Thousands turn out to hear Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Liverpool on Augist 1.
If you watch footage of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn out and about — whether addressing rallies from fire engines, squeezing through scrums of reporters or posing with large vegetables — you'll probably spot some of the same faces nearby.
Marshajane Thompson is regularly part of the entourage of the veteran socialist politician — who is facing a leadership challenge from corporate media-backed ex-corporate lobbyist Owen Smith. Thompson was at the heart of Corbyn's successful campaign for the Labour leadership last year — and has played a big role in its evolution into the Momentum movement.
Momentum is a grassroots group that aims to mobilise support for Corbyn's socialist and radical democratic platform, which has organised big rallies and meetings to defend Corbyn from attacks by right-wing Labour MPs.
But how did Thompson get involved in the first place? She said that Shadow Chancellor and key Corbyn ally John McDonnell, who headed Corbyn's campaign last year, “has been a comrade since 2006 — I worked on his own Labour leadership campaign in 2007 — asked me to be the London organiser and soon after I was appointed joint social media co-ordinator.”
Thompson said: “We all knew that social media was going to be really important for the campaign and it's now widely recognised that it was one of the key reasons for Jeremy's stunning success — both by mobilising support quickly and communicating a positive message directly to millions of people.”
The JezWeCan movement took off instantly, catching almost everybody by surprise. Support for Corbyn was soon being measured in unheard of numbers.
“Over 100,000 supporters liked the Jeremy4Leader Facebook page during the campaign and we had a reach of over five million,” Thompson recounted.
“Since then, our team has continued running the JeremyCorbyn4PM accounts on Twitter and Facebook as a grassroots social media campaign — and we now have 200,000 followers and a reach of 14 million.”
This will come in useful while Corbyn defends his leadership over the next two months. And, once again, Thompson will be in the thick of it as the Corbyn campaign's “head of events”, which means “I'll be co-ordinating rallies up and down the country”.
Despite not being a public figure, Thompson has attracted the right-wing media's attention. On July 23, the Daily Mail “profiled” the activists accompanying Corbyn at a campaign event — charmingly headlining them his “gaggle of besotted groupies.”
Thompson hit back: “The article was a shameful attack — sexualising a group of campaigning women, picking over our appearance and dismissing all of our political achievements.
“This kind of gutter journalism is designed to ridicule all women who take a stand and adds to the atmosphere of sexist bullying that leads to women disengaging in politics.
“Of course people should be held to account, but what resources do these volunteers have to respond with? It's designed to intimidate and slander and is particularly hard for young activists new to the movement.”
Shamefully, the paper also repeated discredited claims that Thompson has a “conviction for election fraud,” first made by disgraced journalist and ex-Boris Johnson lackey Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph in February.
Thompson patiently explains: “I have written to every paper that has inaccurately reported this but they have so far refused to withdraw the false claims and in fact keep repeating them.”
These media manipulations seem to be a key part of the campaign against Corbyn's leadership.
Momentum, of which Thompson is on the national committee, is under constant attack by MPs and the media who try to dishonestly portray it as an aggressive army of abusive thugs. I ask her why so much effort has gone into smearing this group.
“I've been an active member of Momentum since its inception and it has inspired thousands of people to get involved in politics for the first time and re-engaged others.
“This follows years of neglect, with the main political parties talking to each other and ignoring the vast majority of the country. People finally feel like there's a point to becoming politically active.
“Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum are empowering people, which is why so much effort has gone into smearing us. We are a threat to the status quo and the belief held by a narrow political elite at the top that it is their unquestionable right to hold power.”
Shedding light on why many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party have reacted so badly to Corbyn's election victory, she pointed out: “For years, some MPs just did whatever they liked in Westminster, but now they are being held to account by their constituents and are having to justify their actions.
“Whenever people are a threat to the Establishment and the cosy relationship they have with big business, we get smeared as a rabble, dogs and the like, but those smear attempts have failed because instead our movement is just getting stronger.
“Jeremy's going to win this contest with an even bigger mandate and then we will carry on taking the fight to the Tories.”
[Abridged from Morning Star Online.]