29 June 2015

Fliers and Pamphlets

Agitprop, Part 2a

A Typical South African Event Flyer

Fliers and Pamphlets

Fliers (Flyers) and Leaflets

These are handed out free, as advertising. Usually they only have text on one side. Sometimes they are miniature versions of a poster. In South Africa, most political fliers are A5 (half an A4) in size.

Fliers need to project the message that they are supposed to convey, very simply and clearly. People who take fliers do not, on average, spend more than a few seconds looking at them. Very few of them will keep the flier or look at it twice. Therefore the main information must be the most prominent information.

If the flier is to advertise an event, then the main information is Date, Time and Venue. The nature of the event comes after these in importance, even if it is put at the top of the flier. But of course, it must also be there.

As with posters, it is important to avoid the kind of “clutter” that obscures the simplicity of the message.

Text in sentences and paragraphs is unlikely to be read. Text in slogan form, and as announcement, is what goes on fliers. In other words: Less is more. The graphics, layout and illustration should support the text, and not compete with it.

Logos can be used, but what gets most attention on any page is always the same thing: A human face or a human figure. In text, what gets most attention is names of people.

Polychrome is not necessary in a flier design, just as it is not necessary in a poster.


The word pamphlet is used sometimes to mean a one-sheet leaflet, but a pamphlet is really a text publication, normally having a number of pages. It is usually like an essay, or what is sometimes called a tract. It is similar to writing for periodicals like theoretical magazines, or as part of a book. The difference from these is that the pamphlet is an occasional and not a regular publication, but it is shorter than a book.

In South Africa, a pamphlet might typically be A5 in size, several thousand words in length, and anything from 4 to 32 pages, or sometimes even more than that. Pamphlets are often printed professionally. Sometimes they have a cover, sometimes not. A recent SACP pamphlet was “Deepen the Historical Ties between the ANC and SACP”, printed for the Party by Shereno printers. It was a print version of a lecture given on 23 November 2012 as part of the ANC’s Centenary celebrations.

Pamphlets have a long history in politics. One of the most famous pamphleteers in the English language is Tom Paine. The 1848 Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels is a pamphlet, maybe the most successful one ever. Joe Slovo’s “The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution” is a pamphlet-length work.

The Communist University’s booklet format is not different from the historic pamphlet form.

A pamphlet is always an option when an occasional response or publication is needed.

Bua Komanisi

The South African Communist Party keeps a title that is a hybrid between a regular publication and a pamphlet, called Bua Komanisi. It does not come out at regular intervals, but it is numbered in series. It is used for occasional publication of important documents, such as discussion documents. One recent example, published in May, 2013, is “Let’s not Monumentalise the National Development Plan,” a discussion of the NDP.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.

28 June 2015


 Agitprop, Part 2

Van de Graaf Page Construction


Making your material look good is not a waste. Material that looks good will be read by many more people. The waste is to lose readers because of not making your text look good. So here are some ways to control the look of your output:

White space

If at all possible, surround your print with white space. See the above illustration for an idea of the classic look of book pages. White space makes your material readable.

Bold, Italic, Underline, and BLOCK CAPITALS

Be careful with Block Capitals. They can make your material look as if you are shouting. But otherwise, all of these devices can help you to create a hierarchy of meaning that will assist your readers to understand you better.


There are many. They are either serif (like “Times”), or they are sans-serif (like “Calibri”).


Justify is used for columns. Columns are used for newspaper articles, and magazines. Columns allow more words on the page.

Numbering (footer)

Always number documents that have more than two pages. The most versatile numbering format is the one that goes at the bottom and in the middle. It works for left-hand (verso) and right-hand (recto) pages equally well.


Try to keep headlines on one line. Less is more. Five words is a lot, for a headline.


Use logos when you can. They create an impression of authenticity.

Break up slabs

Use all kinds of ways to break up large slabs of text, so as to give your readers resting points, and landmarks in the text.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.

24 June 2015

Press Releases

Agitprop, Part 1b

“How to” diagram from the Internet

Press Releases

A press release (media release) is a pre-written story, given by an interested party to a journalist for the journalist to publish. These press releases nowadays go out by e-mail.

