What is freedom of the press under capitalism?

After Chavez refused to renew the licence for the RCTV channel a hue and cry has been raised throughout the bourgeois media about so-called "freedom of the press". Here we provide a quote from The ABC of Communism, Chapter Three, by N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky which eloquently puts the Marxist case.

In 1920 Bukharin and Preobrazhensky jointly authored a book, The ABC of Communism, the aim of which was to provide a basic handbook of Marxist analysis of capitalist economics, capitalist society, the class struggle, socialist society, etc. In Chapter Three they deal among other things with the question of the "freedom of the bourgeoisie".

In the early days of the Russian Marxist movement, when the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks had been part of the same party, a clear and firm position had been adopted on what measures to take against the capitalist class once the workers came to power. But subsequently the Mensheviks moved further and further over to the camp of the bourgeoisie.

This led them to raise the question of the "rights" of the bourgeoisie, ignoring the fact that this is the class that oppresses millions of workers and is prepared to use the most brutal means to preserve its domination and control over society. We believe Bukharin's and Preobrazhensky's answer to this is eloquent enough. Freedom of the press under capitalism is freedom for the rich to lie to the masses [Introductory note by Fred Weston].

A quote from Bukharin and Preobrazhensky

From Chapter Three of The ABC of Communism by N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky

"Next, as objectors to the dictatorship, come the social democrats, and in especial the Mensheviks. These worthies have completely forgotten what they wrote about the matter in former days. In our old programme, drawn up by ourselves and the Mensheviks together, it is expressly stated: "An essential condition of the social revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is to say the conquest of political power by the proletariat, which will enable the workers to crush all resistance on the part of the exploiters." The Mensheviks signed this statement. But when the time came for action, they raised a clamour against the crushing of the freedom of the bourgeoisie, against the suppression of bourgeois newspapers, against the bolshevist 'reign of terror', and so on. Even Plekhanoff, at one time, thoroughly approved of the most ruthless measures against the bourgeoisie, saying that we could deprive the bourgeois of their electoral rights, and so on. Nowadays the Mensheviks have forgotten all this; they have taken refuge in the camp of the bourgeoisie.

"Finally, a number of moral considerations are brought into the argument against us. We are told that we form our judgements like the savage Hottentots. The Hottentot says: 'When I steal my neighbour's wife, it is good; when he steals my wife, it is bad.' The Bolsheviks, it is contended, resemble these savages, for they say: 'When the bourgeoisie uses force to crush the proletariat, it is bad; but when the proletariat uses force to crush the bourgeoisie, it is good.' Those who argue thus, do not know what they are talking about. In the case of the Hottentots we are concerned with two equal individuals who are stealing one another's wives for identical reasons. But the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are not on equal terms. Proletarians comprise an enormous class, bourgeois form a comparatively small group. The proletariat is fighting for the liberation of all mankind; but the bourgeoisie is fighting for the maintenance of oppression, wars, exploitation. The proletariat is fighting for communism, the bourgeoisie for the preservation of capitalism. If capitalism and communism were one and the same thing, then the bourgeoisie and the proletariat could be compared to the two Hottentots. The proletariat is fighting solely on behalf of the new social order. Whatever helps in the struggle is good; whatever hinders, is bad."

NOTE: the full text can be read at: