Category Archives: Momentum

Joining the living dead

Carla Roberts wishes she was surprised that Jon Lansman has joined the Jewish Labour Movement

A psychologist might explain Jon Lansman’s decision to join the Jewish Labour Movement at the end of 2023 as some kind of an attempt to escape trauma, stress and anger by regressing to his Zionist roots and Orthodox Jewish upbringing, including his much romanticised stay on a kibbutz at the age of 16. After all Lansman has seen his world come crashing down. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party ended in a humiliating general election defeat. Embracing big business, Sir Keir Starmer has junked almost everything from the 2017 and 2019 ‘socialist’ manifestos, and if that were not bad enough, in July 2020 Lansman found himself replaced as chair of Momentum by a firefighter and a climate activist.

But joining JLM is still an odd choice. After all, JLM was one of the key organisations behind the defeat of the Corbyn movement. As an official affiliate of the World Zionist Movement and sister party of Israel’s Labor Party (Havodah), the JLM worked tirelessly to smear Corbyn and the left by making bogus claim after bogus claim about the supposed anti-Semitism problem in the party. The bourgeois press and the right in the party eagerly lapped up their nonsense, no matter how ridiculous or weaponised.

Surely, as one of Corbyn’s “key allies” and decades-long leader of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Lansman must know what a despicable role the JLM played in destroying the Labour left’s biggest opportunity in a lifetime? Corbyn put him in charge of setting up Momentum, so how could Lansman be so disloyal now and join the very organisation that helped bring him down?

The sad truth is that this was a long time coming. And it is not just down to Lansman’s soft Zionism. It is a reflection of the total bankruptcy of the strategy of the entire official Labour left.

From the CLPD and Momentum via the slightly less horrid Labour Representation Committee to the various bitty groups represented in the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance: they all operate under the illusion that the Labour left needs to make peace with the ‘centre’ of the party.

Lansman is a long-time admirer of Vladimir Derer, the founder of CLPD, who he considers his political mentor: “Like Momentum, CLPD is an organisation which seeks to democratise the Labour Party, not to operate like a party-within-a-party. Similarly, Vladimir [Derer] was determined for CLPD to reach out to the centre of the party, since without doing so we would inevitably lose. The same is true for Momentum now”, he wrote in 2017[1].

‘Winning’, for Lansman and the rest of the official Labour left, of course means Labour winning a general election (under any leader, no matter their politics) and forming a government – not winning the civil war in the Labour Party.

This is why Corbyn bent over backwards to appease the right inside and outside the Labour Party. And that is also the reason why Lansman closed down democracy in Momentum at the end of 2016. Lansman (and, sadly, Corbyn) never meant for Momentum to become a fighting organisation. He told the Jewish Chronicle at the beginning of 2023: “I wish we’d never had Momentum branches. It was never our decision to set them up – they set themselves up.”[2] But he certainly did his best to clamp down on them, not least by imposing his outrageously undemocratic constitution in a cloak-and-dagger-operation otherwise known as the ‘Lansman coup’.

With the full support of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and others in the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs he went on to cancel preparations for Momentum’s national launch conference, abolish the regions and downgrade the role of local groups. Lansman used a members’ survey to claim endorsement for his new constitution, ensuring he kept control of what was his private property, while also sneaking in a clause that banned from membership all those who had been expelled in the witch-hunt against Corbyn and the left. Although Lansman has since been ousted from Momentum, this clause remains intact and continues to be enforced by the all-new leadership of wannabe Labour bureaucrats.

Zero tolerance

In other words, Lansman might not have started the witch-hunt against the left, but he certainly enforced it. While maintaining that he supported Corbyn “100 percent”, he was always keen to state his view that there should be “zero tolerance” towards anti-Semitism.

From a communist point of view, zero tolerance towards any form of prejudice is entirely the wrong approach – we much prefer education and debate to convince people of their wrong ideas rather than tell them that they are ‘beyond the pale’. After all, there is a lot of prejudice, whacky ideas and racism within society – they are part and parcel of the capitalist class society we live in. We want to win people over and convince them that socialism and communism has something to offer them.

The problems with the strategy of trying to appease the right in the Labour Party are all too obvious.For a start, it is debatable how much better off the working class is under a rightwing Labour government of the Blair or Starmer variety: the self-censored left moans quietly about this war or that attack on the working class, while waiting for “the unions” to do something, anything.

And once you actually have a leftwinger in as leader, as happened by pure accident with Corbyn, the whole strategy quickly falls apart. The centre-right clearly had no interest in being appeased. There was no way they would have supported Corbyn as prime minister. They would have continued to plot, to sabotage, to undermine. Everybody could see it – apart from those on the official left who continued, right to the bitter end, trying to win them over by securing them in their cushy positions, be it in the regional offices, the CLPs or as MPs … all the while pointing their fingers at so-called ‘anti-Semites’ and keeping their cowardly distance from the victims of the witch-hunt (“we can’t have a suspended or expelled member speak on the platform”). This, sadly, included the Corbyn leadership itself, which – under its general secretary, Jennie Formby – vilified and smeared good comrades like Chris Williamson, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker.

Yes, Lansman is a touch worse than your garden-variety official Labour leftie, because his soft Zionism also made him a keen supporter of the much-criticised, fake definition of anti-Semitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the Labour Party under Corbyn (who made a half-hearted attempt to oppose it, but without publicly distancing himself in some sort of campaign, he had no chance).

Lansman fully embraced the attempt by the Israel lobby to redefine what anti-Semitism is: not hatred or discrimination of Jewish people, but criticism of Israel. He has stated, for example, that formulations like “I hate Israel” are not expressions of anti-Zionism, but are “clearly anti-Semitic”.[3]

He was more than happy to sell out Corbyn supporters and, pressed by Stella Creasy and Louise Ellman at the 2023 JLM conference, was quick to point to “anti-Semitic left activists around the country”, in particular those “in Riverside and Liverpool.”[4]

No wonder that he ended up joining Corbyn’s enemies in the JLM.

Lansman’s Zionism is very similar to his Labourism: he appeals to the sensible ‘centre-ground’ – which in reality means support for the hard right. In an interview with The Guardian in November for example, he expressed “sympathy” for Keir Starmer’s conclusion that calling for a ceasefire now in Gaza is wrong: “A ceasefire now could merely sustain Hamas as a continuing threat.”[5]

You see, “Israelis and Palestinians have been betrayed by their leaders – each side needs a new leader as soon as possible, each of whom wants peace and has the confidence of their own people!”, he recently tweeted.

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of the latter (nobody who is calling for “peace” at the moment has the “confidence” of the majority of either population), his whole political outlook echoes the dumb ‘bad apples on both sides’ of the establishment media. He has been sharing dozens of tweets by Standing Together[6], a campaign of Jews and Arabs living in Israel, which has been promoted in Britain by Nadia Whittome MP, fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The campaign still peddles the illusion that there could be a capitalist ‘two-state solution’, when clearly no mainstream politician in Israel has any real interest in it whatsoever (Labor’s Merav Michaeli pays mere lip service to the idea).

