Reading "Newspapers and the Workers"

Rajeev T. K. February 6, 2013

"Everything that is published is influenced by one idea: that of serving the dominant class, and which is ineluctably translated into a fact: that of combating the laboring class." - Gramsci
Image: Walking Butterfly


A good friend of mine sent me a message out of the blue. He was suggesting that it might be appropriate for Bodhi to republish a classic piece by Antonio Gramsci titled "Newspapers and the Workers". Not quite convinced that was the best use of my time, I played along and looked it up. The first line read "these are the days of the subscription campaigns."

Indeed. Corporations are busy snapping up print, radio, television or online properties. It's a major digital land grab in progress. Our favorite media conglomerate here at Bodhi, the Rs. 389-crore Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. (MPPCL), has launched a high-definition TV channel. Mathrubhumi TV's CEO promises that the new channel's "unique selling potential is that we will be an independent news channel" and notes that it “completes the portfolio (of media businesses) for the group”.

Unlike many other countries, India has no regulatory controls on cross-media ownership. One can buy them as many you need at the market rate. Policy experts have been warning for a long time that a handful of people pretty much dictate what India gets to read, listen and watch. The noted media studies scholar Prof. Aravind Rajagopal has argued that recent regulatory changes will exacerbate the issue of corporate control. For instance, the recent Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2011, makes full digitization of cable television across the country mandatory in three years. Increased capital requirements will kill the local cable providers and smaller channels paving the way for large broadcasters and cable service providers to grab market share.

Writing more than a century ago, Gramsci couldn't possibly have foreseen the technologies that make this media convergence feasible, but he certainly understood the class dynamics that got us here. He probably didn't know about the wonderful trick of selling readers and audiences back to capital in the form of advertising and two-sided markets, but he certainly understood the hegemonic apparatus that legitimizes it. His conviction about the need to wage counter-hegemonic struggles and eventually building a socialist alternative is just as relevant today as it was back then.


Article Source: Marxists.Org

Newspapers and the Workers
Antonio Gramsci 1916


These are the days of subscription campaigns. The editors and administrators of bourgeois newspapers tidy up their display windows, paint some varnish on their shop signs and appeal for the attention of the passer-by (that is, the readers) to their wares. Their wares are newspapers of four or six pages that go out every day or evening in order to inject in the mind of the reader ways of feeling and judging the facts of current politics appropriate for the producers and sellers of the press.

We would like to discuss, with the workers especially, the importance and seriousness of this apparently innocent act, which consists in choosing the newspaper you subscribe to. It is a choice full of snares and dangers which must be made consciously, applying criteria and after mature reflection.

Above all, the worker must resolutely reject any solidarity with a bourgeois newspaper. And he must always, always, always remember that the bourgeois newspaper (whatever its hue) is an instrument of struggle motivated by ideas and interests that are contrary to his. Everything that is published is influenced by one idea: that of serving the dominant class, and which is ineluctably translated into a fact: that of combating the laboring class. And in fact, from the first to the last line the bourgeois newspaper smells of and reveals this preoccupation.
" And he must always, always, always remember that the bourgeois newspaper (whatever its hue) is an instrument of struggle motivated by ideas and interests that are contrary to his. Everything that is published is influenced by one idea: that of serving the dominant class, and which is ineluctably translated into a fact: that of combating the laboring class."
- Antonio Gramsci
But the beautiful – that is the ugly – thing is this: that instead of asking for money from the bourgeois class to support it in its pitiless work in its favor, the bourgeois newspapers manage to be paid by...the same laboring classes that they always combat. And the laboring class pays; punctually, generously.

Hundreds of thousands of workers regularly and daily give their pennies to the bourgeois newspapers, thus assisting in creating their power. Why? If you were to ask this of the first worker you were to see on the tram or the street with a bourgeois paper spread before him you would hear: “Because I need to hear about what happening.” And it would never enter his head that the news and the ingredients with which it is cooked are exposed with an art that guides his ideas and influences his spirit in a given direction. And yet he knows that this newspaper is opportunist, and that one is for the rich, that the third, the fourth, the fifth is tied to political groups with interests diametrically opposed to his.

