Some of us are members of Momentum, some have never joined – and some of us left the organisation after January 2017, when its leader Jon Lansman abolished all democratic structures and imposed a new constitution, riding roughshod over the organisation’s members.
It should be noted that, as part of this coup, Lansman abolished the right of Momentum’s “liberation strands” to have direct representation on the leading national bodies of the organisation. Among the consequences of this was the breaking up of Momentum Black Connexions/Caucus. More recently, he closed down Momentum’s youth group. This demonstrates his serious lack of commitment to the self-organisation, self-determination and autonomy of disadvantaged groups in society.
As a consequence of Lansman’s behaviour, Labour Against the Witchhunt believes he lacks the democratic credentials to become the kind of general secretary that the Labour Party now needs in order to heal the wounds inflicted by Iain McNicol’s divisiveness. As general secretary, McNicol was directly in charge of the discredited compliance unit and thereby responsible for the purge of thousands of pro-Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party members. The automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions overseen by McNicol – especially those based on alleged anti-semitism and those based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B – have brought the party into disrepute. They have prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while valuable resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change.
The Labour Party now needs a general secretary who will put a decisive stop to this witch-hunt. Somebody who will make sure that all disciplinary charges are dealt with fairly, swiftly, transparently and with the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We do not believe Jon Lansman would do that, for a number of reasons, not least the ones cited below:
– When Jackie Walker was suspended from the Labour Party on trumped-up charges of anti-semitism, Jon Lansman did not defend her. Quite the opposite: he quickly removed her as vice-chair of Momentum and hand-picked her replacement.
– After Ken Livingstone’s suspension, he wrote on Twitter: “A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on anti-Semitism racism & Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether.” That does not bode well for any new NEC enquiry on Livingstone that is now being mooted.
– Momentum’s constitution now bars from membership all those expelled by the Labour Party’s compliance unit for their alleged “support for other organisations” under rule 2.1.4.B. This rule that has been used exclusively against left-wingers. Lansman has since come out in support of keeping the rule in Labour’s constitution (in a letter to Tony Greenstein in response to LAW’s submission to the Corbyn Review).
– In the same letter, he has opposed our demands for the abolition of the compliance unit. We are firmly of the belief that all disciplinary matters should be dealt with by elected representatives, which means their action can be held up to scrutiny.
Labour’s next general secretary should ensure the NEC immediately implements the recommendations on the party’s disciplinary procedure made by the Shami Chakrabarti report of 2016.
We believe that Unite’s Jennie Formby would be the best choice for general secretary. As a vocal supporter of, for instance, the rights of Palestinian people and genuine bottom up Labour Party democracy, we think her election would send a powerful political signal that Labour is ready for government. We hope that her tenure would mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt, which has caused such disunity in the party. Labour unity is the top priority and is essential in order that the party wins the next general election.
Labour Against the Witchhunt