Momentum members call for democratic structures

Submitted by Matthew on 10 November, 2016 - 1:27 Author: Gerry Bates

After the 5 November meeting of Momentum’s National Committee was cancelled by Momentum’s Steering Committee (SC), a number of delegates and members decided to meet informally on the same day.

The discussion at this meeting in Birmingham was focussed on proposals to improve Momentum democracy and functioning. Eighteen NC members attended, along with a number of observers. Three members of Momentum Youth and Students also attended, after being mandated to do so by their Steering Committee.

Momentum’s Steering Committee was elected by the National Committee earlier this year. But it was always meant to be an interim arrangement, and was certainly never meant to substitute for the National Committee elected by Regions and Liberation groups of Momentum. But the National Committee has now not met for six months, a situation compounded by the cancelling of the 5 November meeting.

That’s the background to four regional meetings — all of which hoped to be sending delegates to a properly convened National Committee meeting in November — passed motions of censure in the Steering Committee.

On 2 November, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed a joint statement of the in which some of the failings of the Committee and the Momentum office were acknowledged. Some important concessions on issues of democracy were made. However most the Steering Committee and Momentum’s office staff still oppose the idea that Momentum’s forthcoming conference will be sovereign and constituted on a delegate basis. This and a proposed alternative arrangement for decision-making are still being debated.

Alternatives to delegate-based decision-making are some variant of online One Member One Vote (OMOV). But who gets to decide what members can and cannot vote on? Will voting be based on yes/no alternatives? Most variants are likely to leave large areas of control over policy-making and organisational direction in the hands of the Momentum office. OMOV reduces, not improves accountability.

This issue of how Momentum conducts its internal democracy is the most important one facing the organisation and will determine whether or not it can shape itself into a serious rank-and-file group oriented to transforming Labour. The Birmingham meeting was comradely and extremely productive. A number of proposals were agreed at the meeting.

1. The need to restate that the National Committee is the highest [standing] body in Momentum, not the Steering Committee.

2. A new Steering Committee should be elected at the next National Committee (which is on 3 December).

3. The main officers of the Steering Committee should be elected by the National Committee. Groups

4. Local groups should be the basis of Momentum.

5. Every member should be encouraged by the national office to join a local group.

6. The national office should assist in setting up new local branches where they do not currently exist (the recent mapping exercise carried out by the office to see where the members live shows that 33% of members are not in a local group).

7. We need to complete the mapping exercise.

8. It should be made easier to establish a local group. There are too many hurdles to jump over before a group can be “verified”.

9. There should be a page on the national website to set out the various proposals about structures.

10. We should have a conference based on local group delegates.

11. There should be clearer “routes of communication” between the office and the members.

12. We need to take a serious look at the Momentum companies’ structures and consider ways to democratise them. There was a concern about who controls the data about members and supporters.

13. There should be a Momentum Rule Book.

14. We need clear lines of accountability. Who is responsible for what?

15. The role of the staff and volunteers should be better defined, with the elected leadership responsible for decisions taken and directing the staff on the basis of decisions taken by the Steering Committee and National Committee.

16. The Steering Committee and National Committee must produce and circulate minutes. There should be an identified member of staff responsible for administering the running of the Steering Committee. Every decision should have identified the person who will implement the agreed action.

17. Decisions about money and resources have to be taken democratically by the relevant officer/committee and those responsible must be accountable.

There are likely to be a number of different proposals on the running of the national conference at the meeting on 3 December. AWL will support proposals that argue for a delegate conference where motions are debated and voted on the day. Agreed decisions from the conference should be implemented.

Model motion on building Momentum groups and democracy

• Reports of the meeting are available here, here and here

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