Preface: The New Spark Editorial Board is publishing a translation of an interview that we recently conducted with the Editor of the central organ of the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM), El Machete (The Machete), on the topic of developing a Communist newspaper.  We are grateful for the opportunity to have conducted such an interview, and our Board has been studying its contents. We intend for this publication to assist all Marxist-Leninists in furthering their understanding of the role of a newspaper within a Communist party and how it must play the role of a collective organizer.
1.) What do you consider to be the most important first steps in developing a central organ as a party organizer?
Those responsible for the newspaper should take into account that in seeking to make the central organ of the party the organizer of the party but also of the working class, the pages of the newspaper should address the main issues that afflict society and give them a scientific explanation from Marxism-Leninism. This will allow the newspaper to promote the ideological unity of the militants since the opinion of the leadership (Central Committee of the PCM in the case of El Machete) will appear in the newspaper and the militants will have those texts as a reference to be able to explain and comment politically. This is what Lenin was looking for when, in his book What Is To Be Done?, he proposed that there should be a newspaper for all of Russia. The newspaper is an organizer of the party not only because it expresses the collective opinion of the party, but also because it leads the members to acquire the habit of meeting to read the newspaper, in addition to having to organize themselves in order to receive and distribute the newspaper, and in turn with the newspaper they can do work to get closer to the working class. In short, the first step is that the newspaper must be clear about the party’s policy and understand that its task is to spread the party’s policy.
Next, a way must be found to link the party’s theoretical elaboration with the most daily needs of the working class and the daily political work carried out by party members. This link between theory and practice must be expressed in specific articles on relevant issues for the working class (e.g. war, the housing problem, racism, low wages, police violence, lack of access to health and education). In other words, a series of issues that need to be addressed by the communists must be taken into account, and a search among the comrades of the organization for those who could address these issues on a daily basis. That is to say, a work team must be formed that ensures the writing of materials for the newspaper (in addition to the fact that there may be an open call for any militant to send their texts).
The next step is to draw up a work plan for the newspaper. It does not necessarily have to be a newspaper published every day. The important thing is that it can be thought of as a constant dissemination project even if the periodicity starts monthly and fortnightly. The approach to periodicity will depend on the capacity of the organization to write and edit the newspaper, the capabilities of its printing (number of circulation and number of pages), and the distribution capacity (for this it is important to take into account the number of militants whom the newspaper will reach). It may be useful to start with a newspaper with a few pages and a limited circulation since practice in the editing, printing, and distribution process will help to make adjustments and improvements to ensure distribution methods. It must be reiterated that what is important is that the newspaper correctly expresses the party’s policy and it is evident that the party’s program of struggle is different from any other approach, that is, it must clearly state that it is a communist newspaper that opposes any political expression of capitalism that includes Democrats or Republicans.
In addition to the work of the party leadership in conjunction with the newspaper, it is important to make grassroots members aware of the importance of spreading the newspaper. For example, a communist newspaper in the U.S. would have to address the issue of war in Ukraine, to clarify that both sides of the war (Ukraine, NATO and the US and Russia and China) are enemies of the working class. If the explanation of the communists does not reach the workers they will position themselves on one side or the other. Only the dissemination of the ideas of the communists will make the common worker think that his side is that of the working people of both countries who are suffering from the war promoted by the monopolies. Once the newspaper addresses this issue in its pages, the militants must bear in mind that it is important that the explanation of the communists reaches the workers through the diffusion of the newspaper and that a newspaper that is not distributed among the workers is a newspaper delivered to the class enemy.
We consider the printed newspaper to be a current and essential tool for the work of organization and agitation of the communists. It is also useful to use digital media to develop the work of the newspaper. However, these media do not replace the printed newspaper that encourages meetings of the militants to read and comment on it and from there seek to intervene in their workplaces.
2.) What does your article selection process entail?
The Editorial Board of El Machete meets to plan each issue of the newspaper. Based on the guidelines of the Central Committee (CC) and the Political Bureau of the Party, a list is made of the main national and international political issues that must be addressed in the newspaper, and the articles are requested from comrades who know the issues.
