28 July 2015


Agitprop, Part 6b

A stall at the Fête de l’Humanité


You can use a folding paste-table like the one in the drawing above, and set it up in the street, or in a mall, or in a hall at an event or a conference or meeting. Or you can use any other kind of table, for that matter, to create what is called in a general way, a “stall”.

It is as well to think of the purpose of your stall as being to serve the cause, rather than to have an objective of making a big lump of money. Of course you must pass any surplus to your Treasurer, and you must account in some satisfactory way to your Treasurer for all the receipts and payments of funds, and for the stock of goods, which must also be properly conserved. You should, as with all Party or mass-movement activities, strive to generate a surplus, and not to carry debts back into the organisation.

It should be your intention to put on a good show, and to give a good experience to anyone who might come to your stall. You should therefore try to become aware of what such people might expect to find. Experience will in due course make you aware of what this is. People will in fact tell you what they want.

Paste Table

They may want to make a cash contribution to the Party, and you should be open to that, and ready to process it, with a receipt book, for example. They may want to join the party, so you should have application forms and be ready to follow a correct and effective procedure.

People may want current literature of the SACP, ANC or Trade Union, such as its Constitution, or documents like the South African Road to Socialism, the Branch Manual and the Election Manifestos of the ANC, and even documents like the National Development Plan or the Constitution of South Africa. You will not be able to keep all of these, but you may be able to bring some of them. A good principle is to bring whatever you can get of such things to your stall.

Not everything on the stall will have a cover price or a tariff price, but you can ask for donations.

Clothing and merchandise has been mentioned in the previous item. As we have said, the main thing is not to lose money, but to give a political experience to the masses, and to do whatever business may be appropriate to the political aims of the organisation.

Standing behind your stall, you become the public face of your organisation. You become a public representative of what your organisation stands for.

As such it becomes clear that what you are doing is no more or less than Agitprop. You do it with different means, but the aim is the same. It is part of the mission to educate, organise and mobilise.

Finally, this relates back to what was said in the beginning of this part, about the Party legalising itself. The open, public relationship that the SACP has with the South African public is deliberately kept up by all these means, and including stalls of the kind described here.

·        The above is to introduce our reading-text on Banners, Flags, Clothing and Stalls.

27 July 2015

Clothing and Caps

Agitprop, Part 6a

T-Shirt Blanks

Clothing and Caps

You can design your own T-shirt by putting colours, graphics and slogans on to the blanks, above. You can do it in the “Paint” programme that is part of Windows.

Caps are even easier to design. A cap needs to be specified as to its colour and a badge, or a slogan, or both (e.g. badge in front and slogan at the back).

Most people would contract out the printing of the T-shirts these days. Silk-screening your own T-shirts is still possible, but rarely done.

Can you make money from T-shirts and caps? It is not likely. Given that your main aim is political, namely agitational propaganda (Agitprop), it follows that if you are also trying to make money then you are trying to do two things which do not correspond. Serving two masters is a recipe for failure in any field.

It is better to maximise the political benefit, and to try to recover the costs in an all-round way.

Therefore, by all means do sell, but also try to get your clothing project funded in other ways, for example by outright donations and by “crowd funding”.

The discussion about T-shirts and caps could extend out to include other kinds of merchandise such as literature, and other kinds of clothing such as track suits and sweat-shirts. A full discussion of the business of merchandise would have to be extensive and to include long-term accounting for all “overhead” expenses, plus stocktaking and the writing-off of damaged and unsaleable goods.

Such a discussion will quickly become over-elaborate for our purposes, because at this level, we never have the means to sustain such activities as businesses over time. So we will not do that. But in the next item, we will consider what it is to run a stall as a one-off, occasional activity, and not primarily as a serious money-making affair.

In the Induction course, we have said that the secret of funding Party and mass movement activities is to make them all generate a small surplus as they go along.

Now, we are saying that the apparently money-making activity is no different. Like all our activities, it has to, taken overall, generate a small surplus, including from funding and from outright donations taken.

The distinction between political activities that also attract money, and money-making activities that carry a political message, is found to be no distinction at all.

For us, the political intention is the governing intention.

