7 July 2016

Not enough Momentum? Limehouse rally, 6 July 2016

Jeremy Corbyn was due to speak at the east London Momentum rally on Chilcot Day. I booked my ticket. I guessed that it would also be about when either a leadership challenge was mounted, or Corbyn would announce whatever dirty deal had been cooked up. Never ask me to predict anything.

Two thousand of us came to hear Corbyn. He was a no show (not announced, craftily, until the end). 'He wanted to spend more time with families affected by the Iraq War'. Maybe. We had to make do with the support acts. I was momentarily taken aback when his replacement video address to us started with, 'Hello, Troxy.'  

The support

The most fired-up (and so best) speaker of the night was Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. I could have been back at Labour Party Young Socialists conference listening to him but he's long lost that shroud of dreariness that would hang over speeches from Militant. His address was a welcome bit of pyromania against the structure of capitalism. 

Jon Trickett MP's take on events was that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was trying a "rolling coup", using "strangulation". That might be true but I doubt that's what they intended. That's what you would do when effective blows can't be landed but, as you have committed yourself, you must keep on trying. I was surprised by the popularity of Dianne Abbott MP. I presume that's because she's one of Corbyn's main sentinels. She made some good points about racism. "What they say about East Europeans is what they said about the Irish". And about Chilcot. 'Don't let people rewrite what happened with the false excuse that 'if they knew then what they know now' "They knew it."

But what's the point of a rally? A collection of people to show strength of support? The large attendance did do this. Or maybe it is to be a chorus to echo the stage? Well, if so, I'm sure a few of us might have felt like talking down some of the speakers. From Rhea Wolfson (Labour NEC candidate) - a polished, and so fairly anodyne, speaker with her eyes on prizes beyond the current one - we heard that the attempted coup was the "Last cry of the old politics." I wonder over how many centuries and countries that phrase has been uttered before? Trickett said, "Leaders without popular movements can't succeed." Cameron (for six years) or Wilson?


The audience were mainly young (20s or 30s), and very representative of the new, east London, along with a fair sized tranche in their 50s or 60s. I wonder if the older group noticed how much more right-wing Corbyn is compared to their previous (and unmerited) hero, Tony Benn?

I suspect there were not many there who weren't graduates (so none of the enthusiastic school or college students that previous movements have attracted) and I'd guess that fairly few had family links to the East End. The audience was overwhelmingly white; especially noticeable in Tower Hamlets (although it was Eid). Papers sellers were there from Socialist Appeal, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party and a leaflet from what appears to be the new Labour Party organisation for people like the Wrack brothers and (ex?) Socialist Network reds like Edmund Potts.

Corbyn Cult

The Corbyn Cult thrives. The pre-event slideshow was heavy on people doing their best to out-Jezza each other. "We are the Corbyn Collective" was one. Amongst the Corbyn paraphernalia on sale was a t-shirt with 'Corbyn' replacing 'Superman'. Christine Shawcroft (Labour Party NEC member) had Corbyn "fighting for us" and another speaker referred to the "multiple meanings of Corbyn" and stated that, "only Jeremy Corbyn offers a solution to the housing crisis."

We were also invited to applaud other 'heroes' such as Cat Smith MP and a list of similar names. Most of the audience did so enthusiastically. But what if Corbyn goes under that proverbial bus? Other dangers here are also obvious.

What now?

No action plan to deal with strategic issues was outlined and only the Momentum wire-puller, Jon Lansman, addressed tactical considerations: 'We are using the best tech, "inspired by the Sanders campaign"'. Momentum will be "an agent of radical change" and '"We are prepared for a leadership challenge".

Great - but are they also prepared for ongoing guerrilla warfare as well as an open attack? Where's the offensive? The concessions were there for the Right to pick up - "We want political unity" said Trickett.

Where will Momentum go? If there is a split in Labour (the last thing either side wants) could Momentum become the basis of a new party? How long can the current Momentum project last - I know what view they will take of Labour (Momentum) councillors making cuts (it will be, 'it's a dented shield') but when these councillors become the main local target for protests, what then?

One of the biggest issues wasn't even whispered. I had intended to make sure the word was at least spoken, with a heckle to Corbyn - 'Deselect them!' It's self-defeating for Momentum not to address getting rid of MPs. The PLP overwhelmingly despises Momentum and so the organisation would have nothing to lose in going for the parliamentarians. If they don't lance that boil, it's those MPs - and at the first opportunity - instead it will them running-through Corbyn, Lansman and the rest.