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Mar
26
0

“Communist parties too must learn to utilize these methods”

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The following quotes are from the Comintern’s Fourth Congress (1922), the proceedings of which Comrade John Riddell translated into English. The quotes were made available to me by Comrade Jesse McLaren in January of this year:

1) In the discussion of trade union work, the Bolshevik Lozovsky (general secretary of the Red International of Labour Unions) said this about the paper: “Without winning the trade unions, the social revolution is impossible. And, to win the trade unions, we must devote special attention in the coming period to our trade-union press. It must be developed and given a much more practical focus. The agitation and propaganda of our press must be expanded. Our press must take up not only overall political and international questions (although these are extremely important and must absolutely be examined) but also questions of specific, practical struggle, questions of tariffs, of organizational development activity, of social insurance, and so on.
In a word, all issues that interest and arouse the working masses must always find a place in the columns of our trade-union press. Our party press as a whole must be aware that without conquering this fortress of the reformists, we will not be able to move a single step forward.”

2) in the discussion of educational work, the German comrade Hoernle said this about new media: “The Communist parties must therefore set great store on ensuring that their propaganda and agitation utilize new methods, methods that stimulate, that make it possible to seize the attention of the indifferent masses and awaken their interest.
Observe how skilled the bourgeoisie is in dominating the masses through means such as films, slide shows, and the pomp of religious ceremony. Communist parties too must learn to utilize these methods–slide shows, films, artistically designed celebrations, theater performances, political propaganda plays, and so on–a field that has so far been very neglected in Western Europe and that must be systematically developed.”

Nov
30
0

The Balkans

Strikes against austerity are engulfing Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia…

Oct
12
0

“We must develop a new Communist reporter”

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Zinoviev wrote for the Communist International to the editors of Communist papers in 1921. He complained that…

Our papers are too dry, too abstract, too similar to papers of the old type. They are made up too much of what is of interest to the professional politicians, and contain very little of such items as would be eagerly read by every working woman, every day labourer, every kitchen maid, every soldier. Our papers contain too many ‘learned’ foreign words, too many long and dry articles. We are too eager to imitate the ‘respectable’ papers. All this must be changed …
A daily Communist paper must under no circumstances concern itself solely with so called ‘high’ politics. On the contrary, three quarters of the paper must be devoted to the every day life of the workers …
Our newspapers have to compete with bourgeois and other newspapers. We must give plenty of good material, well set up and readable … We must systematically think why the rank and file of the working class are attracted by … bourgeois newspapers … We must learn from such papers as the Daily Herald which strives to serve all phases of the life of the worker and his family … Furthermore, we must also introduce something that is peculiarly our own and what the bourgeois and social democratic newspapers cannot give. This is precisely the letters from working men and working women from the factories and works, letters from soldiers etc.
We must develop a new Communist reporter. He must be less interested in the lobbies of parliament than in the factories, shops, the workers’ homes, the workers’ dining rooms, the workers’ schools, etc. He should contribute to the paper not lobby gossip, but reports of labour meetings, descriptions of the workers’ needs, the most concrete information about the rise in the cost of living etc. …
The rank and file appreciate very much poignant sarcasm a vitriolic sneer hurled at the enemy. One caricature which hits the nail on the head is of better use than scores of high flown so-called ‘Marxist’ articles … We must often, instead of the customary official daily editorial, insert a more or less remarkable letter by a worker or a group of workers from a certain factory, or a picture of some workers who have been arrested or the biography of a worker who has been sentenced by the bourgeois courts and who has displayed a staunch spirit at his trial. Less abstractness and more concreteness – that is what is needed in our papers … (Bulletin of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, 1921).

Sep
16
0

Egypt: Strikes! Strikes! Strikes!

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While international media coverage of Egypt is still largely obsessed with the Muhammad movie fallout, almost every sector in the country is going strike literally from Alexandria to Aswan, together with shutting down of a large number of schools due to a teachers national strike, simultaneously with shutting down the universities due to workers strikes joined by the students.

