Functional at best

Around the web: Socialist Workers Party

The Socialist Workers Party is built around the distribution of Socialist Worker. So comrades encountering the SWP's website will not be surprised to see the paper take centre stage. Like the electronic version of the Weekly Worker, Socialist Worker online is available in plain text or pdf format. Characteristically, the SW web page carries over the fine tradition from the print edition that cited every copy of the paper sold on demos, or on Saturday mornings down the local high street. When this writer visited, the web page proudly announced that I was the 351,805th hit on SW online. Unsurprisingly other SWP publications are heavily featured. As with SW, archives are available for both Socialist Review and International Socialism. Unfortunately these are purposely incomplete. The SR archive, for example, starts from April 2002 and works back. Other than the current issue, the last eight months are completely unrepresented. Secondly, the online editions of SR and ISJ only feature selected articles. It is no accident that subscription details are prominently displayed. It is a pity that this access is prevented, considering that many groups, including the CPGB, allow current publications to appear online at no cost to the internet-travelling public. This is especially useful for comrades operating in other countries where the post can take a week or more to get through. Also featured are links to other International Socialist Tendency groupings, upcoming demonstrations and activities, details of the SWP's Marxist Forum public discussion meetings, SW Student Society, and Bookmarks, the organisation's bookshop. One does get the impression that the link to the Socialist Alliance website is included only for appearance sake. After declaring the SWP's membership of the SA, the access to the link goes on to say that Hackney SA is standing Paul Foot as its candidate for mayor. Perhaps someone at the party office ought to tell the webmaster that the votes have long since been counted. The firefighters' dispute features quite prominently, being situated immediately below the SW feature. Downloadable leaflets, collection sheets and placard covers are available, though it appears that the newly launched rank and file paper, Red Watch, is yet to be included. Mind you, Red Watch has nothing to do with the SWP, of course - or so the Socialist Worker platform has informed the Scottish Socialist Party. Talking of the SSP, an SW solidarity placard displayed on the site utilises the SSP's famous logo of Blair morphing into Thatcher, much to the chagrin of the comrade who came up with it in the first place. Aesthetically, you would be hard pressed to describe the website as slickly produced. The excellent production values that inform the layout of every print edition are completely lacking in the presentation of the SWP online. 'Functional' is probably the best word to describe it. But for communists the chief criteria of a socialist website must be content and, most importantly, the ability to act as an online resource for the workers' movement. The SWP website just manages to redeem itself on this count. Despite not even providing a comprehensive archive of its own material, it does contain links to a wide variety of campaigning organisations outside of its own 'united fronts'. These include anti-fascist and anti-deportation campaigns, solidarity groups, liberal campaigning bodies like Jubilee 2000, trades unions, and European Social Forum links. But, apart from the IST, SA, SSP and Welsh Socialist Alliance, there are no links to other left groups, such as the SWP's alliance partners. In sum, it is hard to imagine that the SWP would attract many friends through its website. Since, however, we are living through "the most exciting times for socialists since the early 1970s"� (SWP website About the Socialist Workers Party), and with the current emphasis on building the "revolutionary party"�, perhaps we will soon see a thorough-going renovation of its online presence. Phil Hamilton