Tag Archives: democracy

Momentum Hammersmith & Fulham supports calls for a democratic conference

At its meeting of October 18, Momentum Hammersmith & Fulham decided to move the following proposal to the London Regional Committee, which will meet on October 29 to discuss the forthcoming national conference of Momentum. We urge all Momentum members and branches to move similar motions.

Momentum Hammersmith & Fulham/London Regional Committee calls on Momentum nationally:

1. To urgently name the date of Momentum’s first annual conference, to consist of delegates from local groups on the basis of 1 delegate for every 10 members or part of 10, to be elected at local face-to-face meetings (this ratio to be varied at future conferences if necessary, if membership grows or shrinks substantially).
2. To publish and circulate to all members a pre-conference timetable for submission of motions, amendments, the election of delegates, and nominations for a national steering committee to be elected at conference. The steering committee to appoint officers from its own ranks, and sub-committees, as it sees fit, to facilitate its work. Officers and sub-committees to be responsible to, and recallable at any time by, the steering committee.
3. To invite and accept motions, amendments and nominations not only from the current national committee and regional committees, but also from recognised Momentum branches, and from any 10 members.
4. To publish and distribute all motions to all Momentum members at least 6 weeks before conference and actively encourage branches to organise meetings to thoroughly discuss these; and to accept amendments up to 2 weeks before conference, and to publish and distribute amendments 1 week before conference.
5. To set up an open e-forum for all members, where motions can be discussed, amendments can be mooted and compositing processes can be arranged.
6. The primary purpose of the conference to be (a) to discuss and decide on a democratic constitution for the organisation; (b) to discuss and decide the broad political and campaigning priorities for the organisation over the coming period; and (c) elect a steering committee, which must publish its minutes, reports of its work and all decisions.

Motion: for a democratic Momentum conference!

We call on the Momentum steering committee:

  • To immediately publish a timetable for conference business, submission of motions, etc. This should be distributed to all paid-up members asap;
  • To take motions from not only from the current leading committee/s of Momentum, but also recognised Momentum branches and any 10 members;
  • To distribute all motions to all Momentum members at least 6 weeks before conference and actively encourage branches to organise meetings to thoroughly discuss these;
  • Also sets up an open e-forum for all full Momentum members, where these motions can be discussed, where amendments can be mooted and compositing processes can be arranged;
  • To accept amendments up to 2 weeks before conference. These can be moved by either the leading committees, recognised branches or 10 members.
  • To takes nominations for the steering committee. The elected committee then has the right to appoint officers from its own ranks to facilitate its work. These officers will be responsible to, and recallable by, the steering committee.

The national conference:

  • Is made up of delegates elected at local meetings (1 delegate for 10 members)
  • Will discuss and decide on a democratic constitution for the organisation;
  • Will elect the steering committee, which must publish minutes, reports of its work and all decisions;
  • Will discuss and decide the broad political and campaigning priorities for the organisation over the coming period.

Explaining our model motion: for a democratic conference!

We urge all Momentum members to press their local organisers to organise branch meetings as soon as possible. They should be able to discuss those proposals on the table, as well as those put forward by supporters of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (which are not much more democratic, see here for Jim Grant’s analysis) and those of Labour Party Marxists.

Our proposals take into consideration that Momentum at the moment does not have any democratic decision-making structures in the true sense of the word. Therefore, a conference on the future of the organisation must be open to all members and must make it as easy as possible for members to submit motions and have their voices heard.

Here is our model motion – an action plan for comrades fighting to maximise the democratic input of all Momentum members into what will be, in effect, the founding conference of their organisation in early 2017.

Below, we include some explanatory notes in our original motion.

We call on the steering committee:

  • To immediately publish a timetable for conference business, submission of motions, etc. This should be distributed to all paid-up members asap;

We are still in a position where it is extremely hit-and-miss if material distributed via the “regional reps” actually makes it through to the membership locally. This unelected layer should be by-passed and the conference materials sent to all full members. In addition to widening the democratic debate, this could have the beneficial effect of drawing isolated members into a closer relationship with the organisation.

  • To take motions from not only from the current leading committee/s of Momentum, but also recognised Momentum branches and any 10 members;

The current proposal has an ascending set of hurdles for motions to jump in order to eventually make it to conference. (“The final hurdle” being 1000 individual members, 20 local groups, or 400 members and 10 locals.) This would be restrictive in the best of circumstances. But in a situation where local Momentum branches and their officials are not being supplied with full lists of local members and supporters, this is simply a recipe for the centre to maintain a tight control of the whole process.

