Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 16, 2011

Bolshevik newspapers: myth and reality

Filed under: media,revolutionary organizing,socialism — louisproyect @ 6:40 pm

Premier issue of Pravda

For most aspiring vanguard party builders, the Bolshevik Party serves as a kind of gold standard worthy of emulation, even if the actual historical experience of that party remains far removed from contemporary versions of that history which tend to project back into the early 1900s patterns of behavior that Lenin would have never recognized.

Perhaps nothing is more essential to the task of building a new “Bolshevik” type party than a newspaper that will promulgate the party “program”. When James P. Cannon returned from Moscow in 1928, he resolved to create a new communist party that would be true to Lenin’s vision. Nothing was more necessary in that process than creating a newspaper based on a revolutionary program. Wasting no time, Cannon launched the Militant. That newspaper was seen as in the tradition of the Bolshevik press but the actual living history of the Bolshevik press had little to do with Cannon’s idealized version. As is so often the case, idealized versions of Bolshevik history can get the contemporary left in all sorts of trouble.

There are only two newspapers that can be considered the equivalent of the Militant in Bolshevik history, but neither of them turned out to be much of an equivalent—for better or for worse.

The first of the two is Iskra, the paper that consumed Lenin’s attention in “What is to be Done”. If you’ve ever read this article that was written in the heat of battle and that Lenin considered outpaced by events not five years after it was written, you might assume that the newspaper advocated by Lenin materialized following the 1903 conference where Lenin put forward his proposal.

In fact, Lenin’s proposal was defeated and Iskra remained under the control of his Menshevik opponents: Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Potresov and Martov; with strong support from Trotsky. Furthermore, the paper was published for only two years.

One interesting side-note on this. In his open letter Why I Resigned from the Iskra Editorial Board, Lenin reserved the right of a minority to express its views in a manner that is utterly at odds with our modern understanding of how to build a Leninist party: “Every circle, even of Rabocheye Dyelo-ists, is entitled, on joining the Party, to demand the opportunity to express and advocate its views.” Rabocheye Dyelo was, of course, the journal of the Economist tendency. Keep in mind, however, that Lenin wrote this article in 1903, long before the idea of a homogenous revolutionary party organized around the thoughts of Trotsky, Mao or Stalin had calcified.

Following the unsuccessful bid to establish Iskra as a revolutionary tribune, the next major attempt at publishing a Bolshevik newspaper in Czarist Russia was made in 1912 with the launching of Pravda, the same name as the ghastly official newspaper of the USSR years later.

Most of what will follow at this point is based on the article “Lenin and Pravda: 1912-1914” by R.C. Elwood that appeared in the June 1972 Slavic Review. I knew nothing about Elwood before reading this article, but was impressed enough to persuade me to put his “Reconsidering the Russian Revolution”, a collection of articles, on my “to-read list”, as well as his biography of Inessa Armand.

In 1910 when the Mensheviks approached Lenin, who was living in exile in Western Europe at the time, about the possibility of launching a legal worker’s daily, he was cool to the idea. He felt that a legal paper would foster the illusion that change could come through evolutionary means.

The Mensheviks managed to persuade the Bolsheviks who were still based in Russia to go ahead with such a newspaper, agreeing that it should be a true workers newspaper written by the workers themselves free from the factional disputes of the illegal émigré press. Lenin was persuaded to endorse the formation of a legal newspaper after he decided that the elections for the Fourth Duma allowed revolutionaries to exploit legal openings to make their case.

The first issue of Pravda appeared on April 22, 1912. Most of the articles were contributed to this new daily by Russian workers in more or less the same spirit as many online publications today, especially those that report directly from the fields of struggle. The paper was a big success initially, selling 40,000 to 60,000 copies of each issue in April and May. This was a period when workers were mobilized to protest the killing of gold miners at Lena on April 4th and eager to read a paper published in their own interests.

