The Use of Party Media in the Contemporary Ideological and Political Struggle of the Working Class

István Kovács, member of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party

Control of information and communication has been a major source of bourgeois power since the very beginning of capitalism. However, the advent of the Internet and of wireless communication turns them into a highly effective force of oppressing working classes.

At the same time the use of the Internet and of wireless communication make serious influence on the ideological and political struggle of the working class. On the one hand, they transform the ways of communication in the society which produce principally new challenges for the struggle of the working classes. On the other hand, the birth of new technologies allows the development of alternative, autonomous methods of communication, and generally creates new technical means for the fight of the working classes.

The question is whether we can obtain these new weapons of class struggle and learn to use them against the capitalist forces themselves. Lenin wrote in 1920 in his work “Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder”: “any army which does not train to use all the weapons, all the means and methods of warfare that the enemy possesses, or may possess, is behaving in an unwise or even criminal manner. This applies to politics even more than it does to the art of war.” [1]

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party pays more and more attention to the use of the Internet and mobile communication. It is not because we understand it better than others. It is just due to the fact that we fight under hard circumstances, almost fully isolated from classical media. It is due to the deep economic problems when you should think twice before spending one euro. These circumstances make necessary for us to find the most modern, effective weapons of political and ideological struggle.

Information and Network Society – Way out from Capitalist Crisis?

Modern bourgeoisie gives new interpretations of social development, declaring information, networks to be the main organisational elements of modern societies. According to these theories industrial society is being replaced by information society where the creation, distribution, diffusion, use, integration and manipulation of information becomes the most significant economic, political, and cultural factor of the social development.

Jan van Dijk, Manuel Castells and other contemporary scientists go even further, speaking about a new society, a network society. Castells said "...the definition, if you wish, in concrete terms of a network society is a society where the key social structures and activities are organized around electronically processed information networks. So it's not just about networks or social networks because social networks have been very old forms of social organization. It's about social networks which process and manages information and is using micro-electronic based technologies." [2]

It is true that a new communication raises a wide range of fundamental questions. Wi-Fi technology as means of organising wireless access to digital data is gaining popularity in many countries. It is also considered to hold immense potential for bringing the Internet access to poor communities. M-government (mobil-government) is an extension of e-government (electronic government) so that citizens can access public information, obtain services and become involved.

It is also a fact that the openness of young people to new technology and their ability to master and use it for their own purposes move young people away from the sphere of influence of traditional socialisation structure such as home, educational system and broadcast media, and even political parties. “The critical matter is not the technology but the development of networks of sociability based on choice and affinity, breaking the organisational and spatial boundaries of relationships.”- declares Manuel Castells in his book “Mobile communication and society”. And he goes on: “We have observed a growing tendency for people, in different contexts, to use wireless communication to voice their discontent with the powers and to mobilize around these theses.” [3]

But it is also a fact that the majority of modern media is in the hands of capitalist forces and capitalist states, especially the United States control the new system of communication, including the Internet.

We can declare that modern bourgeoisie violates the traditional values of capitalism such as freedom of press. Communist parties can raise their voice against the violation of democratic rights and freedoms and demand free access to information, freedom of press, democratisation of public information.

The purpose of the theory of information society, network society is to hide the existing real contradiction between capital and labour, to show a more or less realistic way out from the deep economic and social crisis of capitalism. The communist and workers’ parties declared about this phenomena at their 10th the meeting in 2008 in Sao Paulo the following: “Powerful ideological diversionary campaigns are seeking to conceal the true origins of the crisis and to block the way to solutions that would be in the interests of the popular masses, which favour a new balance of power, a new international order in favours of popular forces, international solidarity and friendship among peoples.”

Information and networks do not change the character of capitalism, and for this reason they cannot be a generally effective medicine for its troubles. Information is of great importance but belonging to a social class is defined by one's relationship to the means of production, i.e. by one's position in the social structure that characterizes capitalism. Networks also are very important forms of organisation of society but they do not replace the more basic categories of social classes.

Contemporary theorists of bourgeoisie come to the conclusion that networks and new forms of social organisation are to replace the classical political organisations, including the communist parties too. Modern revisionism also declares that instead of Marxist-Leninist parties we need new organisational structures without strict ideological background and revolutionary discipline. That’s why capitalist media prefer to speak about “Facebook-revolution” in Egypt in 2011, trying to give a false interpretation to these events.

