All Momentum groups and activists should be very concerned.

This was distributed today to a meeting of Momentum activists.

Summary

On 23 April, a group trying to remove the entire Lewisham Momentum committee, on the basis of a secretive campaign of lies and slander, led a walkout from the group’s AGM and held a bizarre pseudo-meeting, with no democratic standards, in the front bar of a pub. This meeting has nonetheless been recognised by the Momentum office. This should be a cause of serious alarm for anyone concerned about democracy and members’ rights in Momentum, and its political direction.

What happened in Lewisham?

On 23 April, so many people turned up to the Lewisham Momentum AGM that the venue organisers claimed it was not possible for more to enter safely. In addition to the hundred-plus inside, another 30 or 40 could not get in. There was a fierce argument about what to do, with the committee arguing to reschedule to a new date. Some of those who wanted to continue claimed to have found another venue, the large back room of the nearby Amersham Arms pub. By this time it was about 8.15pm. There was a vote, held in conditions of chaos – the figures are not clear, and many people did not vote, but it looked most of those who did voted to move to the “new venue”.

“New venue” because when those who left got to the Amersham Arms, about 8.30pm, they found that the back room, which the AGM had been told was available, had a gig going on it! A “meeting” was held in the front bar of the pub (much smaller than the original venue), with no proper procedures and no registration checks, at which anyone present in the space could vote, whether they were random pub-goers or had just come in off the street. A committee was “elected”, every position unopposed, by a single vote.

The organisers of the Amersham meeting claim about 75 at this meeting; others who were present and asked to count carefully and honestly counted significantly less (see statements linked below). Meanwhile about 60 remained at the original venue, and this number grew as people returned from the Amersham.

Why did it happen?

By themselves these facts seem bizarre and inexplicable. What was going on?

In the weeks running up to the AGM it gradually emerged that a secret slate was being put together to remove the entire existing committee. This despite the fact that it had already been agreed, before any of this controversy was even guessed at, to expand the size of the committee from about ten to about twenty to involve more people.

The driving force of this slate was people who have never had any involvement in Lewisham Momentum. At its core were people grouped around ‘Red London’, a Facebook page which turns out Stalinist memes and has engaged in numerous online (and not just online) campaigns of bullying and harassment. These people moved to Lewisham very recently – in fact there is strong circumstantial evidence that some of them do not live in Lewisham at all. They linked up with people long angry at Lewisham Momentum because in late 2016 they raised the issue of Jackie Walker’s removal as Vice Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee but heavily lost the vote on this. That argument resulted in the most fractious meeting the group had ever had until the 23 April AGM, and the disappearance of a number of people who only reappeared on 23 April. The purgers also seemed to have mobilised people on the basis of social networks – fair enough and not necessarily bad, except that it was done for the purpose of deranged factionalism.

All this was done secretively, and they refused to sit down and talk about possible ways of compromising and working together, despite repeated offers to do so. Some of what they were telling people nonetheless emerged – and more has emerged since the AGM. It was a tissue of all kinds of lies, from the shocking – in particular accusations of support for child abuse, a mainstay of ‘Red London’ with which they are now trying to infect sections of the Lewisham left – to the absurd – e.g. claiming Lewisham Momentum has not supported a campaign against academisation, at Childeric primary school, which our comrades have in fact been central to but the accusers have had no involvement in!

No doubt many well-intention people were convinced, at least temporarily, by this campaign of slander or elements of it.

At the sharp end of the attack were comrades who are members of Workers’ Liberty, but the campaign targeted the entire committee and anyone who stood opposed to the Stalinist-led purge drive. Both sides mobilised hard – hence the big turnout for the AGM.

The role of national Momentum: be alarmed

Most of the leadership of Lewisham Momentum are pretty cynical about the national Momentum office and leadership, but we were genuinely a bit surprised by the decision of a Momentum staff member to recognise the Amersham Arms group as “Lewisham Momentum”.

One reason the AGM was so slow to get going is that Momentum staff members insisted on double-checking everyone’s registration. Yet for the Amersham meeting all and any standards went out of the window, with no checks and anyone able to come and vote – this was apparently no problem.

The Momentum leadership has long regarded Lewisham Momentum as an irritating left-wing, critical thorn in its side. That is why, in the conditions of tight top-down control and witch-hunting of left-wing critics that have got worse since 2016, the ‘Red London’ people chose to target Lewisham. It is not just a matter of whether you agree with Lewisham’s political stance. It is a matter of whether Momentum’s bureaucracy can get away with supporting political thugs to attack and beat down anyone they regard as dissident.

Momentum groups should protest to the NCG and back our call for a rescheduled, democratic AGM.

More facts and background

Our open letter to the split group calling for reunification and meanwhile united campaigning (so far no reply – no reply also to a specific email calling for cooperation on a local strike) See davelevy.info/lewisham-momentum and davelevy.info/stitched/ which includes two videos taken at the Amersham Arms and eyewitness reports of the meeting.

Here is an article on the culture of lies and slander engendered by ‘Red London’ published on the AWL web site: bit.ly/2kGD0Xw

Lewisham Momentum has been split

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.