Momentum is a unique and precious opportunity to build a mass democratic Labour left movement in Britain. It has the scope to transform the Labour party and help deliver a Labour government. Since Momentum was launched more than 150 local groups have been established. These groups have worked tirelessly on campaigns, political education and cultural initiatives at local level, and are the backbone of Momentum.
In May 2016, the elected National Committee voted to hold a founding conference for Momentum in order to represent this grassroots movement and establish more open democratic structures for the organisation. This was reaffirmed by a newly re-elected National Committee meeting in December, and plans were already well underway to organise the conference.
At 19:39 on January 10th, the Chair of the Steering Committee proposed a new constitution for Momentum by email. At 20:54 a majority was declared. Just 6 people indicated support for the constitution for a 21,000 strong membership organization.
All democratic structures of Momentum were then dissolved. No notice was given that these proposals were to be made, no meeting was held and no discussion or debate took place. No amendments were invited or allowed. Some members of the Steering Committee were unaware of these email exchanges and were excluded from participation.
Of course, we do not accept that the Steering Committee has the power to dissolve the structures of Momentum or impose a different membership system. In February 2016, after much discussion in local groups and regional meetings, the first National Committee established an interim structure for the Momentum. This structure is where the Steering Committee was established. In it, it is clear that the National Committee – not the Steering Committee – has the power to “establish a membership and affiliation structure” and to “maintain democratic, inclusive and pluralist representation.” The Steering Committee is elected from the NC, and is tasked with more operational matters. Momentum has more than 20,000 members. These members joined, and agreed to pay money to, the organisation established on February 6th 2016. That organisation has not been legitimately dissolved.
We agree that Momentum’s structures were inadequate. We accept that there was a need to open out decision-making in the organisation to a much, much wider layer of members. We want a structure that everyone can live with, so that we can stop this ridiculous squabble and get on with fighting for a better world. On all of these points, the events of the past two weeks have made things worse, not better.
Local groups and regional networks will continue to meet, debate and campaign, and to organize to transform the Labour Party and fight for a Labour government. They have our full support. Above all, we must remain united. We all have a duty to act responsibly – to work together and to maintain the cohesion of the organisation. Ultimately, that will have to involve compromise on both sides.
As members of the Steering Committee, we feel we have a duty to uphold the will of the democratic structures which elected us; failing to do so devalues democracy and alienates people. The National Committee will convene as planned on January 28th in London, and notice of this has gone out to its members.
We have a unique opportunity to democratise the Labour Party, to build a mass membership, to shift Britain’s centre of political gravity, and to fight the effects of austerity in our communities. We must build a new politics, driven from the bottom up. This is the only way for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to gain the confidence of public and be propelled into power. Let’s take that opportunity by continuing and improving our work; not dissolving it.
The Steering Committee.