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Interview with Momentum NCG candidates: Midlands and East

by The Editors / June 18, 2020

Momentum NCG 2020  }
The second of our interviews with Momentum NCG candidates from the two main slates. Today: Midlands and East. 6213 words / 24 min read

With the left still reeling from defeat in the 2019 general election and the leadership campaign which followed, the elections to the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG) represent a major opportunity for a critical appraisal of the last five years – and what the left does next.

Unfortunately, the level of discussion within internal elections has generally been quite low - and this one is no exception. On 31st May, therefore, New Socialist reached out to the two main national slates (Momentum Renewal and Forward Momentum) with a series of questions for candidates in each region. We’ve tried to tease out differences between the slates and pin them down on some of the difficult questions – we’ll leave it to you to determine how well they’ve stepped up.

We asked for named responses from candidates, but in some cases answers were submitted on behalf of the whole section, or generically across the entire slate. As well as the answers below, we’d encourage you to look at slates’ responses in other sections, and candidates’ responses to the pledges put together by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights and the Labour Campaign for Free Movement. New Socialist would also note that it’s not enough to sign pledges and then equivocate over supporting them – you either support them or you don’t. In some of the answers we received to our questions, particularly over the tenth LCTR pledge (‘Support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views’), we’re concerned by hints that candidates might be willing to row back. New Socialist believes that it’s necessary to be able to draw lines, and that worries about the possibility of unfair expulsions can be a handy cover for people who’d oppose expulsions in any circumstances. We would also like to reiterate our support for the ninth pledge, which demands organising and fighting ‘against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.’ The transphobia of these groups is well documented and a demand to oppose them is merely a demand to be consistent in our opposition to bigotry and exclusion and to make good on the provisions in the Labour rulebook that ‘No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which… might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on… gender reassignment or identity’.

We’ve decided to interview the two main slates because we think that they’re the ones that most need to be interrogated – in most regions, it would be impossible to use all your votes without voting for a candidate from one of these two slates. However, we recognise that there are independents running in these elections too, and we want to give them a right to reply. We invite independents to submit responses of no more than 1000 words to [email protected], outlining their responses to the questions we’ve raised and highlighting the differences between themselves and the interviews that we’ve published.

More information about the NCG elections, which close on Tuesday 30th June, can be found here. The full list of candidates is here – Momentum’s regions, which leave a lot to be desired, are based on European parliamentary constituencies (unless you’re in Cumbria). You can search for yours here.

Our publishing schedule for these interviews is as follows:
Wednesday 17th: London
Thursday 18th: Midlands and East
Friday 19th: North West and Wales
Saturday 20th: Public Office Holders
Sunday 21st: South East and South West
Monday 22nd: Yorkshire, North East, Cumbria, Scotland and International

NS

Can you introduce yourselves? Who are the members of your slate?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We are a group of activists from across the country who want to renew Momentum by uniting the left to win the battle for socialism in our party. Our campaign is backing candidates from Matt Brown, the pioneer of the Preston Model, LGBTQ+ activist Chardine Taylor Stone to the left-backed candidate for Deputy Leadership in Scotland, Matt Kerr and Labour’s NEC member Huda Elmi.

We understand how disheartening the last six months have been. First the general election, then the leadership and NEC by-elections. For the Labour-left to stay relevant, we need to remember what we’re for: our priority is building the local institutions that create vibrant socialist cultures and ensure the voting in of socialist MPs. The candidates we are backing have ensured socialist victories at local, regional and national levels. That is the kind of experience that Momentum needs to unite the left and build for the future.

(Editors’ note: The Momentum Renewal candidates in this region are Sonya Ward, Dan Roberts, Laura McAlpine, and Huda Elmi)

Forward Momentum

Andrew Scattergood (FM): I’m regional secretary for the Fire Brigades Union in the West Midlands and a trade union campaigner.

Abbie Clark (FM): I’m from Stevenage. I’m the Secretary of my CLP, having joined the day Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, and I co-founded my local Momentum group a few months later.

Solma Ahmed (FM): I’m vice chair of Harwich and North Essex, responsible for campaigning. I’m a housing practitioner and a campaigner for social justice.

Mish Rahman (FM): I am the Chair of Aldridge Brownhills CLP and also BAME Officer. I have also been CLP Campaign Coordinator. I am a Bernie Grant Leadership Programme graduate and also a member of Unite the Union, and Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

NS

How did your slate come about? What were the processes that got you on?

Forward Momentum

Abbie (FM): Our slate came together through a series of open online meetings, then a transparent primaries process that involved an online-hustings followed by votes by region. Over 25 meetings took place, hundreds of people joined the hustings and over 1500 people voted. From those initial meetings people could also put themselves forward to be on the policy committee and after the primaries, policy meetings were held to collectively decide the pledges that we would be standing on, which now form our plan to change Momentum.

The whole process has managed to get a range of Labour left grassroots members involved including many members that haven’t held positions outside of their CLPs or unions. It’s also re-energised many Momentum members who feel that their organisation has lost its way, from the 2017 coup (where a new constitution was imposed) through to a general lack of transparency around decision-making, and a lack of member input into policy-making.

We think this is what makes those on our slate best placed to listen to members and transform our organisation.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We reflected upon the failure of the NEC by-election in April and understood that the most important political priority needed to be the sustaining of the fragile coalition that constituted the Labour Left over the Corbyn era. We therefore made it our priority that any candidates we choose to support must reflect the political diversity of the coalition of support that we’ve received and not be dominated by a particular point of view. Another imperative is that the slate, while respecting the need for breadth, must share a basic vision for the future of Momentum in order to be coherent and accountable for delivering on our full list of pledges. Furthermore, it’s extremely important to ensure the desired balance and diversity on a slate in terms of politics, skills, geography, age, background and BAME representation.

As a result, Momentum Renewal’s key decisions were taken by a Strategy Panel with a remit to reach out to people across the Labour Left to try and reach the greatest possible degree of unity and consensus before deciding on candidates or policies. This didn’t just mean liaising with established groups or well-known figures, it also meant providing ways for every Momentum member who has an idea about the future of Momentum or who is interested in standing for the NCG to get involved. We certainly don’t have all the answers, and utilising all the talent that’s out there in our movement will be vital to unlocking our potential in the future.

NS

What has Momentum done right in the last few years?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Whilst it is of great importance for NCG candidates to understand Momentum’s limitations over the last 5 years, its successes perhaps don’t get the praise they deserve. It is easy to forget quite how disoriented and unprepared the left was as it assumed the leadership of the party in 2015. In the context of this, Momentum should be praised for its immense electoral mobilisations, its (until recently) near-perfect record in internal party elections, and its amplification of demands around the Green Industrial Revolution, abolition of detention centres, the shorter working week and others – many of which found their way into the 2017 and 2019 manifestoes.

The enlargement of the SCG – despite the PLP decreasing in size overall since 2015 – has in good part to do with mobilisation organised by Momentum in local selections. This will surely be invaluable over the coming years both in helping regain the leadership for the left as well as emboldening the demands of the extra-parliamentary left.

This was all made possible by Momentum’s 40,000+ strong membership. The enormity of this achievement cannot be understated – for a left organisation within The Labour Party to have a membership of this size would have been unimaginable 5 years ago. This success is also arguably Momentum’s greatest downfall – the failure to mobilise such a large membership in communities as well as conferences is well understood by Renewal candidates; rectifying this, building on those successes of the Corbyn era, should be of great urgency to any successful NCG candidates.

Forward Momentum

Solma (FM): Momentum started off really well as a campaigning and grassroots organisation. I was excited to join. Among Momentum members there is still a great wealth of knowledge, passion and experience.

Momentum has been good at organising in elections, mobilising thousands of activists and spreading a passion, motivation and energy that was infectious - especially through its social media campaigning, which helped young people engage with socialism. It gave many people hope for a socialist Labour Party and a socialist government.

