced content for the year below me. I hope that we begin to see a shift in curriculum – with more preparation for adult life, teaching on the climate crisis, and on black history. I also hope that young people will remember the way the Tories betrayed us – not only with exams, but their cuts and underfunding of youth and mental health services- and vote accordingly next election.

Are universities looking out for young people? 

Josh is a PhD student and precariously employed undergraduate teacher in Cambridge

Simply, put – no. Over the past three decades through the rush to raise fees and eliminate grants, student debt has now reached a staggering £120 Billion. For an average graduate this is expected to total a colossal £36,000; an amount that a graduate now can expect chained to them for anywhere up to 30 years. 

Albeit such decisions were made by past governments, there were those in the sector who welcomed this push given what it could mean for them. ‘Save the Student’ this year reported that on average monthly student outgoings were £807, with nearly 60% of that on rent alone; greater than the income from their student loan, with a majority share often being pumped back into their university. Like with all marketized models, the squeeze at the bottom directly benefits those at the top.

But fixing student finances alone is insufficient; the working conditions of university staff affect the learning conditions of students. With workload pressures sky-rocketing and a non-stop drive towards casualising university academic employment, it is no wonder that over-worked and under-paid staff are leaving higher education in record numbers. Despite this, university management roles have in this same time both grown in size and seen ever-inflating salaries. Last year saw one Vice Chancellor with a remuneration package worth £554,000, and an average of £380,000 across the 24 “Russell Group” universities. Further, support services for students remain miserably inadequate, with rising levels of stress and anxiety hitting students badly.

Whichever way we cut it; either living or learning, students are getting a raw deal, and as too are the majority of university staff who keep HE infrastructure running. Students and university staff should fight to tear this rotten system to the floor and rebuild it based on social need, and social good.

– What do we mean by democratic control of education?
Sacha Marten

I remember realising in Year 7 that I wouldn’t have any significant input into my education for several years, and even then, it wouldn’t be substantial. I chose to quit school and achieve my qualifications from home, so I could shape my own destiny and end the unequal relationship with schooling. This really isn’t an option available to most people, and wasn’t easy for me, as all the students who have had to move into home study as a result of the COVID pandemic will know.

In transforming education, it won’t be enough to merely reverse these cuts or rebuild the lost institutions as part of the Corbyn-era National Education Service, because if the Tories get back in, all the hard work to build that will be reversed too.

So how can we build a resilient education system that can defend itself against attacks from the government, and deliver for students and education workers? The simple answer is to democratise it. It’s in the best interests of students to learn, and teachers to teach, and the best way to do this is through mutual respect and consent. Classes and their teachers should decide what they’re going to work on, unencumbered by the whims of managers and ministers. This would mean students could decide what classes they want to take as soon as they are able (and before they’re able, there’s probably not much intensive learning to be done yet!) and they would, where possible, be able to choose which teacher teaches them.

Beyond that, through bolstered, grassroots unions for both education workers and students, every aspect could be managed by the people most directly connected with the institution. The political football of school dinners and their nutrition would no longer be an issue, and there wouldn’t be the situation where there’s plenty of money for the principal’s company car, but none to keep the library up to date. In fact, there would be no principal at all, which would definitely mean less dodgy exit scams like the one which almost destroyed my local FE college and cost the jobs of hardworking, long-suffering staff while the management ran to the bank.

Some might say this goal is unachievable, and maybe it is. But what’s the alternative? Continuing to botch a classist education system designed to be a Victorian workhouse-creche for the masses, but provide lessons in con-artistry for the elite, or to try and redesign education from the ground up for the people who live in it every day? A democratic education system means never again can a generation be robbed by exam system failures, gutting of the curriculum or chronic underfunding. It means never again does a person wanting to retrain in their adulthood have no option but debt or no education. It means that never again do we see teachers and students forced to work conditions which prove disastrous for their mental health and wellbeing, when education should be the most nourishing environment there is.

So let’s scrap the old system, it’s proven to be a failure, and let’s give a real, democratic education system a try.

– School is back in September – what should we expect, and look to build?

Abel Harvie-Clark, 19, was a climate striker in 2019 and now works in a hospital kitchen
Students are being told to begin the new school in totally unprecedented circumstances. Many scientists are reminding us the dangers of reopening education even with social distancing measures, whilst no one can quite believe that masks will last 5 minutes on the playground. On top of this, teachers are facing a string of attacks from the right-wing press, and students are rightly furious with the exam results situation. Pre-pandemic tens of thousands of students had already walked out of school as part of the youth strike for climate movement. The norms that sustain the established (victorian) school system are breaking down!

