Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where are the good left blogs?

Dave Osler’s blog seems to be going from strength to strength. Recently highlighted by Channel 4’s web-page as one of the 20 most influential political blogs in Britain, and selected as #8 of pro-Labour (in the wider sense?) by Top Tory Blogger, Iain Dale.

Naturally all of us who blog are secretly motivated – at least partially - by vanity, so Dave naturally posted a piece about this on his blog, where he makes the following point: “Not bad going for six months’ work. Readership figures are picking up, boosted by the brilliant redesign courtesy of Will. And a few of the more leftist national newspaper journos and Westminster researchers are starting to email goss in to blues.power@virgin.net.But wouldn’t it be good to have a far left website that has the same sort of clout as Guido and Dale do on the right? For that, I need more inside track stuff. My hero Paul Foot always used to include an appeal to readers for information in his classic Daily Mirror columns. I’d love to continue that tradition.”

So obviously it would be good if people took Dave up on this, and helped him develop his blog in that direction. But why is there no really good left blog? This seems to me partly a reflection of how marginal the left is on British politics. There is also the widespread use of printed media by the political left that make some blogging redundant, it has occurred to me for a while that you could produce a very good blog just by reading the Morning Star! But the left has also developed a culture of privacy, for example all sorts of interesting information comes our way in the Socialist Unity Network on the basis that it is kept confidential.

Dave is running a poll on his site on what is the “second best leftwing blog in Britain”. When you look down the list of Dave’s candidates, well you cannot help think, yeah, but is that the best we can do?

Stroppyblog has become popular very fast. Not surprising as it is updated regularly, is informal and occasionally very funny. There are also some serious well researched pieces.

The General Theory of Rubbish is a bit terse and cryptic. Although well designed and regularly updated, it is a bit too idiosyncratic for my liking.

Shiraz Socialist. Seems to be mainly reaction pieces, from an AWL type perspective, to stuff going on. Well, if you like that sort of thing. … …

JBlog is a rather more serious effort from Janine Booth, also of the AWL. Well worth a regular look.

Gauche There is a lot of chaff, but some good wheat amongst it. Particularly useful is the archive links, allowing you to jump directly to the best posts from the past, organised by subject.

Random Pottins really is a great blog. Informative, and covering a diverse range of subjects. Particularly astute when covering Israel, Palestine and Zionism.

Normblog. Many years ago Norman Geras wrote a well received book about Marx and human nature. I could never be bothered to read it. He has developed an immensely self-satisfied bloated ego. The main point of the blog seems to be to eruditely explain that we are all stupid for opposing US foreign policy. Oh, and to remind us how immensely clever Professor Geras is.

Harry’s Place. Ahh bless. Imagine Norman Geras bitten by a rabid Dog. Harry’s place is home of “decency”. In the old days decency used to mean, well, being decent. Nowadays it means support for neo-colonialism, islamaphobia, and vitriolic distain for the hard left. The most remarkable thing about Harry’s place is the comments, where racist comments are not criticised, but leftist comments critical of the Harry team are sometimes altered. A shrill, nasty experience, best avoided.

Lenin’s Tomb. The unofficial official SWP blog. Written by verbose twenty somethings full of outrage at the world, and an uncomplicated faith that there are goodies and baddies. Actually this is its strength, and the Tomb is guaranteed to be entertaining, informative and committed. “Lenin” himself rather remarkably rejects the Marxist method, arguing that there is no underlying objective reality, and all that really exists is language. (This presumably makes it easier for him to support Tommy Sheridan). Worth checking occasionally, but the comments can become depressingly sectarian.

Dead Men Left. Another good SWP blog, but updated less frequently than Lenin’s Tomb, and a little more measured. Worth looking at regularly.

Drink Soaked Trots. If you like the General Theory of Rubbish, you will like this collective blog. Much too much space spent slagging of the left for my liking.

Socialist Unity Blog. Sister to the Socialist Unity Network site. The origin of our main website was that we felt there was a gap in the market for a left wing publication that promoted a serious discussion about the way forward for the left, that was not banging the drum for any particular organisation, and was open to different voices. The Socialist Unity Blog was started as a way of being a bit more interactive, and also a place for some more quirky pieces. If you like the blog, you should regularly check the web-site as well.

