Around the web

Positive contrast: Phil Hamilton looks at the Australian Socialist Alliance

The May 10 conference held in London decided to keep the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales as a stunted electoral front for the Socialist Workers Party. How this contrasts with the steps toward a new workers’ party made by the comrades of the Australian SA, who held their AGM at the same time. Given the momentum the project to break the sect mould has gathered down under, it will be interesting to see if this holds up online.

Logging on, we are greeted with a compact website. The SA logo occupies the top left corner. Embodying the different political strands the organisation seeks to attract, the S and the A are purple and green respectively (presumably representing feminism and environmentalist concerns), while a red star sits atop the first ‘i’ in ‘Socialist’. This inclusive design seems to inform the site’s aesthetic: the text is green, and the only home page photo features a group of young women. The left-hand side bar and navigation icons provide links to a number of SA sources (eagle-eyed comrades will note a passing resemblance between these icons and those on the English and Wales SA website).

The first item that invites viewing is ‘Want to know what the SA stands for?’ - a pithy statement about the SA’s origins, its conception of socialism, and the organisation itself. Needless to say, the piece is fully hyperlinked to other relevant parts of the site, making for easy navigation.

Moving to the side bar, first up is ‘Media releases’, a small selection of recent press statements. Though they are few, this compares favourably to the one release put out by the SA in England this year. ‘Past elections’ carries campaigning statements, candidate details and platform positions. Where actual results are concerned, this section is inconsistent. As one would expect, the full results from the 2001 federal elections are there, but the March 22 New South Wales state election results are yet to be uploaded.

The ‘Alliance platform’ is the statement adopted by the SA’s founding conference, and does not qualitatively differ from our own People before profit manifesto. ‘Documents and publications’ provides a nice contrast to the paucity of England and Wales SA publications. Here we have archives of SA discussion bulletins, documents, SA broadsheet, and open letters. Of the latter, the open letter to the Progressive Labor Party is a particularly interesting example of political openness when approaching other organisations (John Rees take note). ‘Founding organisations’ lists the websites of the eight affiliated groups and short statements supporting their participation. Finally ‘founding conference’ carries documents and alliance affiliate reports.

Unfortunately the lead item on the main page conveys a dated feel. It invites viewers to the 2nd Conference … that took place on May 10-11. This means no reports or statements of any kind - comrades wanting information will have to turn to the website of the Democratic Socialist Party (the chief SA affiliate) or the Weekly Worker for relevant reports. The invitation to join May Day protests does little to make amends, though paradoxically the events calendar it links to is fully up to date.

One interesting feature of the site is that it doubles up as an anti-war resource. The anti-war page features articles, links, online petitions, and campaigning materials, giving the impression that the SA campaigned against the war as the SA. What a contrast to the SWP’s dumping of the SA so it could scoop up a few recruits from the anti-war movement in Britain.

The icon boxes allow us to join, contact and donate to the SA online (it is surprising that so many left websites avoid incorporating the latter feature). The ‘Events’ icon is a regularly updated calendar of SA-specific activities such as branch and public meetings. The ‘Discussion’ page does not have a parallel on the site of the England and Wales SA. Available here are discussion pieces by ‘groupies’ and ‘indies’ representing all shades of SA political opinion and reflect the internal debates around the future direction of the organisation. Comrades familiar with the SA here will be surprised to see the International Socialist Organisation (the SWP’s Australian franchise) fully engage in debate - even to the extent of discussing these issues in its version of Socialist Worker and - horror of horrors - printing material from other SA affiliates!

This website offers an honest picture of the SA and serves the organisation well by doing so. Comrades responsible for the SA online in England and Wales could do worse than look over this site for inspiration.