Friday, 1 January 2010

Blogging on Socialist Blogging

Seems the world and its uncle have been blogging about blogging of late. James Crabtree has written a couple of think pieces on the rise of centre left blogging and how it poses a threat to the Tory trinity of Iain Dale, Paul Staines and Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home. Similar musings can be found at Left Foot Forward, the aformentioned Tim Montgomerie frets about the challenge, while Iain Dale weighs in with quite a thoughtful piece too.

It's all very interesting for blogging geeks and the like and all the contributions make worthwhile points. But there is a certain blindness to the conditions that made the big three of Tory blogging so big: a mix of a less crowded blogging market place
and pre-existing relationships with insiders that allow Iain and Guido to break Westminster gossip, and for ConHome to steal a march on policy announcements are much better explanations than self-serving bollocks about the internet being natural Tory territory. Apart from one or two Tory bloggers outside of the "big boys", most do not even reach the execrable standards set by Dizzy Thinks and Tory Bear. The online conservative movement is a hollow beast.

But I'm more interested in the state of socialist blogging. As Dave
noted yesterday there is an absolutely solid phalanx of socialist bloggers. I may be biased but the comment pouring out of this coterie offers much better fare than most of the centre left. And as far as the right goes, their mix of gossip-mongering and ignorant ranting doesn't hold a candle. But how are we to grow the readership, influence and profile of socialist bloggers? None of us do it full time. There will be no trade union sponsorship for our endeavours. Apart from Liberal Conspiracy, I doubt Labour List, Left Foot Forward and the like would be willing to give those to their left outside Labour a leg up. So we have to look to ourselves.

I think there are a number of things we do that will put socialist blogging on a firmer footing this coming year.

First off, socialists in Britain have our own 'big three' -
Socialist Unity, Lenin's Tomb, and Dave's Part. I don't know the size of Dave's audience, but SU and Lenny certainly get more than the 305,000 visitors LabourList received last year. SU does use its position to promote other blogs, both in Andy's posts and the regular round ups of progressive blogs I do. Dave does to a lesser extent, and Lenny virtually never bothers. Generally the linky love is much better on the next tier down.

This lack of "leadership" (for want of a better term) from the top is symptomatic of the sectarianism that scars our movement. Politically there are of course differences between Andy Newman, Dave and Lenny but for reasons we need not go into relations between them are frosty at best. This kind of animosity is often taken to absurd extremes when blogs like
Shiraz Socialist make like a left Harry's Place and slag off Andy and Lenny for their imagined crimes against political decency. We need to leave this sort of behaviour behind us, quite frankly. Venom and bile should be reserved for Tories and their ilk, and even then be employed sparingly.

Second, there are things we do that other blogs simply cannot. Because many socialists are more than just internet scribblers, we always have one eye on activism.
Louise, Alex, Clare and Derek are particularly good in this regard, but many other socialist bloggers do it too. For news and reports on activism and trade unionism, often times left bloggers are the only in-depth sources available.

While we're on the subject of touching parts other blogs do not reach, there is a wider audience beyond the existing ranks of the far left for the kind of analysis we offer. As the only serious political tradition in Britain that offers a fundamental critique of the root and branch of capitalism, we can cut to the chase without spin and obfuscation. This allows us to offer original takes on the issues of the day that can find an audience tired of the same old same old. This is the chief strength of Dave Osler's writing, but also
The Third Estate, TCF and Chris have developed formidable reputations on this score (I've also found posts on slightly off-beam issues attract an audience). Furthermore our purview of critique tends to be wider than the bounds of conventional politics. If you like, we offer 'politics plus'. Socialist bloggers are at home commenting on practically everything - politics, literature, sex, media, international relations, etc. Again, apart from LibCon our counterparts on the centre left very rarely do. As for the right, well ... the less said the better really.

There are no shortcuts to getting ourselves a wider audience. It requires continued graft, plenty of patience, and for us bloggers to rub together more as a collective. But I believe the potential audience is there, and persistence will be rewarded in the long run.


Derek Wall said...

thanks for the mention, obviously I am trying to push some solid ecosocialist politics, which is something which is strongest in Australia with Green Left Weekly and in Latin America.

Lenin's Tomb gets over 700,000 hits a year I believe, solid writing, party support and getting started early all help and I am assuming he has a strong North American readership.

Any way happy blogging in 2010

HarpyMarx said...