It is worth saying there are some other good leftie blogs from this island, and had I been doing a poll instead of Osler these might have made the cut: International Rooksbyism, Daily (Maybe), The Point Is Liam Mac Uaid, Matthew Sellwood , Kevin Williamson

Oh yeah, and now go and vote for the Socialist Unity blog in the poll on Dave Osler’s blog!


stroppybird said...

Andy what you failed to mention (in the list of predominatly boys club blogs) is that out of all those blogs we are the only leftie feminist blog (or is that the sex, socialism and shooting people blog !).

We also have a 'diverse' readership ranging from the usual sad old anoraky trots to sex workers with their own dungeons...

I think shiraz (and I might be wrong) is the only blog with a woman poster in the team.

stroppybird said...

Oh and pop over and vote for us !!

AN said...


I'm pretty sure that Janine Booth is a woman!

When you look dwon the list, I cannot help feel that if any of us (including dave, who I note refarined from puttng himself up for the popular vote, having been annointed by a Tory instead) were really the best blog, my response would be similar to André Gide, asked who he considered to be the greatest French writer, who replied, "Victor Hugo, hélas !..."

I mean none of us are really as good as the task deserves. I mean I like the Strop blog, but wouldn't you have mixed feelings about being voted the best (or 2nd best) leftie blog.

AN said...

Actually - i digress, but I was recently thinking who I would regard as the best English (as opposed to Enghlish language) novellist of the 20th century, and I would probably say "Evelyn Waugh, alas".

Just on the basis of the "sword of Honour" trilogy alone. I hate to think there is no one better,, but if there is i can't think who.

If we let Americans in to the game, then the task gets more difficult, as there are sooooh many brilliant writers to choose from.

I know it is unfashionable, but I do love American culture.

stroppybird said...

Oops, sorry Janine !!

But generally the list on dave's site is about 90% women.

Of course we could be better, who couldn't. All lists that you, Dave , whoever produces , will be subjective and affected by our own tastes, politics etc.
But out of that list I wouldn't have any mixed feelings, but its not serious is it. I think bloggies can get to serious about it. There have been so many lists lately and who likes which blog.

The other thing with blogs is none of us really have the time to make a really great blog do we, I assume most of us have to work or study or whatever.

stroppybird said...

Shit, meant to say 90% men.

AN said...

true - I think this list thing is all Channel 4's fault.

stroppybird said...

Anyway, you also want to be 2nd best leftie blog, else why ask for votes :-)

We are all vain really...

I see Jim Jam is now doing a list.

Perhaps stroppy should try to come up with some sort of alternative bloggie list.

AN said...

I have never denied personal vanity. I have so much to be vain about :o)

stroppybird said...

Well we wouldn't blog unless we were either vain or delusional or both...

Anonymous said...

DSTPFW has several women team members

Martin Wisse said...

Harry's Place and Norman Geras?

Why not just nominated the BNP's blog (if they have such a thing) as leftwing blog? It would make as much sense.

You cannot be a leftist if you support the War on Iraq.


I'll let your mischaracterisation of Lenin's Tomb slide, but will notice that it has been far more right than any of the other blogs mentioned here. But of course, ti has SWP ties and so must either be a) "sectarian" or b) "studenty".

That's why the English left never goes anywhere, because you got a thousand little jealous idiots rubbishing the sole organisation that is getting succesful in breaking out of the bitter old lefties ghetto and each other.

AN said...

Well Martin, by saying Lenin's tomb has been "more right", don't you simply mean more in agreement with what you think?

What an appealing picture you give of how the SWP feel about the rest of the left, no wonder with such a warm and inclusive attitude towards the "little jealous idiots", no wonder we have seen such "successes" in braking out of the ghetto as Respect's membership falling from 400 to 170 over the last year.

Ed said...

Another problem with the left though (and the other side of the coin), Martin, is that that 'sole organisation' you allude to is remarkably reluctant to allow any criticism of itself - and that any serious criticism is often met with the reponse that the critic is simply a sectarian or, in some other way, a bad person. LT is an extremely good and weel written blog, but I can't help agreeing with AN that the tone is a little too strident and rather too relentlessly sure of itself. I find its relentless certainty rather inhuman sometimes. A little uncertainty now and again adds a touch of human warmth.