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

26 July 2015

Banners and Flags

Agitprop, Part 6

SACP Banner, Cradock 4 Funeral, July 20, 1985. © Gille de Vlieg
Gille de Vlieg would like to hear from anyone who is in this or any of her other photographs. She is on Facebook, or e-mail at gille@mweb.co.za

Banners and Flags

The above image is of the display of an SACP banner at the funeral of the Cradock 4 martyrs Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli in 1985.

This is a most powerful and actual image of a communist party legalising itself. Before this, communist party insignia were hardly ever seen in South Africa. The Party had been banned in May, 1950. But within less than five years after the Cradock 4 funeral, the Party was not only de facto (in practice), but officially legal again. That was in February, 1990.

Here is an edited version of e-mail correspondence with the photographer, Gille de Vlieg, who very kindly responded to a request to send a suitable version of her image of the SACP Banner being displayed at the Cradock 4 Funeral, 20 July 1985:

(Communist University): “Your image will be good to show the power of photography for a start, and then the use of the banner. Not least is to remind people of the Cradock 4. Also the fact that to an extent SACP unbanned itself, legalised itself, and this funeral of the Cradock 4 was the emphatic moment when they "came out", and you were there, taking the pictures. Less than 5 years later, the SACP was officially legalised again after 40 years of banning. This is a very important point to make in my opinion, because there are people who mistakenly glamorise underground politics. I want to show evidence that the struggle of the clandestine is firstly against being clandestine, and never to make a virtue of it.

(Gille de Vlieg): “I was a Black Sash member and was fortunate to meet Matthew Goniwe briefly when he came to address our Conference in March 1985.  I remember the Funeral of the Cradock Four very well.  Another Black Sash member and I had made a banner for the Black Sash, and as we entered the 'stadium' the youth took our banner and ran around the 'stadium' grounds with it and then put it up next to the SACP banner.  On the SABC news that night the 2 banners were shown over and over. 

“I also remember driving back through the night and hearing that a State of Emergency had been declared.  I had many friends on the buses that returned from the funeral, and I actually went to John Vorster police station where they had taken the buses and saw people being taken off the buses and searched. 

“I agree that the SACP did unban itself at that time. I believe the people who made the banner were Obed Bapela and Maurice Smithers. 

“SAHA (SA History Archives) has many of my photographs, their website is www.saha.org.za and their physical address is in the Womens' Jail on Constitution Hill.  It is rather ironic for me because I spent a time in detention just across the road from there in Hillbrow Police Station in 1986. I'm happy for you to have a low res of the image for the reasons you outlined. I am also happy for you to link it to my email address [gille@mweb.co.za].

Gille de Vlieg is also on Facebook. She has particularly requested that any people who recognise themselves in her photographs contact her. She would love to hear from you.

SACP & Black Sash banners, Cradock 4 Funeral, 20 July 20 1985. © Gille de Vlieg

More about the clandestine

The struggle to cease being clandestine, and to become legal, does not end when formal legality is achieved. The struggle to be out and to be openly proclaiming who we are, whether as SACP, as ANC or as COSATU unions, or as any other mass organisation, continues against different kinds of opposition.

These include the bourgeois mass media, such as for example eTV and eNCA, and print media, most of which strive at all times to show the unorganised as the normal, silent majority that they speak for. At the same time, they represent the organised people – those with hard-won collective agency – as not having agency, or otherwise just ignore the Movement and do not report its actions at all.

This conflict is at the heart of the question of Agitprop. It is the reason why Agitprop is constantly necessary. The organised masses face a constant counter-Agitprop, which is better funded and, in some media, but not in all, more extensive than our own.

Then there is the extent to which the movement mistakenly removes itself from the public realm. This happens when we say that the movement’s business must not be done in public. But in fact the movement’s business is supposed to be done in public. What we have to guard against is not exposure, but manipulation by selective exposure combined with selective concealment, distortion and lies. The best defence against all of these is openness.

Your Branch Banner and Flags

Usually branches get their banners made for them, and pay.

The banner is likely to be any branch’s first big purchase. It needs to be looked after carefully and kept ready for use.

