A Retrospect

The 12th of June witnesses the first anniversary of the formation of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. It thus affords a meet opportunity to review our year’s work to ascertain whether our hopes have been fulfilled and our efforts justified.

The formation of a new party was rendered imperative by the falling away of the S.D.F. from the paths of political right doing. Those who formed the new party had, almost without exception, been members of the S.D.F., the primary and for many years the only Socialist organisation in Great Britain. During many years of its life it had held aloft the banner of uncompromising Socialism in this country and many of us hoped that it would continue to work along the lines of no compromise with other political parties which is dictated by the existence of a class struggle.

Some years ago, however, when reaction dominated every sphere of thought—political or scientific—throughout Europe and America, new ideas were introduced into the S.D.F. by members of the organisation whose Socialism was rooted in sentiment rather than in scientific knowledge. Looking around them in the political world they saw that organisations of the half-way house character were obtaining a larger measure of support than was their own organisation. Unwitting that such must needs be the case in the present stage of capitalist development, they set themselves to the task of winning their own organisation to a similar position and to the adoption of a similar line of action. In this they were highly successful and the manner in which the S.D.F. adapted itself to its new way of looking at political events is of exceeding interest, and at a more convenient season we shall unfold the manner of its development from a no-compromise organisation to an organisation believing in and accepting entangling alliances.

The falling away of the S.D.F. from its traditional method was viewed with the deepest regret by those members of the organisation who still adhered to the ideas of uncompromising Socialism. They hoped against hope that their organisation would be recalled to a sense of its wrong-doing—that once again it would return to the true path of Socialist progress and weld itself into an organisation deserving the support of every Socialist.

Such was not to be the case. Reluctantly there was forced upon them the opinion that the organisation to which they had hitherto given a whole-hearted support was unworthy and they decided to withdraw from its ranks and form a Socialist organisation into which they could throw their entire energy and untiringly work towards the making it into a strong political organisation.

This then was the idea of those who, on June 12th, 1904, decided to form The Socialist Party of Great Britain. The founders were fully alive to the fact that much spade work had to be performed ; that there could be no mushroom growth for the new party ; that its ranks could only be recruited steadily and, at first, slowly.

And even so has been our course during the last twelve months. Parties which compromise—parties that concentrate upon one or two palliatives must necessarily have for the time a larger success than the party which seeks to build up a political party for the overthrow of modern commercial society. It is easier to gain adherents to belief in a small palliative reform than to gain them to a new philosophy based upon an understanding of the material foundation of modern industrial slavery. But in the former case the adherents are not adherents for Socialism, in the latter case they are.

Our work in the past year has been based upon a knowledge of the aforementioned facts. We have concentrated our attention upon the propaganda of our principles and to making public the fact of our existence. Our progress has necessarily, therefore, been slow and has been almost entirely confined to London where our propaganda has been greater than that of any other body. The result of this propaganda has been the strengthening of our party by the addition of a gratifying number of new members and the weeding out of the worthless elements which attach themselves to every party.

In face of many difficulties we have brought out and maintained our party organ, THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. Our paper has been written by the members of our party in the intervals snatched from their daily toil and their oral propaganda. It has met with sufficient success to warrant its continuance as an unfearing exponent of the principles of the party. As time goes on and we gather experience we shall introduce new features, and with a growing membership insure greater variety of topics than has hitherto been the case. We have had critics who have suggested alterations and their suggestions, when considered advisable, we have adopted. Further criticism is solicited.

Last August we sent two delegates to the Amsterdam Congress. While there it was borne in upon them that the admission to the Congress was too wide, and that to make it truly a Socialist Congress alterations should be made in the direction of excluding the representatives of non-Socialist organisations such as the L.R.C., the Fabian Society, and the I.L.P. in England. By no stretch of the imagination can such bodies be recognised as Socialist, and the sooner definitive action is taken for their exclusion, such as laying down principles to which the organisations must adhere, the better it will be for the International Socialist movement. We are convinced that much though not all of the difficulty which arose at the recent discussion on the bureau as to the method of representation at the Congresses is due to the fact that no principles have ever been clearly laid down to which every body represented must give their adherence.

Such rules must be sufficiently wide in their scope to admit of their universal application and must not cover matters of detail which must be modified by national conditions. This is not the time to offer suggestions as to the nature of those principles but at another season we shall return to the subject and offer tentative suggestions as a basis for discussion.

Our work and its results during the past twelve months, although necessarily limited, have, we claim, justified the step we took on the 12th of June last. The seed we sow will germinate in the future and will be reaped, perhaps, by other hands than ours, but we can see that the fruits of the harvest will be a Socialist Republic carrying with it a guarantee of a healthy human race living in a society of free men and free—the children of the life that is to be.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, June 1905)

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