Thanks for putting me on the list Andy but I feel rather embarrassed about it - particularly because my blogging has all but dried up recently and is unlikely to get going again for quite some time.

Still, thanks.

I would say Osler's is definately the best left blog now - frequently updated, lots of variety and usually very interesting and quick off the mark.

AN said...

That refence to Respect's falling membershio obvioulsy refers to just Tower hamlets and not nationally! (Though I have information that it reflects the national picture)

Ed - your remark about Lenin being so sure of himslef reminds me if the comment about the great whig historian Thomas Babington Macauley: "I wish I was as sure of anythng, as he is of everyhting"

voltaires_priest said...

"Mainly reaction pieces from an AWL perspective at Shiraz Socialist"?!?!?!


Darren said...


you've got that blogging snottiness down pat. ;-)

AN said...

Darren - I'm not sure that is a compliment!

voltaires_priest said...

Good guess.

Darren said...


it was a compliment of sorts. I think if you want to see blogs as the punk rock of the mainstream media then being snotty and kicking against the pricks is part and parcel of the game plan (can you tell I just saw that 2 part documentary on Stiff Records).

That's why you've got to ruffle a few feathers, bruise even more egos and occasionally throw in the occasional expletive . . . wankers.


stroppybird said...


So you spend quite a bit of time on Wills site then :-)

David Broder said...

Sorry, why exactly does Iain Dale have any authority to rank left blogs?

He mustn't understand any of the jokes about the SWP and so on... which is obviously the main focus of any left blog.

stroppybird said...


You are right. But an awful lot of left blogs seem happy to be endorsed and a few have his 'endorsed by' logo (these tend to be the more wussy left ones).

We should do our own list of non tory approved leftie blogs...

Will said...

Martin Wisse said…

"Harry's Place and Norman Geras?

Why not just nominated the BNP's blog (if they have such a thing) as leftwing blog? It would make as much sense. etc etc wank blah blah blah wank wibble wibble wank etc ad nauseum."

Ha ha. So class politics is out the window as usual with the swappie student brigade and the Respectful to Jihadlads Communalist Twats Party. Has he not realised that an awful lot of isolationist right wing shit-for-brains also opposed the war in Iraq? Leftist credentials for Wisse are now determined by your stance on Iraq. You fucking moronic prick. Him and his sort have redefined the 'left' in one fell stroke (you're left-wing if you opposed the war in Iraq) and in the process made themselves the 'new working class', and thus made the workforce into an indistinct mush, ignoring the basic
contradiction between capital and labour, which they don't understand anyway, and opened the way for themselves to ignore having to justify themselves as a 'vanguard'. At the same time this 'workers' 'party' wants murderers and victims to greet each other as comrades, and even poses, by practising Marx's resolving of the proletariat with beheadings and theism, as the real stuff of socialism. These revisionist windbags and liquidationist fantasy-mongers should really carry on in this way so that the quicker they fuck off into oblivion the better the prospects for socialism.

Now Wisse - and any other fucker connected to such scum - I'll leave you to your little playpens and dungeons and dragons fantasy world. Bye Bye.

AN said...

Well Well.

I suggest anyone who wants to continue the exchange of insults goes and posts them to Will's blog, and not in this thread.


I can see that Wisse's comment that "You cannot be a leftist if you support the War on Iraq. " is entirely reductionist. The British labour moveemnt has a complex dynamic that cannot be reduced to any single issue.

Also the inference that Harry's place is like the BNP is a conflation of rightist social democracy and facsism.

AN said...

And darren, I am not sure that "kicking agianst the pricks" is from the punk era.

Isn't it a quote from the Book of Revelations? Along with the even more cryptic, the virgins are all trimming their wicks.

stroppybird said...

"I suggest anyone who wants to continue the exchange of insults goes and posts them to Will's blog, and not in this thread.


spoilsport !

Meaders said...

(Funny, swore I'd posted something here before... I'll try again...)

AN: where on earth are you getting your figures from? They're way, way out: TH Respect membership has gone up since the election.

Martin Wisse, as far as I know, is a non-aligned socialist living in Holland, so go easy with the fe-fi-fo-fum I smell the blood of a Swuppie.

Will said...

If what I said was *just* a string of insults then you might have a case for being so delicate a flower. But as you yourself have intimated, what I said has substance and is also correct.

