As socialists we stand for maximum democracy and debate within our movement in order to clarify political differences and put competing ideas and strategies to the test of experience.
Throughout the Momentum NCG election, supporters of, and those who have worked with, the AWL group, have been subjected to a campaign of abuse and guilt by association which violates all democratic norms of the labour movement.
This includes vetting candidates for the supposedly ‘open primaries’ held by Forward Momentum, barring candidates from participating in ‘hustings’, and an anonymous Twitter campaign demanding “NCG candidates disavow [the AWL]”. This is a transparent attempt to bully candidates into repudiating the democratic choice of members if supporters of ‘Momentum Internationalists’ are elected.
As supporters of Red Flag we make no secret of our irreconcilable opposition to the politics of the AWL, most significantly in the context of the Labour Party, their equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism. This leads them to brand principled opponents of Zionism as ‘political’ or ‘leftwing’ ‘antisemites’, which serves as a spurious ‘left’ cover for the Labour establishment’s witch-hunt.
Needless to say, this charge of antisemitism is one we reject with contempt. We understand that many defenders of Palestinian rights, including many courageous Jewish people, equally reject the AWL’s position on this issue, being themselves the target of right wing Zionist abuse. Nevertheless we are sure they will reject witch hunting and demagogy in reverse. Principles always pay in the long run.
The truth is, what their opponents, or at least the instigators of the campaign, really object to is the AWL’s consistent record of support for rank and file democracy in the trade unions, advocacy of the class struggle, and solidarity with democratic revolutions in the semi-colonial world. It is these remnants of the AWL’s original allegiance to Trotskyism that arouses the antipathy of this constellation of cliques, whose only common ground is their pathological hostility to the ideas of revolutionary Marxism.
The fact that this campaign has been allowed to flourish in the midst of Momentum’s election is an indictment of the democratic deficit at the heart of the organisation, and testament to the debased political culture prevailing in a disoriented and demoralised labour movement.
This witch-hunt is a deliberate distraction intended to divert attention from the poverty of the main factions’ platforms, which have nothing credible to offer on the key issues facing our movement: learning the lessons of the Corbyn movement and adjusting our strategy to meet the challenge of coronavirus, the economic crisis, and the emergence of a powerful anti-racist street movement.
All socialists and democrats should oppose demands to anathematise candidates because they belong to a different political tradition. It is wrong in principle, and it actually reveals the real attitude of such people to Momentum’s members and their democratic right to choose their own representatives.
Momentum, the Forward Momentum and Momentum Renewal slates, and MPs like John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, John Trickett, and others who have endorsed prominent candidates, should publicly condemn this undemocratic behaviour.
Those who persist in mounting intimidation campaigns against political opponents are aiding the right wing party leadership who recognise these pathfinders for the anti-socialist purge as temporary allies on their road to rescuing Labour for the ruling class.