Some Proposals for the Political Line of Our Mass Newspapers

By the Communist Party of the Philippines

[This article was circulated in the United States in mimeographed form by the Revolutionary Union group during the early 1970s. I do not know its original date or where it originally appeared. (If any reader does have this information, please let me know!) There were a number of typos in the mimeo document which I have corrected. I have also added an occasional word in brackets for clarification. —S. H.]

A Few Points on the Mass Line

A newspaper for the masses must assiduously practice and constantly apply the mass line. It should never be otherwise. To do so would be to alienate and isolate ourselves from the masses and, in the long run, to undermine the revolution.

The conditions for revolution and propaganda have never been so excellent. But this is not enough. If we do not pursue the correct political line and adopt the correct policies, we cannot advance the revolution however favorable the conditions are. And the correct political line and method of leadership is the mass line. Our experiences, as well as those of other revolutions, have shown that whenever we consciously applied the mass line, we were able to arouse the masses, mobilize them and advance the revolution. But whenever we deviated from the mass line, we found ourselves alienated and isolated from the masses. And without the active support and participation of the masses, we certainly can never wage revolution.

Thus, the conscious and correct application of the mass line is a necessary condition for our victory.

To apply the mass line, we must first understand it. Without correct understanding, there can be no correct application. The great leader of the Chinese people, Mao Tse-Tung, explains how the proletarian party of China led the Chinese revolution to victory:

Take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the masses, persevere in the ideas and carry them through, so as to form correct ideas of leadership—such is the basic method of leadership. ("Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership")

This is the correct method of leading the masses and of arousing and mobilizing them. This is the mass line. He says further:

In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas), and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action. ("Some Questions…")

There can be no clearer explanation. Take the ideas of the masses. Concentrate them. Propagate them among the masses. He offers us some more guidelines for the correct application of the mass line:

To link oneself with the masses, one must act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned. It often happens that objectively the masses need a certain change but subjectively they are not yet conscious of the need, not yet willing or determined to make the change. In such cases, we should wait patiently. We should not make the change until, through our work, most of the masses have become conscious of the need and are willing and determined to carry it out. ("The United Front in Cultural Work")

[The Mass Line in Newspaper Work]

Now, back to our newspapers. Our mass newspapers are one of our instruments for propagating the concentrated and systematic ideas that we derive from the ideas and experiences of the masses. And just like any other aspect of our political and propaganda work, the assiduous implementation of the mass line is demanded in newspaper work.

In newspaper work, the correct application of the mass line firstly means collecting reports and accounts of the practical experiences of the masses, choosing those which best and most vividly illustrate their oppressed and exploited plight as well as their revolutionary struggles and then publishing these in our newspapers. This way, we take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the masses and propagate them. We start from the ideas, wishes and practical experiences of the masses. Usually these are unsystematic and scattered. Through the process of selection and concentration we then present reports concretely illustrating the myriad ways by which imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism exploit and oppress the people and the equally myriad ways by which the masses manifest their resistance to their enemies. Then, we return and propagate these among the masses through our newspapers.

Our newspapers should contain more news accounts and articles derived from the proactical experiences, ideas and wishes of the masses. We must pay close attention to their struggle for production and to class struggle in which their lives revolve. Examples of these are concrete and specific instances of exploitation, oppression, deception and resistance.

Some other issues and events play a special role and occupy a special position in the lives of the people. We should concern ourselves with them. Every Saturday and Sunday, for instance, a vast segment of the population engages in horse racing and other forms of gambling. Armed with an understanding fo the basic problems of the masses, we must boldly take issue with this activity, and, taking into account the present level of the people’s consciousness, slowly and carefully but firmly point out its deceptive and diversionary role. In the end, we should expose [the] bureaucrat capitalist hand in the proliferation of gambling.

Never in any way neglect or underestimate the immediate interests of the masses. We must pay attention to their immediate needs and wishes just as we trace their problems to imperialist and feudal exploitation and oppression. For instance, the problem of lack of water or electricity in a certain community or the problem of lack of sanitation, lack of roads or bridges in a certain town, if they concern the masses, should also concern us. In fact, these even provide us the opportunity to relate their immediate interests to the basic problems of the Filipino people.

For our constant guide in applying the mass line in newspaper work, we must keep in mind these questions which must be answered through specific instances and concrete examples: Do the masses face a problem? Are the masses being exploited or oppressed? Are the masses being deceived? Are the masses rising up to fight?

News accounts which best and most vividly illustrate the affirmative answer to these questions must be given the highest priority in our mass newspapers. If we constantly bear in mind these questions, we cannot deviate from the mass line.