Cheers for the mention Phil.

Yes, I have say as Socialists we have a duty to discuss every aspect of society and of life, and we are at home discussing these issues from sex to literature to the media to politics and so on.

lenin said...

If you're just taking about hits, which is not necessarily the most important index, I got about 900k hits last year by Sitemeter's count. The most active periods have tended to be during events like Gaza, elections, econocide, etc. In terms of the tiny puddle of far left blogging, this could be considered a splash, but I was really intent on beating some of the larger yank competition by this point.

The idea that Dave Osler is remotely in the top three socialist blogs on that index is not credible. This blog isn't in the top three, but I bet it has more readers than Osler's place. At least it has an Alexa rating, whereas Alexa doesn't know that exists.

Luna17 said...

I agree we should play to our strengths, such as being able to comment on a wide range of topics (and make links between them) and the connection with real-world activism. Online politics like blogging needs a connection, even if sometimes tenuous, with offline campaigning - at least on the left it does.

The Westminster elite is Dale and Guido's milieu - ours is very different. Rather than indulging in tittle-tattle within a very narrow centre ground, socialist bloggers are keen to promote both radical criticism and political activity.

Phil BC said...

I'd be interested why you think you've done well, Lenny. Are you proof that consistent and continued graft over a long period (since 2003 in your case) has yielded a large audience?

Phil BC said...

Re: Alexa, you got Dave's url wrong. The data for his blog places it at 73,123 in GB (725,931 global) whereas AVPS is at 92,303 (1,147,254) - quite a gap. Your GB figures aren't given but your global ranking is 818,705.

Dave Semple said...

That's interesting; my Alexa rank is 86,858 in GB, which is higher than what you've recorded for AVPS, but much lower in world ranking (1,762,378), which is probably more on par for what I expect our relative average viewing figures are.

I think this is an incisive piece, and correctly identifies the structural weakness of the hard Left in the blogosphere.

Personally I think a lot of this is because the leaderships of the Socialist Workers' Party and Socialist Party, far and away the largest groups on the Left outside Labour, have been slow to appreciate how the internet can be used.

Now that I've begun thinking about this, I may write my own article on the subject. Lots ticking over upstairs now. Damn you, I wanted a quiet New Year's Day!

Phil BC said...

Sorry comrade!

Where the revolutionary left are concerned they're mostly stuck with thinking about the internet how it used to be before social networking took off. A website and videos are fine. One can control editorial content. A group of supporting bloggers on the other hand are much more problematic. They might go off message. There's the suspicion they will contravene the party line in some way. They might offer their own analyses before a party line has been formulated. In short a blogger offers an alternative and independent portrayal of the party.

I find this attitude curious. If comrades can be trusted to stand in the middle of the street and engage everyday people in conversation,*and* are trusted with the party's reputation in trade unions, campaigns and social movements with real social weight, why the apprehension toward "unofficial" online activities?

Frank said...

Dizzie execrable; typical of a totally uneducated sociologist with no horizons; And I should know I'm married to an educated one who rues that fact that she studied such a non subject and had to catch up later.

Matt Wardman said...

I think it's a strenth to be completely independent, provided that you can find a business model.

SUs figures seem to be around 300-500k uniques and 1.2m page views for the year, based on this:

Both LabList and LFF (less so) have a potential vulnerability to demands by their funders. Hopefully they will say "so cut it" if demands ever get made, and go independent.

andy newman said...

I don't have the history of stats any more, after moving SU blog over to its own dedicated virtual server, but we have had around 1 million hits since 5th May 2009, and 370000 unique visitors in that same time.

The last time he mentioned stats, Dave Osler suggested that he was in the order of 700 to 1000 visitors per day; and I agree with Phil that Osler has a reach beyond most left blogs.

But while sometimes he is very good, he is sometimes very bad. And he tolerates a load of very unsavory people to comment there.

Lenin's Tomb in contrast is a thoroughly good blog. I don't think that lenny cpmpete for audience with SU blog, we have complementary but different audiences.

Phil BC said...

Tip for you Frank: if you're going to lecture someone on their education, make sure you spell the name of the bloke you're defending correctly.

dizzy said...

God bless you and you're very publicness. Not actually a Tory anymore, in fact actually considering joining the UK Libertarian Party.. how's the for an exclusive!.... not.

luna17 said...