Standing Together focuses on “de‑escalation and solidarity within Israel” by offering hotlines, workshops and other such worthy things, run by Jews and Arabs. Their mission statement reads like the naive wish list of a 14-year-old who just ‘wants peace’. It is appealing to those in charge to be a bit nicer to the Palestinians and stop supporting illegal settlements on the West Bank. But the campaign makes no demands, for example, to change any of the racist laws that condemn Arabs within Israel to second class citizenship.

For Standing Together, the root of the problem is not Zionism or the structures of state oppression. It is just that for some unfathomable reason Jews and non-Jews don’t seem to get on too well in Israel. Something a de-escalation course or, indeed, a new set of leaders who “want peace” are unlikely to fix.

Lansman is not a stupid man, so he knows all of that. But just like in the Labour Party, he wants to leave the structures of inequality intact. His main problem is that he has no confidence in his vision of socialism or, indeed, in the working class as the only force that can overthrow capitalism and liberate humanity.

We would not be surprised if Lansman was rewarded for services rendered with an OBE, a CBE or even a KBE by Sir Keir at some point in the next few years (presuming a Tory general election defeat). One thing is for sure, though, Lansman has not only joined the JLM, he has joined the ranks of the living dead.

Labour Marxists

Of course, while Lansman has betrayed himself, what took him to there is far from unique. I have come across quite a few self-declared “Marxists” in the Labour Representation Committee who will quote this infamous passage from the Communist Manifesto to justify their opposition to ever building a Marxist Party: “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.”

Very odd, isn’t it, that a booklet with the full title The Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Marx and Engels as a political programme for the Communist League (described by Engels as “the Communist Party in process of formation”) should argue against forming – a Communist Party!

Because Marx and Engels did no such thing. The German original makes it clear that in fact they said the exact opposite: “Die Kommunisten sind keine besondere Partei gegenüber den anderen Arbeiterparteien. Sie haben keine von den Interessen des ganzen Proletariats getrennten Interessen.”[7]

Hal Draper translates it as follows: “The Communists are not a special party vis-à-vis the other workers’ parties. They have no interests separate from the interests of the whole proletariat.”

In other words, communists do form a separate party – but they do work and engage with other working class parties, because they are trying to equip them with a winning strategy for socialism.

Despite the fact that this was laid out in detail in 1994 in Hal Draper’s very entertaining book The adventures of the Communist Manifesto (which pointed out many other mistranslations and misreadings), the official Labour left continues to ignore his important work – and continues to misquote Marx and Engels. A fig leaf for their own political cowardice l








Cowards, careerists and Corbyn diehards

Momentum MP Navendu Mishra claims to be in favour of a Gaza ceasefire. Despite that he followed Starmer’s orders to abstain, reports Carla Roberts

In how much trouble is Keir Starmer over Palestine?

Some commentators have been very excited about the fact that a total of 56 Labour MPs ended up voting against the whip and the instruction to abstain on the Scottish National Party’s ceasefire amendment. And, yes, 10 frontbenchers were duly sacked from their positions, most prominently Jess Phillips, the vicious anti-Corbyn MP for Birmingham Yardley, who wrote: “On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart, which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine.”[1] (Makes you wonder on which “occasions” she consciously voted against her constituency, head and heart – a few votes during the Corbyn years spring to mind). No doubt, her role in the witch-hunt and her support for Labour Friends of Israel[2] will ensure that she will be back on the front bench before long, as will some of the other ‘rebels’.

It would be a stretch to call this vote a ‘rebellion’ – it was more of a small, controlled display of disapproval. Not even all 34 members of so-called Socialist Campaign Group managed to vote in favour. A couple of them at least had an excuse: Olivia Blake had a doctor’s appointment and was paired; Kim Johnson was on a “prearranged parliamentary overseas visit”;[3] and Mick Whitley had a “family emergency”.[4] All three of them let it be known publicly that they would have voted in favour of the SNP’s motion.

Labour left

Not so Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport and formerly Momentum regional organiser (and supported by many on the official Labour left). On November 15, the day of the vote, he had the audacity to post on Twitter: “I stand with Labour Friends of Palestine’s call for a ceasefire and enduring peace. I will continue to make that case within Labour and to government, so that humanitarian aid reaches civilians and the siege ends.”

But then he did as ordered by Keir Starmer! In other words, the man is lying through his teeth. “Labour Enemy of Palestine Navendu Mishra is a fraudulent liar: he actually abstained on the ceasefire vote, meaning he has the blood of 5,000 Palestinian children on his hands,” rages Asa Winstanley on Twitter.[5]

It is very doubtful that Mishra fell for Starmer’s last-minute attempt to appease some of his ‘leftwing’ MPs (it is all relative now) by tabling an amendment that called for “longer humanitarian pauses” instead of a ceasefire. No, the man is an out-and-out careerist who does not want to endanger his position of parliamentary private secretary to Angela Rayner – after all, he was only appointed in September 2023 and, unlike Phillips, cannot rely on being in Starmer’s good books. His lack of a backbone really should not come as a surprise. In December 2018, at the height of the anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party, he actually posted a selfie in front of a protest by the Jewish Labour Movement.

If the Socialist Campaign Group had any bottle, it would expel this toxic careerist weasel immediately. But then it stopped playing any kind of useful role a long time ago. Not even Momentum (which “proudly” endorsed Mishra to become an MP in 2019 and an NEC member in 2020[6]) has sunk that low and has been calling on all supporters to write to their MPs to demand a ceasefire. Of course, they do not have it in them to criticise their erstwhile creature publicly.

It is very obvious that Starmer has succeeded in clearing the Labour Party of any principled opposition. The ‘left wing’ is now entirely neutered and most ‘left’ MPs have stuck to Starmer’s orders not to speak at demonstrations and protests in solidarity with Palestine. John McDonnell MP is something of an exception, perhaps because Starmer knows he is very popular in his constituency of Hayes and Harlington, which he has been representing since 1997. And, having shown during the anti-Semitism smear campaign that he is all too willing to dance to the right’s tune, he can easily be tolerated as a sort of eccentric old uncle.

Choppy waters

Of course, the political situation in the Middle East does continue to present Keir Starmer with some choppy waters, even if those are not caused by the left. He committed a major blunder when he backed Israel’s decision to cut off the water, electricity and food to the Gaza Strip. “Israel has that right,” he said over and over again in his now infamous interview on LBC Radio.[7] But after some serious criticism from across the board, he rowed back just in time, “clarifying” that, actually, he believes pretty much the opposite.

Increasing numbers of ‘normal people’ can see that the “war” is in fact a very one-sided mass slaughter. According to the not very neutral polling company, YouGov (founded by Liz Truss’ former sidekick, Nadhim Zahawi MP), 58% think that there “definitely should be a ceasefire”, another 18% said there “probably should be”.[8] So 76% of the population are more principled than Starmer.

In his speech during the November 15 debate in parliament, Starmer explained what his position is really about. He wants to be seen “working with our international allies”, because that is “what you would expect from someone who wants to form the next government”. He added: “Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”

By aping the position of Joe Biden, Starmer does exactly what Tony Blair did so successfully: he is showing that he can run capitalism just as well as the Tories. Better, in fact, seeing as they are in severe crisis. By not rocking the capitalist boat, Keir Starmer can sit and watch Rishi Sunak’s increasingly wild efforts to save his sinking ship.

