An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee

Momentum - we voted for a new kind of politics

From: Jon Lansman
Date: Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 7:39 PM
Subject: Proposal to Steering Group: A new constitution for Momentum

To: Marsha Jane Thompson, Christine Shawcroft, Sam Tarry, Jacqueline Walker, Martyn Cook, Michael Chessum, Matt Wrack, Sam Wheeler, Professor Cecile Wright, Jill Mountford, Maggie Simpson
Cc: Emma Rees, Adam Klug

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:

  1. The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
  2. A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
  3. A paper on interim governance
  4. A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.

The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:

  1. Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
  2. Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
  3. Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.

If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
In solidarity

Jon Lansman
Chair
Momentum National Steering Group


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9 thoughts on “An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee”

  1. How Blairite! Ride roughshod over the established decision-making structures; use dubious referendums to override the organisation’s procedures; interpret the ambiguous results of those referendums in whatever way most eliminates internal democracy. All done in order to thieve the organisation of its policymaking role so that the tiny clique at the top keep their monopoly. In short, it’s a coup.

    1. I dont agree 8,000 respondents from 20,000 is a pretty good indicator of the desires of the membership of Momentum . I do not agree with Lansmans approach but I do agree with the OMOV objectives. Momentum needs to be more like AVAAZ and not like some “left-leaning debating society” that it is in danger of turning into.

      1. The survey results are actually entirely compatible with mixed or hybrid system with a conference deciding policies and then putting each of them to an OMOV vote for members’ approval. Lansman’s coup conveniently brushes this fact under the carpet.

  2. The most important issue is that Momentum is a campaigning organisation working within the labour party to attempt to get progressive change in its policies & sdstructures in order we can democratise it in the interests of ordinary members.

  3. I’ve struggled to understand the purpose of Momentum. I have longed thought that the main point was to have extra-parliamentary activity to counter the excessive focus on parliament & local elections. That to achieve socialism requires activity on the streets & in the workplace. That means having a form of organisation that links up with all those who are fighting for working class interests, with a form of organisation that is bottom-up. This means linking up withe revolutionaries, whether Socialist Party, SWP, AWL or even anarchists, & non-revolutionaries involved in working class causes, which may mean some Greens. United Front type work. This is what I thought Momentum was initially set-up for, after the first time Corbyn was elected. It could be argued this was taking up the space the Peoples Assembly already occupied, but as the Peoples Assemblies have never actually been Peoples Assemblies in any real democratic sense, it seemed the idea was to take their space & try again. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t the purpose. That it was more a reheated LRC with the main focus on fighting for control of the Labour Party & restricting membership to Labour members only, so SP & other revolutionaries are not wanted. Now extra-parliamentary United Front work & taking control of the Labour Party are not binary options. We need to make Labour a proper socialist party, which for me means a Marxist party. At the very least that means reselection for all MP’s, get rid of the capitalist loving current Clause IV, readmit SP members & open the doors to revolutionary groups. It also crucially means building a parallel system of ‘Communes’ for the United Front work that can form the basis of a new International. An organisation for worldwide working class unity to defeat capitalism.
    But what are we to make of what Lansman wants? It does seem a mild form of socialism, more akin to establishing some form of social democracy & a long road of gradual reform (by Labour governments) to socialism. Legislating socialism into being & no role for revolutionaries. No challenge to the parliamentary system. First & foremost its about getting a Labour government & managing capitalism better. This will only mean a repeat of Mitterrand’s U-turn & another defeat for the working class.
    Now is the time to be offering a clear alternative to the capitalist system. Participatory Socialism is the term I would use; socialism from below to counterpose top-down Stalinism. A form of organisation that is emancipatory along the lines of the Paris Commune. The form of organisation of a future socialist society so the working class can actually physically take control of the means of production. Something with a bit more vision than what Lansman is offering.

  4. Astonishing. From the man who for years led the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. He says there is no intention to replicate LP structures – but he is certainly replicating its – undemocratic – practices. Where now for the Momentum activists??? TUSC Conference, London, Sat. 28th January.

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