Momentum Steering Committee member Jill Mountford has published the following post on her blog https://jillsmomentumblog.wordpress.com/. Members of the Steering Committee summarily dissolved by email on the evening of 10 January are meeting (as they had been scheduled to do) on 11 January, and further news is expected after that meeting.
All democratic structures in Momentum were dissolved on the evening of 10 January 2017 and a new constitution adopted via an email put out by Jon Lansman to the other 11 voting National Steering Committee members.
“If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.”
There was no prior notice to find out who might be available to take part in this email vote, there was no discussion about the significant content of Jon’s email or the 4 attached documents, one of which is a constitution for the organisation and surely worthy of much discussion. Just a simple vote in favour or against and as soon as a majority had been reached supporting Jon’s proposals (it took less than a hour – 6 votes for and 4 votes against) dissolution of all structures was announced along with a new constitution.
So this is how e-voting works? A fine example of things to come!
No sooner had Jon Lansman declared the new situation than an email was sent out to all National Committee members spreading the good news. This email ends with an invitation to leave Momentum.
“If you consent to Momentum’s constitution, you do not have to do anything. Simply continue paying your membership fees. However, if you wish to opt out, you can email email@example.com to cancel your membership.”
So you can nod through a new constitution discussed nowhere, amended by no one, or you can leave!
According to the new constitution some members have no choice but to leave, they are, in effect, being expelled from Momentum because they’ve been expelled from the Labour Party. Most, myself included, have been expelled for political reasons, that is, being wrong kind of socialist, and have been provided with no evidence against them or had any opportunity to appeal. A practice generally condemned by the left in the Labour Party.
Is this the ‘new kind of politics’? Only it seems rather old fashioned, not to mention right wing. Neil Kinnock was expelling members back in the eighties only, then Jeremy Corbyn was rightly campaigning against expulsions and for socialists to be readmitted into the Labour Party.
No one should leave Momentum. We should stay and organise in the local groups, establish the best possible, most democratic local groups network, intervene where we can in the bureaucratic structures and continue to build an activists movement all around the country.
There has always been willingness to compromise by those wanting a delegate-based national conference in order for us to build a movement that can transform the Labour Party and defeat the Tories. Since the National Committee in Birmingham on 3 December, two National Steering Committees have been cancelled and the one arranged for this evening, 11 January, was usurped by Lansman’s coup-by-email last evening.
This coup is astounding and not what any of us expected. I always doubted they would let the national delegate-based conference go ahead but I did not anticipate this level of blatant anti-democratic carving. I do not understand this extreme response to one side winning a vote to organise a national conference where some of the time would be dedicated to discussing motions.
I urge activists to resist demoralisation and walking away from Momentum. Instead we should go to our local groups and discuss what’s happened, we should find a forum where we can all meet up nationally and strengthen the local group connections. We should continue with the good work many groups are doing all around the country. Our aim is to transform the Labour Party and to replace the Tories with a Labour Party that fights for the working class as hard as the Tories fight for the bosses' class.
Below: Jon Lansman’s email on the evening of 10 January to Steering Committee members, and attached documents.
Proposal to Steering Group: A new constitution for Momentum
I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:
1. The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
2. A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
3. A paper on interim governance
4. A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.
The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:
1. Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
2. Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
3. Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.
If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
Momentum National Steering Group
Jon Lansman's attachments: