Sheffield Left – Press Release

Press Release

A new political home for Sheffield socialists

Sheffield Left launched on May 1st, International Worker’s Day, as a new political home for those who want to pursue socialist answers to the problems created by capitalism.

It replaces Sheffield Labour Left that has been organising within the Labour Party locally since 2017.  Sheffield Left recognises that, while some will still seek socialism through the Labour Party, for many that is no longer a political solution.

Convenor Lee Rock commented:

“Following the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn and others in the leadership of the Labour Party, for many people who share the ideal of solidarity with the working class there is no obvious political home in the current political landscape.

“Sheffield Left offers that home and looks to support those in struggle – locally in Sheffield , nationally against the Tories and internationally in places such as Palestine.

“We support the principle of public ownership and control over private profit which was encapsulated in the policies presented by Corbyn in his time as Labour leader.

“This is not a Corbyn fan club looking to turn back the clock but a progressive banner for those wanting, as a minimum, a living wage for workers such as those in the gig economy, fair rents on housing and a welfare system to help those least able to help themselves.”

Sheffield Left is seeking to support any group in Sheffield in conflict with employers, landlords or government exploiting their elite position of power putting profit before people.

Note to editors:

What we stand for

Sheffield left is a socialist group that seeks the radical transformation of society.  We are anti-capitalists who recognise the primacy of the class struggle to bring about the change necessary for humans to live a free and fulfilling life.

We are in favour of an equal society based on need and not on profit, and therefore oppose the present oppressive aspects inherent in capitalism of racism, sexism and all other forms of discrimination and oppression.

We believe in collective ownership and democratic control of the means of production, and of all essential services e.g. health, utilities, transport.

We support radical transformative policies to combat the climate emergency and create a fairer, greener, socialist society.

We are anti-imperialists supporting the struggles of progressive organisations opposing imperialism and settler-colonialism.

We are internationalists and support our sisters and brothers across the planet who are fighting for a better, socialist, world.

We recognise the importance of an organised working class and support workers joining and transforming their trade unions into democratic organisations of the working class.

We believe in the importance of open public debate of socialist ideas. 

We support the idea of a mass democratic socialist party, which allows the formation of temporary or permanent internal tendencies and factions, and we will work towards achieving that.

New members are welcome who share such a vision. Please contact the convenor, Lee Rock:

lee.rock@live.co.uk or through our facebook group or our website.

FB – https://www.facebook.com/SheffieldLabourLeft

Online – http://www.sheffieldlabourleft.org

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Sheffield Left Statement on Police Violence at Sheffield Demonstration

Sheffield Left participated in, and spoke at, the demonstration of solidarity with the Kurdish people, who have suffered political repression and military atrocities at the hands of the Turkish state for many decades, with Turkey launching a new wave of violence on the 17th of April.


This peaceful demonstration was forcibly disrupted by South Yorkshire Police, knocking protestors to the ground and using pepper-spray. The British state has provided enormous funds to Turkey to block refugees fleeing, and as a member of NATO provides military assistance and political support to the slaughter of Kurds. Now it is preventing the Kurds and the supporters of their cause from assembling, peacefully, in Sheffield.


Sheffield Left condemns the actions of the Police, and echoes the call of SYMAAG’s and STUC for an immediate investigation by the Chief Constable and Police Commissioner into the tactics and violence of the South Yorkshire police.


However, this behaviour is not unusual for South Yorkshire Police, which has a long and shameful history of violence against the working-class.


We reiterate our support for the Kurds in fighting our class enemies abroad, and in their efforts to establish a democratic, socialist confederation.


In addition, we do not recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation. We see in their efforts, across nationalities and ethnicity, the building of a world that is free from the terrors of imperialism and balkanisation, free from clerical dictatorship, and free from the terrors of bourgeois exploitation of labour and land.


We will campaign for the liberty of the Kurds in any state which is oppressive, which includes the UK. The proscription of  the PKK must be reversed, and we join those campaigning to achieve that end.

Ecclesall Labour Party – A candidate lost and found

Ecclesall Labour Party membership during the Corbyn revival was well over 700 members but has now fallen back to around 500 members, of which about a dozen or so will attend a routine ward meeting. The numbers will perhaps be larger when both the Left and the Right rustle up their supporters for a showdown. But overall the lack of energy and commitment is tangible, as if some form of vampiric dulness is draining its life force. 

Like the rest of Hallam, it was once a Conservative heartland, represented by the slightly baffled looking and sounding ‘Knight of the Shire’ Sir John Osborn who was replaced by the Thatcherite pantomime villain Irvin Patnick, until the constituency was liberated by the Liberal Democrats in 1997. However, even Nick Clegg’s intense charisma was insufficient to save them from the taint of the ‘Coalition’ with the Tories and in 2017 Jared O’Mara became our first ever Labour MP. His selection reflected the benign neglect that the Party’s machine (nationally and regionally) has shown for the constituency and more especially the ward. O’Mara was pretty much the sum of all that could go wrong with the process; no politics, no experience and no skill set — together with a history that would have benefitted from some prior checking out. Nevertheless almost without official organisational support, he won on a wave of local left activists doing the ground work. In 2019 and for much the same reason, Olivia Blake, a careerist shrinking violet of a leftist persuasion so soft it could be used for marketing toilet tissue, retained the seat. 

As with the constituency, so the ward steadily drifted from being a conservative wasteland to a core part of the Liberal Democrat electoral strength, to which they held on to relentlessly as its strength in other parts of the city has ebbed and flowed. In the last local elections they received almost 3000 votes, with Labour just second, nosing slightly ahead of the Greens with just over 2000 votes each. 

The May 2022 elections remain to be conducted, but we in Labour do not have much to make us feel confident. Starmer’s dismal failure to capitalise on the Tories’ dreadful performance, the ineptness and timidity of the Sheffield Labour Councillors, in uneasy and clumsy coalition with the Greens, armed with a local manifesto bursting with a lack of commitment to anything, and the woeful legacy of the Tree debacle are not fertile ground to harvest an upswing. 

And so the Ward set out to find itself a new candidate for the 2022 local elections. Being such a no hoper of a Labour seat, Ecclesall finds itself traditionally at the end of the queue for choosing centrally approved candidates, but this year the pond was drained before Ecclesall could dip its beak — with one exception, Lee Rock – an openly committed hard left socialist activist, with a history of TU representation and campaigning for socialist causes, domestic and international, and inter alia, the convenor of Sheffield Labour Left. 

Left to its own devices the system should have allowed Lee to go forward and be selected by Ecclesall. For some reason though, it did not happen that way. The scheduled selection meeting in December 2021 was cancelled with no clear explanation and the reconvened meeting in February had mysteriously acquired two new approved candidates: one a soft leftist from elsewhere in the city and the other a hard rightist who had recently moved into the ward. Come the day of the meeting, Lee’s supporters had organised ourselves diligently. The target was to allow Lee to present a campaign manifesto of firm, ‘Corbynite’ flavour. The expectation was for Lee to be knocked out in the first round and for his votes to reluctantly transfer to the soft leftist in the second round. 

Lee’s presentation was first class: committed, coherent and combative. The soft left candidate was incoherent, unassertive and lacklustre. The hard rightist was inconsequential and unprepared, very much phoning in her presentation. 

Amazingly, Lee won a majority of the votes in the first round, later confirmed as 25 of 43 of the votes cast. Despite the chair–advised by his executive colleagues– refusing to announce the detailed results of the election, we understand that the hard rightist candidate managed only to attract 15% of the votes cast. The meeting was then drawn to a hurried and confused end. 

At the next meeting the hard right candidate submitted a motion that, while appearing to support Lee’s candidacy was actually a coded attack that sought to muzzle his campaigning stance and strap him to the Region’s lukewarm careerist mayoral candidate and give slavish support to Starmer. This was successfully amended to an unconditional vote of confidence in Lee and his policy stance. The exec/campaign team looked out of their Zoom windows a little non-plussed and sheepish. 

A few days later Lee received a letter from Labour HQ informing him he was facing expulsion on a trumped up inconsequential charge. A previous suspension and two other abortive attempts at disciplining him had failed humiliatingly for the apparatchiks. 

The subsequent ward meeting on the 14th of March was a strange affair, quorate only by the skin of its teeth. The Left had a good presence, and our arguments were supported by some of the unaligned members present. We knew that were we to try to submit a motion on the suspension it would be ruled out of order and we would fail to get a two-thirds majority for a vote of no confidence in the chair to overrule that decision. 

Instead we had what was an ostensibly comradely and informal discussion in which an agreement not to force the issue procedurally would be responded to by the Executive expressing the Ward’s unhappiness about the suspension of our candidate up the party organisation. We were also reassured by the unsuccessful right wing candidate that they had no intention of seeking the candidacy. 

And so having debriefed my Left comrades, I went to bed thinking something, however slight had been reached, that there had been some minor recognition that the bogus suspension of Lee was too much to take and that the democratic decision of the Ward was a sovereign one worth defending, even if only with a whimper. As usual in such cases I was clearly too trusting of the integrity of my Ecclesall comrades and I should, of course, have listened to my favourite historian’s dictum, ‘De omnibus dubitandum’. [Everything must be doubted] — a principle that is not disproved by current Labour Party behaviour. 

A few days later Lee received formal notification that he had been expelled from the Party. 

A constituency meeting was imminent. I submitted an emergency motion that endorsed the selection of Lee Rock, called on the constituency to protest his expulsion to regional office and beyond and refuse to campaign for an imposed candidate. This was ruled out of order by the chair, who also refused to take a challenge to his ruling. My only option was to move a more difficult vote of no confidence, again knowing we did not have the numbers to succeed–nevertheless we put on a good show losing by 29 votes to 35, with 2 abstentions. 25 members then left the meeting in disgust at the undemocratic nonsense we were being forced to endure. 

And then a few days later, all the apparent comradeliness, mutual understanding and agreement that had been present in the earlier ward meeting, melted into air and I was forced to face the real conditions of Ecclesall Labour Party; without any explanation, without any communication, formal or informal, without any comradely tip off or early warning, we received from the ward secretary a coldly worded formal invitation to a selection meeting at which we would be invited to select a candidate from a short list of one, which consisted of the very unsuccessful hard right candidate who had so clearly indicated at the previous ward meeting that they would not be seeking the candidacy. 

We did what we could. Facing us was a very quiet and undemonstrative ward chair and executive supporters. There was a number of faceless bureaucrats from the LCF, the constituency chair lurked about unannounced and a number of old right supporting members, who never otherwise show their faces, were present to do as they were told. I challenged the chair over his failure to act on his commitments from the previous meeting and was ruled out of order. I tried to move a vote of no confidence in the chair and was ruled out of order by one of the bureaucrats. Then it was announced that the motion to go to a vote to select (as set out in the agenda) was not necessary and should not be put — the logic being that if the candidate was not selected they would be imposed anyway. We protested this as best we were able, and again were left with no option but to remove ourselves, ‘en masse’ some ten of us (out of 24) from the fiasco. In our absence there was an unanimous vote in favour of the candidate. 

This afternoon I received through my letter box, a poster to put in my window and a very sparse leaflet from the new candidate asking for my support… 

Tim Plant, Sheffield Left & Ecclesall Labour Party

Hands off Ukraine!

Sheffield Labour Left Statement:

 

Hands off Ukraine!

Russian Troops out!

No to NATO expansion!

Solidarity with the Ukrainian and Russian working classes who are caught up in and resisting an imperialist war!

Sheffield Labour Left condemns President Putin’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine, unleashing terror, destruction and death on the people of that country.

Ukraine’s future should be determined by the will of its working people (to whom we extend our solidarity in this terrible situation) and not by two external, rival imperialist blocs.

The Russian working class is not our enemy, and we stand in solidarity with all those Russian citizens who have come out onto the streets to protest against their government’s military action and who are being suppressed by the agents of that same government, which claims to be waging this war in their name.

We reject NATO as an imperialist military bloc which does not bring peace, but protects and promotes the interests of US/UK/EU imperialist foreign policy in Europe and beyond.

As socialists in Britain, our main call and campaign, alongside opposing Putin’s War in Ukraine, should be for withdrawal from NATO as a necessary prerequisite for dismantling the British Imperialist state. At the same time we demand that our borders are open to Ukranian refugees fleeing this war, as they should be open to all refugees escaping conflict, poverty and/or oppression all over the world.  In addition we call for countries bordering this conflict to receive international aid in order to facilitate Ukrainian refugees safe passage through or sanctuary in those countries.

We also oppose any economic sanctions that have a detrimental effect on the working classes of Russia and Ukraine.

Our main enemy is at home, the only war worth fighting is a CLASS WAR!

No support for Western or Russian imperialism.

No support for USA/NATO or Putin.

Neither Washington nor Moscow.

For international socialism.

The main enemy is at home.

Solidarity with the working class in all countries.’

25/2/22

Lewis Dagnall for South Yorkshire Mayor

Sheffield Labour Left are supporting Lewis Dagnall to be the Labour candidate for South Yorkshire Mayor.

These are difficult times for the left in the Labour Party, and we need to have some vision of what a better society can be like.

As a collective of socialists in the Sheffield Labour Party, we believe that Lewis standing as the Labour candidate for mayor helps bring some of the vision required to challenge the shift to the right that is taking place on a political level.

We fully support his proposals to bring public transport back under public control, launch a programme of community wealth building initiatives and to work with trade unions and educators to retrain adults into the green economy sector. These policies combined would be an important and tangible gain for the working class in South Yorkshire.

We believe Lewis is the candidate that will use the mayoral powers to their fullest extent.

Lee Rock                      and      Martin Mayer
Convenor                                 Chair.
Sheffield Labour Left            Sheffield Labour Left

SLL statement:

Council Leader should apologise for picket line debacle 

Sheffield Labour Left (SLL) has called on Sheffield Council leader Terry Fox to apologise for crossing a picket line yesterday in direct contravention of the principles of the Labour and Trade Union movement. 

An SLL spokesperson stated ‘Solidarity with workers on strike is the first principle of the Labour and Trade Union movement and Councillor Fox, and those of his colleagues from the Labour Group who also crossed the picket line, should hang their heads in shame’. 

The UCU (University and College Union) are supporting around 50,000 staff at 58 universities across the UK who have a mandate to take industrial action over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Some members of Sheffield’s Labour Group used a side door of a university building to ‘avoid’ the picket and hold a Labour Group meeting. That meeting, subsequently voted not to cross the same picket line later in the day.

SLL believes there is no excuse or justification for crossing the UCU picket line, either by a side door or the front door, and that the Labour Group leadership should take responsibility for their mistaken actions.

A number of Labour councillors, to their credit, refused to enter the building.

Sheffield Labour Left believes that what is needed is a simple apology, an admission that they got it wrong and a commitment to ensure that Labour councillors do not cross picket lines in the future.

The SLL spokesperson added ‘Perhaps the donation of their councillor allowances for Wednesday to the UCU hardship fund might be a good starting point to any apology’.

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