What is the reality? The reality is that communist parties have to play a crucial role in organizing the revolt, giving orientation to the struggle and revealing the cardinal problem – the existent system of exploitation. showing the way to a fundamental questioning of the system of exploitation. The past and on-going struggles everywhere corroborate this. It makes a qualitative difference if the masses are politically educated, the vanguard is organized, and the party is ideologically and politically consolidated.

Information Age in the Workers’ Movement

Computer is a fundamental instrument of our time. During the recent meetings of the communist and workers’ parties more and more participants read their contribution form laptops, notebooks, iPad-1, and even iPad2. And it is good! The workers’ movement should keep up with modern technology.

20 years ago we used typewriters to prepare our leaflets and documents. Now the use of word processor programs like Microsoft Word has became a common practice in our parties. But even more complicated programs like PowerPoint are not a secret any more. Mobile phone changes everyday life, including the language and character of communication, customs of people in searching information.

According to our experience the process of learning is of high importance. We should teach all generations of the party no to be afraid of computers and modern technologies, but also teach our people not to await wonders, just to accept and use them as technical means of our political fight.

Possibilities and Limits of Modern Party-press

Practically all the parties of the contemporary working movement have their newspapers. The use of printed media is not an invention of the working movement. It was invented by capitalism but used also for the aims of the labour forces.

The HCWP has its weekly paper, too. A Szabadság (Liberty) is the only real left-wing paper which has been published since 1989 without interruption. During these 20 years a lot of things have changed but the main credo of the paper is the same: we write about things that bourgeois papers do not write, and if they write, we write in a different manner.

We made different steps to modernise our weekly. We have modernised its style and lay-out. We have introduced in the distribution of the paper the method of the Japanese communists. The representatives of the district organisations come to the party-headquarters every Friday to get the fresh weekly papers and they take them to local organisation and then the communist themselves distribute the copies to the subscribers. This method allows to spare money which earlier we had paid to the bourgeois distributing facilities, and what is more important, this method creates a direct contact between the party and the people.

We often remind what Lenin wrote in 1901 in his article "What To Be Done": "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.” And we also try to use what Lenin wrote further: “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.” [4]

Nevertheless, we feel that printed party-press has its very clear limits. If we want to compete with the capitalist papers, we would need enormous investments to change our weekly into a daily paper. Let us suppose that we have this money and we can have a daily paper! What will happen? We will fight against capitalism in an area where they have much more experience, cadres, money etc. We will never overcome them.

We should also take into consideration that in Hungary the whole market of printed press is declining. People do not read newspapers. The largest daily Népszabadság from 600 thousand copies felt down to 67 thousand. The pro-government Magyar Nemzet is printed in 47 thousand copies. Among the daily papers there are only two categories which go up: the boulevard-papers (tabloid-press) and the local papers. For the “A Szabadság” both ways are closed.

So though we have decided to preserve and even to develop the party-paper, we should understand that its strategic importance will decrease and its functions should be fulfilled more and more by the Internet and wireless communication.

We shall preserve and develop our party-paper, but at the same time its functions would be more and more supplemented by the Internet and other wireless communications.

Wireless Communication: What is the Reality?

Wireless communication networks spread in Hungary faster than any other communication technology. It is partly due to the fact that in Hungary there had been a serious lack of telephones until 1990. It can be explained also by the fact that foreign companies have considered informational areas as one of the most profitable ones for investments.

Mobile phone is an essential instrument of modern life. Mobile telephones had conquered the country very quickly, and most of the people began to use mobile phones instead of fixed-line phones. In Hungary we can see a trend indicating that income is now less important predictor for mobile-phone adoption as long as mobile telephone reaches almost all the population. Mobile phones have spread in all groups of society. In a country with the population of 10 million, in 1999 there was only 1,1 million mobile phones. In April 2011 this number rose to almost 12 million.

As regards the Internet in 1998 there were only several thousands of private subscribers, in April 2011 there were almost 2 million subscriptions for the broadband Internet, and 1,5 million subscribers of the mobile Internet. It means that there are about 6,1 million Internet-users in Hungary. The number of mobile Internet-users is rising more quickly than that of the fixed Internet-installation. It is a world-tendency which could have very serious consequences.

In Hungary the Internet diffusion is higher than the Europe average (58,4%). 70% of younger generations (under 25 years) use the Internet. Among the older generations it is only 20%.

The number of people using different Internet-services is rising. In 2010 1,6 million Hungarians used Facebook. 29% of all Facebook-users are at the age 18-24, 27% are at the age 25-34, 14% at the age of 35-44.