The SACP Constitution begins:


The name of the organisation shall be the South African Communist Party (SACP).


The symbol of the SACP shall be a black star containing a gold hammer and sickle. The flag of the SACP shall be red with the symbol placed in the top left-hand corner.


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

22 July 2015

ANC Election Manual

Agitprop, Part 5c

ANC Election Manual

The attached document is a short version of the ANC Election Manual, produced in 2013 for the 2014 National and Provincial general election.

The Agitprop course is necessarily organised according to the different ways and means that can be used to get the agitational political message out.

There is no organic point at which we will start to consider campaigns in their totality. It is convenient to introduce this text on election campaigning at this half-way point, although it is not especially related to the other items in this part.

You will see that the document considers and combines many different means of propaganda.

In this document, you can see these various means deployed in proportion to their usefulness in this particular context, which is historically that of an election.

Further on in the course, we will look at strikes, which are a different form of campaign, and in the last part we will again consider campaigns in more general way, including the annual Red October campaigns of the SACP

·        The above is to introduce our reading-text, ANC Gauteng Election Manual, CU short version.

21 July 2015

Drama and Poetry

Agitprop, Part 5b

Drama and Poetry

Live drama and street theatre are always going to be part of any study of Agitprop.

But in South Africa, the actual tradition of political theatre that existed during the struggle against apartheid, and which was associated with the actor/playwright Athol Fugard in particular, and with the director Barney Simon, is practically discontinued at the present time and for some years past, with the notable exception of the efforts of actor/director/playwright John Kani.

Acting, directing, producing and all of the dramatic performing arts continue to be cultivated in relation to film and television. But live theatre as a mass phenomenon is hardly present in South African streets and towns. Insofar as live drama does exist, it is usually in theatres that are behind walls in Casino (gambling) complexes, while the theatres that formerly prospered are often standing dark and neglected.

The great exponent of political drama, apart from William Shakespeare, was the German communist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956).

The effect of television has been to commodify and to render unfruitful the impact of drama on the lives of the people. Television becomes the wallpaper of our lives.

All of the above applies as well to stand-up comedy, variety and cabaret, for the time being, and to Ballet and Classical Music, including Opera, which flourish in socialist countries, but in South Africa are elite pursuits.

In the apartheid years there was a performing group called Amandla Cultural Ensemble, also known as the Amandla Group. It was high quality and it made a great impact. The Amandla Group were recorded as musicians, and there is at least one clip of them on YouTube.

Apart from the casino theatres, drama and live performance art are probably only being practised in schools, colleges and universities in South Africa. The extent to which drama and the other performance arts are taught in South Africa, we do not know, but we would expect that the graduates would mainly be headed for the television production studio and related industries, in any case.


Poetry is something that continues to have a life. People are still writing poetry and performing it, live. Comrades sometimes publish their poems on the Communist University. Poetry lives, and is ready to have its day again.

·        The above is to introduce our reading-text on Song, Dance, Drama and Poetry.

20 July 2015


Agitprop, Part 5a

Umkhonto we Sizwe Toyi Toyi


Use of dance as a means of Agitprop is a South African characteristic.

It is often said, for example, that South Africa is the only place where striking workers dance as a means of protest. Whether or not it is the only place, yet it is true that this happens in South Africa and that a strike without any “toyi-toying” is a rare thing in SA, such that the words “toyi-toyi” and “strike” are interchangeable in some South African contexts.

When demonstrators dance, they are marshalled and kept to a pace and kept tight in formation.

The effect altogether is to magnify the impact of any demonstration as compared to the strolling, loose crowd that is typical of European “marches”, which rely mainly on size for impact.

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

19 July 2015


Agitprop, Part 5

Avanti Popolo, alla riscossa
Onward, people, to the revolution


Political songs in South Africa are a main part of the Agitprop of the country. Mass political singing is a South African characteristic.

At political rallies and conferences, and whenever the masses are gathered in one place, new songs and old songs can be heard.

It would be unusual in South Africa if a speaker on a platform was to call for a song, and the audience be unable to respond.

Often, a crowd will assert itself with songs that the platform may, or may not, welcome. The songs can provide a current of discourse that runs beside, and affects, the formal, verbal process of the gathering.

