Wednesday 13 August 2008

Oppositional Blogging - Some Thoughts

The contributions made by Benjamin, Leftwing Criminologist and Organised Rage to the latest Carnival of Socialism touch upon the key questions why the left, and particularly the revolutionary left, blog and should blog.

For me at least, I don't think it's possible to comment on this without a bit of self-reflection. When I started this blog I initially thought it would be somewhere to let steam off about my PhD, sociology and other academic stuff. But almost immediately I began commenting on political stuff. So AVPS is both a sociology blog and a far left blog, it fulfills a dual purpose. Benjamin says he sees his blogging as a means of developing himself as a revolutionary socialist. Not only is the discipline of regularly writing and commenting on current affairs a useful habit for any socialist to adopt, it can contribute toward developing the critically minded activists our class needs. Hacks who allow their central committee to do their thinking for them might be fine and dandy for a paper sale, but they're not much use for anything else. I would like to think my blogging is of this developmental character. I've forced myself to write about complex issues and things I don't know much about. I hope I've managed to avoid the haughty tones of the theoretician/guru who must be seen to be all-knowing. I also try to develop my own knowledge, and hopefully introduce new ideas to the AVPS audience, by looking at research coming out of the social sciences and think tanks. If Marxism has nothing to fear from the reality it seeks to explain, there's no reason why we should fight shy of the latest developments in social and political theory/research outside of the revolutionary left and the labour movement.

Then there is the contradiction between the collective political traditions of the left and the individual position and agency of the solitary blogger. Mick talks through some of the problems well and I won't repeat them. But I would suggest the archetypal left blogger isn't as solitary as appearances suggest. This blog, like all the other blogs on the AVPS counter-hegemonic blogroll, are part of a vibrant, interconnected network of activists, leftists and militants. Far from existing in isolation we link to and comment on each other's efforts. We polemicise and engage in blog wars (thankfully, not too frequently!). We have our cliques of friends and allies and define ourselves in terms of what we see as the opposition, be that rival left blogs or the commentariat to our right. In short we are all part of a certain inchoate location, whether we like it or not. But more about this in a moment.

Where the contradiction between the individual and collective can rear its head is one independent socialists do not have to face: the relationship between the blogger and the party they are a member of. This might help explain why so comparatively few bloggers are paid up members of revolutionary left groups. I don't believe it's because Leninist groupings are genetically predisposed to churning out mindless activists. Instead it is about the culture of activism they engender among socialists. Unlike say, for example, the Greens or Labour, where party activity may just be one type of activism among several different kinds, for us the party is the centre of our activity. The purpose of the party is to organise a collectivity of activists in pursuit of its objectives, which all Leninist groups manage to do to greater or lesser extents. This impulse of directing everything through the party applies to all political activities, including those that are internet based. I've been asked on more than one occasion why I don't write more for party publications instead of blogging, and there's no easy answer to this question. Beyond, in my opinion, the unsuitability of much of this blog's material for The Socialist and Socialism Today, both of which address themselves to very different audiences than the small clutch of people who regularly read this blog.

Because of this, blogging should not be seen as a substitute for writing for party publications. Instead, it can complement them. For example, on the whole, I think Lenin's Tomb does a good job promoting the politics of the SWP. Likewise, I think the various pieces I've written about Socialist Party politics, be they branch discussions, regional and national gatherings, public meetings, activist life and the work of my branch in Stoke reflects well on the party as a whole. I hope it works to undermine a few myths that have accumulated around Militant, the SP and the CWI over the years too.

Now you could say revolutionary left blogs are pointless because for most "mid-table" blogs (pulling in 100-300 hits a day), like AVPS, the audience is more or less made up of other left bloggers and activists, not "ordinary" working class people. Plus most of this audience's politics are pretty much set. A regular comment-leaver like Louise from the Labour left or Roobin of the SWP aren't likely to up sticks and start clamouring to be let into the SP. And vice versa. But what it does do is to allow for the building up of a rapport. Exchanges may occasionally concern themselves with the "crimes" of opposing groups, but over time, the general rule is relationships of varying degrees are built up. Most of them are weak, but they can be beneficial. They offer a ready-made outlet to assist real world mobilisations. And blog relationships can be the starting point for working relationships. If the left is forced by events to work together, say in an intensive campaign akin to the anti-Poll Tax struggle or the building of a new political formation, blogs can help overcome the misunderstandings and distrust that exist between groups.

