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A WAY FORWARD FOR MOMENTUM

Jeremy Corbyn's time as Labour leader has come to a close, but the effects of the Tories' cruel austerity agenda are still all around us: underfunded and collapsing public services, record homelessness, an increase in racism and domestic violence, precarious and exploitative working practices, and the persecution of migrants by the state and civil society.

The last few weeks in particular have demonstrated how fragile and unequal our society, economy and public services have become. As Covid-19 turns our world upside down, we need a united, socialist left ready to meet the challenges of the crisis and its aftermath head on.

But with a new leader of the Labour Party, the broad coalition that united behind Corbyn's socialist politics is in danger of fragmenting. To prevent this, and to strengthen the campaign for a socialist and democratic society, we need an organisation that is democratic, effective and rooted in local communities, as well as in the Labour Party. These ideas are our contribution to making Momentum that organisation.

Momentum can play a central role in building a society which is:

  • Socialist - run by and in the interests of working people; where resources are allocated on the basis of need, not profit.
  • Democratic - where power is shared equally and we can collectively shape our workplaces, our communities and our lives.
  • Internationalist - where we cooperate with working and oppressed people across the globe, lending our solidarity and uniting our strength, and building an international coalition committed to an anti-colonial and anti-imperial politics.
  • Liberatory - where we dismantle the structural causes of oppression, discrimination and prejudice across our society and create a future which is free from sexism, racism, ableism and LGBTQphobia in all its forms.
  • Environmentalist - where we value and protect our shared global resources and environment and, further, ensure that those communities around the world least responsible for environmental degradation and climate change do not suffer its gravest consequences.

Mission: What is Momentum's role in achieving that vision?

Momentum's role should be to:

Put forward a socialist vision of society

This means: taking a broader approach and building wide public support for socialist ideas, not only focusing on winning the debate inside the party; creating a strong comms operation to deliver this; building up grassroots leaders who can speak for the organisation and build popular support for radical ideas and social transformation; supporting broad-based political education, including on areas which are often neglected, such as decolonisation and internationalism; and creating spaces for the discussion of radical ideas within Momentum.

Lead from the left inside the Labour Party

This means: supporting Momentum members to play a leading role in their CLPs and also in the party; getting left-wingers elected to positions within the party structures and then holding them accountable; building up grassroots socialist candidates to run for public office and connecting this to a plan for building power in communities; holding the party leadership to account; fighting for left policy at conference; pushing the party to follow Momentum's lead on key areas such as community organising and election tactics; building a new broad coalition among the party membership under the leadership of the left; holding left MPs to account for their votes in Parliament and their role in supporting the growth of the movement.

Build power in communities and connect the Labour Party to social movements

This means: supporting local Momentum groups to organise in their communities, or to assist already-existing campaigns that are focused on building power and delivering change; organising sustained national campaigns that see local activity, member participation and community organising as key to their success; linking with extra-parliamentary movements, such as the climate movement, and renters' and workplace struggles; providing a link between the higher levels of the party and grassroots campaigns; informing and educating the grassroots about developments internal to the party; and giving social movements a stake in the party by ensuring the party listens to them.

Balancing these three missions has always been a central challenge for Momentum and it will continue to be. We believe that this process of prioritisation should be open, transparent and member-led.

Principles: How will Momentum achieve this vision?

What Momentum does is important, but so too is how it does it. These principles should underline everything Momentum and its members do.

Socialist

  • Socialist in its vision, aims, practice and operation
  • Serious about the importance of politics in people's everyday lives
  • Focused on the urgent need for transformative change within society

Member-led

  • Decisions are driven by members and taken democratically
  • Builds empowering, participatory structures to best harness the collective strength, wisdom and talents of our members
  • Facilitates the development of horizontal connections between groups and members, so that they can pool expertise and build broad campaigns

  • Responsive to members' ideas and needs

  • Leadership is fully accountable to members through clear processes and regular and transparent communication

Open and inclusive

  • People of all ages, identities and backgrounds are welcome, fully represented and given a meaningful voice
  • Members are encouraged and supported to become organisers and leaders in their area and within the organisation

  • Creates a generous political culture that allows members to rally around points of agreement, whilst also disagreeing in a healthy, respectful and constructive way

  • Open to working with others to achieve common goals

Action-focused

  • Creates structures and processes that empower members to take action, not just talk

  • Forward-looking and strategic, developing plans for future campaigns

  • Local groups are rooted and able to respond to local issues
  • Builds a reputation for effectiveness and for winning by aiming at ambitious but achievable goals

Innovative

  • Encourages and promotes creativity
  • Builds on Momentum's digital campaigning prowess and develops expertise in other areas to stay ahead of the curve
  • Develops imaginative and effective political narratives

Our ideas

Momentum has played a key role in the last five years, helping to catapult left-wing ideas from the wilderness into the spotlight. But the promises made when Momentum launched have not always been met and, following the general election defeat and the election of Keir Starmer as Labour leader, we are now in a very different political context. We need a fresh start for the organisation, post-Corbyn and post-infighting.

