This is the opening and closing of a pamphlet by John Keracher of the Proletarian Party of America first published in the 1930s yet still relevant and pertinent to today’s world of media manipulation.
The full pamphlet can be read on the Libcom website.
The much used term, “public opinion” is little understood by the average person. On first thought, many are inclined to believe that it is the opinion of that aggregate of human kind, commonly referred to as “the public.” Let us see whether or not such is the case. What is public opinion? Does it really exist? We say “Yes” and “No.”
That considerable influence is brought to bear upon social questions by what is called “public opinion” goes without saying. It is not a thing of air; it does not exist merely in the imagination. Quite the contrary, it is a power of considerable magnitude—a real live social force. And yet we do not hesitate to say that “public opinion” is not PUBLIC opinion at all. It is, at best, the opinion of a very small minority—we say, at best, for the reason that in many instances, particularly in matters pertaining to the labor movement, it is but an artifice whereby it is sought to mold the public mind favorably to the interests of the ruling class.
To comprehend this misnomer fully, one must have some idea of the source of “public opinion” and how it is formed. The public is divided into two classes, the working class and the employing class—the class that PRODUCES the “nation’s” wealth and the class that OWNS the means of producing such wealth, the mines, mills, factories, etc.
It is quite obvious that the interests of these two classes are not identical. The employers and the workers get their incomes in different way. They are opposite in every respect. The one class, on the average, is “well to do,” many are rich. The other class is not at all “well off,” many are in poverty.
The conditions under which the workers live are such as should cause them to arrive at opinions different from those arrived at by the rich- Yet the masses of the people, although poor, think the thoughts of the rich, champion the arguments of the rich, and, if need be, defend with their last breath the interests of the rich. “Public opinion” is, at best, only the opinion of the rich, but the majority of the people dont know it. You will say, “How is it done?”
It is the result of America’s greatest industry. “But,” you will say, “what is America’s greatest industry?” Well! It is not the coal industry, nor the oil industry, nor the automobile industry. It is not building, nor shipping, nor railroading. No, it is none of these. America’s greatest industry is the—Head-Fixing Industry….
…Public opinion, as we have endeavored to show in this pamphlet, is only capitalist opinion. The most effective way to combat it is to put forth, in opposition, workers’ opinion. But how is this workers’ opinion to be formed? How is working-class opinion going to become “public opinion”?
The working class constitutes the vast majority of the population. This majority has a means at its disposal, propaganda. The individual worker carrying the message of working-class emancipation to his fellow worker is a powerful factor, especially if put to work systematically. Speaking from working-class platforms, in halls and on street corners, and die printed word, the periodicals of the workers, by the workers and for the workers, are all effective means of reaching the masses.
There is also at work a still greater force than propaganda, a force that is bound to shape “public opinion.” Social evolution is at work. Its great economic pressure is bearing down upon the workers and forcing them to think. It is sharpening the struggle between the classes, between those who own the means of production and the class that must work for those owners in order to live. In a word, experience, the workers’ everyday experience, is the greatest force working toward their social awakening. To give the awakened workers greater understanding of their class interests, to impart information in relation to the social system under which we live, is the object of such a pamphlet as this. Also, the labor press, particularly its more advanced section, is useful in teaching the lessons of organization and action. Every means at the disposal of the working-class movement must be made use of to enlighten the masses and to convey the necessary knowledge of their class problems and the nature of the historic task that the proletariat is confronted with.
The class-conscious workers, the vanguard of the American proletariat, are now pressing forward with a mighty movement, and a powerful propaganda and educational press for the purpose of winning the workers away from the poisoned propaganda of the kept press of Wall Street. Mass meetings, street-corner meetings, classes on labor questions, leaflets, pamphlets, books, or any other means at our disposal, must be fully utilized. The personal agitation of the already awakened workers is particularly valuable, as our class is so numerous and the master class so few and getting fewer.
Let us bend every effort to the end that working class opinion may prevail, to the end that working-class ideas, opinions in the interest of the vast majority, will ultimately become public opinion. We must fight the head-fixing industry of the capitalist class to a finish. We must expose its shams, its fraudulent claims, its hypocracies and perversions. Against its “holy” humbugs, we must hurl our simple truths in relation to history and the real part played in social evolution by the class which does the world’s work. We must un-fix the workers’ heads by imparting real knowledge and driving out the falsehoods of capitalism’s head-fixing industry.
It is only through thus exposing the class nature of the head-fixing industry that we can prepare the workers’ minds for the need of a revolutionary change. The workers must be taught that their slavery is based upon the private ownership of the machinery of production and distribution. They must be brought to a realization that their emancipation from wage slavery can only come as a result of the means of production and distribution being transformed from the status of capitalist ownership to that of social ownership. The common ownership of the mills, mines, factories, etc., is the goal of the modern working-class movement. The political overthrow of the capitalist class is the first step toward this objective.
In this struggle, the power of thought is a mighty weapon. Let us learn to wield it more and more effectively. Let us bring the revolutionary ideas of the modern proletarian movement to the front, so as to uproot capitalism and establish a new social order. Let us sweep away, not only the head-fixing industry of capitalism, but also sweep away the system of profit making that is served by the head-fixing industry.