It was the big story for anyone who attended this year’s Labour conference in Liverpool: the energy at the Momentum World Transformed thing versus the feeling of death warmed over at Labour conference itself. Another narrative around this emerged, post-conference: how long until Momentum itself splits, taking down the Labour Party with it? After all, as we all know, left-wing groups always split; it’s part of their DNA.
An interesting article appeared yesterday afternoon, written by Laura Murray, someone who has been involved with Momentum at a high level since its inception, entitled “Momentum v Inertia”. It is a fascinating look into the inner workings of Momentum – as a result, it has obviously been denounced already by many on the Left.
First off, it must established what Momentum is and isn’t. Tom Watson was incorrect when he wrote off the whole thing as a bunch of angry Trots who had been kicked out by Neil Kinnock trying to crowbar their way back into national politics. If that’s all Momentum was, it wouldn’t be a threat to anyone. No, what fuels Momentum is young people who are scared about where their country is going and what their futures look like; who are scared that owning a house is becoming increasingly a pipe dream for members of their generation; that decent jobs appear to be getting more and more scarce for graduates; they look at the encroaching conservativism of society, given extra oomph via Brexit, and feel it is out of touch with their left-liberal world view.
These are legitimate concerns and it is noble that so many young people wanted to become active in politics to try and change things. This often gets lost when people outside of the far-left talk about Momentum. The problem with the organisation is that at its centre lies the full on embrace of Jeremy Corbyn. And that brings with it two main concerns: one, Corbyn is taking the Left off into the wilderness, making all of the effort of these young people a futile gesture; two, Corbyn’s sympathies ultimately reside with the old Trots that young Momentum activists are now beginning to realise are really bad news.
Laura Murray describes in her article the stark split that already exists in Momentum between the young idealists and the old, shouty Trots. What she isn’t able to yet see is how Corbyn sits at the heart of this split. The younger Momentum activists love Corbyn and feel alienated by the older Trots, particular as the latter tend not even to be members of (or really interested in) the Labour Party. But how else was this all going to play out when the figurehead of the whole movement is an old Trot himself?
Most centrists despise and fear Momentum. I have written before that I really hope that one day all of that energy could go somewhere and have a really positive impact on society. The danger is that the fallout from the doomed Corbyn project is so severe that the energy just dissipates. I hope not.