If you define it like that, then everything else about a press release will follow logically.

Everything is done in a way that is designed to save the journalist work, and time.

The press release must be short. It should not be longer than the space that the newspaper or radio programme will have available. This is because anything that is longer will have to be cut, and cutting down a text is work, that takes time. The journalists don’t have any spare time.

The press release must be written in a style that is usable, or easily adjustable for use, in a newspaper or a radio bulletin. This means short sentences.

The press release should be on one topic only. For another topic, send another press release. If it is not possible to do this (e.g. after an executive meeting covering many topics), then the press release should be clearly divided up with sub-headings.

The press release must be immediately verifiable. This means that the journalist must be able to confirm, usually by telephone, that you are the source of the press release. If the journalist cannot do this, then the story will be dropped (“spiked”) at once.

At the bottom of your press release you should put “Issued by:” and follow that with the organisation that is issuing the statement.

Immediately after that, you should put “Contact:” and follow it with your name and cell phone number. You can also put your land-line number and e-mail address, and all details including your physical whereabouts; but the cell number is the crucial one.

Logo and Date

If you have a logo, use it at the top and centre. Under it, you can put the name of the organisation in text, even if it is clear in the logo. The reason is that your recipient’s system may strip off the logo and leave only text. Put the date there at the top, as well.

A Good “Subject” line

Your message needs a good “Subject” line. This is not exactly like a newspaper headline, but it must tell the journalist plainly what the statement is about. It goes in the “Subject” field of the e-mail, and it goes above the text of the message. Shorter is better.

Some people like to make a quotation that the journalist can use, like, say: President Zuma said: “The National Development Plan will help us to work together.” The words in quotation marks are supposed to be the original words of the person, which the journalist can then use in the article. This point is made in the graphic below. By the way, there is no shortage of advice on press releases on the Internet.

What is also possible to do, but is hardly ever done, is to record a quotation, or a portion of a speech, and attach it to your press release as a sound file. This will help with radio, especially.

But as a rule, don’t use attachments when sending out press releases. Paste your text in the body of the message.

Press Releases as a news medium

Where there is a reception for it, your press release can go, and it is better for you that your full original message is read by those you wish to reach, as opposed to the edited one with contradictory statements added, that the newspaper may actually print.

For this reason, in South Africa, it has become normal to send press releases out as widely as possible.

Press releases have the potential to by-pass the newspaper and broadcast media to a significant extent.

Distribution list

E-mail distribution lists can be Google or Yahoo Groups, or they can be your own list-serve, but you need them to be sending e-mail, to addresses that are in use and not defunct.

E-mail that goes direct is what you want, and not a system that sends a message just to say there is a message. You want your message to appear in the in-box of your recipient, in such a way that the recipient can read the “Subject” line, and maybe the first few words of the message. You want it to be that if the journalist clicks once on the message, he or she will immediately get the message, open, in full.

Distribution lists require a lot of maintenance. You need to be adding subscribers all the time. This is a labour-intensive work. Therefore think twice before opening too many such lists.

On the other hand, get yourself on to as many as possible of other people’s lists so as to read their media releases, contrast and compare them, and learn from how they do it.


Most people don’t bother with the “embargo” and “for immediate release” tags. Most of the time, they are superfluous. It is better to save “embargo” for the very occasional and rare times that it is really needed.

·        The above is the third of three introductory texts that are compiled into a printable booklet, "Writing, Editing and Press Releases".

22 June 2015


Agitprop, Part 1a

Additive and Subtractive


All writing is edited. If it was not, it could not be constrained to fit the space available, which is always limited in some way. The time that readers have for reading is also limited.

Usually editing means in the first place selection. Editors pick, from a very wide field, a much smaller and limited amount of material. The criterion for selection may be political, or some other quality, like a special interest of a group of readers, or a sectional appeal such as to women, or to youth.

Editing can also mean removal of excess and repetition from a text. This is often referred to a “redaction”, related to the French word for “editor”, which is “redacteur”. Redaction that takes out whole passages, paragraphs and sentences is a quick way to reduce length.

Reduction of length can be achieved by re-writing, by sub-editors (see below).