Despite this initial success, Lenin was not pleased. Pravda was far too conciliatory toward the Mensheviks. Stalin, who would ultimately gain a reputation as a factional thug, wrote an article that must have annoyed Lenin to no end. Titled “Our Aims”, it called for “unity at all costs”.

When Lenin submitted articles that ran contrary to this spirit, the editors routinely deleted passages that they found offensive. Lenin wrote them in complaint: “Why does Pravda persistently and systematically strike out any mention of the Liquidators both from my articles and from those of other colleagues?” Not only did the editors cut his articles, they occasionally rejected them completely. Lenin complained again: “To write ‘for the wastebasket’, that is, articles to be thrown out, is not very enjoyable.”

Despite heavy pressure from Lenin, the editorial board failed to publish articles that drew clear class lines for the upcoming Duma elections. Lenin might have been the nominal leader of the Bolshevik Party but Pravda enjoyed a kind of independence that no “Leninist” paper would think possible. Indeed, if Lenin had his way, that independence would have to be sacrificed in the name of the revolution. The point being made here is not that Pravda was the kind of newspaper that we should aspire to today but that the Bolshevik Party was not the well-oiled machine that so many people speaking in its name today would have us believe. It was a lot messier affair, reflecting no doubt the contradictions of the political situation in Russia.

Lenin grew even angrier when he learned that Pravda was publishing Bogdanov’s articles. He wrote Maxim Gorky, who had put up the funding for the paper, that Bogdanov’s articles were “the same old Machism-Idealism concealed in such a way that … the stupid editors of Pravda could not understand them.”

Matters came to a head on December 15, 1913 when 11 Menshevik deputies from the Fourth Duma voted to merge their newspaper with Pravda. Being too much for Lenin to accept, he called a high-level meeting to resolve what he saw as a crisis even if the unity-minded members of the two factions of the Russian social democracy saw otherwise. He managed to push through a reorganization of the editorial board that resulted in Iakov Sverdlov being named chief editor.

Before Sverdlov had a chance to purge the Mensheviks, he was arrested.  The paper suffered from other problems besides its inability to educate its readers about the dead-end of the kind of gradualism that was being promoted by the Cadets and implicitly supported by the Mensheviks. The paper’s leading contributors were always being arrested. The paper might have been legal but the Czarist cops thought nothing of illegally jailing its writers and editors.

In 1913, the repression escalated. On July 5th, the cops closed it down. But one week later it reemerged as Rabochaia Pravda. In 1914, Kamenev assumed editorial leadership, thus guaranteeing that the paper would at last reflect the thinking of the Central Committee. The paper did make big gains under Kamenev’s direction, reaching a circulation of 130,000 on its second anniversary. Just as Pravda was coming into its own as the definitive voice of the Russian social democracy, it was closed down for good in July 8, 1914.

Three years later, the paper began publishing again under the editorial co-direction of Kamenev and Stalin, advocating a policy of “pressuring” Kerensky for reform (not unlike the policy some leftists pursue with respect to Obama today) and advocating the continuation of the war on “revolutionary defensive” terms. At the March conference of the Bolshevik Party, Stalin advised unity with the Mensheviks. Writing from exile, Lenin began submitting articles to Pravda once again and as before they ended up in the wastebasket.

So except for the one year that Kamenev edited Pravda in 1914, you might make the case that a Bolshevik newspaper was more of an idea than a reality. The irony is that its vicissitudes were a reflection of the strength of the movement overall. The Russian social democracy reflected massive social formations in motion that were never operating at the same tempo or with the same immediate goals until October 1917.

Lenin was frustrated much of the time because he was dealing with people who were reflecting the relative backwardness of the social layers they emerged from or that they were responding to. It was a little bit like herding cats, as they put it, but these cats numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

The modern-day self-declared Bolsheviks do not have to bother with such distractions because they do not emerge out of a mass movement but out of the minds of small groups of people inspired by Lenin’s party but not fully understanding it. They think that by launching a newspaper modeled after a Bolshevik newspaper that never really existed in the real world they will be able to unleash forces through the power of their words that will ultimately transform the world.

