Category Archives: Momentum

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.
Affiliation

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”.

Momentum

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.

Reformed?

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.

References

References
1 Email from Momentum, June 21, 9am

Jewish Labour Movement: In praise of Momentum

(our picture shows Momentum’s Navendu Mishra posing with the JLM outside a protest against a David Icke event)

The Jewish Labour Movement has recognised Jon Lansman’s ‘valuable work’ in support of Zionism, reports Carla Roberts

Reports of the AGM of the Jewish Labour Movement have been splashed all over the bourgeois media, because it voted “almost unanimously” for a motion stating that “the leadership of the Labour Party have demonstrated that they are anti-Semitic and have presided over a culture of anti- Semitism”; that “Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be prime minister and that a Labour government led by him would not be in the interest of British Jews”; and that therefore the JLM has “no confidence” in Corbyn.

So far, so predictable. Gathered in the JLM are, after all, some of the most vile rightwingers who have been plotting against Jeremy Corbyn from day one – ie, long before the smear campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism really took off. You would have thought that this campaign – which has proven so incredibly successful since then and has led to the suspensions and expulsions of thousands of Corbyn supporters – would have led to a massive influx into the JLM.

But we read that in “the closest vote of the day” a mere 148 people took part. And apparently that is not down to huge numbers of abstentions, as elsewhere an attendance of 160 has been reported. Now remember, you do not have to be Jewish or a Labour Party member to join the JLM – for example, Gordon Brown recently signed up. He thought it would be a good idea to join his former nemesis, Tony Blair, and engage in a bit of anti-Corbyn propaganda just before the local elections. He ‘stars’ in a video produced by Hope Not Hate – or ‘No Hope, Hate Corbyn’ as it should henceforth be known. In the video, Brown claims that “the Labour Party has let the Jewish community and itself down. They should never have allowed legitimate criticism, that I share, of the current Israeli government to act as a cover for the demonisation of the entire Jewish people.” Who exactly is ‘demonising’ the entire Jewish population, Gordon?

Anyway, on this basis, 160 members coming to an AGM is, to put it mildly, pathetic. This organisation claims to be “the” voice of Jewish members in the Labour Party. Clearly it is not. Jewish Voice for Labour should reconsider its policy of not publishing its membership figures, because it would quite clearly and easily trump this hands down.

This “closest vote of the day” does affect the JVL, as it happens. And it makes for interesting reading. The main motion (besides expressing no confidence in Corbyn) concerned itself, naturally, with anti-Semitism. After all, that is the main reason why the JLM, which was pretty inactive for a number of years, relaunched in 2015 with the expressed aim of harming Jeremy Corbyn, as the award-winning Electronic Intifada has uncovered.

This main motion contained a sentence that charged Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the Labour Representation Committee as having “acted … to protect and support those engaging in anti-Semitism”. This displays a considerable lack of actual knowledge when it comes to the left of the party. The CLPD has been shamefully quiet on the witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters.

As for Momentum – or, more precisely, its owner, Jon Lansman – it has been playing a very active role … on the side of the witch-hunters: as soon as Jackie Walker was first suspended from the party (over charges that were later dropped because they were so flimsy), Lansman immediately moved to have her removed as vice-chair of Momentum – with the help of the pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, who were in turn booted out during his coup of January 10 2017.

He then turned on his long-term comrade in the CLPD, Pete Willsman, when he was accused of being soft on anti-Semitism, removing him from the Momentum-endorsed list of candidates for Labour’s national executive committee (Willsman was re-elected nevertheless).

When Chris Williamson MP was suspended for stating that the party had “apologised too much” over the charge of anti-Semitism, Lansman did not say a word in his defence – but a day later publicised and spread a letter, in which Labour Party members “sincerely apologise to the Jewish community over our collective failure on the issue”, using similar vocabulary to that of Chris Williamson, but, of course, stating the opposite. In other words, it is a vile, scabbing letter. And that is the role that Jon Lansman has been playing for some time: he is a scab who is not just happy to throw Corbyn supporters to the wolves, but is actively undermining Jeremy Corbyn himself.

