Rumours abound of shadowy left-wing plots. But the true nature of Momentum is both more straightforward—and more diverseby Richard Seymour / January 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
Last week, in Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) elections, the slate backed by Corbynite campaign group Momentum swept to victory. The aftermath was as you’d expect. According to the headlines, this signified yet another hard left plot: Jeremy Corbyn had tightened his grip. A leftist clique has taken power. Dial “M” for Momentum.
These clichés are starting to look not just cynical, but foolish. Labour’s right can’t complain, every time it loses an election, that the winner is “taking over.” More importantly, many still seem to fundamentally misunderstand the plural, activist nature of Momentum.
The long game of the left
The reality is that Momentum’s candidates, led by founder Jon Lansman, won because they were popular, not because of “cliques.” In fact, if anything the left has been unlucky: it hugely increased its margin over its rivals in this election, but it will have only a fragile, working majority on the NEC.
The main panic issue is the replacement of Ann Black, as chair of something called the NEC “disputes panel,” by the Momentum officer Christine Shawcroft. The insinuation is that Shawcroft will go soft on abuse. The reality is more prosaic.
The chair doesn’t usually vote in NEC meetings but, as Stephen Bush points out in the New Statesman, she does get a seat on the eight-member NEC officers group. Black is of the left, but not especially factional—as illustrated by her support for severe NEC actions suspending branches and members during the 2016 coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
So the left is using its majority to moderately improve its institutional position. Is it not supposed to? Is this somehow unsporting? Or, is the left expected to be servile, and permanently disabled by internalised defeat?
The real question is: what has been keeping them? Momentum has benefited from having ties to the shadow cabinet and union leaders, and it has been operating in a party with a broad left majority for about two years. Yet it has been slow to capitalise on that. To see this, we need first to answer some questions about the kind of organisation the Labour Party is—and should be.
Momentum is an offshoot of the “Jeremy Corbyn for Labour” campaign, which was run by Corbyn’s old ally Jon Lansman, now Momentum Chair. The basis for the newer organisation was…