Unfortunately, the class struggle does not move in a straight line and least of all in compliance with the directives of an ideologically purified newspaper. Without being too precise about this, I would propose that a newspaper might usefully follow the example of Pravda at least in one respect. In 1912 this newspaper was made up primarily of articles written by workers themselves. In the age of the Internet and in a period of deepening social crisis, something very much in the same spirit is urgently needed.

22 Comments »

  1. yesterday I wrote:

    “In the Hollywood production of Lenin’s ‘What is to Be Done’ Mickey Rooney jumps up and says, ‘Hey, let’s put out a well-organised all-Russian militant newspaper.’ And then Judy Garland pipes in with, “Yeah, we’ve gotta have a great newspaper, with a million laughs… and color… and a lot of lights to make it sparkle. And songs – wonderful songs. And our newspaper must be not only a collective agitator, but also a collective organiser!'”

    Comment by Sandwichman — July 16, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  2. “…I would propose that a newspaper might usefully follow the example of Pravda at least in one respect. In 1912 this newspaper was made up primarily of articles written by workers themselves…”

    Isn’t this exactly what CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaia undertook after their break with the SWP?
    It wasn’t much more of a success than the *Militant*, n’est-ce-pas?

    Comment by Shane Mage — July 16, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cannon, at least, wasn’t as much influenced by the IWW and Socialist Party’s papers as by Lenin’s. Plus, obviously, the papers of the early CPUSA, whether “Leninist” or not.

    A slightly flaky article about an Australian IWW paper: http://libcom.org/history/articles/australian-iww-direct-action

    Comment by Alan B — July 16, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  4. I guess Cannon and his supporters didn’t have much choice as they were about to be expelled from the CPUSA and needed someway to reach out and explain their policies. My understanding was that the paper was directed at CPUSA members/supporters and not the wider radical public. That would explain the heavy stress on programme. It was only later (1933) that the paper was directed at more people.

    But Trotsky in the late 1930s wrote that the Militant was a paper for workers and not by workers and that this needed to change. Some steps were taken in this direction and Trotsky nnoted the improvement. Trotsky was also critical of the Northwest Organiser and its failure to clearly break with the Democrats. Again this was changed.

    But your general comments on ‘line papers’ is correct. Here in Australia you could put Green Left Weekly and Direct Action side by side and for most issues it is hard to tell the difference. But for those involved it must mean something.

    Comment by Douglas Jordan — July 16, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

  5. The Militant newspaper (I’m referring to the one published in New York) is spectacular these days, giving evidence that the SWP is gaining strength (and the paper expanding readership) from the current crisis and resultant upsurge. The Steve Clark article on the party’s entry into the New York Congressional race for the seat vacated by Mr. What’s His Name was deliciously tangy. For a minute there, while wholly engaged, it felt like I was back in 1975, and loving every minute off it. And although it’s true that in times like these it can be easy to drift into ultra-leftism, I think the paper’s more Maximilian approach and more “open forum” type articles is just what the doctor ordered. And yes, I enjoyed, as is often the case, the attached essay above.

    Comment by dave r — July 16, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  6. On Doug’s comment…

    First we should explain that the “Direct Action” he is referring to is different again from all the “Direct Actions” mentioned in the anarchist article I linked to. I think that makes four different publications that have used the name…

    Anyway, the split between the folks who produce the current DA and Green Left Weekly wasn’t really a programmatic one. It was more to do with disagreements over how best to organise, coupled with a toxic blend of office politics and tantrum throwing. As a result, it is to be expected that the programmatic content of the publications would be virtually identical.

    The supporters of DA, no doubt, hold a different view.

    Comment by Alan B — July 17, 2011 @ 1:56 am

  7. see for yourselves…we just put up all the MILITANT for 1928 though 1936. Issue No. 1 included…and the change *toward* a workers paper in 1932.

    marx.org/history/etol/newspape/themilitant/index.htm

    Enjoy.