The revolution is by no means over. For continuous updates on the industrial actions and protests, follow our official twitter account, our facebook page and website, as well as @EgyStrikes and the diigo group…

Sep
15
1

VIDEO – John Molyneux: Anarchism A Marxist Criticism

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I recommend also you read John Molyneux’s book on Anarchism…

Sep
15
0

#RevSoc Self sacrifice, dedication to the cause

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I first read this footnote in the summer of 1998 and it never left my mind. Describing the Bolsheviks’ printshop in 1905, Tony Cliff writes:

This was by far the largest underground printing press in Russia and was literally underground – in a cellar. The printers were seven self-sacrificing party members. They worked 10 hours a day and unlimited hours in emergencies. The cellar was without heat or ventilation. To avoid detection, no one was ever allowed to leave it during the day. At night the printers took it in turns to spend a couple of hours in the open air.

Heroism, self sacrifice, dedication to the cause… that’s what Bolshevism has always stood for.

Sep
14
1

In Egypt, fighting the police has become a national sport

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Sep
10
0

#RevSoc Visualizing propaganda and agitation

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Leon Trotsky, “Vodka, the Church, and the Cinema” 12 July, 1923…

The most important weapon in this respect, a weapon excelling any other, is at present the cinema. This amazing spectacular innovation has cut into human life with a successful rapidity never experienced in the past. In the daily life of capitalist towns, the cinema has become just such an integral part of life as the bath, the beer-hall, the church, and other indispensable institutions, commendable and otherwise. The passion for the cinema is rooted in the desire for distraction, the desire to see something new and improbable, to laugh and to cry, not at your own, but at other people’s misfortunes. The cinema satisfies these demands in a very direct, visual, picturesque, and vital way, requiring nothing from the audience; it does not even require them to be literate. That is why the audience bears such a grateful love to the cinema, that inexhaustible fount of impressions and emotions. This provides a point, and not merely a point, but a huge square, for the application of our socialist educational energies.
The fact that we have so far, ie., in nearly six years, not taken possession of the cinema shows how slow and uneducated we are, not to say, frankly, stupid. This weapon, which cries out to be used, is the best instrument for propaganda, technical, educational, and industrial propaganda, propaganda against alcohol, propaganda for sanitation, political propaganda, any kind of propaganda you please, a propaganda which is accessible to everyone, which is attractive, which cuts into the memory and may be made a possible source of revenue.

Lenin in a conversation with A.V.Lunacharsky, April 1919…

You are known among us as a protector of the arts so you must remember that, of all the arts, for us the cinema is the most important.

Cinema was a new invention in the age of Lenin and Trotsky, but the Bolsheviks were quick to understand the need to visualize dissent. Today, YouTube and similar online platforms, can provide a venue for revolutionary movements to spread their propaganda and agitation visually to a much wider audience.

Sep
6
2

What is to be done: The Website as an Organizer #RevSoc

The Revolutionary Socialists Movement launched its new website on 7 August. The site represents a qualitative change in our propaganda work, but it also presents some major challenges to the membership of the movement as a whole and not only to the comrades in the media committee alone. This is the necessity to provide content on an organized basis for publication and the necessity for comrades to continue to act as correspondents for the site, and to extend this with written reports, pictures, videos, artistic works (cartoons, stencils, comics). Correspondence with the site is not a luxury or only the responsibility of the small number of comrades who run the site, but should continue to be the task of the largest possible number of comrades in the movement, if not all of them.

The site is still an experimental stage, and there are a number of technical problems and tasks which are not finished, and the technical team is working on solving them or completing them, and developing the site to move to the next phase of the project which includes the establishment of a special multimedia section and a discussion forum for members of the movement.

The transition to the next phase of the site may take several months, as the challenge before us is not just technical, but also political and organizational, as the site will not be able to raise its performance and take on the role it should play without reorganizing the ranks of the movement to serve this new approach to revolutionary work. To clarify this, let’s go back a little and give some background on this issue.

Despite the presence of a number of well-known comrades from the movement in the citizen-journalism (blogging) movement since 2005, and the increasing use of “alternative media” tools by the youth of the Revolutionary Socialists since 2008, in general they took individual initiatives, and the movement did not have a general strategy for dealing with the internet and social networks which were spreading, although there was a degree of organizational co-ordination between the RS labor organizers and the movement’s bloggers over the Mahalla strike of September 2007, the Mahalla uprising of April 2008, the tax-collectors’ sit-in in December 2007, a battle which led to their formation of the first independent union in Egypt’s history since 1957.