There is another point I'd like to address, and that is the character of political blogging as a whole. Very soon Iain Dale's list of the top 100 political blogs will be released. Chances are it will be dominated by right wing bloggers because a) right wingers are more likely to vote in the contest, because its compiler is a Tory; and b) some on the left, notably Bloggerheads and Liberal Conspiracy called for a boycott. Nevertheless, though the left's 'star' blogs like LibCon, Lenin's Tomb and Socialist Unity out perform the majority of what the right have to offer in terms of audience, there is a general sense the left lag behind to an extent. This is partly because we're swimming against the current, partly because the left have been slower on the blogging uptake, and partly because the issues we choose to write about are removed from the minutiae of Westminster politics. Iain Dale and Guido get a lot of attention because they're plugged into the village and regularly deal in gossip and breaking politics news. This maybe the stuff of the anorak brigade, but their popularity proves there's a big audience for it.

Though there's no reason why a left blogger with a penchant for parliamentary shenanigans couldn't exploit a similar niche, provided they have the breadth of contacts. But this is not the route to the big time for left blogging. What we've got to understand is that our strength does not rely on a handful of influential blogs, but in the overall left blogging collective. By virtue of the homology between socialist values and many blogs who define themselves as anti-racist, or feminist, or LGBT, or environmentalist, or community-minded, it is probable the left side of political blogging globally has a greater audience than the right. But of course, the right are augmented by the mainstream media, giving them an incomparable advantage over us.

There are ways we can seek to overcome this disadvantage. We talk about what the right tends to avoid - social justice issues, the experience of those on the bottom of the pile, oppositional movements of varying kinds, activist life, fat cattery, the capitalist system itself, etc. As the economic slow down in the West starts to bite, it's reasonable to suppose this kind of commentary will find a wider audience. Second, we need to use the vast network of blogs we already have to grow our share of the audience. This requires we engage in blogging behaviour that encourages us to behave as if we are part of an actual, rather than potential collective. For example, a less aggressive style of polemic; mutual promotion of other left blogs; more attempts to build bridges with those whose natural home is on the left, but see themselves apart from it; and a greater number of collective endeavours - like the Carnival of Socialism, big blogs offering small blogs guest posts, and so on.

To get the left blogging collective to act more collectively is no easy task. But if we can, a greater audience for socialist ideas is the prize. And that is in all our interests.


Jim Jepps said...

Very interesting post thanks for this.

"To get the left blogging collective to act more collectively is no easy task. "

I agree and it's a reflection of the left itself which is far more fractured than other political currents - despite the fact that the left has always taken the slogan "unity is strength" as one of its own.

One of the reasons I wanted to make sure the carnival of socialism kept going was I think there is an opportunity on the blogosphere to get the left talking together in a much more productive way than when we come together in more formalised politcal settings when we may be carrying our own organisations banners or papers and accidentally getting sucked in to more sectional behaviour.

I also thought your comments about the paper were interesting. Basically there is a very different style and purpose to a newspaper article and a blog entry. No one would read this blog for long if it mimicked the style and content of The Socialist and probably vica versa.

They do different things and, I think, blogging is a less centralised medium. Which may be a reason that dc parties kept it at arms length for so long.

Ed said...

Don't worry - I voted for you on the Iain Dale top 100. That is what this post's all about isn't it ;) (joke)

One thing that just struck me - you might get more comments if you got the Haloscan comments facility or altered your Blogger comments application thingy to allow people to post without having to sign in and do the whole word verification rigmarole. I often decide not to leave comments on sites with Blogger comments because I just can't be arsed to sign in.

Dave Riley said...

While I urge that this blog change its feed details to AVPS rather than the full naming...(plays havoc with readers as I get "A Very Pub-": Feedburner will do that).... I'm all for aggregation.

However blogging experiences vary and there's many ways to skin a cat.

So I may write a newspaper column which is published on the web and it may be classified one way but if I blog it, well, it's something else. It's blog post despite its original context.

So my argument is that the blogging universe has to include the whole tamale. Blogging is not a cottage industry separate and self contained from our other allegiances.

Blogs are simply a web platform that you can put to use. Blogging offers a range of attributes and only one of these is editorialising -- Instapundit style.

Phil assumes that left blogs are one way when they may not all be -- especially when they can still be "left blogs' (in the tech sense)and something else.

That these 'blogs' offer a feed, successive posts and a comments option it is enough to classify them as blogs.

