Editorial from the September 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
WHAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED IN TWELVE YEARS.
With this issue we commence the thirteenth volume of The Socialist Standard. For twelve years we have struggled to preserve this mouthpiece of the class-conscious workers’ political party, and those who know the history of that struggle know that it has been a severe one. The financial difficulties of the undertaking, manfully shouldered by the mere handful of stalwarts who composed the Party in the first few weeks of its existence, were only overcome by long years of grim, patient, unremitting toil —but they were overcome. Working-class enemies of the working class, squirming under our criticism like noisome things of darkness exposed to the light of the sun, tried to stifle us in the law courts by means of that instrument —the law of libel—which rogues have placed in the hands of their fellow rogues in order to shield them from the attacks of honest men. We survived that ordeal also.
Other enemies have left no stone unturned in their endeavours to secure the suppression of our organ, and have howled themselves hoarse into the ears of “constituted authority.” But we have fought our fight with circumspection, determined that if we went down it should be upon the real issue, and in the full blaze of the light generated in and of the class struggle. On such terms “constituted authority,” much as it has hated us, has declined to put us down.
Years of hard and faithful work had the desired and expected result. Our journal came to to recognised as a serious and potent weapon in the class struggle. Just as our declared principles, and the policy arising therefrom, stood alone in the English-speaking world at fulfilling the requirements of the political party of the working class, so our paper, in which those principles were expounded with all the vigour at our command and the revolutionary policy consistently applied to every situation that arose, has come to be regarded as unique. Hence it finds, readers in almost all capitalist countries, and in English-speaking countries abroad its circulation is now considerable, as such things go.
The results are tangible. At home, at a time when our Party organ is almost our sole means of public propaganda, and when our chief avenue of circulation—the propaganda meeting —is for the time being closed to us, our sales are fully maintained, thus ensuring the continuance of our work under almost impossible conditions. But valuable as this is it is not the only result of our labour. The test of this orgy of blood, when every passion has been appealed to by wily politicians and callous owners of property, in order to inveigle men into a business which but for ignorant passion they would loathe, has found our principles sufficient and our policy sound. Taking our stand upon the fundamental antagonism of interests between the two classes in society, we have kept ourselves clear of the crushing tentacles of the octopus nationalism. And this without any change of policy, or any deviation from principle, or any trimming in the smallest particular, to meet the altered circumstances.
This final testimony of tense and harassing events has crowned all our years of arduous toil in a manner that makes the impregnability of our position obvious to all men who have eyes see, and the lesson has, by our official journal, been carried to the furthermost ends of the earth. Honest workers overseas, groping in darkness, have seen the beacon, and are shaping their course by it. Under the quiet but compelling influence of The Socialist Standard the ground is being prepared in more than one country for the establishment of working-class political organisations on S.P.G.B. lines.
So, at the end of twelve years, and in a moment of great peril, we may look back cheerfully, dated and sustained by what we have been able to accomplish rather than cast down by that which we have failed to do. It is true that during the present crisis we have not been able to say all that we could wish. But we have always maintained that those who control the political machinery control the forces of coercion, and we have always declared ourselves against trying conclusions with those forces so long as other and better means remain open to us. The spectacular has never appealed to the Socialist Party, and it has always been our policy to leave “thrills” to the sensation-mongers. We have preferred, therefore (and this remark applies no less to times of “peace” than to this time of war, for we could at any period of our history have gone down in a blaze of fireworks, amid the plaudits of the shallow pates of the gallery) to survive to carry on our work of education—dull, stodgy, ox-like work if you choose to call it such, but work essentially necessary to our victory.
But if we have not said all we should have liked we have said all that, in the difficult circumstances, we could; and beyond this, we have never said or written one word in all these troublous months, that will not stand the test of Socialist criticism. When it became impossible, owing to the Defence of the Realm Regulations, to defend the Socialist position on the public platform, we closed down our propaganda meetings rather than continue under restrictions which could only result in injury to our cause. But in our paper we have upheld the Socialist position through it all. Alone among all those in the belligerent countries claiming to be Socialists, as far as we have been able to ascertain, we took the right path at the start, and have steadily held to it.
So whether we sink or swim, whether the volume we are now commencing runs to a normal end or early meets the bully's extinguisher, we are happy to know that in its inextinguishable pages of the past two years, now safely and surely in the keeping of the working class of the world, there is the record of a Socialist party successfully withstanding the shock of the severest test it could be put to short of the final phase of its revolutionary struggle, and withstanding it, not on the strength of two or three ultra-tragic limelight “heroes,” but on the simple strength of its own sound principles and organisation.
Well for Socialism, well for the cause of working-class emancipation, that when this orgy of blood and entrails is finished, and the battered and torn and quivering remnants of the working class of the world are permitted to lay down their instruments of murder and staunch their pouring wounds, it may be pointed out to them that though they were betrayed on every hand in this tragic crisis, in the one case where they organised upon Socialist principles, they were able to keep their actions free from reproach and their movement free from taint.
We are going to win this war—the CLASS ! War. Join up and do your bit.