MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms




The free press is the ubiquitous vigilant eye of a people's soul, the embodiment of a people's faith in itself, the eloquent link that connects the individual with the state and the world, the embodied culture that transforms material struggles into intellectual struggles and idealises their crude material form. It is a people's frank confession to itself, and the redeeming power of confession is well known. It is the spiritual mirror in which a people can see itself, and self-examination is the first condition of wisdom. It is the spirit of the state, which can be delivered into every cottage, cheaper than coal gas. It is all-sided, ubiquitous, omniscient. It is the ideal world which always wells up out of the real world and flows back into it with ever greater spiritual riches and renews its soul.

Karl Marx
On Freedom of the Press

The starting point of the censorship is that illness is the normal state, or that the normal state, freedom, is to be regarded as an illness. The censorship continually assures the press that it, the press, is ill; and even if the latter furnishes the best proofs of its bodily health, it has to allow itself to be treated. But the censorship is not even a learned physician who applies different internal remedies according to the illness. It is a country surgeon who knows only a single mechanical panacea for everything, the scissors. It is not even a surgeon who aims at restoring my health, it is a surgical aesthete who considers superfluous everything about my body that displeases him, and removes whatever he finds repugnant; it is a quack who drives back a rash so that it is not seen, without caring in the least whether it then affects more sensitive internal parts.

Censorship does not abolish the struggle, it makes it one-sided, it converts an open struggle into a hidden one, it converts a struggle over principles into a struggle of principle without power against power without principle. The true censorship, based on the very essence of freedom of the press, is criticism. This is the tribunal which freedom of the press gives rise to of itself. Censorship is criticism as a monopoly of the government. But does not criticism lose its rational character if it is not open but secret, if it is not theoretical but practical, if it is not above parties but itself a party, if it operates not with the sharp knife of reason but with the blunt scissors of arbitrariness, if it only exercises criticism but will not submit to it, if it disavows itself during its realisation, and, finally, if it is so uncritical as to mistake an individual person for universal wisdom, peremptory orders for rational statements, ink spots for patches of sunlight, the crooked deletions of the censor for mathematical constructions, and crude force for decisive arguments?

Karl Marx
On Freedom of the Press

Censorship the active suppression of information. This comes in a variety of forms dependent on the activity – from forcibly destroying information to quiet subversion by impending accessability. Generally the more reactionary a government, the more forcibly it enacts censorship, while reformist governments practice censorship through fewer restrictions and removing accessability.


Centralisation and Decentralisation

Centralisation (or centralism) is the process or policy of concentrating communications and decision-making in a single “nerve centre”. The term dates from the 18th century when it was used in relation to forms of government and colonial rule.

Decentralisation is the process of distributing power and activity as far as possible.

Marxists believe not only that a combination of the two is optimum (a truism) but that an organisation should aspire to be as decentralised as possible, but that when an organisation is under stress or suffers trauma is has to be capable of employing a much higher degree of centralism.

However, any organisation that is normally centralised and lacking in democracy usually finds it most difficult to respond to crisis and change when necessary. Over-centralism in a workers’ organisation, such as Stalinism, is a symptom of decline.

Further Reading: An Essential Condition of the Bolsheviks' Success, Lenin.



Political positions that stand or oscillate between being reformist, reactionary and/or revolutionary.