What are the tasks of Revolutionary Communication? (by Fernando Buen Abad Domínguez)
Fernando Buen Abad Domínguez (b. 1956) is the Vice-Rector of the Open University of Mexico [Universidad Abierta de México], where he is also Director of the Image Research Institute. He holds a PhD, has worked as a filmmaker and artist, and has authored at least 17 books, including Philosophy of Communication (Filosofía de la Comunicación, 2001), Philosophy of the Image (Filosofía de la Imagen, 2003), and Image, Philosophy, and Creation (Imagen Filosofía y Creación, 2004) [all published in Spanish].
Abad Domínquez has conducted research in Venezuela and taught in the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela / UBV). He has written on TeleSur and been interviewed regarding the Venezuelan model of communications. His book, Philosophy of Communication, was republished by the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information (Ministerio del Poder popular para la Comunicación y la Información / MINCI) in 2006.
The following essay, authored by Abad Domínguez, was published on January 4, 2011, in Spanish, on Aporrea.org. It is a strong though nonspecific statement backing a notion of revolutionary communication that I’ve found to be generally consistent with that expressed by Venezuelan communications practitioners as well as United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela / PSUV) politicians and party-members. I therefore expect that it will serve as a useful touchstone for some of my upcoming writings on Venezuelan communications, especially the development of the community media sector. With this expectation, I’ve translated the entire piece into English, so that I may link to the text when necessary:
What are the tasks of Revolutionary Communication?
“(…) I’ve had occasion to observe many times how powerful organizations with a powerful press broke apart under the impact of events, and how, on the other hand, small organizations with a technically weak press transformed themselves in a short time into historic forces.” – Leon Trotsky
Assuming the challenge of democratically planning content
Without understanding, in depth, what a Revolution is, it will be difficult to understand the dialectic of its communicational tasks. There is no correct practice without correct theory. A revolutionary situation has its own contents, rhythms, and priorities determined by force, and advances, that the working class wins to expropriate power from the bourgeoisie. Revolutionary communicational tasks can’t come from pure subjectivity, punditry, from a few “enlightened ones”, priorities are derived from the objective necessities of each front in combat against capitalism. Content, ours, emerges from class struggle. It doesn’t hide it.
These necessities are democratically detected and the concrete, as well as the subjective, is taken into account, with the revolutionary idea that the truth serves to elevate the level of conscience, to perfect the struggle and guarantee the triumph of permanent revolution. In a situation of clear class confrontation, in which the dispute does not admit of euphemisms, and the evidence of a war is overwhelming, revolutionary communication media have a supreme role as organizing tools to help multiply the revolutionary forces beginning with establishing a common program of emancipatory action. Not one resource can be wasted. Not one minute can be lost. The best ideas are emancipatory ideas.
Many people are quick to set themselves up as messianic intermediaries, ready to rewrite the commandments of reformism, taking advantage of the media. One has to stay alert, reformists are a chameleon-like poison that drain stealthily in more than a few places. Some disguise themselves as “erudites” and travel the world pontificating a “revolutionary” knowledge pulled from their saliva (or from some elite bourgeois manuals). There are also the jealous, the mediocre, the petulant and the traitors that infiltrate revolutionary fronts to sow confusion while they milk some privilege or appointment obtained through trickery. One must be very careful. Everything that doesn’t help to guarantee, accelerate, and entrench the Revolution, in the short, medium, and long term… must be submitted to open discussion. By all media. This is an inescapable repertoire of content.
It’s indispensable to try to use all the languages necessary to make visible and palpable the triumphs of the revolution that are the fundamental source of moral fortitude. With revolutionary happiness, humor, [and] imagination in order to not repeat the bourgeois pattern of stultified discourse. It’s indispensable to communicate problems, armed with the most proactive self-criticism and the most consensual programs of advance. Elevating revolutionary morals and ethics is vital. To enrich responsibilities and assure creativity to win the territory of content, invigorate formal experimentation, and amplify reception with dialectic feedback. [sic] There’s no time to lose. Emancipatory content demands its place in the battle of ideas.
Some object to certain revolutionary communications for being “officialist”. They believe that some revolutionary media get carried away with “propaganda” tasks and forget self-critical tasks. It is a valuable debate that can’t remain two sides talking past one another but, on the contrary, must become a tool, of debate and work, constant[ly] open. But don’t confuse the bourgeois concept of “propaganda” with the revolutionary urgency of making visible our achievements in order to fortify battle morale. No bourgeois advertising evangelical is going to silence us no matter how scientific or holy they proclaim to be. The contents of revolutionary communication are conceptual achievements whose mission, beyond elevating the level of conscience, lies in multiplying itself dialectically. And that requires networks and planned systems.
The battle of Revolutionary communication is waged, in one of its phases, principally against the ideology of the dominant class that has metastasized in the entire fabric of social relations. It’s a very difficult struggle that allows no rest. We find it everywhere. We see it in our pleasures and our beliefs, it’s in our education and culture, it’s in our traditions and imaginations. Capitalism’s ideologic plasma has even inoculated its gravedigger’s thinking so that he laments the moment of the hangman’s death. That’s called alienation and it’s now become big business. A terrible problem. But the most arduous part is a creative revolution that must contribute to the foundation of a new universe of ideas, emotions, enthusiasms and morale… emancipated and emancipating. And in this framework one of the most arduous and neglected tasks has been the Revolution of Content.
Our communicative battles are asymmetric. We lack training, we lack organization, and we lack unity. We’re clear on who the class enemy is, we know the damage that it has caused, we know that it must be expropriated and defeated, and we know that we can’t lose the communication battle. We know that this struggle must be waged internationally. We know that only the workers will save the workers. We know much and we’ve done little. For now. Why haven’t we been able to defeat them yet, if we are the majority? Because, in terms of communication, we’ve also got to emancipate the emancipators. This is a top priority task. All hands on deck. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if every day, orderly, each revolutionary carried out their socialist responsibility to disseminate 10 news items with the achievements of the Revolution. Achievements of the working class. We must become communication combatants on a daily basis. Pay attention to the content. Let’s not let the class enemy set the agenda.