This month we bring you news of a deeply authoritarian government bill, an exciting protest movement that has sprung up in resistance to it and a deeper look into how our trans political education programme is offering an exciting model of organising. Enjoy.
Police Crackdown. It’s been quite the week. First, the horrific and deeply upsetting death of Sarah Everard. Then the moving vigil held by hundreds of women at the Clapham bandstand – and aggressively broken up by the Met Police. And now, in the last few days, thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice their anger at the Met’s misuse of power and protest against the authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Bill has passed its second reading in parliament and will allow police chiefs to impose fines on people participating in protests that are too noisy or that fail to stick to a pre-agreed route. But we can resist these draconian measures. The street protests over the last couple of days show that.
Socialism in our lifetime. We launched our strategy document on Tuesday that sets out our priorities for the coming years. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here. The Corbyn era may be over but our movement is powerful and if we get organised there is so much we can achieve. Tonight (Thursday 18 March) we will be holding a mass strategy call with NCG members. There, we can discuss our new strategy, the future of our movement, and how you can play a leading role. Register for the call, here.
Good people. Abdul started his new life in London, but like many asylum seekers was moved from hostel to hostel, eventually ending up in Liverpool. Momentum members in Hammersmith and Fulham who had initially given Abdul support, contacted comrades in Liverpool to see if they could make sure he was OK in his new accommodation. NCG member Alan Gibbons and his wife went to greet him to show him some proper Liverpudlian hospitality, giving him food and supplies. Over the next few days, with the help of local community groups, Alan and his wife took back three carloads of stuff for the hostel’s residents and helped them get in touch with asylum aid organisations. From London to Liverpool, our movement is full of good people who care about the most vulnerable. We should be proud of that fact.
• The left recently won at AGMs in Hornsey and Wood Green and Battersea – but there are still plenty more AGMs to be held so keep an eye out for yours. Please do get involved to make sure left-wing candidates are elected to Officer positions!
• Women’s Conference is happening in June and for Women’s Committee we are backing Solma Ahmed (Momentum NCG member), Tricia Duncan (Campaign for Socialism), Chloe Hopkins (Town councillor and community campaigner) and Ekua Bayunu (Councillor candidate in Hulme, Manchester). The left also needs to make sure we elect women delegates for that conference either in our AGMs or locals Women’s Forums. See here for more information.
• Nominations are open for Young Labour Equalities Reps and we have four excellent candidates: Aisha Malik-Smith for Disabled Members’ Officer, Torr Robinson for LGBT+. Officer, Grace Ashworth for Women’s Officer and Abdullah Okud for BAME Officer. Nominations by CLPs or Young Labour branches are now open. See here for more info.
• Conference Arrangements Committee nominations are open until 11 June. We are supporting Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes – CLP nominations are now open.
• Members across the country have been meeting up as part of our Policy Primary to propose policies for Labour Conference 2021. 25 Local groups, alongside affiliated orgs and non-affiliated campaigning orgs, have submitted around 60 policy motions in total.
• For the latest NEC report back, see our video with Yasmin Dar and Lara McNeill here.
• The NEC Development Fund is a Labour Party scheme to give financial support for specific CLP projects. If you want some support to put in your bid on behalf of your CLP – deadline 27 August – please contact [email protected]
• For a full summary of all that the Grassroots Voice 5 have been up to since their election, read the first NEC report back here.
• While the most recent phase of the Councillor Network is finished, we’ve had a couple of really successful meetings with candidates who are standing in May and we are planning to re-launch our councillor network after the local election results, hopefully with an abundance of new left-wing councillors!
• Last Tuesday evening, hundreds joined us for ‘Why are we socialist feminists?’ hosted by author and activist Maya Goodfellow. If you missed it, check out the session here. Stay tuned for our next meeting on how we build a movement for socialism feminism.
• The 1% pay rise for nurses is a disgrace. In response, socialist Labour members are circulating a model motion that demands the Party backs nurses who take industrial action to improve their pay. Check it out here.
If you want your local group activity to be included in The Organiser then please email us at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you.
Each issue we interview a Momentum member, digging a little deeper into their political history and what motivated them to get involved in political organising. This month we talked to Momentum-endorsed Women’s Conference candidate Tricia Duncan.
When were you first politicised?