To report about the practical experiences and ideas of the masses—especially those which concretely expose their oppressed plight in a semi-colonial semi-feudal system and those which illustrate their resistance to oppression—is a very important aspect of our work in the field of newspapers. But this is not all. As perceptions, impressions and concrete experiences are repeated many times over in the social practice of the masses (as reported in our newspapers) a sudden leap takes place in the mind in the process of cognition, forming concepts. While this will occur in most readers once sufficient facts and experiences have accumulated, our mass newspapers [themselves] can retrace the process of cognition by raising the practical experiences of the masses to the level of theory.

For instance, after reporting several concrete manifestations of fascism (militarization in Isabela, the mauling of strikers, the murder of a peasant leader by the PC, the violent dispersal of student demonstrators, etc.) we can help the masses arrive at the concept of fascism by summing up these news articles to point out the real nature of the state as an instrument of class oppression.

Necessarily, however, our newspapers must contain more news accounts and reports than the theoretical summing up. We should gather as many of the best practical experiences of the masses as possible. We have to accumulate many facts, impressions and concrete experiences which are repeated many times over before a sudden change or leap can occur in the minds of the people. There must be sufficient quantity before there can be change in quality.

We have therefore set the general content of our newspapers for the masses. They will report to the people the best and most vivid examples of their oppressed plight and of their revolutionary resistance. After accumulating many news reports which are damning evidence against the people’s enemies or shining examples of their struggle, we should likewise help the masses arrive at the correct conclusions regarding their basic problems and their main weapons in solving these problems.

This is the mass line in newspaper work.

Concreteness and Abstraction

Having settled the correct application of the mass line in newspaper work, we can now study certain other aspects of the general content of our mass newspapers. One is the question of concreteness and abstraction.

Our present breed of newspapers is rich in abstract and theoretical discussions on imperialism, feudalism, fascism, state and revolution, classes, etc., which usually appear as lengthy treatises and articles. The approach is frequently general, proceeding from a high level of abstraction.

But what we most need in our newspapers for the masses are concrete examples of the masses’ experiences under imperialist and feudal rule and not the general or theoretical dissertations that we now frequently find in our newspapers. We should strive to present as many of the best illustrations as possible of the practical experiences of the masses in their struggle for production and class struggle, most especially in the latter.

What is important in the political education of the workers is comprehensive yet concrete examples and broad yet vivid political exposures that would unmask the state as an armed instrument of oppression of the landlords and the big bourgeoisie. ("Forge the Strongest Worker Student Unity and Assist the Working Class to Assume the Revolutionary Class Leadership")

U.S. Imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism today ruthlessly exploit and oppress the Filipino masses. But it is not enough to explain in general terms this oppression. These evils manifest themselves concretely in thousands of ways each day in various spheres of life and activity of the people—in industrial life, civic life, personal and family life, religious life, scientific life, etc., etc. These we must expose and point out to the masses. We must organize an all-sided exposure of these evils in all their angles, aspects and manifestations. This is the only way of training the masses to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse.

This is the correct way of taking up the political education of the masses and raising their political consciousness.

To combat the Economist trend towards "petty exposures" (exposures that merely strive for petty reforms), Lenin explained what type of exposures must be undertaken by a revolutionary newspaper:

We require exposures of the most important, typical evils of factory life, exposures based on the most striking facts and capable of interesting all workers and all leaders of the movement, capable of really enriching their knowledge, widening their outlook, and of rousing new districts and new professional strata of the workers. ("What is to be Done?")

He envisioned a newspaper that would publish "lively and interesting articles, correspondence, and exposures of our diplomatic, military, ecclesiastical, municipal, financial, etc., etc. affairs and malpractices."

Our newspapers should shift their stress from purely abstract and theoretical discussions to presenting a rich collection and accumulation of the practical experiences of the masses. Only then can we widen and deepen the masses’ understanding and comprehension of their problems and the revolutionary solutions to these problems. News articles must be concrete examples and specific instances of oppression, exploitation, deception and resistance.

For instance, to expose the state as an instrument of class oppression, we can publish several news accounts of this type: three strikers killed by the PC, peasant mauled by soldiers, police disperse demonstrators, PC soldiers act as bodyguards of landlords, etc. To explain the people’s resistance against their class enemies, we can present news accounts such as: sacadas starting to arm themselves, 10 BSDU’s join the New People’s Army, AFP officer defects, community pickets local official, citizens apprehend and punish abusive PC soldiers, etc.

Abstraction must give way to concreteness.

