Transparency vs Secrecy
The demand for freedom of the press was a step forward made by the American and French revolutions. Of course, this was a limited advance because, under the conditions of capitalism, freedom of the press belonged to those who owned the press. Everyone else was simply the audience for whatever information or misinformation they presented.
During the 1980's, the socialist and Third-World nations attempted to establish standards through the United Nations for free access to information. It was called the New World Information Order (see 1982 article in Christian Century). But it was opposed and defeated by the United States and Europe, under the urging of the commercial media like the New York Times, BBC and Reuters who wanted to keep their monopoly over information (and misinformation).
Secrecy has always been a key aspect of the culture of war. It continues to increase today, as pointed out in the draft UN document on the culture of peace: "secrecy is on the increase, justified in terms of 'national security' and 'economic competitiveness', whereas in fact more transparency is needed in governance and economic decision-making."
Lenin argued that the revolutionary leadership must be secretive. But with the hindsight of history, perhaps Lenin was wrong, and secrecy has the opposite of its intended effects. Against the warnings of many colleagues, including Nikolai Bukharin, Lenin continued for many years to entrust his secrets with the government spy, Roman Malinovsky. As a result, the effect of Lenin's secrecy was more to keep information from his own followers than from the Czarist government they were trying to overthrow.
Misinformation, propaganda and secrecy destroy democratic participation because citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not know the truth about what their government and economic enterprises are doing. This is a major problem for both the capitalist and socialist cultures of war.
There are also very damaging psychological effects of misinformation, propaganda and secrecy. Among individuals, they contribute to alienation and feelings of powerlessness. Within organizations they lead to suspicions of fellow members and even paranoia.
Of special concern is the fact that as much as half of all the scientific research in the world is being carried out under terms of secrecy, either for military research or for product development in private enterprises. Under conditions of secrecy, scientists are not free to publicly question the morality or the potential dangers of the research. This greatly increases that danger that science will be used for destructive ends, either intentionally or accidentally.
In recent years, some of the most important heros of the peace and justice movements have been "whistle-blowers", people who go to great personal risk to reveal secrets of states and commercial enterprise.
One may assume, true to the nature of dialectics that the more governments and private enterprises try to hide behind secrecy, the more this will produce whistle-blowers and the more people will see the need for revolutionary change.