To have a free press we need a free society


To have a free press we need a free society
reprinted from the Weekly People,
November 8, 1969

To have a free press we need a free society

An interesting comparison between the news media in the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was presented recently by Yessen N. Zassoursky, dean of the department of journalism at the University of Moscow. The points raised indict both societies, as well as expose the so-called objectivity of their respective news media. As reported in the words of the Oct. 19 New York Times:

"The inability of the mass media to criticize values and the ills inherent in a society is a problem for both the Communist and capitalist press.... 'We believe in certain values of Marxism-Leninism," he said. 'Ideas alien to Communism are not expressed in our press.' And he said that American reporters were inhibited by advertisers and were not free to criticize capitalism."

The statement has strong elements of truth in it, as well as decided omissions, the first of which is why the press in the U.S.S.R. is not free. Obviously, there are no capitalists there who own the press or advertise in it. Obviously also, the decision to proscribe all but officially approved ideas was not reached by a democratic decision of the majority-the whole concept being an absurd contradiction. The reason the press is not free is because it is owned by the State, which is controlled by a bureaucratic ruling class. As an exploiting class, it has interests separate from and in conflict with those of the people-interests which demand that the people be kept ignorant of this exploitation and of the phoniness of Russia's Socialism. And the bureaucratic despots of the Soviet Union demonstrate their fear of an enlightened working class by even repressing that which exists in some capitalist countries, the right of anyone to print his political beliefs.

Of course in the U.S. the press is not government-controlled, and is free to state whatever its owners wish. But the owners of most of the news media, as well as the advertisers in them, being capitalists, the workers who run the news media here are no more free to condemn capitalism than are the workers who run Russia's State-owned news media free to attack so-called Communism. They do attack the evil effects and obviously sick values of capitalism (always subject to capitalist authority), but they are not allowed to demonstrate that these are inherent in capitalism, and that capitalism is a class-divided society in need of replacement. Instead, the workers who run the capitalist-owned press must blame capitalism's ills on mankind, on the failure to properly reform and administer this society. William Allen White, late publisher and editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, testified to the capitalist orientation and control of the press, when, in a 1938 address to the students of the Whar-ton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania, he said:

"Capital today or tomorrow always has a lively sense of its. own advantage. Capital is instinctively, for all the noble intentions of us capitalists, classconscious. It is that classconsciousness which is discrediting the press of the world today, particularly the press of the English-speaking democracies."

But classconsciousness is not necessarily discrediting to the press. It is to the capitalist press, because capitalist interests are in conflict with the interests of humanity, and because outright lies must be used to defend capitalism.

The classconsciousness of a working-class organ is a good thing. For the working class has no material stake in capitalism, and a working-class paper therefore ha's no reason to lie. This form of classconsciousness enables the paper to carefully and scientifically examine social facts, shedding those concepts which prove false, and accepting those which prove true. And the chief omission of Mr. Zassoursky, assuming that the Times reported his views in full. was to ignore this point and the fact that in the U.S. there is one paper that truthfully examines capitalism, shows it for the hideous monster it is, and provides a program for the working class to abolish it and establish genuine Socialism -- the WEEKLY PEOPLE.

With the single exception of this paper, all are either deliberate or inadvertent servants of capitalism; for all others either accept and defend this society, or while attacking it (as some of the "radical" papers do), fail to present the working class with a program for its emancipation. Only the WEEKLY PEOPLE, the official organ of the Socialist Labor Party, presents such a program, called Socialist Industrial Unionism. And when the working class adopts it as its own, abolishes capitalism and establishes Socialism, we will have a society in which all the news media will be truly free.

As with the rest of the means of life so will the news media be the social property of all the people under Socialism; and it will be administered and run by them in their interests. No ruling class will exist which has interests in keeping the people ignorant. Rather, since the poeple will benefit from progress, and since progress requires a free exchange of ideas, the news media under Socialism will be open to all views. And along with the disappearance of capitalist control and ownership will disappear the need of people to set up an opposition press at their own expense.