  • To distribute all motions to all Momentum members at least 6 weeks before conference and actively encourage branches to organise meetings to thoroughly discuss these;
  • Also sets up an open e-forum for all full Momentum members, where these motions can be discussed, where amendments can be mooted and compositing processes can be arranged;

A platform like Loomio, which is used by various Labour and Momentum branches and regional bodies, is an excellent tool for these sorts of debates. It allows members to join discussion threads on the motions they are particularly interested in.

  • To accept amendments up to 2 weeks before conference. These can be moved by either the leading committees, recognised branches or 10 members.
  • To takes nominations for the steering committee. The elected committee then has the right to appoint officers from its own ranks to facilitate its work. These officers will be responsible to, and recallable by, the steering committee.

The spurious ‘democracy’ of electing national officials at conferences of the whole membership is potentially disastrous. The steering committee of Momentum is a working body that, day-to-day, is in the best position to hold officers to account, scrutinise their work and – if necessary – remove them. An officer elected from an annual conference can claim a mandate from a different, more ‘democratically representative’ electorate. This is potentially highly disruptive of the organisation’s work.
The national conference:

  • Is made up of delegates elected at local meetings (1 delegate for 10 members)
  • Will discuss and decide on a democratic constitution for the organisation;
  • Will elect the steering committee, which must publish minutes, reports of its work and all decisions;
  • Will discuss and decide the broad political and campaigning priorities for the organisation over the coming period.

Discussion papers from Momentum on the future of the organisation

These documents have unfortunately not been published openly or distributed to all Momentum members, so we reproduce them here.

Here is the “October newsletter for groups”, which has been sent to some members of some local Momentum groups, but not others.

 


 

“If you have any queries about the documents, please contact Momentum national organiser Emma Rees via emma.rees@peoplesmomentum.com.

1. Logistics for the NC

Date: Saturday 5th November
Time: 10.30am (for an 11am start) – 4.30pm
Location: BVSC, 138 Digbeth, Birmingham B5 6DR (fully accessible)
[Logistical details redacted]

2. Discussion papers

All regional networks should meet between now and 30th October. Organisers should inform emma.rees@peoplesmomentum.com (and CC bethfosterogg@gmail.com) of the details of the meeting, so they can ensure that delegates from all groups in the region are invited.

The regional network meeting may wish to:
a) Discuss the paper attached (agreed to be circulated by the Officers of the Steering Group)
b) Elect delegates to the National Committee (this is the choice of the region)
c) Submit any other motions or amendments. All motions must be sent to emma.rees@peoplesmomentum.com. If you have not received a confirmation of receipt email within 48 hours, please send again. The deadline for submitting motions is Monday 31st October.

Final papers will be circulated on Saturday 29th October.

https://goo.gl/rWk9Rw


Here is the file in PDF format

Paper 1 –  Process for deciding Momentum’s new structures

Rather than attempting to decide Momentum’s structures at the National Committee, a body which is now technically running beyond its mandate and is not fully elected, the Steering Committee is proposing that Momentum’s permanent structures be debated at a national conference, and voted on either by delegates at that conference or by all members. This conference will take place in February (there is a separate paper on its composition). The proposals we need to generate to go to that conference are not just about structures – they are also about what Momentum stands for and how we conduct ourselves.

So there are 3 kinds of documents that can be submitted:

  • Momentum’s core politics and guiding principles – what we stand for
  • Momentum’s ethics and code of conduct – how we behave
  • Momentum’s democratic structures – how we make decisions

The process that the Steering Committee is proposing is designed to be as open as possible – proposals can come directly from members, unmediated by the National Committee or any other parts of Momentum’s ‘centre’.
Phase 1 Begins: November 12th

Drafts to be submitted to HQ for circulation: November 19th Comments must be received at HQ by: December 9th

Revised documents submitted: January 9th (dates assume an early Feb conference. A later conference should involve an extension of phase 1)

All members of Momentum will have the right to formulate and propose documents on the above areas. Members’ proposals attracting the support of 50 individual members will be circulated in a document (the “initial proposers”). All members and local groups will be able to submit comments or suggested amendments which will be considered by the initial proposers who may accept or reject them, and revise their documents prior to the next stage. They may also composite their documents with others In order to progress to Phase 2, proposals will then need the support of: 200 individual members of Momentum.
Phase 2

Documents circulated: week commencing January 9th Ends: One week before conference

This stage is an opportunity for local groups to discuss the final documents in advance of the conference and for people to declare their support, in order for favoured documents to get over the final hurdle. The numbers required to reach Phase 3 are: 1000 individual members; or 20 local groups; or 400 members and 10 local groups

Phase 3

The vote

The vote will take place between all proposals that make it to conference by Preferential Vote. The question of who gets to vote, and how conference is composed, is in section 2.

