The Socialist Standard in War Time

From September 1904, until the late twenties the Socialist Standard was received from the printer in large flat sheets and had to be folded at Head Office. As soon as word was received that the paper would be delivered, generally on the last Saturday in the month, members would gather round a table at Head Office and spend most of the afternoon and evening folding. During the folding discussions would be carried on about economics, history, or some of the many subjects that were in the air at the time. Members from the London branches would collect the branch quota and the parcels would be made up for posting.

During the 1914-18 war these jobs had to be carried on just the same. By 1916 the number of members who were able to carry on the Party work had been greatly reduced and those who were left were faced with many difficulties. Filling the columns of the S.S. became a major problem. Most of the regular writers were too busy keeping out of the Services to do much; one or two of them were able to send occasional articles from distant places. Consequently the supply of articles was scarce. There were also occasional difficulties with the printer who was dubious about printing some articles which, owing to their anti-war attitude, he feared would land him into trouble, though A. E. Jacomb, who did the compositing, was not the least bit disturbed. One article the printer refused at the last minute to print, and, as it was too late to replace, the S.S. was printed with a blank column. The blank column appeared in the S.S. for February, 1916, and was headed “Lloyd George and the Clyde Workers.” In the middle of the column appeared the words:

    “The firm who machines this paper has refused to print the article which was set up to appear under the above heading. We are therefore compelled to withdraw the article. We congratulate the Government on the success of their efforts to preserve the ‘Freedom of the Press.'”

It is only fair to the printer to say that anyone who read that article now would have some sympathy for him: it was certainly pretty strong!

For the first eight months of the war the front page of the S.S. carried an article in large type dealing with the war; all except one were signed by the Executive Committee. The following were the titles, which are self-explanatory: –

    September 1914. The War and the Socialist Position.

    October 1914.     The Greater War, Our Appeal for Recruits.

    November 1914.  Peace in the Hands of the Workers.

    December 1914.   The Real Foe.

    January 1915.       Under Martial Law.

    February 1915.     Socialism and the European “Socialists.”

    March 1915.         A Russian Challenge. (This was a declaration by the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, signed by M. Maximovich, which the allegedly Socialist journals had refused to print.)

    April 1915.           Our Party Conference and the War. (This was another war manifesto.)

The July 1917 Socialist Standard contained “The Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to the proposed International Congress.” This was a Congress of alleged Socialist Parties, relics of the Second International, whose proclaimed aim was to work out a policy of bringing about peace.

The Manifesto pointed out in detail how those invited to the Congress would go there with lies on their lips; they were neither Socialists nor anti-war, for they had already supported the war on one side or the other. This Manifesto reprinted two statements from our September 1914 Manifesto setting forth our attitude to the war and pointed out: –

    “No matter which group of the Masters win the struggle, the Workers remain enslaved. The division of interest is not between the people of the world, but between the Classes—The Master Class and the Working Class. Not, therefore, in their fellow workers abroad, but in the Master Class at home and abroad, are the working-class enemies found.

    “What interest have the Workers, then, in either starting or carrying on war for their masters? Absolutely none.”

In July, 1918, the S.S. had to be cut down from eight pages to four owing to paper shortage. This was equivalent to eight pages of the present S.S., because the size of the leaf then was double the present size.

In August, 1918, the front page contained an article entitled “The Revolution in Russia; Where it Fails.” This article summed up the position as far as the scanty information at the time would permit. The writer asks the question are the Russian people ready for Socialism and answers as follows: –

    “Unless a mental revolution such as the world has never seen before has taken place or an economic change has occurred immensely more rapidly than history has ever recorded, the answer is ‘No!'”

From the beginning to the end of the first Great War the Socialist Standard maintained our Socialist attitude to war without qualification of any kind. Throughout the Second Great War it also held steadfastly to the same attitude.


Leave a Reply