Both melodies and lyrics are composed and re-composed to express current meanings of the moment. Comrades quickly compose and rehearse in groups. Together with dance, this is a mass art form that can spread and take off with speed. With or without the assistance of electronic media, it is a very powerful unifier of the South African masses, and of their liberation movement.

All of the above can be written without fear of contradiction. But what becomes apparent, when doing so, is that there is hardly any literature or recorded audio material that bears witness to this giant phenomenon that touches millions and which proceeds from year to year and decade to decade.

There is the story of the martyr Vuyisile Mini, who was known as a composer of songs. There is Enoch Sontonga, the composer of “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika”, which is the national anthem of South Africa and at least three other countries, although in South Africa it has been diluted with parts of “Die Stem”. These are known about, but the modern and regenerative life of political songs in the country is not as a rule written about in the mass media, or studied in the academy.

Efforts to promote “The Internationale”, the US trade union anthem “Solidarity Forever”, and others of that kind are not very successful here, mainly because these works come out of a tradition that is far less of a mass phenomenon than what we have here in South Africa. With the possible exception of the “Internationale”, because of its ancient associations with the Paris Commune of 1871 (the first-ever workers’ state) and its consequent worldwide acceptance as the anthem of the communists, most of these songs lack resonance in South Africa, where the living culture of political song is far in advance of other places.

Is it necessary to discuss something like this? Yes, it is necessary. All of our study is to objectify our political world and to understand it in a rational and explicit way. It is not acceptable to remain with a situation where some things are reflected in academic and journalistic discourse, while other aspects of our political lives are allowed to pass away without commentary or permanent record of any kind.

In the absence of a readily-available discursive literature, the above will have to suffice for the stimulation of a discussion about political singing. We should bear in mind that this study of ours is breaking new ground in terms of commentary upon mass political song.

We would also want to appeal to anyone who has knowledge of any recordings of, or scholarly works about, political singing in South Africa, to let the CU know about them. It may be that there is a body of scholarship and critical commentary that we just have not discovered yet.


Formal Choirs are characteristic of South Africa, although South Africans seem hardly to be aware of their comparative high position in the world in this wonderful art form. It is true that there are choral traditions in many countries but in South Africa, choirs are everywhere. Naturally, they sing religious songs for the most part, but not always, and there has always been revolutionary choral singing.

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

17 July 2015

Cell Phone, SMS and Social Media

Agitprop, Part 4b

Convergence: Smart Phone

Cell Phone, SMS and Social Media

The hand-held “device”, or “gadget”, such as the one illustrated above, is more than a cell phone. It delivers Internet, e-Mail, other kinds of instant messaging including SMS, plus GPS, still and video camera, sound recording, spreadsheet, word processing, and hundreds or even thousands of other “applications”. It probably delivers live television efficiently as well.

The long-predicted “convergence” has arrived.

We cannot say that this is the end of the road. There may be more surprising things coming along. But what we can already say is that the technical ease of doing any kind of communication has only exposed the social and human nature of such communication.

The barriers to communication are now revealed as principally human ones, starting with the time it takes to do things. We all have the power, but we do not have the time, to do more than a fraction of what is possible.

Working together, we could do more. But working together requires organisation. We do organise, and we do succeed to work together to a large extent, in politics.

But when it comes to ICT (Information and Communication Technology), we now have the solo device, like the one shown above, and we have as yet, rather limited collaboration.

Collaboration on monopoly’s terms is not collaboration for revolution

Instead of the widespread mass creativity that caused the very rapid advance of ICT, what monopoly brings is widespread mass conformity.

The phone and the SMS allow certain patterns of communication, but not others. The one that is conducive to political dialogue, it does not allow, or at least, it inhibits. The model for such a dialogue is “many-to-many”.

It is not “one-to-one”, like a telephone call, and it is not “one-to-many”, like a radio or television broadcast.

“Many-to-many” is the revolutionary possibility that the new devices bring. In this relationship, it is possible for all the participants to be equally as much producers as they are consumers. This is the model of communism. It is a model of post-capitalist relations of production.

