Bassem Chit Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Bassem Chit

Aiming for Alternative Media

(16 August 2003)

From Random Thoughts blog, 16 August 2003.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


In the last few weeks there has been a lot of talking about “Alternative Media” as a notion and practice. The issue here is much more far than some specifications we can set and then we can say that this media outlet is alternative or not. Alternative by the English explanation is mainly something different from what is existent but as for us leftist, Marxist Leninist, international socialists, social democrats, and the new tendency “evolutionaries”; there should be a common understanding on what alternative media is.

Alternative media first of all requires and alternative reading of society and the interactions and the events inside of it. for me, this reading was clarified quite specifically by Marx, many years ago.

“History is made by the actions of the millions not by the actions of individuals like generals and kings” (something like that I can’t remember the exact sentence).

Mainstream media and corporate media mainly takes on describing the events, from the ruling class points of view, hiding away by terminologies like “professionalism”, “objectivity” and many other things.

Being other than mainstream media is not the objective, it is one of the requirements, but the objective is establishing an alternative reading of society, being on the side of the people not the ruling elite.

Mainstream media would state that the US gave 30 billion Dollars to a country “A”, but they wouldn’t say that these 30 billion came at the price of taking out the country’s resources, establishing a new government, more oppression, a high rate of unemployment, privatization plans and etc. ...

Alternative media, however, should be explaining the crisis, finding it’s causes, not only the direct causes, but all its manifestations; it should establish a theoretical and ideological headquarters for the movement, and here I quote from a poster I once saw “I give money to the poor, they say I’m a saint; I ask why are the poor hungry they say that I’m a communist”. Alternative media should be dealing with the causes and explaining the crisis, not only dealing with its symptoms.

An alternative paper should be a tool for the movement and not outside of it, it should run on the same pace of the movement and sometimes push it forward tackling issues which are somehow sensitive and undiscussed, it encourages activists, it gives a clearer view of the achievements and the mistakes done, without being an intellectual elite, people who are writing in the newspaper or the site should be involved directly in the current discussions, actions, and decisions, and should write about them.

What kind of newspaper do we need?

The left in Lebanon is now in the process of building and realignment, it is establishing the basic grounds for a new movement, and which has shown its will and dedication through the “No War No Dictatorship” campaign.

This process of building requires the proper theoretical and analytical backbone to establish a strong coalition that is connected by a vivid and vital space of thoughts and ideas; this struggle of ideas is crucial for the movement, as it cannot go forward without it.

In a movement we need to know our objectives and our strategies, everyone in the movement also has to know theory and analysis, as everyone should have the ability to convince discuss and fight for his/her beliefs.

And here I am not speaking about like general purposes, like we need “equal rights between men and women” we have to move forward with ideas and we need to know why do we need equal rights, why is equality crucially important for us, why is it beneficial for us to have such equality. All these questions have to be answered and it is the duty of the movement as a whole to provide these answers to each individual within the movement.

“The role of a newspaper, however, is not limited solely to the dissemination of ideas, to political education, and to the enlistment of political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer” (Vladimir Lenin).

An Alternative or what we seek to be a revolutionary newspaper aims to help erect the building of a revolutionary movement. a revolutionary newspaper prepares the ground for the creation of the revolutionary movement, both ideologically and organizationally, and it educated a whole generation of professional revolutionaries. The paper combines propaganda with the development of theory.

There is uneven consciousness within society and the working class, thus a newspaper aims to raise the levels of consciousness within society thus more people would be aware of the threats and the consequences of capitalism, and gradually would try to exile indifference within society for the sake of building a much larger movement.

The newspaper is an educator and an organizer for the movement; it promotes consciousness and provides revolutionary education.

The role of a newspaper here is crucial, as I have described through the paragraphs above, the revolutionary newspaper is the ground base of the movement, and we have to see the movement as the university of activists and what is special within this university is that everyone is an instructor and a student at the same time, it is an permanent interaction of thoughts and ideas and experiences, it is somehow an organic body of continuous manifestations of actions, thoughts and ideas.

A revolutionary newspaper is the one who takes these manifestations and experiences and archives them and concretize them and make them affordable to all the people. The role of the paper goes more to be the holder and the translator of these experiences into a more acceptable format to let other activists know about them and also trying to let people from outside the movement to know about our beliefs and thoughts, thus it works somehow as a recruitment unit.

And from here we need to know that an alternative paper should at all times subjective and as it must take sides. Hereto I say that the subjectivity of an alternative newspaper is a crucial requirement of the newspaper for being alternative, it has to take sides; no question about it.

As for the layout: that’s another thing

The layout always reflects the democratic structure and the ideas of the staff within the newspaper.

If we take the Guardian for example, you can see the hierarchy within the layout and formation of the newspaper. The so called professionalism is reflected by the blocks put in a refine hierarchy, the order of the text, the categorization, the separator lines that define importance and etc. ...

And also the excessive conformity of the layout what you choose for layout reflects the orientation of the newspaper and it’s tendency.

An alternative newspaper should reflect the openness and the direct democracy that this newspaper has within its staff and it’s direct relation to the struggle, it should be a propaganda unit for the struggle and the movement. Here I am not talking about another Baath and Teshrin newspaper. These are the state’s propaganda, it ain’t the people’s nor the movement’s newspaper.

Internal democracy and decision making

Democracy inside of an alternative newspaper is a key issue for the newspaper to be alternative, and when speaking about democracy, I don’t mean consensus, as for me consensus is anti-democratic as sometimes, the minority could block a decision, thus it would be the rule of the minority. We wouldn’t need democracy if we have a system than can perfectly reflect the wishes of everyone.

Democracy is ongoing battlefield of ideas and proposals and it’s crucially important to have a democratic procedure within a paper to have an alternative paper.

A newspaper is an interactive ground for political currents and views and readings; this vital space of battling ideas. A newspaper is a place for discussion, ideology and analysis. An alternative newspaper is the carrier of the goals and aims and the identity of the movement.

An alternative newspaper is the backbone of the building process of the movement.

Thus the internal organization of the newspaper should reflect the internal organizational structure of the movement itself. Internal democracy is an ongoing process of building, not a fixed system as blue’s article described. This process is built by experience by trial and error in the purpose in fitting the needs of the group and the group’s perspective of democracy.

Bassem Chit   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 November 2014