The First and Only Liberationists
The inclusion of the phrase “without distinction of race or sex”, in our Declaration of Principles, might today seem rather trite. Until we remember when it was written. Who else in 1904 was interested in the freedom of women? Indeed the idea that they might need a wider horizon than could be provided by a home and family had scarcely dawned. In the earliest Standards Socialism is proclaimed as the “only hope of the working class irrespective of sex”. In the Socialists’ definition it was easy to see that most women (like most men) were part of the propertyless majority. Whether or not they were actually employed did not alter their position as members of the working class. Certainly it would be nonsense to speak of an immense majority of that class unless it included women. During the difficult days of the first world war it was the women members who helped the Party going.
As for the “distinction of race”, who else in 1904 saw all the world’s people as members of one human race? The study of anthropology was still in its infancy and even Engels had not been entirely certain about the position of black races.
The founder members of the Socialist Party had no such doubts. The words had not simply been used to round off a sentence but reflected the level of their Socialist understanding. In capitalism, which was now the dominant social system, there was a division between those who owned the means for production and the vast majority who were obliged to work for the owning class in order to live. This class division cut across all differences of nationality, race or sex. The working class were the modern equivalent of all previous oppressed peoples. It was their historic task to abolish private property and establish Socialism thus ending forever the domination of one group by another. As every human being would have free access to the wealth produced by society, personal relationships would not be bound by material considerations.
Working-class problems are only complicated by racial, sexual and religious prejudices. A little effort would reveal that the cause of the problems, and the prejudice, lies in capitalism. In the words of those early comrades the establishment of Socialism will freedom for the working class and thereby “the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex”.