William Morris. Commonweal 1885
Source: Commonweal, Vol. I no. 1, Feb 1885, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
We beg our readers’ leave for a few words in which to introduce to them this Socialist journal, The Commonweal. In the first place we ask them to understand that the Editor and Sub-Editor of The Commonweal are acting as delegates of the Socialist League, and under its direct control: any slip in principles, therefore, and mis-statement of the aims or tactics of the League, are liable to correction from the representatives of that body.
As to the conduct of The Commonweal, it must be remembered that it has one aim — the propagation of Socialism. We shall not, therefore, make any excuses for what may be thought journalistic short-comings, if we can but manage to attract attention to the study of our principles from those who have not yet thought of Socialism, or who are, as often happens, bitterly hostile to them through ignorance; or if we can help those whose feelings are drawing them towards the cause of the workers, but who need definite instruction as to its aims and methods. To awaken the sluggish, to strengthen the waverers, to instruct the seekers after truth; these are high aims, yet not too high for a journal that claims to be Socialistic, and we hope by patience and zeal to accomplish them.
It is our duty to attack unsparingly the miserable system which would make all civilization end in a society of rich and poor, of slaves and slave-owners. In all its details we must attack it; but in doing so we shall avoid mere personalities, not for the sake of escaping the accusations of bad taste and bitterness, which doubtless will in any case be flung at us, but because it is illogical to attack those men, monstrous as their position is, who are themselves mere helpless wheels in the terrible machine of modern commerce. To attack such persons, unless they put themselves forward as the representatives of the system implies the belief that the decency or benevolence of their conduct would usefully palliate the evils of that system; an implication against which we protest from the outset.
The Commonweal will only deal with political matters when they directly affect the progress of the Cause. We assume as a matter of course that a government of privileged persons, hereditary and commercial, cannot act usefully or rightly towards the community; their position forbids it; their arrangements for the distribution of the plunder of the workers, their struggles for the national share of the exploitation of barbarous peoples are nothing to us except so far as they may give us an opportunity of instilling Socialism into men’s minds, or of organizing discontent into Socialism.
We invite from all, Socialists or others, free discussion of anything we put forward, in the belief that even an uninstructed attack may elicit useful information which might otherwise have lain dormant.
Our articles will, for the most part, be of an educational nature: there will be a series on historical revolutions, expositions of the scientific basis of Socialism, and contributions from men of various nationalities.
Lastly, a word of appeal, to the workers chiefly. It is not only that whatever we say is professedly directly in their interest: much more it is that through them alone, through the slaves of society, we look for its regeneration, for its elevation from its present corruption and misery. We cannot pretend to think that they, the workers as yet know much of the principles of the cause that rests upon them, or their own cause, in fact. We beseech them to help us in spreading knowledge of those principles amongst their fellows, that as we believe they will now find us honest, so
their support may make us resolute, patient, and hopeful — in a word, successful in our efforts for the furtherance of the cause we have at heart.