    David Walters

    Comment by David Walters — July 17, 2011 @ 2:22 am

  8. More comedy from Dave R.

    Comment by John B. — July 17, 2011 @ 2:27 am

  9. I found this a refreshing read, and yet another nail in the coffin of the ideas of the “orthodox” Leninist left. I am happy that people brought up Dunayevskaya and James, who believed, of all things, that one must return to reading Hegel’s Logic in order to understand Capital. A far cry from the very mechanistic approach of those who consider themselves Leninists. The more we delve into history, the more we find out that the “official” story maybe isn’t the most accurate one, and perhaps that has been one of the problems all along.

    Comment by Arturo Vasquez — July 17, 2011 @ 4:58 am

  10. “Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma” by Badayev (one of the Bolshevik deputies) is also a great read on many things, including how the Bolsheviks utilised their mass press in the face of constant censorship and so forth. Badayev has no particular point to make in relation to Louis’ perennial lesson about the nature of the Bolshevik party, but it is a good first-hand account nevertheless.

    The book was published 20 or 30 years ago by Bookmarks, my copy shows no sign of copyright so it may end up on the Marxists Internet Archive (if it isn’t there already).

    Comment by Ben Courtice — July 17, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  11. Relax, John B.; it’s just a small political party with a weekly newspaper — it’s no big deal. And I’m just a person with an opinion, and am no big deal either.

    Comment by dave r — July 17, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  12. Mr Proyect,

    I wish you’d review Dr.. Zhivago. I’m looking for a socialist perspective on it, but I couldn’t find anything on WSW or anything. 😦

    Comment by heynowheynow — July 17, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  13. I think I missed something in this article. I’m trying to understand why a paper written by the workers is any less subject to belief in mythical understandings of the Bolshevik period. Don’t we reflect the “backwards layers we emerge from”? How can we not reflect such layers in a culture as relentlessly mindfucked as this one is?

    Comment by Michael Hureaux Perez — July 17, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  14. I could be wrong, but I don’t think this account is factually accurate.

    For one thing, the Bolsheviks had 6 deputies in the Fourth Duma and the Mensheviks had 7. Another thing is that this account makes it sound like Pravda was not a factional paper and it most definitely was even if its editors were conciliators. For example, Pravda endorsed 6 Bolsheviks and zero Mensheviks for the Duma elections. Lenin wrote in 1914, after the Dec. 13, 1913 merger you mention: “… four-fifths of the workers have accepted the Pravdist decisions as their own, have approved of Pravdism, and actually rallied around Pravdism” based on an analysis of workers’ financial contributions to Pravda as against the Menshevik paper, Luch. (See: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/may/30.htm) (I’ve never heard of this merger. If Luch shut down in favor of Pravda, how was Lenin able to get their contribution figures for 1913 and 1914 and why would he compare them to Pravda’s if they were indeed united?)

    Another issue entirely is that the paper Lenin founded after resigning from Iskra, Forward (Vperyod), is not mentioned here at all; prior to Pravda, there was also an illegal weekly paper, Zvezda.

    I’m going to examine the Elwood article you mentioned. I also intend to look at “Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1898-1964. Vol. 1: The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party 1898-October 1917” which was edited by Elwood because I’m researching the question of how the Bolsheviks elected their CC (apparently they didn’t use a slate system which is what all modern-day “Leninists” use).

    Many socialist organizations have erected their entire theory and practice around a newspaper based on one article “Where to Begin?” written in 1902 and one book “What Is To Be Done” written in 1903 by Lenin. At the same, these groups time deride the detractors of Leninism for treating WITBD as if it were the final word on how to organize in a Leninist way! The title of Lenin’s article is “Where to Begin?”, not “Where to End.” They fail to realize that Iskra/Vperyod/Pravda assumed so much importance in the early RSDLP because of illegality. Pamphlets, books, study groups, meetings, conferences, newspapers, flyers, and flyering were all strictly illegal, so the paper and its distributors had to fulfill all of those functions in whatever limited way possible using a paper which was, compared to of those other mediums, easy to hide from the cops.

