22 | MP introduction
social activity, propaganda cannot be torn out of its social
context without losing its distinctive meaning. At any period,
propaganda receives its chief and characteristic features from
the nature of the public to which it is addressed. At the pres-
ent time, propaganda must appeal to the mental needs of a vast,
socially disintegrated, and oppressed population. The mentality
of this public is shaped by its living conditions. The salient
features of its living conditions are, 1. the size of the social
units, 2. a high degree of social disunity, 3. habitual oppression.
Whatever we have to say about modern propaganda can be deduced
from these three basic facts of our social situation.
There is first the question of size. In their quest for
power - technical and political - men group themselves together
into wider and wider units. In some way or other, everyone of us
co-operates with a wide range of people, as a producer, as a dist-
ributor, as a consumer, as a soldier, as a citizen. But technical
co-operation is compatible with a very low degree of solidarity.
When I co-operate with somebody in a coffee plantation in Brazil
by, indirectly, exchanging my product for his coffee, he remains
a very remote person, and I have few, if any, feelings about him.
There may be very little, if any, solidarity between the producer
of iron ore in Sweden, and the steel worker in Newcastle. People
can work together without feeling that they belong together. In
the modern nation state, the citizen has to act in unison with
innumerable strangers at the behest of a remote central authority
which nothing but incessant propaganda can make him first tolerate,
and then even 'love'. To convince these strangers that they be-
long together requires a vast apparatus of propaganda.