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a means of politically influencing the masses, a weapon in the struggle between classes and their parties. Agitation is the spreading of a certain idea or slogan that arouses the masses to action. Political agitation always has a class character. Agitation can be carried out through discussions; lectures; speeches at meetings, over the radio, on television; newspaper articles; graphic arts (posters, caricatures, diagrams, paintings, sculpture, and so forth); motion pictures; or the theater. The CPSU uses agitation for the communist education of the workers, for heightening their political consciousness, for explaining the meaning of current events to the working masses, and for mobilizing and organizing them to fulfill the tasks facing the Party, the working class, and all the people.
The effectiveness of agitation is determined by the correct relations between the Party, the class, and the masses—that is, by its scientific bases. Propaganda is intimately linked with agitation. The difference between them was defined by G. V. Plekhanov: “. . . the propagandist conveys many ideas to one or a few persons; an agitator conveys only one or a few ideas, but to a great mass of people” (Soch., vol. 3, 1928, p. 400).
The ideas put forward in Communist Party agitation find sympathy and support among the masses because they express the vital interests of the people. Communist agitation is distinguished by its high ideological content. “. . .Without a clear, well thought out ideological content,” Lenin pointed out, “agitation degenerates into phrase mongering” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 47, p. 74). Closely related to this very important principle of Communist agitation—its high ideological level—is another principle—truthfulness. “We should discuss matters in an open and above-board manner in all of our propaganda and agitation,” Lenin taught. “People who think of politics as petty stratagems that sometimes come down to little more than deceptions should be met with the most resolute condemnation in our midst” (ibid., vol. 43, p. 58).
Agitation presupposes an approach that differentiates between various layers of the population, taking into account class structure, cultural level, and occupation. It is based on a careful consideration of people’s moods and desires and on a process of patient explanation and persuasion. It should be presented in an easily understood, concrete, and vivid manner, closely linked with life and the tasks posed by the Party. Agitation is purposeful, has a militant, aggressive nature, exposes those who resist carrying out the Party’s general line, reveals and castigates shortcomings in work, criticizes those who are guilty of these shortcomings, and refuses to dodge difficult questions. M. I. Kalinin advised agitators, “... Never evade a discussion of difficult questions . . . Do not resort to that under any circumstances; do not avoid answering; do not gloss over questions that have been posed” (O politicheskoi agitatsii, 1948, PP. 8–9).
Agitation takes various forms. Agitation by word of mouth is not only a means of winning over the masses but also a means of communicating with them and establishing a close interaction between the Party, the working class, and all working people. The most important forms of such agitation are public meetings and assemblies. V. I. Lenin, an unsurpassed agitator himself, attributed enormous importance to that. He considered it the Communist agitator’s imperative duty to carry on explanatory work among the masses every day, to catch their moods, and to simultaneously learn from them. “Personal impact and personal appearances at meetings are tremendously important in politics. Without these there can be no political activity, and writing itself becomes less political” (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 47, p. 54). Many figures in the CPSU were outstanding agitators—among them M. I. Kalinin, S. M. Kirov, N. K. Krupskaia, A. V. Lunacharskii, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, G. I. Petrovskii, Ia. M. Sverdlov.
In contemporary life radio and television along with newspapers have acquired an enormous importance for the agitator; through them millions of people are simultaneously informed about current events. Films are also growing in importance as one of the most powerful means of political agitation. However, agitation by the printed word has certain special features as well as certain advantages over word-of-mouth agitation. Newspapers and magazines penetrate the most remote corners of the country. They provide the reader with the opportunity to cull information at his own convenience and wherever he wishes. Moreover, the reader can concentrate on the material of interest to him and keep it for future use. The total combined circulation of all Soviet newspapers and magazines came to 260 million in 1969, or more than the USSR’s total population. An effective form of printed agitation is the leaflet, which can be issued quickly and in large quantities. The same is true of the wall newspaper, including special flash editions. These forms can be used successfully to popularize exemplary work methods, outstanding workers in socialist competition, and valuable initiatives taken by industrial workers, engineering or technical personnel, or service and office workers.
The poster is a widely used form of visual agitation. Wording on posters should be vivid, concise, and persuasive. The text must be brief, purposeful, and memorable. The Soviet agitational poster has enjoyed wide dissemination, especially during the Civil War in 1918–20 and during the Great Patriotic War in 1941–45. These posters were distinguished by their political pertinence, timeliness, and variety of artistic devices used.
