Momentum, the social movement set up in the wake of the phenomena that was Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Labour leader has steadily and consistently retreated from the spirit of the campaign, and its founding ethos to the point it is in a real danger of becoming irrelevant to the wider movement.
The writing was on the wall when the right wing of the Labour party came out publicly attacking Momentum. Momentum’s response to this was revealed in a Guardian article entitled “Corbyn’s Momentum group moves to block influence of hard-left parties.”
Within that article it declared: “It would mean members of other leftwing parties such as Left Unity and the Communist party would not be allowed to attend its decision-making meetings. Momentum has decided that office holders in the group must all be Labour members and it is urgently preparing plans to develop a more democratic structure.”
This was a sign of things to come, firstly Momentum is not Corbyn’s group, it is suppose to be a grassroots social movement. The campaign to get him leader was led by many different forces in and out of the Labour party, and they have now been effectively expelled from a movement they were integral in creating.
Secondly, Momentum now has unequal membership, it sees Labour members as more important than the rest of us. How can a social movement be one, when it is now excluding large parts of the movement from involvement, or decision making?
Momentum had its first national meeting of delegates (no observers allowed), and it reinforced this previous position by voting to exclude at every single level, members of other parties, even if those parties campaigned to get Corbyn elected, and have similar values to that of the Labour party, and the trade unions.
The exact decision reached is as follows: “The Committee decided that Momentum should become a membership organisation. Members of other political parties will not be eligible for membership of Momentum.”
This is incredibly short sighted and extremely damaging to any movement Momentum was hoping to create, and for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in general. Without his supporters outside of the Labour party, he will find himself extremely isolated, it is the pressure and power of these collectively working together which is his biggest weapon against the right wing, and the media onslaught he has faced.
Within this context Momentum’s decision is nothing short of a betrayal, a betrayal to those that helped get him elected and a betrayal to the wider movement, as Momentum retreats into the Labour party to become an internal echo chamber, a Progress of the left.
I’m not a member of any other party but I had hoped that Momentum would be a vehicle for change, where forces from across the left could come together under the banner of Momentum in order to fight for the values put forward during the Jeremy Corbyn campaign by all those that supported him, both inside and outside the Labour party.
It feels that Momentum was dishonest about what it was from the start, as it clearly is no longer a social movement, nor can it be under its current structure. It clearly has changed from its original intentions which were: “The group is designed as a grassroots network to create ‘a mass movement for change, for real progressive change in every town and city’. Momentum describes itself as the successor to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign, but it is independent of the party’s leadership. It will work both inside the Labour party and organise in broader civil society.”
Momentum also wanted to effect change within the Labour party, hence the massive pressure it has come under from Labour MPs attacking it, but it was suppose to be independent of this Labour influence. In any case the solution to sheltering the Labour party from any outside influence that can be of a negative nature, was to have Labour members within Momentum organised, so that part of Momentum’s work is carried out by Labour members, the solution they have come to however is to exclude everyone, which shows extreme weakness and is going to damage Labour’s electoral chances.
It seems however these internal problems are going to bog down Momentum, this has already happened to some degree, Momentum has slowed down and well lost some of its momentum – a victory for the right who wanted this to happen. It looks like the Momentum leadership are trying to appease them, rather than effectively create a social movement that aspires to change society, while helping those in need who as it was put when it was founded, cannot wait for a Corbyn led government.
The steps it is taking are not new, not radical and I cannot see it achieving its aims unless it drastically begins to change. It is just a new name but carrying out old methods, we live in the internet age, we should be looking to have an inclusive movement that incorporates new media with a non-hierarchical structure.
Look at how Podemos are doing it in Spain, there is another way but mimicking the old methods isn’t going to reach the masses, and the more Momentum gets dragged into part of the internal Labour machinations, the further it is going to be from helping the people that cannot wait for a Corbyn government.
If Momentum is going to be successful it needs be brave, it needs to be bold but more importantly it needs to break away from the shackles of the Corbyn campaign, so that it can begin achieving change in our society, while it lays the foundation for a Corbyn victory in 2020.
I’m still going to be a member of Momentum, and everyone that reads this you should get involved too. We need to shape Momentum in its early formative months, and the more people fighting for an inclusive radical looking and acting Momentum, the better.
Lets keep the Momentum we need alive and kicking.