As a result of the conversations we've had with activists around the country, we have developed a set of ideas to start the discussion about how to move Momentum forward. We think these ideas will transform Momentum for the better. But we do not think we are the only ones with good ideas. We want these ideas to be the start of a serious debate leading to a programme to take the left and Momentum forward.

Idea 1: Refound Momentum

A major limit on Momentum's success has been the assumption that only a handful of people in senior positions in London can be trusted to lead and come up with strategy. We think the organisation is stronger when we're inclusive and democratic; when everyone's views are heard.

Momentum should be 'refounded' by its members through a democratic and inclusive process.

  • Momentum's online discussion forum should be used to host the ideas in this document, and any others that Momentum members wish to discuss.
  • There should be a period of renewal, with a process of public meetings across the country to develop ideas for the future of the organisation and strategies for action. Local groups should be encouraged and supported to host these meetings - either in person or online.
  • There should be a specific focus on the role of Momentum in Scotland and Wales, with these reviews led by Scottish and Welsh activists.
  • A digital re-founding convention should be called to discuss and decide constitutional changes and a new strategy for the organisation.

This should be a time-limited project to happen in the first year under a new National Coordinating Group (NCG). This will allow Momentum as an organisation and its members to move forward on the projects below.

Idea 2: Build the movement

Socialism can only be built by a broad, powerful movement. Momentum should be committed to helping this movement to grow.

1. Political education and organiser training

Political education is key to developing members' capacity to build power in our own communities and play constructive roles in the wave of struggles which the coming recession will produce. In order to grow Momentum groups and support leaders so they can organise effectively, build power and win, Momentum needs to provide training and political education that meets the needs and builds on the skills of every Momentum member. Momentum should work with other organisations to deliver this, as well as pushing the Labour Party to take this work seriously, and should:

  • prioritise each member being able to learn and develop as organisers by providing accessible political education and training courses online and in person for members, from new activists to experienced organisers;
  • provide digital platforms for members to educate and train each other through skill shares, reading groups and lots more;
  • prioritise political education and activist training programmes to find and develop members to lead our movement, from community organisers to future councillors and MPs.

Momentum nationally should prioritise membership growth and outreach to make the Momentum membership more inclusive of the diverse working class in the UK, and should prioritise under-represented groups taking part in training, political education and leadership programmes.

2. Building power in communities and workplaces

To transform society the movement needs to organise and win campaigns in local communities to rebuild trust and protect against attacks from the Tories. To do this Momentum should:

  • prioritise resources for serious member training programmes;
  • prioritise resources for supporting member-led campaigning efforts in partnership with organisations such as tenants and trade unions, as well as community-based campaigns (e.g. anti-gentrification) by Momentum nationally, building strong and trusting relationships with such organisations;
  • direct organisers to support these activities with an aim of developing member organising skills through action, and develop an organising and campaigning model to support activists to progressively develop their skills;
  • build up core teams of activists in different areas through doing a series of successful focused campaigns nationally and in different regions with lots of staff support, coaching and training.

  • Encourage members who take part in campaigns and develop organising skills to identify other campaigning opportunities and proliferate campaigns locally, with staff to provide training and coaching to new members who are subsequently onboarded.

3. A vibrant local Group in every community

Momentum Groups should be places where we get things done. We want to see local Groups embedded in our communities and active in local campaigns - but recognise that different approaches will be needed in different areas, particularly where the left already has a strong presence in CLPs. They should intervene in the Labour Party, but this should not be their only focus. They should also organise and support political education and community campaigns. And while Groups will play a key role in Momentum's democracy, their focus should be outwards not inwards.

Momentum should support local Groups:

  • Each Group should be able to contact its own members.
  • Groups should have access to a 'campaign fund' to support their activities.
  • Every Group should have a key contact on the NCG and in the staff team.
  • Momentum should provide guidance and support to run Groups.
  • Momentum should invest in digital resources and tools for Groups to use.
  • Momentum should equally invest in Sections organising around issues and identities, where there is interest in forming these, for example a BAME Section and a Teachers' Section.

4. An annual national campaign

Momentum nationally should provide digital tools, training and resources to support members and local Groups in participating in a strategic, national campaign designed to win.

