Momentum members should vote “No” to question 4 of 15 on Momentum’s online consultation on what to submit to Labour’s Democracy Review (“Membership of other organisations”), because it will very likely make it easier to purge far left activists from the Labour Party, not harder. There is no problem of organisations present in the Labour Purge which need to be driven out. The relevant part of Rule 2.I.4.b, which has been used to expel so many socialists, should be scrapped, not amended, let alone strengthened!
Voting closes on 12 March. If you have any questions or need help email firstname.lastname@example.org
Background and further explanation
What rule 2.I.4.b is
There is an increasingly widespread and vocal demand in the movement to abolish part of Labour’s rule 2.I.4.b, which has been used to expel numerous left-wing activists from the party. The rule says
“A member of the Party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member…”
The part about candidates is not controversial; it is the first part, in italics, which should be abolished. For an explanation of what is wrong with it and details of a rule change going to the 2018 Labour conference to delete it, see the Stop the Labour Purge website here.
Momentum: a vote ignored
Newcastle Momentum secretary made a submission to Momentum’s online process for the Labour Democracy review which, among other things, included deleting this part of 2.I.4.b (see here). This proposal came second out of 120 submitted.
However, a subcommittee of Momentum’s NCG have not only told Ed that the big bulk of his proposal, including the part on this, is being binned (see here for more). What does this say about the seriousness of the consultation and of Momentum’s democracy? However what matters more immediately is that they have proposed an alternative which could actually make the situation worse. Ed was not allowed to meet with or discuss this proposal with the subcommittee.
The new proposal would change “a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party” to “a political organisation whose principles, values, objectives or methods of organising are demonstrably incompatible with those of the Labour Party”.
Why this is dangerous
In the abstract this could be better as it makes the rule less widely drawn. In reality it will, if agreed by the party, almost certainly be used to justify purging particular kind of people, in particular members of Marxist organisations within the party such as Workers’ Liberty and Socialist Appeal – which are, after all, central victims of the purge already. “Look at this group, their principles etc are clearly not compatible with Labour’s…” At least as it stands the rule is utterly incoherent. We should not make it more coherent, but abolish it!
When the Momentum office wrote to Ed it justified opposition to deleting the clause from 2.I.4.b on the grounds that this “could benefit groups clearly opposed to the party”. Ed asked what groups the office/the NCG subcommittee has in mind; he received no reply. But whether those making decisions in Momentum want to make it easier to purge “Trots” or have just not thought it through, what they propose is dangerous.
If you doubt this: when a prominent Socialist Appeal member was expelled in 2016 and took the party to court, the party’s lawyer justified the expulsion on the grounds that SA’s program and principles are incompatible with Labour’s (specifically its opposition to the “market economy” clashing with Blairite stuff in Clause 4 about “the dynamism of the market” and “the rigour of competition”). Some expelled AWL members have had letters saying the same.
It is not so hard to imagine, in a different situation, such wording being used against Momentum itself. Think back to 2016!
Labour is not infested with members of organisations who need to be driven out, the far right or whatever. The existing wording in question is a Blairite outrage, designed to allow purging of whoever the party machine doesn’t like and feels strong enough to act against. It should be deleted, not amended, let alone strengthened.
Vote “No” to Question 4 of 15, on “Membership of other organisations”!