Around the web: Updates deferred

Phil Hamilton takes a look at the website of Ted Grant's Socialist Appeal

Our continued journey around the Labour left takes us this week to the website of Socialist Appeal, a magazine put out by one of the few Trotskyist groups still buried inside Labour.

Having its roots in the Militant (‘We’re only a paper - honest’) school of Labour entryism, you will not find any reference to the group behind the magazine. But the design of the website tends to give the game away. Unlike Tribune or Labour Left Briefing (see Weekly Worker July 17, 24), who use web space for the benefit of their journals, Socialist Appeal shares the page with an array of cyber-Trotskyist paraphernalia. In other words the look is more consistent with the favoured template of left groups than that of the Labour left.

Other than the general look, the next thing catching my eye did not bode well for the website: “17-2-03” - the date the site was last updated. Indeed the best part of the screen is given over to an editorial from January concerned with the government offensive against the firefighters (and naturally linking it to the need to remove the Blairite “Tory clique”). Hopefully the promising-looking navigation bar and the assorted icons linking to other sites in the ‘In defence of Marxism’ (IDOM) stable could help make up for this major disadvantage.

The navigation bar starts off okay. ‘Books’ lead to previews of half a dozen works put out by Appeal’s publishing arm, Wellred. If you feel the need to order these books, you must follow the link to the dedicated website. ‘Our program’ (sic) is a short shopping list making the usual calls about nationalisation, employment and reclaiming Labour. I was particularly tickled by the pledge for a “minimum wage of at least two-thirds of the average wage”, which is qualified by a demand for “£6 an hour as a step toward this goal”. Moving on, the archive section is very pinched and disappointing. Rather than storing a good collection of back issues in text or pdf, we are presented with a few editorials (all from last year), a couple of dated articles and some introductory pieces on Marxist theory.

Unfortunately things go downhill from here. All the other pages included in the box are completely blank, with the exception of ‘Ireland’ and ‘Youth’, and these only carry URLs to other sites. For instance the ‘Ireland’ link summons the thematically arranged pages at IDOM, and ‘Youth’ takes us to the US website of the internet front, Youth for International Socialism.

Of the icon-based links, ‘Join us’ turns up the familiar blank page. The Manifesto on the imperialist war against Iraq is all there (probably because it is hosted elsewhere). Next up is Tedgrant.org, an online vanity project, making available the selected works of SA’s guru alongside a small photo album and a chest beating, Peter Taaffe-baiting hagiography. The Trotsky icon leads to a dedicated page on the international site, which in turn links to a specialist website of Trotsky’s works and some commentary. ‘Revolucion Argentina’ is a Spanish-language site carrying frequently updated material. The ‘Donation’ page concludes this section. The next four icons grouped under ‘Featured sites’ advertise Wellred and YFIS, as well as the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign and the Tarih Bilinci Turkish-language resource. The column is finished off with an invite to subscribe to a couple of ‘What’s new?’ mailing lists.

Either as a vehicle for SA or a resource for the wider Labour left, this website is completely lacking. Tucked away in the links section of the more comprehensive IDOM website we have something of an explanation. A statement reads: “… all the major articles that are published in British SA are published on our IDOM site.” Thankfully this website is not as inactive as the SA site would suggest. For example, the latest statement on Britain concerns the death of Dr David Kelly. However, the links page continues: “Work is presently being done to redesign and update the site.”

Yet, six months on, the website remains unchanged, leading to a couple of conclusions. Either the comrades are designing such a spectacular website that they do not wish to unleash it upon the internet-going public until total completion, or the organisation in Britain has fallen to such a level of decrepitude that all available resources are being diverted to the maintenance of the (admittedly excellent) international site. Whatever the case, as it stands SA online fits nicely into the current Labour left trend of half-arsed and ill thought out websites.