50 Years Ago – Words, Words, Words

The style of the STANDARD then, as now, owed to two principal sources: the sociological textbooks of the time and popular journalism. From the latter it drew a peculiar Joe Miller waggishness that was part of the stock-in-trade of successful newspaper columnists, easier to exemplify than describe. Thus, the Editorial Committee apologizing for a writer who had not made himself clear to a correspondent: “He developed what he calls his style by studying a burr-walnut piano case in foggy weather”. A debate with a suffragette was irresistible, and its report was resplendent with quips about “ye gallant knight Anderson” and “the poor girl”. Perhaps the acme of this sort of wit was with a highly dramatic poem which had the refrain:

“Go! Reckon your dead by your forges red,
And in factories where we spin;
If blood be the price of your cursed wealth,
By Christ! We have paid in full.”

The poem was called “Gawd Struth We Have.”
The writers on economics, socialist theory and political issues put forth their subject-matter lucidly and without frills or ambiguities; style which came naturally through close acquaintance with Engels, Kautsky, Plechanov and the other classical exponents of Marxism. The popularisation of academic and technical subjects influenced later writers, and is still doing so – “science for the citizen” has made its mark. Just as on the platform, the people addressed are more widely informed and less concerned with theoretical questions. That does not mean, however, that the modern writer – or speaker – may neglect theory; it means that he must apply it more widely in a world with wider horizons.
And so it goes on; the business of persuading people to think straight, because that is what the Socialist wants. Words are our weapons. Words, words, words . . .

(From an article by R. Coster,
Socialist Standard, September 1954)

Leave a Reply