This is the technical and social side of the reality which the Hungarian Communist Party should take into consideration. But there are also important political aspects. All bourgeois parties use the Internet and mobile communication. But if we compare the different parties, we shall see that it was the extreme-right Jobbik (Party for a Better Hungary) which turned the Internet and mobile communication into the main weapon to convince people and to get to the Hungarian parliament in 2010.

We used to mention that Obama has won elections having 2 million supporters on Facebook and actively using other forms of Internet. But we should not go to America to see how bourgeois forces exploit the Internet for their purposes. The Jobbik which had been an unknown party earlier got 14,7% on the EP-elections in 2009, and 16,67% on the national parliamentary elections in 2010. It is true that Jobbik used political arguments which other parties did not use, such as anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsy-sentiments, but nevertheless the very wide and very complex use of the Internet and mobile communication was an important element of its success.

Collective Propagandist, Collective Agitator, Collective Organiser

We become more and more certain that the Internet and mobile communication could also function as a collective propagandist, and a collective agitator, and also as a collective organiser.

Mobile phone means accessibility and micro coordination. We use mobile phones for establishing rapid contact with all members of the Central Committee and with district leaders of the party. In 1994 there were about 10 mobile phones in the HCWP, including 3 members of the leadership. In 2006 98% of the members of the Central Committee and 90% of the district leaders had mobile phones. In 2011 all leaders of this category use mobile phones for political means. It means sending of SMS for giving rapid information about events and positions of the party. Mobile phone is used by the leadership of the party for telephone-conferences to solve problems in an effective and instant way. The use of mobile phone allowed us to cut down drastically the postage, fixed-line phone and travel expenses.

Mobile phone provides us with ample opportunity for political propaganda. We should learn yet the language of wireless communication and the use of the SMS-limits of 160 characters per message in an effective form. It is already used in some organisations but here we have different problems. Older people lack the experience of text messaging. Younger generations have more technical experience but they do not know how to use it for political aims. The costs of mobile phone are also a barrier. One of the possibilities to reduce costs is joining some mobile phone fleetwhich is at the same time an additional element of internal discipline, organisation and inviting new followers.

Mobile phones give rise to a new variant of photojournalism. Now the local party-members send more and more high-quality photos, using multimedia message system (MMS) to the party in order to use them in printed papers, homepage and other forms of propaganda.

New mobile phones allow to save and to transfer audio-materials, including speeches of workers’ leaders, communist music etc.

The Internet can be used for three main purposes. First, for information and coordination. It allows a very rapid and effective distribution of information in order to mobilise the members of the party and its friends and followers. Second, for finding people and groups who show interest to the ideas or the policy of the party, and for creating these different groups of followers. Our party uses for that first of all Facebook. Third, the Internet can be used for mobilising people by giving simultaneously the same intellectual and emotional impression to a great number of participants. If people can follow directly on the Internet an important meeting, they will have the feeling that all of them were present, and they got the same feelings at the same time.

The use of the Internet for political work has also its limits. First, the Internet is a weapon, which does not replace the ideological and political essence of our messages. The correct ideological and political message is of vital importance. Second, work with the Internet demands from the party a system of more accurate work, quick apprehension of real life. The Internet is a challenge for party-work and at the same time a possibility to modernise our work. Third, the autonomy of alternative information is relative, and it cannot change the social system, and does not substitute the hard and long political struggle of communists and working masses. Fourth, the Internet and all other forms of wireless communication do not replace other forms of media. Fifth, we should keep in sight that the control over the Internet is in the hands of our class enemy , that is we use “the weapons that the enemy possesses”.

The Internet is widely used for information and coordination. In 1994 only 2 members of the Central Committee had personal computer and direct Internet-access. In 2006 about half of the CC-members had PC and 75% of them were connected to the Internet. We decided to set up in Budapest and in all urban counties “revolutionary information mobile centres” with mobile phones, computer and Internet-access. We have achieved good results but we could not solve the problem completely. In 2011 all members of the CC have personal or collective PC and the Internet-access, and about 80% of the region leaderships could set up their “revolutionary information mobile centres.”

We are building up our independent e-mail-system, which includes more and more central and local leaders of the party. The traditional post practically is not used anymore which resulted a very serious cutting of expenses.

We have positive experience with Skype which makes possible regular and direct video contact between each other without additional expenses. Some of the organisations use instant messengers such as MSN.