I think Dave is correct in noting the conservatism of SWP and Socialist Party leaderships on blogging - and yes, the lack of organisational backing has frustrated radical left-wing blogging. I also agree with Phil's analysis of this problem, and I see no signs of the two parties' attitudes improving.

Madasafish said...

Sorry most left wing bloggers are either full of bile or boring.

You are going nowhere until you:
get rid of the bile,
be prepared to criticise your own side with measured tones and
have some occasional humour.

Happy New Year.

Phil BC said...

Dave, I think that's why Alexa is generally distrusted by stats/analytic geeks. I think I'll stick with my trusty old statcounter!

Andy, you do raise a good point about competition among ourselves and I've wondered about the extent to which we pinch audience share off each other. I agree with you about Lenny as well - he's done a great job building up an international audience because of the consistent comment and analysis he offers on international relations, imperialism and the middle east. By contrast most other socialist bloggers in Britain tilt more toward domestic politics.

Phil BC said...

Dizzy, I'm truly honoured you've chosen my humble corner of cyberspace to break the news.

Thinking about it, the LPUK would make a nice case study for those sociologists who annoy Frank so much. As far as I can tell it is primarily an internet phenomena composed of a number of "libertarian" bloggers and has even less purchase in real life than the likes of the Spartacist League. I mean, what actually is there to LPUK besides a badge you can stick on your blog?

Will Straw said...

A fascinating addition to the current debate on left blogging. Thanks for your thoughts, Phil.

You issue something of a challenge by saying "Apart from Liberal Conspiracy, I doubt Labour List, Left Foot Forward and the like would be willing to give those to their left outside Labour a leg up."

We're already working with Green party and Lib Dem contributers plus a number of trade unionists, NGOs, campaign groups, and think tanks. We'd be happy to extend this "leg up" to you guys (although judging by your traffic stats it may be the other way around).

So here's a challenge to you: write for Left Foot Forward on new ideas that are not yet getting mainstream coverage, critiquing conservative policies and statements, and challenging the right wing media bias.

In turn, we'll increase our link love (an error of omission rather than anything else thus far).

If you're up for it, my email address is The same offer applies to any other bloggers reading this.



Phil BC said...

Masadafish, I find the faux anti-establishment posturing of Guido dull as ditchwater. It's a matter of taste really.

But it appears you haven't the foggiest when it comes
to socialist blogging. If you spend 5 minutes knocking about leftyblogland (and by that I mean socialists, not people like Tom Harris or LabourList) you'll see how wrong you are. Ever seen the Life if Brian?

Leftwing Criminologist said...

Some thoughts from my blog

Paul said...

I distinctly remember making even Iain Dale laugh with my blogpost about the supposed humourlessness of leftie bloggers. And he's got no sense of humour at all.

BenSix said...

Impressive stuff!

(I've no idea what my Alexa rating might be, but there are people who get more sex than my virtual back-of-an-envelope gets hits.)

Andrew Coates said...

There is definitely the phlanax aspect most lefty Blog are linked if only by people making cross comments (as above).

Blimey, even I get between 150 - 350 hits a day. Reviews tend to attract the most hits, opps, no it's atatcks on the SWP (mention the word SWP in a post for a leftist audience it like adding the word 'sex' to a conventional one.

I suggest we are more attractive than more conventional centre-left Blogs because we talk as Phil says in ways which relate our blogging to real activism. Harpy and I and others (such as Stropy)have met this year on precisely such occasions.

Or add dimesions like Enty does by our cosmopolitanism, by using our knowledge of languages and other European/interantional lefts.

Or Phil's Foucault - though after I read Ebrion's bio some years back I've never really felt the same about him.

Phil BC said...

Cheers for the offer, Will. I'll tout it about a bit when I do my round up of new blogs on the morrow.

Thanks everyone for all the other comments too.

Jim Denham said...

My "bile" against Nooman's "Socialist Unity" is based upon the facts that...
1/ He has banned me from commenting on his blog without telling me;
2/ He then deletes all my comets from his blog;
3/ He and his cronies like Derek Wall continue to comment upon me and upon my organisation, the AWL;
4/ When I attempt to reply, my repilies are deleted;
5/ Nooeman then tells his readers what I (having been deleted) supoposedly said...and Nooman hen replies to my allegedcoments...
6/ When I object to this sort of Stalinism, Nooman accuses me of...
a/ racism
b/ making physical threats against him...

this character Nooman is very dishonest.