Nor is the British experience necessarily pandemic.

I'm 'handicapped' by the fact that I don't want to address issues that are better addressed elsewhere -- such as in Links or GLW. So why bother with that.

I appreciate most from what Phil writes as his telling of the cadre experience in one SP branch I think that is wonderful advocacy.

I appreciate most from what JimJay writes his idiocentric POV.

Both are obviously formated by leftism but that's' the key niche I reckon. I go to Socialist Unity for the occasionally(only occasionally!) rich COMMENT threads.

So its a mixed bag of reasons to read the 'left' blogs.

Of course blogs allows "us" to be feral: feral Greens, feral SPers,feral DSPers, etc --almost politically eccentric as no editor sits between us and the masses. (Huh!)So you can say what you think .

But thats' the irony I reckon as I'm dedicated to being didactic so I am constrained by this desire I have to post a lesson rather than a complaint.

And in the very very shallow blogging culture(esp so on the left) in Australia thats' the wait and see default position.

Anonymous said...

I think that's an important aspect of blogging, and you point this out, is the rapport built up between bloggers of differing political traditions and when it happens it is positive.....

But....there is an overwhelming fractious atmosphere in the leftie blogosphere and for me that reflects the defeats, if there was an upsurge in the class struggle and we had won some victories then the atmosphere on the blogosphere would reflect this.
Anyway, put some of my own thoughts on this at Harpy..

Jim Jepps said...

I actually don't think the left blogo-o-sphere is that fractious (compared to the feminist blogs for instance)

Some people are fractious - some blogs are unvisitable because of the bizarre nature of the debate - but its not something that holds true in general. Some people don't get along - that's different.

I like Dave's idea of feral bloggers, probably because I like the idea of feral activists who think for themselves, joining groups and campaigns that attract them, rather than the centralised system that I heard escribed once as a "constelation of united fronts". But of course that's a difference in political perspective I guess.

I think the other thing Dave said that's useful here is that blogs don't just differ by political tradition they differ by function too. Some are more personal, some are organisational, some tackle a specific issue others deal with whatever comes into the bloggers head at a particular time, etc. We need all of these.

Frank Partisan said...

My blog started from my being away from activism. I was pro-Iraq war.

My blog has always attracted rightists. I have a hard time getting socialists, to become involved in the conversations on my blog.

Good post.

Phil said...

Ed, you don't have to sign in to comment here - you can always go anonymous. Re: the word verification, it is a must to stop spambots having a free for all. I remember coming down one morning and seeing a dozen comments left on a particular post I was proud of, only to see it was full of boob jobs/viagra/Nigerian business opportunity spam. Since then I've never looked back.

Louise, I'm not so sure about the fractious thing. Yes, undeniably left blogging can be very testing. This is why as a general rule I stay out of inter-blog spats, such as the war of Kylie's arse and why I refrain from "sectarian" posts unless it impacts on the work of my SP branch. And yes, we have suffered a lot of defeats these last 25 years. But I'm sure if blogging and the internet was around in the late 70s/early 80s, the niche carved out by the left would have been as equally a rough place by virtue of the deeper sectarian culture that then existed. I don't know. The only way we'll find out is by sitting tight and seeing what happens when we do start winning some victories.

But then again, as Jim notes, feminist blogs are even more fractious than the left. But then the women's movement is more fractured and less visible than even the remnants of British Trotskyism ... but was the culture of the women's movement that great in the first place?

I'd be interested to know what comrades think about how the left can build bridges with other kinds of progressive blogs, such as feminist, green, anti-racist, etc. blogs.

Anonymous said...

"But then again, as Jim notes, feminist blogs are even more fractious than the left. But then the women's movement is more fractured and less visible than even the remnants of British Trotskyism ... but was the culture of the women's movement that great in the first place?"

Er, have to say that there may be so-called fractious debate on feminist blogs, but as a woman, I actually don't find them as problematic and exclusive as the male dominated left blogosphere. I started out commenting on feminist blogs and preferred the atmosphere than the male dominated leftie blogs. And there are times I wished I had stayed there.

Sorry Jim and Phil but there is a fractious atmosphere on leftie blogs that, sometimes, women can feel excluded from, including myself.

Dave Riley said...

A major handicap with any discussion about blogging is that it's easy to assume that you've re-invented the wheel. In the tradition of 'the left' with its newspapers, leaflets,job bulletins, forums, posters and the like that's hardly the case.

