1960s >> 1964 >> no-718-june-1964

A historic event

Besides the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, another anniversary that will be universally noted this year is the Jubilee Year of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

During the early days of the present century a group of young people within the Social Democratic Federation, at that lime the most advanced of the English radical parties, aimed at transforming the Federation into a genuine socialist organisation free from the fetters of reformism and leadership. A decade or so previously, dissatisfaction with the Federation had already led to the ill fated breakaway which formed the Socialist League, led by such notables as William Morris and Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor. Unfortunately the “League” soon abandoned parliamentary action and came under the control of anarchists.

In 1903-4, however, the later group that had formed within the Social Democratic Federation made desperate efforts to head off the reformist policies of the Federation’s leaders and thus help to bring it into line with the class struggle basis of revolutionary political action. But the Federation, refusing to be thwarted from its reformist policies, its penchant for making agreements with capitalist parties, and its idea of working class leadership, commenced expulsion of the militants.

In London on June 12th 1904 the expelled militants formed the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the members immediately set about framing principles and rules to guide them. The party also arranged to publish a monthly journal which first appeared September 1904.

Though similar parties have since been formed in other parts of the world, all adhering to the same socialist object and principles, the growth of socialist knowledge among the masses has been slow in comparison with the growth of confusion as to what socialism is. This will be readily admitted by anyone who has followed recent world polities, or even local politics. Yet through the past sixty years the S.P.G.B. has remained stable in character and consistent in its attitude and principles in spite of the bitterness and contumely that has appeared in other parties. It has also seen two world wars, the rise of state capitalism in Russia, the undemocratic attempt to impose by force the trappings of capitalist industrialisation on the populations of feudal China and Tibet, yet has maintained its original thesis: that the socialist revolution will not be brought about by its being imposed on the workers by a body of leaders, but will only come when a working-class majority understand and want socialism, and vote for it at the polling booth.