J. V. Stalin

The Press as a Collective Organiser

May 6, 1923

Source : Works, Vol. 5, 1921 - 1923
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

In his article "To the Roots" (see Pravda, No. 98), Ingulov touched upon the important question of the significance of the press for the state and the Party. Evidently, in order to reinforce his view he referred to the Central Committee's organisational report, where it says that the press "establishes an imperceptible link between the Party and the working class, a link which is as strong as any mass transmission apparatus," that "the press is a most powerful weapon by means of which the Party daily, hourly, speaks to the working class."

But in his attempt to solve the problem, Ingulov made two mistakes: firstly, he distorted the meaning of the passage from the Central Committee's report; secondly, he lost sight of the very important role that the press plays as an organiser. I think that, in view of the importance of the question, a word or two should be said about these mistakes.

1. The meaning of the report is not that the Party's role is confined to speaking to the working class, whereas the Party should converse with and not only speak to it.

This contrasting of the formula "speak to" to the formula "converse with" is nothing more than mere juggling. In practice the two constitute an indissoluble whole, expressed in continuous interaction between the reader and the writer, between the Party and the working class, between the state and the masses of the working people. This has been taking place from the very inception of the mass proletarian party, from the time of the old Iskra. Ingulov is wrong in thinking that this interaction began only a few years after the working class had taken power in Russia. The point of the passage quoted from the Central Committee's report does not lie in "speaking," but in the fact that the press "establishes a link between the Party and the working class," a link "which is as strong as any mass transmission apparatus." The point of the passage lies in the organisational significance of the press. That is precisely why the press, as one of the transmission belts between the Party and the working class, was included in the Central Committee's organisational report. Ingulov failed to understand the passage and involuntarily distorted its meaning.

2. Ingulov emphasises the role of the press in agitation and in the exposure of abuses, believing that the function of the periodical press is confined to this. He refers to a number of abuses in our country and argues that exposure in the press, agitation through the press, is the "root" of the problem. It is clear, however, that important as the agitational role of the press may be, at the present moment its organisational role is the most vital factor in our work of construction. The point is not only that a newspaper must agitate and expose, but primarily that it must have a wide network of collaborators, agents and correspondents all over the country, in all industrial and agricultural centres, in all uyezds and volosts, so that threads should run from the Party through the newspaper to all the working-class and peasant districts without exception, so that the interaction between the Party and the state on the one hand, and the industrial and peasant districts on the other, should be complete. If a popular newspaper such as, let us say, Bednota 1 were, from time to time, to call conferences of its principal agents in different parts of our country for the purpose of exchanging opinions and of summing up experience, and if each of these agents, in his turn, were to call conferences of his correspondents in his districts, centres and volosts for the same purpose, that would be a first important step forward not only in establishing organisational connection between the Party and the working class, between the state and the most remote parts of our country, but also in improving and enlivening the press itself, in improving and enlivening all the staffs of our periodical press. In my opinion, such conferences are of far more real importance than "all-Russian" and other congresses of journalists. To make the newspapers collective organisers on behalf of the Party and the Soviet regime, a means of establishing connection with the masses of the working people in our country and of rallying them around the Party and the Soviet regime—such is now the immediate task of the press.

It will not be superfluous to remind the reader of a few lines in Comrade Lenin's article "Where To Begin" (written in 1901) on the organising role of the periodical press in the life of our Party :

"The role of a newspaper is not limited, however, merely to the spreading of ideas, merely to political education and attracting political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitator, but also a collective organiser. In this respect it can be compared to the scaffolding erected around a building in construction, which marks the contours of the structure, facilitates communication between the builders and permits them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organised labour. With the aid of and in connection with a newspaper there will automatically develop a permanent organisation that will engage not only in local but also in regular general activities, training its members carefully to watch political events, to appraise their significance and the influence they exercise upon various strata of the population, and to devise suitable means by which the revolutionary Party could influence these events. The technical task alone—of ensuring a regular supply of copy for the newspaper and its proper distribution—will make it necessary to create a network of local agents of the united Party, agents who will have live contact with one another, who will be acquainted with the general state of affairs, get accustomed to carrying out regularly the detailed functions of all-Russian work and test their strength in the organisation of various revolutionary actions. This network of agents will form the skeleton of precisely the organisation we need, namely, one that is sufficiently large to embrace the whole country; sufficiently wide and many-sided to effect a strict and detailed division of labour; sufficiently tried and tempered to be able unswervingly to carry on its own work under all circumstances, at all ‘turns,' and in all contingencies; sufficiently flexible to be able to avoid open battle against an enemy of overwhelming strength, when he has concentrated all his forces at one spot, and yet able to take advantage of the unwieldiness of this enemy and to attack him when and where least expected." 2

At that time Comrade Lenin spoke of a newspaper as an instrument for building our Party. But there are no grounds for doubting that what Comrade Lenin said is wholly applicable to the present conditions of our Party and state affairs.

In his article, Ingulov lost sight of this important organising role of the periodical press. That is his chief mistake.

How could it happen that one of our principal press workers lost sight of this important function? Yesterday, a comrade said to me that, apparently, in addition to the aim of solving the problem of the press, Ingulov had another aim, an ulterior one, namely, "to hit at someone, and to do a good turn to someone else." I myself do not undertake to say that this is so, and I am far from denying the right of anyone to set himself ulterior aims in addition to immediate ones. But ulterior aims must not for a moment be allowed to obscure the immediate task of revealing the organising role of the press in our Party and state affairs.


Pravda, No. 99, May 6, 1923


1. Bednota (The Poor) — a daily newspaper, organ of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.), published from March 1918 to January 1931.

2. V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 5, pp. 10-11).