We're only changing the means to the same sort of advocacy , opinion or perspective. So blogging isn't especially new. It's maybe a new platform in the way that desktop publishing was in the eighties-- but we are nonetheless tending to go into alone rather than rely on our old collectives or committees to do it with us. So it catches the sun differently.

However there's one aspect that is novel and that's the fact that we bloggers publish often without a fully formed and researched opinion so this is indeed personal POV stuff. It's so often Op Ed.

That's because there's always tomorrow...when the same subject can be tweaked or fine tuned and considered again.

That's a little different from the left standard of fully formed perspectives engineered to cover all bases -- set in concrete a sit were.

So it's more 'New Media' rather than some specifically blogging ethos I reckon.

Since I podcast and am now exploring video it's easy for me to say that.

What I learn is that despite the fact that the medium is indeed the message (and I feel very strongly about audio in that regard)content still rules and content can be packaged any number of ways.

[For instance I always like citing the different impact written, audio or video coverage of a rally and demonstration has. The standard newspaper format can hardly do justice to these events. It's always dry and so often labored. So there is a indeed a hot and cold media spectrum that the left has failed to deal with or utilize effectively... Thus far.]

The blogger who I find most inspiring in regard to potentials as a user of media is Bicycle Mark. He is a very eclectic user of (multi)media.

So thats' my benchmark sort of and I reckon thats' the sort of direction the New Media is taking anyway: all in. "Our" problem is that the left and its adherents aren't quite there yet as a body of people. This has a lot to do with web habits, internet connections, skill levels, and plain old everyday ignorance. The RSS revolution has hardly hit the left yet for instance and when it does that will begin to spell the death knell of web pages -- and discovering the web page is more or less where we're at. (It was only this last 12 months that Socialist Worker in both the USA and Uk (despite different franchises)started to offer feeds.)

But it also needs to be stressed that the hard copy newspaper -- ye olde all Russia newspaper -- is still a crucial element in left organising. For an outfit to move totally webside is a disaster for their ability to mix it with the masses. Despite any web ways the left still belongs on the street and the WSWS 'solution' aint one.

That also suggests the trap that blogging can lead to. Without editorial collectives theres' no impetus to aggregate our ideas and POV. Blogs are afterall just so many views spinning around in cyberspace. But a newspaper is a collective thinking through process that only makes (political)sense if there's some activity sponsored as a consequence of that ideological activity. Blogs are not tested in the street. No one holds a blog byline up on a street corner and stands behind what it says -- naked to the public whatever. So the blog can often, I fear, be a retreat from activism.

Jim Jepps said...

re: fractiousness. I think if you gravitate towards fractious blogs and behave in a fractious way than the left probably does seem fractious. If you don't it really doesn't.

re: newspapers. Personally I think there's more to a left newspaper than the format. I think it has a big drawback when you sell the paper on your chest (in the UK you can get some left magazines and the morningstar off the newsagents shelf but not most of the left press).

The paper acts as a sign, or placard, as well as being a newspaper with content you can read. I think this has an effect on how people see the left groups and how those paper sellers see themselves.

It has advantages in raising the profile of paper and party, but it also creates distance between organisation and audience, which can be problematic.

I think anyone going round with a sign on them saying "Christian" or "Car salesman" or "Railway enthusiast" would experience similar problems of becoming more of a label and less of a human, even with tose who are sympathetic.

When you see Christians preaching on the street you don't see them surrounded by ranks of the smiling faithful - but instead other Chrisitian hurry by, utterly interested in this strange individual.

Even if the content were entirely the same a blog and paper sold on the street would still, I think, be seen differently - but there's a crucial difference - with a blog you can disagree, publicly, right at the article - with a paper the experience is much more passive and one way - and I think it feels it.

Personally I find the left papers rather difficult to read in this country - although GLW seems much better. But I don't find (most) left bloggers difficult to read. I think part of that is when we're blogging we're more human.

Dave Riley said...

I think you have a point Jim. My complication is that I'm in the Green Left Weekly mix and I don't have to make up for what's missing in regard to political commentary because there's more reportage in GLW than I could muster in a month of Sundays. Whereas there in the UK you have all these left patent newspapers which seem in the main pretty dreary. So there's a niche that is not being addressed in hard copy and maybe this begins to explain the rich blog culture you are part of.

Here it hardly exists...yet anyway.