Sunak’s latest announcements of some possible minor tax cuts were a vague effort to ‘bury’ the latest horror stories from the parliamentary Covid inquiry – to no avail: Sunak has now personally been named as driving the second Covid wave with his disastrous ‘Eat out’ campaign, according to the government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance. “I think it would have been very obvious to anyone that this inevitably would cause an increase in transmission risk, and I think that would have been known by ministers.” He also said that scientists were “not aware” of the scheme until it was announced.[9]

Bar some major political upset, Keir Starmer will be the next UK prime minister – not because he is so popular, we hasten to add, but because the Tories are so despised. The Labour Party currently stands at 47%, according to a meta survey of all the polls, with the Tories on only 23%.[10]

Rupert Murdoch can tell which way the wind is blowing – his papers, The Sun and The Times, have been gradually, but markedly, shifting their support to Starmer’s Labour. And, of course, Suella Braverman can tell – that rat jumped ship in rather dramatic fashion, orchestrating her own dismissal with increasingly weird and desperate announcements. When her rants about “hate marches” and “lifestyle choices” failed to do the trick, she attacked the police for their ‘softness’ towards Palestine demonstrations. That’s a big no-no for any home secretary and she really did not leave Sunak any other option but to throw her overboard – straight into her cushy lifeboat.

Socialist Worker[11] and The Socialist[12] have both made rather sweet attempts to try and convince their readers that it was in fact themselves who did the damage: “the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in the last month for Palestine … have forced Rishi Sunak to sack Braverman,” writes Socialist Worker. The Socialist proclaims: “The anti-war movement – whose demonstrations she tried and failed to ban – has scored a victory!”

Nothing more but wishful thinking, sadly. No, Cruella has managed to row free of the toxic Sunak and will be busy building her own leadership campaign. To paraphrase The terminator, she’ll be back.


But Keir Starmer, we are told by many on the left, is deeply unpopular ‘out there’ – very few will want to go leafleting or canvassing for him. There is an element of truth in that – but it matters not.

For a start, the big donors are back. The last quarter saw, in fact, an historic “record”: Of the £10.4 million received between June and August 2023, only £2.7 million stemmed from “public funding and donations from trade unions”. But there was a £3 million donation from David Sainsbury and £2.2 million from Autoglass billionaire Gary Lubner.[13] Starmer does not need the membership and he certainly does not need the left.

The snazzily-named ‘Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance’ (OCISA)[14] has now officially launched its campaign to “unseat Starmer” in his constituency of Holborn St Pancras: it is calling for candidates to apply to stand against Starmer at the next general election – on Corbyn’s ‘For the many’ programme. The organisers think that they have a realistic chance of overturning Starmer’s majority of 48.9% by using the “digital community”. This method, they think, is so fool-proof that they want to spread it to all areas “where the action of individual attack on the MP becomes necessary”.

The small text on the website explains “the mechanics of harvesting the vote”, which are:

a matter of technologists who can provide the platform for the votes to be harvested. These votes are applied in two ways, under the model proposed. Primarily to harvest the vote for the candidate, but secondly to make the policy choices and managerial issues relating to the company itself, so that it becomes self-governing by the membership and democratic in nature. This gives it the necessary weight and credibility to approach the constituency.

Clear enough?

Of course, there are a number of campaigns already in existence who want to do exactly that – with slightly less eccentric and technocratic language. The electoral front of the SPEW, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has called on other groups to “join us to co-host a convention to organise a working class challenge at the next general election”.

Ditto ‘Transform’, the merger of the rump Left Unity and the Breakthrough Party, which will be launched on November 25 in Nottingham. Point 8 of their 10 “core principles” explains that they want to “contest elections”.[15] As an aside, this already looks like a stillbirth: we hear that Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin, ‘leading lights’ of Left Unity, are growing cool on Transform – for a start, should LU be disbanded in the process, the comrades would lose their affiliation to the European Left Party. Of course, this only exists on paper, as Left Unity has never recovered from its disastrous decision not to join the Labour Party during the Corbyn years – pretty much its entire membership did, leaving a corpse behind. But for some people, such titles matter.
















Salvaging the wreck?

Kevin Bean assesses the parlous state of the official left:
illusions must be cast aside

If anyone was in any doubt about the political direction that Sir Keir is taking, his speech at last weekend’s London Labour conference should have settled the question once and for all. As might be expected, he aimed his remarks squarely at the capitalist class, not the audience in front of him.

Sir Keir’s message was clear. Labour has changed irrevocably. It is now the party of “sound money and public service”. It unequivocally backs Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine. It puts “country before party.”

Alongside this pro-business, pro-imperialist message there was another important theme: no let-up in the purge. That was the real meaning of his promises, that “Never again will Labour let hate go unchallenged”, and that this struggle will never end and never stop. Although it was suggested in some reports that there was opposition to the leadership’s line, what remains of the left was easily seen off.

With Starmer in full control, the poor showing of the Labour left only shows its current demoralisation and disorganisation. In the days before Starmer’s speech, Momentum circulated a briefing about how it planned to fight back against the right and ensure that ‘left’ positions became party policy.[1] So there will doubtless be worthy CLP motions on nationalising the energy industry, ending private-sector involvement in the NHS and backing striking workers, which will go into the bureaucratic quagmire of the party’s National Policy Forum (NPF) and perhaps reach the annual conference.

The official Labour left has tried to big up this stuff. Momentum, for example, boasts of support coming from the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. Remember them? A rag-tag-and-bobtail bunch of supposed left MPs, who withdraw mildly critical statements on the Ukraine war when Starmer bids them and the rest of the time stay safe by keeping their heads down and avoiding any risk to their precious careers.

Any realistic assessment of the balance of forces will tell us that the ‘strategy’ advocated by Momentum is just so much whistling in the dark. Momentum’s much vaunted strength has been clearly on the wane since 2019 and its impact on Labour politics is much reduced. But ignore that for the moment and follow the argument they advance. Let us suppose the left actually succeeds in getting motions through the CLPs and then passed by NPF and party conference. Given the right’s control over the party machine, what happens next? Who is going to campaign for the policy or implement it? Labour leaders historically have ignored conference resolutions and Sir Keir is clearly no different. The Labour right overwhelmingly dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party and, amongst MPs, the left is probably at its weakest point since before World War I.

The record of the SCG is utterly dismal and, given the current state of its political disorientation and abject surrender, only the most wide-eyed optimist would expect militant leadership coming from that quarter. Any such ‘socialist’ strategy that banks on the SCG, Labour Representation Committee, Campaign for Labour Democracy, the Chatham House left, etc, is hopelessly delusional.

Left policies that are really left, will not find their way into the election manifesto, because Sir Keir and the right will have the last word. Moreover, there is no real countervailing force from the left to prevent that happening: the union leaderships and their conference block votes will, in the main, fall in behind the leadership.

While this is a well founded assessment of the impotence of the current official Labour left, it leaves out, perhaps, the fundamental, determining reasons for its historical weakness. The official Labour left is shaped by the nature of Labour as a bourgeois workers’ party and its relationship to the organised working class. From its very beginnings the Labour leadership has been closely bound into the capitalist state and fully accepted the legitimacy of its constitutional and social order.