    More useful is the 1921 Comintern resolution that spells out what a Bolshevik-type party is, how it is should operate, its structure, and the role a newspaper plays in party life:
    http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/3rd-congress/organisation/guidelines.htm Of course this isn’t the “final word” either, but it’s a good guidepost to evaluate subsequent attempts to build organizations claiming the Leninist/democratic centralist/vanguard mantle. I don’t know of any group that is structured or functions in a way that’s consistent with the guidelines of that resolution. Keeping regular office hours at the paper’s H.Q. (printed on the paper’s masthead) so workers can come and talk to someone — what a revolutionary concept!

    The newspaper and the party are both supposed to be means to an end: engaging in and winning struggles, drawing in ever-broader numbers of workers and oppressed people to fight for themselves and their liberation. The most prominent features of socialist papers are editorials written by staff or prominent party members, while what’s written by workers/readers is confined to a letters page buried on page 6, along with reports from strikes and demonstrations. Who knows if the letters received are even followed up with by anyone in a systematic way.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any of these papers detailed accounts or in-depth analyses of organizing meetings and conferences where issues are debated and voted on, to say nothing of reports on the paper’s finances and contributions from supporters! At most, there will be a cursory report that so-and-so conference marked a “step forward” (from what and to what is left unsaid), participants were hopeful, optimistic in facing the coming challenges, etc. such an approach is superficial at best, and makes for unengaging, uninteresting reading that has little value from in terms of activist practice.

    What I’m getting at here is that the practical work in struggle that an organization is undertaking is rarely discussed or analyzed in its central organ.

    When I edited Traveling Soldier in 2003-2006, I tried to keep the editorializing to a bare minimum. Letters that we got from soldiers, usually short ones simply saying “thank you for doing what you’re doing”, went straight to page 1 with the best part of the letter quoted as the headline; if we didn’t get any good letters letters, we used interviews with recently returned Iraq veterans as the lead. One time we even had two soldiers debating each other.

    In doing this, I was following in the footsteps of Vietnam GI (see http://www.sirnosir.com/archives_and_resources/galleries/cover_pages/vietnam_gi.html for a few examples), a GI paper created by Vietnam vet Jeff Sharlet and distributed in part by Thomas Barton who does GI Special (email him if you want copies of VGI). That paper had a circulation of 10,000+, most of it within the military. What made it great and popular was all the interviews, letters, and such that came in from troops, everything from simple thank yous to horrible accounts of atrocities, conflicts with lifers (officers), and tales of the many ways VGI was distributed among the men on the ground there. It was a paper of, by, and for GIs.

    To me, VGI is the closest thing to a Pravda I’ve ever seen. Its weakness was that it was not connected to building an organization, revolutionary or otherwise. When guys got back from Viet Nam and the war wound down, the tremendous work they did was scattered to the wind, leaving nothing for later activists/soldiers/veterans to build on.

    To conclude: I agree that what’s needed is a paper of, for, and by workers, soldiers, students, activists, and the oppressed. What that looks like today will be a lot different than it it did in 1900 or 1920 or 1968 thanks to the internet, but it should be animated by the same underlying approach nonetheless. Lenin wasn’t frustrated because Pravda became this but because he was being censored by the editors who disagreed with him politically. My article (http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/03/gilbert-achcar-cruise-missile-marxist/) responding to Gilbert Achcar’s support for the U.S. attack on Libya was published and removed from SocialistWorker’s website within 24 hours and I received a dishonest explanation as to why, so I can understand the feeling of despair behind Lenin’s wastebasket comment.