Wisse is a repugnant individual of course. Forgot to mention that in last comment. Just do a simple mind experiment. Imagine living in a society run by anyone like him and his sort. When are you people ever going to wake up?

AN said...


According to Liam Mac Uaid's blog. who as you know is an activist in TH Respect, TH Respect was entitled to 17 delegates to conference this year, on the basis of a fully paid up membership of just under 170.

He says "Delegates to Respect conference are elected by the branches on a ratio of one delegate for every ten members. Last year Tower Hamlets Respect was entitled to send forty delegates. This year it is seventeen. "


AN said...


It is really good to see you posting here, and your political insights are very welcome.

Some people might think that calling someone "a repulsive individual" or describing people who defned similar political positions to the SWP as "any other fucker connected to such scum ", had crossed the line slightly from political debate towards being a teeny weeny bit like personal abuse.

I personally have a skin thicker than a T34, bt there are people who find such rudemess off putting, and makes them less likely to post here in future.

For examlpe, I quite like the fact that Martin Wisse comes and comments. Though Ii notice that he tens to bung in a hand grenade and then not come back and defend his position afterwards. But ey perhaps he is busy.

Ed said...

Martin is good bloke.

Re: Will's thought experiment - now apply that same line of reasoning to Will himself. If you find the thought of some hate filled, hair trigger tempered guy with a penchant for violent threats and self-pity 'running the show', then he's your man. Although I'm sure he's actually really very nice.

Dave Riley said...

You didn't mention how inane was the discussion affixed to Lenin's Tomb! This is why the 'left' defaults to an e-list preference as it panders to longer posts and broader articulation. And maybe more responsibility, I think -- and moe comnsideration overw aht you say.
I'm helping to anchor a blogging project here:
which we're still consolidating as the challenge is to teach people to blog -- to encourage them to post to a blog rather than stay with email as their sole web interface.
But I agree -- there are not many good left blogs. Why? Well, most good lefts are too busy to blog. Thats' a fact: 'do' rather than 'say'. There's also a technical issue and an associated learning curve. But what attracts me -- my mission if you like -- is that blogs are a proven way to share new information and views often-- over any one week, daily, several times daily... It's also the case that the Left form of the blog hasn't consolidated yet. I suspect that it will be like the SU Blog -- a group activity.
Don't forget that why Lefties don't blog is possibly because they don't read blogs in the first place. Theres' a sort of dynamic implied in blogging that panders to instapundit opinionation. It may suit cranky libertarians to blog but it's bit egostistical for the tastes of many others on the left.
Blogging you see, as it's normally done , is a very lonely activity. It's a bit outside the standard collaborative norm -- nor does it pander to the sort of polemical exchanges that are the mainstay of left discourse.
Best left blogs -- my favourite Eli Stephens' Left i on the News.
Done to a formula and always relevant. You/we can learn a lot from Eli.

The other issue is this: why blog? Whats' the point of the exercise? This is never so self evident that it becomes an obvious rationale. For me though part of the answer lies with the platform -- with what blogs can offer us, which in terms of updated news and views -- makes blogging much more powerful than maintaining standard web pages. Thats' the clincher because people can come back to the blog as frequently as they like and still read fresh content. It's like Gerry Healy's (WRP)slogan for real: Build the Daily! With blogs its possible--at least in cyberspace


AN said...

Thanks Dave

Remember - in the case of the SWP and IST affilates there is no e-list discussion. This was prohibited some while ago, on grounds of "security".

There is also a problem with the group blog dynamic, as in the case of this blog for example, althoug a group blog, I do 90% of the posts - for thr reasons you suggest - ease of access to the PC, etc.

I will check out Eli Stephens's blog. Thanks for the link.

Will said...

RE Ed's comments.

Ed has a long-running antipathy towards me because he's a middle class wanker and err I'm not. Ed also is incabable of convincing himself, never mind anyone else of taking or holding a position on anything. I'll ignore the phd taking student imbecile arsehole from now on. By the way - the only fucker I've ever threatened on-line has been one of the posters at HP. And I had my reasons for doing so (justifiable ones) and I'm not explaining further because I don't fucking have to. Now, delete that slur made against me by the middle class tosser (remember folks - not a scientific category - but an accurate description nontheless, of a middle class tosser) if you please.