Questions which you should discuss:

1. Do you agree with the broad process outlined, and if not, what should be used?

2. Do you agree with the 3 categories of paper outlined above?

3. Do you agree with the numbers needed to reach each stage, or are they too high or low?

4. Do you agree with the dates and timescales outlined above?

5. Do you have any other comments or suggestions?


Paper 2 – Momentum’s conference

The National Committee has already resolved (at its last meeting in May) that Momentum will hold a democratic conference in February 2017 in order to settle the permanent structures of the organisation. The text of the motion passed at the National Committee is as follows:
“We need a widely representative Momentum conference in order to empower the membership, push forward the development of our policy and activities, and allow groups to coordinate, network and become part of a national Momentum culture. We therefore agree to convene a democratic conference [in February 2017], representing local groups directly.”

We currently do not have an agreed delegate entitlement for the conference, or a firm idea of who can vote at it, other than that it will “represent local groups directly”. The Steering Committee has commissioned a mapping exercise of Momentum’s local groups in order to determine the size of membership and health of local organisation, and to enable us to assist in supporting local activity. This process is underway, and will feed into the delegate On the Steering Committee, there are different opinions as to how the conference should be composed.

These include:
– Delegates from local groups (according to their size)

– A mixed delegate system: delegates from local groups (according to their size) and regional ‘top up’ lists elected by OMOV in order to represent people who live in areas not covered by local groups

– No delegate system – the conference should be live-streamed and all Momentum members should be allowed to vote online
Questions which you should discuss:

1. Should voting at conference be by delegates, or by an online ballot of Momentum members?

2. If voting is by delegates, how should the delegate entitlement be calculated, and is it reasonable that a national committee only created as a temporary body whose composition is not necessary representative should decide the delegate entitlement?

3. Apart from Momentum’s core documents (Politics, Ethics, Structure), what else should Momentum conference vote on, if anything?

4. What kinds of sessions should the conference include? What should the agenda look like?

5. Do you have any additional ideas and proposals for the composition of conference?

Momentum or inertia?

As long as it is treated as the private property of its most timid elements, Momentum is doomed, argues Jim Grant of Labour Party Marxists

Ever since Momentum was formed out of the email lists left behind by Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership run, the question has hung over it as to what it is actually for.

For its enemies, its purpose has always been clear – to organise mobs of Corbynite thugs for purposes of intimidation of moderates and seizure of the commanding heights of the Labour Party; or else as the black rat whose fur hides a multitude of Trotskyist parasites, as they infest the party at a scale unmatched since the 1980s. Its methods are crude, its motives questionable. It is riddled with misogynists and anti-Semites. It has no legitimacy, nor is its fanaticism constrained by moral scruple.

This account of Momentum’s motivation is somewhat at variance with empirical reality, but that is always a secondary concern for the bourgeois media.

A more wide-ranging discussion was had on the left on this point when the group first coalesced, which polarised on the question of what should be Momentum’s attitude to Labour Party activity. Many – especially among those non-Labour lefts who hoped Momentum might become a vehicle for them to reach the Corbynistas without having to take out a Labour card – argued for Momentum to dedicate itself to ‘campaigning’, and look outwards: a prescription for movementism. At the opposite end, there was Labour Party Marxists: so far as I know, we were the only organised force to call for Momentum to focus on dislodging the right at all levels of the Labour Party and strengthening the left institutionally. Initial discussions ended, in substance, with a fudge on this point.

Fiasco

When we ask what Momentum is for today, a year and a bit after its birth, it is – alas – in an increasingly exasperated tone. What is it for? During the second leadership campaign, its members were directed to the phone banks, as full-blooded members of Jeremy’s campaign; Momentum itself kept a low profile (despite periodic stupid accusations from Citizen Smith’s Westminster Popular Front, quite as inevitable as death and taxes). As the right cleaned up at Labour conference, Momentum herded itself away at a no doubt cheerful extended fringe event elsewhere, making exactly zero impact and leaving a few of the more serious (Max Shanly was quoted a lot) isolated in their opposition to making a ‘peace offering’ to the right.

