Last year in Liverpool, Momentum’s The World Transformed festival was one of the highlights of Labour Party Conference. This year, the festival has not only returned – but cemented itself as one of the most important and exciting parts of the fringe. 

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, for the first time, I joined Momentum.

Initially, I was not necessarily attracted to Momentum because of their politics – although we share many of the same political ideals, yes. It was the fact that Momentum had arisen from the vacuum left by the sterilisation of British politics (and democracy) under the neoliberal era of the 1970s onwards. Fuelled by a belief that change could only occur from the bottom up.

Momentum represented mass swathes of the population, whether they knew it or not, who had been left, essentially, un-enfranchised by the rampant free market policies neoliberalism aggressively thrust upon the world.

Momentum: The Saviours of British Democracy?

“There Is No Alternative” was Thatcher’s mantra as she not only set out to radically re-balance the wealth and power of society, but change the human spirit as we knew it.

One of the ways neoliberalism operated during this period – and still does – was through the suppression (and sometimes outright oppression) of political alternatives that threatened the project’s core mission of empowering the wealthy at the expense of the working and middle classes.

The first victim of neoliberalism was, in a lot of ways, our imaginations.

Neoliberalism stripped us of our ability to envision political alternatives to a world that, as the decades have gone by, has fallen deeper and deeper into environmental, economic, social and political entropy.

Momentum and The World Transformed are among the first indicators that the British people, and perhaps the world more generally, is beginning to reclaim what neoliberalism first stole from them: their imaginations.

Indeed, ‘The World Transformed’ title stands in stark contrast to the ‘There Is No Alternative’ slogan that has embedded itself so deeply within our brains.

Momentum: The Saviours of British Democracy?

At this year’s festival, some of the speakers have included award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach; world-renowned Marxist theorist David Harvey; actor, comedian and part-time revolutionary Russell Brand; and environmental activist and author Naomi Klein.

Jeremy Corbyn himself, has also made an appearance or two. Gracing adoring crowds on Sunday night with an impassioned speech that touched upon inequality, climate change and the impending threat of nuclear war.

The host of events and discussions at The World Transformed have ranged from automation and technology; the personal debt crisis in the UK; confronting private landlords; BAME representation; winning power; reforming the media; and of course, reclaiming the NHS from the vultures of private profit.

Certainly, what I find most incredible is the fact that many of these issues have, for decades, been almost totally suppressed by the political mainstream because of the threat they pose to the neoliberal order.

Many of the points and policies discussed are completely rational – and yet have been warped and spun as totally irrational, loony-left rubbish for the last forty or so years.

In the face of environmental degradation, economic instability, social alienation, a mental health crisis, a debt crisis, a living standards crisis, growing poverty, inequality Momentum: The Saviours of British Democracy?and servitude; too many of us still look towards neoliberalism, the chief cause of all of the above, for answers.

Why? Our lack of imaginations has meant that it is difficult for us to conceive or understand the world in terms that have not been set by the neoliberal hegemony of cutting taxes, liberating markets, scrapping regulation and rolling back the state.

Momentum however, whether you agree with their politics or not, have begun that process of changing this. Of re-capturing our imaginations.

Now I admit, calling Momentum the ‘Saviours of British democracy’ might be a little premature at this stage. There is no doubt that, although damaged, neoliberalism is still the most powerful, hegemonic force on earth.

What’s more, if Momentum and Corbyn are to continue defying the pundits and re-shaping Britain’s political landscape then, I suspect, all pretence will eventually be dropped… and neoliberalism will wage war upon the British Left like never before.

The Left better be prepared for a storm.

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