Andrew (FM): As I wrote for Tribune, I had some very positive experiences of Momentum when I was a local trade union rep embroiled in a dispute with fire bosses. The local group in Walsall got stuck in and supported our struggle, helping to bolster our determination, which eventually won through. This was Momentum at its best - supporting labour movement struggles, as well as campaigning in the Labour Party. There are Momentum groups across the country that have done the same thing, but all too often they’ve lacked the support from Momentum nationally they need to be truly effective.

NS

And where did it go wrong? What or who was to blame?

Forward Momentum

Solma (FM): Momentum’s back-room, top-down approach has become its downfall. Despite great successes mobilising members at elections, most members feel ignored or let down by those at the top of Momentum. My own treatment by Momentum when I stood to be a PPC left me completely disillusioned. It transpired that they had already backed certain candidates without due process. It was all about who was close to the decision-makers.

This is a common experience of many local groups, and it often led to unpopular and eventually unsuccessful candidates being imposed. Not only has it alienated many members, it’s lost us many elections.

Andrew (FM): In Walsall, a once vibrant group of activists has been ground down by unwarranted attacks, a succession of problems in Momentum, and disillusionment with the Labour Party’s recent setbacks, and their numbers have dwindled. This is true of many groups across the country.

Momentum’s leadership has often ignored or worked against local groups – failing to provide support, cutting members off from key decisions, and as Solma has said, helping to impose unpopular and often unsuccessful candidates. Considering this, it’s not hard to see why Momentum has stalled, and why we need a serious change of direction.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Momentum’s problems arose at the dawn of its creation. It was an organisation formed without a structure, strategy or clear political orientation and thus became all things to all people. This meant that its entire development was fuelled by short term demands and not a long-term vision. Subsequently, the organisation developed in an overly hierarchical and bureaucratic fashion. No one person was to blame for this happening, these errors occurred due to the conditions surrounding Momentum’s birth and initial development. Now the Labour left is no longer preoccupied with the defence of the party leadership there is now time to re-evaluate Momentum’s role, its structure and strategy moving forward.

NS

What will be your priorities on the NCG?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We have to rebuild and grow the socialist left in the Labour Party and try to re-capture the energy and enthusiasm which defined our movement between 2015 and 2017.

There are 3 areas we will concentrate on delivering to achieve this if we’re elected:

  1. Supporting moving offices away from London, improving the support available to local groups and giving Momentum members a meaningful, democratic voice over policy making, strategy and the direction of our campaigns

  2. Bolstering the political education which is available to activists on campaigning, party rules and structures and the trade union movement, so when people join Momentum there is a pathway available to train and support them in making a contribution to our movement.

  3. Strengthening the links between Momentum and the trade union movement. As Lawrence Dunne outlined in his recent article on LabourList, we view the task of building the socialist left within unions as key to our chances of successfully moving on from the Corbyn era and ensuring our politics are relevant to people. Being active in a union, helping to face capitalism down at its source, should be seen as a key aspect of every member’s contribution to what we do. Momentum is in an ideal position to help with this through our political education programme and through ensuring we dedicate staff and resources to developing local links with trade unions and the socialist factions within them.

Ultimately, our aim should be to once more inextricably link the struggle in the workplace and the fight to transform wider society.

Forward Momentum

All candidates (FM): We have five key priorities, which all Forward Momentum candidates are committed to: to unite the socialist left and transform the Labour Party; to refound Momentum and put members in charge; to build power in our workplaces and communities; to give more control to local groups, the regions and the nations; and to fight for a just and green response to the Covid crisis.

We encourage everyone to check out our detailed plans around these five areas, each of which has five further concrete policies. We feel the time and effort that has been put into developing these, by the whole of the Forward Momentum campaign and hundreds of Momentum members, is one of the things that separates us from other slates.

Mish (FM): I want to end selection stitch-ups and backroom deals. Local groups should decide who their candidates should be. No more gatekeepers, no more ‘who you know and who your friends are’ – transparency, fairness, and member-led democracy are imperative. Democracy isn’t a distraction, it’s the only way to transform Momentum and the Labour Party into effective campaigning socialist organisations.

As I wrote for LabourList, I want to be a part of developing a democratically-run Momentum BAME members network to support BAME self-organisation, build BAME power and promote BAME leadership - which is what we as Forward Momentum candidates are committed to (see our plan to change Momentum).

So often BAME members and their communities are taken for granted in the Labour Party and representation is tokenistic. Empowerment and political education are essential to further the movement and deliver true diversity and representation. Momentum needs to stand up for minorities and provide a platform for them to flourish.

NS

Many people have identified the upcoming the NEC elections as a crucial battle for Momentum, with failure in the last set seen as down to a disunited left slate. What were the reasons for this? How should such a slate be formed? And how do appeals to unity interact with concerns around backing, for example, candidates who are transphobic or who equivocate over condemning antisemitism?

Forward Momentum

Abbie (FM): You can’t expect Momentum members to automatically support a slate when you leave them out of the decision-making processes, and you impose from the top.

There will always be political differences on the left but the role of Momentum should be to provide spaces - through local groups, conferences and online platforms - for political debate and discussion to take place. This is the only way we can achieve any sort of unity and consensus on the left; through open, democratic consensus.

Slates should be formed through open, transparent processes with discussions taking place at local, regional and national levels, and with members getting a decisive say. This is another reason why redrawing regions to match up with Labour Party regions is so vital.

Discussion with other left groups is crucial and must be encouraged and facilitated at all levels. However, I do not believe that Momentum should work with those that question the rights of trans people nor groups that cause harm or distress to Jewish comrades.

When members are provided with opportunities to discuss and decide slates, I can’t see members promoting candidates with bigoted views. And through open debate and process these views can be challenged and rooted out.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Our priority is to bring about a united left slate ahead of the NEC elections, whenever that may be. The lack of consensus on a united slate in April cost us the NEC elections and has led to many of the victories won over the course of the last 5 years being undone in a matter of months. We cannot let this happen again. We need to be frank, though: coming to a consensus on nine candidates is far more achievable than on two. We would therefore get round the negotiating table at the CLGA and try and come to a consensus on the kind of reforms in the Party that we are strategically well-placed to win, and subsequently draw up a collective slate that supports those priorities. During negotiations, if we are elected, we will continue to strive for a slate of candidates who embody all of our values as socialists and people who believe in equality. This includes arguing strongly against candidates who fall short of that standard, be it in regards to antisemitism, transphobia or any other form of bigotry. Individuals on that slate should be held to the highest of standards as potential representatives on the ruling body of our Party.

NS

Have you all signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights founding statement?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): The majority of the candidates we are backing have now signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights founding statement. We are pleased that there is such a consensus across both slates on this.

Forward Momentum

All candidates (FM): Yes, we’ve all signed the statement.

Abbie (FM): I’m also proud to say that in February my CLP passed a motion supporting this too. As Socialists we must not only stand alongside our Trans and non-binary comrades but actively support and campaign for their liberation.

Mish (FM): My support of equality is unwavering; I share my solidarity with my trans siblings. Any type of discrimination and bigotry is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Supporting trans rights doesn’t make you anti-feminist either – it’s a ridiculous argument. Women and trans people share similar struggles in a patriarchal society.

NS

How do you expect to work with other members of the NCG? Will the organisation that’s supporting you continue to exist after the NCG elections?

Forward Momentum

All candidates (FM): We will work with all members of the NCG, and if there is a majority of Forward Momentum candidates we hope every NCG member will get behind our programme for change. Ultimately, we are all part of the Left.

Andrew (FM): I am very experienced in working across broad areas of the labour movement and have been involved in enough negotiations to understand how to secure the best outcomes. Working with other members of the NCG is essential to ensure we reach a united, democratic and member-agreed position on numerous areas, but none are more urgent than the upcoming and crucial NEC elections.

I think we all recognise the massive failings of the left for the previous NEC by-elections where there was disunity and confusion around the slate. We must avoid a repeat of this, and we must also recognise Momentum’s contribution to this failure.

I know Forward Momentum candidates all agree that Momentum must play an important and vital role in creating the unity we need on the left, but we must do this with the support of our members and not through diktat and arrogance. Unity cannot simply be imposed, it has to be fostered by consensus.

