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Momentum can open democratic participation in the political system.

RheaWolfsonThroughout my NEC campaign I have had the great privilege of speaking at Momentum meetings across England. From Southampton to Liverpool I have been so inspired by the inclusive and democratic local groups that have sprung up in such a short space of time. I met countless young people who were enthused by the Jeremy’s Leadership campaign and tried to get involved in their local Party only to be confronted by bureaucracy and, in some unfortunate cases, outright hostility. It is interesting how Momentum groups are serving as a bridge between the new and enthusiastic membership, and the party’s out-of-date structures. For many members it is their Momentum group that tells them when, where and how to get involved with their CLP or Branch, not to mention being the friendly faces to welcome them when they arrive.

But it’s not only young and new members who are attracted to Momentum. I’ve met so many members who have either returned to the Labour Party after many years, or who, after maintaining their membership despite disagreements with consecutive leaderships, have had their confidence in the party immeasurably lifted. These are people who have devoted their lives to the labour movement and the struggle for social justice, and it is through Momentum that they are finding their way back to the heart of their local parties, where they belong.

I am convinced that Momentum has the potential to transform our party into the democratic, inclusive and grassroots movement that we need to take on the Tories. But more than that, I believe that Momentum, as a crucial component of the Labour Party, has the potential to transform our politics and our society. Momentum can open democratic participation in the political system. This means going beyond the bare bones elections and accountability – which are of course vital in a democratic society – and moving towards participative models that empower communities to make decisions for ourselves.

Our party and our political system were forged in a different era. Today we live in a world where technology allows us to communicate at an unprecedented speed, allowing networks to outperform hierarchies in gathering knowledge and making effective decisions. But our political system has not caught up. Momentum is beginning to change that in the party and it can be the model for change in society. I welcome the Labour leadership’s initial movements towards participatory budgeting – giving local communities the power to decide spending priorities – but think we can go much further. Our political system is broken and millions of people feel alienated. The Labour Party can and should take responsibility for finding a way out of this democratic crisis.

And the word ‘crisis’ brings me back to the state of the party I cherish. We cannot preach democracy and leadership if we do not practise it ourselves. This chaos must end. Labour MPs have a right to express their opinions and they hold the privileged position in the Labour Party in their ability to call for a leadership election. If they have serious concerns with the direction that Jeremy is taking the Party then they should use this process to put forward a competing vision for the country. But they do not have the right to hold our party to ransom, they do not have the right to abandon the country when it is in desperate need of leadership, and they do not have the right to use bullying as a tactic to get their own way. I urge them put an end to this turmoil, call a leadership election if they wish, and in the meantime work with the Labour leadership to help steer the future of our country in these turbulent times.

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  1. rod says:

    “allowing networks to outperform hierarchies”

    This is crucial.

    We’ve had enough of top-down stitch-ups by the elite, whether corporate or more overtly political.

    It is time for people power and now we have the technology to facilitate new participative processes.

  2. Bazza says:

    Good points Rhea and I am voting for you as well as the rest of the NEC left slate.
    With best wishes.

  3. John Penney says:

    Well said Rhea. Hope you have been notified by now that my North Shropshire CLP voted to support your NEC candidature on 17th June .

  4. James Martin says:

    I’ve heard Rhea a number of times this past week doing phone-in interviews for LBC about the failed coup and she has come across really well in them and impressed me a lot. I really hope that young comrades like Rhea will now be the foundation for a rebuilt Labour Party in Scotland, particularly if she gets the place on the NEC she deserves.

    As for Momentum, yes I agree with Rhea that it does have a transformative potential, however only if it can develop into an inclusive, vibrant democratic grouping itself. I know that there are fears of it being destabilised by some of the ultra-left external sects, but we have the numbers to make it work properly and combine a mobilising role with a theoretical one in developing socialist ideas for the 21st century.

  5. Carmen Malaree says:

    Thanks Rhea. Please keep up the good work. I am a member of Momentum Plymouth. It’s very important to have a movement which gives voice to the people who otherwise would not be heard due to the control of the main stream media by large corporations and politically biased organisations, not to mention the Murdoch press. Our values are the true values of the Labour Party, we are True Labour.

  6. Bill Tipton says:

    The likely result of any accomodation with the 170 is that membership of the Labour Party will plummit. If the plotters win and gain control over the party recognised members of Momentum will be expelled and Momentum proscribed. ( unless of course it does not become a bother to the party) The duty of Momentum is to keep those that voted Corbyn and a new style of politics together.

  7. Robert Green says:

    The problem is now that we all know that the coup plotters even if they cave in now will, if Jeremy leads the party to victory in the next general election, refuse to form a government under him and are more likely to bloc with the Tories to form a government of national unity and austerity. They have to go and if they cannot be de-selected then candidates should be stood against them who are pledged to help Corbyn form a government. What do Momentum plan to do on this front? Anything?

  8. David Pavett says:

    … they [Labour MPs] do not have the right to hold our party to ransom, they do not have the right to abandon the country when it is in desperate need of leadership, and they do not have the right to use bullying as a tactic to get their own way.

    They do not indeed have those rights but it is now crystal clear that the majority intend to proceed on the assumption that the have those rights. That is the reality which we now have to deal with.

    I would like to know more about how it is that so many centre and left MPs have been drawn into this. I have not yet seen an attempt to explain that from a left viewpoint. I would like to know if anyone has seen something on this.

    1. Tim Wilkinson says:

      Yes this is the really interesting and important aspect of it.

      The way I reconstruct these peoples’ thought processes is:

      1. Awareness that the plotters are intransigent and belief that they are determined to proceed with defenestration

      2. Perception as of the coup gaining enough support to be viable

      3. Apprehension that a split or other catastrophe will happen if the situation is not resolved

      4. Assurance that Corbyn’s support has weakened among the membership

      5. Reversion to short-termist focus-group marketing mode in the face of a supposed imminent GE

      6. ** Desire that if it is to be done, it be done quickly and decisively

      7. Some kind of mass panic caused by the apparently entirely unexpected Leave vote

      8. Culmination of a propaganda and destabiliation campaign directed at them

      9. Various interrelations between these factors

      Obviously people who can be manipulated in theis way by the pied pipers of the Blairite and right are not entirely reliable employees but they do need to be worked on and allowed some partially face-saving way back.

      I have no doubt that the main factor is simply the ostrich-headed desire to ‘make it all stop’ and avoid a split.

      The coup plotters, in standard fashion, would like to make their own actions seem inevitable or reasonable or something hazily in between, and make it look as though Corbyn is responsible for the chaos and strife they have unleashed. They will have a tough job doing so.

      When this is over, Corbyn will have proved his mettle and the plotters their venality. Whatever partial victory they may yet salvage looks like being distinctly Pyrrhic.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Yes, the Graeber piece does help to understand the left and centre MPs who have been drawn into this right-wing maelstrom. I hope that this experience will encourage at least some on the left to reject the “gut socialism” that all too many on the left think is a good basis for radical politics. It might be a starting point but if its adepts don’t move beyond it then either they will follow a similar political path to the likes of Nye Bevan or Neil Kinnock or they will end up endlessly repeating the same simpistic notions and solutions.

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