Insular bubble

Around the web: Socialist Party

In a polemical missive, Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe writes: "It is possible to visit websites and journals of organisations that would differ with us but to still find something fresh. This cannot be said of the Grant/Woods website which, given its ponderous academic tone, is of no attraction to younger workers in particular, who were looking for a fighting socialist lead"� (Militant's real history SP website). If we use comrade Taaffe's views as a guide through the labyrinthine assemblage of pages that make up his organisation's own site, one cannot fail to be impressed by the attempt of the SP's webmaster to live up to the standards set by their general secretary. In contrast to the amateurish offering from the Socialist Workers Party (see Weekly Worker December 19), the SP has clearly grasped that a well designed and comprehensive website can reflect very favourably upon an organisation. Upon entering the homepage, this writer was struck by how well the text and the photos came together. The white backgrounds and pastel shades used in the design make for a site that avoids the hideous colour clash that plagues the SWP offering. The webmaster also wisely chose to include a large number of links to a variety of SP resources, meaning that the chore of clicking through endless pages to find an item that particularly interests you is thankfully avoided. This high standard is carried over to the online edition of Socialism Today. The archives run from the present back to September 1998, with more recent issues presented alongside the cover page. Most importantly the ST archive is open to the web-browsing public. Furthermore extracts and complete editions of SP publications and Marxist classics are readily available. Perhaps the only real let-down is the online version of The Socialist. All we are presented with is a stripped down text version of the principal articles of each issue and the option to download a pdf version on the paper is not given. All in all, though, the website is a comprehensive resource that provides 'officially sanctioned' information on all aspects of the SP's beliefs and activities. Yet herein lies its chief weakness. Despite the many links featured on the homepage, features such as 'Frequently asked questions', etc, nearly every one links to either a page of one of the Socialist Party's front organisations, or to another section of the website. For example, the links available at the 'Socialist students' site are International Socialist Resistance, No to War, Socialist Women, Save Free Education and a couple of university branches, while the NUS link took me not to its website but an article on the campaign for a fighting students' union! Ditto for the European Social Forum. I did spend a couple of hours navigating the site in the hope for a link out of the SP's cyber bubble and found just one on the central site - to the Marxists Internet Archive. However, the comrades who maintain the SP's southern region website are a little more adventurous: they link Show Racism the Red Card, Searchlight, and the Cameroonian Asylum-Seekers Defence Campaign! There really is no excuse for this. The only leftwing organisations mentioned in the SP's online articles are the Scottish Socialist Party, Socialist Alliance and SWP, yet the opportunity to verify at first hand that the SP's representations of their views are accurate and its criticisms valid is not provided. Clearly the webmaster does not want visitors finding "something fresh"� on the websites of "organisations that would differ"� with the SP - be they other left groups, unions or other campaigning bodies. I guess it is unsurprising that the self-contained cyberspace bubble the SP offers is an online reflection of the depressingly insular and sectarian antics of the organisation in real life. Phil Hamilton