Leader: the world movement towards collectivism

The first New Statesman leader, published on 12 April 1913.

Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the founders of the New Statesman. Photograph: Getty Images

12 April 1913

We present today the first number of a new paper which is going, we hope, to occupy a place in periodical literature which hitherto has been left unfilled. As far as the mere externals of scope, arrangement, and general format are concerned, we do not propose, as the reader will observe for himself, to ignore the traditions long associated with English weekly reviews; but our critical standpoint will be fresh. We shall deal with all current political, social, religious, and intellectual questions; but in doing so we shall be bound by no ties of party, class, or creed.

Naturally, like everyone else, we have certain prepossessions of our own, a definite point from which we view each new issue as it arises. Indeed, we have more than that: we have a definite ideal at which we are consciously aiming. We believe that the steps which this country and all the other foremost communities in the world have lately been taking in the direction of a greater corporate responsibility, a greater corporate activity, and a greater corporate control of the resources and the social conditions of the nation are steps in the right direction, and we look forward to a time when this growing corporate life will be developed to a point far beyond anything that has yet been carried out or even planned in any part of the world.

In common with every thinking man and woman of to-day, we recognise that vast social changes are imminent, and for our own part we welcome them. That we welcome them is our bias. But it is not in any sense whatever a party bias. The world movement towards collectivism is altogether beyond and above party, and our belief in it rests neither upon dogma nor upon a desire to support any sectional interest, but simply upon a process of reasoning applied to the known facts of modern industrial organisation and political democracy. We have no axe to grind, no panacea to advertise, no theory which we should abandon with regret. We shall strive to face and examine social and political issues in the same spirit in which the chemist or the biologist faces and examines his test-tubes or his specimens, ignoring none of the factors, seeking to demonstrate no preconceived proposition, but trying only to find out and spread abroad the truth whatever it may turn out to be. Social problems may not be – indeed, are not – susceptible of scientific analysis in the popular acceptation of that term, since human beings are not to be weighed in balances nor measured with micrometers; but unless there can be applied to them something at least of the detachment of the scientific spirit, they will never be satisfactorily solved. The cultivation of such a spirit and its deliberate application to matters of current controversy is the task which the New Statesman has set for itself.

The remedying of the social defects of which we are all so painfully aware depends no doubt primarily upon the existence of a determination to remedy them; but it depends also, and no less emphatically, upon our knowing exactly how to set about it. The development of social science is of equal importance with the development of public spirit. Deprived of the one, the other can be but a voice crying in the wilderness – not entirely worthless, perhaps, but for the most part lost. In saying this we are, of course, only repeating a truism, but it is a truism which is still far from securing the universal recognition which it must have.

We need not undertake to define the ideal state which we conceive as the goal of our search, for doubtless it is identical with that of all other people who are honestly and whole-heartedly seeking it. It is enough to say that it is a state in which health, comfort, culture, and personal freedom are the rules instead of the exceptions. To carry the definition further by discussing the conditions under which these things may be secured for everyone would take us beyond the limits of our space and of our present intention. We have put our cards on the table. We have said enough to show our readers where we stand and to convince them, we hope, that we really intend the New Statesman to be an independent journal in the fullest sense of the word. It only remains for us to invite their support, not merely as readers, but as critics, correspondents, and collaborators in the task which we have undertaken.

You can read the New Statesman leader from 12 April 2013 here