Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 13, 2014

Roland Boer: plagiarist

Filed under: Academia — louisproyect @ 9:34 pm

From Roland Boer’s “The ‘Failure’ Of Communism: A ‘Fall’ Narrative”:

Already in the late 1950s, real wages increased by 75 per cent, returning people to pre-war levels, while collective farm workers were the beneficiaries of the first agricultural welfare and pension scheme in Europe. By the 1960s, agricultural incomes rose by 6.7 per cent per year and industrial incomes rose by 4.9 per cent annually. Consumption of healthy foods – fruit, vegetables and even meats – increased significantly, while doctors and medical facilities became commonly available. As a result, fewer children died and people lived longer. While 138.9 in 1,000 children under the age of one died in 1939, by 1990 it was 14 in 1000. And those who survived could expect to live longer: life expectancy rose to over 68 years for men and over 74 years for women. Indeed, a reasonable number could expect to make a century: in the late 1980s, 52 people were found over one hundred years of age per one million.

And where did these numbers come from?

From here, a Wikipedia article that Boer does not credit. Whoever wrote the Wiki entry did the right thing and footnoted Library of Congress papers. I wondered how this sky-pilot knows so much about Bulgarian economic performance. Now I know, he plagiarized Wikipedia like so many mediocre undergrads and high school students do.

In the mid-1950s, Soviet-style centralized planning produced economic indicators showing that Bulgarians were returning to their prewar lifestyle in some respects: real wages increased 75%, consumption of meat, fruit, and vegetables increased markedly, medical facilities and doctors became available to more of the population, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe.[7]

Increases in real incomes in agriculture rose by 6.7 percent per year during the 1960s. During this same period, industrial wages increased by 4.9 percent annually.

n 1939 the mortality rate for children under one year had been 138.9 per 1,000; by 1986 it was 18.2 per 1,000, and in 1990 it was 14 per 1,000, the lowest rate in Eastern Europe.

Even before Zhivkov, Bulgaria made significant progress in increasing life expectancy and decreasing infant mortality rates. Consistent social policies led to an increase in life expectancy to 68.1 years for men and 74.4 years for women.


  1. 1. You can’t “plagiarize” wikipedia, which is open source and published without copyright, written by numerous anonymous authors, and changes every day. Get with the times. Capitalist concepts of intellectual property are dead.

    2. What proof do you have that he copied wiki instead of the more likely thing: someone copied his info into a wiki entry, which is a common occurrence on the site?

    3. What proof do you have that he didn’t just use the same source as the wiki editor?

    Comment by Salpuris Dexter — November 14, 2014 @ 2:59 am

  2. What proof do you have that he didn’t just use the same source as the wiki editor?

    Haha! That’s the same alibi that Alan Dershowitz used when Norman Finkelstein confronted him over the similarity between what he wrote and what Joan Peters wrote.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 14, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Plagiarism is an error or deliberate falsification of scholarship and a violation of intellectual integrity quite apart from any question of intellectual property as this is defined legally. There can certainly be plagiarism where there is no copyright violation.

    Plagiarism consists of identifying as one’s own work material actually created by others. Authorship can be collective and anonymous, as is the case with Wikipedia; nevertheless, using Wikipedia text without proper attribution where one claims authorship for oneself–or even for some collective other than Wikipedia–is still plagiarism.

    Boer appears to have presented material actually prepared by Wikipedia as his own work in a book for which he received the Deutscher Prize. If this is true, he is guilty of plagiarism.

    If Wikipedia’s actual authorship is of no importance to a contemporary socialist or anarchist, then neither is Boer’s claim of authorship; so by that token Boer should not claim authorship of his works or accept awards for them, as this in and of itself violates the modern socialist (or anarchist) ethics about which Dexter asserts so much concern. How half-assed can you get?

    Comment by Pete Glosser — November 14, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  4. The material cited above was in an article Boer did for a blog, not for the book that got the Deutscher prize. My wife has to constantly remind her students not to use Wikipedia for their term papers unless they cite it. Copy and pasting from Wikipedia has become an epidemic for high school and college students. I think that Wikipedia is great but I always say something like, “As pointed out in Wikipedia…” To me it is shocking that Boer did not take the trouble to do so.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 14, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Sorry for the error.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — November 14, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

  6. However, the point about authorship stands. If Boer thinks it matters to claim authorship, then he has no business denying it to other. Besides, the point is not only about who gets credit, but about identifying sources so that others can judge one’s work accurately.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — November 14, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

  7. ** If Wikipedia’s actual authorship is of no importance to a contemporary socialist or anarchist, then neither is Boer’s claim of authorship; so by that token Boer should not claim authorship of his works or accept awards for them, as this in and of itself violates the modern socialist (or anarchist) ethics about which Dexter asserts so much concern. **

    You’re right, he shouldn’t — share and share alike is the future. The reason this “license” which allows any content to be reprinted, redone, changed, etc is increasingly popular and relevant has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with reality. Intellectual property is a joke when any information or multi media can be spread freely around the world, outside of markets. Now with 3D printers even concrete pieces of art will be free to spread by torrent or other means. The means of production are outpacing the mode of production.

