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In This Issue

  • For democracy in Momentum
  • Model motion for Momentum
  • Model motion: Reinstate Jackie Walker

October 7 2016

Issue no 3

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Dear comrade <<First Name>>
Welcome to the third edition of our bulletin, which is dealing with the fallout from the removal of Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum, which has revealed a real democratic deficit in the organisation. If you do not want to receive news from Labour Party Marxists, please unsubscribe on the button below.

For a democratic revolution … in Momentum!

The Momentum Steering Committee’s capitulation to the right’s foul attacks on Jackie Walker was hedged around with caveats, regrets and a feeble appeal to the Labour leadership not to expel her from party. The evasive statement announcing the decision to remove her from vice chair told us that none of the comments “she appears to have made” could be tagged as “anti-Semitic” – at least, “taken individually” they weren’t (our emphasis).

What does this actually mean? Is there a dispute about what was said by comrade Walker? And if her comments are not anti-Semitic individually, are they ‘anti-Semitic’ taken as a package? And why no demand that her suspension from the Labour Party be lifted?

Unfortunately, the tone of this limp SC statement – conciliatory towards the right, opaque, sketchy on required detail – is characteristic of the general culture of the organisation at the top. The lack of effective accountability in these upper echelons is illustrated by the additional fact that – while we were informed that the SC split 3 votes to 7 over the issue - we were not supplied with other rather pertinent facts. Like a breakdown of the way each individual committee member voted, for instance. (Tony Greenstein – himself another victim of foul ‘anti-Semitism’ charges, of course – has penned a more detailed overview of this latest attack on the left.)

For the most part, we had to rely on unofficial postings to establish a partial picture of the split on the committee. For example, Nick Wrack wrote on Facebook that his brother Matt, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Cecile Wright and NEC member, Darren Williams, were the votes against the disciplinary action.

“Disappointingly”, he added, “Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum voted in favour” – as if anyone with even a cursory knowledge of left politics in this country could ever entertain the notion that two supporters of the ‘soft Zionist’ Alliance for Workers Liberty would think twice about doing anything else. You can read their mealy-mouthed apologetics for this disgraceful vote here (JM) and here (MC). Readers can be assured that this publication will soon have more to say on the AWL and its long, disgraceful history of smearing political opponents on the left as ‘anti-Semites’.

To return to Momentum’s particular problems however, it is unconscionable in a working class organisation that:
  • The majority of its members just have a hazy, incomplete picture of who is actually on its unelected steering committee (drawn from the unelected national committee). Worse, as this episode has shown, they are also in the dark politically.
  • We were given the numerical breakdown of the split on the steering committee, but there was no political report of the discussion. The least members should expect are detailed minutes of how this important decision was reached. However, in keeping with the generally appalling democratic ethos of the organisation, none have been issued.
  • The sort of democratic transparency we argue for is a basic requirement for a healthy organisational culture. It is not ‘gossip-mongering’ or recklessness with comrades’ security, as some on the left have foolishly tagged it. Without this sort of essential knowledge of the track record of the people who are leading our organisations, how on earth can we hold them to account when (if?) it comes to internal elections? (We do hope that no steering committee comrades will be foolish enough to deploy the Johanna Baxter defence …)
  • So - who was the most energetic pack leaders in calling for comrade Walker’s head; who were her staunchest defenders; and who flip-flopped between these two poles? Who should we vote for when the long-promised internal elections finally materialise?
Clearly, apart from a swarm of other political problems, the Jackie Walker fiasco has dramatised the shocking democratic deficit at the core of the Moment project. Repeatedly, the (largely) online debate around the sorry episode has returned to this question of accountability, openness and – as a Teesside Momentum resolution unanimously passed back in September put it - the failure of the Momentum leadership to “practise what it preaches to the Labour Party in its own internal decision-making processes”.

We have drafted the model motion below, based roughly on the useful Teesside original. Use it in your local Momentum branch … and tell us how the meetings go!

Model motion
Democracy in Momentum

1. This branch of Momentum notes:

1.1 That the decision to suspend our vice chair Jackie Walker was taken a) by members of a Momentum steering committee that has never been elected by the membership; b) without a full report of how SC members voted on this important issue and c) with no report of the political arguments advanced by individual SC members for and against this demotion.

1.2 That agendas, documents and minutes of decision-making committees at national and regional level are still not published by the organisation nor distributed to members. It is extremely regrettable that Momentum members sometimes have learned about decisions many weeks after they were taken, often through media outlets that may be hostile to Momentum. Ultimately, the steering committee is the servant of the membership and thus has a strict duty to report on its decisions and actions.

1.3 That a founding principle of Momentum is to “Transform Labour into a more open, member-led party, with socialist policies and collective will to implement them in government” and its stated commitment to “working for progressive political change through methods which are democratic, inclusive and participatory”.

2. Further, we believe that:

2:1 The fight to democratise the Labour Party is inseparably linked to the way that Momentum conducts its own activities. We should therefore practise what we preach to the Labour Party when we criticise its internal decision-making processes. We need to be seen to be fully democratic, accountable and transparent. Openness is an essential requirement of a healthy, member-based, democratic socialist organisation.

3. Therefore, we call for:

3:1 Momentum national office to publish agenda papers and detailed minutes (issues of security taken into consideration) for all its decision-making bodies, as well as the names of their elected officers and committee members. All regional decision-making bodies and local branches of Momentum should adopt the same good practice. National Momentum should provide support and training where necessary to facilitate this.

3:2 The convening of a fully democratic national conference of Momentum within the next three months (ie, by the end of January 2017);

3:3 The national office will:
  • Establish a timetable for the submission of motions, amendments to motions and nominations for the steering committee and to provide an open forum where these can be disseminated to and discussed by members;
  • Take motions from both the current leading committee/s of Momentum as well as recognised Momentum branches;
  • Supply lists of Momentum members and contacts to local branches to enable them to use this important democratic initiative to draw new forces into the organisation and the Labour Party itself;
  • Take nominations for the steering committee, which has the right to appoint officers from its own ranks to facilitate its work.)
  • Discuss and decide upon a democratic constitution for the organisation.
  • Discussion and decide upon the political and campaigning priorities for the organisation over the coming period.
In the next Bulletin, we will delve a little more into the thorny issue of democracy in working class organisations. Speaking of which, Pete Firmin - Hampstead & Kilburn CLP and Labour Briefing editorial board – took this motion on Jackie Walker’s Labour Party suspension to his local branch Kilburn (Brent) yesterday evening. We are pleased to report it was passed unamended with 12 votes to 3. Feel free to use it in your own branch/CLP!

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