What’s coming up at the 11 March grassroots Momentum conference?

I’m looking forward to seeing representatives from Momentum groups around the country at the grassroots networking conference in London on 11 March (10am-5pm at Conway Hall).

A few things I’d like to flag up in advance:

1. Whether through official resolutions or, even more importantly, through informal links made on the day, we need to push forward progress in getting Momentum groups to campaign actively on the issues facing us – through the Labour Party if we can, independently if we must. In addition to supporting workers in struggle, I have in mind particularly the NHS, migrants’ rights and the massive cuts to schools which are being imposed and which are certainly a big focus for us in Lewisham. I hope that proposals on these issues will emerge from the workshops.

2. I’m pleased representatives from two of the most significant workers’ struggles going on in Britain at the moment are coming to the conference – the Derby teaching assistants and the Picturehouse cinema workers will be there, after the organising group took up my proposal. We should make sure we use the conference as effectively as possible to listen to and learn from these workers and get organised to support their struggles so we can help them win. A big part of what we want Momentum to exist for, surely, is to transform Labour into a campaigning party that supports workers’ and working-class struggles. I will be pushing to make sure these comrades have a decent amount of time to speak and they meet and talk to lots of local Momentum activists who can help build solidarity.

Having workers from these disputes at the conference, alongside Matt Wrack from the FBU, also sends an important message about the kind of organisation we want to build.

3. It’s also very good that we agreed Momentum National Coordinating Group member Sahaya James, elected to the NCG from the Grassroots Momentum pro-democracy slate, will be speaking. The struggle to organise the Momentum membership means continuing the fight in Momentum’s official structures and more importantly because the left/pro-democracy NCG members need to have a strong relationship with Momentum’s local groups and grassroots Momentum organisation. It’s also good that all three left candidates elected to the NCG are young people; Sahaya is an important organiser in the student and youth movement and that sends a good signal too.

4. There are various proposals for how to elect a coordinating committee. I favour the third option listed there – and I’d specify that it should be a 20 strong committee, at least half women, elected by STV to maximise diversity and breadth. I’d add: the election should take place at the conference, not online afterwards! The reason I favour that proposal is that I don’t think the existing coordinating group is working well or broad enough, and I think electing a complex series of named positions is too much for the network at this point.

I’d add: in the options as listed above, only the second includes a regular national meet up of Momentum groups. But in fact there is nothing to stop future conferences being held whether kind of committee we adopt, and I’d favour combining that with a 20-strong coordinating committee and continued regional networks.

5. Talk about a split seems to have receded, but but I want to go on record to say again that I oppose splitting Momentum. This is not a manner of trying to get hold of Jon Lansman’s data or directorships, as some have suggested, or of illusions about the difficulties of changing the structures established by the coup, but of maintaining links between the dozens of groups and thousands of activists who, whatever their frustration, remain inside Momentum. It seems pretty clear to me that leaving Momentum would involve dispersing those links. That is not to say we should be limited by the official structures, but setting up a separate organisation makes no sense and we should continue to organise and fight within Momentum.

6. I hope no one tries to suggest we should adopt a common position on boycotts of Israel, the nature of Zionism or the Jewish Labour Movement – issues which divide the left of Momentum as well as the right. I’m in favour of discussing these things, though whether it should be a priority on 11 March is another matter – and that does not mean we need to take a position.

Opposing unjust expulsions motivated on accusations of anti-semitism is a different matter. Most obviously: while I disagree strongly with her politics on these questions and think they should be challenged, I oppose the threat to expel Jackie Walker from the Labour Party and believe we must fight it.

7. Lastly, on that point, I hope we will have some serious discussion about fighting expulsions and suspensions from the Labour Party more generally, and also about good practice on how we take over and begin to transform local parties, learning from comrades who have had recent successes, as in Brighton. We should try to agree a proposal on fighting the purge too.

Get in touch: jillmountford@rocketmail.com

PS Suzanne Gannon, a member of the old Momentum National Committee, makes an important point in response to this post:

“I am unable to attend the conference but there is an important issue I feel should be addressed that Jill does not mention: how the left slate should get drawn up in the future. I think the CLGA [Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, the undemocratic soft left lash up that runs slates for Labour’s NEC] has outlived its usefulness,especially in light of both Momentum’s birth and whatever state it inhabits now. I think that this new alliance (or whatever we who oppose the coup call ourselves) should demand a say in drawing up the lists in some way. To just go on letting CLPD set the agenda because we risk splitting the vote is blackmail.”

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