The official Labour left relies on trade union militants and elements of the trade union bureaucracy and CLP activists. But personal ambition, comfortable sinecures and reformist ideology sees its ‘socialism’ rendered into little more than a modified, state-regulated version of capitalism, to be achieved, and this is crucial, by the election of a Labour government. This binds the Labour left to the Labour right. Although the right and left appear to be antipodes, they are actually mutually reinforcing and dependent on each other within the framework of a bourgeois workers’ party.

If we are to really understand why the Labour left has suffered such a dramatic strategic defeat and how we might actually transform Labour, then we need to be clear about the real nature of the official left and its politics. Labour Party Marxists can and does place demands on leftwing leaders, eg: no serving in Sir Keir’s shadow cabinet as a matter of principle; and standing shoulder to shoulder with victims of the anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism witch-hunt.

LPM does not have any illusions in the politics and leadership of the official Labour left. We do not fall into the cosy belief that those on the official left are simply misguided friends. Far from it! Politically the official left can be just as dangerous as the hard right. Consider the capitulations and compromises that the Corbyn leadership made, actually initiating and joining in the witch-hunt against leftwing activists. If there is one lesson we all need to learn from the Corbyn period, it is that that type of Labour left is not only politically bankrupt: it is a serious obstacle to transforming Labour. Far from being the solution, it is actually part of the problem.

Many on the left are still struggling to understand and explain the defeat of the Corbyn movement, and why it failed to confront the witch-hunt and the smears against the Labour left. Talal Hangari’s article in last week’s Weekly Worker was a useful contribution to the debate and clearly outlined the nature of the witch-hunt and the type of campaigning demands the left should have advanced.[2] The operative past tense is the key here: this is what should have happened, but that time has now passed. Where are the forces of the left that can now carry out that fightback within the Labour Party? The official left joined in the witch-hunt and is committed to staying in the Labour Party no matter what. So, the central issue now is not trying to revive the flagging horse of the official left and refight yesterday’s battles, but rather to look to the tasks of the future.

If Labour retains its historic structure as a bourgeois workers’ party, it will continue to reflect the class struggle, no matter in how distorted a form, and will probably spontaneously generate a leftwing opposition. However, if this left remains ideologically trapped within the narrow, pro-capitalist, logic of Labourism, it will be impossible to challenge the Labour right and transform the party, let alone fundamentally break with capitalism. Only a mass Communist Party armed with a revolutionary programme, acting as a pole of attraction to the left currents that might well emerge within Labour at some point in the future, can offer the political coherence and strategic leadership to really transform a bourgeois workers’ party into a united front of a special kind.

The Labour Party remains, for the moment at least, the dominant political force in the working class movement. It can neither be ignored nor wished away. Transforming it remains a possibility, but only a possibility and not one we should rely upon. The key to everything is building a mass Communist Party.


[2]. ‘From amidst the wreckage’ Weekly Worker January 26:

Under false colours

Jon Lansman’s departure and the advent of a new regime held out the promise of radical change. Clive Dean tells the sorry tale of bureaucratic control, missed opportunities and political cynicism

The process of ‘refounding Momentum’ that began with the departure of founder/chair/owner Jon Lansman has recently concluded with a raft of 17 organisational changes designed to ‘restore decision-making’ to members.[1]

However, these changes do not amount to rolling back the constitution imposed on the organisation in 2017 following Lansman’s coup. In particular there will be no representative democracy based on local groups, regions and delegate conferences. The changes leave in place the atomised online voting process for members’ involvement, where click-based choices provide no opportunity for real participation in meaningful debates.

Momentum emerged in 2015 from Jeremy Corbyn’s successful leadership campaign. By 2016, when I joined, there was talk of 20,000 members organised in local groups all over the country. In my local group, meetings attracted 20-30 people – both members and some frightened political opponents. We held policy debates and organised left slates for elections within the Constituency Labour Party. Later that year I attended a regional meeting of Momentum, where delegates from a dozen active local groups exchanged experiences and established comradely connections for future campaigns. Like many regions we used the Loomio platform to collaborate and develop coordinated interventions.

There was an air of confidence within the Labour left at that time. Preparations were well in hand for the first Momentum delegate conference and leadership elections in early 2017. Then on October 28 2016 Jon Lansman staged his coup, using the steering committee to cancel a meeting of the body it was subordinate to, the executive committee.[2]

With the full support of Jeremy Corbyn and others in the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs he went on to cancel all the preparations for the conference and then introduced a new constitution, abolishing the regions and downgrading the role of local groups. Lansman used a members’ survey to claim endorsement for his new constitution, ensuring he kept control of his private property. Naturally, the dynamism and enthusiasm of Momentum quickly drained away, along with the members and the local groups.

Momentum became just another lifeless campaign, with all decisions taken at the top, and, despite the veneer of digital democracy, a membership reduced to the role of canvassing fodder. The oh-so-close general election result in 2017 obscured the decline, but with the 2019 election disaster, followed by Sir Keir’s victory as Labour’s leader, Momentum needed a serious overhaul.


In May 2020 Lansman announced his departure and the overhaul began. Things had got so bad that the rest of the existing leadership decided a new image was required. Their slate for the June 2020 elections to the national coordinating group (NCG – Momentum’s leading committee) adopted the brand, ‘Momentum Renewal’, and promised changes. But instead the fresher faces on the new ‘Forward Momentum’ slate won all 20 seats in the members’ ballot.[3] The old guard had to make do with the remaining 14 NGC seats, elected or appointed by other routes.

The Forward Momentum pitch picked up on some of the grievances within the organisation:

Too many decisions have been made in back rooms, unwanted candidates have been imposed on local groups, and bold socialist strategy has been abandoned, often for no strategy at all. Momentum is failing because of this. Members have left in droves and trust in the organisation is at an all-time low. We are standing to change this.[4]

The process of meetings and consultations seemed to drag on for ages, but by May this year the refounding proposals were ready to be voted on by the membership – online, of course. Yes, there were 17 subjects where a choice was required, sometimes with three or four options, and very brief technical ‘supporting arguments’ to clarify the wording. But, having gone through each vote, and selecting the most radical in terms of member participation, you were left at the end with the distinct feeling that nothing fundamental would come of it all, that really it was just about tinkering with the details.

To illustrate, the topic of the first vote was ‘A Momentum convention’. This was the nearest we would be offered to a sovereign annual national delegate conference. There were four options here:

  1. A convention of all members every two years to debate and vote on campaigning priorities;
  2. As 1, but with delegates rather than all members;
  3. An online convention of all members, but with voting deferred until later to allow offline members to participate;
  4. No convention – existing routes to influence Momentum policy would remain.

The result for this vote was a win for option 1, with 41% support. We were not told how many members voted for it, or how much support the other options received.