The majority at the JLM AGM, however, seems to have recognised that, in fact, Momentum is not the enemy any longer and that Jon Lansman has been acting like a witch-finder general. An amendment was moved to delete Momentum from the list of organisations said to be ‘protecting’ and ‘supporting’ anti-Semites – and replace it with Jewish Voice for Labour. That does indeed make a lot more sense.

The amendment also added a sentence, praising Lansman’s good work: “… Momentum has, for the last year, committed itself to tackling anti-Semitism within the Labour Party and wider society, through educational videos directed at Labour Party members, calling out and reporting anti-Semitic posts online, and joining JLM and other groups in protest against the likes of David Icke and Gilad Atzmon.”

Indeed it has. The mover could have added plenty of other examples of Momentum – just like the JLM – propagating and fostering the lie that Labour is overrun with anti-Semites. Not everybody in the room was convinced – too deep-seated is their hatred of what they conceive to be the left, no doubt. But 81 voted in favour of the amendment, while 67 were against.

Did the latter figure include Ruth Smeeth MP, who replaces Luciana Berger as national parliamentary chair of the JLM? After all, just after the AGM she claimed on Sky News that Jeremy Corbyn was, in fact, “responsible for anti-Semitism inside and outside of the party” (my emphasis).
Last but not least, the AGM also saw the return of Ella Rose, who quietly disappeared after the Al Jazeera documentary The lobby exposed how closely she was working with Shai Masot – “the senior political officer at the centre of the Israeli embassy’s covert efforts to influence British politics in an even more pro-Israel direction”, as the Electronic Intifada reported. In the documentary, she is heard angrily talking about how her previous employment at the Israeli embassy had been publicised: “Anti-Semites, the lot of them”, she fumes. Masot, incidentally, talks about Jackie Walker, whom he calls “problematic”, indicating she was on the Israeli government’s radar. Asked by the Al Jazeera undercover reporter what can be done about Jackie Walker, Masot responds: “Do not let it go.”

At the AGM, Ella Rose was elected unopposed as “JLM network officer” – no prizes for guessing who she might be networking with. But the main question that springs to mind is: why on earth is this rightwing outfit allowed to remain a Labour Party affiliate?

Momentum: No politics, please

The July 15 ‘Momentum national conference’ will be a very special one, reports Carla Roberts: no motions, elections or decision-making of any kind

Labour Party Marxists is very much looking forward to the “Momentum national conference” on July 15 in Durham. We have prepared motions on how to transform the Labour Party, will be fielding a couple of candi-dates in the elections to the national coordinating group and are making preparations to intervene in the open and frank policy discussions that will determine Momentum’s campaigning priorities in the next 12 months.

Sorry, I’m only pulling your leg. Momentum conferences are rather more special than the tedious events of the past, where delegates sat around all day, talked, argued and – you know – made decisions. Bo-ring. We can leave all of those things safely in the hands of Jon Lansman, the founder, owner and self-crowned king of Momentum.

There will be no motions, no position papers, no elections and certainly no decisions taken in Durham. The Momentum website also describes the event (rather more honestly) as a “summer gathering” and that about sums it up. It has three aims: to help participants “get skilled up” by attending “training sessions”; “get to know other Momentum supporters”; and “celebrate everything we’ve achieved”. And that is all in terms of public information on the event. There is not even a timetable or a speakers list available. As if to underline how unimportant this ‘conference’ really is, just look at the date: it actually takes place on the same day as the football World Cup final (kick-off 4pm).

No doubt, there will be dozens of young and keen Momentum interns handing out leaflets about the event to the 200,000 or so people participating in the annual Durham Miners Gala on the day before. And you might even get a couple of hundred people coming to next day’s event.

But it is, of course, not a conference. After all, just a few weeks before Momentum was to have its first, real conference in 2017 (with motions, elections and everything), Jon Lansman simply abolished it all at a stroke. During the now infamous Lansman coup of January 10 2017, he got rid of all national and regional decision-making structures in the organisation, cancelled the conference, imposed an undemocratic constitution and organisational structures, and installed himself as the unchallengeable leader of his little realm.