What is the response of bourgeois society to this possibility, of its own creation? The response is a combination of paternalism and filialism (i.e. the corporate monolopies behave like parents while the consumers are treated like, and behave like, children). This is done through the creation of Facebook, Twitter, and the minor “social networking” platforms.

The characteristic of Facebook and Twitter and the whole so-called “social networking” idea is the opposite of what it holds itself out to be. This is precisely not the model of communism. In the world of “social networking” all revolutionary possibilities are neutralised and frustrated.

This is so, regardless of the existence of a US Imperialism “PRISM” system that is collecting all communications, including the “social networking” interactions. With or without the intruding “PRISM”, social networking is counter-revolutionary. It is a dummy. It is sterile and cannot bear fruit.

Our Agitprop has to be the intentional antagonist of bourgeois, counter-revolutionary ICT. Our job is to produce as many creators as we can, meaning not only writers, but also visual artists, makers and performers of all kinds, as well as people who can master the more difficult parts of ICT.

·        The above is the third of three introductory texts that are compiled into a printable booklet, Groups, Blogs, Web Sites, Multi-Media and the Universal Device.

15 July 2015

Electronic publishing, photos, sound and video


Agitprop, Part 4a


Electronic publishing, photos, sound and video

The previous item was to understand at a simple level, and then at a broad policy level, how the Internet, as we call it, meaning the World Wide Web, has been developing in recent years.

In this item we can consider and discuss the growth of multi-media “ICT”, where ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology.

Cameras are digital these days. They record images in the form of files that are digital, computer files and can be saved in computers and opened in computer programmes for manipulation, cropping, and “photo-shopping”.

Sound is recorded in digital files, and so is video.

All this means that text, sound, pictures and moving pictures can all be handled, edited, and combined using an ordinary computer, a laptop or even with a tablet.

Integrated software that can do all of these tasks is available. The Adobe “Creative Suite” is one of them.

The potential is great and the means are available. What must be added is the human factor.

The Human Factor, Politics and Monopoly

The history of computing, or (ICT) is one of mass creativity, periodically commodified, and then quickly monopolised. This is what happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when there was huge innovation led by unpaid “amateurs” and by small companies, until it was nearly all captured by the twin and mutually-supporting monopolies of IBM and Microsoft. This cycle has repeated itself many times. It provides a good example of how capitalism evolves through one technology and towards the next, and how one monopoly can give way to another in the process.

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

14 July 2015

Google Groups, Blogs, Web sites

Agitprop, Part 4

Communist University Mash, 2005

Google Groups, Blogs, Web sites

The above diagram was done in 2005 to help its maker to understand and explain what we were doing in those days. This was when many new and free-to-use facilities became available in very usable and connectable forms. Many of these came from Google. They were technically stable and reliable.

We discovered the term “mash” later. It means a combination of different services, connected together to produce a very powerful “ensemble”, essentially allowing all the powers of the Internet to be mobilised by individuals. These services were e-mail distribution groups/forums; blogs; free web sites; and wikis:

E-mail distribution groups and forums (Listserves; Electronic mailing lists)
Familiar ones are Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. This message came to you through a Google Group. E-mail can be distributed in bulk with one message. Groups can be set to allow all subscribers to post, in which case they become discussion forums, like this one.

Blog” is short for “Web log”, meaning a web site that records text in a vertical, scrolling log, or diary. The CU uses blogs to archive these introductory e-mails. Blogs have facility for comments. But the comments do not work for the CU. What works for us is e-mail.

Web sites
Free web sites became available that were easy to operate, in a similar way to using a word processor. Google Sites is one. These are good for archiving.

Wikis are web sites that are optimised for collaborative working between two or more members of the site. Each member is jointly and severally the master of the site and can edit it at will. There are checks. The principal one is that all edits can be reversed to the previous condition. Wikis work extremely well when people want to do it. Wikipedia is the best-known example of a successful Wiki. But the Communist University has not been able to get people working together in this way. What works for us is e-mail.