Finally, Momentum’s role in the Jackie Walker fiasco is well documented. Comrade Walker was booted out as vice chair, in a 7-3 vote, after she made comments that were later fraudulently misrepresented by various species of bad actor as anti-Semitic. On this point, we turn to the Morning Star – while we have had cause to ridicule that paper in recent weeks, the October 5 editorial on l’affaire Walker was really rather stirring stuff: “Removing Jackie Walker from her position as Momentum vice-chair … is an act of political cowardice and confusion,” it read.

Atypically, the Star was even in the mood to name names:

Vanquished challenger Owen Smith paraded his political ignorance during the election campaign by accusing the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty … of “left anti-Semitism” – an absurd formulation comparable with left racism or left Islamophobia. In reality, this supposed ex-party has well-attested pro-Zionist credentials. Meeting a witch-hunt halfway is unprincipled and doomed to failure.

The line about left anti-Semitism being an “absurd formulation” is unfortunate – it is not so easy, alas, to excise Mikhail Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Henry Hyndman from history. The thrust of the above statement is correct, however – and it has ruffled a few of the right feathers. Condemning “an unwarranted attack on Momentum”, which “failed to take seriously Jeremy Corbyn’s determination to rooting [sic] out the evil of anti-Semitism”, Momentum chair (in reality, proprietor) Jon Lansman replied the following Saturday in ridiculous but revealing terms. Walker’s comments were “ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive, though not anti-Semitic” (our emphasis). However, people would interpret them “in the context of earlier comments”, which have “made Jackie a focus of media attention especially on issues relating to anti-Semitism, which should have led Jackie to consider carefully whether to intervene in such discussions and to show great care if she did so”.

I invite readers to recall to mind the charge Lansman was trying to refute here – cowardice. Yet his explanation more or less states directly that, given some confected media calumny, the proper response for any Momentum member is craven silence (a stance copied by the Labour Representation Committee – it voted to condemn Momentum over the Walker affair – but then voted to keep its vote… secret). Certainly, if the media tells the right sort of lie about you, expect only backstabbing from the leadership. He invoked the anniversary of Cable Street, but Lansman’s piece would only be in the spirit of the famous battle if it had consisted entirely of the Jews of the East End conceding readily to the fascists that there really were rather too many Bolsheviks and traitors among them after all, and then throwing a few scapegoats out to their fate. What an insult.

Thus is the state of Momentum. It won’t turn a left-wing insurgency into votes at conference; it won’t allow any action minutely at variance with the attitude of the Labour leadership; the self-appointed leadership clique won’t even defend its own members against baseless slurs. So, indeed, what is Momentum for?

Whither the conference?

It is traditional on the left to correct a mistaken course at a conference – of members or delegates, as appropriate – although perhaps the appropriate nautical metaphor would be not course correction, but steadying a ship that is listing violently and in danger of following the Mary Rose into the drink. If there are disputes, or problems, sort them out democratically, before the whole membership, and beyond them the whole movement, inasmuch as the whole movement takes an interest. What’s not to love?

Well, evidently something, for we are still waiting. There are vague mutterings of a conference in February – we note that there have been mutterings before now, which have come to nought but further delays. The wrong conference, according to someone or other powerful enough to swing things, is a worse outcome than no conference at all.

This is plainly not a universal opinion. A document reaches us written by Jill Mountford of the AWL and Michael Chessum, who at this point may as well be a member of the same – the two voted alike, treacherously, when Walker’s case was before them.1)www.facebook.com/MomentumTeesside/posts/989609807852015 However ill-disposed we are to such elements, now of all times, there are reasons to welcome this document, for it is a proposed constitution (or at least the basis for one), to be debated at this February conference – which is definitely going to happen, honest.

It has good features and bad – on the plus side, conference is to be sovereign, the executive (or ‘steering committee’) is to be elected from among the leadership themselves (‘national committee’), and there are relatively few layers involved. On the other hand, the composition of the national committee as proposed is comically over-complicated; 25 members to be elected at conference, 25 in an atomised internet poll, two each for four “liberation campaigns” (we fear that comrade Chessum is hung up on his glory days as Great Helmsman of the University of London Union red base, and thus uses the NUS-ese for ‘caucus’), two more from a youth and students group, and two more for each affiliated union. Each of these groupings is to be individually gender-balanced. This ticks the usual tokenism boxes, with the (we’re sure) entirely unintentional side-effect of giving any small group 13 separate bites at the NC cherry, plus two for each trade union.