Many Momentum branches collapsed as a result of the coup or in the months following it. In other areas, rightwingers and councillors have begun to join and are now often dominating Momentum to make sure their career in the party is safe. The organisation’s database of well over 100,000 Corbyn supporters means that in some areas it can help swing election results by mobilising supporters to come out and campaign (or not). It also played a useful role at last year’s Labour Party conference when it got leftwing delegates to vote along broadly pro-Corbyn lines, by sending them text messages before important votes. But Jon Lansman will not allow Momentum to do more than that: members are simply seen as voting fodder, used to push through the decisions and policies that Jon Lansman wants to see implemented (which most of the time coincide with what Jeremy Corbyn wants).

For example, there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Corbyn supporters and Momentum members support the demand for mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates. It is an eminently democratic, long-standing demand of the Labour left. A real, democratic conference of Momentum members (or delegates) would in all likelihood vote in favour of such a basic democratic measure – but it would put the organisation very quickly in direct confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn, who is stubbornly persisting in his misguided attempts to try and appease the Labour right.

Such a real democratic gathering of the Labour left might even make criticisms of Corbyn’s complicit silence, when it comes to the witch-hunt against his supporters in the party. In other words, a genuinely democratic organisation of Labour left members would actually put pressure on Corbyn to start behaving like the socialist they were hoping he was.

That is why Momentum will not go down that road. Instead, Jon Lansman decides its policies and shamelessly manipulates its “digital democracy platform” to get exactly the results he wants (as was the case when Labour Against the Witchhunt almost succeeded in submitting a ‘winning’ proposal to Momentum’s input to the Corbyn review).

Political debate and discussion in Momentum are far from being an integral, organic part of the organisation – they are merely tacked on as a way to recruit people. Which is probably also why, somewhat interestingly, Lansman feels the need to describe this July 15 event as a “conference”. There clearly is a huge democratic deficit – not just in society, but also in the Labour Party. People who have been inspired by what they believe Jeremy Corbyn stands for actually want to talk about politics and how to change society. So Jon Lansman throws them some rather pathetic scraps.

For now, he has succeed in outsourcing political discussion to training sessions and events like ‘The World Transformed’, where people can talk about anything and everything, without ever coming to any decisions that could threaten the position of Jon Lansman, or publicly criticise Jeremy Corbyn.

People, Pits and Politics

The People, Pits and Politics event is very much part of that apolitical culture. This two-day event takes place just before the Miners’ Gala. In general, it is a pretty nifty initiative to set up an educational political event prior to one of Europe’s biggest political gatherings (even if the vast majority of the visitors at the Durham Miners Gala are not necessarily Corbyn supporters or even interested in politics – it is very much a family day out with a huge fair and lots and lots of booze).

We read with great concern, however, the following paragraph in the long list of ‘terms and conditions’ for participants at People, Pits and Politics:

“No literature or other products may be sold or distributed, no flyers handed out or placed on seats, no papers sold, in any festival venues without prior written permission of the festival organisers. Breaking this rule will invalidate your ticket, and you will be asked to surrender your wristband and leave.”

This deeply sectarian move is clearly aimed at the organised left – sellers of Socialist Worker, The Socialist, etc, and those pesky Labour Party Marxists who ruin everybody’s fun by handing out their paper that talks about transforming the Labour Party. Yawn!

A political festival without political discussion, in other words. Well, that sounds very much like our Jon. And, while the event is kept quite separate from Momentum’s ‘conference’ (presumably in order to reach further in terms of its potential audience), it is very obvious that the speakers, organisers and political/organisational methods of both events will be pretty similar.

The main organiser of the PPP event is Jamie Driscoll. He is also the sole director of the limited company set up in January for the sole purpose of organising the event (another hint that Jon Lansman is involved – he just loves setting up, renaming and closing down companies, as a quick glance at Company House’s database shows).