    Comment by Binh — July 18, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  15. More useful is the 1921 Comintern resolution that spells out what a Bolshevik-type party is

    The first clear statement on organizational guidelines were contained in the July 12, 1921 Theses on the Structure of Communist Parties, submitted to the Third Congress of the Comintern. W. Koenen, a German delegate, confessed that they were hastily drafted and were referred without further discussion to a commission. Two days later, they were passed unanimously without discussion. The purpose of the theses was to impose a uniform model on Communist Parties worldwide.

    For example, they state that “to carry out daily party work every member should as a rule belong to a small working group, a committee, a commission, a fraction, or a cell. Only in this way can party work be distributed, conducted, and carried out in an orderly fashion.” Of course, what this led to everywhere is the immediate creation of fractions or cells. Anybody who has been a member of a “Marxist-Leninist” group will be familiar with this approach to political work. Nobody has ever thought critically about what it means to have a “cell” or a “fraction” in a union or mass movement that speaks with the same voice on behalf of a single tactical orientation, but nevertheless the rule–hardly discussed at the Congress–became law.

    Poor Lenin was trying to sort out all sorts of problems that year and probably didn’t have the minutiae of organizational resolutions upper-most in his mind, but there is some evidence that these sorts of rigid guidelines did not sit well with him. A year later, at the fourth congress, Lenin offered some critical comments on them:

    “At the third congress in 1921 we adopted a resolution on the structure of communist parties and the methods and content of their activities. It is an excellent resolution, but it is almost entirely Russian, that is to say, everything in it is taken from Russian conditions. That is its good side, but it is also its bad side, bad because scarcely a single foreigner–I am convinced of this, and I have just re-read it-can read it. Firstly, it is too long, fifty paragraphs or more. Foreigners cannot usually read items of that length. Secondly, if they do read it, they cannot understand it, precisely because it is too Russian…it is permeated and imbued with a Russian spirit. Thirdly, if there is by chance a foreigner who can understand it, he cannot apply it…My impression is that we have committed a gross error in passing that resolution, blocking our own road to further progress. As I said, the resolution is excellent, and I subscribe to every one of the fifty paragraphs. But I must say that we have not yet discovered the form in which to present our Russian experience to foreigners, and for that reason the resolution has remained a dead letter. If we do not discover it, we shall not go forward.”

    This resolution, which was composed in haste and which Lenin described as “too Russian”, was never subjected to the sort of critical evaluation that he proposed. The opposite process occurred. The rigid, schematic organizational forms were not only accepted, but turned even more rigid and schematic. Part of the explanation for this is that Lenin himself died and nobody in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had the sort of subtle understanding that he did about such questions. The party hack Zinoviev became the supreme arbiter of organizational questions and took the communist movement in exactly the opposite direction. The Comintern ended up proposing organizational guidelines that were even “more Russian” than the ones that were adopted in 1921.

    full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/comintern_and_germany.htm

    Comment by louisproyect — July 18, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  16. My argument is that it’s more useful than what Lenin wrote in 1902/1903, not that it’s the end-all-be-all. The resolution in question was drawn up under Lenin’s supervision (http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/3rd-congress/organisation/introduction.htm) and I am familiar with Lenin’s later comments about it being “too Russian” and unintelligible to foreigners. The failure of other parties to lead socialist revolutions wasn’t due to this or that resolution passed by the Comintern, it was due to inexperienced parties being created overnight and thrown into extremely complex and difficult situations without the benefit of decades of experience in struggle prior.

    I don’t anyone would say Vietnam GI was a mechanical application of a 1921 Comintern resolution. If anything, it was a good example of adapting general guidelines to local/American contemporary conditions.

    Comment by Binh — July 18, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  17. I’m re-reading your series on the Comintern and understand/agree with your point about not interpreting Comintern documents as the “final authority” on “Leninism.” Forming a world democratic centralist party with national sections subordinate to an international central committee and expecting anything other than a seies of blunders is foolish. The Fourth International compounded the mistake and had less than a fraction of the forces/influence of the early Comintern parties. The sooner people jettison that baggage, the better. It’s almost unbelievable how so many have tried to stick to this “model” when it yielded almost no practical, lasting results of any value.