Exposure and Calls to Action

Another aspect of the general content of our mass newspapers that we should likewise settle is the question of exposure and of calls to action.

Following the concrete application of the mass line in newspaper work, political exposures and the portrayal and systematic presentation of objective events shall be the main content of our newspapers. Stress must be made on exposing the evils and specific manifestations of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system and on upholding brilliant and outstanding examples of the people’s resistance and struggle, not on general or even particular calls to action.

Exposure is the correct way of impelling collective action. We arouse and mobilize the people by increasing their awareness of their exploited and abused plight and by deepening their understanding of their problems and their weapons for combating these problems. Urging them to fight their class enemies does not mean writing in our newspapers "the masses must rise up and fight." I means focusing on cases of extreme exploitation and oppression and by presenting accounts which illustrate the people already engaged in revolutionary struggle against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

Lenin convincingly explained the relation between exposure and calls to action:

As for calling the masses to action, that will come of itself immediately once energetic political agitation, live and striking exposures are set going. To catch some criminal red-handed and immediately to brand him publicly will have far more effect than any number of 'appeals'; …Calls for action, not in general, but in the concrete sense of the term, can be made only at the place of action; only those who themselves go into action immediately can make any appeals for action. And our business as Social-Democratic publicists is to deepen, to exapand and intensify political exposures and agitation.   ("What is to be Done?")

Calls to action must give way to exposures.

On Social Investigation

We can never correctly and effectively apply the mass line without social investigation. We have to know and be familiar with the ideas and experiences of the masses, their wishes and aspirations, as well as their objective needs for us to be able to supply the mass line. To report on news events about oppression, exploitation, deception and resistance—events which are seldom found in the bourgeois papers—there is no other way but to conduct social investigation. Unless there is no other source (this is very seldom), we should never depend on the bourgeois press alone.

Some comrades manufacture articles without bothering to rise from their seats to investigate. They depend on the very few facts that the initially hear or obtain and assume that their "correct political line" will make up for whatever shortcomings or inaccuracies that their article or news report may contain. Some venture a few generalities and equivocal statements to cover up the fact that they have made little or no investigation and know very little about the matter. A few even think that they can get away with a few unsure and unverified statements here and there, or a few mistakes and inaccuracies or even a little of invented facts to fill up the news report, hiding behind their "correct political line."

They are utterly wrong.

No amount of bluffing or inventing can hide ignorance or lack of knowledge due to lack of investigation. It shows. How can one, for instance, expose Medicare if he has not even read the Medicare Act? Or how can we discredit the land reform laws of the bourgeois reactionary state if we do not read these laws? For all we know, they may have been amended or an entirely new law may have taken their place (like the case of the Agricultural Land Reform Code and the Election Code). But even if, somehow, a writer manages to hide this lack of study and investigation, truth is still the best policy. No revolutionary writer should substitute his imagination for truth and genuine facts obtained after careful investigation.

The masses are a bottomless well of experience. For centuries, they have borne the weight of exploitation. In the country, there is oppression everywhere. The millions of workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie and other sectors of the people are today, in one way or another, being subjected to imperialism and feudal exploitation and oppression. And in many places, the people are waging revolutionary struggles against their enemies. Resistance is spreading throughout the land. In thousands of ways, class struggle manifests itself everyday. Certainly, serious investigation will provide us with the most vivid and concrete examples of exploitation, oppression, deception, and resistance!

"No investigation, no right to speak." Especially when our newspapers reach thousands and tens of thousands of the people, we shall certainly harm the revolution if we violate this cardinal rule.

Selectivity and Reinterpretation

In a way, the claim of the bourgeois press to factualness is true. Because they are instruments of the ruling classes for protecting their own interests and for deceiving the people, bourgeois newspapers take pains in preserving their credibility by trying to report confirmable facts and events. Only thus can they perform effectively their special role as instruments of deception against the masses. They deceive generally not by distorting or twisting facts but by choosing the news that they report and presenting events which serve to show the viability of the present set-up, present the "good" side of the ruling classes, dilute class struggle, foster class collaboration and capitulation or raise diversionary and superficial issues. And they suppress those events that expose the true enemies of the people and point out the correct road to resistance. But what they report, they usually try to report accurately.

Only when the bourgeois press is forced to report on events showing oppression and resistance does it distort and twist. When such events as worker-student demonstrations, AFP defections, blatant display of fascism and the like become too obvious to disregard and suppress, then it "interprets" the news to serve the interests of the ruling classes.