We've also tried to straddle the web divide a bit more with a relaunch of LINKS in a sort of blog format. That's still rather experimental and fresh but it's clear that the days of the theoretical hard copy journal are over. Just don't tell Tariq and the New Left Review board!. Nonetheless I was talking to John Bellamy Foster who edits Monthly Review and that journal is doing very good business in hard copy form -- and in some unusual places too -- like India.

The left press in the UK seems to have a shallow web presence and thats' partly I guess why Weekly Worker has a web niche.

As for street signage and newspaper selling -- GLW is consciously outside the label system and we have the sales figures to prove it. The paper's an institution by dint of its own merits. and not its presumed connections.

But there's another problem with blogs and that is that they pander to chatter. While you can have this ongoing dialogue it's not formatted and can be politically very discursive. It can be a webside Babel just as so many egroups can be. So having an exchange, I think, is not as powerful as you seem to suggest. I feel the same way about meetings -- I like 'em chaired.

I'm not arguing against commentary exchanges on blogs but I think it can only go so far as a tool to abet something else and in that way it lessens blogs' political utility (if that is indeed what we are discussing).

Maybe when blogging "we're more human" (which excuses my syntax and spelling) but there is such a thing as journalism and good journalism at that. John Pilger doesn't blog, for instance, and he is one of the more human of the journo species. While we run Pilger in GLW -- being his main if only local outlet as the press corp here despise him -- there are a lot of writers on the left today who are very human indeed. Without mentioning locals I'm impressed with a few on staff in the US Socialist Worker. Modern journalism -- as far as I'm concerned and a few others to boot was 'invented' by the Czech communist Egon Kisch.

But the main problem with hard copy is "all the news that fits". And thats' the rub: deciding what goes in and what stays out. Fitting also imposes conciseness which is a long way from blogspeak. And you get subbed! Ouch! Whereas in blogging you can follow your own train of thought for as many paragraphs as you want.

The irony is that because newspapers are more concentrated with a higher informational quotient I think they are harder to read on the web. They require more work. So consequently less text is actually read and much more is skimmed.

The problem is that we're drowning in digitalisation and I suspect that text is going to suffer regardless of how it is served up.` And in effect I don't think we know where we are going. I started blogging a few years back and the medium has changed so much over a very short time.As I suggested I see it as a platform & not as a style but I do think it has got much greater political traction than Facebook (which is rather niche useful) or (god forbid) Twitter!

So I don't know...but I do know that the hard copy left press has not had its day yet and is unlikely to go the way of the DoDo in a hurry.And in many ways style is a false counterposition.The real complication is the problem of production and distribution offline vis a vis that online. And as far as news goes that publishing gap between editions has to be filled online. That I reckon is the core left challenge: daily news and views.

Thats' where the blog has a real potential as a medium of politics.

Phil said...

Sorry, meant to write earlier than this.

Louise, Is should have clarified what I said better. what I meant by fractiousness was not the atmosphere pertaining on most feminist blogs but rather the very bitter blog wars that seem to break out between trans positive/transphobic, pro-choice/anti-abortion, pro-sex/anti-porn sections of the movement. This kind of conflict doesn't happen that much on British left blogs, despite Shiraz's increasing preoccupation with Andy and Lenin's opinions on this and that.

As for being welcoming, well at times I find the arguments at Socialist Unity and Shiraz very off putting. There's little I can do about that, but I hope to maintain a non-threatening and non-exclusive atmos here.

Charlie Marks said...

IMO, blogging will allow the various socialist groups to continue to function as tendencies within a unified & pluralist party - should this ever happen. If we can pretend for one moment that this technology had existed in the 80s, the Militant would have existed as a paper and there would have been a central blog of the whole tendency.

It's not too hard to imagine the SU blog, Lenin's Tomb, Shiraz, AVPS, etc as the focal points for various tendencies within a unified party. Given that the whole web2.0 thing makes possible debate between strangers, I remain hopeful that greater dialogue will result in greater co-operation and eventual socialist refoundation.

Anonymous said...

Good article Phil. Though I do think part of the problem is that we on the left like to write too much. That alone puts a lot of people off :)

By the way, I recently wrote about the whole Blog Nation thing again, to talk more about how the left can affect politics better here:

Anonymous said...

Another feature about blogging that I think may be missed in such a singular focus is that "digital media' changes a lot of our advocacy options. I don't think this is seriously being addressed bu us far lefts.

