Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another Debate. (1910)

From the June 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although Mr. Wimborne was the challenger, he declined to open the debate when he met our representative at Manor Park on April 4th, so Comrade Dawkins took the platform and outlined the propaganda carried on by the S.P.G.B., stating that the audience well knew what Socialism was as expounded by his comrades and himself. And he defied Mr. Wimborne to deal with Socialism and not to saddle the S.P.G.B. with the vagaries of Messers. Quelch, Blatchford, Ramsay Macdonald, or the kidnapped Victor Grayson. Nor was he to set up any Aunt Sally and then proceed to knock the poor old lady down and scalp her, for the satisfaction of exhibiting a reeking trophy to the public gaze.

Mr. Wimborne opened by admitting that the capitalist system was not perfect. He claimed however, that the horrible tyranny which would be set up if the Socialists had their way would be far worse. He quoted from a book he called "Allinson's History of Europe" showing the massacres which were perpetrated in France during the Revolution, and he described the S.P.G.B. as the Jacobins of the Socialist movement, who would ruthlessly slaughter all who disagreed with them. Brotherhood was a dream which could never be realised. Christianity had tried for 2,000 years to bring it about and failed. All the great teachers had failed, then how could a few men calling themselves the Socialist Party of Great Britain hope to do what every great genius had failed to do? Now under present conditions the best man came to the top. There was plenty of scope for talent to display itself. But under Socialism the commune would decree what work every man and woman should do. What would happen if the commune decreed that Comrade Dawkins should sweep the roads? Dawkins would decline and then the awful machinery would be set to work. The President would put down his foot and say: the roads want sweeping—Dawkins is a handy man with a broom and Dawkins shall sweep the roads. Mr. Wimbourne then came to his remedy for the existing evils. First we must trust to scientific development. And we must all admit that things are getting better, said he, whereat the audience set up a roar of derisive laughter. You may laugh and jeer, retorted the speaker, but you forget Old Age Pensions and the Workmen's Compensation Act, which bring solace to the old and to the widows of the killed. This statement moved the crowd to redoubled laughter, and even to actual rudeness, whereupon the disheartened protagonist of Liberalism vacated the platform.

Comrade Dawkins dealt with his opponent's points seriatim and in Dawkinesque style. He pointed out that Mr. Wimborne need not have gone to the early struggles of capitalists for supremacy to show how they will murder without scruple all who jeopardise their material interests, and instanced Cecil Rhodes and Co., who butchered thousands of the Matabele in the quest for gold and diamonds.

Our comrade then showed the fraud of Old Age Pensions and the Workmen's Compensation Act, and demonstrated that scientific development, instead of helping the working class, was kicking them in the bread basket every time. Each new application of science to industry was militating against the working class and must continue to do so under private or class ownership in any form.

With regard to the harrowing spectacle of Dawkins sweeping the roads, Dawkins pointed out that degrading as Mr. Wimborne and his superior friends thought such a job was, hundreds of thousands of men were eager for that work now, at a few shillings per week recompense, that many men now do far dirtier and more unpleasant jobs and don't care who sees them where no social inferiority is implied. Under Socialism no useful, necessary work would be held degrading. Our whole outlook would be altered and such things as the rewarding of men like Kitchener and Cromer with hundreds and thousands and people like Madame Curie with a mere pittance would be regarded as sheer lunacy.

Briefly it was thus.
W. Watts.

Retrospect (1964)

Editorial from the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

In this special issue we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of the first Socialist Standard.

In all that time it has never missed an issue. Through the vicissitudes of two world wars, when we often wondered whether we would be able to carry on at all, to economic slump when we were able to continue publication only through the goodwill of our printers, who carried us in debt for years, the Socialist Standard has carried on.

Now, we look back on those years which have seen so many changes and many terrible events.

