The campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has planted the seeds of what could be the largest movement for social change in a generation. Momentum, the grassroots network that emerged out of the campaign, is developing an organising force for that broad, mass movement.
Working with trade unions, campaigners and activists, Momentum represents an opportunity to harness and enable the outpouring of progressive energy seen in this summer’s Labour leadership election, to strengthen democratic, popular social forces in Britain.
The linked forces of individualisation and attacks on trade unions over the last forty years has radically shrunk and reshaped civil society. The outburst of enthusiasm for the Corbyn campaign provides an opportunity to fight this shrinking of democratic space, build on the achievements of the past, and strengthen popular power.
Momentum has an organisation on a national scale to facilitate and coordinate the main work, which will take place in local groups. Still in our first week, hundreds of groups are being set up. They are organising events, rallies, meet-ups and policy consultations to encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society. Wherever possible, these actions will be done in coordination with the existing organisations that work for these same ends.
Momentum wants to see a more democratic Labour Party with the policies and collective will to build a more democratic, equal and decent society in government. To do so, Momentum will work with campaigners to change political debate to promote and popularise policies that will improve our society and the world.
Momentum is not only a campaigning network. We seek to help build new and support existing organisations that can make concrete improvements now to people's lives. We want to see hundreds, thousands of organisations making change now: private sector tenants' unions, childcare cooperatives, educational programs, participatory budgeting groups, people's pension funds, community land trusts, clean energy cooperatives – the possibilities are enormous. To deliver these organisations effectively, Momentum groups will work with, through, and alongside existing entities in civil society.
The Labour Party used to have a more organic relationship with more of the population through trade union shop floor activity. As trade union membership has shrunk under government attack – it now stands at around 6.4 million – and Labour’s previous leaderships sought to distance themselves from organised labour, this connection has dwindled. Momentum, through its link to Labour, can further ground the party in activist, organising work in communities, helping people win victories even when Labour is in opposition. These efforts should improve Labour’s chances of winning elections and returning to government. People are more likely to vote Labour if, for instance, a Momentum tenants' union has helped them get their deposit back or a Momentum group helped them set up a cooperative enterprise.
If Momentum is successful in growing itself, working with trade unions, campaigners, civil society organisations and the Labour Party, it will improve people’s lives and help transform society. It won’t always get things right. The network’s decentralisation and complexity will present some challenges, but it is also Momentum’s greatest strength. It allows the organisation the flexibility to use different models and methods of democracy, of organising, and of cooperation with other groups that are the most appropriate to the situation.
Momentum looks forward to working with partners, friends and allies in other organisations. We hope we offer them a chance to build and grow what we love and what we want to see in the world.
Get involved with Momentum at peoplesmomentum.com
Note from the editors: Communities for Corbyn, a network that emerged from a grassroots letter Red Pepper hosted, is one of the groups supporting Momentum.