    Who cares who rights what? Is it true? What’s it’s impact? This is what matters.

    Comment by Salpuris Dexter — November 15, 2014 @ 3:30 am

  8. Well said Salpuris! The means of production are outpacing the mode of production indeed!

    In my day job I wrote a lot of SQL, XML, HTML coding, if I get stuck I look up the code on the internet and insert it into my code. That is the logical thing to do, you don’t have to cite where you got the code from as the objective is to get the code to work. Boer’s objective is to communicate the idea, if words have already been written that do this then he would be an inefficient idiot not to make use of it.

    The objection of Proyect that this is plagiarism is hopelessly bourgeois, raising intellectual property rights above the actual objective of the endeavour. And we know from history that intellectual property rights are more often than not bogus. Alexander Graham bell being a notable example! And more fundamentally moving beyond intellectual property rights can only benefit humanity overall, sharing knowledge is a most progressive development and can only raise humanity still further. This is a critical battle of our time and Proyect appears to be on the side of reaction. again!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — November 16, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  9. Boer’s objective is to communicate the idea, if words have already been written that do this then he would be an inefficient idiot not to make use of it.

    You obviously have no idea of the standards in place in the academy. Stick to XML or some other matter you are more familiar with.

    Cheating & Plagiarism | Research
    Wikipedia Tops List of Plagiarized Sources
    By David Nagel

    Where are students finding the materials they plagiarize in their papers? According to a new study, WIkipedia tops the list for both secondary and college students. But as a category, encyclopedia sites are among the least popular sources, coming in behind four other types of information outlets, including both academic sites and paper mills.

    The study, Plagiarism and the Web: A Comparison of Internet Sources for Secondary and Higher Education Students, analyzed more than 33.5 million papers–about 9 million from secondary students and 24 million for post-secondary students–submitted to the Turnitin service from iParadigms over a one-year period (June 2010 to June 2011). In those papers, iParadigms’ researchers found 128 million “content matches” from a wide variety of Web sources.

    full: http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/11/03/wikipedia-tops-list-of-plagiarized-sources.aspx

    Comment by louisproyect — November 16, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

  10. The “academy” is where the bourgeoisie locks away knowledge, granting access to only the chosen few who will make up the petty bourgeoisie managers and bureaucrats of the future. The socialist program is for the abolition of the academy, abolition of the division of labor between mental and manual workers, and the merger between work, play and education. Formulated best by Marx himself no less!

    Beyond strange that Louis takes the RIAA position on this issue.

    Comment by Salpuris Dexter — November 17, 2014 @ 4:45 am

  11. I repeat, the main point of opposing plagiarism is neither to protect intellectual property as such (irrelevant) nor to assign credit primarily, but rather to identify the sources you are using so that a broader community can understand what you are saying and evaluate it appropriately.

    Among other things, this is a quintessentially collectivist idea, which informs not only experimental science but true scholarship in all fields.

    The idea that “the Academy” is all one thing or all another; i.e., that it contains no contradictions but is all evil (or good) is a self-indulgent petty-bourgeois fantasy born of stupidity, incompetence, self indulgence, and intellectual cowardice as well as a profoundly lazy unwillingness (or inability) to engage with the true complexity of history.

    “RIAA position” indeed. How many times is it necessary to repeat that opposition to plagiarism is not the same thing as the defense of intellectual property?

    Not to grasp this is the essence of willful stupidity.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — November 18, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

  12. Pete’s point is essential. When I read Boer’s article on how great Bulgaria’s dictator was, I wondered how accurate the numbers were. A quick search on Google revealed that they came from a Wikipedia article that also referred to the ethnic cleansing of Turks. Footnotes are important because they allow a reader to evaluate the data. For example, if someone wrote an article on Jews that claimed that they owned 84 percent of industry in Germany during the Weimar Republic, I’d want to check that out since it is counter-intuitive. Of course, since there is no such website as Hitler’s Mustache, that is not worth worrying about.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 18, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

  13. Wasn’t Thomas Kuhn accused of plagiarism, I seem to remember. So what if Boer, in a blog article, used some other data to make his point?

    Of course, referencing your source data is important so others can determine the validity of the results, but Boer does this in his academic work.

    So whats the big issue here?

    This is more an example of cheap and creepy point scoring (so ubiquitous these days), not a genuine attempt to defend academic standards.

    That is my problem.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — November 20, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

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