Opposite this page we publish the front cover of the first Socialist Standard. It takes us back into another world, September 1904—when the motor-car was still a dangerous novelty; when Orville Wright had only a few months before flown the first aeroplane, for just 12 seconds. Fleming had recently invented the thermionic valve, but radio was still in the distant future; and Rutherford had just begun his researches into the structure of the atom which were to result, forty years later, in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

War in those days was something associated with petty campaigns to subdue the native populations of Africa and Asia, although the Boer War had given a foretaste of more serious things to come. The Entente Cordiale between Britain and France had been signed a year earlier as a defence against German capitalism, a grimmer warning of the holocaust in the future. And the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War a few months earlier presaged both the rise of Japanese capitalism and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

In the world of politics there was a lot of talk about Socialism, but it was really reformism that was making the running. The formation of the Labour Party had still to wait two years, but parties like the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabians, and the I.L.P., were already busily paving the way for it. The German Social Democratic Party enjoyed the support of millions and there were similar and strong parties in France, Austria, Italy, and other countries, all claiming to be Socialist.

To the uncritical it looked as though Socialism was round the corner. The message by the Dutch Social Democratic Party on our first front page opposite reflects this general feeling of optimism.

But the uncritical were mistaking the high-flown verbiage for the hard content. All of those parties were to become tied to programmes of reform that ultimately extinguished what little spark of revolutionary aims they had. All of them were dominated by the fatal principle of leadership, of state-control and nationalisation; and all their pretence of internationalism was shattered into so many fragments by their support for the First World War.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain refused to follow them along this road. Our first editorial set out the principle we have adhered to ever since. In our fifth paragraph we said: "In dealing with all questions affecting the welfare of the working-class our standpoint will be frankly revolutionary. We shall show that the misery, the poverty and the degradation caused by capitalism, grow far more rapidly than does the enacting of palliative legislation for its removal. The adequate alleviation of these ills can be brought about only by a political party having Socialism for its object." 

This statement, made sixty years ago this month, we can still reproduce today; over 700 issues of the Socialist Standard testify to the consistency with which we have held to it.

Editorial (1904)

Editorial from the September 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard


Having inaugurated The Socialist Party of Great Britain, we find it indispensable that we should have a journal in which our views may be expressed.

We venture, therefore, to place before you The Socialist Standard, and trust that it will meet with your approval.

In The Socialist Party of Great Britain we are all members of the working class, and cannot hope that our articles will always be finely phrased, but we shall at least endeavour to lay before you on every occasion a sane and sound pronouncement on all matters affecting the welfare of the working class. What we lack in refinement of style we shall make good by the depth of our sincerity and by the truth of our principles.

We shall, for the present, content ourselves with a monthly issue, but we are confident that the various demands upon us, by the quantity of matter at our disposal, and by the growth of our party, will necessitate in the near future, a weekly issue of our paper.

In dealing with all questions affecting the welfare of the working-class our standpoint will be frankly revolutionary. We shall show that that the misery, the poverty, and the degradation caused by capitalism grows far more rapidly than does the enacting of palliative legislation for its removal. The adequate alleviation of these ills can be brought about only by a political party having Socialism for its object. So long as the powers of administration are controlled by the capitalist class so long can that class render nugatory any legisaltion they consider to unduly favour the workers.

We shall be pleased to consider any articles on Socialism and the working-class movement which may be submitted to us, and we also invite criticism on any question that may be dealt with in these columns. We shall give a fair hearing to all sides on any question, and trust that our correspondence columns will be freely used.

In future numbers of The Socialist Standard fresh features will be introduced in order to make our paper the worthy organ of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, and so that members of either the Socialist or of the non-Socialist section of the community, seeking for reliable information on Socialism in all its ramifications, will never fail to find their requirements satisfied in our columns. Any suggestions for the improvement of the paper which may be submitted will receive our serious consideration.

We invite your most merciless criticism of our work, but at the same time we sincerely trust that if The Socialist Standard meets with your approval you will do your utmost by recommending it to your friends to make it worthy of its name and of the Socialist movement.