Briefly, other decisions included:

  • Allowing members to decide who Momentum endorses in leader/deputy leader elections (backing Angela Rayner rather than Richard Burgon for deputy leader did not go down well).
  • The re-introduction of the regional level of organisation – though this is very much for ‘coordinating’ and ‘helping’ rather than decision-making.
  • Providing a formal framework for Momentum local groups, including many requirements and standards they have to meet – thus providing a convenient stick to use against troublesome opposition: “Local Momentum groups that do not meet these standards will be transitioned to ‘Groups in recess’”!
  • Momentum endorsement of candidates in selection processes to be decided by local groups. This seems obvious but caused a few rows during the Lansman era.
  • Also included are some requirements for MP/councillor accountability – absolutely a good idea, but hard to enforce, I think.
  • Single transferable vote rather than ‘first past the post’ in NCG elections, which ironically should prevent a repeat of the 2020 result referred to above!
  • Finally an attempt to ensure that all members are nominally in a group, even when they are miles from a functioning local organisation.

Here the supporting arguments were revealing. We learnt that “Only a very small percentage of Momentum members are currently organised in local groups”; and “Very few Momentum members fall in the catchment area for a local Momentum group (approximately less than five percent)”. My logical deduction from these two statements is that Momentum is now a collection of dispersed individuals rather than an organised political force.


On June 13 Momentum will open nominations for this year’s NCG elections, with voting beginning on June 28. So far two slates are known to be standing: last time’s winners are now branded as ‘Your Momentum’, and they are being challenged by ‘Momentum Organisers’. Hopefully we will be able to report on some real political differences during the campaign.

The turnout in 2020 was 8,580. Given that the last two years have been dominated by Starmer’s reign of terror against the Labour left, we should expect a much smaller involvement this time. Indeed many groups that share Momentum’s terrain are struggling to survive. Momentum’s insistence on Labour Party membership will not help here either, given the large number of activists who have either been expelled or hounded out of the party, with hardly a whimper of protest from Momentum.

Where Momentum is still having an impact is in its promotion of The World Transformed – the major Labour left fringe umbrella that accompanies the annual party conference. Last year at Brighton it hosted 120 events, and it is now gearing up for Liverpool in September this year. Momentum also provides training courses for its membership, to enable them to function better as organisers within the milieu of protest politics, and to oil the career paths of would-be councillors and MPs (though maybe having Momentum on your CV could be an impediment just now!). In this educational activity Momentum is partnered (organisationally and financially) by the Berlin-based Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Indeed Deborah Hermanns, who was elected to the NCG in 2020, is listed as an employee at the London office of the RLF.

The RLF functions as a vehicle for the German Left Party (Die Linke) to receive millions of euros from the German state. With this funding it promotes political research and education activities around the world – it has offices in over 20 countries. The link between Momentum and the RLF is a cosy fit politically – left reformism with a radical edge of anti-racism, feminism, pacifism and climate justice, so Momentum is a fortunate beneficiary here.

However, for genuine Marxists such a relationship would be problematic. First, we pride ourselves on our financial and political independence. In our movement there are too many examples of revolutionary politics being abandoned by parties which became dependent on direct or indirect government funding, whatever the government. Second, the legacy of Rosa Luxemburg projected by the RLF – ‘democratic socialism’, coupled with identity politics – is in complete contrast to the real Rosa Luxemburg: a communist revolutionary who fought against opportunism in the German Social Democratic Party, and an ally of Lenin who was committed to spreading the Bolshevik revolution beyond Russia to the heart of European capitalism.

Dare I suggest a session on ‘Rosa Luxembourg, the party and proletarian revolution’ for this year’s The World Transformed?


[2]. See ‘Sole director wants to dispense with representative democracy’ Weekly Worker November 3 2016:



Amongst the living dead

Momentum is irreformable, argues David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists, but we should back principled left candidates

The biennial elections to Momentum’s leading committee, the national coordinating group, began on June 16 and will end in two weeks time.

This token committee consists of up to 36 members – four from each of five rather arbitrarily defined ‘regions’, plus four “Labour public office holders”, a maximum of 10 nominated representatives of trade unions and other affiliated organisations, and one each from Welsh Labour Grassroots and the Campaign for Socialism (Scotland). According to Momentum’s own guidelines,

at least two of the members elected from each division should be women, and at least one should self-identify as Bame (black, Asian, ethnic minority). If the 20 members who are elected do not include one person who self-identifies as disabled, one person who self-identifies as LGBT+ and three young persons under 30, then up to four more places will be elected to ensure these groups are represented.

They certainly would not fail a ‘political correctness’ test, would they? The NCG is supposed to meet at least four times a year, but everyone knows that up to now Momentum has been something of a one-man show. Founded in 2015 as a left-Labour grouping in support of Jeremy Corbyn, following his election as party leader, it was literally owned by Jon Lansman, who in May 2020 announced he was going to stand down as Momentum chair. As of June 15 2020 he remains, according to Companies House, a director, alongside Elizabeth Kennedy Hayden, of Momentum Campaign (Services) Ltd.

It was Lansman’s January 2017 coup that put an end to any meaningful democracy within the organisation and since then more and more members have become disillusioned. Momentum became one of the living dead, with many on the Labour left hoping to see the creation of an alternative grouping. Amongst this discontent the Labour Left Alliance was formed in July 2019.

Lansman’s resignation as chair comes, of course, after the disastrous December 2019 general election and the humiliation of Rebecca Long-Bailey, the continuity candidate, in the subsequent leadership elections. Lansmanism had ended in complete, utter and comprehensive failure. But it is a case of ‘Lansmanism is dead, long live Lansmanism’. His co-thinkers formed a new faction, named Momentum Renewal, which is standing a full set of candidates for the NCG in each ‘region’, as well as for ‘office-holders’, including John Trickett MP.

The main ‘left’ opposition grouping is called Forward Momentum, which includes, amongst others, supporters of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The social-imperialist AWL operates, in fact, more like an external faction of Momentum Renewal. Its candidate, Ruth Cashman, was rudely ejected from standing under its slate and is now to be found under the Momentum Internationalist banner.

Unlike Momentum Renewal, Forward Momentum replied in full to the questions posed by the LLA to NCG candidates.2 It says it is committed to the “fight for socialist policies”, which include a series of vague policies relating to “public ownership”, rolling back privatisation in the national health service, “advancing migrants rights” and repealing “all anti-trade union laws”. Equally vaguely, it calls for “greater democracy” in the Labour Party, but at least it specifies support for the open selection of parliamentary candidates.

To show that it too can pass the PC test, Forward Momentum states: “We are committed to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ageism and disablism.” But, talking of anti-Semitism, what does it say about the ongoing witch-hunt directed against the Labour left, based largely on false allegations of anti-Semitism?

Well, yes, “some individuals face suspension for unclear reasons”, but “Independent reviews reveal that there are clear incidences of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party that must be tackled.” True, “the level … in the Labour Party does not exceed that of the general population or other political parties”, but “any level … is serious and needs to be dealt with” – after all, “the Labour Party, including the left, is not immune from anti-Semitism and other forms of racism”.

Bravely, however, Momentum Renewal denies that “non-violent means to pressure the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and comply with its obligations under international law” are “inherently anti-Semitic”. Well, that is good to know. Presumably violent means are inherently anti-Semitic. And in that miserable spirit it maintains a slightly ambiguous stance on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s so-called ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, which was adopted by Labour in 2018:

We recognise that many Palestinian civil society organisations, human rights campaigners and others have raised concerns about how the examples that accompany the IHRA working definition could be misused to stifle discussion about Palestinian oppression. We are absolutely clear in holding the Labour Party to its commitment on not undermining freedom of expression, as well as to defending our Jewish comrades against anti-Semitism.