At the same time the newspaper informs the militants that the newspaper is being prepared and to send articles. It is very important that in addition to the texts requested by the Editorial Board, the cells or grassroots organizations send notes or reports on the political work they carry out so that when the newspaper is already printed, the comrades can distribute it among the workers whose struggles are contained in the newspaper and thus the work of the communists is reinforced among the workers, unions, peasants and neighborhood organizations.
Sometimes the militants discuss with their cell the articles that they are going to send to the newspaper, and there is a first round of collective feedback, this happens especially when the article refers to the work of the cell. Other times articles come from sections and commissions of the Party (Trade Union Section, Women’s Emancipation Commission, Popular Sectors Section, Communist Youth Front) so they also receive collective feedback prior to reaching the newspaper. However, most of the articles that arrive are composed individually. In all cases, the Editorial Board of El Machete reviews each one of the articles. If the corrections required by an article are few and editorial, the editors of the newspaper make the corrections; if the editorial corrections are greater, the pertinent observations are made and the author has the article returned to them to make the indicated adjustments and thus improve their writing in that text and future articles; and in the event that the comments on the article are of a political nature, the pertinent observations are made to the author so that they refine their text ideologically and present a new version of the article that is again reviewed by the Editorial Board, in this case to others. Notification is given to the ideology commission or the regional leadership to which the comrade belongs so that these instances are aware of and support the author’s political formation.
Since the newspaper is open to non-militants to also publish, we proceed in the same way, sending them observations and proposals for adaptation or improvement of the text.
In all cases, when the adjustments made by the Editorial Board to the articles are greater (either editorial or political aspects), the approval or acceptance of the authors is always consulted before publishing the texts. In this way it is guaranteed that the author is satisfied.
The articles can be to disseminate a workers’ struggle, to denounce repression or exploitation, to reflect on political issues that must be clarified to the working class, also to give the opinion of the communists on various issues that are under debate in society as the proposals or policies of a group or a member of the bourgeoisie (e.g. questions of science, culture, education, etc.).
When the militants and people interested in writing for El Machete have decided the topic they want to talk about in their text, we invite them to use one of the different journalistic genres. This will give the newspaper greater reading fluidity. For example, we ask that they send interviews of trade unionists to the newspaper and that they write chronicles about demonstrations, struggles, and the precarious situation of the working class (as John Reed did). It is also good that the newspaper receives multiple brief informative notes that acknowledge that the working class is in constant movement and struggle. The central thing is that the text expresses the struggle of the workers, criticizes capitalism and that the only alternative to improve the lives of all workers is socialism. If the texts that bequeath us comply with this, the Editorial Board is in charge of helping improve writing texts.
In addition to this, there are opinion articles that allow us to analyze certain issues more broadly, and connect the particular problems of the working class with the politics of the communists. It is important that this be done and not just launch slogans in the articles, because The slogan means little to someone that we want to bring closer to the politics of the communists, on the other hand, if we explain in a simple way that the daily problems they face have their origin in the economic structure of society and therefore that they are the fault of capitalism, we gain people and new readers.
3.) How has your paper developed since its inception? What are the major improvements and or changes that have been made during this time?
In 1994, the process of organizing the PCM began. At that time Nuestro Tiempo (Our Time) was published, the dissemination organ of the National Council of the Mexican Communist Party (the name of our Party then). Then there was a unity process with other organizations in July 2003, and as an agreement of the first plenary session of the CC of the Party after the Unity Congress, El Comunista was created, the organ of the CC of the Communist Party, being appointed as director Comrade Marco. Regarding those first years of the Council, one of the comrades who was director of the newspaper has said: “It was difficult to start the editorial project. Two problems that we were never able to solve: the ingrainedness of artisan work among management cadres, which favored oral tradition as a way of disseminating ideas; but more than that, the misunderstanding of the need for a newspaper that was an agitator, propagandist, and organizer of partisan work.”