Driscoll is author of a book called The way of the activist and founder of ‘Talk Socialism’, which organises training workshops and reading groups, particularly around Newcastle. He is also chair of Newcastle Momentum and in December 2016 organised “Momentum’s first regional conference” in the city. We believe  it was Momentum’s only regional conference to date, maybe because its main claim to fame was the fact that it was addressed by socialist stalwarts such as Nick Brown, Chi Onwurah, Emma Lewell-Buck and Ian Mearns. They are all local MPs, in case some of their names did not ring a bell.

At Momentum’s “inaugural conference” on March 25 2017 in Birmingham, Driscoll was one of those called upon by Lansman to run the various workshops. I am sure he and his comrades at Talk Socialism have the best intentions at heart and are seriously committed to changing society. But a problem arises when those types of ‘workshops’ of that type are used to substitute for proper political debate and decision-making. Here is how we reported about that particular ‘conference’, which will no doubt have been very similar to what comrades can expect in Durham:

Labour Party Marxists supporters attended workshops that were run by The World Transformed, Talk Socialism and even Hope Not Hate. They were clearly based on ‘training sessions’ that these organisations run on a relatively frequent basis – utterly devoid of any real politics, focusing only on ‘method’ and run by young, overly eager people who reminded me of Duracell bunnies.

They included icebreakers like telling the person sitting next to you what you had for breakfast, shouting “one-word answers” about what you liked or disliked about the European Union ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ campaigns and writing “objectives” on paper plates, then sticking post-it notes onto a flipchart grid. You get the drift. It was really, really grim. Worst of all – any of these workshops could just as easily have been presented to Progress or Labour First.

Having said all of that, Driscoll does not seem to be a mere Lansman stooge. He signed an open letter against the expulsion from the Labour Party of Ella Thorp, a supporter of the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. According to Lansman’s Momentum constitution, that also bars her from Momentum membership.

That is another decision that would probably be quickly overturned at any real, democratic conference of Momentum members.

Momentum NCG elections: no vote

A call from Labour Party Marxists

Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG) has agreed a statement on anti-Semitism, which, while not available on its website, seems to be very much in keeping with Jon Lansman’s comments on the issue. This does not come as much of a surprise. He is, after all, the owner of Momentum. So we read in The Guardian that the statement condemns “anti-Jewish bias”, which is apparently “more widespread in the Labour Party than many of us had understood even a few months ago”. Obviously, this had nothing to do at all with the increased attacks by the right on the party on this issue.

We read that Lansman is working with “external groups” on developing anti-Semitism awareness training for Labour members. Judging by his uncritical description of the March 26 anti-Corbyn rally, ‘Enough is Enough’, on Radio 4 as an “anti-racist rally” and a “demonstration on anti-Semitism”, 1)Today Radio 4, April 3 (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb we fear that he has not just the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement in mind (which would be bad enough), but might well be in touch with some even more ‘mainstream’ forces like the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council.

This sad story underlines why we will not be advocating a vote in the forthcoming NCG elections. Firstly, it is an entirely useless body, designed by Lansman and imposed on the organisation with the constitution he wrote in the wake of his coup of January 10, 2017 in which he abolished all democratic national and regional structures in the organisation. It is there to rubber-stamp whatever Lansman wants it to do.

Secondly, most of the candidates are utterly useless. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is putting forward some of their members and supporters, including three who have been on the NCC for the last 12 months. There is a chance that Sahaya James and Rida Vaquas actually support Lansman’s NCG statement – after all, they are supporters of the social-imperialist organisation that portrays pretty much the entire left as anti-Semitic, with AWL leaders actually describing themselves as “Zionists”.

 

References

References
1 Today Radio 4, April 3 (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb

Momentum’s loose cannon

Why did Jon Lansman withdraw from the race to become Labour’s new general secretary? Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists looks for answers

Jon Lansman might have withdrawn his candidacy for Labour Party general secretary, but the charade continues.

