In “Reflections on Revisionism in the USA,” Edward Drummond states that “in the US, a rough-and-ready yardstick to recognize and measure revisionism is the following test: Does a given political idea entail a change from a pro-struggle position to a non-struggle, or anti-struggle, or less-struggle position?” Closing down the People’s Weekly World, at the very least, entails a change to a “less-struggle” position.
Gus Hall stated in his keynote address to the Party’s Ideological Conference in 1989 that “the influence of the People’s Daily World is much greater than its subscriptions alone.” The Party’s newspaper during the repressions of the McCarthy period served as “the only means for the CPUSA to reach outside of its own ranks.” (Zoltan Zigedy, “The Demise of an Old Friend, the PWW”). To this day, the newspaper remains the single most effective way for the Party to communicate with broader masses of working-class people. For most of its life, the newspaper exerted “an influence far beyond its mail circulation” (Zigedy) through distributions at mill gates, on shop floors and picket lines, at mass meetings, and even deliveries in neighborhoods.
Instead of the newspaper, current Party leaders propose “a glitzy, state-of-the-art website,” to use Zigedy’s characterization. Zigedy asks: “Will it demonstrate the passionate commitment of dedicated revolutionaries to the cause of those forgotten by the Democratic Party and left out of decisions taken by the far-removed leadership of organized labor? Will the Internet or twitter speak to them or for them? Will it build a cadre of activists interacting with, conversing with, and leading working people? What was once a powerful tool of agitation and education will become a small, soft-spoken voice in the vast universe of the Internet. Whereas once activists brought the Party’s views to the masses through distribution of the print edition, it will now take a Google search to bring those views to the attention of the curious surfer wondering if the Communist Party USA is still around.”
As Hans Holz (a German Communist quoted in Drummond’s “From Revisionism to Party Liquidation”) says, “the prerequisite for winning the uncertain masses that are searching for an orientation” includes “emphasizing . . . a militant presentation of an alternative.” Internet-only agitation and propaganda, however, spell doom for the possibility of a “militant presentation of an alternative.” Workers interested in learning more about the Party from their co-workers would likely wish to read news and analysis of current events from the Party’s point of view. Once the newspaper is no more, what should Party members say to workers at mill gates, on shop floors and picket lines, and at mass meetingsÂ”Hey, check out this cool website!”?
Internet-only will cut the Party off from its base in the least privileged, least protected strata of the U.S. working class, and especially among African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and other racially and nationally oppressed peoples in the U.S. In other words, it will cut the Communist Party off from strata of the working class embodying the least amount of involvement with the Internet and, simultaneously, the most urgent need for the message of a Communist party. The class basis for shutting down the newspaper and going Internet-onlyÂadmitted or notÂlies in an orientation to “white-collar” employees. Members of this new petty bourgeoisie, given their typical class background, formal education, habitual conditions of labor, and self-congratulatory, self-proclaimed “tech-‘savvy-ness,'” tend to see the Internet as the source of all news worthy of their attention.
Zigedy writes in “Faux Marxism” that “actions which further the understanding of working people, which push the intensity of struggle to higher levels, which lead to more advanced popular initiatives, also advance the cause of socialism.” Conversely, I state that actions which frustrate the understanding of working people, which push the intensity of struggle to lower levels, which lead to fewer or less advanced popular initiatives, also naturally hinder the cause of socialism. Closing the People’s Weekly World frustrates the understanding of working people by making the Party’s journalism and editorial opinions available only to people with an Internet connection. It pushes the intensity of struggle to lower levels by surrendering weapons of agitation and propaganda that the Party very well could and actually should use. For example, a paper with news and analysis of specific plant closings would help skilled Party organizers politically develop protesting members of the unemployed masses towards more and more consciously identifying with a political organization seeking to replace capitalism with socialism.
Gus Hall once stated that “the most dangerous liquidationist trend is not disbanding the Party structure, but eliminating the Communist essence in our mass work.” The elimination of the newspaper and the shift to Internet-only, pandering as it does to a “white-collar” petty bourgeoisie whose conditions of labor habituate its computer-using members to online communications, will tend to kill the Communist essence in a party’s mass work. Mass work by the Party will likely acquire an even more pronounced petty-bourgeois aspect as the Party relies solely on media that are less readily available, if at all, to its natural base in the most exploited, most oppressed strata of the working class.
A Marxist-Leninist party needs a newspaper to conduct the necessary work of party agitation, party propaganda, and party organizing. Without agitating, propagandizing, and organizing the working class, and especially the least privileged, least protected workers, a party will not long survive as a Communist party, much less ever be able to sustain a correct Marxist-Leninist line. The following quotes from Lenin’s “Where to Begin?” (1901) [excerpts below are available at Marxism-Leninism Today] explain the paramount importance of a newspaper to the historic work for which a Communist party exists:
Lenin: “the necessity Â in general, constantly, and absolutely Â of . . . political agitation among the masses.”