Forward Momentum is a time limited campaign, and there is no reason for Forward Momentum to exist after this campaign finishes.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Momentum Renewal is not an organisation, but a new strategic direction for Momentum moving forward. All of our candidates would work with those elected across the NCG to unite the left. Our aim is twofold: to bring about a united left NEC slate and to rebuild in communities up and down the country. We would work with anyone who agreed that both of those things are the priority for the Labour Left moving forward.

NS

Each slate has expressed a commitment to ‘socialism’ – but what does socialism mean for you?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): At its core, socialism refers to the democratisation of life itself. A post-capitalist mode of production in which wealth, power and ownership are in the hands of the working class - the social majority of Britain and the world - diametrically opposed to current order. To put it simply, socialism is a movement to abolish the present state of things in pursuit of a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people and their families.

Forward Momentum

Abbie (FM): Socialism to me means building a world that places people ahead of profit so people can live freely and creatively. It’s understanding that we have more in common with workers across our borders than we do with those capitalists and the ruling class here.

The goal is to end capitalism and the oppression and exploitation of workers that it’s built upon. It’s understanding that the working-class majority must become aware of their relationship to capital and democratically organise to achieve overthrowing it, and that ultimately this must be an international effort. That means working in the Labour Party, trade unions, liberation movements and wider social movements within and beyond our borders

NS

Councillors bring valuable experience to Momentum and the NCG, but many social movements face local councils as their immediate antagonists – see, for example, the struggles over the Latin Village in Haringey. How can this contradiction be resolved?

Forward Momentum

Mish (FM): We cannot have socialist councillors making policy decisions that harm working class communities, and then socialist organisations like Momentum defending them because the leader of that council is on the Momentum NCG. This kind of cronyism has to stop.

Under Corbyn, Labour became an anti-austerity party and Momentum will continue that theme, and continue to campaign for socialist policies.

We need socialist councils creating socialist policies, and Momentum can support this by developing a strengthened councillor network, which helps find and train the next generation of accountable local leaders - which is what we are proposing at Forward Momentum.

Local groups should be engines of creativity at the local level, giving councillors the ideas and confidence to enact bold and transformative politics that empower working class people, and holding them to account when they do not.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We have a lot of trust that we need to rebuild with our communities. When we talk about the 2019 general election result, there is a narrative of winning back Labour heartlands. It is socialist councillors that have a responsibility to empower Labour heartlands and their local authorities.

The buzzwords around labour councils should not just be ways to describe different economic models. They should present opportunities for local people to actively participate in the economic decisions that affect their lives and the future of their city. Injecting our socialist values into a local authority means transforming the stale and sterile managerialist model of local government.

It needs to be acknowledged that the principles of the Corbyn project, which reintroduced dreams of municipal socialism, will end up playing out in hyper localised areas. This means for example, that no workers co-op or community bank would work with a one size fits all approach. A community land trust in London will be very different to one in Liverpool - and that is why it is vital to put residents at the heart of any transformative planning.

If we take the idea ‘the worker knows the workplace the best’, and embed this ethos within neighbourhoods and communities. Then local people should be supported in becoming active citizens who can change the social landscape of their towns and cities. Rebuilding trust between elected representatives and local people means demonstrating that you have the same aims.

Partnering with private companies that have little knowledge about how an area functions will only result in resident alienation and much needed funds being milked out of the council budgets and used to top up investors piggy banks.

Any notion of reinvigorating an area should be a discussion that is led by local people and is for local people .The role of a socialist councillor is to bring these people together. A group of neighbours will know what is best for their local area better than any developer ever could.

Whilst representative democracy provides individuals with some power, it is the responsibility of those individuals to empower the communities which they represent. The power of our movement cannot be mobilised by any one individual and will not reach the potential that we dream of if those elected individuals do not function to empower the many.

So often, it is Labour Councils that have implemented cuts. It is true that cuts to councils disproportionately affect Labour councils but this does not excuse them from subsequently making further cuts. What is needed now more than ever is an anti-cuts fightback across local government to protect our communities, which is why we support extended and providing extra resources for the Momentum Councillor Network.

