Momentum Refounded: More Democratic & Better Organised
In this blogpost, Momentum Co-Chairs Hilary Schan and Kate Dove lay out how we’re implementing democratic reforms as part of the Refounding Momentum process. You can read more on our Refounding journey here, and take a look at our brand new constitution in full here.
Last year, Momentum members voted on a series of proposals to transform how our organisation is run, in a process which ran from 2020 entitled ‘Refounding Momentum’. This democratising process was born out of members’ frustration at the top-down manner in which Momentum had often been run, and at the disempowerment of members.
But as former NCG member Deborah Hermanns wrote at the time, it “was never just about democracy for its own sake”, but rather taking steps which would “allow us to concretely grow our organising capacity”. By giving our members a greater stake in the organisation, while ensuring they are supported to organise effectively, we can ensure a larger, more active base of organisers, so that we’re maximising our efforts for socialism.
Today, we can announce the successful implementation of the Refounding Momentum reforms, including a brand new constitution and an all-member convention to take place next year. We’ve been hard at work.
Since the current NCG took office last summer, we have helped secure Left majorities on both youth and student committees, as well as the election of Young Labour Chair Nabeela Mowlana and the election of socialists to Labour’s NEC. After that came our Labour for labour campaign in the run up to Labour Conference, followed by our successful Keep Up Momentum fundraiser.
This year, we’ve also set up our new Momentum Organising Network, launched our Organising Roadshow in the run up to the local elections, and started up our political education training programmes. We’re proud to have achieved all this while doing the in-depth work required to implement the Refounding reforms detailed below, many of which have already been enacted. With 50 pages of reforms, we’ll continue this work in the coming months.
With the reforms outlined today and our organising focus, Momentum is better-placed to build socialist strength for the long-term. We are a more democratic, more engaged and better organised campaigning force, with a more empowered membership. If you can, join Momentum or up your subs today and help us to do even more.
An All-Members’ Convention
Perhaps the most important initiative agreed was for an all-member convention, where our members and delegates from affiliated trade unions can come together to discuss, debate and decide on Momentum’s priorities. We are pleased to confirm that the NCG will organise a Convention to take place early next year. The Convention will take place online, both to ensure accessibility for our members across Britain and beyond, and also to remain within the limitations on our financial resources.
We are so excited for this chance for members to come together, exchange ideas and knowledge and debate Momentum’s next steps. Our movement’s greatest strength are our ideas, energy and democratic force -a Convention is a key means of harnessing them.
Supporting Members to Get Organised
But we aren’t waiting for the Convention to link up and support members. Earlier this month we launched the Momentum Organising Network, an online forum dedicated to connecting and skilling up our activists, engaging them in our national campaigns, while also offering a space for skill-sharing, to be supplemented with in-person trainings.
Members have often felt isolated from each other, particular in areas without active local groups. The Organising Network introduced by the NCG will help build the more connected, better organised movement we are striving for.
Supporting members to get organised wasn’t just a key plank of Refounding – it was core to the manifesto on which we were elected to Momentum’s National Coordinating Group, too. So as we’ve worked to implement Refounding, this organising focus has been front and centre.
To this end, we have already worked to implement the members’ council as part of revamped organising calls open to our core activists. These are taking place six times a year, with four of the calls reserved for dedicated reporting and scrutiny of NCG decision-making, bringing the organisation closer to our members. For years the members’ council has been a non-functioning part of Momentum’s democracy – now it serves as a vibrant space where our activists can feed into Momentum’s strategy while discussing practical organising steps.
That’s not all. Local groups have too often been under-resourced and under-supported – providing support for grassroots organising efforts is at the heart of our vision for Momentum. Refounding agreed a series of rights for local groups, including better access to data – we have made this a priority for our revamped Groups and Development Staff Team, particularly the roll-out of SupporterBase, a new system which will ensure enhanced data access and member contacting systems for local groups. We are supplementing this with our Organising Roadshow, with the first event held in Worthing just prior to the local elections. This roadshow aims at celebrating and solidifying local groups in areas of key strength, as we work to build our bases while concentrating our resources in key areas.