We face two kinds of problems. First, problems of material character. The CC tries to help the poorer organisations by obtaining second hand computers, giving technical assistance. The second problem is connected with the necessity to change the way of thinking of our cadres. Older generations do not realise the outstanding importance of wireless technology in political work. We should make very great efforts to convince them that the Internet is not a modern toy at all but it is a weapon we should obtain and learn to use.

Use of the Internet for political propaganda is getting more and more important. The bourgeois forces try to push out communists from all existing institutions and forms of capitalist society, including parliaments, local government bodies, the press and television. Although the Internet is totally controlled by bourgeois forces, nevertheless it provides some opportunity to create independent alternative sources of information and to spread an alternative left-wing or directly communist subculture.

We should not forget another two important aspects. First, although the Internet is not fully free of charge and demands investments, the cost-efficiency is better than in the case of printed or electronic media. In the second place, the Internet and mobile communication are developing very quickly, and there can be some fields where our parties will be the first ones, or at least they will be among the first. It is impossible in the case of printed or electronic media.

The first problem what we face is creating databases, list of people to whom we send our materials. In Hungary we need the recommendations of almost 1.000 electors to have one single candidate on the elections. It means that we should build up a database with addresses, e-mail-addresses of at least 1.000 voters in every electoral district in order to work with them. Rich capitalist parties buy the necessary databases for cash. We should collect all data with hard work. But “Paris is well worth a Mass.” In this field our results are still very poor.

Sending e-mails for propaganda purposes has been a general practice. Now we introduce modern systems of sending embedded video e-mails. Our experience says that people read less and less letters, but they receive with pleasure video-messages.

Nowadays almost all communist parties have their own homepages which is one of the most common forms of use of the Internet. This year the HCWP changed the technical platform and introduced new methods of work. Thank to these changes the number of visitors raised rapidly. Earlier we had 80 thousand visitors during the whole year, now we have 30 thousand visitors every month.

Besides the central homepage of the party, the Left Front-Communist Youth Organisation and some of the region organisations also have their own homepages. It is essential to achieve a high-level coordination of the different homepages because without that it is impossible to secure an effective propaganda of our policy.

Our party established some other homepages, too, which are not formally connected with the party but they are also made by our members. It concerns some homepages about social work, unemployment. This indirect political work has many advantages.

Facebook, whether we like it or not, is the most widespread social networking service, giving wide opportunities for political work. Facebook has already become a primary way for millions of people to stay connected and Facebook’s lead is likely to be extended as more consumers use increasingly powerful mobile devices (with photo / video + high-speed access) and the communication options on Facebook (like voice / video chat and other services) continue to rise.

Though they say that Facebook was not designed as a political tool, its creators observed early on that it had a peculiar potential. “During the first few weeks after it was created at Harvard University in 2004, students began broadcasting their political opinions with a block of text that included a political statement.”- says David Kirkpatrick in his book “The Facebook effect”. [5] And what is more it is not a secret any more that CIA and other US agencies use Fasebook to make easier their activity, they even call Facebook “ Reason we invented the Internet”. According to Christopher Sartinsky, Deputy CIA Director “It’s really dream come true for CIA.” Mark Zuckerberg, Director of CIA’s Fasebook program calls Facebook “the single most”. And what is more, Facebook is the most obvious tool for secret services, as millions of users willingly share their political and religious opinions, what they do, where they go and who their friends are. The great majority of Facebook users aren’t aware of the proper usage of security settings of their profile and activities, so taking a look into their private lives and mapping their net of friends is extremely easy. So Facebook may be very powerful tool of population control ever created.

Taking into consideration all this, what aspects of Facebook could can we use for our purposes? First, Facebook is a form of broadcasting information. One does not need special or any particular knowledge to send out information, news, opinions. Second, Facebook has a self-organising force which is widely used by different social movements. We have already the first experiments in this field. Third, Facebook is a good instrument to popularize invite to our party among young people, including intellectuals. As it is said “on Facebook everyone can be an editor, a content creator, a producer, and a distributor.” It is something young people like.

It is a vital importance very important that we use this forum. If we use Facebook to build up our networks, if we have a developed database, we can reach with our materials at least 1-2 million people. If we want to prepare and distribute 1-2 million leaflets, it would be a mission impossible for our party. But we should not forget: Facebook and other social networking services mean an important weapon in our hands, but they do not solve our tasks instead of us.