In his statement, tweeted on March 10, Lansman assures us that he is withdrawing “with my aims fulfilled” and in order “to focus on my role on the NEC”. You see, all he ever wanted was to “open up the contest”. Apparently, he had “a number of party members get in touch to let me know they are applying for the role.” Therefore, “I reiterate my call for Labour Party members, especially women, with talent and experience to consider submitting an application.” He says that now the party “must draw a clear line between our renewed and reinvigorated mass-membership party and previous eras of command and control, where the views of members and affiliates were too often ignored”. Because he had put in his nomination, “NEC members have begun a productive, comradely debate about the future of the party”.

So much bullshit – where do you start?

Firstly, there already was a woman with “talent and experience” running for the position, even before Lansman declared his candidacy. She is called Jennie Formby.

Secondly, we do not believe for a minute that Lansman was just standing to inspire others to follow suit. Nothing quite says to a woman ‘Come and apply for this job’ better like the leader of a mass organisation with excellent access to the mainstream media going for it himself! Still, Owen Jones seemed to believe Lansman:

Bennism holds party democracy to be sacred, and on a point of principle Lansman believes important positions should be open and contested. Rather than seeking conflict with Unite, above all else Lansman is standing to open up the contest.

That says more about Owen’s trajectory towards politically naive La-La-Land than it does about Lansman. He clearly wanted the job – there is no doubt about it.

Thirdly, who are the other candidates that Lansman managed to inspire through his action? There is a certain Paul Hilder, a very managerial type of candidate who avoids talking politics – but seems to have vast experience in all sorts of sectors and roles, particularly in self-promotion. He previously tried for the general secretary position in 2011, so that one is not down to Lansman.

The only other female candidate who has – very quietly – thrown her hat in the ring is someone called Maria Carroll. On March 11 she tweeted that Jon Lansman “is encouraging members to apply and I am inspired to apply. So I’m seeking your views here.” She has been outspoken against aspects of the witch-hunt based on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism and is no doubt serious. But we would have advised her not to stand. As we go to press, no other candidates have emerged, so Lansman’s talk about others applying as a result of the contest being ‘opened up’ by himself seems to have been a little inaccurate. [Update March 16: Ex-NUT leader Christine Blower  features on the shortlist with Jennie Formby, though we doubt if this is thanks to Jon Lansman]

Fourthly, thanks to the media’s interest in the left tearing chunks out of each other, we got a glimpse of the “debate about the future of the party” among members of the national executive committee following Lansman’s candidacy. It could be described with a lot of different adjectives, but Lansman’s “productive” and “comradely” are certainly not among them!

Not only did John McDonnell come out publicly for Formby in order to put pressure on Lansman not to run: Jeremy Corbyn was said to have called him twice before he finally relented. And we have heard talk of other, rather heated phone calls that current and former NEC members made to Lansman.

Fifth, had Lansman indeed been chosen as general secretary, his place on the NEC would have been taken by rightwinger Eddie Izzard (runner-up in the constituency labour party section). So much for his “focus on the NEC”, where pro-Corbyn members only have a very slight majority (21 to 17). If somebody is on holiday or falls ill (or disagrees!), that majority is in serious jeopardy.

Democracy à la Momentum

Lastly and most absurdly is Lansman’s claim to have done it all for the rights of ordinary Labour Party members – and his desire to put an end to the “era of command and control”. Owen Jones must be pretty much the only person on the planet who seems to believe that one. Apparently, Lansman’s “lifelong obsession is creating a grassroots-led party, and a democratisation agenda taken to its logical conclusion may well face moments of opposition from both union hierarchies and Loto” (the leader of the opposition’s office). Pass the sick bucket.

Do we really need to remind Jones that Lansman simply abolished all democratic decision-making structures and imposed his own constitution on Momentum during the infamous Lansman coup of January 10 2017? A few weeks ago, he got rid of Momentum’s youth wing in a similar way. A rather unusual “democratisation agenda”.

As if to prove the point, Momentum is currently engaged in a fake-democratic decision-making process over its submissions to the Corbyn Review. It really sums up the way Lansman operates.