NS

What role do you see for ‘autonomous’ or ‘liberation’ campaigns within Momentum? How should Momentum relate to groups like Socialists of Colour?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): In light of the racism in the leaked report and the fact that Keir Starmer is supporting aggressive prosecutions to protesters within the BLM movement, it’s an incredibly difficult time for BAME members to be in the Labour Party right now. Within that context, it is really exciting to see so many people, like Socialists of Colour, coming out to self-organise. What we really need to do is funnel this activity into channels inside the Labour Party. We do not need to replicate this in Momentum, and anyone proposing an internal structure of BAME representation within Momentum doesn’t understand the nature of how we best use our resources and create these spaces. The principle of self-organisation stands that anyone who wants to organise absolutely should do, but it’s important we recognise where these spaces are most needed. BAME socialists need to be organising in the Labour Party because that is where the power is. Because of the work of BAME organisers within Momentum, we now have the opportunity to set up local Ethnic Minority Forums that have clear democratic lines to their CLP. We have the opportunity to elect BAME officers who can represent BAME members on the EC and self-organise their BAME caucuses both inside and outside their CLPs. Through these we can exert our influence on CLPs and Labour Groups as well as the NEC and leadership. As a movement we really need to understand the power of these internal party mechanisms more and use them. And as Momentum we should be educating our membership and having these discussions of how we self-organise within the party with groups such as Socialists of Colour.

Forward Momentum

Solma (FM): As someone who has fought for equalities all my life, I believe everyone deserves to be respected, heard and valued. As a BAME Muslim woman, I have faced racism and sexism, and I have fought against this every single day. In Tower Hamlets I lead campaigns against the establishment and to break down barriers.

But we are still facing structural and institutional racism. The COVID-19 crisis and the death of George Floyd have shown us how BAME people everywhere face injustice and inequality. We all need to unite and fight for our liberation from oppression

Momentum must be reaching out to organisations leading this fight, working with them and supporting them in their campaigns.

As a Forward Momentum candidate, we are all standing on a platform of policies that includes developing a democratically-run Momentum BAME members network to support BAME self-organisation, build BAME power and promote BAME leadership. We also want to foster joined-up self-organisation across multiple liberation campaigns, so we can resist the oppression and the exploitation of the working class in all its diversity.

NS

Is there anything that Momentum shouldn’t be doing? Is there anything which would be better to be done by other groups on the left?

Forward Momentum

Mish (FM): Momentum should not dictate to other left organisations. It should play an active role in fostering left unity through collaboration. We have seen the results of Momentum’s failure to do this in the last NEC elections, where the left was split.

It’s also true that organisations such as Don’t Leave Organise and Open Labour sometimes do a better job of attracting new members by being more inclusive and open. Momentum has in the past failed to do this.

More broadly, Momentum shouldn’t look to launch campaigns where there are already active ones, or do the work that left organisations already do; it should see itself as a supportive force, engaging with workplace and community struggles to help build capacity, and build support for socialism in working class communities.

We think there are clearly areas where Momentum can lead the way, such as campaigning for socialism and democracy in the Labour Party, and supporting members to become organisers in their communities - but we also recognise that Momentum is just one of many organisations fighting for social and economic justice, and it needs to work with and respect these organisations.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): It’s difficult to identify anything which Momentum shouldn’t at least be attempting to influence within the socialist left of the Labour Party.

However, one thing we are passionate about is that we don’t believe we should be aiming for Momentum to become a mini-political party with bureaucratic structures and procedures which mirror those in place in the party. Our main task is organising, educating and mobilising people to transform the Labour Party and help win wider society to socialist politics, so everything we do has to be checked against those priorities.

NS

How do you think Momentum should relate to non-TUC-affiliated trade unions? Particularly where disputes emerge with unions affiliated to the TUC (and potentially Labour)?

