Around the web: Ugly but Useful

Phil Hamilton takes a look at the No Sweat website

That the No Sweat campaigning group is a front operated by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is hardly news to veteran leftists, but, unlike the relationship the SWP has with its myriad of orbiting fronts, there appears to be no pretence of independence. At least that is what first impressions of the website suggest.

Like the AWL page proper (see Weekly Worker February 27) the site architecture is powered by PHP-Nuke, a piece of free, downloadable software. Because of this, the design parameters are extremely limited, overly text-based and very distinctive - in an ugly and crude kind of way. That said, the website is packed with information and links, organised into three columns.

Moving left to right, the first is given over to No Sweat-related information, such as branch lists, organising in unions, ad-busting and the option to join the mailing list. It is the first batch of links grouped in this section that are the most interesting. ‘Where we stand’ outlines what No Sweat is, what it is against, the demands it pursues and the allies it looks towards (specifically “the anti-capitalist protest movements and to the international workers’ movement”). ‘How to get involved’ provides a postal address for membership applications, and model resolutions to pass at union branches. ‘All about No Sweat’ repeats the previous two articles and includes statements about the 2002 Commonwealth Games. ‘Questions and answers’ provides reasoning behind favoured anti-capitalist tactics such as consumer boycotts, ethical shopping, etc. ‘No Sweat teachers’ provides lesson plans for sympathetic teachers, and the student section provides similarly geared resources. ‘Reviews’ takes us through some key texts of anti-capitalist commentary, and finally ‘Links’ lists 101 websites. Interestingly under ‘anarchists, socialists and campaigning groups’ anarchists predominate alongside anti-cap chameleons Workers Power and, of course, the AWL itself.

The central portion is devoted to specific news items, events and adverts. For instance, current features range over Nike chief executive Phil Knight, Indonesian factory conditions, the recent G8 meeting in Geneva and No Sweat merchandise, to name but four. As with the AWL site, each piece can be replied to without having to go through a tortuous membership process, resulting in a structure far more democratic than its Globalise Resistance online rival (actually, the GR website has been overhauled since the last visit, becoming slightly more transparent than what went before - see Weekly Worker March 13).

The final column is split into a further three areas. First up is the poll section, allowing site browsers to vote on various topics, and read No Sweat articles relevant to the polls. Interestingly, the vote recording the lowest participation figures happens to ask, “What do you think of the new website?” As 53% of voters think that the current set-up is “much better than the old one”, I’d hate to have seen what that looked like. Following hot on its heels is the No Sweat ‘Solidarity appeal’. This includes a very short article that is not exactly clear about the aim of the appeal. It talks about Reebok’s crass attempt to give Indonesian union leader Dita Sari a $50,000 ‘human rights award’. Since this was rejected, the article implies that the appeal aims to raise funds via international solidarity instead. But at least a secure online donor form is available. The last section is an archive of older material, which is unfortunately hampered by an inability to search for postings arranged by date.

Turning to the small navigation bar heading the page, ‘Topics’ provides a key to the icons that appear throughout the site. For instance, a megaphone signifies debate; a paper denotes news and so on. Clicking on these icons takes you to thematically arranged material from the last few months. The available downloads are quite an interesting selection of resources such as photos, leaflets, cartoons, “action files” (ie, truth kits specific to GAP, Nike, etc). I do think this could have been expanded to include petitions, posters and more ad-busts (at present there is only one anti-Nike feature).

Like the AWL website, there is a wealth of material here to be uncovered if one is not daunted by the appearance. However, as No Sweat is aimed specifically at anti-capitalist youth, the website requires something that can capture the eye as well as engage the intellect.