The Party uses the entire network of cultural-educational institutions to conduct agitation: the houses and palaces of culture, the clubs, the agitpunkts, the libraries, the houses of political education, the agitational trains and cars, and so on.
The Twenty-third Congress of the CPSU devoted a great deal of attention to questions of mass agitation. The congress resolution instructs members that “it is necessary to explain the policies of the party profoundly and clearly, without avoiding difficult questions, to be sensitive to the desires and spiritual needs of the popular masses, and to take into consideration the fully developed cultural and educational level of the Soviet people. All political agitation should proceed on the basis that the population should be widely and systematically informed about the country’s political, economic, and cultural life and the international situation” (Materialy XXIII s”ezda KPSS, 1966, p. 199).
Communists modify the forms and methods of their agitation according to historical circumstances. An underground communist party cannot use mass public meetings. In such a case the stress must fall on agitation in small groups or by individuals. In circumstances where it is impossible to extensively use such a powerful type of printed agitation as the newspaper, the party resorts to leaflets. Lenin taught that communists must work in every institution and organization that allows the possibility of legally communicating with the workers and hence of extensive agitation. “. . .It is obligatory to work where the masses are,” he wrote. “One must know how to make every kind of sacrifice and to overcome the most difficult obstacles in order to carry on propaganda and agitation systematically, stubbornly, insistently, and patiently in those very institutions, associations, and unions, no matter how reactionary, where the proletarian or semiproletarian masses are found” (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 41, pp. 36–37). When the Bolsheviks abandoned underground work and came out into the open, the extent of their agitational activities broadened considerably, and the forms and methods of that work became more varied. Mass meetings, rallies, demonstrations, newspapers, leaflets, and posters were utilized by the Party to reach the masses.
The Party considers agitational work obligatory for every communist. After the victory of the Great October Revolution, when constructive tasks came to the forefront, the examples given by communists in work acquired agitational and propagandistic importance. “If previously we carried on our propaganda by explaining general truths,” Lenin said, “now we are propagandizing through work “ (ibid., vol. 38, p. 198).
The CPSU has accumulated a great deal of practical experience in conducting agitational campaigns related to noteworthy dates and to the completion of specific political or economic tasks. Such revolutionary holidays as the anniversary of the October Revolution, Soviet Army Day, May Day; special days .such as the Day of the Press, Day of the Radio, etc.; days devoted to such workers as miners, oil workers, construction workers, and fishing industry workers—all these serve as focuses for annual agitational campaigns timed for the particular date.
Agitational campaigns for particular occasions have also been extensively conducted—for elections to soviets or to people’s courts, for building the defense fund during the Great Patriotic War, for mobilizing youth to develop virgin and unused lands or to participate in major new construction projects, and the like. Other examples are campaigns in response to international events, such as the one in defense of Vietnam against American aggression.
With the rising general level of culture and education among the workers, the demands on Party agitation have increased. It has become more profound in content, more varied in its techniques and forms, and more far-reaching in its audience. Party organizations are concentrating on the quality of their agitation. The Party requires that agitation be conducted on the basis of information that will effectively promote the communist education of the people, the formation of a public point of view, and a correct orientation for the Soviet people on questions of the Party’s and state’s domestic and foreign policies in the struggle against hostile ideology. The information in agitation should be theoretically correct and based on reliable sources and scientific facts; it should be well argued and well documented, persuasive, purposeful, and constructed on living examples and facts.
Communist agitation is engaged in struggle against hostile, bourgeois agitation, which defends the capitalist system. The struggle between the two ideologies, a manifestation of the class struggle, is reflected in agitational work. Reactionary parties, making use of the mass communications media of the modern world, carry on antipopular, false, and provocative agitation. Communist agitation calls for the struggle against the capitalist system, exposes the slanders and falsifications of the bourgeois ideologists, and mobilizes the masses to deal with revolutionary tasks.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. O propagande i agitatsii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1962.
Krupskaia, N. K. Lenin kak propagandist i agitator. Moscow, 1957.
Kalinin, M. I. O nekotorykh voprosakh agitatsii i propagandy. Moscow, 1958.
Voprosy ideologicheskoi raboty: Sb. vazhneishikh reshenii KPSS (1954–1961 gg.). Moscow, 1961.
V. M. SHCHERBAK