E. Belfort Bax, 1884-1914, Justice, 18th January 1914, p.6.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of what has always been the de facto organ of the Social-Democratic Federation (now the British Socialist Party) brings up many memories to us who were present at and took part in the foundation of the modern Socialist movement in Great Britain.
Much has changed during that generation in English public life, and in the fortunes of the Socialist movement. Those of us still surviving can yet remember as though it were yesterday the enthusiasm of the little band of pioneers which was all that the British Socialist Party consisted of in the first year of Justice, the year 1884.
There was our old veteran leader of the Party, H.M. Hyndman, then entering upon early middle life, and still actively vigorous, together with the poet, social-idealist and artist-craftsman, William Morris, rather older, whose poems and articles were such an attractive feature of the first year of the existence of our journal. Then there was our dear old friend, now gone, the ex-Eton master, James Leigh Joynes, whose translations, of Freiligrath, Herwegh, and other poets of the “48” movement delighted us all. How well I remember attending the Congress of the French Parti Ouvrier, held at Roubaix at the end of March of the year in question, in company with Joynes and that other veteran worker for the cause, him whose name next to that of Hyndman is more than any other bound up with the history of Social-Democratic propaganda and organisation in England, and most intimately of all with Justice – Harry Quelch!
We must not forget, too, the then already quasi-historical figure of James Murray, the old Chartist and disciple of Bronterre O’Brien. How indignant was poor old Murray at my handling of the O’Brienite idol Robespierre in some articles on the French Revolution I wrote for Justice at that time! Amongst those still living, though they have abandoned the faith of their generous youth, we must not forget the young ex-army officer, H.H. Champion, whose fund of energetic “go” seemed inexhaustible. With him may be mentioned the now President of the Local Government Board, John Burns, at that time young and enthusiastic in the cause of Social-Democracy. Yes, the year 1884 was indeed a remarkable one in the awakening of England.
As regards the actual beginnings of Socialism in that year, to which this journal owes its foundation, it is noteworthy that the protagonists of the movement were chiefly men of the middle class. As yet the agitation had not reached the working classes of the country. Individual exceptions, of course, there were, as in the case of John Burns above alluded to. One of the most noteworthy of these was the indefatigable worker, who in all the long years has not grown weary, J.E. Williams. Others there were, of course, less known, but on the whole, as already said; in 1884 the agitation was mainly carried on by professional and cultured men. Now, lo! here is Socialism, and lo! there is Socialism. Socialism is everywhere. But with all the quantity of Socialism around us in 1914, one is constrained at times to cast a regretful glance back at the quality of the Socialism that animated the little band of enthusiasts who founded Justice in January, 1884.
E. Belfort Bax
Last updated on 4.10.2004