People in my CLP laugh because I always say I’ve been political since I was about 2. My mum was a strong socialist Labour activist from her young years and so I grew up in a very political household. My mum’s father was a miner and he came from that kind of working class tradition in Lanarkshire. From a young age I can remember we were always surrounded by boxes of envelopes that we had to fill for the Labour Party, and we were out campaigning and knocking doors. Despite living in a Tory area my mum managed to win a council seat for Labour which was pretty good going.
What books/thinkers have you read that have influenced you?
George Orwell was a big influence in my teenage years and is someone I’ve kept coming back to. I love Down and Out in Paris and London and Homage to Catalonia. In later years I have read widely and was influenced by the writings of Rosa Luxembourg, Simone de Beauvoir, Angela Davis, Karl Marx, Albert Camus, Tony Benn and Robert Tressell, to name but a few.
What did Corbyn becoming leader in 2015 mean to you?
I’ve been a Labour Party member since my teenage years but I know many people who left the Party after the Iraq War and came back probably around the time of Corbyn or just before that. But for me, Corbyn was a new beginning. It immediately made me feel more passionate about the Labour Party and what it could do. It was reinvigorating. The Party suddenly was more aligned to my socialist politics in a way it hadn’t been for years.
But it’s still been difficult in my local Party in Perth at times as there are still conservative views among some Labour Party members who hark back to the time of Blair. However, I believe our local Executive Committee have led the way on socialist principles.
We have a new leader of the Scottish Labour Party and I say as Vice Chairperson of Scottish Labour Policy Forum that Anas Sarwar must support the policy documents in place and create a Manifesto for the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary election promoting our socialist agenda.
As part of the refoundation process, some smaller Momentum groups are joining forces and are now reaping the rewards. We talk to Louise Calton of the newly formed South Essex Momentum.
How did the refoundation come about and what kind of activity was your group involved in previously?
We were previously Southend and District which included two CLPs in Southend, as well as the borough of Castle Point and the constituency of Rayleigh and Wickford.
But then in the last year or so Basildon and Thurrock approached us and asked if they could join up with us. So now we cover the whole of South Essex. Bigger groups are popping up elsewhere too. They’ve done a similar thing in North Essex and Norfolk. In this area there are a lot of decent sized towns like Basildon and Southend but then there’s a lot of outlying places that don’t get a lot of attention from the Party so it makes sense for us to cover a wider geographical area.
In Southend we had a lot of success in internal Party elections. Both CLPs have been left-led – and in Southend West all of the executive was Momentum at one point.
But we also had quite a few open, public meetings around issues like housing, and we have quite a few trade unionists that have been involved with the local trades union council and so have always made an effort to support local strikes. We’ve also been involved in resisting Post Office closures and we have quite a few members involved in the campaign to Save Southend NHS.
How was your first meeting?
Yeah, it was really good. We had about 30 people attend which we were really happy with. Because of the lack of access to data it has been difficult in the past to get in contact with our local members, but now that’s changed we were able to email and phone bank people in the local area which has really revitalised the group. The core group has consistently been strong and solid but it’s really great to get more people involved.
We were really lucky to have Mish Rahman and Solma Ahmed come along, which was just brilliant. It was really good to have national Momentum and NEC people as it meant people could ask a lot of really good questions about what was happening within the party and within Momentum.
What do you guys want to do next?
At the end of last year, we did a survey with some of our members in which we found out that we are collectively involved with around 30 different community groups from tree planting/environmental stuff to Southend Pride, Save Southend NHS and the Trades Union Council. Our members really are embedded in the community.
One thing that we could see ourselves doing in the next year is being a bridge between the newly Labour-led council and the community – and taking policy from the grassroots and making demands on the council to enact those changes. Momentum has been really good at door-knocking for elections but we think we could use those skills we’ve built up to go out and talk to the community about the kinds of things they would like to see policy-wise.
Councillors have asked local Labour members what they would like to see but as Momentum we think we can help by bringing in the views of all of the community.
Do you have any other campaigns you are involved in?
We’ve also wanted to focus on Eviction Resistance, which we think is a really good campaign. We are building towards the action for that and researching for our target. We had a meeting yesterday that was really good, laying out the next steps of the practical things that we need to do. So that’s quite a big focus for us.
