Most websites run by far-left groups lack one thing; a comments box. This is certainly the case with the two "biggest fish" in the very small pond that the far-left operate in, the Socialist Party (Militant) and the Socialist Workers Party. These two groups don't even have a proper letters page in their main publications The Socialist and Socialist Worker. The only letters they take are platitudes from their own supporters, Socialist Worker being the worst culprit with seemingly almost "made up" letters.
The SWP in particular are and have been shown to be quite hostile to the Internet as their recent internal dispute showed. They expelled members for the "crime" of discussing issues pertaining to the internal workings of the SWP on their Face Book pages. In one way this showed a generational divide between the hard-line hacks who grew up in the era before the advent of the Internet and the younger (student) generation that uses tools like e-mail, twitter and Face Book as a normal part of their daily routine.
Part of this imperative is that groups like the SWP issue "statements" on behalf of their party and these edicts cannot be challenged in public (and in private it would seem) by their members or supporters, so anyone else outside their group is highly unlikely to get the opportunity to raise a direct challenge on their website pages.
Of course there are exceptions to this. The tiny Alliance for Workers Liberty certainly does encourage debate, but with few readers the comments are few and far between. The Weekly Worker published by the tiny Communist Party of Great Britain has a very lively letters page but currently lacks a comments facility though in their case probably because of limited resources.
The Internet has led to the rise of numerous political forums, some like Urban 75 engage in open and free debate, though it is more of a chat room than a political entity in itself. There is however a website called Socialist Unity which when I first came across it a few years ago seemed to offer the same, except it doesn't.
The terrorist attack and brutal murder of Lee Rigby was at the heart of most political websites attention for the past few days. Socialist Unity published a couple of articles on the subject and debate was opened. It soon became abundantly clear that discussion was being limited by Tony Collins one of the sites Editorial Board. At first there seemed to be no problems, I posted a brief link to give an alternative view but later on I noticed that a further contribution was "awaiting moderation" (and never published) even though there was certainly nothing untoward in my contribution.
Later by chance, I noticed the guy from the Hatful of History blog questioned where his comments about the Islamic preachers had gone so I chipped in to. Both these were deleted. This continued policy of deletion was picked up by someone on the Urban 75 thread where the same issue was under discussion. The poster noted that "Tony Collins appears to be deleting any posts on SU which argue that Islamic extremists should be challenged at all levels."
Earlier Andy Newman, the main individual associated with SU had stated there needed to be a discussion so that we could "understand" why this had happened. How can we understand anything without discussing the influence and nature of the Islamist/Salafist Preachers of hate? What exactly are the political reasons behind the refusal of SU to allow debate on this?
The answer for now is we don't know. Had there been a debate we might have found out. It's difficult to speculate on the reasoning but I do note that SU tends to be a fan of the populist George Galloway and doesn't tend to offer much in the way of criticism of "Islamism". Indeed there was some consternation when SU published an article by one of Iran's clerics. One poster enquired what this piece was doing on a "socialist" website. Indeed.
The latest issue of Socialist Worker has now appeared on line and is interesting to read as their main article Together we can challenge the bigots contains no condemnation in fact quite the opposite
Socialists can see why some people want to lash out to avenge the victims of imperialism.
But individual acts of violence won’t beat our rulers.
The SWP are disgusting, no other word for it.
Like the "preachers of hate" they conflate British foreign policy with these attacks which is nonsense as these are the same people who all those years ago called for the death of Salman Rushdie just because he wrote a book they didn't like. The "Hate" tendency has always been there.
As a letter writer in The Times points out today:
....the implication... that the solution to Islamic extremism is to tailor our foreign policy to suit the wishes of those who would otherwise risk becoming violent. This is tantamount to saying a violent minority should be allowed to shape our foreign policy.
These extremists would find something else to get violent about. Have people so soon forgotten the "Muslim Patrol" that hassled women and others minding their own business because they were in a so-called "Muslim area".
These thugs need no excuse. They simply want to impose their will on the rest of us.
As do the Marxist-Leninists such as the Socialist Workers Party. This group (and others of their ilk) will seek to take advantage of this atrocity for their own advantage.
Those of us who believe in democracy must stand up against extremism whether it comes from the far left, the far right or religious fundamentalism.