Conflict site?

Mike Copestake on some interesting factional developments on Wikipedia (!) surrounding the current crisis in the SWP. Readers may remember we in Communist Students also had a bit of fun with a (Stalinoid) group trying to claim the name ‘Communist Students’. The article can be read here:


Wikipedia wars

Readers may be amused to find that the crisis in the SWP is echoing in the text of the SWP’s Wikipedia page. Now, as a repository of common knowledge publicly accessible to all with an internet connection, the contents of the Wiki page of a group, company or organisation, and how this is written, is of great importance in terms of public image management or the provision of a fair and impartial account of history, depending on one’s view.

Given the highly contentious nature of the present crisis in the SWP, combined with the organisation’s structural dislike of critical reminders of past events, one could imagine how sensitive the Wikipedia page could become for any bureaucrats unhappy with their past follies and betrayals of the membership, as they see them pop up there on the web for all to read.

It may just be a coincidence, but the SWP page has seen an absolutely frantic increase in editorial activity, with more alterations made in the first two weeks of January than in the whole of the last six months of 2012! Could there be a connection with the present crisis?

One item that has been tussled over is the brief mention that the CPGB gets in all this, with its support for the Democratic Opposition within the SWP getting a nod. However, the wording here has clearly been seen as somewhat sensitive. On the one hand, edits have been made, perhaps, to insinuate that the CPGB is pulling the strings of dissent within the SWP, with the Democratic Opposition having to offer a denial of the connection (simply getting someone to deny something so inherently daft is a classic from the dark arts of media relations).

Since then, edits have been made to ensure a scrupulously neutral and clear wording, to the effect that the Democratic Opposition formed itself, leading the CPGB to offer its support ex post facto, with no sinister implications. Needless to say, there would be very little mileage in the SWP bureaucracy attempting to imply that any of the dissenters are puppets of the CPGB. No-one would believe that. Does the SWP bureaucracy need a more convincing villain?

This could all just be coincidence and entirely innocent, but it shows nonetheless that open sources of information and its free flow can be the enemy of the bureaucrat, as we have seen from the SWP central committee’s negative attitude to the internet as a whole and to the rights of the organisation’s members to communicate, share ideas and organise with each other. If it were not coincidence, I do not think anyone would be surprised.


Michael Copestake

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