As in a lot of places, quite a few people have left the party, but we’re really keen we don’t lose contact with them. The Eviction Resistance campaign has been quite a good way of keeping some of the ex-members involved.
It’s a nice way to keep hold of that broader coalition of socialists whether they are in the Party or not and make people realise that we are still here. Hopefully they might see a way of re-joining at some point!
Do you have any advice for members who are thinking about refounding a local group?
Get in touch with Momentum, do the data protection training so you can have access to local data, and then get those membership lists and start ringing around to see who’s there and let people know that you’re still there.
In terms of the meeting, definitely get in touch with whoever the NCG members is in their area, and get them to come along and talk about what they’re doing. Any kind of name is always good to get people along. Mish Rahman was brilliant – he answered questions really well and having that direct link with someone on the NEC was really good.
Then I think the best thing is to not come to people with a completely blank page. Prior to our first meeting, we’d already done a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis recommended by the NCG in a much smaller group. It meant that there were already some themes such as working within the community, getting more members engaged and supporting socialist candidates that we could bring to everyone. And we were then able to add some more priorities – such as organising for Conference – after discussions with all members.
‘We are strongest when we are united’
The trans political education programme making the case for class struggle
Over the last 6 months, Momentum, TWT and the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights have run a political education programme that has focused on the struggle for trans liberation in the UK.
A poll published last year that found a majority of the public (50%) were supportive of self-identification (27% opposed) suggests that attitudes across Britain are a lot more progressive on trans rights than right-wing culture warriors would have us believe.
But transphobia isn’t exclusive to the right. There is serious work to do in our own movement in deepening understanding and building meaningful solidarity with trans people in their struggles.
The trans political education was designed to support this vital work. But the intended audience of the programme wasn’t “hardened transphobes”, says one of the programme’s organisers Fergal O’Dwyer, but a much broader section of people who “aren’t being spoken to at the moment”, people who might have “one or two transphobic opinions” but simply haven’t been offered the knowledge to have an informed view of the issue at hand.
“It was really clear that there has been a lot of quite divisive debate around trans rights,” says Sonali Bhattacharyya, a London representing NCG member, when I ask her about why Momentum decided to help put on the programme. “But there wasn’t enough constructive being done in terms of developing people’s understanding and creating a space for people to talk about trans liberation and trans rights. There was a real gap in terms of political education.”
“Often we don’t do a very good job of engaging with people who disagree with us a little bit,” adds O’Dwyer. “Especially around issues that are understandably really emotive like trans liberation.”
“Clearly, it shouldn’t be up to trans people to do that the whole time,” qualifies O’Dwyer. “But the thinking was that if there was more political education on trans liberation that was good, and actually about meeting people where they are at then trans people would have to spend less time arguing for their right to exist.”
The first session in the programme, which was held as part of TWT’s online festival last September, is a conversation between Labour Campaign for Trans Rights activist Charlie Caine and community organiser Nim Ralph that acts as a perfect primer for those with a limited understanding of the issues surrounding trans liberation.
But a thread that runs throughout the sessions – and that is arrowed in on in the programme’s second instalment ‘What are our demands?’ – is a willingness to counteract a particular attitude to trans issues that the organisers argue is common among socialists.
“My sense from the broader socialist left is that there has been this treatment of trans liberation as a distraction from the struggle for socialism,” says O’Dwyer.
They say that this is partly to do with the “exaggerated critiques of identity politics” that have gained traction on the left. But also that part of the blame lies with how trans liberation education is often framed.
“So much trans liberation education treats the struggles that affect trans people as being completely separate from the struggles that affect everybody else,” says O’Dwyer. “And that is a strategic mistake.”
It is this strategic mistake that the programme hoped to put right with a different idea at its core: the demands of trans people – better healthcare, housing and security at work – are really the same as that of the working class a whole. True liberation for trans people, O’Dwyer argues, is only possible through class struggle.
“A tactic that the right and transphobes use is to try and sort of rabbit hole people in these logical arguments over legislation and so people get lost in the detail,” says O’Dwyer. “But it’s much more powerful to be talking about how trans and non-trans women should be uniting to fight against the closure of women’s refuges and the effects of austerity, which negatively affects both of those groups. We’re at our strongest when we unite working class people across different lines of identity.”
