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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Fighting Start but It is Only the Beginning

Report of Grassroots Momentum Conference – March 11th


Kelly Rogers from the Picture House Strikers addresses the conference

The Conference was scheduled to start at 10.00 but got underway shortly after 11.00.  Which is just as well as we were delayed by about an hour because someone decided to kill themselves by jumping in front of a train at East Croydon.


The first decision of the Conference was that all attendees from Momentum groups, delegates or not, could vote.  The delegates, including myself, voted by 43-24 to allow everyone to vote which meant that just less than 200 people were eligible to vote.  That was sensible and of course in marked contrast to the Lansman rally that is planned for later this month when there will be no votes on anything.
Despite the best efforts of Lansman the Conference was packed out
A Momentum  Conference was originally called back in November last year but Jon Lansman fought bitterly to prevent it.  Originally his pretext was One Member One Vote but we found out what OMOV really was when he imposed a Constitution on Momentum without any prior discussion at all. OMOV meant  that only 1 member would have a vote - Jon Lansman.   Lansman's coup received the support of people ranging from Owen Jones to Blair's adviser John McTernan thus showing exactly what its anti-democratic character was like.  
The difference, which was spelt out during the day is that the Grassroots Momentum will not be simply an echo chamber for Corbyn and McDonnell, applauding their every concession to the Right. We are not a personality cult but a socialist movement.  We have in many ways to act as the counter-pressure to the Right on the leadership.  Corbyn has already surrendered to the Zionist lobby and its witch hunt, which originally accused him of consorting with holocaust deniers.  He has backtracked over nationalisation and has ended up supporting Theresa May over Brexit.  However the Lansman owned Momentum will not discuss policy and will therefore be content to let Corbyn cruise to defeat either electorally or at the hands of the Right, most probably the latter.
Derbyshire Teaching Assistant strikers Nicol Hutley and Kate Walker explain how a Labour Council has cut their wages by 25%
Delia Mathis, the London Secretary of Momentum chaired the conference and she was accompanied on stage by Jackie Walker and Matt Wrack.  Given some of the sectarian wrangling she chaired very well.
The conference was addressed by FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, Picturehouse/Ritzy cinema striker Kelly Rogers and Derby Teaching Assistant strikers Nicol Hutley and Kate Walker. A collection was held for both strikes..
The conference agreed a statement of aims and various campaigns including fighting school cuts; campaigning for the NHS and social care; supporting the Derby TAs, Picturehouse workers and others workers’ struggles; and fighting expulsions and suspensions from Labour.
Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.  I proposed this amendment and Graham Bash from the LRC seconded.  Both of us Jewish unlike the largely non-Jewish AWL whose concern about 'left anti-Semitism' is so touching.
There was debate about defending migrants’ rights as distinct from workers’ rights in general: this was resolved by moving support for workers’ rights and struggles to the top while maintaining a clear distinct point about migrants’ rights. It was also agreed that there should be a further conference in the Autumn.

There were 3 position that Conference had to vote for in the afternoon regarding future structure.  The first was in essence a repetition of the old Momentum structure of a National Committee which was rejected by a large majority  It came down to either Option 2 -  a proposal to have a six-strong coordinating committee consisting of officers such as Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.  This was defeated by 89 votes to 83 votes in favour of an absurd proposal put forward by the Alliance for Workers Liberty that there should be a ’15-20’ strong Steering Committee (it was 20). Conference agreed this should be voted for by first past the post as opposed to STV (proportional representation)).  My understanding of this is that a National Committee will not be put in place but I was out of the debate for most of the time so I can't be sure.
Momentum banners adorned the hall as about 40 groups sent delegates
39 candidates stood and the following were elected:
Matt Wrack – Waltham Forest (member of pre-coup Steering Committee)
Sahaya James – Lambeth (member of new National Coordinating Group)
Tracy McGuire – Darlington (pre-coup National Committee)
Jacqueline Walker – Thanet (pre-coup Steering)
Nick Wrack – Southwark (pre-coup NC)
Simon Hannah – Wandsworth
Delia Mattis – Enfield (pre-coup NC)
Kevin McKenna – Tower Hamlets
Jill Mountford – Lewisham (pre-coup Steering)
Graham Bash – Thanet
Rosie Woods – Harrow
Rida Vaquas – Oxford (member of NCG) (pre-coup NC)
Lee Griffiths – Tower Hamlets
Alec Price – Medway (pre-coup NC)
Pete Radcliff – Broxtowe
Ed Whitby – Newcastle (pre-coup NC)
Tina Werkmann – Sheffield
Jan Pollock – London, not sure of group
Richard Gerrard – Southwark
Joan Twelves – Lambeth
Myself and another candidate from Brighton weren’t elected and from a cursory reading at least 3 of the above were from the AWL (only 1 of whom declared their allegiance) suggesting it will be an interesting Committee!


Tony Greenstein 

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