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:
Momentum's role should be to:
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.
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.
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.
What Momentum does is important, but so too is how it does it. These principles should underline everything Momentum and its members do.
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
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
Creates structures and processes that empower members to take action, not just talk
Forward-looking and strategic, developing plans for future campaigns
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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 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:
2. Develop policies to organise around for Conference and for campaigning
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.