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Momentum

HOT’s Sean O’ Shea talks with Tariq Persuad Parkes, Labour secretary for East Hastings, about his involvement in a new organisation called Momentum, its background and objectives and some of the issues and campaigns they hope to pursue in the coming months.

Could you say a bit about your background and how you became interested in politics?

I was born in 1981 and spent my first ten years under Thatcher and then John Major. My mother, who worked in various hospitals in Hastings, has always been a unionist and Labour supporter. My father also supported Labour and my brother studied politics at the London School of Economics. So really I had no option but to be interested in politics.

Some of my teachers relay a story about a trip to London when I was ten. I brought the Financial Times every day I was there, and on a visit to stand opposite 10 Downing Street, Norman Lamont was leaving and waved at me. I was running around my group saying “Its Norman Lamont, its Norman Lamont;” my peers did not know who he was, but the teachers found it amusing that a ten year old did. Upon returning to school, we had a slide show of the week away, and me and my Financial Times under my arm could be seen in most of the pictures.

My mother was the daughter of a farm labourer and my nan worked in service. Every Sunday my mother would see how the Sussex villages of Staplecross and Ewhurst Green would pander to the local gentry and give them the front pews in church and expect them to be in control of all events and prizes in the village, while providing a pittance for the families who worked for them. It was then my mother knew that she was a socialist and that her children would never pander to others the way her parents were made to for the aristocracy.

My mother explained to me that Labour stood for fairness, equality, common ownership and moving away from the class system. It was also explained to me that we all have the right to work and be rewarded, and have the right to safe working environments and flexible hours. And those who are unable to work need supporting as well as those who wish to work.

Nowadays I care for my infirm father and my disabled nephew and help in my sister’s shop sometimes and have a lot of time for politics. I am the Labour secretary for East Hastings, a Labour general and executive committee member and group liaison officer, which affords me the right to work with the Labour councillors.

Who have been some of the people in the world of politics who have influenced you?

People who have inspired my politics along the way are quite varied. I admire the writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Leon Trotsky and the famous Scottish socialist, Keir Hardie. After reading Das Kapital and reading about the poverty of Victorian Britain in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, you can see how Marx and Engels were a major influence on Hardie’s creation of the Labour Representation Committee (the original name of the British Labour Party).

Neil Kinnock was an inspiration, as he was the first Labour leader I had come to recognise. I also admired Tony Benn and after reading his diaries I was impressed by the pace of work he maintained during his political life.

Special credit goes to Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant as well, in my opinion, for their contributions in the struggle against racism. When my father arrived from Guayana in the sixties, he experienced the racial hate manifest in the slogans: ‘No Irish, No Blacks and No Dogs’. Those who opposed such racism were described as the ‘looney left’ but their anti- racist ideas are now part of established policy. We also have Labour to thank for the eradication of homophobic laws including allowing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in the army, the reduction of the age of consent to sixteen, extending adoption rights and the introduction of civil partnerships.

In the case of Diane Abbott, I hope she is in politics for a long time to come.

amometum

You are part of Momentum. Could you describe the origins of this organisation and some of its objectives?

Momentum is a group which came from the campaign to get Jeremy Corbyn elected as Labour leader. When Jeremy won there was a need to keep up the work and excitement of the ‘Jeremy for leader’ campaign. This is how Momentum was born.

Who can join Momentum and how does it relate to other strands of opinion in the Labour Party?

You don’t have to be a member of the Labour Party to join Momentum but you must not belong to any other party and should believe in Labour’s aims and values. All meetings are public, but you must be a member to have voting rights, or to take up a post in Momentum.

In the context of the varying strands of opinion or groupings within the Labour Party, Momentum is similar to the modern Labour Representation Committee (LRC) founded in 2004 and chaired by John McDonnell. This is a socialist pressure group for those on the left who believe in socialism and the original Clause Four (See explanatory note at end of this interview). In some areas, joint meetings are being held between Momentum & the LRC.

What are some of the main issues you will be focusing on over the coming months?

Momentum Hastings has been focussing on building relations with the Hastings and Rye Labour Party and with the unions. The meetings have been popular and the online presence is brilliant. Our younger members enjoy working from behind their keyboards and getting socialist and unionist news out on social media to counteract the misinformation supplied by the conservative’s. We are working on building up the membership base and getting more involved with local events and issues including the recent May Day celebrations where we had red flags out, Momentum badges and newspaper sales. We are also strongly supporting the campaign to stop Brighton University closing the Hastings Campus. Though we are still quite grassroots we have received national support and help with setting up from people in Momentum Brighton, Edinburgh, London and now Thanet.

Our next meeting will be on the 23 of May at 7 pm at the Isabel Blackman Centre in Winding Street in the Old Town, when we will have Labour activist, Jacqueline Walker coming to speak to us about her experience in setting up Momentum in Thanet.

There is much talk of a new politics. How would you describe the ‘new politics’?

Some may think of the new politics as old politics. The ideas of socialism in this country are thought of as being old fashioned. But is it old fashioned to want fairness and equality? Some people view re-nationalisation as regressive, but look at the railways. My brother-in-law has to travel to work in the city every weekday and pays over £5,000 a year for a season ticket and has to swap services, be on trains without guards, and suffer delays in the service. If we re-nationalise, we can look at the best service in Britain and attempt to emulate that for the entire network. Not like British Rail of old, but a new people’s service which encourages people to use our trains and provide an unbeatable travel fair which has not been set by uncontrolled competition.

For Momentum the new politics is committed to:

  • Redistribute wealth and power from the few to the many
  • Put people and planet before profit and narrow corporate interests
  • End discrimination, advantage and privilege based on class
  • Target growth not austerity, invest to create tomorrow’s jobs and reverse privatisation of railways, the energy sector and public services
  • Provide protection at work and strong collective bargaining to stamp out workplace injustice
  • Ensure decent homes for all in public and private sectors through a big house building programme and rent controls
  • Support workers and their trade unions defending the interests of their members, families and communities
  • End discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or age

Jeremy Corbyn has won the hearts and minds of many enthusiastic young people. How do you intend to secure their ongoing engagement and commitment?

We will be publicising Momentum and the new politics around colleges and freshers’ fairs and open days and hope to engage with young people there. We are very proud of our young base and all the work they are doing everyday at their keyboards, getting into politics, debating with friends and publicising stories around socialism, a movement which had not been so prominent in their lives until now.

The way people engage with politics nowadays is varied. Some of us like to go out on the streets and protest, and equally successful are the people spreading the message online and hearing news that is not publicised in mainstream media. This year’s Labour conference is going to be exciting as we have so many new young members and this conference will be the first in many years where members will have an opportunity to create their own manifesto, a manifesto of the people if you will.

For readers who may be interested in finding out more about Momentum or becoming involved themselves, what resources and links would you recommend?

The following links provide some further information about Momentum and explain how to become a member if interested.

www.peoplesmomentum.co.uk

Momentum Hastings news, listings and events can be found at:

www.facebook.com/momentumhgs

www.twitter.com/momentumhgs

Note: Text of original Clause Four as drafted by Sidney Webb (early British socialist, economist & reformer) in November 1917 and adopted by the Labour Party in 1918.

“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

In 1995 Tony Blair won a controversial vote to amend Clause Four of the Labour Party constitution, thus marking the beginning of New Labour and the ending of the party’s commitment to mass nationalisation and workers control of industries and services.

All images provided by Tariq Persuad Parkes.

SOS

Posted 12:33 Tuesday, May 10, 2016 In: SOS

1 Comment

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  1. Zelly Restorick

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    Zelly Restorick

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Wednesday, May 11, 2016 @ 16:12

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