Given that the newspaper is an expression of the organization, and when in 2008 it became clear that the unity process in which our Party had participated had not worked, an effort was made to restructure the work of the newspaper to solve the operational part for the publication of El Comunista, but above all to ideologically unite the cadres that made up said committee. In other words, the newspaper allowed political and ideological grouping of Party militants who, thanks to reading the newspaper, developed their theoretical and political conceptions and therefore broke with ideas of an opportunistic nature that a part of the Party militants held due to the unity that had occurred with another organization. Then, El Comunista had a political character that responded mainly to political issues that were being debated in the organization and this allowed the preparation of the nucleus of comrades who in 2009-2010 would take “the new step” which is what we call the process of the 4th Congress of our Party in which it acquired the name of the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) and also assumed a series of political theses and ideological traits that differentiate us from other political organizations that call themselves communist but are opportunistic.
Then the newspaper served to be able to develop the Party, new militants, and cell organizations. Regions emerged based on the reading and discussion of El Comunista. The distribution of the newspaper in neighborhoods, in factories, and among peasants and youth allowed the Party to grow and attract the best of the working class to its ranks. In fact, the work of the Party is supported by the newspaper, and the newspaper is strengthened when the militants distribute and finance the newspaper and meet to comment on it and use it for political work.
Between the IV and the VII Congress, our Party has been refining its policy on central issues debated by the international communist movement, and at the same time it has been growing and developing its work among the working class. This allowed the newspaper to also develop and consider appearing more regularly.
In May 2021, the newspaper considered that the development of the Party and the newspaper itself allowed a step towards a newspaper closer to the working class and the popular sectors. For this it recovered the name of El Machete, which was a historical newspaper of the PCM which was published in the 1920s and 1930s with the collaboration of Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, and other great artists and intellectuals, but above all because it was a newspaper close to the workers who sent the newspaper their complaints of employer abuses in the countryside and the city, a newspaper that reflected the daily struggles of workers and peasants, as well as being the voice of the PCM and the Communist International. El Machete is the continuation of El Comunista.
The main improvements that have occurred in the newspaper are, firstly, the improvement in the ideological content that corresponds to the ideological and political development of the Party, we can say that there is now ideological and political unity in the Party, but from the newspaper, it continues insisting on basic issues of Marxist theory and on others that are of great importance, for example, since the start of the war in Ukraine, articles have been included in this respect to reiterate the position of the communists. There is also constant criticism of the social democratic government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
Other improvements of an organizational and technical nature are that the newspaper is now published more constantly (monthly), the number of newspapers printed has doubled, and the number of pages in the newspaper was increased, allowing for more articles and a supplement dedicated to the most pressing political issues. In Mexico and other countries, El Machete is recognized as the voice of the PCM, it is a newspaper read by Party members, trade unionists, peasants, and youth.
4.) What failures and/or pitfalls have you all come across in your work in developing El Machete?
A flaw we have encountered is the speed with which the newspaper can be printed and disseminated, since we do not have our own printing press and it also takes time for the newspaper to reach the different regions of a large country like Mexico. However, the essentially political and not only newsworthy nature of El Machete means that the newspaper does not lose validity, because although opportune and timely information is a principle of journalism, our newspaper offers, in contrast to the bourgeois press, an explanation other than the proposed bourgeois reality, a Marxist-Leninist political explanation of politics and society. Since it is valid at all times, for example, the articles that we published last year on the war in Ukraine are still valid in explaining that war which is still ongoing. However, we are working to improve distribution times.
Given that the newspaper is not only the voice of the PCM but also seeks to give a voice to the working class, we are working to increase the number of articles that are sent by workers and people who are not members of the Party but who are in favor of and agree with the criticisms that we make for the multiple daily problems that the working class lives.
Another failure is the periodicity of the newspaper. We have not been able to shorten the time in which the newspaper is published. The immediate objective is to make the newspaper published biweekly since some notes should be published while a specific political struggle is taking place. Currently, the newspaper is published monthly and sometimes it takes a few days longer.