The Communist University is a product of editing. It has been constructed by a combined process of selection and redaction. The openings to discussion of the short texts are equivalent to the “Editorials” in a newspaper, which are the editor’s own voice.


Sub-editing is also called (in USA English) copy-editing. Sub-editing is the writing of articles as they are going to be printed, as opposed to reporting, which is the gathering of stories. Reporters may sub-edit their own material to an extent, but the sub-editor is the one who must adjust the material to fit the space available. Sub-editors are the real writers of newspapers. Their techniques are the best.

Length per Page

This varies widely and is affected by all other variables. In a broadsheet newspaper page there can be thousands of words on one page. On a booklet page there might be 500 words. On an A4 page there may be more. In a print-magazine page with graphics and in columns, there may be 600 words.


Headlines in newspapers and magazines are added by sub-editors, and not by the writers of articles. Headlines need to be short, so that they can be fat. Sub-headings, like the ones used on this page, help to break up slabs of text and make it easier to read.

Web sites

Web sites are not limited in the way that hard-copy printed material is limited. Hence the natural discipline of the print medium is not felt, with the result that there is sometimes enormous length used on the Internet, which is much less likely to be read. Hence attention to word-count is very important when writing and editing for the Internet or e-mail.


An illustration that would express the nature of subtraction might be one of stone-carving, where the waste or surplus is chiselled away so as to reduce and shape the initial block down to what is wanted.

Addition could be illustrated by an image of bricklaying, or of “3D Printing”.

But suitable images were hard to find, so we have used the illustration of Additive and Subtractive colour to make the distinction in a visual way.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.

21 June 2015


Agitprop, Part 1

Lenin Writing


Writing comes first because it is the ordering art of so many other arts. For some examples, radio and television programmes, plays and films require a “script”. Opera requires a “libretto”. Building information can be conveyed almost entirely without words, as in the books of Palladio, but as with other “plastic arts” like painting and sculpture, a lot of words usually get used during the creative process. Even, or especially, the “art of insurrection”, as Lenin called it, relies on words for it to happen.

In politics, writing is indispensable. Most of our cadres need to be able to write. By being able to write is meant more than to be literate, just as being literate means more than to be able to read.

The question of language will mainly be left to another CU course, fully dedicated to Languages. Suffice it here to say that we need writers in all the languages used in South Africa, and not just in the 11 official ones. We need people who can at least handle text in French, Portuguese, Swahili, and Arabic, as well, because these, together with English, are at present the international languages of Africa.

In this item, we are talking about writing in general. What advice can we give?

The purpose of writing is to be understood. Political writing is better when it is shorter. To compose your thoughts, use “Mind Maps”, as described in the attached text. To organise your research, follow the “Organic Study Guide” contained in the document, and similar advice.

Write in Prose. Prose is in paragraphs, and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Prose does not rely on bullets, numbers, letters or other listing mechanisms.

A good way to start writing is to write in a way that is adapted from the way you speak. If you can make yourself understood in speech, then you should be able to make yourself equally well understood with the same words on paper. Then you can improve. There is no requirement for you to be pompous. Simplicity is best.

Political writing is better when shorter. All kinds of writing are limited as to length. Therefore make a habit of watching the number of words in any piece of writing (your own, and whenever possible, other people’s).

Here is a rough indication of the kinds of length required for different kinds of writing:

Length (+/-)

10 words
50 words
Letter to the Editor
300 words
Press Release/Newspaper Report
300 words
Article (“op ed” or “feature”)
750 words
Speech (100 words per minute)
1 500 words
2 500 words
Chapter of a book
5 000 words
Book of ten chapters
50 000 words

From this chart it can be seen that each succeeding kind of project can be built up by repeating elements similar to the preceding, smaller ones. Writing is a modular, additive kind of work, like bricklaying. The modules are small. Short sentences and short paragraphs are best in political writing, and in journalism. If you can write a sentence, then you can write a book.

Reading goes with writing. Both are habits. Keep reading, and keep writing, like breathing in and breathing out. Try to write for people. Any readers are good readers. Even a small amount of feedback is extremely instructive.

Lenin described himself as a writer. Lenin’s style became clearer and clearer as he became more experienced. Lenin’s style is a good model of shortness combined with clarity.

