Around the web: Silent partners

Phil Hamilton's odyssey around the internet finds him washing up on the websites of independent Welsh Assembly Member, John Marek, and his left nationalist backers, Cymru Goch

The virtual collapse of the Welsh Socialist Alliance has seen the initiative for left unity pass to John Marek and Cymru Goch. Following comrade Marek’s deselection as a Labour candidate to the Welsh assembly and subsequent re-election as an independent AM, he and his left nationalist co-thinkers believe the time is right to launch a Welsh Socialist Party. That Tommy Sheridan has recently given his blessing to this separatist project should come as no surprise.

Comrades logging on to Marek’s website in the hope of finding his views on left developments in Wales will be sorely disappointed. His site consists of just two pages. The opening page carries a photo of “your independent candidate for Wrexham”, with phone, fax, email and snail mail contact details. Entering the home page proper, we are treated to exactly the same photo and design format, appended with seven news items. These kick off with the plan by Wrexham council to sell off 13,000 council houses, opposed by the John Marek Independent Party. Here we are informed that his supporters “are forming a Welsh socialist party”. Teased by this, I eagerly scrolled down to the joint Marek-Sheridan gathering report for more meaty material on the subject. Unfortunately the piece concentrates on brief outlines of the main contributions and includes some shadow-boxing polemic. There are no concrete pro-WSP proposals, save a call to build a base in campaigns, communities and workplaces across Wales.

The next item asks “good local activists” to join the Marek team in the May 4 council elections. Showing a streak of ambition often lacking on the left, the comrades plan to stand 50-plus candidates in and around Wrexham. Unfortunately there is no mention of WSP-related activity outside the area. A short piece setting out the Wrexham voting figures and a couple of other articles finish this sparse site off. Finally, and to illustrate the relationship between Marek and CG, credit for the website and the articles go to Marc Jones.

Owing to the lack of information about the proposed WSP on Marek’s site, my search moved to the website of CG itself. Visitors are greeted with a relatively plain screen. The legend ‘Cymru Goch’ commands the centre with the links arranged around the logo. Starting with ‘Campaigns’, we are treated to a blank page containing just six words: “Current campaigns include: Scalp, Nantygwyddion tip.” What happened to the campaign specifics, comrades? Even just a link or contact details would have done the job. The ‘Cymru Goch’ link summons a short article called ‘Who are the Welsh socialists?’ The implication that CG is the residence for all socialists in Wales aside, the statement makes the case for a particular brand of socialism from below, with a sprinkle of left nationalist seasoning.

Moving now to the links page, we are treated to an eclectic mix of sites. On the one hand we have political links; on the other the likes of the Welsh Tourist Board get a look in. There is a problem with some of the links though - a number are either broken or else lead to blank pages or completely unrelated sites. For example, the SSP link takes us to search engine results for lost US social security cards!

Perhaps ‘Latest news’ would turn up something interesting on the WSP. Unfortunately only three links are on offer: an online book (A class history of Wales by Tim Richards), a downloadable firefighters poster, and a defunct link to a CG-endorsed discussion forum. So no sign of the WSP there then. ‘Latest issue’ links to the archive of CG’s paper, Y Faner Goch. First impressions for our search are far from favourable. The last issue to be uploaded (available only in pdf) dates from November 2002, and the archive reaches back patchily to September 1997 (once again broken links frequently rear their ugly heads, rendering much of this section useless).

Neither of these sites helps clarify issues around the WSP, nor do they adequately promote those they represent. Marek’s site in particular is disappointing, considering the resources available to him as an assembly member. At least Cymru Goch does have an excuse: clearly most of its effort has been put into the website of Seren (Socialist Environmental Republican News) - a project producing a broad monthly activist paper. However, information on the WSP is restricted to the same statement that appears on Marek’s site! With Marek and CG remaining tight-lipped, it seems for the time being that the Weekly Worker is the only source available for WSP-related news.