The fact is there is nothing untoward about Momentum at all. And you don't have to take my word for it, just watch Channel 4's Dispatches on the very same. We were sold a shocking tale of people rallying around Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, of three AWL supporters filmed saying terribly controversial things at a Momentum meeting, of issues around branding, and the blurring of work between Momentum and Jeremy 4 Labour campaigning. Just like folk sold on Moon landing hoaxery because they don't understand light and reflection in Apollo photographs, you'd have to be a political ingenue to believe this shoddy journalism uncovered a dastardly plot.
Having been an active member of Militant's successor party, knowing many friends and comrades from the "old organisation", and, well, a PhD in Trottery, it's reasonable to suggest I'm qualified enough to speak on this matter. Momentum categorically is not Militant in new clothing. The Militant Tendency, or to use its undercover name, the Revolutionary Socialist League was a Trotskyist outfit that had worked in Labour for decades to build itself up, in far left terms, as a substantial organisation. It had a central committee, regional and branch structures, operated its own funding and propaganda and, most crucially, exerted its own discipline on its ranks. Famously, at one point Militant were said to have more full-timers than the Labour Party itself! While I'm opposed to that kind of politics now, Militant did bequeath a few positives to our party and movement. Unlike most far left outfits that are predominantly middle class, Militant was as workerist in its composition as the old Communist Party was in its heyday. It brought disaffected working class youngsters into politics and, despite losing nearly all of them as it declined from the 80s on, many of these comrades continued their commitment to the Labour Party and/or labour movement politics. My late friend Eddie Truman was one of them, for example.
Momentum is nothing like Militant. It is a network with a steering committee that organises openly in support of Jeremy Corbyn and the sorts of policies he favours. That is what it is, that is all it is. I know if I want to join Momentum, I can fill out a form online and give the local organiser a ring. There's no qualifying period for membership, no punishing membership educationals, no tedious pamphlets to remember for the next lead off, no unaccountable central committee to bark orders at me. Everything is open and above board. And it cannot be otherwise. As we've seen, the huge army of new members the Labour Party has gained flooded in thanks to networks established online and in real life between left leaning but otherwise atomised and fresh people. The old hands of the 1980s who evidently stalk Neil Kinnock's nightmares are vanishingly small in number and are totally swamped. And so to harness the support of the new members, only an organisation that is totally transparent, easy to get involved with, and mirrors the properties of the network would do. There's a reason why dull, plodding authoritarian outfits like the Socialist Party (despite its mini-Militant rebrand) and the SWP rape cult have been left out in the cold. As it stands, Momentum is a good way of consolidating these new members and turning them to campaigning activity, both with the party and in other labour movement campaigns.
Of course, what we're dealing with here are not honest, mistaken criticisms about Momentum. Some folks might be hoodwinked by contested reports of shouting in meetings, and of idiot anti-semites who badge themselves as Momentum, but ultimately Momentum is a proxy. It stands in for everything the old Labour establishment fears and hates about the new Labour Party. They hate the fact hundreds of thousands have joined and even more could be poised to flood in after Jeremy's leadership is reconfirmed later this week. They hate the fact their stitch up culture has now been rendered largely obsolete, and most of all they hate how these members have taken control away from them. Momentum is a lightning rod for all their fear, their bile, their impotence and they are worried Momentum can only consolidate this hold the new members have even further. For them, the name calling and proscription threats are desperate (and are seen as desperate) efforts to disperse this nascent organising capacity before it gets off the ground.
Militant and Momentum are antipodes, not twins. And anyone pretending otherwise is genuinely clueless and has no understanding of each, or are deeply, truly cynical.