Why were the Bolsheviks convinced that imposing a state monopoly over the media in the short-term would inevitably lead to media freedom for everyone in the long-term?
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The Bolsheviks were the majority faction in a crucial vote, hence their name. They ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks came to power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and founded the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic which would later in 1922 become the chief constituent of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks, founded by Vladimir IllyichLenin, were by 1905 a mass organization consisting primarily of workers under a democratic internal hierarchy governed by the principle of democratic centralism, who considered themselves the leaders of the revolutionary working class of Russia. Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as Bolshevism. Bolshevik revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky commonly used the terms "Bolshevism" and "Bolshevist" after his exile from the Soviet Union to differentiate between what he saw as true Leninism and the regime within the state and the party which arose under Josef Stalin but as we will get to know there are similar traits to the Bolsheviks regime and that of Stalins.
The Bolsheviks were journalists long before they were state leaders, and they never forgot the impact of a well-aimed message and the role of media. Newspapers were the life-line of the underground party. Formative ideological and political debates were conducted in them; reporters and deliverers evolved into party cadres; and readers became rank-and-file supporters. At times, newspapers smuggled from abroad kept the Party alive; and Lenin's editorials often forestalled factional division. Revolutionary struggle taught Bolsheviks the value of mass media, and confirmed their belief that culture is inherently partisan. In times of political turmoil, they exploited it skillfully. Illegal front-line newspapers helped turn soldiers against the Great War; effective propaganda helped win the Civil War. Yet the revolutionaries knew that the same weapons could be used against them. When they took power, they protected themselves by denying the opposition access to public opinion; printing presses, theaters, movie houses were all eventually confiscated and placed under state monopoly. The Bolsheviks considered these measures necessary and just to maintain power and control as the ruling and dominant political party. Soviet authorities were never ashamed of their monopoly on different aspects of culture. Culture was a weapon of class struggle as identified by similar events in the Chinese Revolution as the media and its variety of channels would amplify the rate and effieciancy of propaganda. Allowing the enemy access to mass media would have seemed criminally stupid. To debate the ethics of censorship was a waste of time; the Bolsheviks' concern was how to mold popular values, how to reach the masses, reflect the wishes of the state and censure alien ideals.
This essay will look at the reason why the Bolsheviks were convinced that a stringent control over the media through a monopolistic system was necessary for holding unto political power but would eventually lead to press freedom for the masses due to a systematic process of internally socializing the Soviet Union with a strong appeal to the working class which would help solidify the Bolsheviks political power in the long term. With a strong thought that they overly represented the working class, the control over the media represented one of the strongest tools to control and effectively influence the social working class in the Soviet Union.
1 Bolsheviks and the Media
The early twentieth-century...
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