To begin with, he asked Momentum members to put forward their own ideas. When it transpired that concrete proposals (pushed by Labour Against the Witchhunt) to end the purge of leftwingers were doing very well, leading the field with the most ‘backers’, he mysteriously managed to ‘inspire’ over 60 members to go online at 11.30pm on the day submissions closed. And, hey presto, his own lame proposal to slightly tweak the trigger ballot (as a safe alternative to the mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates) won! Incidentally, had the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty helped to push LAW’s proposal on the witch-hunt, rather than submit its own a few days before voting ended, Lansman might have struggled to win. But the AWL, sectarian to a fault, insisted on an almost identical set of proposals – minus all references to the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, which, of course, it implicitly supports.

In any case, the LAW and AWL proposals combined had far more backers than any of the other 120. But that is not the reason that Lansman picked up on one point contained within both proposals for the last round of ‘online voting’. The reason for him asking Momentum members a question on rule 2.1.4.B is simply that he also wants to see it reformed. However, while the LAW and AWL proposals called on the Labour Party to delete the first part of rule 2.1.4.B, Lansman simply wanted to tighten it.

Under this witch-hunter’s rule, which automatically bars from membership anybody “who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party”, dozens, if not hundreds, of Marxists and socialists have been auto-expelled from the party, including supporters (or alleged supporters) of the AWL, Socialist Appeal and Labour Party Marxists.

So in his online questionnaire put to all Momentum members, Lansman stripped our proposals of all context – and managed to turn it around, so it would actually lead to the opposite outcome of that intended by LAW and the AWL:

Labour’s rulebook says membership of organisations other than the Labour Party can make people ineligible for membership, but the wording is imprecise. It should be clarified that this applies only to organisations whose objectives or methods are clearly incompatible with Labour’s.

Lansman’s proposal will do nothing to end such auto-exclusions. After all, you will just need to show that Socialist Appeal or LPM are in favour of “Marxism” or “revolution” or even just opposed to the “market economy”. The latter formulation was used in court to uphold the expulsion of Socialist Appeal supporter Jack Halinski-Fitzpatrick, when Labour’s barristers ‘proved’ that SA’s programme was incompatible with that of the party. Apparently, being sceptical of the “market economy” puts you in a direct clash with the party’s adherence to the “dynamism of the market” in the Blairite clause IV.

In reality, there is actually no such rule in the party’s constitution – yet. Clearly, in this case, the Labour Party’s bureaucrats found a sympathetic judge. A rule dealing with issues of programmatic “incompatibility” refers only to organisations that want to affiliate to the party – which, clearly, Socialist Appeal was not doing at the moment. This is about an individual’s party membership.

So Lansman’s reformed rule would, if anything, give the bureaucrats in the compliance unit more power to witch-hunt leftwing activists.

Momentum’s questionnaire also proves once again that online ‘referenda’ or online voting on complex political issues only appear democratic. It all depends on who asks the question and to what purpose. Clearly, as with so many referenda, answering Lansman’s question with either a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was highly unsatisfactory.

However, as expected, his proposal won the day. Momentum has now reported that question 4 of 15 – “Should Momentum campaign for this rule change to clarify the eligibility for membership of people who support organisations other than the Labour Party?” – received 3,183 ‘yes’ votes (84%), while only 308 said ‘no’ (8%) and 296 abstained (7%). 1)https://my.peoplesmomentum.com/review/track_voting/2

Truth of the matter

But back to Lansman’s application for general secretary. Why did he withdraw? The man clearly wanted the job – he wanted it so badly that he even risked falling out with Jeremy Corbyn over it. The short answer is: he messed up.

He had hoped to peel away support from Jennie Formby by appealing both to the right through critiquing the unions and to the soft left, by presenting himself as some sort of champion of members’ rights.

Well, it blew up in his face, big time. He could not keep all his different tactical plates spinning. The man does seem to suffer from a serious case of over-inflated ego and a sense that everything he touches will turn to gold. But critiquing the unions, while simultaneously relying on union delegates on the NEC to vote for him was, to say the least, a high-risk strategy. At worst, pretty stupid.