The launch of the old site (www.e-socialists.net) on 6 April 2009, the first anniversary of the Mahalla uprising, was a step forward, because for the first time in the movement’s history, a committee to manage the site and organize propaganda work on the internet was formed. At the time, the site provided a good opportunity, to the extent available at the time, to spread our ideas on the internet, and to provide an archive of literature, and win a number of young people to the movement and its ideas, and develop some initiatives and activities which were happening on an individual level, and link them to the general orientation of the movement.

However, there were many problems and shortcomings in the work of the group, such as:

  • The site was often an isolated island and the members of the site team had to “hunt down” comrades in order to get reports from them, which often appeared late, or did not even make it onto the site.
  • The old site was not able to highlight audiovisual content such as photos and videos.
  • Despite the rich content of the site, it was difficult for the visitor to browse or find the desired material because of its complexity and the poor organization of its sections.
  • The site suffered a number of technical problems because of its irregular maintenance and development and it kept collapsing under the number of visits.
  • The focus was on the official website, and there was no clear plan for propaganda on the social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Scribd, Diigo and YouTube, despite the establishment of official accounts for the movement on them.

These problems also had a political nature:

  • The design of the site with a single large photo in the center with no other visual content highlighted in the form of images, videos, and the design highlighted written content in the form of columns … this reflected the traditional political outlook on the nature of the site, which was that it was no more than an online companion for the content of the print edition of The Socialist newspaper which at that time appeared monthly.
  • The lack of interest comrades in the movement had in acting as correspondents for the site did not only reflect the fact that the site was badly-designed or difficult to browse, but it also had political roots, which can be summarized in the lack of political awareness of the political task that a website must play in a revolutionary movement … that of an organizer.

Lenin’s book “What is to be done?” represents the theoretical basis for building Marxist organizations from the last century. In this book, Lenin tries to answer the question which was facing revolutionaries in Russia at the time, and which faces revolutionaries in Egypt today and at any time: how can we build our organization? How can we transform co-ordination between groups of geographically-dispersed revolutionaries. How can we ensure unity and centralism in reality, and at the same time create channels of democratic debate between revolutionaries?

Lenin’s answer at the time was a revolutionary newspaper. Every member of the revolutionary organization was at the same time a reporter for the revolutionary newspaper, and their job was to supply the newspaper with reports. But how were these reports produced? The revolutionary correspondent would get involved in any struggle or activity where he lived or worked, and follow these with reports sent to the newspaper, so that this experience would be generalized to all the comrades who read them in other sectors and areas, and the newspaper would create an opportunity for him to connect with this audience and to engage them in his issue.

When you read a report about a factory in an issue of The Socialist, it means that a comrade went to the factory, interacted with the workers and created links with them, and then returned with the report. The process of journalism is a process of organization. It is easy for anyone to sit in the office, browse the net and write a news story about the factory, but this is not the kind of journalism we want. You sending a report to the paper means you are engaged on the ground at the same time you are connected to the rest of the members of the movement, and that you are engaged through the channel which is open between you and the editorial board of the newspaper.

The revolutionary correspondent is not “impartial” and doesn’t pretend to be. The revolutionary correspondent is biased – in favor of the workers in their struggle with management, and biased in favor of the masses in any battle with the authorities. But that doesn’t mean biased in the sense of lies and exaggeration. That is the task of the bourgeois media, and not the revolutionary. Sometimes, unfortunately, we see some activist journalists who exaggerate the size of demonstrations, so a demonstration of 20 workers suddenly becomes 2000, or a defeat of workers in a strike is reported as a victory. The people who do this think mistakenly that they are helping the workers and that this will raise their spirits. But in reality, they are misinforming their audience and their exaggerations could be easily debunked leading to loss of credibility.

The organizing revolutionary newspaper, as Lenin explains, plays a role in unifying the stances of the members of the movement in different parts of the country. So a revolutionary socialist, in any place in Egypt, from Alexandria to Aswan, can see through the newspaper, the official position of the movement on this issue or that.

But when Lenin wrote these words at the beginning of the 20th century, news traveled from city to city by postmen on horseback. Even in 1917, when the Russian Revolution broke out, news of the revolution in Petrograd and Moscow could take weeks or even months sometimes to reach the rest of the Russian empire.

The situation is different today. News travels at lightning speed and not only inside the country, but even between the five continents of the world. Over the internet and satellite channels it is possible to sit in Cairo and follow news of the Tunisian revolution minute by minute. You can be in Alexandria and connect with British clerical workers having a sit-in at their office in a small town in Scotland over Twitter and Facebook. You can be in Assuit and follow the demonstrations by the Spanish miners by live-streaming over the internet.

