The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th January 2017

Momentum between the devil and the deep blue sea

THE STRIFE within the Corbyn supporters’ group Momentum goes from bad to worse. The group was formed on an ad hoc basis in 2015 with Jon Lansman taking the leading role and registering Momentum as a company at Companies House with himself as director.

At the time groups all over the country — some inside the Labour Party and some not — were springing up and calling themselves Momentum as support for Corbyn swelled throughout the Left. It was a bit chaotic but with a single purpose — to back Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and to rescue the party from the right-wing New Labour Blairites who still dominate its structure.

After Corbyn in 2016 succeeded in fighting off an attempt to force his resignation by Blairite MPs and a new challenge to his leadership, most Momentum leaders agreed it was time to give their movement some structure and a constitution and started planning a founding conference for early this year.

Lansman, who until then had made up rules and structures ad hoc, has been using underhanded Blairite tactics to sabotage this conference or ensure it remains firmly under his control.

He has tried to cancel national committee meetings and proposed that Momentum become an on-line organisation with on-line debates and voting, and just individual members and no group structures — one member, one vote.

It is exactly the sort of structure Tony Blair was aiming for in the 1990s when he opened up membership to anyone applying to the party head office without reference to local constituency parties. Such members had no local contacts, they had no power to influence policy, and their numbers rose and fell according to how the party was being perceived in the mass media.

The Momentum national committee nevertheless set about organising a foundation conference on the basis of delegates from local groups. But Lansman, earlier this month, staged a coup by presenting a new constitution and declaring that the conference would consist of debating workshops with no voting on the organisation’s structure.

He claims this will protect Momentum from Trotskyist infiltration and accuses all who oppose his dictatorial views or support the principles of democratic centralism of being Trotskyists

Lansman’s constitution demands that all Momentum members must be Labour Party members with a deadline of 1st July to join. This will exclude those victims of the Israeli embassy-inspired witch-hunt that accused a number of Corbyn supporters of anti-Semitism.

The Israeli embassy involvement in this was exposed last week by the Qatari Arab news agency Al Jazeera and included video footage of Israeli diplomat Shai Masot boasting about “taking down” MPs who support human rights for Palestinians. This includes Jeremy Corbyn, and the attempt to smear him and some of his supporters as being anti-Semitic was part of the ruling class attack on Corbyn.

Momentum members around the country — including Lansman’s own group in Southwark — have rejected his attempt to impose this new constitution.

But some of them, including Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leader Matt Wrack, are countering by calling for a new “democratic socialist current” within the Labour Party based on a narrow Trotskyist platform that excludes all Marxist-Leninists.

Once again the working class movement is being caught in a trap between underhanded and anti-democratic right-wing Labour machinations and an ultra-left false antithesis.

This is not the “new way of doing politics” that Corbyn said he was trying to build — and it will not attract the broad masses who have stood up to support Corbyn because he stands against austerity, against injustice and against war. It will drive genuine left-wing activists and trade unionists to despair, and there is a real danger that they will quit the movement.

But the turmoil inside Momentum is also a measure of how hard at work the ruling class agents in the Left have been to sabotage Corbyn and the values he stands for. It would be a tragedy for the Left to allow people like Lansman to drive out genuine activists. It would help if Corbyn himself would take a stand but he holds back fearing what the press will make of it. And he has allowed Lansman to persuade him to appease the agents making false accusations of anti-Semitism at the expense of good comrades.

We knew the ruling class would pull out all the stops to sink Corbyn and try to make it impossible for him to become Prime Minister. It is up to us communists to present a clear picture of what is happening and call on all Left activists to stay together, organise and fight on, and to be aware that achieving real social justice will take a lot more than a general election — it will take a socialist revolution.