Lansman also did not seem to take into account the fact that his allies on the NEC might not be as easily controlled as the membership of Momentum. One of the main reasons for his withdrawal can probably be summed up in two words: Christine Shawcroft. Or, more precisely, her outburst on Facebook: “It is time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour Party.”

Lansman and Momentum quickly tried to disassociate themselves from her angry and inane remark, but it did not help that the rest of her (very rare) online comments were focused on praising Lansman. Combined with his own suggestion that the general secretary should be elected by members and his publicly stated “dissatisfaction that the role should be chosen behind closed doors by Labour’s NEC, which in practice would mean a deal struck between major trade unions for their preferred candidate”2)www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/26/jon-lansman-set-to-stand-for-role-of-labour-general-secretary, this indicates that Shawcroft probably thought she was doing Lansman a favour and was acting in his interest.

Well, she did not. All hell broke loose and pretty much every left organisation felt the need to issue statements in defence of the union link. We hear that union after union got on the phone to Lansman and Corbyn, demanding to know what on earth he was playing at. The tacit support of some rightwing unions for Lansman – as their best hope to stop Jennie Formby – quickly evaporated after Shawcroftgate. Lansman had to withdraw for the simple reason that he did not want to be seriously humiliated in the NEC vote on March 20.

And he may have just managed to ruin his political career in the process. For example, can Corbyn and Seumas Milne continue to rely on this man to deliver the required votes at conference? Last year, Momentum managed to text delegates ‘live’ with voting instructions, swinging quite a few decisions. But Lansman has proved to be a loose cannon. Yes, one with well over 200,000 pro-Corbyn members on his database. But still, Jennie Formby would be well advised to work out alternative methods of engaging directly with the ‘Corbyn army’, many of whom do not yet attend Labour meetings.

The witch-hunt continues

In reality, of course, the union link was never really under threat. We have never heard Lansman (or Shawcroft) publicly complaining about the role of the unions before his ill-considered candidacy. It is unlikely they have only now found out that even the representatives of leftwing unions tend to vote against individual Labour Party members on disciplinary questions. They knew, but they chose to tell us about it now, in the context of Lansman’s candidacy.

Clearly, Shawcroft was very upset when the NEC disputes panel – now chaired by her – did not follow her advice to dismiss all cases brought before it by the unelected bureaucrats of the compliance unit (they still operate under the instructions of Iain McNicol, who remains in post until March 20). It decided by a clear majority to refer three cases to the national constitutional committee (NCC), which has a robust rightwing majority and clearly makes politically biased judgments. Even Ann Black admits that this committee is “seen as increasingly politicised”, as she writes in her latest NEC report. Bizarrely though, she thinks that is a bad thing only because it leads to a lack of complaints, as “members [are] reluctant to come forward”.

Yes, that is exactly the main problem in the Labour Party at the moment, isn’t it? Too few members are being fingered to the compliance unit! In November 2016, Christine Shawcroft reported that there had been 11,000 complaints against Labour Party members since Corbyn’s election the previous year, “as well-resourced rightwing hit squads scented a golden opportunity and began trawling through known Corbynistas’ Facebook and Twitter accounts”. There must have been thousands, if not tens of thousands, more since then – though no official figures have been published.

To further underline how wrong it was for Ann Black ever to have been featured on the slate of the Grassroots Centre Left Alliance, her report then goes on to praise McNicol for having “continued” a “trend towards neutrality and fairness to those of all factions and of none”. Needless to say, Jon Lansman supported this GCLA slate uncritically until very recently.

Shawcroft knows, of course, that, once a member is suspended and referred to the highly political NCC, he or she has little chance of getting a fair hearing. She quite rightly wants the NEC to deal with all disciplinary cases. But it seems that all union reps on the NEC – even those from pro-Corbyn unions – take a cowardly approach. For each complaint, the apparatchiks working for the compliance unit prepare a report for the NEC disputes panel containing the allegations. Handily, the top page of each file (there are sometimes dozens of them at every meeting) contains a “recommendation on further action”.

Rather than investigate or challenge these recommendations, it appears that Jennie Formby and the other leftwing union delegates on the NEC automatically vote in accordance with that recommendation.