Momentum Renewal

Dan Roberts (MR): Some of the most important moments in the history of the British trade union movement have happened outside of the traditional trade unions, such as the Grunwick dispute. Today we are seeing a number of non-TUC-affiliated unions who are doing incredible work such as the IWBG and United Voices of the World. Momentum should support workers joining unions, be they TUC affiliated or not, and should actively encourage the building of an organised working class.

However, in terms of disputes then these need to be looked at on a case by case basis. Momentum must work to unite the left and not cause unnecessary division.

Forward Momentum

Andrew (FM): I think that every union fighting for workplace rights should be affiliated to the TUC. Although I have my criticisms of the TUC, it is still a vital organisation to join up campaigns from across the trade union movement.

Having said that, there are some unions who are not in a position to affiliate and that shouldn’t mean we don’t engage and support their campaigns, many of which are vitally important. My direct experience of non-affiliated trade unions are the non-affiliated trade unions within the fire service, and these are merely sweetheart unions who are nothing more than an extension of management, and although very weak and low in membership, support of these so-called unions should be avoided.

We need Momentum to establish a better strategy for greater engagement with trade unions. We should be linking in with their campaigns and supporting their disputes, and in our plan to change Momentum, we have committed to establishing a Momentum trade unionists’ network, with a focus on developing and sharing organising skills. This network will have an elected full-time officer tasked with its growth and coordinating with unions at both local and national levels.

Far too often, trade unions can find themselves in dispute with Labour councils and we must not waiver on support for trade union members in these circumstances. It should always be a case of class first, party second.

NS

How should Momentum relate to the types of campaigns represented by Labour Campaigns Together?

Forward Momentum

Andrew (FM): Labour Campaigns Together are raising and campaigning on some of the most important issues for the working class. Momentum should definitely be having regular and open dialogue with this initiative, including on how we can organise joint campaigns and push for radical policy in the Labour Party.

Our campaign is about installing democracy and accountability in Momentum, and I would be very keen to see each of these campaigns put forward their position on these serious and important issues to the wider Momentum membership.

It was a positive development that Momentum campaigned for policy at last year’s Labour Party Conference, but this should be done democratically, giving members a say in which policies their organisation advocates for.

Momentum Renewal

Dan (MR): We should be in constant contact with left wing campaigns to offer them any resources and support they need. We must be not just fighting for these issues within the Labour Party but also within society.

NS

Everyone seems to agree that more power should be given to local groups. What are some successful groups in your region?

Momentum Renewal

Dan (MR): We’ve actually had real difficulties in Worcester re-starting a local Momentum branch. I saw the incredible work that local groups in Birmingham and further afield (Manchester, Leeds) were doing and it inspired me to stand as a NCG candidate. We need to give local groups the resources and support to build the working class strength in our communities and workplaces to enact real change.

Forward Momentum

Solma (FM): Empowering local groups is key to Momentum’s long-term success, and while everyone does seem to agree with this, our campaign has taken the time to consult with members and develop concrete policies on how to do this. We urge you to check these out.

Abbie (FM): My own local Momentum group has been a success since it was founded in late 2015. We selected our parliamentary candidate Jill that went on to win the CLP selection. We have organised to see that Momentum members have gained positions on the CLP executive and seen some become councillors. Alongside this we have supported local workers on picket lines, petitioned against TTIP and written open letters holding local representatives to account over social care provision and public ownership.

Andrew (FM): There have been and still are a number of successful groups across my region, especially in the West Midlands, but they have struggled and been hindered by a lack of central support from Momentum.

Mish (FM): As Andrew has said, there are many active groups across our region, but they know they could be doing so much more if they had the support.

We need to equip local groups and members to launch and support community and workplace struggles, collaborating with trade, community, and tenants’ unions to build working class power, foster class solidarity across communities and grow deep-rooted support for socialism. This means putting Momentum’s data and digital tools at the disposal of local groups, giving them control over resources, through regional funding pots, and letting them decide who to back in elections. We encourage anyone who is interested in these ideas to read our plan to change Momentum, especially the section on giving more power to local groups, the regions and nations.


Author:

The Editors (@newsocialistuk)

The New Socialist editorial collective.