Through the eighties and until recently the Anarchist movement tied its engineering relevance to the Indymedia movement and , to some degree here and the US, to alternative radio. Now a lot of that is pretty passe because the rest of the world has caught up and can now exploit similar tools for greater effect.So Indymedia is being bypassed.

But the socialist left -- our Marxist left -- has only recently discovered some of the web's potentials -- ie:the so called Web 2.0 stuff.

I find this a bit sad that it has taken so long because we stand as part of a strong tradition of multimedia exploration & engagement which by the time of the mid 20th century had more or less limited itself to newspapers and the printed word.

There are exceptions of course. (eg: There's a SP/CWI radio/podcast that comes out of Boston. And we here have been webside big time since 1991 with the paper and comrades do run a video production unit: Actively Radical TV. In Scotland Neil Scott has been experimenting with SSP TV...etcetera)

But if you do your homework in regard to this thread -- and I've been keen on German theatre from the Weimar Period -- Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht were always great experimentors with mixed media -- as was John Heartfield of course. The same sort of 'digital effect' I reckon is evident in the journalism of Egon Kirsch. So you have to wonder why this radical multimedia bent in step with the socialist movement?

Whats' the connection (and why now do the Marxist radicals seem so slow now with the uptake)?

Bertolt Brecht penned a thoughtful essay on radio : The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication
[By the way, Brecht had a long running feud with Lukacs and I'm very much on Brecht's side as Lukacs was an unreconstituted socialist realist hack despite his many other credentials.)
But then Walter Benjamin went one better with his brilliant exposition:The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
I find this tradition of advocacy and polemic a great antidote to so much Post Modernist bullshit that is if you can get your head around it and see the point.
If you read Benjamin and then consider your blogging in light of his essay then your 'blogging' has a much broader context. I think this bears consideration.

Part of the problem I believe is history and in that history the Russian Formalists got a bad name due in no small measure to the overwritten romanticism of Leon Trotsky in regard to art and literature as well as Lenin's stolid aesthetic. (I think Trotsky was a great writer nonetheless). And when later the Stalinists went after the Formalists -- they became pariahs in the socialist movement. But "formalism" was exploring a interactivity and relationship with its audience that remains today a crucial aspect of what's going on in our digital universe. The irony is that that relationship was only again addressed, I think, with the sort of pedagogy arguments by people such as Paolo Freire -- a Liberation Theology adherent. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is an important enrichment of what we think we are doing (and ought to) with our crits and polemeics.

Bob Morris over at Politics in the Zeroes occasionally crits the liberal blogs there aligned to the Dems.
and I find that US phenomenon a warning sign that you cannot afford to get too full of yourself with the one tool because, after all, there is online and offline and that even many swallows do not a Summer make. There is after all a thing called concrete reality.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to me, and I returned the favour and linked to you too.

Definitely agree with the point about blogging helping party activists think for themselves. It really has helped me.

Also agree with the bit about our relationship to the party. I must admit the propaganda group I belong too does not see the benefits of blogging for reasons I stated about not much of an audience, but have come to see it helps formulating making arguments.

Though a point that needs to be made, but really won't achieve much by doing so, is that these independent socialist bloggers need to make use of themselves and actually do something rather than just sit at home and blog. Though, there detachment from activism has been seen to result in their reality with normal politics because they've spent so long not intersecting with society.

Jim Jepps said...

Ben, you make some nice points but I'd query the idea that bloggers aren't activists in the real world.

My experience is that consistent left bloggers, the ones who build up a readership and a body of interesting work are *all* real world activists too.

I suspect it's a bit of a cliche that bloggers sit there blogging all the time. Often its involvement in politics that sparks a new post, posts are often a continuation of "real life" debates.It's that immersion in politics that spurs the blogging on.

Now I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule - but it seems like a false polarisation to me - bloggers over at one of a spectrum and activists on the other.

Phil said...

I think we should be wary of making generalisations about blogging as a retreat from activism. I would argue that for some, because of ill health, personal isolation or whatever, blogs, blogging and left discussion forums remain their link to our movement. If, for instance, this technology was around 20 years ago, instead of dropping straight out of politics, a layer of activists who'd been chewed up by their experiences of revolutionary politics in the 80s may not have been lost to the movement all together. The constellation of blogs and forums would have allowed them to remain plugged in and engaged (to an extent), and who knows, they might have returned to activity at a later stage. I guess we'll never know. But anecdotally, a lot of those who've dropped out of active membership of groups in recent years can still be found on many a blog. So there are negatives, but also some positives.