Around the Web: For every occasion

The SWP has a front for every occasion - and a website for each. Phil Hamilton reviews some of them

This weekend will see thousands of activists come together in central London for the Socialist Workers Party’s Marxism 2003 - by far the biggest annual socialist event in Britain. It is reasonable to expect that the SWP will be visible wearing all of its ‘united front’ hats (bar the Socialist Alliance of course).

Turning to the dedicated ‘Marxism’ link on the SWP website, one is confronted by a (characteristically) simple page carrying a number of links. However, the colour scheme does not make for easy viewing. While one can appreciate the need for the page background to be red, using such a bright tone is unkind on the eye. Nonetheless the relevant information is all here. The first port of call is the timetable, and gives an impression of the scale of the event. This page is split into eight days, each of which gives a full run-down of the scores of talks, workshops and forums.

For a quicker overview, a full listing of meetings is provided on a separate page and is arranged thematically. Top billing is ‘Imperialism and anti-imperialism’ and the topics range over all aspects of class struggle. What this page could really do with, though, is a map, complete with appropriate tube, road and rail directions. The Marxism site is finished off with leaflets in Spanish and Italian, and the facility to book a place online.

For those wishing to brush up on their Marxist theory and working class history beforehand, the website of the SWP’s book business is prominently featured on its home page. The Bookmarks site sensibly organises its stock according to theme, and one is able to pick items and place them in a virtual basket before buying. Also figuring prominently is the left answer to the US government’s pack of 54 ‘Iraqi most wanted’ playing cards. Featuring Blair, Bush, and a behelmeted Clare Short as the joker, a pack weighs in at a hefty £5! There is also a small navigation column. ‘Who we are’ is a chest-beating introduction and ‘News and reviews’ leads to pdf versions of the Bookmarks review of books (most of which have been plundered from the Socialist Review archive). Finally, the links page lists unions, journals and ‘respectable’ campaigning organisations.

Alongside the Globalise Resistance stalls at Marxism this weekend, the Socialist Worker Student Society will be looking to hook in a few dozen students - but the state of its website suggests something else. First impressions convey a favourably militant feel, with the ‘One solution - revolution!’ slogan screaming out in angry red from a black background. ‘About SWSS’ is the first in a series of links, giving us the usual SWP-style denunciations of capitalism and boasting of how SWSS is “at the heart of the anti-capitalist movement”. It goes on to discuss the important role students have played in revolutionary situations, and outlines the objectives of SWSS (ie, fighting the ‘Nazis’, campaigning against the war, and the discussion of “revolutionary socialist ideas”).

The opportunity to join online is there, and a limited amount of flyers, leaflets, and posters can be downloaded in pdf. Also on the main page is an advert for ‘Revolution 2003’, a kind of mini-Marxism for ‘the kids’. Unfortunately for SWSS, this took place in the first week of March - suggesting that, online at least, this particular hat has for the moment been discarded.

Spark, the SWP front for schools and FE colleges, has a far better website than its SWSS sibling, even though it remains unfinished. The aesthetic is a breath of fresh air, considering it comes from the SWP stable of gaudy and crude web design, but, that said, content is very thin on the ground. Currently most sections of the website contain a statement of intent, including an appeal (via the cultural page) for the Spark audience to contribute towards construction costs. In all it is a shame that the site remains incomplete, as there is a good deal of unrealised potential here.

Taking account of previous reviews of SWP front sites it is clear that “the party” has a face for almost every occasion. It is a pity the SWP remains hermetically sealed from outside ideas, despite its activity in a wide range of campaigns. By not entering into genuine dialogue with other activists on the revolutionary left, the future of the SWP as a sect is virtually guaranteed.