  • A Priority Campaign to be decided democratically, as outlined further below.
  • Momentum nationally to provide multiple ways to engage in the campaign, from online activity to community organising.
  • Support for local Groups and Sections to organise their own campaigns on top of this.

5. Investment in digital tools and resources

The Coronavirus crisis has shown us the potential for digital discussion. Importantly we need to prioritise Momentum being accessible for all members so that participation does not rely on attending physical meetings. Momentum is already at the cutting edge of using digital tools; however this can be made more accessible to all members.

We need to invest in digital tools and resources:

  • Momentum should continue to explore and develop cutting edge digital tools both to push the Labour Party to aim higher and to ensure effective organising and campaigning.
  • Members should be given support and training on the basics of social media, Slack and video-conferencing, as well as how to use more advanced tools, and these should be made accessible to all groups.
  • Momentum sections or local groups should have the option to run their meetings online - and support should be available for this too.
  • Momentum's constitution already promises a digital democracy platform. This should be developed and used. Online democracy need not be just individualistic voting - it should involve vibrant discussions and participation such as online "policy labs", as well as regular online ballots.

Idea 3: Organise inside the Labour Party

Momentum can play a major role in the Labour Party, ensuring it stays true to its socialist values. We want to see the party live up to the potential of its mass membership by opening out its structures and by empowering its members.

1. Campaign for democracy inside the Labour Party

Momentum is committed to democratising the Labour Party. It has had some success with this, for instance increasing the number of CLP representatives on the NEC. Harnessing the power and skills of the membership to democratise the Labour Party further is a priority:

  • Open Selection for all MPs, councillors and other representatives.
  • A sovereign policy conference.
  • Greater transparency: minutes of NEC and other key committees available to members.

2. Develop policies to organise around for Conference and for campaigning

  • Momentum should be at the cutting edge of participatory, grassroots policy making. Momentum nationally should facilitate policy labs to allow members to discuss and develop new policies.
  • Momentum should democratically select policies to push the Labour Party to adopt through the Labour Party conference via an online ballot of all members.
  • Momentum should actively campaign around the policies it develops and prioritises.

3. Give members the skills and tools to organise for AGMs and selections

Momentum should invest in Groups and Sections to ensure they are engaging, organised and inclusive; this will allow groups to better organise in internal Labour Party elections.

  • Groups should have access to the resources, data and training needed to organise effectively.
  • Momentum nationally should provide guidelines on what Momentum members are aiming to achieve in their CLPs.
  • Selection of candidates should be democratically decided by local groups

4. A focus on local government and a bridge with our elected representatives

In the coming years local government is going to play a bigger role in socialist politics. Meanwhile, the leftwing of the Parliamentary Labour Party is growing. Elected representatives should be supported to implement socialist policies and members should be empowered to shape their work.

  • Momentum should invest in a strengthened Councillor Network to harness the power of local government and support grassroots organising.
  • Momentum should start an open debate about what form its relationship with the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs should take.
  • Momentum should act as a bridge between the wider movement and our elected representatives.

5. A new democratic approach to selections

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader promised a new kind of politics and Momentum promised to put power back with grassroots members. But when it came to selections, often it felt like more of the same. All too often, Momentum imposed candidates on local CLPs, using its role on selection committees to cut out popular grassroots candidates in favour of people with friends in high places. We need a new kind of candidate selection:

  • Conduct a review of recent selections to see what went well and what went badly.
  • Develop a new selections process inspired by the likes of Justice Democrats in the US, including measures to ensure extra support for under-represented groups.
  • Build a four-year programme to find, train and promote fifty of the next generation of socialist MPs.
  • Local Momentum candidates should be decided by local Momentum members.

Idea 4: Put members at the heart of Momentum

Momentum is a democratic membership organisation. We are strongest when we harness the energy of all our members.

1. All members should be involved in key decisions

No one joins Momentum to talk about Momentum so its internal structures should not be onerous or distracting. But equally, members should have the right to shape the organisation's priorities and direction, and choose its leadership. Either as an individual, or as part of a geographic Group or thematic Section, members will shape every decision.

  • Members should directly elect the vast majority of NCG members, except for representatives from affiliated trade unions, who ideally will hold elected positions in their own trade unions, as well as the Campaign for Socialism (Scotland) and Welsh Labour Grassroots.
  • Members should select, by all-member vote, one national Priority Campaign from proposals submitted by members.
  • Members should select, by all-member vote, a number of Policy Priorities for Labour Party conference
  • Members should select, by all-member vote, Momentum's candidates for major internal Labour Party elections e.g. Leader and NEC (subject to negotiation with other groups as appropriate).
  • Members should shape and decide, through their Groups and Sections, and then through the annual Strategy Development Process, the annual strategy for the organisation.

