Special pages :
Capitalism and the Press
|Written||20 March 1914|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 162-165.
When thieves fall out, honest men come by their own, to some extent. When bourgeois newspapermen quarrel they reveal to the public the venality of the “big dailies” and the tricks they are up to.
N. Snessarev of the Novoye Vremya quarrelled with that newspaper, misappropriated some of its funds, and was dismissed after a scandal. He has now published a “book” of 135 pages entitled The Mirage of “Novoye Vremya”. As Good as a Novel. St. Petersburg, 1914. Posing, as is the custom, as a “perfect gentleman”, Mr. Snessarev describes the ethics which have long established themselves in the capitalist countries of the West, and which are penetrating more and more into the bourgeois press in Russia, where of course the soil is exceptionally favourable for the most sordid and disgusting forms of bribery, toadyism, etc., which are practised with impunity.
“Everybody has gradually become accustomed to live beyond his means,” this Novoye Vremya man writes with a charming air of “injured innocence”. “When and how society will rid itself of this phenomenon, or whether it will rid itself of it at all, nobody can tell. But that such is the situation at the present time is a recognised fact.” And one of the magic means by which one can live above one’s income is to get bourgeois newspapers to “participate” in promoting concessions. “I could mention scores of different concessions,” relates our Novoya Vremya-ist, “which owe their existence, not only to certain connections, but also to certain articles published in certain newspapers. Novoye Vremya is of course no exception.” For example, one day, a representative of the London Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company called on Mr. Snessarev and invited him to draft the Articles of Association of a Russian Marconi Co. and a plan for a concession for that Company. “The remuneration for this work was fixed at 10,000 rubles, and an agreement was reached.”
The “victimised” Snessarev relates that, not only did he sell himself to the capitalists for this sum, but that the whole newspaper Novoye Vremya sold itself to conduct “a campaign in favour of the concession”, for which it received a 50 per cent rebate on telegrams, a “cushy job” as a founder of the Company, and a grant of 50,000 rubles’ worth of shares.
London capitalists—fleecing the Russians—concessions from the Russian Government—press participation—whole sale corruption—anybody and everybody, bought and sold for thousands of rubles—such is the truthful picture revealed by the disgruntled crook Snessarev.
Novoye Vremya, an enterprise with millions invested in it, was collapsing. The pampered sons of the renegade millionaire A. S. Suvorin were squandering and dissipating millions. This noble newspaper had to be saved. “P. L. Bark, Managing Director of the Volga-Kama Bank, appeared on the scene” (p. 85). He persuaded A. S. Suvorin to transfer the business to a company, whose Articles, of Association had received His Majesty’s approval in August 1911. Of the eight hundred shares (at 5,000 rubles per share), 650 went to A. S. Suvorin. In forming the Company they drew up a fictitious balance-sheet, Mr. Snessarev explains (p. 97), adding that “such a balance-sheet could have been accepted either by people totally ignorant of figures, or by people like Mr. Guchkov, that is to say, people who know their business perfectly, but pursue aims of their own”. The heroes of this Company’s inauguration (the inaugural meeting was held on November 10, 1911) were Snessarev himself, P. L. Bark, V. P. Burenin, Octobrist member of the Duma Shubinsky, the sons of that noble renegade A. S. Suvorin, and others.
As the reader sees, this highly respectable Company has been operating with great zeal since November 1911, but since 1912, the “victimised” Snessarev informs us, Novoye Vremya has been receiving a subsidy in the shape of the advertisements of the Land Banks (“not a very great income—a mere 15,000 rubles per annum, or “something round about that” figure!). According to the law, these advertisements had to be given to the newspaper with the largest circulation. At that time Novoye Vremya did not have the largest circulation, but it “set in motion” (“for the first time”, the noble Snessarev avows) its backstairs influence and connections in government circles in order to retain these Land Bank advertisements. “The matter was discussed by the Council of Ministers and after rather serious hesitation it was decided to allow Novoye Vremya to retain the advertisements” (p. 21).
A literary and art society’s club, “in plain words, a gambling-house” (p. 69) was formed; “in the club’s debt book the members of the staff of Novoye Vremya had thousands of rubles against their accounts. These debts were simply written off”.
In co-operation with Menshikov and others, the stock broker Manus, who grew rich on the stock exchange and piled up a fortune of “several millions” (p. 120), launched a campaign in Novoye Vremya demanding Kokovtsov’s resignation from the Cabinet. We leave it to our readers to figure out how many thousands each of these “public servants” received, and how much they have yet coming to them.
A whirligig of millions began: Novoye Vremya with a balance of five millions, of which about three millions are fictitious; salaries and fees of two and three thousand rubles per month to second-rate and third-rate members of the staff; hundreds of thousands and millions wasted; loans from banks amounting to hundreds of thousands; universal corruption; prostitution in all its forms, illegal and legal, sanctified by marriage; the cream of high St. Petersburg society; millionaires, Cabinet Ministers, stockbrokers and distinguished foreigners; gambling-houses; blackmail in different forms; “no political convictions” (p. 36); envy and intrigues; Amfiteatrov and Snessarev challenging an engineer to a duel for insulting the editors of Novoye Vremya, who had slung mud at the students; A. S. Suvorin, “who was very fond” of Amfiteatrov, but “could not deny himself the pleasure of annoying him”, by letting through an article by Burenin containing a “nasty” dig at the actress Raiskaya, Amfiteatrov’s wife; Burenin kicks Amfiteatrov out; Suvorin’s scapegrace sons run up debts amounting to hundreds of thousands of rubles.
Novoye Vremya’s loss in 1905—150,000 rubles.
Scared by 1905, Moscow merchants and manufacturers gave 100,000 rubles to found a patriotic newspaper for workers. At their request Novoye Vremya undertook to arrange the matter.
The newspaper “dragged out a miserable existence” for two years and then closed down. Muscovites lost 100,000 rubles, and the Novoye Vremya people 150,000 rubles (p. 61).
Thieves, male prostitutes, venal writers, venal newspapers. Such is our “big press”. Such is the flower of our “high” society. “Everybody” knows these people; they have connections “everywhere”... The brazen Insolence of feudalists embracing in the dark with the brazen corruption of the bourgeoisie—such is “Holy Russia”.