    Comment by Binh — July 20, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  18. A close reading of the article by Woods shows that it was not ” 11 Menshevik deputies from the Fourth Duma” who voted to merge their newspaper with Pravda, it was 11 RSDLP deputies, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks who did so. Woods’ interpretation of Lenin’s actions is incorrect, but that’s really a side issue.

    What’s most interesting about the Pravda experience are in light of latter day Leninist re-enactors/wannabes is: 1) The paper was collaborative. There was a team of editors, not a single editor, so it was intensely collaborative. 2) The paper regularly carried poetry and featured stuff written by contributors instead of burying it on page 6 like the bourgeois and “Leninist” papers do. 3) Satire was also a regular, popular feature. (Workers enjoy laughing! Who knew?) 4) Tony Cliff claimed in his Lenin, Volume 1: Building the Party that, “Lenin practically ran Pravda.” Wrong. It goes to show what how “Leninists” have been compelled to stretch the truth about the Lenin and the Bolsheviks to fit their sectarian schemas and 5) Pravda was NOT modeled on what Lenin said about the newspaper in his 1902 article, “Where to Begin” and the relevant sections of “What Is To Be Done?” The initiative for it came in response to demand from below.

    In light of all this, it’s remarkable how close a paper like Vietnam GI was to something like Pravda. Troops writing in said “Nam”, “Charlie”, and “VC”, not Viet Nam and not the National Liberation Front. The Black Panther paper was also similar in that it contained a lot of humor and lively, popularly written articles about “the pigs” and “the man” which was the lingo in those days.

    Comment by Binh — July 22, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  19. Who would have thunk? I’ve been spending a good deal of time recently researching the culture of Red Vienna. The Austro-Marxists very early on decided the best way to bring the working class into the Socialist (or rather, Social-Democratic) project was through “culture:” viz, a party newspaper, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, that encouraged worker participation. Naturally there was a good deal of back-and forth stress, not simply over issues of party discipline and ideology, but over “cultural” contributions and so forth.

    The irony is, that this type of “acculturation” project has been roundly denounced as a failure by various scholars who might best be described as leftist purity trolls. I guess the clog’s in the other machine…

    Thanks!

    Comment by Paul Werner — July 23, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  20. The Whole Food employee letter is epic: http://gawker.com/5824287/read-a-disgruntled-whole-foods-employees-epic-resignation-letter I was mistaken however to cite this as an example in my response to LeBlanc. The worker resigned from a store in Canada.

    Comment by Binh — August 11, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  21. Another myth is that the revolutionary newspaper is central to Lenin’s ideas about socialist organization: “The necessity to concentrate all forces on establishing a regularly appearing and regularly delivered organ arises out of the peculiar situation of Russian Social-Democracy as compared with that of Social-Democracy in other European countries and with that of the old Russian revolutionary parties. Apart from newspapers, the workers of Germany, France, etc., have numerous other means for the public manifestation of their activity, for organising the movement— parliamentary activity, election agitation, public meetings, participation in local public bodies (rural and urban), the open conduct of trade unions (professional, guild), etc., etc. In place of all of that, yes, all of that, we must be served—until we have won political liberty—by a revolutionary newspaper, without which no broad organisation of the entire working-class movement is possible.” — Lenin http://lenin.public-archive.net/en/L1037en.html

    I found that re-reading Leblanc’s book.

    Comment by Binh — August 19, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  22. Sorry to be a nitpicker here but the image you have is a 1917 issue of Pravda, not a 1912 issue when it premiered. I am checking into whether the paper actually had a price listed somewhere on the masthead (for all the emphasis the Leninist groups put on selling papers it seems that Iskra, Forward, and Proletarian were not sold at all!).

    Comment by Binh — January 22, 2012 @ 9:26 am


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