“Factory newspapers riled the employers from the beginning”

Submitted by Anon on 25 March, 2006 - 12:26

Abridged from Inprecor, the bulletin of the Communist International, February 1925

Factory newspapers are an innovation in the life of the Communist Parties of the West. They had their origin on the revolutionary soil of the Soviet Union in the form of wall newspapers. During the last year they crossed the boundary which separates the proletarian European East from the capitalist West, assuming the form of cyclostyled factory newspapers and becoming a form of agitation, propaganda and organisation which is really gaining in importance.

It cannot be sufficiently emphasised that factory newspapers are unthinkable without Communist nuclei. Factory newspapers are the organs of factory nuclei “by means of which the latter get into touch with the workers in the factories, getting to know them better and exercising Communist influence, all of which helps to draw larger sections of manual and office workers into the political life of the factory" (extract from the Resolution adopted at the Organisation Conference of the Communist International). For this reason factory newspapers must make it clear that they are organs of the Party nucleus. Unfortunately, the experiences hitherto at our disposal have shown that this was not always the case.

For instance in Great Britain the first factory newspapers were published without indicating that they are the organs of the nuclei, without producing the impression that they are Party newspapers. This was the case with the Nine Elms Spark. This was a mistake especially over there in Great Britain where the Party is confronted with the great task of making organisational capital out of the sympathy of the masses, in order thereby to transform the small Party into a mass Party.

Considerable time elapsed, before the factory nuclei and also Party Executives hit upon the right way to publish a factory newspaper, capable of doing justice to the manifold tasks confronting it. Everyone understood that factory newspapers cannot and must not be a replica of ordinary Party newspapers. But what the difference between these two forms of newspapers should be, gave rise to many discussions.

In France factory newspapers were made up from one centre or a number of enterprises. This explains why even the outside appearance of French factory newspapers became almost uniform, and why the same headings and titles are to be found almost in all factory newspapers. Although in many cases the workers employed in the enterprises contributed to the newspapers, they were not blood of the bIood nor flesh of the flesh of the factory.

They did not breathe the air of the factory, they were strangers to the everyday life of the factory.

In this respect even now everything is not as it should be.

If for instance we peruse the factory newspapers Le Drapeau Rouge (The Red Flag) of the Schneider Creusot works, we see that factory questions are only given second place, whilst the first stage is devoted to a political survey which is too general and is not connected with the life of the factory.

Moreover, the so called factory questions, such as the question of locomotives in the last number, are frequently not concrete enough to persuade the indifferent worker that the conclusions made by us are correct also from his standpoint

Of the French newspapers much the best in this respect is L’ldee Nouvelle (The New Idea) published by the factory nucleus of the Maison Thomson-Houston.

In many factories in Germany and in the first newspapers in Great Britain and Czechoslovakia we observe other forms. of deviations.

The idea prevailed that ordinary Party newspapers deal with political questions, hence it is not necessary for factory newspapers to deal with them, and all our attention should be concentrated on the economic questions-within the factory by which means the interest of the masses in the newspaper should be aroused.

In some places one went even so far as merely to register factory events (this was done for instance in the first British factory newspaper) without showing the slightest intention to explain these events from a Communist viewpoint. This tendency exists to a certain extent. For instance in the Nine Elms Spark. The so-called factory nucleus newspapers of Germany, as for instance the Leder-Prolet are also to a certain extent tainted with this tendency.

The Communist International Organisation Conference condemned both tendencies and made it incumbent on factory newspapers to deal with all questions in a simple and concise manner:

• to illustrate questions in a way to allow workers to draw from, them political conclusions quite simply and naturally,

• to avoid abstract subjects, to deal with everything in a concrete manner,

• to describe conflicts between workers and employers, and incidents from the life of the working class,

• to avoid a stereotyped style in the factory newspapers.