Writing is a pleasure. The Chilean communist writer Volodia Teitelboim used to say that writing was the easiest way he knew of being happy.

·        The above is to introduce an original reading-text: Use Your Head Conspectus, Tweedie, after Buzan, 1974.

8 June 2015



Agitprop, Part 0


The CU Agitprop course will be serialised for the Communist University in the third quarter of 2015.

To see the full CU posting schedule for 2015, please click here.

The SACP by its Constitution is supposed to “educate, organise and mobilise”. These three terms can be combined into one: “Agitate”.

The word “Propaganda” came into wide use after the “Congregatio de Propaganda Fide” (Latin for “congregation for the propagation of the faith”) was set up by the Catholic Church in Rome in 1622. Its business was to “propagate”, and what that means is:

“Cause to grow in numbers or amount; extend the bounds of; spread (especially an idea, practice, etc.) from place to place. Grow more widespread or numerous, increase, spread.

“Extend the action or operation of; transmit (motion, light, sound, etc.) in some direction or through some medium. Be transmitted, travel.”

These words quoted from the big (“New Shorter”, 2-Volume) Oxford Dictionary can help to describe what we mean by Propaganda, in this course.

Agitational Propaganda (Agitprop for short) is what this course is about. It is a practical course. It is about means, and arts. It starts with writing, but the course is saying that human expression and communication takes many forms. We use all of them, and we try to use them well.

The ten parts of the course will be:

Writing, Editing and Press Releases
Layout, Fliers, Pamphlets, and Copy-shop Agitprop
‘Paint’, Posters and Graphic Art
Groups, Blogs, Web Sites, Multi-Media and the Universal Device
Song, Dance, Drama and Poetry
Banners, Flags, Clothing and Stalls
Marches, Seminars, Public Meetings, and Soap Box Oratory
Strikes, Work-to-rules, Sit Downs and Occupations
Broadcasting, Loudhailing and Exhibitions
Sound System, Carpentry, Painting and Catering

Original texts

In this course there are fewer “original texts” than usual in the Communist University courses.

For that reason the “Openings to Discussion” will be compiled together and sent out as a booklet each week. This weekly booklet will also be used as the hard-copy document for discussion in live sessions. Where there are original texts, they will also be sent.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.

7 June 2015

Organised Women, The Fifth Alliance Partner

Induction, Part 10c

Organised Women, The Fifth Alliance Partner

In the Induction Course, we have tried to convey a picture of the set of democratic institutions that exist and to which we must give continuous new life, and expansion.

This picture should, and will have to, include organised women.

We have said, in our course “No Woman, No Revolution”, that the ANC Women’s League is an ANC for women, and that the Progressive Women’s Movement is not a mass democratic organisation.

Therefore there is no mass democratic organisation of woman that can at this moment take up the position in the above graphic, to represent women within the National Democratic Revolutionary (NDR) Alliance, along side of the other components, as illustrated.

This we leave once again as a “problematic”. It is one that must be solved before the revolution can be successful.

·        The above is to introduce original reading-texts: Look at No Woman, No Revolution.

4 June 2015

Trade Union Revival

Induction, Part 10b

Trade Union Revival

This item represents a fast-moving situation wherein the South African working class has an objective need to increase its degree of organisation dramatically.

According to statistics, there are nearly 14 million people working in SA, but only about 3 million of these are organised in trade unions, and only about 2.2 million of those are in COSATU-affiliated unions.

At the same time, there is a new phenomenon now appearing in South Africa that we call “vigilante trade unionism”. This phenomenon is described in the attached document, which is an extract from the Statement of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party of 2 June 2013.

The communists are partisans of the working class. They cannot shirk the task of getting the working class organised into primary mass democratic organisation. It is a necessary condition for the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) to exist. The extension of mass democratic organisation is what the NDR consists of, and the main and leading part of it is the organisation of workers.

·        The above is to introduce an original reading-text: SACP CC Statement, 2 June 2013.