Phil BC said...

If you stepped outside yourself and examined your behaviour on the internet, Jim, you might begin to understand why you're treated like a pariah. Your behaviour hasn't got any better since I first encountered you on the IndieSA list about seven years ago - all that's changed is the medium. It's your call if you want to use the internet to throw a temper tantrum - just don't expect other socialists to accommodate you.

Derek Wall said...

Jim's on, a good excuse for letting you know about the new eco Islam website here

I am not a Muslim but they are a great organisation and do lots of inter faith ecology with a critical and cultural edge which I like.

Old Holborn said...

Good here, innit

andy newman said...

Jim Denham

Do you think you can work out a causal connection between points one and two in your list:

1/ He has banned me from commenting on his blog
2/ He then deletes all my comets from his blog;

Jim Denham said...

Phil Bc: what the fuck are you on about? Objecting to a bunch of Stalinists like Nooman and Wall lying about me? Please explain?

Phil BC says: "If you stepped outside yourself and examined your behaviour on the internet, Jim, you might begin to understand why you're treated like a pariah."

Mark P said...


He means that you consistently come across like an angry, insane, person spraying passers-by with spittle. Even by the bile filled standards of the left blogs, you manage to stand out.

Dave Semple said...

The rest of us shall have to redouble our efforts then!

PS: Phil, complementary article to this one located at

Dave said...

Oooh Mr Seymour, that was a bit nasty, wasn't it?

As Phil points out, I switched from to several years ago.

Not that it makes much odds, but yeah, that site has got a bigger Alexa ranking than yours. And I hear I am better favoured anatomically as well, so there.

For the record, I now get about 1,400 unique visitors a day.

Jim Denham said...

Nooman: try a causal connectionn between the rest of the list:

4/ When I attempt to reply, my repilies are deleted;
5/ Nooeman then tells his readers what I (having been deleted) supoposedly said...and Nooman hen replies to my allegedcoments...
6/ When I object to this sort of Stalinism, Nooman accuses me of...
a/ racism
b/ making physical threats against him...

...I think the connection is that...
a/ You're now an outand out Stalinist;

b/ You're none too scrupulous about the difference between truth and lies...prefering to occupy he grey area between the two.

Jim Denham said...

...Oh, and btw, Nooman: I did so enjoy your defence of the Iranian regime's "democracy":

Phil BC said...

Get a grip, Jim. With every contribution you make yourself look more and more idiotic. It's not an attractive personal quality and it reflects very badly on your organisation.

Phil BC said...

Just rejected an abusive comment by Jim Denham - there is no tolerance of that kind of behaviour on this blog.

Voltaire's Priest said...

Oh come on Phil; it's hardly as though no-one on SU has ever had a go at anyone, now is it? Even Andy would concede that. If you have an issue with Jim, then take it up with him directly.

For instance, comments like "a left-wing Harry's Place" are hardly non-sectarian and cuddly... and could not of course have anything to do with the fact that one of our four regular contributors is a member of the AWL whereas you're in the SP?

In point of fact, if we're talking non-sectarianism then my two top picks would be Osler, who allows comments from one and all whilst himself remaining remarkably cool and constructive and Liberal Conspiracy, a group blog which invites a wide variey of contributions from various left and left-of-centre points of view.

Phil BC said...

There's is nothing wrong with criticism. But there is everything wrong with conducting yourself on the internet like a five year old, especially when the chief objects of your ire are other socialists. If Jim wants to behave that way it's his call and that of his organisation - just don't expect the rest of the left to take either at all seriously.

Voltaire's Priest said...

Depends what you mean by "left" in some cases, Phil (not yours!). And once again, our blog is not run by the AWL so Jim's "organisation" has nothing to do with it. If you would look at it a bit beyond the bounds of left groups, that would help.

As I say, if you have an issue with the way that Jim himself comments on this blog, then that's an issue between you and him, nothing more. It's got nothing to do with the rest of us, and it certainly doesn't define me or other contributors on our blog as part of a "left wing Harry's Place".

Phil BC said...

There's no point continuing this, VP. It's best we agree to differ on the nature of your blog and just carry on ploughing our respective furrows.

voltairespriest said...

Fair enough lol - one of those where we're never gonna see eye to eye I guess!