Momentum is now a more democratic and responsive socialist organisation

Deborah Hermanns

There comes a time when every organisation must change, and Momentum is no exception. In our early years, we moved from one mass mobilisation to the next, growing quickly and sometimes chaotically, but achieving a lot along the way. Our goal was simple, and in 2017 almost attainable: to elect a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. That possibility has passed, and with it a certain model of organisation.

As we shift tack to building our movement, our goals are now broader and our timeline is now longer. In the current climate, with the Labour leadership actively hostile to socialists and drifting rightwards, we are focusing our attention on leadership and candidate development, building coalitions and campaigns in support of critical policy issues, continuing to elect socialists to internal party positions and building a national network of socialist councillors committed to delivering for their communities in the here and now.

Our aim is to maintain and build a vibrant left, capable of influencing the direction of the party now and leading it in the future, while building active links to extra-parliamentary and trade union struggles. That’s the way we get a socialist Labour government committed to shifting wealth and power to working-class people, one that tackles the existential crises we face head on, from climate to the cost of living.

But Momentum’s political objectives are intimately tied to how we organise, what we stand for and how we make decisions. That’s why over the last year we’ve been running mass meetings with members, working through proposals and this week voting, as part of ‘Refounding Momentum’ – an exciting democratic process to rebuild Momentum for a new era.

The outcomes of this mass democratic process, announced today, are genuinely exciting. We’ve now set out clearly for the first time what we believe as a socialist and anti-racist organisation – with new principles committing us to organise for a democratic economy in which power lies with the working class and key industries and services are owned and controlled by the public and local communities – and made a clear statement that climate change is the biggest challenge of our times, and that overcoming it requires a bold socialist transition with decarbonisation, international action and a massive redistribution of wealth and power.

While Momentum is a welcoming organisation for a range of progressive opinions, we feel that setting out – clearly and boldly – the politics we stand for is vital in these crisis-ridden times. Socialism has the answers for the challenges we face, and we mustn’t shy away from that. Talking up ‘people power’ and ‘a new politics’ give us hope, but they aren’t enough.

As part of Refounding Momentum, our members have also voted overwhelmingly for a members’ convention, open to all members to attend and vote on key strategic and campaign priorities, taking inspiration from new models of democracy pioneered in Europe and avoiding replicating the Labour Party delegate model and genuinely placing power with members. Alongside this, we now have clear rules on who we endorse as candidates and how we endorse them, plus a cast-iron commitment that Momentum members will get to choose who we campaign for in the next Labour leader and deputy leadership elections, with every candidate who wants our endorsement being on the ballot.

This last commitment is on the surface not transformational, but it is so important. The decision of the previous leadership to offer members a choice only between Angela Rayner and nobody else, while leaving strong socialist candidates such as Richard Burgon off the ballot, was not only politically short-sighted but it seriously undermined the trust of many members in the organisation. While our national coordinating group has since been elected to lead and make key decisions, our members can and must be trusted when it comes to major decisions like this. They know best.

There are many more exciting proposals that members have voted for in Refounding Momentum, including increasing the number of directly elected member reps by a quarter and new regional organising forums, which will allow Momentum members to organise more effectively in their communities and areas. Empowering our base is crucial to our long-term success as a campaigning force.

The core outcome of this process is, then, that Momentum is now a more democratic and more responsive socialist organisation. This could not be more important in the current moment. We will continue to improve member democracy in the organisation, but right now we are better placed than ever before to deliver on our strategic objectives, which we laid out in our first ever public strategy document, Socialist Organising in a New Era.

We’ll look to use the new opportunities opened up by Refounding Momentum to drive membership participation. That grassroots activity is what will allow us to concretely grow our organising capacity to continue to transform the party, elect socialists, politically educate and campaign on the issues that matter. Because Refounding Momentum was never just about democracy for its own sake; it was about building an organisation that can win again. And over the next few years, we’ll be dedicating every ounce of our energy to doing this.

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