E. Belfort Bax

Forty Years After


(1 January 1924)

E. Belfort Bax, 40 Years After, Justice, 1 January 1924, p. 1.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

How many old SDFers are there left who can remember that January day in 1884 when Justice first saw the light? It would be interesting if it were possible to bring them – Londoners, provincials, including Scotchmen – into a room for an evening’s chat. I imagine a small room would comfortably hold them all. How well we few left of the Old Guard can recall those time, the enthusiasm, the belief that things were “getting hot,” as Hyndman was fond of assuring us; the conviction of the nearness of “the revolution”; the feud between believers in political action and those who were convinced that all political action, and indeed anything beyond propaganda tempered by occasional “direct action” in the shape of riots, was – well, of the bourgeois! The belief in the nearness the break-up of the capitalist system led not illogically to the theory that the only useful function of a Socialist movement at the time was to prepare the minds of the well-disposed to mould and guide the upheaval when it came the way it should go.

How many of those who worked and agitated and disputed in those early ’eighties have become the victims of the “man with the scythe.” It is enough to recall a few of the more prominent names of our lost comrades, then in the heyday of their energy and vigour. There were Hyndman, Morris, Joynes, Quelch, Williams, strong and active in the cause, each in his own way, besides a host of others whose names are now forgotten.

A new generation has grown up since that first number of Justice appeared. Many comrades working for the SDF to-day were in 1884 still in the womb of time. Let us hope they will prove worthy of the SDFers of forty years ago. Of one thing we may rest assured. The men of forty years ago who founded Justice would not have allowed it to die after the career it has had and the work it has done. There were branches then, but those that existed showed more vigorous signs of life than some of those we have at present. Let us make no mistake. The stoppage of the publication of Justice would prove, before long, the death blow of our organisation. The gods they say help those who help themselves, and an organisation whose branches cannot keep their own little organ going, an organ which has been its support in season and of season for forty years, stamps itself as incapable of fulfilling the needs of a Socialist body to-day.

Socialism is in a different position in 1924, when it has to some extent least permeated the whole nation, to what it was in 1884 when it was the religion of a little band of enthusiasts. But one sometimes feels that so far as Socialists themselves are concerned it has gained in extension at the cost of loss of intensity. However, let hope that so far as the SDF is concerned, the intensive enthusiasm of the present day membership will prove at least adequate to keep the organisation and its organ alive for many a long year.

E. Belfort Bax

Last updated on 18 October 2014