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The Militant, 10 January 1949

M. Stein

Capitalist Propaganda Runs into “Sales Resistance”

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


There is one highly interesting theme that’s long gone begging for an author. We hope the right man will soon come along to do a rounded study of the people’s ability to become immunized to the powerful indoctrination and opinion-molding machine which operates at top speed to standardize American thought.

The operations of this machine, particularly the press, have been treated in such books as Seldes’ Lords of the Press and Lundberg’s America’s Sixty Families. The Big Business monopoly of the press is a well-established fact. It advocates, with one voice and minor variations, the line of the National Association of Manufacturers, plumping without shame or restraint for the most reactionary policies of the monopolists.

Significant Resistance

We do not know of a single serious work dealing with the people’s resistance to this incessant pounding. Yet this resistance is considerable. The recent elections gave us one example. A majority of the voters defied the lords of the press and the radio, and rejected the man this propaganda machine had set out to put over as the next president.

Or take another significant case which has just come to light. The Jan. 1 issue of Business Week carries a Psychological Corp. survey according to which 20.9% of the people flatly reject the idea that this country must have private capitalism in order to have democracy. This identification of democracy with the rule of monopolies is the task of tasks of their huge propaganda mill. And the NAM mouthpiece is naturally alarmed that so large a minority refuses to place faith in the democratic virtues of capitalism.

Business Week complains: “A poor selling job has been done so far on the good features of our capitalistic society if at least one person out of five is certain that private capitalism is not an essential part of a democratic nation.” They hasten to add that “the further revelation that 21.7% have no fixed opinion about private ownership indicates that there are many who still may be sold if enough effort is expended.”

This alarm is quite understandable. 42.6% of the people already either reject this capitalist propaganda or remain uncohvinced by it. They may very well at the next stage conclude that capitalism is in reality the mortal enemy of democracy and then decide to do something about it. If so a large minority sees no Democratic virtues in capitalism or is skeptical about them at this time under the conditions of economic boom, what will happen when this boom runs its course and ends, as it must, in a bust?

Where Capitalism Failed

To say that capitalism hasn’t done a good enough selling job is both false and true. It is false so far as its propaganda efforts are concerned? In this respect everything humanly possible has been done. From the cradle to the grave everyone of us, is subjected to an incessant pounding on the virtues of capitalism. The school system, the pulpit, the press, the radio, the movies – they all do their part in extolling capitalism and damning socialism. Where capitalism has failed is not in its propaganda efforts, but in its performance as a system. And not only in this country, but on a world scale.

Our generation has seen the rise of fascism – the deadly enemy of democracy – on the very foundations of capitalism. We have witnessed the brutal capitalist suppression of the colonial peoples fighting for the democratic right of self-determination. Right now in this country we are witnessing not the extension of democracy, but its curtailment and the introduction of the police state methods of witch-hunts and loyalty purges.

Finally, every worker in his daily experience can observe capitalism operate as the very negation of democracy. He makes his living in the factory, mine or workshop, where he is subjected to the autocratic rule of employers who wield their power not because they were democratically elected to their posts, but through the plutocratic hierarchy which is the very antithesis of the democratic process.

It is this glaring contradiction between life’s experiences and the sugary lies of the capitalist propaganda machine which creates the sales resistance among the people.

What we see here is not the failure of capitalism to do a good “selling job” but the growing disillusionment with capitalism by people once completely sold on the system. This trend is not specifically American – it is worldwide. If anything, our people are in this respect behind the thinking of peoples in other countries whose experiences in the struggle to safeguard and extend democracy have taught them that capitalism is the mortal enemy of real democracy. Many of them have learned that only in the struggle for a socialist order can democracy really find its fulfillment.

Against the Trend

The strong current of opposition to capitalist indoctrination in this country reported by the Psychological Corp. survey is particularly impressive since it runs counter to what appear on the surface to be the current trends. Since the end of the war we have been subjected to a red-baiting campaign of gigantic proportions. There has not been an agency for molding public opinion that has not taken part in this campaign. Included are agencies bearing the official stamp of the government, the unofficial stamp of monopoly capitalism, as Well as the church hierarchy and the union officialdom.

This red-baiting campaign has swept along scores and hundreds of intellectuals, who, not so long ago, helped articulate the people’s opposition to capitalist rule. This about-face by the intellectuals has transformed them into apologists for the vilest features of capitalism. An individual like Eugene Lyons, for example, who in the Twenties participated actively in the great protest movement against the legal lynching of Sacco and Vanzetti and wrote a book on that epic struggle, today sings paeans to the “misunderstood2 Herbert Hoover.

These articulate elements have helped inundate the country with pro-capitalist propaganda. They have helped create the impressiop that the opposition to capitalism was no more, that the voice of rebellion has been drowned out. Even among revolutionists there have been a few who became deceived by these outward appearances and felt themselves isolated.

More Questioning Than Before

But the truth is that there is more thinking going on today among the mute masses than ever before. There is more questioning, more widespread opposition to the system which passes from the misery of economic crisis through devastation of war to inflationary boom – only in order to repeat again this cycle – crisis, war, inflation.

Intellectuals who are quick to learn are very frequently even quicker in forgetting. The great mass which learns by its hard experiences remembers its lessons well. To revolutionists this report of how widespread really is the mass opposition to capitalism is an infallible indication that there is fertile soil for the building of the revolutionary party. It is a challenge to us to reach the masses of American workers and imbue in them the conviction that the struggle for socialism articulates their innermost feelings, thoughts and aspirations.

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