I met Momentum … and they are far from the Trotskyist ‘rabble’ they are made out to be
As the Labour Leadership election comes to its dramatic conclusion, the Right-wing of the Party — obviously working loosely in conjunction with the mainstream media — have turned their knives on Momentum; the grassroots movement set up by Corbyn’s supporters in the wake of his resounding election victory a year ago.
In the next week, and probably for the foreseeable future, Momentum will be coming under attack from all corners. Most notably, both Panorama and Channel 4 Dispatches will be releasing alleged ‘exposés’ in which the organisation will be painted as a sinister Trotskyist group attempting to overrun the Labour Party and transform it into some kind of Bolshevik, revolutionary force.
This is a false accusation and needs to be challenged — even if you do not necessarily agree with the kind of politics Momentum advocate. Never in my entire life have I seen such an aggressive strike on an open and democratic organisation. This has been coupled with a grotesque ‘purge’ of Labour members and supporters (presumably ones who support Corbyn), by Ian McNicol and the Labour Party’s NEC.
The reason, I suspect, for this sudden attack on Momentum is the fact that, despite their numerous attempts, both the mainstream media and Corbyn’s enemies within the Labour Party have failed in their increasingly desperate attempts to discredit him.
As such, their attentions have moved onto Momentum. The goal, one can rather easily deduce, is to eventually ban Momentum’s activities within the Labour Party in an attempt to destroy the spine of Corbyn’s power base. The entryism fantasy thus lies at the heart of this. The journalist and author, Paul Mason, has suggested that this ‘narrative is being done to bolster the legal battle that would be fought by Labour’s pro-1 per cent wing if it decides to walk away from the party: its moral claim to the name, premises and bank account would rest on the legal argument that an alien force had stolen them’.
Now recently, as a freelance filmmaker and journalist, I have done some work with Momentum in regards to The World Transformed: a free festival of politics, arts, education and music set to coincide with the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.
I should note that I do not regularly work with Momentum; and I am certainly not one of their very many volunteers or activists. I gain virtually nothing from writing this article in support of them — in fact it might even be detrimental to me in terms of my employment prospects — but I feel the moral need to defend, what I perceive as, as an outrageous attack on democracy.
My experience of working alongside Momentum on The World Transformed was not only pleasurable and fun, but also deeply insightful.
The reality is that Momentum, quite simply, are social democrats.
Indeed, before everyone started describing themselves as ‘socialists’ in the Labour Party — the best joke Owen Smith has ever made — I do not think I would have referred to them as a necessarily socialist organisation if it wasn’t for the current climate and overuse of the term. This is not to their detriment. Politics has evolved over the last decade or so and, in some ways, the traditional socialist framework favoured by a few crackpots in the SWP and Anonymous no longer really works.
What I am trying to say is that there is nothing particularly ‘radical’ or ‘hard left’ about Momentum. This is why the Trotskyist narrative is so very dangerous to everyone — not just those on the Left.
In fact, Momentum’s politics is based more on common sense than political ideology — there is a housing crisis and we thus need to build more homes; the railways should come back under public ownership; our economic system needs to work for everyone and not just the privileged few; politics itself needs to become more honest and open; we should not destabilize the Middle East further with more foolhardy military interventions, etc.
Surely, these are policies many of us can all agree on — even those on the Right? If so, then why are we allowing the mainstream media, and certain factions within the Labour Party, to paint these types of policies as dangerous, Trotsky-inspired, Left-wing lunacy?
Indeed, many of Momentum’s young activists — who weren’t even alive during Militant’s tenure — don’t even know who Leon Trotsky was. Neither do they care.
When I met with Momentum we didn’t sit around a table chanting verses from ‘Das Kapital’ — but we instead spoke about empowering grassroots voices like Black Lives Matter, DPAC and other groups for The World Transformed. We bonded over our mutual ambition too. Among other things, tackling the homeless crisis sweeping our streets; campaigning for more reasonable rent prices in metropolitan cities; empowering women in the workplace; and creating a politics which is more inclusive of those who have felt disillusioned and disenfranchised with its duplicity and corruption.
Ultimately, Momentum are a social democratic movement who want to see a return to the kind of social democracy that governed us in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Obviously, more modernised, updated and tweaked. But still, this is what they represent on an ideological level.
Neoliberalism and unfettered, unrestrained free market capitalism has been an absolute disaster for this country; and Momentum, Corbyn and others on the Left are seeking to try and repair some of the damage it has caused. This is not some glorious sequel to the Bolshevik Revolution — and nor does it aspire to be.
Moreover, whilst the spotlight is on Momentum; the truly questionable groups within Labour continue to lurk in the shadows. Saving Labour, for example, is a website coordinating attacks on Corbyn which has yet to reveal who funds or owns it. Labour Tomorrow are another example; an organisation collecting funds from rich donors for purposes as yet undisclosed. Will Channel 4 and other media outlets be running exposés on them, I wonder?
Momentum on the other hand, are completely open and democratic. Indeed, because of their transparency and friendly nature, they have often been exploited by undercover journalists hungry for a catchy headline.
I think we all need to stand by Momentum — regardless of where you are on the political spectrum. For the sake of democracy, these attacks cannot go unchallenged.