Antonio Gramsci 1916
Newspapers and the Workers
(Piedmont Edition) December 22, 1916;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor;
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
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!