As in the case of all other means of the Internet and mobile communication, in this case we should also remember that Facebook does not create wonders. It does not replace hard preparatory work; it does not make disciplined collective efforts unnecessary in political work. And naturally, Facebook does not substitute face-to-face communication. Those who always play computer and use Facebook tend to choose online communication rather than having a real life conversation. When the problem deteriorates, the user becomes an introvert and has the feeling of unusual when he meets outsiders. Young comrades think very often that it is enough to make a good Facebook-campaign in order to prepare a successful meeting or event. No, it is not enough. We should meet people personally and speak with them.

Use of video-materials becomes more and more important. We have not created our Internet-television yet but we seriously study this possibility. A number of the communist parties in the world have some form of Internet-television. We use different video-sharing portals, YouTube etc. for distributing our materials.

Blogs also are widely used in political work. Using blogs communist can give descriptions of political events; can send materials such as graphics or video. It is useful to know that most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets.

The use of the Internet and mobile communication helps our parties to have a better influence on the minds of people. At the same time it helps to modernise our parties themselves. This way we could can get much more young people to cooperate with us. We can give new aspects to our political work. We can even change the outlook of our party-offices, improving the public image of our parties.

But while using all these new forms of communication we should not forget, that they are owned by private capital and bourgeois state. That is these communications are very vulnerable, mobile communication in any moment may be cut off or blocked up, our enemy has access to the information on the Net, controlls it and in any moment can use it against us. Of course we should use in our interests these fast and cheap forms of information and communication, but at the same time we should create an alternative system of intra-party information and communication, inaccessible for our enemy.

Perspectives of International Cooperation

Bourgeois forces unite their political and material resources in fight against communist and workers’ parties. We are unfortunately far behind them and do even less than we would be able to do.

Solidnet is an excellent form of international cooperation. The server is the generous contribution of the Greek comrades, and the different parties help the work with their written materials. The audio-video part contains only very few photos and they cannot be used for high-quality materials. Different parties publish their materials in different languages. The character of the documents is also very different. The development of cooperation in the field of the use of the Internet and mobile communication is a demand of the time.

There are usually two arguments against a wider international cooperation. First, the lack of money and consequently cadres, second, political apprehensions which disturb cooperation in other fields too. Yes, all of us are in difficult material situation. But let us look a bit farther ahead! Let us build up our cooperation on the basis of mutual interest: I give you something, you give me something. But first let’s see what we need?

We need a more comprehensive and more up-to-date database of the international communist movement. The database should include the list of the parties, names of their principal leaders, electronic and postal addresses, and telephones, and who knows, other information, too.

We need a correct and comprehensive archive of the basic documents of the communist and workers’ movement. It would have not only practical significance but it would be also a valuable contribution to the development of Marxist-Leninist theory.

We need a photo- and video-service which can be used for our newspapers, leaflet, Internet-program.

The progress in these areas would lead us to the creation of a renewed Solidnet and a better coordination between Solidnet and national homepages.

How can we do it? All parties which are interested in such a project should sign an agreement. All participants have the right to download the same amount of information as they have uploaded. The system should be closed; all participants should use a code to enter. All other outsiders can use the system for money. Our parties are interested in improving their own activity and that is why we suppose that they would join the system. Outsiders can be interested in buying our production because sometimes we are the only producer of information of this kind. Let’s remember the events in Greece, elections in Russia, or the meeting of the communist movements etc. Step by step we would be able to build up our independent news service.

What else do we need? We need a better and faster system of everyday coordination. Today it is telephone, e-mail. The existing technical facilities of the parties would allow to use Skype or some other program for direct telephone contacts.

And first of all, we should begin to discuss these questions. It would be of outstanding importance to devote a special meeting of the communist and workers’ parties to the problem of the use of party media in the contemporary ideological and political struggle of the working class.

All these steps can be realised without great material costs. It demands naturally some financial efforts, but first of all it demands our political determination to use the most modern methods in our fight against capitalism.

[1] V. Lenin:Collected Works, Volume 31. p. 17-118. Progress Publisher, Moscow, USSR, 1964.

[2] Conversation with Manuel Castells.

[3] Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernández-Ardévol, Jack Linchuan Qui, Araba Sey: Mobile Communication and Society, p. 144-145. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 2007.

[4] V. Lenin. Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, USSR, Volume 5. pp.347-553.

[5] David Kirkpatrick. The Facebook Effect. P.31-40. Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.