Vladimir Lenin

The Character Of Our Newspapers

Delivered: 8 November, 1918
First Published: 20 September, 1918; Pravda No. 202. Published according to the Pravda text text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1974, pages 171-178
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V.I.Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

Far too much space is being allotted to political agitation on outdated themes—to political ballyhoo—and far too little to the building of the new life, to the facts about it.

Why instead of turning out 200-400 lines, don’t we write twenty or even ten lines on such simple, generally known, clear topics with which the people are already fairly well acquainted, like the foul treachery of the Mensheviks—the lackeys of the bourgeoisie—the Anglo-Japanese invasion to restore the sacred rights of capital, the American multimillionaires baring their fangs against Germany, etc., etc.? We must write about these things and note every new fact in this sphere, but we need not write long articles and repeat old arguments; what is needed is to condemn in just a few lines, “in telegraphic style”, the latest manifestation of the old, known and already evaluated politics.

The bourgeois press in the “good old bourgeois times” never mentioned the “holy of holies"—the conditions in privately-owned factories, in the private enterprises. This custom fitted in with the interests of the bourgeoisie. We must radically break with it. We have not broken with it. So far our type of newspaper has not changed as it should in a society in transition from capitalism to socialism.

Less politics. Politics has been “elucidated” fully and reduced to a struggle between the two camps: the insurrectionary proletariat and the handful of capitalist slaveowners (with the whole. gang, right down to the Mensheviks and others). We may, and, I repeat, we must, speak very briefly about these politics.

More economics. But not in the sense of “general” discussions, learned reviews, intellectual plans and similar piffle, for, I regret to say, they are all too often just piffle and nothing more. By economics we mean the gathering, careful checking and study of the facts of the actual organisation of the new life. Have real successes been achieved by big factories, agricultural communes, the Poor Peasants’ Committees, and local Economic Councils in building up the new economy? What, precisely, are these successes? Have they been verified? Are they not fables, boasting, intellectual proinises ("things are moving”, “the plan has been drawn up”, “we are getting under way”, “we now vouch for”, “there is undoubted improvement”, and other charlatan phrases of which “we” are such masters)? How have the successes been achieved? What must be done to extend them?

Where is the black list with the names of the lagging factories which since nationalisation have remained models of disorder, disintegration, dirt, hooliganism and parasitism? Nowhere to be found. But there are such factories. We shall not be able to do our duty unless we wage war against these “guardians of capitalist traditions”. We shall be jellyfish, not Communists, as long as we tolerated such factories. We have not learned to wage the class struggle in the newspapers as skilfully as the bourgeoisie did. Remember the skill with which it hounded its class enemies in the press, ridiculed them, disgraced them, and tried to sweep them away. And we? Doesn’t the class struggle in the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism take the form of safeguarding the interests of the working class against the few, the groups and sections of workers who stubbornly cling to capitalist traditions and continue to regard the Soviet state in the old way: work as little and as badly as they can and grab as much money as possible from the state. Aren’t there many such scoundrels, even among the compositors in Soviet printing works, among the Sormovo and Putilov workers, etc.? How many of them have we found, how many have we exposed and how many have we pilloried?

The press is silent. And if it mentions the subject at all it does so in a stereotyped, official way, not in the manner of a revolutionary press, not as an organ of the dictatorship of a class demonstrating that the resistance of the capitalists and of the parasites-the custodians of capitalist traditionswill be crushed with an iron hand.

The same with the war. Do we harass cowardly or inefficient officers? Have we denounced the really bad regiments to the whole of Russia? Have we “caught” enough of the bad types who should be removed from the army with the greatest publicity for unsuitability, carelessness, procrastination, etc.? We are not yet waging an effective, ruthless and truly revolutionary war against the specific wrongdoers. We do very little to educate the people by living, concrete examples and models taken from all spheres of life, although that is the chief task of the press during the transition from capitalism to communism. We give little attention to that aspect of everyday life inside the factories, in the villages and in the regiments where, more than anywhere else, the new is being built, where attention, publicity, public criticism, condemnation of what is bad and appeals to learn from the good are needed most.

Less political ballyhoo. Fewer highbrow discussions. Closer to life. More attention to the way in which the workers and peasants are actually building the new in their everyday work, and more verification so as to ascertain the extent to which the new is communistic.

N. Lenin