Around the web: Active and dynamic?

Phil Hamilton takes a look at the web presence of the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain

This weekend sees the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain hold its own version of Communist University, having been “refounded” for the fresh generation of workers being drawn to politics. It is therefore unsurprising to see the website dominated by the event and the outline programme lists an array of speakers drawn from the stable of ‘official communism’, together with union bureaucrats, academics and peaceniks.

The ‘star draw’ has to be Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party. Speaking on the “imperialist agenda of global capitalist domination”, it will be interesting to see how he squares this with the SACP’s active support for the ANC’s capitulation to neoliberalism. It is also interesting that the SWP’s Lindsey German appears on the speakers list (in her capacity as the Stop the War Coalition chair, of course). The online presentation suggests this could be an interesting event. I just hope it lives up to its given theme: ‘Question everything’.

The other striking feature is the site header. The Communist Party of Britain legend occupies a minute space in the top left corner of the screen, almost as if it is afraid to be seen. The best part of the banner alternates between the Morning Star, Cardiff’s Rebecca Books, Glasgow’s Unity Books, CU, and a James Connolly Society pamphlet. On logging on, you could mistakenly think you were visiting the site of whichever of these happens to be showing, as opposed to the CPB’s.

Immediately beneath the sheepish logo is the ‘Our history’ link, which tells the CPB’s version of ‘official’ communism in Britain. ‘A short history of the Communist Party’ is an anaemic hack job that does little to shed light on the CPGB’s tortuous history. That said, it does show how the CPB is the party of the paper, rather than the Morning Star being the paper of the party. The Harry Pollitt feature is taken from the hagiographical obituary that appeared in the Daily Worker. ‘The battle of Cable Street’ offers contemporary accounts from the bourgeois and communist press, (Searchlight-sourced) interviews with anti-fascist participants, and profiles of the “players” involved. Given that the page is still under construction, more material is likely to appear, but whether it will be of better quality remains to be seen.

Returning to the home page and scrolling down the screen, we are treated to a series of press releases, articles (culled from the Morning Star) and political reports. It seems that items are added on a regular basis, and the frequency of party media releases gives the (false) impression of an active and dynamic organisation. Each item has its own hits counter as well as print-out and forwarding facilities. The right-hand side bar carries older articles with an archive going back to February.

Turning to the navigation menu, the first up is ‘About us’ - a relatively brief guide to the CPB, littered with the clichés of British ‘official’ communism, such as “anti-monopoly alliance”, British road to socialism, “alternative economic and political strategy”, etc. It goes into some depth about internal democracy (determined to exorcise Stalin’s ghost, are we?), and emphasises how cheap it is to “join the party”. ‘Propaganda’ is a list of pamphlets and publications available to buy. Unfortunately, out of the two dozen or so on offer only one A5 leaflet can be viewed online - not even the tri-annual Communist Review can be read here.

‘Congress’ offers general secretary Robert Griffith’s political report and resolutions passed at the June 2002 gathering. Though there are articles listed to act as congress primers, there is no report on the debates and arguments: not even an anodyne postage-stamp-sized piece. ‘Stories’ is a redundant link, taking us back to the home page, while ‘International’ is a short, chest-beating article on the CPB’s diplomatic relations with other ‘official communists’ around the world. ‘Labour movement’ is a series of themed articles and ‘Theory and discussion’ is a misnamed introduction to Marxism without any debating facilities. Bringing up the rear is an online edition of the BRS progarmme.

The resources section offers downloads, a site search engine, and more news archives. The links section is not particularly inspired, listing current and former ‘official communist’ parties, endorsed leftwing media and various solidarity campaigns. And finally at the bottom of the navigation bar is a prominent Morning Star link.

The website is by no means the worst I have seen, but is in need of a lot of work. The CPB may be the party of the Morning Star, but at present there is very little danger that the organisation will become the party of the website.