Momentum Youth and Students: Witch hunts won't take movement forward
Young Socialist Party members
Momentum held the launch of its youth and student organisation on Sunday 5 June. Momentum was initially set up to organise the thousands of people inside and outside the Labour Party who were enthused by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership campaign.
When there is a massive onslaught on young people, including attacks on pay and attempts to raise tuition fees, is Momentum capable of being at the head of a movement of young people fighting back? If Momentum Youth and Students continues on the trajectory set at this meeting, the answer is no.
The approximately 150 attendees at the conference were given next to no opportunity to debate and discuss the political situation in Britain and the strategy needed to defeat austerity and the Tories.
Only 45 minutes was given in the original agenda to discuss 'campaigning priorities' - the closest thing to a discussion on how we can beat austerity politicians. This was cut from the agenda due to the event running behind time.
Bowing to pressure from the right wing in the Labour Party and the capitalist media, the leadership of Momentum has made a number of retreats and climb-downs. They have rejected the Socialist Party's call for a federal, democratic organisation and instead have moved to exclude various socialists and anti-austerity campaigners, including the Socialist Party.
Socialist Party members present made the point from the floor that if Momentum Youth and Students is an autonomous part of Momentum then it can and must reject these restrictions on membership.
Many young people are searching for an anti-austerity alternative, some of these may have voted for the Green Party and then Jeremy Corbyn and see no contradiction in this.
To engage and build a campaign to fight the Tory attacks and fight for an improvement in young people's lives, an organisation must be open and willing to take the fight to the right wing.
The Labour Party has the shadowy Compliance Unit that deals with expulsions and suspensions. Momentum has its own Compliance Unit in the form of its founder Jon Lansman. We challenged him on this.
After speaking and making clear that we were members of the Socialist Party, the Labour Party and Momentum, the room was whipped up by multiple speakers calling for our expulsion.
In attendance were two self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups - Socialist Appeal and the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL). Both groups have recently been targeted by the Labour Party and have received suspensions and expulsions. However neither of them spoke out against the same witch hunt against the Socialist Party in Momentum.
In fact, one member of the AWL proclaimed that he "was not and has never been a member of the Socialist Party" and that there was no place for the Socialist Party in Momentum.
These groups, by their silence, have sided with the right-wing compromisers in Momentum and are complicit in the witch hunt. They offered no strategy or programme for fighting the civil war in the Labour Party, as the Blairites will continue to fight to keep it a party which acts in the interests of the 1%.
The complete lack of democracy in Momentum was shown when Jon Lansman personally voided my Momentum membership via a text to Momentum's office.
He said I was guilty of belonging to a party hostile to the Labour Party. The Socialist Party isn't hostile to Jeremy Corbyn and those that have joined Labour to fight for his policies. We are, however, hostile to Blairite MPs calling for the bombing of Syria, and local councillors implementing Tory cuts.
Another Socialist Party member refused to give his name so Lansman took his photo! Are we to see 'wanted posters' of known Socialist Party members at local Momentum meetings?
The political outlook of the Momentum leadership was summed up by a contribution that said: "The main way to support Jeremy Corbyn is to vote Labour." Momentum, by uncritically canvassing for Blairites, has given no warning to the role those such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan will play in attacks on Corbyn's leadership.
Open and fighting
As the Socialist Party wrote in our leaflet, in order to succeed "Momentum needs to be an open, fighting campaigning organisation, fighting for an end to zero-hour contracts, for scrapping tuition fees, and for an immediate £10 an hour minimum wage.
Shutting out socialists and uncritically campaigning for Blairite mayors and cuts councillors will turn off those young people searching for something different to the politics of old.
"We need to kick out the Blairites at all levels of the Labour Party and campaign for mandatory re-selection.
We call for Momentum to be a democratic organisation, open to all socialist and anti-austerity forces." Without a fighting programme such as this Momentum is unlikely to be a pole of attraction to those young layers drawn into struggle.
In The Socialist 8 June 2016:
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