Factory newspapers are to appeal to the indifferent masses who have frequently a very perverted notion about Communists and who never or hardly ever read a Communist newspaper. The task of factory newspapers is to win the masses for the Communist Party, for the struggle of the working class.

Therefore one should not allow the small everyday questions of the factory to be the widest perspectives of Communism.

Therefore it is essential to connect the small factory questions with the big political questions confronting the Party and to explain them to the masses.

This connection of political incidents with factory incidents affecting the workers directly has been achieved with considerable success by the German Leuna-Prolet which contained the following statement in an article entitled “Easter Reminiscences”.

“Easter, four years ago in 1921 [during the “March events”, when the CP attempted an insurrection] the Red Leuna Fortress surrendered. I recall this event with pleasure, for I myself was a bestial hireling in the force of the secret police. We did terrible bloody work in these Easter days. It gave us extreme pleasure to give these revolutionary proletarians a taste of what we could do. We made them stand for hours with their arms raised, we kept them also for hours on their knees. We beat them with our fists, we beat them with the butt-end of our rifles, and made them the target of our sadist propensities.

“Even today it gives me satisfaction to recall how these proletarians weltered in their blood, now they lay before us with broken eyes and smashed skulls.

“Today their bodies must have rotted long ago.

“All these others whom we compelled to drill and to sing the national hymn ‘Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles’ (‘Germany above all’), had to be witness of all this. We struck them in the face whenever we felt inclined, it was a regular treat far us. We had to take the Red swine to the prison much too soon, we would have liked to have had them in our power longer!

“I will never forget the glorious Easter of 1921, and the splendid red blood. To revive these glorious conditions I invite all sadists to vote on April 26th [1925] for the mass assassin, Hindenburg.”

Of course not every factory has such a revolutionary past as the Leuna Works. But on the other hand, there are in every factory everyday questions of all kinds which .can be easily connected with general political questions.

When for instance the Bergprolet, the organ of the Bubiag Works nucleus. attacks the “watchdog Tomschke”, the overseer, and urges the workers to join trade unions in order united “to show the teeth to these creatures” — then connection between factory questions and a general slogan of the Party has been established.

The outward appearance of factory newspapers can contribute a great deal to the capture of the indifferent masses. Our experience on the fieLd of agitation and propaganda show what great impression can be made by caricatures and good illustrations.

In Germany the factory newspapers used caricatures and illustrations with great effect. We will give as an example the illustration of the factory newspaper the Horsch works, the Rote Stern which shows in two pictures that the same capitalism, which in 1914-18 drove the proletarians dressed in soldiers uniform into the fratricidal struggle, is driving the proletariat now to bear the burdens of the war reparations (imposed on Germany by the victors of the 1914-18 war). The factory newspapers of other countries including Great Britain, did not know until quite recently how to make use of this form of agitation in the factory newspapers.

Unfortunately the caricatures concerned themselves only with general political questions, although it is obvious that for instance caricatures of unpopular foremen or managers and also caricatures, branding certain odious factory conditions, would appeal to the average worker.

Humour is also a good form of agitation It is a frequent occurrence that humour is overdone in factory newspapers, but a certain kind of humour is essential.

The prologue which was published in the third number of the Leuna-Prolet can serve as an example;

“In building number 6 the machinery was being painted. A foreman had already given it a coat of minium (red oxide of lead), and the building was resplendent with red. Machenheimer, the overseer, wearing steel helmet and swastika (fascist badge), came upon the scene and saw the machinery. He called the foreman, and several workers were witnesses of the following conversation:

Machenheimer: Why is the machinery looking so red?

Foreman: It was given a coat of minium.

Machenheimer: Had it to be red?

Foreman: But minium is red.

Machenheimer: But you know that I do not tolerate anything red, that I throw out all red elements — how could you deliberately use this colour?

Foreman: But, Sir, I cannot help minium being red.

Machenheimer (excitedly): I ask you once and for all not to take such independent action in the future. Have the machinery immediately painted black and ring me up when this is done.”