An important point that the organisers are keen to stress is that the programme was about more than delivering political education to those who watched the sessions – but also training those who ran and developed them as organisers who can go onto use those skills in other beneficial ways.
After phonebanking all Momentum members who self-identified as trans in the summer, a steering group of 15 trans comrades was created that spanned different parts of the labour movement. One of those who got involved was Linda Wall, a novice political educator at the time, but who now through the trans political education programme has developed the skills to put on trans political education events in new political spaces.
“It’s now at a very exciting stage because we’re looking to roll it out across CLPs and trade union branches,” says Wall. “And I know from all the feedback we have had already that there’s enormous interest. So much interest that we’re not sure we’re going to be able to meet all the demand. But we trained up some further trainers last week to help us deliver it so the next step is opening it up and starting to take bookings.”
“I think the left in general thinks that political education is something which is nice to have on top of other organising work,” says O’Dwyer. “But it should be seen as essential to it because it can be utilised to develop leaders within parts of the left of strategic importance. It’s a really effective way of mobilising and organising particular constituencies around issues that the movement faces.”
It’s also a model that others are now seeking to replicate. Momentum has a racial justice political education programme in the works – and its organisers have been taking notes.
“The conversation around racial justice in this country is also extremely poor with lots of extremely divisive and toxic discussions on the left,” says Sonali Bhattacharyya. “There are a lot of parallels actually.”
“The trans political education organisers managed to build this really effective collective dynamic, which we would love to emulate,” says Bhattacharyya. “Our plan is also to skill up members so they can feel confident as organisers. The model they’ve created is really inspiring.”
Watch the trans liberation political education programme here.
Priti Patel’s cartoon villancy has escalated to make the equal of the all time worst Class Enemy Award winners.
In the wake of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and subsequent police crackdown on a peaceful vigil, Priti Patel has gone full steam ahead with her plans to grant police draconian new powers. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is some of the most authoritarian legislation to come from a British govt in a generation. Contained within it are increased prison sentences for organisers of unlawful protests (read, protests the state doesn’t want to go ahead), creates a “no protest zone” around parliament, imposes strict curfews on protests, and worst of all targets the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller community, already one of the most marginalised communities in the UK, with harsh sentences for even the intention to reside or have a vehicle on land they don’t own, amongst other measures.
Of course Priti Patel pursuing this type of legislation shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is the same Home Secretary who looked into the idea of sending asylum seekers to the island of St Helena, a volcanic island in the Atlantic 800 miles from the UK, only to be stopped by the implausible logistics of such a policy. Previously she had to resign in disgrace from her role as International Development Secretary for secret meetings with Israeli ministers, unauthorised by the UK government, and in her new role has been found to have bullied civil service colleagues with zero repercussions.
It goes without saying Priti Patel should resign, but we’re long past the point of Tory Ministers having any type of accountability for their conduct. So congratulations Priti Patel on this week’s Class Enemy of the Week, and see the rest of you on the streets fighting back.
TWTFM series 2 launches today! In this series we’re exploring the theme of leisure – in particular, the aspects of life we’ve been missing during the Covid pandemic. We’ll be bringing you episodes on our favourite leisure activities including dancing, football, holidays and more.
In our first introductory episode – which you can listen to here – we look at what leisure reveals about our relationship to work under capitalism and how different our lives could be if we had access to more free time.
And you can check out our second episode too on dancing and why we believe a good party is political praxis.
Remember to subscribe so you get the next episode in your feed, and if you like it please share with comrades…
❌ Kill the Bill event ❌
On Monday we held a talk – Whose streets? Understanding the government’s assault on our rights – that delved deeper into the government’s attempt to significantly increase police powers over public protest. To watch the brilliant discussion back, click here.
💼 We’re hiring! 💼
To help implement our new strategy, and scale up our work, we are recruiting 3 new roles to join our core staff team, who will work closely with the TWT steering group, our National Organisers and the volunteer community to oversee the organisation of this year’s festival and coordinate TWT’s year round political education work
To apply for one of the three new roles, click here.
That’s all for this month, comrades. We hope you enjoyed this month’s issue. Any feedback you have and ideas for how to make the newsletter better are much appreciated. Don’t hesitate to send us an email at [email protected] with your thoughts.
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