Anticapitalist Platform

An altogether more principled position is taken by the Anticapitalist Platform, which was formed, in the main, by Red Flag, an organisation that is politically close to the now liquidated Workers Power (Paul Mason used to be a leading member).

Its statement declares:

The key lesson of the Corbyn leadership is that the pro-capitalist Labour and trade union bureaucracy will never allow ‘their’ party to be peacefully – democratically or bureaucratically – transformed into a fighting party of the working class, one dedicated to the expropriation of the capitalist class and the implementation of workers’ power on the basis of a democratically planned economy, which is the only honest definition of socialism.

It puts forward a series of demands, including, the nationalisation of “the commanding heights of the economy, without compensation and under workers’ control”. The banks too should be nationalised and merged “as the first step towards a democratically planned economy”, which would allow the working class to “implement a green industrial revolution, abolish poverty and expand social services”.

And it is clear that “socialism”, however defined, must be a global enterprise: “Such a programme can be started in Britain, but only realised internationally.” Working class “resistance to … crises must be linked to the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism as a system and the organisation of an international socialist commonwealth”.

Whatever our differences with some of this, including the lack of any demands relating to the immediate struggle for a democratic republic, it is clear that this is not the usual Labour left reformism. In fact it is clear that the Anticapitalist Platform is committed to the complete transformation of Labour:

Our starting point is recognising that the Labour Party is contradictory. On the one hand, it is the expression of that part of the working class that sees itself as a class and the need to form an independent party that fights for its rights. On the other, it is a party of the union leaders and officials and their counterparts among the MPs and councillors, who want to manage capitalism better than the capitalists and promote a more equitable society.

The starting point in the transformation then is “full democratisation”, going far beyond “open selection”. But in the end, “We have to purge the party by replacing every pro-capitalist MP, councillor and official with class fighters.”

Where the three Anticapitalist Platform candidates are standing they deserve support. In other words, if you are in London, two of your four regional votes should go to Urte Macikene and Marcel Golten. Meanwhile, if you are part of the “Yorkshire, North East, Cumbria, Scotland and International region”, then cast your vote for Andy Young.

In saying this, I obviously disagree with the position taken by the LLA’s organising group, which met on June 13. It agreed to support Syed Siddiqi, who is standing in London, and added:

While we do not offer endorsements for any other specific candidates or slates, we encourage all Momentum members to take part in this election process to support candidates that will commit to a real transformation, and to consider their responses (or failure to respond) to the questions from LLA.

So why the exception for Syed Siddiqi (also standing in London)? It is more a question of solidarity than political support, it seems, as he has been suspended from Labour on false ‘anti-Semitism’ charges since December 2017 as part of the anti-left witch-hunt. Although he is an LLA signatory, his platform is not exactly radical. However, he says he is “a socialist member of the party”, who will “campaign for Momentum to have a members-led annual conference which determines Momentum’s position on national campaigns and policies”.

Nevertheless, he should be supported, in addition to comrades Macikene and Golten. In general, however, it is obviously a good idea to back principled candidates. By definition that does not include anyone standing under the Momentum Renewal or Momentum Internationalist banners. With that in mind, I would encourage all members to visit the Momentum website and closely read the statements of all those standing in their region. You should have received an email giving you access to online voting, as well as to all the candidates’ statements.

In this I am clearly at odds with those members of the LLA organising group who are supporters of Labour Party Marxists. At the June 13 meeting, they agreed that the LLA should not in general endorse any candidates, on the basis that Momentum is dying a death and is no longer a site for struggle.

This was a mistake. Nonetheless, it is clear Momentum is irreformable. So, yes, vote, but vote without illusions.


Affiliation and a line change

Labour Party Marxists has formed a fraction and tweaked its approach to Momentum elections, Stan Keable reports

Labour Left Alliance’s Organising Group met on June 13. I was one of two comrades representing the newly affiliated Labour Party Marxists. We now have a handful of delegates and have therefore organised ourselves into a disciplined fraction.

Although the OG meeting lasted over four hours, with only a 10-minute break, it felt good to spend a Saturday afternoon on Zoom amongst two dozen comrades from LLA-affiliated groups from across the United Kingdom. Yes, delegates were present from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Political discussions were forthright but friendly. For all its limitations Zoom allowed us to see and hear each other clearly … and you can mute your microphone and listen while you make a cup of tea without missing any of the discussion.

Making decisions by online voting worked pretty well too, and augurs well for the LLA’s second conference – to be held online over August 22-23. Sometimes raising your hand or displaying a thumbs-up symbol was sufficient to show a clear majority for ‘yes’ or ‘no’. When numbers were needed, the host comrade was able to quickly draft a pop-up voting form and, only a few seconds later, display the results.

The LLA is pursuing a “campaign for left unity”, particularly aimed at achieving a single left slate in the next round of the Labour Party’s national executive committee elections, to replace the now defunct Centre Left Grassroots Alliance. Since its foundation in 1998, the CLGA has produced a (mostly) winning slate of not-too-left candidates to represent the Constituency Labour Parties on the NEC. That pretty successful bureaucratic fix was broken when Jon Lansman decided to railroad through his Momentum slate. A divided left saw the right win all three vacant NEC seats.

CLGA slates used to emerge mysteriously from unreported horse-trading in ‘smoke-filled rooms’ between Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour, the Labour Representation Committee and a few other acceptable soft left groups. Now, the LLA seeks its seat at the table, but not on any terms. The May 16 OG minutes reported as follows:

Our campaign for left unity must be based on principled politics, which we might call our ‘red lines’:

  1. Any negotiations have to be conducted in a democratic and transparent manner.
  2. This includes the method for NEC candidate elections, which should be conducted via ballots of the groups’ respective members.
  3. We must continue to make a stand against the witch-hunt, past and present.

It was in the context of its campaign for ‘left unity on principled politics’ that the LLA wrote a series of questions to Don’t Leave, Organise (DLO) when it was launched in mid-April. The LLA asked whether it could affiliate to this lame outfit. At the May 16 OG meeting, DLO secretary Glyn Secker explained that groups cannot “affiliate” to DLO, but they can “join”. So, with his input, the OG agreed a motion to “join” and sent a letter asking to join – and, four weeks later, received a rather puzzling reply, delaying LLA’s request.

A moment of uncomfortable tension in Saturday’s OG meeting arose over the Catch-22 explanation offered by comrade Secker. DLO had delayed LLA’s application because it was unable to answer the “searching questions” about the nature of DLO, which was still being discussed – by those organisations which have been allowed to join. Incidentally, they include the bakers and firefighters unions. Naturally, this circular argument went down like a lead balloon. To resolve the matter, the OG decided to write to DLO again, stating that the questions were not linked to our application, and asking to join immediately, so we can participate in any discussions on the nature of DLO.

However, its reluctance is obviously political. I recall comrade Secker explaining the point to the LLA’s February 22 launch conference. While speaking against allowing Marxist groups like LPM or Socialist Appeal to affiliate to the LLA, he argued that “broad left” groups and trade unions “will not come” if we do. Well, conference disagreed, and here we are – LPM reps on the OG.