Factory newspapers riled the employers and their lackeys from the beginning. With all means and power at their disposal they tried do find out who the damned editors of these obnoxious newspapers were, in order to punish them and to frighten factory nuclei into ceasing to publish such papers in future.

The editors of factory newspapers were not only simply dismissed, but dragged into court and sentenced to terms of imprisonment. This happened for instance in Hamburg and in the Ruhr Basin.

In a big Berlin enterprise the chairman of the Factory Council was dismissed on the mere suspicion of having edited the factory newspaper His dismissal had the support of the Berlin police.

As a result of this, factory nuclei decided from the beginning to published factory newspapers illegally. They had to be very cautious in their collection of the necessary publishing material. The newspapers had to be made up secretly, and the circulation had to be arranged in such a way as not to expose our comrades to the danger of being caught by the detectives working for the employer and the State. lt is obvious why such caution was necessary.

Nuclei and factory newspapers pursued the aim of establishing the closest possible contact with the masses. But our class enemies succeed in removing the most active elements in the factories, our work becomes much more difficult. To prevent this, nuclei should not work too openly and factory newspapers should be published illegally.

The fact that factory newspapers have to be published illegally in the capitalist countries, contributes to many of them having their humorous headings and signatures. Particularly German factory newspapers excel in this. For instance, in the usual place for address of the editorial board we read: Editorial Board “On the Moon”, or the address of the manager of the police is given. The editor is either “Look for him” or also “His honour the General Manager” etc. In the place where it is generally stated how often the paper is issued we read, “Whenever it does not suit the police” or “As often as required”, etc. There was a regular competition in this kind of humour among the factory newspapers of Germany.

How is a factory newspaper to be produced? We have already said that it.must be produced with the utmost caution in order to escape destruction on the part of our class enemies. This being so, it is frequently impossible to produce them in a regular printing works. Nevertheless many German factory newspapers are printed.

Some of the German and most of the French newspapers are produced on [stencil] duplicators, which in some cases belong to the Party Committee but in many cases even to the nuclei.

It has been frequently asserted that the necessary funds cannot be found everywhere. The example of the Horck Works in Germany and of the Nine Elms Railway workers in Great Britain shows that provided nucleus members exert themselves, the necessary financial support for factory newspapers can be obtained from non-Party workers.

Moreover the necessity to procure funds compels factory nuclei to be more active.

There are many examples of the fact that in factories where newspapers were published, the formerly indifferent workers have been roused out of their apathy, they even began to participate in the production of the factory newspaper.

By drawing the factory workers in sympathy with us into the work, it has frequently been possible to establish the factory newspapers on a sound basis without any great difficulties. For instance America is by no means a classical land of factory newspapers, and yet the few factory newspapers of the American Party have set into motion enterprises which were a morass’ only a little while ago, rousing the workers to energetic action against the employers.

When the question of factory newspapers was discussed at the Communist International Organisation Conference in Moscow, the question arose at to what the attitude of these newspapers should be to the groups of workers of national minorities or to the foreign language groups. This applies particularly to France and America and in a lesser degree also to Czechoslovakia and other countries. The Conference recommended that in factories of that character special columns be reserved in the factory newspaper for correspondence in the native language of the said group. The experience of the French Party with the Italian workers shows that there was justification for this standpoint and that it resulted in complete success.

In conclusion it is essential to throw light on the attitude of the factory newspapers to the young workers of the factory. In many places, especially in France, young workers have begun to publish their own factory newspapers. It is frequently expedient that wherever no separate youth newspaper as yet exists, the young workers should take an active part in the work connected with the factory newspapers of the Party nucleus and should become contributors to it.

The collaboration can also take the form of a special youth column, as is the case with the wall newspapers in Russia.

Factory newspapers are a means to educate for us proletarian editors and real proletarian writers. We will have to return to this subject many a time. Today we should like to say in conclusion: pay more attention to the question of factory newspapers.