I would like to believe that Jon Lansman and his small group of supporters at the head of Momentum are genuine when they say, that under the new Momentum constitution, there will be political education offered to all members. But having experienced Lansman’s style of politics over the last couple of days, I have to think that any political education offered under the new regime should be politely refused.
Nevertheless, having read the ‘pleased’ and even ecstatic responses of some Momentum members to the coup carried out by Lansman, I have to say that they definitely need to read up on their politics.
Lansman sent out a survey to Momentum members around Christmas time. It contained questions on how members thought the movement should be run. Those questions were in the form of two statements (really a ‘for’ and an ‘against’) for each question. There was also a box below for an alternative comment. One of those questions concerned OMOV (one member one vote) as opposed to a delegate system. There was no question for ‘why can’t we have both?’.
As with all questionaires of this type, the questions were limited and thus were designed to elicit limited answers. The analysis of the responses to those questions also appears to me to demonstrate that the alternative answer boxes were largely ignored, unless they could be fitted conveniently into the ‘for’ or ‘against’ section.
Lansman and a small mumber from the Momentum Steering Committee then carried out their fait accompli – they said that the results of the responses allowed them to radically change Momentum’s constitution.
Not only this, but they then added a couple of things that hadn’t been asked in the ‘survey’. One of these was, that from now on all Momentum members should also be Labour Party members and all new applicants to join Momentum would be refused if they were not members of the Labour Party, or had been suspended or expelled (existing members who were suspended, but not expelled, could remain, pending the result of suspension hearings).
This has effectively struck off all non Labour Party members from Momentum from July 2017 and prevents anyone refused membership of the Labour Party (particularly the hundreds who tried to join last summer but were refused) from joining Momentum at all.
What it has also done is remove some Momentum members who actually completed the survey and agreed with Lansman’s OMOV structure!
Many of those members who feel they have got their way over the OMOV issue (and will be able to remain) are pleased, but what doesn’t seem to sink in with them is that this new constitution or way of voting was not decided under OMOV, but by a small group of people at the helm of Momentum. And from a survey!
Nowhere in that survey were Momentum members told that the outcome would be to change to the constitution without further debate at conference.
This has left many more astute members who wanted OMOV to argue that none of this was carried out democratically and that, despite getting the changes they wanted, they couldn’t condone them because of the way they were obtained.
But others celebrate Lansman’s coup by arguing that ‘something needed to be done’ because ‘discussion at the top’ had delayed movement.
It is true that setting up the constitution had been delayed by competing and sometimes heated discussions at the NC, but this doesn’t mean that a way to solve this was for a small group of people to effectively ‘seize power’ and set up a structure and constitution without consultation and voting.
After all, wasn’t this what OMOV was designed for…?
Then you find those who say that ‘something had to be done’ because ‘many activists just argue and do nothing else’, while totally ignoring all those activists who had been out canvassing, protesting and organising on everything that Momentum set them to do, and much more besides.
And let’s not forget that hundreds, if not thousands, of them were out canvassing for Sadiq Khan as called for by the Momentum leadership. (That worked out well, didn’t it…?).
There are many theories online about why Lansman acted the way he did, but I won’t go into those here.
Because what I find the most disappointing is the naivety of so many Momentum members – young and old.
Do they really understand the democratic process? Haven’t they read any political history? Do they not understand when a coup really is a coup?
Jeremy Corbyn needs a strong movement behind him to watch his back as well as to promote him.
But I’m not sure, that for all the planning behind this coup, Lansman’s new Momentum is going to provide that for him.