We will take such favours, of course; but we do not confuse them for real headway. There is a perfectly decent way to elect a leadership – at conference. Conference itself shall be sufficiently sovereign to decide the gender composition of the leadership, surely; or do Chessum and Mountford think that male chauvinism is best confronted not through open political combat, but by writing the correct numbers down in a constitution? Likewise, why do caucuses – ahem, sorry, “liberation campaigns” – need to be mandated in a constitution? Can people not – you know – just get on with it if they are so important? We are not waiting for a Marxists’ caucus to be formed from above to pursue our aims, and frankly we expect that, say, Jackie Walker – who insists against all reason that her misfortune is on account of her being black – will not wait either to pursue that particular line of argument.

This still leaves the issue of trade union affiliates. It is our opinion that there is little point in Momentum being a smaller copy of the Labour Party, with affiliates and all; far better to focus on developing a political line of attack and alternative to the right. Nonetheless, there are already trade union affiliates, and it would be pedantry to spend weeks recalibrating that relationship. If Momentum is to have an affiliate structure, however, why should we stop at unions? Why should there not be ‘socialist societies’ too? We wonder, with genuine curiosity, whether the AWL would be comfortable as an open affiliate. Labour Party Marxists, naturally, would welcome the opportunity.

Heads must roll

If there is any luck, the February conference will happen – or at least start to loom threateningly enough that Lansman and co will have to make serious excuses for it not happening – and a debate will be had, in the interim, about what shape Momentum ought to take.

Yet there are matters which are necessarily not covered in discussions of organisational structure; for we must in such discussions leave out the names of those who will fill the structure. Thus, if there is an opportunity for Momentum to democratically decide its leadership, it is a baseline requirement that Jon Lansman not be on it.

There is the obvious matter that he is one of seven current steering committee members who, by their betrayal of Jackie Walker, have placed themselves definitively outside the ranks of those able to lead anything: they are cowards – or else they are politically committed Zionists and thus apologists for heinous crimes. (Thus also – whatever the fate of their constitution – we look forward to the political exile of Chessum and Mountford.)

But look also at the reasoning, whereby he defends his conduct in relation to Walker – wielded like a cudgel is Jeremy Corbyn’s determination to root out anti-Semitism. When rank-and-file Corbynistas give rightwingers a piece of their mind, and get hauled up for ‘harassment’, the word comes down about obeying “Jeremy’s call for a kinder politics”, or whatever it happens to be; when the balance of power on the NEC is gift-wrapped by the leadership for the right, Lansman ensures that people are safely elsewhere. Corbyn vacillates and compromises, and so does John McDonnell; they are, after all, Labour lefts of the old school. It is part of who they are. Lansman’s role is to ensure that everyone else does as well. It is, after all, so terribly important to get the Tories out.

He has to go – along with the other six.

References

1 www.facebook.com/MomentumTeesside/posts/989609807852015

For democracy in Momentum – Teesside Momentum

Momentum Teesside calls for Momentum to set the standards for democracy and transparency in the Labour Party.

At our meeting yesterday, we approved the following motion calling on Momentum nationally to put into practice the principles of democracy and transparency that it advocates for our party, the Labour Party:

(1) Momentum Teesside supports Momentum’s aim to “Transform Labour into a more open, member-led party, with socialist policies and collective will to implement them in government” and its stated commitment to “working for progressive political change through methods which are democratic, inclusive and participatory”.

(2) We are proud that Momentum Teesside activists have led the way in promoting these principles in local Constituency Labour Parties and branches, and have sought to organise events for Labour members to debate the vital issues facing our party where CLP leaderships have resisted these principles.

(3) We welcome the now well-developed database and communications capacity of Momentum – ie, mailing lists, social media and website.

(4) However, we note that agendas, documents and minutes for decision-making committees at national and regional level are still not published by the organisation nor distributed to members. We regret that Momentum members have sometimes learned about decisions made by the organisation, many weeks after they were taken, through media outlets that may be hostile to Momentum, without having been informed by the organisation itself.

(5) Momentum Teesside believes that the fight to democratise the Labour Party cannot be separated from the way in which Momentum organises its own activities. Momentum as an organisation should therefore practise what it preaches to the Labour Party in its own internal decision-making processes, which should be seen to be fully democratic, accountable and transparent. There must be a presumption of openness in a member-based democratic socialist organisation.

(6) We call upon Momentum to publish on its website agenda papers and minutes for all its decision-making bodies, as well as the names of their elected officers and committee members. We call upon Momentum to require that all regional decision-making bodies and local branches adopt the same good practice regarding publication, providing support and training where necessary to help achieve this.

————

Further details of motions and actions agreed at our 13 September meeting are available in the minutes published at https://goo.gl/ahETgv.