AN: Someone has the gall to say Norm is equivalent to the BNP (and by extension others who hold similar lines to Norm) and you expect me be all polite about it? If you want to be petit-bourgeois to the core then be my guest. I'm off. You could look here for a laugh as well mind

Oh. And Wisse is still a fucking pissant.

Will said...

Forgot. One more thing.

I'm only commenting here cos Stroppy encouraged me. Blame here :)

stroppybird said...


"I'm only commenting here cos Stroppy encouraged me. Blame here :) "

As if you need any encouragement ;-)

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AN said...


It is quite possible to have strongly held political and persona; disagreements without resorting to gratuitous personal abuse. I shall delete any further comments from you that use abusive personal language about other people.

I will leave up the comments you have made so far, if only so that readers can make their own judgements.

You are of course welcome to comment and defend you point of view as long as the persnal abuse stops.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AN said...

I said I would delete you Will if you continued to use personal abuse so I did.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AN said...

Will -

putting it back again won't work - I'm still here! I will keep deleting it as long as you are abusive.

if you edit out the referneces to people having "shit comprehension skills", being "pathetic jerks" , and writing "sophomoric mumblings "

then I will let your comment stay.

stroppybird said...


I am going to come to Wills defence here. I accept that Will can swear a lot and be insulting but I don't think the deleted post (which I read) was all that bad by blog standards.

There is a danger of making Will into some baddie who is always the one swearing and upsetting people. Looking over at Eds site (and his comment was aimed at Ed not you) I notice Ed uses quite a few 'insulting' words.They may not be aimed at other bloggers but he also resorts to insults such as :

'the man is a tit', 'dickhead're francis sedgemore. A recent post mocking the easy target of a shoe collecting woman, titled 'a moron speaks ' includes the picture caption 'oh, hello, im a fucking idiot' and he then goes on to say 'half-wit continues to yap'

One commentator then says :
"A stupid fucking idiot whose stupid fucking idiocy has been nurtured by a social system is still a stupid fucking idiot, albeit a helpless stupid fucking idiot."
Further comemnts, when the post had drifed, included a 'joke' about the date rape drug 'rohypnol'.

Funnily ernough, apart from louise and I, no one seemed bothered by the sexist nature of the langaugae used to attack this woman who was really bothering no one.

Sorry for the long comment, but I do think there are other people who use personal insults and swear , not just Will.

Im not picking out Ed as such , just that he is on here joining in. There are others. I have also said my bit already on that post at his site.

yes you can delete, but I think his comment was not that bad really.

And Will and Andy, its getting a bit silly if it keeps being posted and deleted, neither wanting to give in. But hey, if thats fun for you both who am I to disgree ;-)

AN said...


I am not getting at Will - although the SU blog is a bit more relaxed on these things than the main SU web site, we do have rules:


If Ed were posing personal abuse I would delete that as well.

Wil can make exactly the same points without the abusive alngauage, in which case it will not be deleted.

Or he can post the abusive language eleswhere.

AN said...

By the way, Stroopy, I was quite unhappy with the post about the girl and her shoes on Ed's blog. I did post a comment to that effect but didn't realise until later that blogger had eaten it, and then the moment had passed.

It seems that the woman in question was well mainly young, and had it been a bloke mravelling at how many CDs he had, or that he had visited every football ground or somtehing, no one would have thought such shallowness remrakable.

I am sure whe was a very nive young woman and will grow up when she has to.

AN said...

Jim Jepps wrote something sensible about this question of deleting rude commenst a wehile ago:


Ed said...

Dear all

Sorry about this. I shouldn't have risen to the bait. I just find him incredibly obnoxious - but then no one comes out looking good when a comments thread descends into an exchange of personal vitriol. I shouldn't have responded.

Re: my post on the shoes - fair enough. Stroppy - no hard feelings, i realise you didn't like my post and I realise you and Will get on. No problem.

AN said...


You are walking a fine line!

"I just find him incredibly obnoxious"

Is prety much like saying he is incredibly obnoxious,

which in my book would be another personal insult.

However, i am in a forgiving mood.

Can we try to keep the personal insults down please,i otrder to facilitate a friendly debate that people feel they can contribute to without fearing that anything they say might provoke vitriol.

