I have just joined the Labour Party, and Momentum, because Tom Watson said that no anti-war protester, no Trotskyist, no entryist should be there. I joined, despite my hatred of what the Labour Party has done to Scotland, despite the wounds of the war in Iraq and the bombing of Syria, because I will not let any Blairite tell me who a member of the Labour Party should be, and what she should believe.
I join in Plymouth, which, with Dundee, was one of the two cities where the trade union movement founded the Labour Party. They were seen then as the dregs of society, as the sympathisers with violent insurrection, just as the supporters of Momentum are called by some today. I join as one of those dregs: an out sex worker, a contributing editor of Salvage, a beautiful quarterly magazine that comes from those of us who stand in the rubble of a hard left whose inflexible dogmatism has brought it down. I join as part of a movement led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose newfound power has shown the world the strength behind his implacable gentleness, because his supporters have made room for me and for the most marginalised in society, those who the Blairites have left behind.
I join as a writer who writes about politics as a sex worker; although the Labour Representation Committee led by John McDonnell has long campaigned for the full decriminalisation of sex work, and Jeremy Corbyn has long supported it, Momentum’s size and strength means that I finally have the confidence that I can participate fully in the party, and that while I might encounter whorephobia, I will not stand it, and people will have my back.
I have been a Trotskyist since I was sixteen years old, and I join the Labour Party not because of its leader, but because of the movement that put him there, and precisely because of Momentum: because it is the realisation of the wildest, dearest hope of those who love justice, that ordinary people in their many thousands are walking into a party that has done nothing to welcome them, to work within it and to change it. Along with millions across the world I welcomed the anti-austerity coalition Syriza in its January victory at the Greek polls, and cheered at Greek voters’ resounding OXI, their “No” to Europe’s austerity plan in a summer referendum. Along with them, I was heartbroken at prime minister Tsipras’ capitulation to the pressure of the European Central Bank. I hope that here in Britain, Momentum can help Labour become itself again, a party of the dispossessed, standing without compromise against war and austerity. I join not to tear down the British state, but because I believe that there is now room for me, an avowed socialist, in its ranks.
I’m joining Labour ready to knock on doors. The Oldham result shows that the frank, raw politics of social democracy resonates with voters; although some say that the result was in spite of what Corbyn stands for, how can it be anything else but because of it, when the newspapers have been nothing but Corbyn, for and against, for months? The voters no longer sit quietly at home and at work, discussing politics in their private spaces and community groups. It is commonplace now to be a member of a Facebook group with hundreds and thousands of members, where the anguished reports of Syrians devastated by bombing and their brutal dictatorship, or the pleas of refugees huddled in Calais, can take centre stage as easily as those of a politician. Though they are raucous, their members are a powerhouse of change, debate and organisation, and they bring aid to the refugees, organise protests against war, and get many, many votes out for a Labour Party that should be gasping for them after the disaster of May’s general election.
Tom Watson, I am a blogger, an antiwar protester, a Labour Party member and a Momentum member. These are my words, and they are not the vile abuse with which you smear us. These are the words I write as a promise to myself, a testament for the new year: that I will stick to my guns and support the Labour Party, filled with a hope that has brought me back into organised, mainstream politics after five years. Words like these, on the lips of the thousands of new members, are manna to a party that has struggled to answer the well-justified disillusionment of many voters. You should welcome a group filled with a fire that motivates us to action. You should welcome me, and those who share my hope in Momentum. It is only we who can save you, and who can help you win.