Critical support

Jennie Formby (and other leftwing union delegates) clearly deserve to be taken to task over their behaviour on the NEC. In the most recent cases that got Shawcroft so riled up, it appears Formby ‘absented herself’ when it came down to the vote that decided to send three disputed cases to the NCC.

That is why we in LPM agree with Labour Against the Witchhunt, which thinks that Formby should only be given “critical support” by the left:

LAW critically supports Formby for the job. We are concerned about her record on Labour’s NEC, where it appears she has, as recently as last week, failed to oppose the witch-hunting of Jeremy Corbyn supporters by rightwingers, who have weaponised false claims of anti-Semitism, despite Formby herself being the target of such smears. Nobody in the Labour Party can truly be a socialist if they support the purge and that includes the future general secretary.

Formby might have been trying to play it safe before the March 20 NEC meeting, which will decide on the new general secretary. But her behaviour is worrying – and a sign perhaps that her likely appointment will not lead to a swift change of direction, when it comes to the witch-hunt against leftwingers in the party. We also note press reports, according to which “senior backers of Jennie Formby are trying to reassure party staff that there are no planned overhauls, should she secure the job”.

Thanks to Tony Blair, of course, most staff are now on short-term contracts and do not have to be dismissed should they no longer be required. They simply might not get rehired. Others do not quite seem to trust Formby’s peace offering and are jumping ship before they are pushed. For example, Emilie Oldknow, Labour’s executive director for governance, membership and party services (which includes disciplinary processes, suspensions and expulsions), has just announced that she is leaving her post in the summer. Excellent news.

Naturally, Iain McNicol has been a key player in the ongoing civil war. But he is not acting alone. The right is still in control of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the bureaucracy. For the last seven years, McNicol has been in charge of hiring and firing the 200 staff working for the party. No doubt, he was politically biased when doing so. And we hope Jennie Formby will be too!

Glyn Secker

Take the most recent case of Glyn Secker. On March 7, the secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour received a letter informing him of his “administrative suspension” from the Labour Party, because of “allegations relating to comments on social media that may be anti-Semitic”. The letter, signed by “Sam Matthews, head of disputes”, states that McNicol had “determined to use powers delegated to him … subject to the approval of the next meeting of the NEC.”

As it turns out, the suspension was based on Secker’s ‘crime’ of being part of the Facebook group, Palestine Live, which has achieved some fame in recent days for having counted a certain Jeremy Corbyn among its former ‘members’. The pro-Zionist blogger, David Collier, sent the Labour Party a dossier of over 250 pages, which contain … fuck all. Some members of the group had posted dodgy links. Like people do every day on every single Facebook group.

Incredibly, without any kind of research themselves, most newspapers reprinted parts of the report, as if it was a scientific document. Tony Greenstein has done a good job exposing Collier as the vile blogger, “Gnasher Jew”. But even after days of splashing this non-story across various newspapers, neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Glyn Secker, nor any other of the Labour members suspended for belonging to that group were found to have posted anything even vaguely anti-Semitic. It was just another weapon in the ongoing campaign to smear Corbyn and his supporters.

After five days in which Labour members and branches vocally protested against comrade Secker’s suspension, Sam Matthews was forced to lift it, “because it would not be in the party’s interest to pursue disciplinary action in relation to this matter”. There is no apology – not even a withdrawal of the accusation of anti-Semitism. Just like in the case of the expulsion of Moshé Machover, which was quickly rescinded, it appears that the NEC overruled McNicol, who seems to want to cause as much damage as possible until the very last moment. But what about Sam Matthews? His letter to Secker clearly exposes his political loyalties.

Also, compare comrade Secker’s treatment to that of Jeremy Newmark – until recently chair of the Jewish Labour Movement. Despite the JLM calling in the police to investigate allegations of fraud under Newmark’s watch, he remains untouched by the compliance unit, because, we are told, his behaviour in an organisation affiliated to the Labour Party is a “private matter”.

Rightwingers like Sam Matthews should follow their masters, McNicol and Oldknow, to the door marked ‘exit’.