It is not correct to say that the services upon which the “mash” combinations were based were “free”, or are “free” now. The value that goes in to them is created by the users, in hundreds and thousands of hours of work. This value can be taken away at any time, and this has happened to parts of the CU system. Google services are technically stable but are ultimately not reliable, because they can be withdrawn at any time, at the whim of Google.

There have been some changes to our CU arrangements, but the main outline has not changed. The Communist University is still a combination of e-mail; archiving including web site and blog; extending out to hard copy; and to live sessions.

The Rise and Fall of Web 2.0

The growth of “mashing” and the use of “wikis” gave rise to a feeling that something new was going on, and this led to the increased use of the term “Web 2.0”. The idea that Web 2.0 is substantively different from prior web technologies has been challenged. Wikipedia quotes World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who describes the term as “jargon”. His original vision of the Web, he says was "a collaborative medium, a place where we [could] all meet and read and write".

It must be true that “Web 2.0” did not represent a change in the nature of the Internet, but by the same argument, if there has been a subsequent decline in Web 2.0, then it represents a degradation of the Internet, because the two are essentially the same.

One part of the decline in Web 2.0 is the adjustment of the services by the service providers, such as Google. They can do this unilaterally, because the user has no contract, so long as the user is getting the service free.

The Communist University lost a lot of value when the Google Groups dropped “Pages” and “Files”, about four years ago. Google Groups became even more “funky” again last year.

It is possible to make your own “listserve” to send out mass e-mail, but it is not free. Likewise with your own web sites.

So the days when it was easy are over for the moment. This means that the huge mass of people that were, around the year 2005, surging on to the content-producer side of the web, have been diverted.

Where did they go?

Facebook and Twitter

We will come back to the so-called “social networking” phenomenon later in this part, to consider whether it can be used for Agitprop, or whether, on the contrary, it is designed to prevent Agitprop from happening.

What we can note at this point is that Facebook and Twitter, and a few rather less successful “social networking” facilities, did in fact reverse the growth of creative self-publishing, and what we could call in a political sense “agency” on the World Wide Web.

Using Facebook or Twitter is qualitatively different from “mashing” your own communications. Marshall McLuhan’s famous saying, “The medium is the message,” applies. These social networks impose a uniformity of social communication that is massive, and never revolutionary, or even non-conformist.


The revelations coming from the USA about the collection of data from all sources, including the “social networking” services, are shocking but not surprising. They show that the idea of the World Wide Web in particular becoming an executive vehicle for revolutionary agitation is practically inconceivable. Even the extent to which it can continue as a vehicle for propaganda, in the political-education sense that is the subject-matter of this course, is uncertain.

We have to go on, and to continue to use all possible means, but we should also preserve things in the form that they have been preserved for centuries, which is the way that we now refer to as “hard copy”, meaning books and other print-on-paper media.

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

7 July 2015

Graphic Art


Agitprop, Part 3b

Ocean Waves, Hokusai, 1760-1849

Graphic Art

The staggering image by Hokusai, above, demonstrates that impact is not a function of complexity, but of simplicity.

Hokusai’s art, like our Agitprop, was made for mass reproduction. In those days, there was no polychrome printing. Only one or two colours would be available, apart from black ink and white paper. The blocks were hand-carved out of wood, and printed “in register”, one colour after another.

A modern equivalent of this kind of serial colour printing is the digital duplicator, also called a CopyPrinter. This machine is a development of the stencil (Gestetner; Roneo) process, now fully automatic and computerised. It rolls the paper flat and cold passed rotating drums from which ink is expressed through the stencil image. Different colour drums can be used to create multi-colour effects, similar to the process used by Hokusai. The top of the range model can print on both sides of the paper at a rate of up to 240 sheets per minute, although it is a small machine. This is the cheapest, fastest method of printing at the scale required by political organisations, and it allows full control.

In the years after the Great October 1917 proletarian revolution in Russia, the only available colour other than black and white was red. Yet the posters produced in the Soviet Union in those days are legendary and they are still studied everywhere.

Have you volunteered for the Red Army?, Dmitry Moor, 1920

·        The above is the third of three introductory texts that are compiled into a printable booklet, “Paint, Posters and Graphic Art”.

