Th. Rothstein 1907

The Socialist Annual (Letter)

Source: Justice, 14 December 1907, p. 9;
Transcribed: Ted Crawford,
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The “Socialist Annual” for 1908 will be out, as it is conventionally termed, “today” that is, Saturday—and it occurred to me that its first review might well come from the pen of its editor himself. No doubt, such a procedure is somewhat uncommon. It is supposed that an author is always partial to his work, and it is expected of him that he should from modesty abstain from giving utterance to his opinions. Nevertheless, I am going to infringe this salutary rule—not, indeed, because I am so much in love with my work, but because there are certain features in the “Annual” which its editor is, perhaps, better able to see than an outsider, and to which it may be useful to draw the reader’s attention.

And first of all, let me say that my Annual is really a SOCIALIST Annual. There are a number of similar reference books in the market, of which some, like the “Financial Reform Almanack,” are quite admirable. But they are either, like the one just named, compiled for the use of one or the other of the bourgeois parties, giving statistics and articles on subjects which are of but slight importance to the working class, or are so treated that the aspects which are of importance are obscured by side-issues; or they are, like the “Daily Mail Year Book,” a mere hotchpotch of meaningless figures; and still more meaningless bits of articles, which can only have an intellectually demoralising effect on the reader. The “Socialist Annual” is different. From cover to cover it is Socialist in the true, revolutionary sense of the word. The main strength of it is, of coarse, also statistics—but what statistics! I shall be accused of lack of modesty if I say that never since the days of the Chartist movement (and the Chartists knew what books to issue) have such statistics been offered to the workers of this country. Yet it is a fact. First, the subjects are chosen with extreme care. All the rubbish relating to foreign trade and similar “glorious” topics which serve to bamboozle the worker with visions as unreal as the mirage of the desert, have been rigorously excluded. They may be introduced at some future date when the Fiscal Question will once more absorb the attention of the public; but then they will serve quite a different purpose, namely, to show how hollow are the pretensions of both the Protectionists and the Free Traders. Instead of these statistics the “Socialist Annual” gives information on such subjects as either expose the wretchedness of present-day society, or help to bring out the real position in which the working class is placed.

Still more important is the way in which the statistics are treated. Take an example. All the Almanacks and Year Books will quote the figures relating to the national budget. But of what interest are they to the worker unless he can see how they affect him? Not one Almanack and Year-book assists him in that, but the “Socialist Annual” does. It shows him how the main portion of the revenue is raised by taxes on the necessaries of the poorest, and how the main portion of the expenditure goes towards the upkeep of idlers and the maintenance of the rule of the master-class. Or take the seasonable subject of the House of Lords. All the reference books this year deal with this topic, and quote the names and number of Bills which the Lords have thrown out during the specified time. The “Socialist Annual” does nothing of that kind. Its Editor knows that the whole agitation against the Lords is mere humbug, and instead of enumerating the many democratic Bills which have been killed by the Lords (how many, we wonder, have been killed by the “democratic” Commons?), it gives the number of Peers created both by the Liberal and Tory administrations in order to show that the Liberals, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, love the Lords as dearly as do the Tories.

Lastly, the “Socialist Annual,” gives its statistic’s in such a way that even a mere tyro in figures can read them and grasp their meaning. Indeed, I think it is no exaggeration to say that the “Socialist Annual” can actually be read from cover to cover, the statistical portions being no more difficult to read than the articles. I think our comrades cannot do better than try to sell the “Annual” to outsiders on every possible opportunity, be it at a meeting of their own or of their opponents. It is a case of “qui mange du pape en meurt,” which means “whoever tastes of the ‘Annual’ becomes a Socialist.”

Let me now say a few words about the other sections of the “Annual.” Here we have first the “Historical Calendar.” I am afraid many of on comrades do not quite see its utility or purpose. I can explain the object of the “Calendar” in two words. The working class ought to know its history and the history of freedom in general. At present it does not know it. The master class is careful to hide the historical truth away in the lumber room of old documents to which the ordinary proletarian has no access, and does its level best to instil into his mind the idea that social and economic progress of mankind h been achieved by methods of “peaceful persuasion” and sweet reasonableness, never by violence and revolution. Incidentally it fills its calendar with profoundly anti-social facts and events, such as are supplied by military history, by the records of royalty, by the history of colonisation, etc. The “Calendar of the Annual” is an attempt to counteract this poisonous sort of history. I am far from flattering myself with the successful realisation of plan in this respect. There are many sins of commission and omission in my Calendar. There may be mistakes in referring events to dates to which they do not belong. At any rate, however, I have made a creditable beginning, and as time goes on the Calendar will be improved till it does become perfect.

I think I have said enough to explain the scope and purpose of the “Socialist Annual”. Let others judge to what extent I have succeeded in my task. I only know that it has proved very popular and will, no doubt, have a still larger circulation this year.