The Marxist View of Journalism 马克思主义新闻观

In the two years prior to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), China’s media were busy complying with a 2001 Propaganda Bureau edict demanding they “offer programs for training [of media professionals] in the Marxist view of journalism.” Even after SARS, they continued to hold training sessions to educate professionals in the “three programs,” which included training in Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents”, the “Marxist view of journalism” and “professional spirit and ethics.”
The Marxist aspect of the aforementioned trinity of training-courses comprised studies of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin on the topic of the press, and selections highlighted the following key issues:
1. Supporting Party principles. “The Party publications are weapons of Party, and as such they must set forth the political creeds of the Party, and advance holding high the flag of the Party” (Marx/Engels). The Party’s papers are “publications of the Party,” they are “its gears and its screws.” (Lenin). In April 1942, Mao supervised the makeover of Yan’an’s Liberation Daily and defined Party “spirit”, or character, as the foremost of its four attributes. (Mao Zedong). On January 29, 1981, the Party said in its “Current Propaganda Regulations for Print and Broadcast Media”: “Professionals in publishing, news, radio and television must uphold the spirirt of the Communist Party.” “Party newspapers and periodicals must be sure to publicize the opinions of the Party without condition” (Deng Xiaoping). “Journalism must uphold Party principles” (Jiang Zemin).
2. Criticizing the “bourgeois concept of free speech.” Lenin once said that “absolute freedom” (绝对的自由) and “pure democracy” (纯粹的民主) do not exist. Lenin essentially believed the bourgeoisie concept of free press meant only the wealthy could publish newspapers, and amounted to a capitalist monopoly on the press. Therefore, Lenin advocated the overthrow of bourgeois press freedoms, saying that by doing so they could destroy a key ideological weapon of the enemy. Years later, Jiang Zemin said, “freedom of speech required rigorous class analysis”. Jiang believed hostile forces overseas and domestic proponents of press freedom were leveraging the concept as a means of “peaceful” resistance to Party rule. In order to safeguard the interests of the people, China must not only limit press freedom, but must, in accordance with the law, crack down on all designs to transform the socialist system through journalism.
3. Maintaining correct “guidance of public opinion”. This is the idea that media must walk the Party line, and is a vital component of prior censorship in China that requires editors and reporters to be obedient servants of the Party leadership. “We do not want intellectuals running newspapers, but rather politicians” (Mao Zedong). “Newspapers must become centers of stability and solidarity” (Deng Xiaoping). “[We must] grasp correct guidance of public opinion” (Jiang Zemin).

David Bandurski

Now Executive Director of the China Media Project, leading the project’s research and partnerships, David originally joined the project in Hong Kong in 2004. He is the author of Dragons in Diamond Village (Penguin), a book of reportage about urbanization and social activism in China, and co-editor of Investigative Journalism in China (HKU Press).