Debating the next move

To compliment the last feature on alternative news sources (Weekly Worker April 10), this week we will be dipping into a small selection of key progressive discussion lists. There are a number of important announcement lists that deserve to be consulted. www.groups.yahoo.com/group/anti-war-news, www.groups.yahoo.com/group/communist-internet, and www.groups.yahoo.com/group/peoples_war carry a good deal of reports from domestic and international media sources. The latter two being Stalinist-inspired lists, it is understandable that statements make up a good proportion of posts from various communist parties (ruling or otherwise) and their 'official' news agencies. Nonetheless they do have the virtue of presenting another perspective on the Iraq conflict. The Scottish Socialist Party's announcement list (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/ssp-notice-board) is also a valuable port of call. Most posts here are forwarded articles from the bourgeois press (particularly The Guardian), or from other alternative news sites. Obviously the war is heavily featured, but in 'normal' times domestic class struggle issues predominate "“ albeit with a Scottish twist. One of the quirkiest but most useful lists around is www.groups.yahoo.com/group/leftist_trainspotters. Dedicated to "playfully sectological, good-humouredly sectarian" discussion, the raison d'etre of the list is to "trainspot" the left - be it on demonstrations, elections, the internet, the media, chance encounters down the local supermarket, and amusing anecdotes. With the war on Iraq, the list has come into its own for background information on the Ba'ath movement, exile groups, Iraqi communists (and the circulation of their material). Given the 'spotting' opportunities of anti-war demonstrations, there has been a flurry of eyewitness reports from around the globe. However, the remit of this list does not cover (in theory at least) debate and discussion beyond spotting related information exchange. Returning once again to Urban 75 (Weekly Worker April 3), the boards area of the site has discussion threads on nearly every subject under the sun. Of particular interest to anti-war activists will be the section given over to the war in Iraq. In keeping with the other forums, U75 participants discuss all aspects of the imperialist attack. To give a general flavour of what is on offer, there are threads on the Bush-Blair strategy, the Project for a New American Century, resistance, and media coverage. There is even a light hearted thread on the Goebbelsian Iraqi minister for information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, carrying a near-complete list of "Comical Ali's" famous empty boasts. For anti-war discussion, U75 is probably unbeatable. Red Pepper's official discussion list at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/redpepperdebate has developed something of a niche for itself in the course of the war. Ordinarily a general left discussion list dominated by debates around the European Union and more theoretical issues, recent threads have featured some high-level discussion on some of the US motives behind the war. The thesis that the war is partly about the supremacy of the dollar over the euro (see www.atrueword.com/index.php/article/articleprint/49/-1/1) has generated a lot of interest, and does itself deserve wide consideration. The (infamous) UK Left Network list (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/uk_left_network) tends to have a wider purview than that of Redpepper Debate, serving as both a place for debate and information exchange. Despite periodic bouts of bad tempered point scoring, political debate is frequently of a high standard. Perhaps the dominant theme to have emerged in the three years of its existence is the problem of independent working class politics in Britain, and this does colour a great deal of the contributions. For instance debates around the tasks of communists in both Iraq and imperialist countries, the character of Labour as a bourgeois workers party, elections, the SSP, and Socialist Alliance tend to be framed by the question: 'what do we do now?'. The UKLN is certainly an essential list to be on, though comrades thinking of subscribing should be prepared for heavy email traffic. This is by no means an exhaustive tour of online leftist communities and there have been an important number of omissions (such as Red Action's bulletin board, and the SSP and SA debating lists). Discussion in cyberspace should be no substitute for action, but it can (and does) compliment our political practice by providing a platform for leftists to thrash out important issues and allow for rapid dissemination of information. Communists and revolutionary socialists could do worse than checking these important forums out. Phil Hamilton