The revolutionary press, on the other hand, serves the interests of the people. It chooses news events on the basis of the mass line and exposes the evils of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system concretely and cites specific examples of the peoples’ resistance against their enemies.

By the very contradiction in class standpoint, the revolutionary and the bourgeois press necessarily concentrate on different events.

That Imelda [Marcos] went to Spain or is expecting a baby, for instance, is as true as the fact that sacadas receive 80 centavos a day. Bourgeois papers focus on the former, we focus on the latter. That Marcos spent his Holy Week in Boguio is as true as the fact that an AFP helicopter was shot down by an NPA unit. Bourgeois papers make news of the first, we make news of the second. That the worst accident in 100 years happened yesterday is perhaps as true as the fact that some farmers in a certain area have begun arming themselves. Bourgeois papers use the first event, we use the second.

The revolutionary press, therefore, selects events radically different from those presented in the bourgeois press. We take the ideas of the masses, concentrate them and then propagate them among the masses. We choose events that most vividly illustrate exploitation, oppression, deception and resistance. Everyday, class struggle manifests itself in thousands of ways; millions of people bear the weight of imperialist and feudal rule; and the masses express their heroic resistance. The people must be made aware of these events in their essence, totality and internal relations to make them conscious of the national and class nature of their problems. And these events seldom find their way into the bourgeois press. We should give these events highest priority in our papers.

By the very nature of revolutionary newspapers as instruments for exposing objective evils and reporting about actual resistance, we never have to twist or distort facts. Unlike the bourgeois press, we expose, we do not deceive. Our mass newspapers only have to report events accurately, put them in their proper perspective by supplying additional facts and raise them to the level of theory. We express our class standpoint in our selection of the events to report.

Some comrades fall into the pit of concentrating on reinterpreting news reported in the bourgeois press. Using facts, data and events supplied by the bourgeois press, they try to introduce national democratic concepts and to rewrite the news "from a national democratic viewpoint." They forget the fact that the bourgeois-reported news [stories] are selected precisely because they serve the purpose of deceiving the masses and diverting their attention from the real news.

Instead of depending on the issues and events raised by the bourgeois press they should concentrate on collecting the rich experiences and ideas of the masses, selecting those which best illustrate oppression, exploitation, deception and resistance and then reporting these events in our mass newspapers.

And when our comrades say "rewrite the news from the national democratic viewpoint," they actually mean raising the events to the level of theory. And the best events to raise to the level of theory are usually not those chosen by the bourgeois press but those what we select ourselves, starting from the practical experiences of the masses.

To stress the reinterpretation of bourgeois-reported news instead of the selection of news in accordance with the mass line is just like operating in enemy territory instead of hitting him at his weakest points. While it is true that when the enemy is weak and the conditions for revolution are excellent, we can operate successfully in his own territory, we should always concentrate our forces and hit him hardest at his weakest points. And in the field of propaganda, the enemy’s weakest points are those events that concretely expose oppression, exploitation, deception and resistance.

The Committed Press

It is also necessary to correct the idea that the use of "committed" terms such as imperialism, feudalism, fascism, revolution, etc., is the expression of the commitment of a writer or a paper. Some comrades will even insist that since these terms are facts, why should we hesitate to use them in our newspapers?

In the first place, these terms are not facts. They represent concepts arrived at only after passing through the long process of accumulating and analyzing perceptual data and practical experiences. For instance, imperialism is qualitatively different from the rise in the prices of oil products as dictated by monopoly firms. The latter is a fact which can be verified by anybody through the use of his senses. The former, on the other hand, represents the essence, the totality and the internal relations of many different events, phenomena and occurrences, of which the oil price hike is only one.

But this is not the point. The point is that commitment is expressed by applying the mass line in newspaper work. That is, by collecting the ideas and practical experiences of the masses, concentrating and synthesizing them and then propagating these ideas among the masses. The important thing here is the selection and the concentration of the best and most vivid illustrations and examples of the plight and the struggle of the masses.

In fact, a counter-revolutionary article or news account can use revolutionary terms without changing the essence of the account. And a newspaper may not even use the terms mentioned above in its news accounts and still effectively manifest its commitment by correctly applying the mass line. But this is not likewise the point.


After so many years of engaging in newspaper and propaganda work not a single one of our newspapers has yet managed to survive and expand its readership among the masses through their direct support. This implies some serious shortcomings in our policies and style of work in the field of newspapers.

We are raising the problem of the mass line as the key question in improving our work. On the basis of our serious study and application of the mass line, we should gauge our achievements and shortcomings in the field of newspapers and proceed to implement the lessons derived from such study.

— [End] —

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