On Tuesday 27th October, around 200 Labour Party members, trade unionists, and local community activists crammed into the Wood Green Social Club for the founding meeting of Haringey Momentum. The size and variety amongst the crowd in attendance painted a vivid picture of the potential strength of the Corbyn movement.
On Tuesday 27th October, around 200 Labour Party members, trade unionists, and local community activists crammed into the Wood Green Social Club for the founding meeting of Haringey Momentum.
Momentum is the new campaigning group set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership victory to help organise Corbyn supporters – inside and outside of the Labour Party – and direct the energy and enthusiasm that has been created in Britain as a result of the left-wing candidate’s anti-austerity message.
The size and variety amongst the crowd in attendance painted a vivid picture of the potential strength of the Corbyn movement, and the burning desire amongst workers and youth to see a genuine change in society and an alternative to austerity.
A political earthquake
Four speakers took it in turns to outline the tasks that lie ahead for the Left and the labour movement: Sam Tarry, political officer of the TSSA union, which backed the Corbyn leadership campaign from the start; Martha Osamor, a local Labour member and activist; Emine Ibrahim, Labour councillor in Haringey; and Jon Lansman, national co-ordinator for the Corbyn campaign and for Momentum.
All of the speakers emphasised the incredible sea-change that has taken place in British politics as a result of the #JezWeCan movement, and how the terrain is now wide open for left-wing, anti-austerity ideas. At the same time, the panel stressed, workers, the youth, and the poor are faced with many challenges – in particular, the attack on trade unions, the cuts to education, and the attempts by the ruling class to divide working class communities using racism and xenophobia.
Between each speaker, contributions from the floor highlighted the variety of campaigns and activities that are going on locally and nationally – a reflection also of the manifold ways in which the Tories are attacking ordinary people: on trade union rights; on housing; on the NHS; and many other issues beside.
What is Momentum?
One question from the floor, however, drew attention to the elephant in the room: what is Momentum? Unfortunately, this question was left hanging, with Jon Lansman merely stating that, at this early stage, “Momentum is whatever you want it to be”.
Whilst it is refreshing to see an organisation that is attempting to build a grassroots movement from below, in contrast to the top-down, bureaucratic methods of the New Labour machinery from the past, in order to be effective the energy of this movement requires not only momentum, but direction also.
An example of this was seen by Lansman’s response to a question from Socialist Appeal supporters about the issue of Blairite MPs and de-selection. “We need unity to fight the Tories and their austerity programme,” the contribution started, “but how can we unite and fight the Tories when there are effectively two parties? On the one hand, the party of the past – the Blairities, who represent the 1% of big business and capitalism – and, on the other hand, the party of the future – Corbyn and his supporters, who represent the 99% of workers, young people, the poor and the vulnerable.”
In response, Lansman stated that reselection was a matter for local members to decide, and that Momentum should not be calling for this as one of their priorities. The primary task, Lansman said, is to build the coalition of support around Corbyn. This is all well and good; but to support Corbyn, we must defend him against those who are attacking him and undermining him – and that includes not only the Tories and the right-wing media, but the Blairite Fifth Column within the Labour Party.
Defend Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
We must tell the truth: the right-wing MPs in Labour will never accept Corbyn and McDonnell’s anti-austerity demands, which threaten the capitalist system that the Blairites revere. Either these right-wing MPs force Corbyn to backtrack on key issues through their sabotage and intrigues, or Corbyn pushes through with his programme and the right-wing will split away. There is no third way.
The antagonism between the Blairites and Corbyn is the antagonism between the capitalists and the working class – two opposing interests that cannot be reconciled. Better to resolve this contradiction as soon as possible, so that the movement can unite around a socialist programme and focus our sights on the main enemy: the Tories and the rich that they represent.
In this respect, the political ideas and programme that Momentum should be fighting for were notable at this founding meeting by their absence. Of course, much of the demands and strategy of this newly formed organisation will be formed through democratic discussion over the coming months, and Socialist Appeal supporters will be enthusiastically participating in such debates.
We will be helping to build Momentum in the coming period, contributing to the discussion around the way forward for the Corbyn movement and encouraging our readers and supporters to get involved too.
However, in order to really build Momentum and inspire people to get involved and get organised, we need a clear message: a fighting, militant lead, with a bold socialist programme that offers a genuine alternative to austerity.