H. M. HVNDMAN, WILLIAM MORRIS, J. TAYLOR.
26th January 1884
That a weekly English journal would be started with every prospect of success to support organised Socialism in the British Islands would not so very long ago have been scouted as an absurdity by many, perhaps even of those who read these lines. Democratic Socialism was everywhere spoken of as merely another name for secret assassination or dynamite outrage, and the greatest efforts were made to show plainly that no matter how rife such ideas might be abroad, Socialism could never take root in England. Now, however, it is quite clear that Socialists are gaining strength more rapidly than any existing party. An interest has been roused in the propaganda, and Socialism in one form or another has become rather fashionable. Of this we may be sure, that phase of the business will not last. Men and women who directly aim at breaking down the present form of society, and levelling all class distinctions, must know well that when once they become formidable, tolerance is at an end.
Theories are all very well, ideals and poetical visions of the future may be pretty or even beautiful; but when any attempt is made in earnest to put these dreams into practice, then the defenders of the sacred rights of property in other men’s labour, the champions of privilege built up at other men’s expense are quick enough to change their tone, and those who but now were ridiculous fanatics, at once are denounced as dangerous fomenters of disorder. To us either opinion is alike indifferent. There are two sides to our domestic propaganda, both essential to our eventual success; for neither could be omitted without strengthening the opposing forces. On the one hand it is our business to stir up discontent with their lot among the mass of our countrymen in town and in country, to show them how it is that their conditions of life are so wretched, to point out to them unceasingly in clear, vigorous language that their bad food, bad housing, bad education, bad clothing, are all directly due to the social oppression from which they suffer, and to urge them to study the misery of their existence, and to combine with their fellows in one continuous effort for enfranchisement. It is to this that most attention has hitherto been given. But not nearly enough. Henceforward as heretofore we shall persistently preach discontent to the wage-earning classes, and call upon them to show a bold front to the landlords and capitalists who are the direct causes of their present degradation.
On the other hand we have to show the educated classes, and especially the increasing numbers of the intellectual proletariat, the clerks, the professional men, the shopkeepers, and others who so often work themselves into sickness for small pay, that Socialism has a definite, scientific, historical, and economical basis, and that so far from aiming at anarchy, our sole object is to put an end to the present anarchy which crushes the mass of the community, and to substitute organisation which shall benefit all. Certainly never was such a propaganda more essential at home than it is today. Never was it more necessary that an international party should be formed to deal with affairs abroad. At home the failure of our present parliamentary representative institutions to grapple with the passing social difficulties is admitted on all hands. Each party in turn displays its hopeless incompetence for anything but tinkering with the statute book in the interest of the middle class. The Conservatives who now proclaim their solicitude for the welfare of the workers, had six continuous years of power, yet not a single measure of importance did they carry which could benefit the mass of the people.
The landlords and Capitalists who form the Tory party were naturally concerned about their rents and their profits, with a little diversion in foreign affairs to draw off the attention of the public. The landlords and capitalists of the Liberal and Radical party have likewise neglected all social questions, and can point to little more than a bankruptcy bill as a record of important measures—an Act which concerns the middle class alone. Party government indeed means nothing better than party trickery to those who furnish the entire wealth of the country. Tories and Liberals only vie with one another as to which shall most dexterously shelve the pressing social questions of our time. We look for no improvement whatever under the existing Parliamentary system; we utterly deride the incapacity and self-seeking of both our existing factions and their time-serving placemen. Ireland alone has gained anything of late years against every disadvantage. Why? Because the champions of the people expressed the contempt which they felt for the hypocritical Liberalism which bases itself upon Coercion Acts and a state of siege, and the contemptible Convention which places the interests of 12,000 men above 5,000,000.
In the affairs of Great Britain the people must likewise trust to themselves alone. Socialists are independent of any party, and place their principles far above the misguiding influence of any personality. Gladstone, Salisbury, Northcote, Hartington, Chamberlain, Bradlaugh, Churchill simply represent so many names by which so many among the workers are induced to neglect their own interests. To obtain good housing, good food, good drink, good education, in return for moderate work is no excessive demand. To meet it is impossible while the whole means of production, exchange, and distribution are at the disposal of the capitalist and landlord classes, and the workers are therefore forced to sell their labour for a bare subsistence wage. Universal suffrage, annual parliaments, payment of members, equal electoral districts, and proportional representation, are useful only in so far they may help to put an end to the present daily confiscation of labour. For this object only shall we urge such political reforms. But social changes need social action, and for this also we shall never cease to agitate.
As at home the workers and those who side with them must band together for a great class war, so abroad must we stretch out our hands to those whom our confiscating classes rob and oppress. In Ireland, in India, and in Egypt, landlordism and capitalism between them make the very name of Englishmen to stink. It is time that we should show that we are prepared to do justice to others, as we claim it and are determined to have it for ourselves. On the Continent of Europe, in America, and all over the civilised world we can claim help and co-operation from those who now provide wealth and luxury for others by their unpaid labour. To bring about such a combination of the workers is the aim of the Socialist party in every country, in order that none may escape labour, and all may enjoy, clear of capitalist thraldom, the full freedom to produce and exchange on equal terms. To carry out such a programme, and to give force to our propaganda, it is essential that we should refuse to affiliate ourselves to any political party, or to turn aside after any compromise. Those who recognise that the condition of the proletariat is so deplorable that change is inevitable, and revolution already prepared, must sooner or later join our ranks: those who fail to see this, whether belonging to the oppressing class or the oppressed, must necessarily be reckoned among the enemies of Justice.
SOURCE: Justice, Vol. 1 No. 1, Satuday 26th January 1884, p. 4