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Momentum and democracy in Hackney and beyond
Hackney Socialist Party
In Hackney, around 50 people - from left organisations, the Labour Party and some individuals - attended the first two meetings of the local Momentum group. They were attracted by the aspiration of Momentum to be "a mass movement for real progressive change" and to "bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us".
Momentum's national orga-nisers have also stated that Momentum will be "independent of the Labour Party's leadership. It will work with everyone who supports Jeremy's aim of creating a more fair, equal and democratic society."
For his anti-austerity and anti-war battle against Labour's right wing, clearly Jeremy Corbyn needs a strong, organised base of support. As most of his supporters are outside the Labour Party, Momentum has the task of mobilising and involving the maximum possible support outside of Labour as well as inside.
However, the unelected Momentum HQ declared that Momentum office holders must be Labour Party members and only Labour members can participate in decision-making in Momentum groups.
These attempted directions - issued before Momentum has a democratically agreed structure and rules - were questioned by a number of participants in Hackney Momentum.
The first Hackney meeting adopted among its objectives, to "work on building up a broad membership". Where is the democracy if only the Labour Party members in that broad membership can help run the group and make decisions? The interim organisers of Hackney Momentum issued an online form for people wishing to be involved, that as well as asking for declaration of current membership of other political parties, wanted prior memberships declared too!
The right-wing press scream about the 'hard left' entering Momentum to 'manipulate' it on issues like reselection and fighting austerity, a tirade that is frightening Momentum's organisers.
But in reality no one in groups like Hackney Momentum is trying to circumnavigate democratic procedures and votes - on the contrary, Socialist Party members and others are calling for democracy and all want to help strengthen Jeremy Corbyn's position.
The fear of the right is the echo that socialist ideas are gaining among the thousands who are interested in getting involved in actively supporting Corbyn's message.
Momentum's HQ has also said that participants in Momentum must commit to supporting Labour candidates in elections, whatever their policies. To set this condition on trade unionists and local communities who are being hit by massive cuts from Labour councils like Hackney's will only weaken Momentum, which was created to back up one wing of two irreconcilable wings in Labour - that of the left.
Momentum is holding a national committee meeting on 6 February to further develop its structure and rules. It has reported that two representatives from each affiliating trade union will be on the committee - some recognition, at least, of the crucial role of the unions in defeating austerity.
26 other delegates to the committee will be elected only by the organisers of local Momentum groups, not by all the participants.
A further 12 will be representatives from "existing Labour movement organisations" approved for inclusion by the present unelected national leaders. They are also inviting some people from 'under-represented groups in society' - again with no suggestion of democratic election.
This, unfortunately, isn't the way to build a democratic, inclusive, broad, labour movement organisation.
However, reports from around the country suggest that many Momentum participants are questioning these developments, with the result that some groups may decide to organise on a democratic basis and argue for the national bodies to do likewise.
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