DLO was founded by three left groups: the Labour Representation Committee, Red Labour and Jewish Voice for Labour. When the LLA was on the drawing board in the summer of 2019, Labour Against the Witchhunt approached the same three groups. JVL declined to take part, while the LRC and Red Labour became founding organisations – but later withdrew. The LRC national executive committee’s explanation, in its October 26 statement, ‘Why the LRC is leaving the LLA’, was that the LLA was moving too fast. Presumably that does not apply to DLO, which describes itself as:

a broad left network launched on April 15 2020 after a period of disappointment and defeat for socialists in the Labour Party. Its aim is to restore hope to the many thousands of activists demoralised by the general election defeat in December 2019 and by setbacks for the left in the subsequent leadership and national executive committee polls.

Comparing the aims of the LLA with those of DLO, one is left wondering what the difference is, and why the LRC, Red Labour and JVL felt the need to set up a separate ‘left unity’ project. A clue is in the word “broad” – which evidently translates, in this case especially, as a warning that anyone resembling a genuine Marxist is unwelcome in DLO. I doubt I’ll be proved wrong.

The LLA’s ‘red lines’ for the selection of left candidates for Labour’s NEC are not very red. This reflects the omission of important items from the LLA’s political aims – omissions which ought to be put right at its August conference. At present there is no mention whatsoever of socialism, for example. “Opposition to capitalism” and to “the ecological destruction of the planet” were proposed by LPM comrades at the LLA’s founding conference, but voted down, as was “replacing capitalism with working class rule and socialism”.


The omission of anti-capitalism and of socialism became evident when the OG discussed our position in relation to the elections to Momentum’s national coordinating group (NCG) – the LLA had sent a series of well chosen questions to NCG candidates, to see which ones might be supportable. After that discussion, the OG referred back to the steering committee a draft “minimum platform” for the LLA to back Labour NEC candidates, hopefully to add some socialism to it.

When it came to Momentum, the best answers came back from Red Flag’s Anticapitalist Platform, which said ‘yes’ to all of LLA’s test questions, and expanded well on each one. The only other candidate to give satisfactory answers was LLA signatory Syed Siddiqi.

OG members were, unsurprisingly, scathing in their criticism of Momentum, but expressed widely varying estimates as to the likelihood that it can be democratised – from a 50:50 chance to zero. LPM had long ago written off Momentum (see Carla Roberts’ January 2017 post-coup article, ‘Reduced to a corpse’). We stood aside from Momentum’s NCG elections, since – as our April 2018 statement, ‘NCG elections: no vote’, makes clear – Momentum was already a “dead duck”.

So the LPM fraction in the OG voted against the LLA “encouraging” people to vote in the current Momentum NCG elections, and against endorsing any candidates, on the basis of not lending the organisation credibility. However, on reflection, and especially having listened to criticisms from the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee, we have reconsidered our position. We see little point in standing ourselves, but we will support leftwing candidates who do. There remain disagreements within LPM’s fraction on the OG. Of course, they concern only matters of tactics. Our differences are entirely secondary, but we shall argue them out, openly if necessary.

There are those on the right in the LLA who believe Momentum is reformable. It is welcome then, that on this issue at least, we find ourselves with the majority (see LLA’s excellent ‘Can Momentum be reformed?’ online document).

Either way, vote for principled leftwing candidates in Momentum, but do so with no illusions in Momentum.

Can Momentum be reformed?

There are now more reform groups in Momentum than owners. But, asks Carla Roberts, can they succeed?

We must admit that, from the outset, trying to reform Momentum in any meaningful way looks to us very much like the kind of punishment we can safely leave to King Sisyphus. It is a huge task, destined to fail.

Having said that, Jon Lansman, owner of Momentum, is clearly displaying signs of having come under some kind of pressure somewhere. His attempt to get rid of Tom Watson with a motion on Labour’s national executive committee (that he then withdrew), for example, was probably a sign that he is trying to pose left. We write ‘probably’, because the man has done so many weird things that we cannot always guess his motivation without going down to psychological levels. (Pride of place takes his embarrassing campaign last year to become general secretary of the Labour Party – against Jennie Formby, who was favoured by not just the mighty Unite union, but also Jeremy Corbyn himself. And when he withdrew, Lansman claimed that his only motivation in standing was “to increase the gender balance” – oddly enough, by standing against a woman!).

In any case, we have recently seen three attempts to make Momentum more democratic.

Starting with the least serious one, in June we spotted an article on the website Red Flag (which is where the dwindling remnants of Workers Power have gone to die). Jeremy Dewar wrote that “up and down the country Momentum groups are the backbone of the leftwing membership; organising campaigns, turning out for elections, taking control of local parties and turning them outwards”. The article argued that those super-active Momentum members should fight “for a sovereign conference”. This article is still doing the rounds on Facebook, somewhat bizarrely in our view.

Then, in July this year, a small group of people around Pat Byrne launched their ‘Call for membership control of Momentum’. They at least take note of a few recent qualitative changes within the organisation, like Jon Lansman’s witch-hunting campaigns against Chris Williamson MP and Pete Willsman. However, the comrades are more than naive in their assumption that “Momentum does not belong to Jon Lansman, but to all of its members!” This surely is the main thing that everybody does know about Momentum: it actually does belong to Lansman! Literally! He has tight control over the various companies that control the data and the income.

While Byrne and his comrades admit that Momentum’s constitution “is certainly very centralised”, they believe that its members should make use of the very limited democratic space within it: they should stand for the biennial elections to its national coordinating group (NCG), use the “many avenues in social media for reaching the membership” and get involved in the “the local Momentum groups”.

Their main focus though is on the “procedures for petitions” and “constitutional amendments” that members should make full use of. However, they fail to remind their readers that those petitions and amendments to the constitution require the support of at least “5% of members or 1,000 members”! And if there is no majority on the NCG in support of such a proposal, it then needs “a petition signed by 10% of the membership” in order to “trigger a vote among all members”. This is never going to happen.

In our view, both these proposals come well over two and half years too late. Back then, Jon Lansman stopped “a sovereign conference” from taking place, abolished all existing structures and imposed his undemocratic constitution on the organisation: the Lansman coup of January 10 2017. There are no structures, no avenues left to even fight for a “sovereign conference”. And there remain hardly any functioning Momentum branches. Many groups split in the aftermath of the imposed constitution, others dwindled and died a slow death and some of the few remaining branches have affiliated to the Labour Left Alliance or are in the process of doing so.

Momentum 4 Corbyn

At least the newly established ‘Momentum 4 Corbyn’ does not bother with such illusions – though that is the best thing we can say about it. We understand that the main people behind this campaign, which went public on October 3, are three Momentum NCG members, Barry Gray (who is also acting secretary of Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and a member of the Socialist Action sect), Liz Smith and Christine “fuck the unions” Shawcroft. Shawcroft, remember, went along with the Lansman coup and, when she was still a member of Labour’s NEC, voted to refer Jackie Walker to Labour’s national constitutional committee for expulsion.

