Editorial: Socialist Standard in Retrospect
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.