2. An active and accountable leadership

We believe the NCG should play a crucial role within the organisation. On paper this is already the case, but in reality the NCG is often a rubber-stamping body for decisions taken by the much smaller 'Officers Group'. We believe the NCG should be democratically elected, more active and accountable to the movement.

  • The NCG should be responsible for:
    • ensuring the Strategy Document is implemented through an Operational Plan;
    • taking decisions which respond to current events between annual conferences;
    • approving new Groups and Sections;
    • selecting candidates for less significant Labour Party elections which do not merit an all-member vote.
  • The NCG should meet monthly, using online meeting spaces as appropriate, but at least four times a year in person, with adequate staff support to run smoothly.
  • Each NCG member should be allocated as a key contact for a number of groups and all NCG members should have a publicly available Momentum email so that members can suggest ideas and proposals to be raised on the NCG.
  • The minutes of each NCG meeting should be circulated among the members.
  • Members should directly elect the vast majority of NCG members, except for representatives from affiliated trade unions, who ideally will hold elected positions in their own trade unions, as well as the Campaign for Socialism (Scotland) and Welsh Labour Grassroots.
  • The Officers Group should be elected by the full NCG every year and its decisions ratified by the NCG.
  • NCG members should not serve more than three terms.
  • NCG Officers should not serve more than three terms.

3. A Priority Campaign and set of Policy Priorities, decided by members

Momentum should have one foot in the Labour Party and one foot in the community and social movements. This means the organisation should have Policy Priorities to push within the party but also a Priority Campaign to support or organise in communities across the country. Members will shape these and will have a final vote on which ones to take forward.

  • Every member should have the right to suggest a Priority Campaign or Policy Priority to be considered.
  • Members should discuss these proposals on an online system where they can vote-up and vote-down different amendments and clarifications.
  • Momentum should organise a series of Policy Labs with experts in that area so that members can discuss the details of the Policy Priorities and come up with ideas to improve them. Where there is a section or group that organises around the proposed policy, they should be invited to lead on this.
  • Momentum in Scotland and Wales should each have their own process to decide a Priority Campaign and Policy Priorities for the devolved nation, but will also participate fully in the UK-wide processes.
  • Members should decide, by all-member vote, which Priority Campaign and which set of Policy Priorities should be adopted.

4. Empower and formalise Momentum Groups and Sections

We can only change the world if we work together collectively and democratically. Momentum is a collective but it is made up of smaller collectives too: the local groups that organise in their areas, and the informal networks of campaigners focused on specific areas of interest. These should be formalised as geographic Groups and thematic Sections: being a Momentum member should mean you organise in these.

  • Every Momentum member should be part of a geographic Group which could cover an area as small as a CLP or as large as a region, responding to the needs and demands of a given place.
  • Where an active local Group exists, it should continue. Where there are no active Groups, the central organisation can initially establish one, but the aim is for local members to decide how they want to organise geographically.
  • Following the review of Momentum's role in Scotland and Wales, these nations may each form a large geographic Group or could have a separate status.
  • There should also be a platform for members to create interest or identity-based sections, like 'Momentum Teachers', 'Momentum Women' or 'Momentum Climate Justice', so long as they serve a purpose and meet basic criteria like a minimum number of members and annual elections.
  • Groups should be supported to make decisions, organise in their communities, campaign, and run political education, and should be provided with resources to do so. Groups and Sections will be central to Momentum's democratic structures.

5. A democratic, annual process to determine Momentum's strategy

Momentum has achieved so much in the past few years, but its work has often felt disjointed and it has not always been clear how members can shape it. We believe that Momentum should publish an Annual Strategy document. This should include the Priority Campaign and Policy Priorities, which are decided separately. The rest of the Annual Strategy will be shaped by Groups and Sections and finally decided by a Strategy Convention.

  • Every year the NCG should produce a draft strategy for the next year, working out what Momentum hopes to achieve and how it will do so. This should include Momentum's Priority Campaign or Policy Priorities, though will be decided separately, as outlined above.
  • Groups and Sections should have adequate time to discuss the draft strategy and submit amendments.
  • Representatives from groups and sections should attend a Strategy Convention to amend and agree the strategy document for the coming year and to decide how Momentum's resources will be allocated to realise this strategy.
  • The Strategy Convention should also have the power to amend the constitution, including Momentum's vision, mission and objectives, as appropriate.
  • These representatives should also have the opportunity to hold to account elected NCG members, and elected members of senior Labour Party committees.

We think these ideas will change Momentum for the better. But we do not think we are the only ones with good ideas. We want this to be the start of a movement-wide discussion about what needs to be done to take the left and Momentum forward.

We want you to get involved and have your say.

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