Monday 9 June 2008

A Touch of Virtual Vanity

It's been one of those days where I've felt the need to blog, but didn't have a clue what to blog about. I could take the easy way out and stick up a Youtube vid or something, but I fear I've inflicted my musical tastes on AVPS enough already. This void in my head got me thinking of the days when I used to be a Weekly Worker columnist. Comrades who've been around the internet block a few times might remember Around the Web, a certain Phil Hamilton's (who?) look at the websites of individuals and organisations who had earned his sectarian ire. The abiding memory of those two happy years was the difficulty of coming up with a website to review, week after week. Occasionally either me or Peter Manson, the WW editor, would have an idea or a theme that would see me through a month's worth of articles, but most of the time it was seat of the pants stuff. Very often you could find me in the customer service desk at a certain branch of Sainsbury's on a Tuesday morning scribbling that week's outpourings onto the back of unused till receipts, and furtively flicking between the official corporate home page and the ra-ra-revolutionary rantings of the IBT. (In fact, the assignments for most of my first MA began life in this way, and yes, I still have all those till rolls somewhere. But I digress).

I could never resist having a sectarian dig if I was reviewing another left-wing website and I used to be really gratified if someone penned a moan about my witterings for the following week's letters page. You can imagine the excitement in the Hamilton/BC household when not one but four irate SPGB'ers took issue with my review of their website on the occasion of their centennial. Bless, I used to be so easily amused. Another classic was from a rather hurt Phillip Alan, who was stung by my review of the CWI's website. So enraged was the comrade that he hit me with the devastating "Phil has somehow propelled himself to celebrity ‘left’ status by virtue of never leaving the internet" and the classic "If Phil would like to go visit the CWI comrades in Kazakhstan or Kashmir and tell them they are not a “serious working class organisation”, I’d be more than happy to pay the cost of his airfare (one way)." One wonders what the tetchy comrade would think if he knew my "celebrity" had been gracing his organisation, and now mine, for the last two-and-a-half years? But what really tickled my vanity was my piece on various anti-abortion websites, that rather clumsily associated George Galloway with the reactionary SPUC. But still, it did the job - Galloway wrote in the following week.

Ah, things seemed so much simpler when I was an ultra-left adventurer. Well, fond memories aside, that's because this kind of politics is all very black and white. It's very easy to pontificate from the side lines when you or your organisation has no stake in and little connection to any kind of struggle. Things appear much clearer cut when you don't have to make yourselves relevant to working class people. So while Around the Web was fun, it is an object lesson in how a socialist should not behave, either toward comrades in the movement or people outside of it.


Anonymous said...

you really were a bit of a tit-witch though werent you phil?

that Kazakhstan trip is still do-able by the way

Phil said...

I'll do Kazakhstan if you'll do the Kashmiri honours. Can't say fairer than that really ;)

Anonymous said...

hmm you are aware i live in gillingham ? and people think kashmir is fucked.

seriously though i'm considering going on a backpackers holiday to east grinstead, we all have to broaden our horizons

Imposs1904 said...

" . . .but four irate SPGB'ers took issue with my review of their website on the occasion of their centennial."

Well, clicking on the link it looks like they took issue with the factual errors in the piece. ;-)

PS - Funnily enough, one of the four is now a CPGB/PCC supporter. Your work was done.

redmetalgeek said...

Oh, so you're the one who wrote about the US left during the 2004 presidential elections? Interesting. If you looked back on it today, would you say your opinions of American socialist groups has changed much?

Phil said...

Darren, was he the comrade who accused the cpgb of being reformist? Well, when he gets fed up of substituting jolly debate with the flotsam and jetsam of the ultra-left and wants to actually make a difference, he knows where he can find the real Socialist Party ;)

Zeus, first I hope you weren't seeing red in case I inadvertently insulted your organisation!

Four years on I'm sure I've changed my mind. Back then I was broadly supportive of the SPUSA's challenge, believing it had the right sort of campaign and party project that could unite the US Left (how many candidates were standing last time? Was it four - SPUSA, WWP, SWP and SEP?) Now I'm in the CWI I defer to the US comrades, I'm sure they know better than me. That said, from the distance of thousands of miles across the sea I think the Greens might be more worthwhile than Nader, but that's just my personal, private opinion.

What I probably will do is revisit those websites nearer to the time and comment on them here.

Imposs1904 said...

" make a difference, he knows where he can find the real Socialist Party ;)"?

Like the working class voters in Greenwich and Lewisham at the recent London elections? ;-)

Did you see the breakdown of the figures outside of Chris Flood's local patch of Telegraph Hill?

"It's very easy to pontificate from the side lines when you or your organisation has no stake in and little connection to any kind of struggle. Things appear much clearer cut when you don't have to make yourselves relevant to working class people."

*cough* *splutter* G & L got back to you. ;-)

Sorry, but I can't resist that wee dig. Vanguardism and connecting to 'working class people' always raises my hackles. It must be my non-proletarian roots.

Frank Partisan said...

I post something cultural or apolitical, after a battle with rightists about Venezuela.

I don't know what to say when people post a music video, of music I don't like.

I wasn't politically involved when I started blogging. I evolved back to my old self, fighting Sonia etc.

redmetalgeek said...

Well, it seems like much of what you said related specifically to the 2004 election, and website issues. I think the website has been changed since 2004, and we're in a new election season. Politically/programmatically, I think you were fairly spot on about our focus vs. the more economistic focuses of other socialist organisations (though this is interpreted as "propagandism" by some.)

On the round-up for this year's elections, so far the SP-USA, SWP, and a relatively new outfit called the Party for Socialism and Liberation are fielding presidential tickets. It's conceivable that Workers World and the SEP will field a presidential ticket as well, but it's getting rather late to declare.

As far as Greens vs. Nader go, it's no doubt that both with do better electorally than any of the openly socialist candidates. Between the two, I would say Nader would pull out ahead, though if a McKinney campaign is managed well, I could be wrong. However, if Nader's post-election activities are any clue as to what will happen this time, I doubt any sort of permanent movement will be built out of it (despite Socialist Alternative's sincere hopes and attempts to push in that direction.) Comparatively, I think the McKinney campaign has a better chance to set up something more permanent, but I'm not completely convinced about that either.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame the CPGB still don't kebab the reformist reds, the Labour types and more who dominate Left blog land (although there are a fair few SWPers).

Reading what one left blog says about another's practice and politics is like watching all the BBC football commentators refusing to put the boot in, when required, their former team mates.

I'm not talking about the unpleasant personal or tit for tat stuff (see Socialist Unity, Harry's Place etc) but a criticism of methods (how many left bloggers actually do any left activity - and I don't mean just blogging) the use of their blogs (agitate - no, organise - no, pontificate - yes) and their often pro Labour (or Galloway) politics.

Socialist Unity and Lenin's Tomb claim more readers than Socialist Worker - it will be a first introduction to red politics for many - we, collectively need to do far better and should not hesitate to rise criticisms and offer ideas to improve the larger Left blogs, in particular.

Anonymous said...

From Southpawpunch's post... hows about "Around the left blogs"...

Go on you know you want to...