1950s >> 1958 >> no-649-september-1958

“We have been here before!”

   “If I had kept a diary for the last twenty-four years and inscribed in it

By Clifford Harper

all the devotion and self-sacrifice which I came across in the Socialist movement, the reader of such a diary would have had the word ‘heroism’ constantly on his lips. But the men 1 would have spoken of were not heroes; they were average men, inspired by a grand idea. Every Socialist newspaper has the same history of years of sacrifice without any hope of reward, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, even without any personal ambition. I have seen families living without knowing what would be their food tomorrow, the husband boycotted all round in his little town for his part in the paper, and the wife supporting the family by sewing, and such a situation lasting for years, until the family would, retire, without a word of reproach, simply saying; ‘Comrades, we can hold on no more!’

 

   I have seen men, dying from consumption, and knowing it, and yet knocking about in snow and fog to prepare meetings, and speaking at meetings within a few weeks from death, and only then retiring to the hospital with the words: ‘Now, friends, I am done; the doctors say I have but a few weeks to live. Tell the comrades that I shall be happy if they come and see me.’ I have seen facts which would be described as ‘idealisation’ if 1 told them in this place; and the names of these very men, hardly known outside a narrow circle of friends, will soon be forgotten when the friends, too, have passed away. In fact, I don’t know myself which most to admire, the unbounded devotion of these few, or the sum total of petty acts of devotion of the great number. Every quire of a penny paper sold, every meeting, every hundred votes which are won at a Socialist election, represent an amount of energy and sacrifice of which no outsider has the faintest idea. And what is now done by Socialists has been done in every popular and advanced party, political and religious, in the past.

 

    All past progress has been prompted by like men and by a like devotion.’’
—(From Mutual Aid, by. Prince Peter Kropotkin, Pelican Book A.49.)