Categories
Uncategorised

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

Categories
Uncategorised

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

Categories
Uncategorised

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.

Categories
Uncategorised

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.

Categories
Uncategorised

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.

Categories
Uncategorised

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.

Categories
Uncategorised

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.


Categories
Uncategorised

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.

Categories
Uncategorised

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. 

Categories
Uncategorised

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