John McDonnell has called on Labour members to join Momentum on its first direct action campaign, as a senior organiser for the group called it a move from party politics to movement politics.
Forty local Momentum groups across England and Wales, from Exeter to Redcar, will take action outside branches of Barclays on Saturday to raise awareness of the bank’s financing of fossil fuel companies.
Last week, a report by BankTrack revealed that Barclays provides more funding for fossil fuel projects than any other bank in Europe, lending $85bn to companies involved in fossil fuels between 2016 and 2018.
“This campaign is a vital, urgent initiative and I encourage all Labour members to join Momentum and take action on Saturday,” the shadow chancellor said. “Climate breakdown isn’t caused by ordinary people. It’s the fault of bankers who plough billions of dollars into the fossil fuel companies.
“Governments cannot stand by while the finance sector profits from destroying the planet while we’re left with environmental catastrophe and extortionate energy bills.”
It is the first direct action campaign organised by Momentum, which was established in 2015 to support the left’s resurgence in Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent to the party leadership. McDonnell’s backing showed Labour was now “supportive of a different kind of campaigning”, said Laura Parker, Momentum’s national coordinator.
Parker said that while the campaign was a new tactic for Momentum, it was “completely consistent with the way that we’ve said that we want to do politics, which is finding interesting ways of engaging people directly with issues”.
She said: “This is the way forward, this is the massive difference between the Labour party and any other political party in Britain. The Tories couldn’t do this if they spent the next 12 months trying to organise it.
“This is too big to be left to narrow party politics. But there is a massive role for the Labour party to play as the biggest progressive political force probably not just in the UK, but really in western Europe.”
The action is inspired by a wave of environmental campaigning over the past few months, most recently the school climate strikes, which brought thousands of young people on to the streets.
It is likely to be less provocative than Extinction Rebellion protests, when dozens were arrested for spraypainting government departments and locking themselves together to block streets, Parker insisted.
“We are a pro-worker, pro-union organisation so the one thing I’m absolutely certain about is that everybody is going to be totally respectful of all the staff that work in the banks – these are our comrades,” she said.
“We’ve got it in for the forces of global capital, not for the nice woman who works in Barclays in Redcar.”