Another problem that we face is the increase in the cost of paper and other production inputs, and we also do not have access to the large printing presses of the media monopolies, making use of these large machines lowers production costs. That is to say, it is shown that under capitalism “freedom of expression” is not real, since the bourgeoisie has the means that solely favor the diffusion of its own ideology.
Although the militants who work in El Machete have not suffered acts of direct repression, the circulation of the newspaper in certain workplaces is a reason for harassment by employers against workers and can lead to dismissal, and the comrades who distribute the newspaper in public squares they are sometimes harassed by the police.
5.) How do you finance your central organ, both digital and print versions? What are the standard costs associated with production and distribution?
The newspaper El Machete is self-financing, that is, it does not receive money from the Party for its publication, but each new issue of the newspaper is paid for by collecting money from the sale of the newspaper itself since each regional organization of the Party undertakes selling a certain number of copies. In addition, the newspaper also seeks to reach out to people whose sympathies for the Party allow them to donate money to the newspaper. In addition to this, the newspaper developed the “Ediciones” (Editions) El Machete project, which publishes pamphlets of a political and historical nature that are sold among the militants and people close to the Party, and which serve for the militants to bring more people closer to the organization.
It is from this set of tasks that the newspaper finances its work in print and digital. We hope that soon we will be able to monetize the website and thus have another income. We must clarify that the work of the newspaper does not grant a salary to any of its collaborators (reviewers, designers, editorial board, administrators of the web and social networks, etc.). All the work is voluntary and is part of the militancy of some members of the PCM, so in reality, the Party is the collective author of the newspaper.
The printed organ costs $1,073 to print two thousand copies (16 double letter-size pages), that is, each printed copy costs ~48 cents. The distribution has a cost of $89, thanks to the fact that some regional offices help by paying for the shipping by Estafeta and DHL, but in most cases the newspaper covers the shipping cost. In the case of Mexico City and nearby states, the comrades pick up the newspaper at the offices and thus the shipping cost is reduced. The newspaper is sold for ~60 cents to recover printing and shipping costs and there is barely a profit margin for other needs of the newspaper, such as the organization of festivals and cultural events and to be able to contribute money to the Party.
6.) How do you all deal with political blowback (from the bourgeois government, vigilante fascist types, etc.)? Is political blowback even a problem that you all have experienced?
Let’s start by saying that all kinds of bourgeois government (and not just fascism) use surveillance and repression against the communists, that is, it makes use of the state apparatus to defend the interests of the bourgeois class. In the case of Mexico, we find ourselves before a social-democratic government. This government defends capitalism by saying that capitalism can be humanized and that a “good” capitalism is possible because bad capitalism is “neoliberalism.” At the same time that the government of AMLO claims to be from the “left,” a series of anti-worker measures have been approved: the militarization of the country, the T-MEC free trade agreement, a labor reform, cuts to education, culture, science, and health.
At the beginning of the AMLO government, it was difficult to do political work among the people who had hoped that the situation in the country would change with the new government. Some did not like the criticism we made, but given that there is no way to make up capitalism and all of its forms of management represent misery for the working class (in Mexico alone there are more than 55 million people in poverty and during the AMLO government inflation has caused real wages to fall), it has resulted in the current situation of precariousness, violence, and repression suffered by the workers motivating them to criticize the government and therefore the newspaper continues to sell itself. Every time the comrades come close to a strike, to the people who protest in neighborhoods, in the countryside, among the youth, the newspaper is well received because it is a voice that criticizes this government and capitalism in general. Of course, there is still a sector of people that supports AMLO, but it is decreasing.
Since the political and social struggles in which the militants of our Party participate are expressed in El Machete, and then these same militants take the newspaper to the people with whom they work in neighborhoods and unions, the newspaper continues to be well accepted.
 V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of our Movement, (Marxists Internet Archive, 1901-1902), https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/.
 All currency figures were originally provided in pesos but have been converted to U.S. dollars.