Friday, 24 April 2015

WHAT IS THE PRESS?

(An article, abridged and adapted from the German of the late Wilhelm Liebknecht, late Socialist Deputy for an electoral division in the German Reichstag, appearing, in the Social-Democratic organ, "Folkestaet.")


 What is the Press? Its admirers say it is the sixth great power. We are not its admirers, and we say it is the first great power. The Press is the great machine which makes public opinion, and at the same time the channel through which the public opinion flows into every brain. It is the nurse of the people, whom she pampers with the pap of the thoughts and the sentiments concocted by her.
 Mightier than a constitutional sham-king, who only reigns, but does not rule, the Press sways an absolute sceptre ; it rules and reigns, and the proudest people, the most tyrannical despot, acknowledges its power, bows to it.
 But how does the Press exercise this power? Does it exercise it in tho interest of humanity? To enlighten or educate the people? Does it try to heal the ills in State and Society? Is it the avenger of insulted justice? Does it hold out the hand to the oppressed? Does it lift its voice against the oppressor?
 Take the papers as they come — Freetrade, Protectionist, Liberal, Clerical; what do you find in them? What do they offer you? These glorify the State which enslaves and exploits you ; those sing psalms of praise on the society, which forced you to the galley of misery and wage-slavery ; the fourth sprinkle incense of the Church which has endeavored for more than 1500 years to keep the people in ignorance and subjection. Often at variance with one another, these organs of the State, Society, and the Church are all one when it means to oppose the exertions of the people for deliverance from the threefold yoke of State, Capitalism, and Church.
 There is no meanness which the Press would not be prepared to present as high-mindedness : no crime which it would not confer the laurels of glory, it it suits its purpose. The end justifies the means. The end is to preserve and strengthen State, Church, and Capitalistic Society, with all their wrong and iniquities.
   What the Press held on high yesterday, it drags into the dust to-day. What it dragged into the dust yesterday, it lifts to the stars to-morrow. Before the adventurer, whom it kicked yesterday, because he seemed to play a losing game, it bends its knee in worship to-day, because fortune smiles on him ; to drag him into the mire again to-morrow, because the Goddess of Fortune turned her back on him.
 The Moloch of War devours hundreds of thousands. Holy War! Glorious Victory ! trumpets the Press. Be proud people that your sons are led to the battlefield, that their breasts be riddled with deadly lead, their arms be lamed with sabre strokes, be proud that they inhale, with the poisoned atmosphere of hospitals, disease and death. Heavenly delight ! Glorious honor ! The same heavenly delight, the same glorious honor as the brother of the neighborland whom we fight is told to procure for himself when he is put into a different colored uniform.
  The working people toil and moil in unhealthy factories, in pestilential workshops, to fatten with their sweat and life blood the fortunate ones, who by accident, bad laws, or by unscrupulous exploitation of their fellow-men, have possessed themselves, for capitalists production, of the necessary tools. They become poorer and poorer, whereas those for whom they work and who don't work themselves become richer and richer. Their homely life has been destroyed ; boys and girls of tender years are thrown to the gorge of insatiable capital ; the wife becomes the husband's fellow slave, his competitor, and must suffer herself to be put into the same yoke with him instead superintending the home.
  Home ! Empty word to the worker ! Cruel irony ! He has no home, as little as he has a family, as little as he has anything that he can call his property. And the Press! Does it bring these cruel conditions, these evils to light?
 Now and again it speaks of them but not to remedy them, but to decoy the "worker on to the lime twig" by its feigned sympathy; to degrade the proletariat to a chorus of despicable hurrah criers.
 Occasionally the Conservative and Clerical Press dabbles in social matters affecting the workers and partly tears the mask off the face of the bourgeoise (business people, traders, &c ) From this Tory-Clerical Social Demagogy the workers have to expect as much only as from the sympathy of the bourgeoise (trading business class) — deception, fraud, humiliation, slavery.
  Not a moment must the workers lose sight of the fact that the "Press" of to-day is more than ever the Representative of the interests of State, Capitalism, and the Church, the latter being but a prop of the former, and it is therefore its first mission to uphold and strengthen these "class" interests as against the workers' true interests.
   We called the Press the first great power, and rightly ; when all real power is concentrated in the Press. Far more on the Press than on the standing armies and navies rests the modern class-state with its economic exploitation, its political enslavement, its mental crippling and unmanning.
 The standing armies may be broken up by a successful coup in a battle. But the invisible bonds that the Press has wound round the people, are not so easy to break.
 The deliverance from this demoralizing stupefying influence can only be gradual and only by one means, and that is, refusal of the unhealthy fare and replacing it by healthy fare. In other words, the working class must cease to obtain its mental food out of the papers of its enemies, who have no other purpose than the cloaking over and the preservation of the miserable conditions from which it suffers. And as the Press can only be kept within bounds by the Press, self defence bids the working classes to set against the old Press a new. Against the Freetrade, Protectionist, and Clerical Press, which all uphold the interest of the privileged class, the workers must set up a Working-class Press.
 The workers are millions, and the subscribers of the papers which represent the interest of the workers, are only thousands. Our enemies, that is those who are from consciousness of their interest, not from stupidity, our opponents, are only thousands, whereas the subscribers of their papers count millions.
 How this disparity? The great majority of the working people in town and country read the papers of the enemy, and enter voluntarily a moral vassaldom. The food which the enemy offers has the effect of a poisonous herb. Whoever partakes of it forgets his friends and lifts hands fratricidally against them at the command of his and their enemies. The millions of subscribers and readers of the hostile Press are mostly members of the working classes, and it is these that give for their enslavement, the enemy's Press its overwhelming power. It is with this army of readers like the standing army. By the enemy, for the enemy, the people are drilled against the people. When the people renunciate the hostile Press, and turn to the Press of the workers, they transfer the power that the Capitalistic Press wields, to the Workers' Press, the People's Press.
  The worker who subscribes to the papers of his enemies instead of to a workingman's paper, commits a mental suicide, a crime to his brothers and sisters, treason to his class. The Press of to-day is the most effective means of enslavement. Let us seize this lever, and the Press will be the most effective means of deliverance.
 When the working people cease to support the Press of their enemies, and do for their own Press what they have done in the past for the hostile Press, then the victory is in our hands. The united Press can only be overpowered by a Workers' and People's Press, supported vigorously and energetically by the working people.
  And with the rule of their Press, the enemies of the people would lose the basis of their rule in State and society.
  Therefore, down with the Capitalistic Press.  
  And Hurrah for the Press of the People, 


The International Socialist 25 June 1910

[The only problem is that Rupert keeps buying them up for his own ends.]

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