6 July 2015


Agitprop, Part 3a

“Women Workers, Take Up Your Rifles!”, 1920


The first thing to say about posters is that simplicity is what makes them good.

Hence the quality and impact of posters has gone down since it became possible to print photographs in polychrome. Posters have come to all look the same, without distinction and without a clear message.

Posters should have a simple, strong image and a few words, printed large so that they can be read from far away.

The above image is a one of the famous Soviet revolutionary posters that were made with paper and only two colours of ink (black and red).

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

5 July 2015


Agitprop, Part 3

“Paint” Logo (from Windows 7)


A programme for managing image files

There are many programmes that help people to do things with image files. The most easily-available one is “Paint”, which comes as part of the Microsoft Windows operating system package. So, “Paint” is a good example to use, because most people will already have it, on their computers.

From “Start”, click “All Programmes”, “Accessories”, and “Paint”.

What is an image, or graphics, file? It is an electronic file that stores an image. Using such files, it becomes possible to insert images into your text documents and into your e-mails, in just the same way as the “Paint” logo has been used in this document (see above).

The ability to use images as well as text makes you into a much better communicator. It also opens the door to graphic design.

Photographs are also stored in image files, so this item applies to photos as well as to graphics such as logos.

File formats

Graphic images are stored by computer programs into files with extensions like .BMP (“Bitmap”), .JPG (“J-peg”), .PNG, .GIF, and .TIF (“Tiff”). Paint will open all these formats, and it can also save a file in a different format to what it was originally. This is a useful thing to be able to do.

The reason is that different file formats have different characteristics. The first consideration is file size. Bitmap files are usually very large. Hence they are usually converted to one of the other formats before use, such as JPEG.

The J-peg, or JPEG, is the most economical format. The file sizes are very small, such that one may be able to insert several J-pegs in one document, without the document becoming too large.

But the quality of the JPEG image is not always good. A good compromise is PNG, which saves colours very well, but is not too large, although usually larger than a JPEG.

Saving an image file is the same as saving any other kind of file. It must have a name, and it goes in a “folder”, where it can be found again when it is needed.

Cropping and re-sizing

In “Paint”, you can crop an image, and you can re-size it. The largest size you are likely to need for e-mails is 850 pixels across. Cropping and re-sizing can produce a smaller file, which may be a better image, as well. In Paint, to crop all four sides of an image, you will have to “Rotate” it.

Inserting an image into an e-mail

To be able to insert an image into a document or an e-mail, and to be able to control its position there, is a giant step forward in your computing life.  In “Word” and in “Outlook” you use the “Insert” tab and then the “Picture” icon. In Thunderbird you use the “Insert” drop-down menu or icon, and select “Image”.  In Gmail you click the little image icon at the bottom of your e-mail box, then follow the given procedure to find the file you want to insert, from your hard drive. Click “Upload” and then “Choose photo”.

Your image will go in where you left your cursor. If you want to centre the image, select it and then click on the centre (text) icon. You will also be able to adjust the size of your image.

Getting and creating more images

One way to get images is to use the “PrtSc” (“Print Screen”) key on the keyboard. This causes the contents of the open screen to be held in the “Clipboard”, from where it can be pasted into the screen of “Paint”, and then saved as an image file.

This provides a way of reducing a poster, say, to an image equivalent to an electronic flier that you could paste into an e-mail. The CU relies on this technique, a lot.

Among other things, use of “PrtSc” gives you way to put together a new composite image from separate existing images. You can use “Table” in Word, and open images in different cells. This allows you to control the whole “ensemble”. You can remove the cell borders. Then you can do a “PrtSC”, and paste the composite image in to “Paint”, and save.

Big sources of images are Google Images and Yahoo Images. Don’t use other people’s images if they don’t want you to.

More tools in “Paint”

In “Paint” you can draw freehand, or use the given shapes and lines. You can fill with colour. If you want to extend or reproduce a colour, you can use the “Colour Picker” tool, and then the “Fill” thing.

You can open “Paint” more than once, i.e. you can have different images open and you can select, copy and paste from one window to another.

That’s about it. Paint does not have a lot of tools, but you can do nearly everything you would normally want to do, with this useful little programme that everybody has.

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