On its website, Momentum 4 Corbyn identifies Momentum’s main problem as follows:

Momentum was set up in 2015 in order to support the agenda of Jeremy Corbyn. It is the continuation of Jeremy’s leadership campaign, which resulted in him being elected Labour leader in September 2015 and re-elected in September 2016. Unfortunately Momentum is now diverging from its original purpose; on some issues it fails to support the Labour leadership and on others it even opposes the leadership.

The group’s mission statement praises Corbyn like the second coming of the messiah: “Jeremy is putting forward a truly radical transformative agenda for a Labour government that will make people better off”, etc, etc. Momentum must “return to its original role as a supportive defender of the political agenda that Jeremy Corbyn is advancing”. The comrades want to (re)build a Corbyn fan club, in other words. To that effect, they put forward a long list of ‘evidence’ to prove where “Momentum” (they never mention Lansman) has strayed from Corbyn’s holy script.

To their credit, they do mention the witch-hunt in the Labour Party, though only in the shape of the direct attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. “Momentum appears to give credence to the exaggerated claims made by Labour’s political opponents, conveying a distorted picture of the real situation.” But, you see, “Jeremy is a supporter of international social justice, including Palestinian human rights. There is nothing remotely anti-Semitic in his opposition to the violence inflicted on the Palestinians.”

But what about Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Chris Williamson or even the CLPD’s Pete Willsman, who remains suspended on bullshit charges? They do not even mention those comrades: it is all about the leader.

Momentum 4 Corbyn does not seem to grasp the simple fact that Corbyn has been complicit in this witch-hunt all along. Not only has he watched silently as comrades Walker, Wadsworth, Willsman and now Chris Williamson have been thrown to the wolves by the NEC. He has legitimised the whole witch-hunt by agreeing with the right in and outside the party that there is a huge problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. By asking Shami Chakrabarti to produce a report, he first opened the doors and showed how vulnerable he is to the witch-hunt – and he has since presided over one climbdown after another.

Corbyn fan club

This underlines that a Corbyn fan club is, at best useless. At worst, it perpetuates the witch-hunt and makes matters for the left (and Corbyn) considerably worse. We desperately need a Labour left that can openly and publicly challenge Corbyn and exert pressure on him from the left. This is, of course, not what Lansman is doing – he has joined those pressurising Corbyn from the right.

Some might say that it is lucky then that the way Gray, Smith and Shawcroft are going about their campaign means it is unlikely to succeed. Their only strategy consists of putting forward candidates to the November NCG elections who “consistently campaign for Jeremy and his politics, not for any alternative agenda”. No names have been published yet, but we believe the NCG three are about to present some very soon (though if a general election is called “by the end of October”, Momentum’s NCG elections will be postponed until next year).

This is exactly the discredited method of the so-called ‘Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance’ (which, if it has not already imploded, will surely do so now). Until recently, this is where soft-left Labour groups, including the CLPD and Momentum, got together to haggle over which centre-left candidates they should urge their members to vote for. The rightwing NEC member, Ann Black, was on the CLGA slate for decades.

It is therefore not surprising that this group has almost nothing to say, when it comes to “internal democracy”, apart from voting for its recommended NCG candidates. All power to the NCG, basically. However, only 20 of the 34 seats on this body are actually elected by members. The rest are made up of:

  • four Momentum members who are Labour public officer holders;
  • six members nominated by affiliated trade unions;
  • four members nominated by other affiliated organisations.

Jon Lansman has made sure that the NCG will never be able to decide on any democratic changes (unless he wants it to). Any changes have to be made by a unanimous vote on that body. A proposal brought by an NCG member that is rejected even by one other person on the NCG will also have to be supported by “10% of the membership”. Then there is the next hurdle: Lansman is in full control of that database and can (and obviously has done so) manipulate elections as he pleases.

In June 2019, Momentum members were asked to participate in a ‘democracy ballot’ to make “Momentum more members-led” and “improve accountability”. There were three concrete proposals “coming from the national coordinating group meeting in March”: one to decrease democracy by having elections to the NCG every two years instead of annually; the second to expand the number of people elected onto the NCG from 12 to 20; and the third to increase the number of regions from three to five. Thrilling stuff.

An embarrassingly measly 357 people bothered to vote 1)Email from Momentum, June 21, 9am – and, as Momentum never takes anybody off their database, we know this poll was literally sent to tens of thousands of people, including many who had long stopped making payments to the organisation.

As the proposal to move to biennial elections was not approved by the NCG unanimously (but opposed by Gray, Smith and Shawcroft and a couple of others), it had again to be sent to everybody on the database. This time, in September 2019, the number of participants magically rose to 4,150. It took a staggering four months to make a decision on a couple of nonsense proposals that could be summed up in five short words: an absolute waste of time.

Momentum 4 Corbyn complains – now! – that “the conduct of the ballot itself raises questions about democracy in Momentum, as only an argument in favour of this measure to reduce democracy was presented to members, and the proposal was falsely dressed up as a ‘democratising’ proposal. No alternative view was circulated to Momentum members by the NCG.”

Fair enough, but why did these NCG rebels not come out publicly at the time? Where are their reports of the NCG meetings they have been attending for years? Where is their public criticism? Where is the transparency in their campaign? How can Momentum members actually get involved? They cannot, obviously – apart from voting for the NCG members chosen by Barry Gray and co. A democracy campaign utterly devoid of any democracy, in other words.

And what is their solution to the lack of democracy in Momentum elections? Fasten your seatbelts. We can read in the July NCG minutes that Barry Gray wanted the Electoral Reform Service to run internal Momentum elections instead. The idea was rejected by the NCG by seven votes to five.


Momentum certainly filled a political vacuum when it was launched just after Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership elections in 2015. It attracted not just the young, relatively inexperienced crowd who became caught up in the Corbynmania, but also many of the seasoned Labour left activists who had been re-energised by the victory of a self-declared socialist. At its height, Momentum claimed to have 35,000 paying members (and a database of many more tens of thousands). This figure might or might not be based on fact, but we can be certain it is a lot lower now. Not that it is something Jon Lansman – founder, owner and all-round puppetmaster of Momentum – would openly publish.

We can glean from the accounts submitted for Momentum Campaign Ltd that the company claims to have had £145,659 in its various bank accounts at the end of December 2018, which is about £6,000 more than the year before. It also claims to have 21 employees, but, as it has paid a measly £19,205 in “taxation and social security” combined, we do not think many of them can be earning much (the figure stood at just over £42,000 the year before). You cannot actually work out how much in membership fees the organisation has received. But we do know that thousands, if not tens of thousands, have left Momentum.

Lansman has to be held personally responsible for this wasted opportunity. But in our view, that ship has now sailed. Sure, Momentum’s various bits of software and the huge database might still come in handy in a general election campaign. But the left should not waste any more time trying to rescue or reform this shell of a an organisation.

We believe that the nascent Labour Left Alliance is far more likely to have caused some of Jon Lansman’s recent, pseudo-left poses. Over 1,500 people have now signed up to the campaign, as have more than 20 Labour left groups and four Momentum branches. Clearly, building a viable, democratic and transparent Labour left is the best way to challenge and overcome anti-democratic left wannabe dictators like Jon Lansman.


1 Email from Momentum, June 21, 9am