3 June 2015

Decade of the Cadre

Induction, Part 10a

Decade of the Cadre

“A cadre’s life is lived within the framework of multi‐faceted relationships. It is these relations that make a cadre a cadre. In these relationships, a cadre is at the same time the cause and effect. A cadre cannot be conceived outside of an organisation, for a cadre is an element of an organisation...

“The essential duty of cadreship and leadership is to agitate for the political consciousness of the people, to mobilise, and continuously organise people as a conscious force to seize and maintain political power.”

The above words are taken from the attached document, “Theory of organisation”, an article written by Cde Nathi Mthethwa, and published in the ANC’s theoretical magazine “Umrabulo” of the 1st Quarter of 2013.

The ANC 53rd National Conference resolved to make the next decade a period of focus on cadre development, calling it “The Decade of the Cadre”.

The second attached document is a report of a speech by the Secretary-General of the ANC in May, 2913. He said, among other things:

“This year, it's the beginning of the decade of the cadre.

"There is a difference between a member and a cadre, you have to go through a process to become a cadre."

So we go forward.

·        The above is to introduce original reading-texts: Nathi Mthethwa, Theory of organisation, Umrabulo 1st Quarter 2013; and ANC wants reliable cadres, says Mantashe, 2013.

2 June 2015

Year of the District

Induction, Part 10

Year of the District

We have not yet discovered a document dedicated to the “Year of the District”, but what we know is that it refers to the Districts of the South African Communist Party, and not to the Voting Districts.

According to the SACP Constitution, a District, consisting of not less than 10 branches, is formed by a Provincial Executive Committee, according to a policy framework drawn up by the Central Committee, after consultation with the PECs, to determine the boundaries of districts.

The SACP constitution was amended at the 13th National Congress, in July 2012, to allow for the formation by District Executive Committees of Sub-Districts consisting of not less than 500 members or 5 branches.

Below the Districts and the Sub-Districts (where these exist) are the Branches of the Party. The SACP Constitution says: “The basic structure of the SACP is the branch, to be formed at a residential area or workplace, and every member shall be obliged to belong to a branch.”

The attached document is the chapter on “Strengthening the Vanguard Party” from the “South African Road to Socialism” (SARS) document, passed at the same 13th SACP National Congress.

Among other things, the SARS document says: “All our branches must be based on voting districts” (page 124).

The attached document is extracted, without any editing of the text, from the full SARS document, which is downloadable from the SACP web site, or by clicking this link (744 KB PDF). The text does contain some obvious errors and incomplete sentences.

On page 124 and 125 of the SARS, a scheme of political schools is laid out. The Communist University has prepared material in a format that can be used in political schools of any practical size. These are half-day modules. They can be used for single half-day schools, or put together to create schools for up to a week or even more, if required. The number of half-day modules that are prepared at this point is ten. They can be downloaded by clicking here, and scrolling down to the bottom of the page (the half-day course links are numbered 51 to 60). Two more half-day schools are in preparation. One will be based on this Induction course; the other will be based on the Education course.

·        The above is to introduce an original reading-text: SACP SARS Chapter 11, Strengthening the Vanguard Party.

1 June 2015

COSATU Locals, Socialist Forums

Induction, Part 9c

Two, Three, Many Red Forums

COSATU Locals, Socialist Forums

COSATU Locals are combinations of trade unionists in a locality, corresponding roughly to a Region of the ANC or a District of the SACP, where members of different affiliates of COSATU gather to discuss trade union matters of common interest. They are similar to the area Trade Union Councils or “Trades Councils” of Great Britain, which were the historical precursors of the national federation in that country, the TUC.

Socialist Forums are periodical, if possible regular, gatherings of trade unionists, communist party members and others to discuss matters of a socialist nature, and to conduct “umrabulo”.

“Umrabulo” is a word with South African characteristics, meaning self-help political education.

See the attached document for a description of Socialist Forums as understood by the SACP, taken from the SACP web site.

These initiatives are by nature local and will be a product of original work, custom and practice in the various localities, influenced by the leading personalities in the places where these institutions have taken root.

The attached document includes a comparative note on the role of Chairpersons, Secretaries, Presidents and General Secretaries in the three main components of our Alliance.

·        The above is to introduce an original reading-text: Socialist Forums, General Secretaries and Presidents, 2013.