And so every day this same worker is able to personally see that the bourgeois newspapers tell even the simplest of facts in a way that favors the bourgeois class and damns the working class and its politics. Has a strike broken out? The workers are always wrong as far as the bourgeois newspapers are concerned. Is there a demonstration? The demonstrators are always wrong, solely because they are workers they are always hotheads, rioters, hoodlums. The government passes a law? It’s always good, useful and just, even if it’s...not. And if there’s an electoral, political or administrative struggle? The best programs and candidates are always those of the bourgeois parties.

And we’re aren’t even talking about all the facts that the bourgeois newspapers either keep quiet about, or travesty, or falsify in order to mislead, delude or maintain in ignorance the laboring public. Despite this, the culpable acquiescence of the worker to the bourgeois newspapers is limitless. We have to react against this and recall the worker to the correct evaluation of reality. We have to say and repeat that the pennies tossed there distractedly into the hands of the newsboy are projectiles granted to a bourgeois newspaper, which will hurl it, at the opportune moment, against the working masses.

If the workers were to be persuaded of this most elementary of truths they would learn to boycott the bourgeois press with the same unity and discipline that the bourgeoisie boycott the newspapers of the workers, that is, the Socialist press. Don’t give financial assistance to the bourgeois press, which is your adversary. This is what should be our battle cry in this moment that is characterized by the subscription campaigns of all the bourgeois newspapers. Boycott them, boycott them, boycott them!


advertising, gramsci, hegemony, Media Bias, media convergence, Media politics, Politics, two-sided markets, Ideology, Note, Commons Share this Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

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Thanks for publishing this article

Thanks Bodhi for publishing this piece probably not a better time than now...

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മുഖ്യധാരാ പത്രങ്ങളെ ബഹിഷ്ക്കരിക്കുക എന്നത് എളുപ്പത്തില്‍ നടപ്പുള്ള കാര്യമല്ല. അവയോട് മത്സരിക്കാനും നമുക്കാവില്ല. അതിനുപകരം, അവ പ്രചരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന വാര്‍ത്തകളുടെ ഇതരവീക്ഷണങ്ങളെ പരമാവധി പ്രചരിപ്പിക്കുക എന്നതായിരിക്കും കൂടുതല്‍ ബുദ്ധിപരം. ഒരുപരിധിവരെ ഇന്ന് അത് ഓണ്‍‌ലൈനുകളിലൂടെയും സ്വതന്ത്രവാര്‍ത്താ പോര്‍ട്ടലുകളിലൂടെയും നടക്കുന്നുമുണ്ട്. ഇതിനെ പരമാവധി പ്രാദേശികമായി സംഘടിപ്പിക്കുകയും സംയോജിപ്പിക്കുകയും പ്രചരിപ്പിക്കുകയുമായിരിക്കണം ലക്ഷ്യം. ഓണ്‍‌ലൈന്‍ പോര്‍ട്ടലുകളിലും ഫേ‌സ്‌ബുക്കുപോലുള്ള ഇതര സൈബര്‍ സ്പേസുകളിലും ചര്‍ച്ച ചെയ്യപ്പെടുന്ന വിഷയങ്ങള്‍ ഇന്ന് മുഖ്യധാരയ്ക്ക് ഇടയ്ക്ക് വല്ലപ്പോഴുമെങ്കിലും ഏറ്റെടുക്കേണ്ടിവരുന്നുണ്ട് (ചുരുങ്ങിയത് കണ്ടില്ലെന്നു നടിക്കാനെങ്കിലും അവ നിര്‍ബന്ധിക്കപ്പെടുന്നുണ്ട്). ആ ഒരു സാഹചര്യത്തെ വിപുലമാക്കുകയും ശക്തിപ്പെടുത്തുകയുമാണ് ആവശ്യം.