Yay! My favourite group of Trotskyites, the Spartacists (Hate Trotskyism! Hate the Spartacists!) have spat the dummy over Wikipedia. In a typically snarling polemic — ‘Wikipedia: A Million Monkeys Typing’, Workers’ Mop & Bucket, No.888, March 16, 2007 — the mad bastards denounce Wikipedia (motivated at least in part, I suspect, by their inability to control it). So, be warned comrades! Despite pretensions to the contrary: “…Wikipedia is no encyclopedia. A menace to historical knowledge, it is a New Age fraud that often provides a sanctuary for libel and character assassination”. Which, coming from the Sparts, reads like grounds for a demarcation dispute (see ‘Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution’, Spartacist, No.59, Spring 2006, in which ‘Russian Archives Refute Anarchist Lies, Again’).
As Marxist materialists, our worldview is rooted in historical and scientific truth. Thus Workers’ Mop & Bucket has had a strict, years-long policy of not using Wikipedia as a factual source of any kind…
The Web is a powerful and useful tool. But it also has a lot of garbage. The New Yorker article Stacy Schiff [‘Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?’, July 31, 2006] remarked that Eric Raymond, the open-source software pioneer whose work inspired Wales, stated that “‘disaster’ is not too strong a word” for Wikipedia. A founding partner of Wikipedia who has since extracted himself described what he left behind as “difficult people, trolls, and their enablers.” What better habitat for the dregs of yesterday’s Spartacist-hating “Marxism” and “Trotskyism” Internet newsgroups, the kind of people who probably have not left their computers, bathed or seen sunlight in weeks? As for cyberspace frauds, we are reminded of David North’s Socialist Equality Party, an organization of dubious political bandits that years ago liquidated its paper in favor of the “World Socialist Web Site” — a medium through which it can rewrite its history when convenient.
The Web is often lauded as a means of mass participation and democracy. But neither facts nor scientific laws are determined by such methods, much less by an anonymous, multiplayer, fantasy computer game. Science is the product of hard work and a rigorous critical assimilation of the achievements of past cultures and epochs, and it is embodied in the work of authoritative figures and institutions. This does not suit the petty-bourgeois Wikipedia crowd, which is thriving in a period dominated ideologically by the bourgeoisie’s “death of communism” myth and the attendant growth of religious superstition. Wales himself is an Ayn Randist free marketeer. Whatever resentments Wikipedia’s fans have of the genuine ills of bourgeois academia have been twisted into a secular variant of George Bush’s faith-based idiocy.
In the period of its revolutionary ascent, the bourgeoisie fought for knowledge as crucial for economic progress and as a weapon against feudalist clerical tyranny. Diderot’s Encyclopedistes helped to ideologically arm the Great French Revolution of 1789-93. Today, capitalism in its death agony creates a barrier to the expansion of the means of production while dragging culture back into a new dark age. What quality education the U.S. bourgeoisie maintains is increasingly restricted to elite universities. The growth and influence of Wikipedia occurs in a period when public education is in tatters and masses of ghetto and barrio youth rot in today’s Bastilles.
Embracing science and the scientific method, we Marxists understand that only the revolutionary overthrow of the decaying bourgeois order by the proletariat will pave the way for the elimination of scarcity, making mankind’s great achievements and knowledge available to all.
Long Live Marxist Science As It Is Embodied In The Work Of Authoritative Figures And Institutions!
Down with Wikipedia And Its Million Typing Monkeys!
For The Defeat Of Ignorance Concerning The Spartacist League of Australia — From The Near East, To Ireland, The Caribbean And New Caledonia!
Rebuild The Spartacist-Trainspotting Tendency!
Break From The Bad Leadership!
For The World Part-ay Of Socialist Revolution!
Incidentally, at an earlier stage, the SWP (UK) had similar concerns regarding the ‘horizontal’ distribution of knowledge, as is revealed in a text distributed by it in August 1995 in relation to the ‘IS List’, republished by a Surrealist.