The development of the communications sector in Egypt is a glaring example of the “uneven and combined development” of capitalism that Trotsky talked about.

[Photo above by Mohamed Ali Eddin: A brick factory worker in Meit Ghamr has his mobile phone hanging from his turban during the work shift.]

For in a country which has a population of around 90 million, where 40% of them live below the poverty line, the number of mobile phone subscribers in Egypt has reached 92 million, or saturation surpassed 100% of the population according to the latest report from the Ministry of Communications this May!

According to the same report, the number of internet users has risen to roughly 31 million.

It is very interesting to observe the relative distribution of internet users, for we find that the lion’s share of them get online via mobile phones and USB modems, which are constantly falling in price.

The spread of this method of access is progressively enabling social classes beyond the bourgeoisie and the middle class to get online. It is this segment of users which is most likely to increase in a rate surpassing the other sectors.

The tempo of work in every revolutionary movement is set to a large extent by the central organizer. In the 1990s, the newspaper Revolutionary Socialism was the organizer for the movement and it appeared monthly. This was appropriate to the low level of class struggle and was also reflected in the small size of the Revolutionary Socialists movement. Today, if we consider the website as the organizer it means that we must update this site minute by minute, and follow political events and activities that occur in Egypt before any traditional source of expertise. The arrival of reports and updates for the site around the clock translates organizationally into the presence of revolutionary correspondents on the ground, getting involved with events and then sending a report to the “center”, which is the site editorial board, which imposes in turn, a faster rhythm of organizational work.

For example, if Al-Masry Al-Youm publishes a news story about a strike in a factory in Mansoura and this doesn’t appear on our site, then we need to ask ourselves why. If the Revolutionary Socialists have any presence there or connection with the factory why did they not send the news immediately to the site? It is just as critical for a worker (who is in these circumstances a revolutionary correspondent), to contact the site to spread the vital news of the strike, as it is to build barricades to defend the sit-in. Contacting the site at this moment means that the revolutionary worker correspondent is included in a communication network, and the experience of what he does in Mansoura is generalized immediately to the rest of the members of the movement as well as all militants interested workers’ struggle. This means they are always ready to offer solidarity and co-ordinate what they are doing in their own areas with what their comrades are doing in Mansoura.

This once again gives a tremendous push to the acceleration of the rhythm of communication between the different sections of the movement. The presence of revolutionary correspondents on the ground in every province, tasked with supplying the site round the clock with reports, and accountable when we hear news from their areas via the traditional media rather than from them, means that there are activists on the ground, assigned round the clock to throw themselves into events that are happening, and under constant pressure to expand the network of revolutionary correspondents in their provinces, which means gains for the membership of the movement.

Suppose a military coup took place today. Would revolutionary socialist cadres across Egypt wait for two or three weeks until the paper appeared to know our position? Or would the leadership of the movement phone and travel to meet each comrade to tell them the line? Here we return to the role of the site as organizer again. It is obvious that the site will offer a quick way to connect and announce to the official position to members of the movement in different provinces on this or that issue which requires a rapid, unified reaction. Already it’s the situation today that whenever the Revolutionary Socialists’ members, sympathizers or even enemies, want to know about the group’s official position towards any political development, they instinctively go to our site, our Facebook page or Twitter account. They do not (and it would be ridiculous to expect them to) wait till The Socialist is out a week or two later.

Newspaper journalists care about written content, but comrades who are correspondents for the site should pay special attention to audio visual content alongside written reports about the events they are involved in. Photographs and videos are not a luxury, but it is the duty of every comrade involved in a event to make efforts to take photographs or film it on a mobile phone. In general, the movement must pay special attention to passing on skills in photography and training in the secure use of email and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to as much of the membership as possible.

The site will not be a substitute for the paper, and comrades must continue in the hard work of distributing the paper at events, to the network of members, and to sympathizers. Despite the increasing numbers of workers using the internet (whether via mobile or via a link at home on in cyber-cafés), the paper will continue to be an essential means to interact with them, and we must do our utmost to ensure that it is published regularly, but the paper will be a complementary rather than a central, organizing publication. It may be that the adoption of the website as an organizer is the first step towards the modern answer to the same question posed by Lenin in the last century: what is to be done?

Aug
4
0

FILM: Finally Got the News

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