AN said...

By the way - This is the edited highlights of Will's deleted post, I have taken the liberty of censoring out the personal abuse, and leaving just the substance.

I think it was addressed to Ed:

Will wrote:

" you are really searching for something more inspiring and emotional than the historical categories and laws of historical materialism, which you obviously feel is too difficult to bother understanding. You're not the only one of course, at this time, to reject materialism and grope for a religion. Most of *your mates* have also abandoned class analysis and any form of humanism long ago.

"I'm sure you're extensively more knowledgeable than myself about the philosophical intricacies of 20th century capitalism (note, that's irony), or "critical-rationalism" for that matter. But what is the purpose of this discussion? Surely it is not to spite each other, for doing so is pitting ourselves against one another for the entertainment of the great capitalist spectacle.

"Of course late capitalism is a horrendous mechanism, which is the source of inequality, degradation of the environment, or just about any other problem you care to attribute to society. I'll assume that we all can recognize this? But does that mean that we should surrender our cause and hand ourselves over to the machine, to do exactly what it tells us to do, namely to fight amongst ourselves instead of pursuing, both philosophically and pragmatically, the ultimate goal of reaching some sort of Aufhebung?

"For this to happen, however, we at least have to agree on fundamentals as there is nothing so useless than false unity. Your own ideology though, is an ideology that serves to mystify reality and legitimate your reflexive oppositionism (a belief that all anti-capitalism is necessarily progressive and revolutionary for example) while consoling yourself throughout that despite failure after failure to influence events, you and the sort you speak for and defend, act correctly. It is a con trick on the pseudo-leftists themselves (of which you are a prime example) and those others who would support your kind because they think they are being radical. They only manage this by disguising reactionary goals from themselves as well as others through that very ideology which I speak. Your ideology is a forgery which confuses the Marxist application of theory to practice with the patter of a con man. At the present time we have the unedifying spectacle of the coincidence of ultra-leftism, liberalism and social-bourgeois vanguardism acting in concert."

AN said...

Oh and for balance, I have also deleted an earlier comment from Ed in this thread that crossed the line in slagging off Will.

stroppybird said...

"Stroppy - no hard feelings, i realise you didn't like my post and I realise you and Will get on. No problem. "

I would have said the same whether it was Will or another poster. My point was it is not just Will who throws around the insults.

Will just does it a bit more than most and to be honest i have never seen him being patronising to women. if I did I would say the same to him as I did on your post.

wardytron said...

Hello, speaking in my capacity as HP New Boy, I have to confess to being a bit concerned about the tenor of the comments - today someone was suggesting "saturation nuclear bombardment" of the Middle East, which I think is the looniest thing I've ever read on a blog. Obviously something like this is a trillion miles away from the actual blog policy, such as there is one, but it's alarming that someone thinks a comment like this is going to be considered acceptable. I don't really want this to be the case.

NB re racist comments, they mostly come from one person posting under multiple identities and multiple IP addresses. It's impossible to get rid of them all, but I know I spend ridiculous amounts of time cleaning the threads. Don't think it's something we want or welcome.

voltaires_priest said...

Stroppy; "a bit" more than most?

LOL, it's his raison d'etre on the net...

Will said...

Tut tut Volty.

You're being nasty and silly and personal again. At least when I am it's effective in communicating a point. What's yours?

Oh...that's right. Your point is only the one atop your head.

Will said...

I like Volty really tho' (extra comment added for all the 'lacking sense of humour or proportion brigade').

oops. There I go again 'making friends'- Ed™

stroppybird said...


Volty is ok . Not pompous and has a sense of humnour (as well as a disturbing onsession with Yvonne Ridley).

I keep wanting to swear on this site now. I think its being told not to that makes me want to.

AN said...

Hiya Warytron.

What worries me is not so much that there are racist comments but that they are not challenged very much. Whereas comments from those you perjioratively descry as "stoppers" whip people up into apoplexy.

(The one that struck me was one a while ago saying that becasue (according to this poster) Arabs say they are happy to die, that HP should produce T-shirts syaing "make an Arab happy". A clear incitemtnt to racial vioelnce)

AN said...


You can swear - it is personalied abuse that we don't want.

stroppybird said...

"You can swear "

Not any fun if I am allowed to :-)