At the same time, the NCG has agreed to adopt a more flexible approach for the responsibilities of local groups and their formation, including across wider geographic areas. In the current political climate, as Starmer’s purge of the Left continues in full-force, it is not helpful to place a series of onerous demands on activists, such as calling all members in the area. Momentum should be there to support organising, not hinder it – as such our approach will be based on responding to the demands of activists on the ground, rather than rigid criteria set from the centre. Full information on the support available to local groups is available in our groups’ handbook.
A More Democratic Momentum
Democracy without organisation is a talking shop. But organisation without democracy is a recipe for failure, too. That’s why we have worked to roll out the democratising initiatives agreed under Refounding. Many of these are already in place and enacted in our brand-new Constitution, including a Single Transferable Vote system for NCG elections, ensuring that every member’s vote counts and we are able to harness the full strength of our movement. This has been paired with the new system for the election of Public Office Holders, the adjustment of various quotas for NCG elections to ensure the full breadth and diversity of our movement is represented in our Leadership.
Also included in the new Constitution (or NCG standing orders) are a right to recall of NCG members, term limits for NCG members, the new aims and principles of Momentum as voted by our members, and the publication of Officers’ group minutes. We have also already begun implementation of report backs from Momentum-backed NEC reps in our member bulletin, the Organiser, while annual report-backs will be sought from other Left reps on Labour committees too. Work is also envisaged to set up the new Member Democracy platform which will facilitate petitions.
In some areas the NCG agreed that the scale and scope of Refounding is not compatible with our limited resources at the current time. The narrowly-approved proposal for eight separate forums for members of marginalised identities per year is one such example. Nonetheless, liberation organising remains a core tenet of Momentum’s work. To this end, given the shocking failures of Starmer’s Labour on anti-black racism and Islamophobia, as exposed by the Forde report and Starmer’s dumping of agreed plans for a democratic Labour BAME wing, we will be prioritising the organisation of a BAME* forum in the coming weeks, to shape our anti-racist organising strategy. We will also be keeping up the pressure for the restoration of real democratic Women’s structures in Labour, including a standalone Conference, and continuing to stand up for trans rights and disability justice within the Party.
But it’s not just in elections and transparency that democracy matters – with Momentum’s core focus on electing socialists within the party, the question of endorsements matters, too. We are clear – never again will Momentum nationally endorse a candidate against the wishes of our activists on the ground. We have established a new procedure which codifies this imperative. Starmer’s ongoing, anti-democratic purge of left-wingers from selections, which we have worked hard to expose, means that our processes look very different to how they did in 2019, and we must adapt to the new context. But the principle of local accountability remains paramount.
Endorsements are of major significance nationally too. This is an area which we – like many members – feel very strongly about. Plainly, it was wrong for Momentum to ‘consult’ its members on a national decision to endorse Angela Rayner for Deputy Leader in 2020, without putting Socialist Campaign Group MP and Secretary Richard Burgon on the ballot paper. It is right that both of the National Coordinating Groups since have repudiated that decision. Such an anti-democratic step must never be repeated, as members expressed in their vote on Refounding.
We have codified this vital change in our Constitution. Put simply, where a Socialist Campaign Group MP requests an endorsement from Momentum, they will automatically go onto a ballot of all Momentum members. This means there can be no repeat of the 2020 letdown.
Of course, as Starmer continues to both purge the Left and stitch-up selections to ensure his loyalists become MPs, the option must be confronted that no SCG MP features on any upcoming leadership ballot. Given the difficulty of predicting future scenarios, the NCG voted to retain discretion about the best path forward. In this, we can assure you – member democracy will be of paramount importance.
Our next steps
We know it’s not an easy time to be on the Left right now. But we should take heart from the fact that the policies we fight for are more urgent and popular than ever – the political class might be reasserting itself, but they don’t have answers to the crises facing Britain. In the run up to crucial meetings of the National Policy Forum next month and Labour Conference 2023, we’ll be campaigning for the socialist, transformative policies this country is crying out for. We cannot let our demands of public ownership, wealth taxes and a Green New Deal fade away.
And six years after the insurgent 2017 General Election campaign, socialist policies are still enthusing voters, as demonstrated by the electoral success of ambitious Labour councillors in Preston, Broxtowe and Worthing. We are building on this success with our Future Councillor and Leo Panitch leadership programmes, our Organising Roadshow, our municipal socialist workshops and so much more.
Our task now is to organise, build and popularise our socialist movement for the long-term, so that when the time comes again, we’re ready. The reforms announced today put us on a path to do just that.