Many of the young people who stepped up to organise the results protests were in many places the same youths who have been organising school strikes for over a year now. This generation of teenagers is informed, aware and willing to act on the chaos that is unfolding around them. That kind of attitude will be important if responsibility for Covid-safety falls to independent action by students and staff.We should look to link up active, organised students with NEU branches, and support with resources and facilities that are difficult for young people to access.

The global Fridays for Future movement has called for a day of action on the 25th of September, and that certainly won’t be the limit of youth climate action. With the global situation becoming ever more critical, the energy and ambition of last years’ climate strikes needs to be rekindled, and taken up across the labour movement. Let’s help make this action on the 25th huge.

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The politics of the left NEC campaign

By Mohan Sen

The “Centre Left Grassroots Alliance” campaign for Labour’s National Executive Committee, supported by Momentum and other organisations, recently launched under the banner “Grassroots Voice”.

The front page of the campaign website includes a 180 word political programme (see below). Keeping the slate’s basic political pitch concise has sense; but 180 words is very short indeed. Even in something that length, however, it would be possible to make some important points. The Grassroots Voice statement doesn’t.

If you’re not really paying attention it reads as left-wing, namechecking various good causes, but in terms of what it actually advocates it is extremely vague and general. It says nothing either about procedural questions which are crucial particularly for NEC members, eg sovereignty of conference, due process over suspensions and expulsions, proper reporting of NEC meetings; or about wider political demands and struggles.

Again, there is good sense to keeping things concise and in the circumstances of a slate like this, cobbled together by a range of organisations and groupings, it is presumably all fairly tricky. But the fact remains that what has been produced will not improve the political level of the movement or give the left a clear guide to what needs to be done.

The statements from the individual candidates include a few more concrete bits and pieces, but not much.

Obviously more can be said later in the campaign – and in August Momentum has announced a meeting to discuss policies. But in general it seems necessary to begin with a clear, concrete statement of what you stand and will fight for. (Also the “More later” argument is often a way of punting things off – as in the Momentum NCG election, where Forward Momentum left various agreed policies out of its ‘Plan’, responding to complaints by promising a further document which never appeared.)

The longest section of the Grassroots Voice statement is “For liberation and equality”. This promises a fight against a long list of different forms of bigotry and oppression. The comprehensiveness is welcome, but it all seems fairly tokenistic.

When the GV website first went up, there was a link to an additional statement, signed by NEC candidate Mish Rahman but seemingly on behalf of the whole slate. This included a clearer commitment on the issue of trans rights, which has been a subject of controvery, including to reform of the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification.

“Seemingly on behalf of the whole slate” because it is/was not clear. I assume this odd mechanism was adopted because some candidates (Ann Henderson? Laura Pidcock?) were not willing to sign.

But to add to the mystery, this second statement has now disappeared from the site!

It is not a matter of indifference whether left-wing candidates win the NEC election (in addition to the CLGA/Grassroots Voice candidates, there are others, for instance Open Labour’s Jermain Jackman). But left organisations and activists need to push for debate and clarification on what the left candidates stand for and are committed to.

That is particularly the case because some of the left candidates have poor or unclear political records: not just Ann Henderson and Laura Pidcock on trans rights, but eg Lara McNeill on the mess the Stalinist “left” has made of Young Labour. More generally demanding at least some political clarity and concrete commitment is the right political approach for the left.

In deciding its slates, the left should first agree on a political platform – limited, of course, but clear and substantive – and choose candidates on that basis, rather than first choosing candidates and then trying to persuade them to sign a platform.

***

WHAT WE STAND FOR

For a Green New Deal

Faced with the threat of climate collapse, we’ve got no time to waste. By 2030 we need to create a zero-carbon economy that works for the vast majority of society, not the billionaires.

For an economy for the many, not the few

Our rigged system is in crisis. Right now, falling profits for the billionaires means catastrophic unemployment for us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is massive public support for transformative socialist policies that can create the future we need.

For liberation and equality

Our movement must join with Black Lives Matter in the fight for systemic change. We will take on the political elites who try and use racism and prejudice as weapons to turn us against one another. We will make sure our party is unified in the fight against racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, Afrophobia, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, ableism, sexism, sexual harassment, and the scapegoating of migrant and Traveller communities.

The time for waiting is over. Let’s build a Labour Party that will fight for the future we need.

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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.