Real life inertia

Around the web: International Socialist Group

Given the near invisibility of the International Socialist Group in real life, I was pleasantly surprised that this was not replicated online. By no means is it encyclopaedic, but neither is it just a single page with a postal address, as I had feared. Like most other left websites, the main page has a number of features. These are replicated in the links bar at the top of the page, beneath the ISG legend and alongside a fetching photo of Trotsky. The first feature, 'What is the ISG?', provides further links to theory (an article entitled 'Revolutionary Marxism for the 21st century - a short piece that briefly covers the Russian revolution and capitalism today), practice (again a general piece on the kinds of activities the ISG endorses), the Fourth International (a potted history and list of current achievements), and links to pamphlets and books, International Viewpoint and the group's former paper, Socialist Outlook. One gets the impression that this area has not been updated for some time. The article on practice, for example, speaks of Ken Livingstone's ejection from Labour as if it had happened last week, and the comrades seem to think that they are still involved in the production of SO. Thankfully confusion is avoided because the next prominent item is for Socialist Resistance, the new paper collaboratively produced with the Socialist Solidarity Network. There are two links here. The first is to the separate SR website, and the second is an article about the rationale behind the joint venture (ie, the fight for a new workers' party based around the still fashionable models of the Scottish Socialist Party and Rifondazione Comunista). The news and analysis section is a bit of a strange beast. I was greeted with a large photo of the magnificent February 15 demo in London, yet the FI's European section's statement begins: "Simultaneous demonstrations are taking place on February 15"� (my emphasis). Given that more than two weeks had passed since the event, you would at least expect a more up-to-date item that would complement the photo. The rest of the 'news' has a decidedly dated character too. The next item leads with the French presidential elections in April 2002 with statements and analysis of the 1.2 million votes for Olivier Besancenot of the Ligue Communiste R�volutionnaire (the French FI franchise), and an article on the significance of Le Pen's breakthrough. The rest range over issues, from September 11 to the fuel protest in Britain the previous year. Usefully a couple of discussion documents on the Socialist Alliance are included here. At least the 'What's on' feature is up to date, listing three public meetings taking place in London in the first week in March. But the webmaster does not have to worry about updating SO any more. The last issue (May-June 2002) is available as a text version, and a bit of navigating around the page turns up a Labournet-hosted archive that runs back to November 1997. Because of the hosting arrangements, the differing presentation does tend to clash unnecessarily. Furthermore we are still invited to subscribe to the defunct SO. The International Viewpoint page also comes with its own (garish) design. Thankfully the content makes up for the presentation. Every magazine from October 2000 is available in text versions, and articles are arranged by country and theme (for example, women and youth). Unfortunately at the time of writing the latest issue is not available apart from the contents page. The inclusion of a short archive of the United Secretariat's late guru, Ernest Mandel, is quite a nice touch. But the biggest omission is a links page. The nearest thing to it is a page dedicated to the Socialist Alliance. A link to the SA site is there, but that is it. The page comprises 14 small articles on issues varying from 'Why I joined the ISG' to the group's candidates selected by the alliance to fight last year's general election. The results for ISG candidates are given but that is as far as it goes. Like so many others, this page is firmly stuck in the past. The ISG has virtually nothing to say on the SA since the general election, with no discussion of the SA's current impasse. The website is not bad, but it is not great either. I guess it is fair to say that the ISG, not known for being the most dynamic of left groups, has an internet presence that fully reflects its real life inertia. Phil Hamilton