Lenin: “the conduct of political agitation . . . essential under . . . any period . . . the party must be in a state of readiness to launch activity at a moment’s notice.”
Lenin: The danger exists of “rupturing the contact between the revolutionary organizations and the disunited masses of the discontented, the protesting, and the disposed to struggle, who are weak precisely because they are disunited”; “this contact . . . is the sole guarantee of our success.”
Lenin: “The immediate task of our Party . . . guiding the movement in actual practice and not in name alone . . . ready at any time to support every protest and every outbreak and use it to build up and consolidate the fighting forces suitable for the decisive struggle.”
Lenin: “Never has the need been felt so acutely as today for reinforcing dispersed agitation in the form of individual action, local leaflets, pamphlets, etc., by means of generalized and systematic agitation that can only be conducted with the aid of the periodical press. It may be said without exaggeration that the frequency and regularity with which a newspaper is printed (and distributed) can serve as a precise criterion of how well this cardinal and most essential sector of our militant activities is built up.”
Lenin: “In our opinion, the starting-point of our activities, the first step . . . should be the founding of an All-Russian political newspaper. A newspaper is what we most of all need; without it we cannot conduct that systematic, all-round propaganda and agitation, consistent in principle, which is the chief and permanent task of Social-Democracy in general and, in particular, the pressing task of the moment, when interest in politics and in questions of socialism has been aroused among the broadest strata of the population.”
Lenin: “Furthermore, our newspaper must be All-Russian. If we fail, and as long as we fail, to combine our efforts to influence the people and the government by means of the printed word, it will be utopian to think of combining other means, more complex, more difficult, but also more decisive, for exerting influence.”
Lenin: “The first step towards eliminating this shortcoming, towards transforming diverse local movements into a single, All-Russian movement, must be the founding of an All-Russian newspaper.”
Lenin: “Lastly, what we need is definitely a political newspaper. Without a political organ, a political movement deserving that name is inconceivable . . . . Without such a newspaper we cannot possibly fulfill our task Â that of concentrating all the elements of political discontent and protest, of vitalizing thereby the revolutionary movement of the proletariat.”
Lenin: “Those who are able and ready to make exposures have no tribune from which to speak, no eager and encouraging audience, they do not see anywhere among the people that force to which it would be worth while directing their complaint against the ‘omnipotent’ Russian Government.”
Lenin “We are now in a position to provide a tribune for the nationwide exposure of the tsarist government, and it is our duty to do this. That tribune must be a Social-Democratic newspaper.”
Lenin: “When such a mass demand [for political knowledge and information] is evident, when the training of experienced revolutionary leaders has already begun, and when the concentration of the working class makes it virtual master in the working-class districts of the big cities and in the factory settlements and communities, it is quite feasible for the proletariat to found a political newspaper. Through the proletariat the newspaper will reach the urban petty bourgeoisie, the rural handicraftsmen, and the peasants, thereby becoming a real people’s political newspaper.”
Lenin: “The role of a newspaper, however, is not limited solely to the dissemination of ideas, to political education, and to the enlistment of political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer. In this last respect it may be likened to the scaffolding round a building under construction, which marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, enabling them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organized labor.”
Lenin: “With the aid of the newspaper, and through it, a permanent organization will naturally take shape that will engage, not only in local activities, but in regular general work, and will train its members to follow political events carefully, appraise their significance and their effect on the various strata of the population, and develop effective means for the revolutionary party to influence these events.”
Lenin: “The mere technical task of regularly supplying the newspaper with copy and of promoting regular distribution will necessitate a network of local agents of the united party, who will maintain constant contact with one another, know the general state of affairs, get accustomed to performing regularly their detailed functions in the All-Russian work, and test their strength in the organization of various revolutionary actions. This network of agents will form the skeleton of precisely the kind of organization we need Â one that is sufficiently large to embrace the whole country; sufficiently broad and many-sided to effect a strict and detailed division of labor; sufficiently well tempered to be able to conduct steadily its own work under any circumstances, at all ‘sudden turns,’ and in face of all contingencies; sufficiently flexible to be able, on the one hand, to avoid an open battle against an overwhelming enemy, when the enemy has concentrated all his forces at one spot, and yet, on the other, to take advantage of his unwieldiness and to attack him when and where he least expects it.”
Lenin: “ It will be understood, of course, that these agents could work successfully only in the closest contact with the local committees (groups, study circles) of our Party. In general, the entire plan we project can, of course, be implemented only with the most active support of the committees which have on repeated occasions attempted to unite the Party and which, we are sure, will achieve this unification Â if not today, then tomorrow, if not in one way, then in another.”
Lenin: “Such a degree of combat readiness can be developed only through the constant activity of regular troops.”
Lenin: “If we join forces to produce a common newspaper, this work will train and bring into the foreground, not only the most skillful propagandists, but the most capable organizers, the most talented political party leaders capable, at the right moment, of releasing the slogan for the decisive struggle and of taking the lead in that struggle.”
From the blog Real Existing Socialism