The son of a socialist and pacifist minister, Martin grew up with a strong political influence in his life. After primary school he earned a scholarship to Mill Hill School. While still at school, Martin became liable to conscription. Being a pacifist, he was a conscientious objector to the first world war and refused to fight in it, but he did not object to serving as a medical orderly for a few months caring for wounded soldiers. He later joined the Friends' Ambulance Unit, and in 1918 was sent to the Western Front to serve with them.
After the war he returned to academic life at Magdalene College, Cambridge. While studying at the college he became politically active and joined many groups such as the Union of Democratic Control and the Fabian Society. After obtaining his degree, Martin moved to the US to teach at Princeton University for a year. When he returned to England, Martin was hired as a book reviewer for the journal The Nation. His employer also used his connections to get him a teaching job at the London School of Economics, under Harold Laski. As well as a new job, Kingsley also managed to publish one of his earliest books, The Triumph of Lord Palmerston. Martin remained at the LSE for three years, before he was offered a job as a leader writer at the Manchester Guardian. Martin accepted, and during his time there he published another work; French Liberal Thought in the Eighteenth Century.
He became editor of the New Statesman in 1930, taking up the post at the beginning of 1931. With Martin as editor, the New Statesman (renamed New Statesman and Nation after absorbing The Nation in 1931) became a significant influence on Labour politics. Martin was originally a pacifist, but abandoned this position in response to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. During this period, Martin and the Statesman were criticised for pursuing an erratic response to the regime of Stalin in the Soviet Union. Martin's friend John Maynard Keynes complained that in regard to Stalin's Russia, Martin was "a little too full perhaps of goodwill. When a doubt arises it is swallowed down if possible." Martin wrote a hostile account of Leon Trotsky, "Trotsky in Mexico" for the NS, and did not allow the magazine to review Trotsky's anti-Stalinist book The Revolution Betrayed. Despite all this, the circulation of the Statesman grew from 14,000 to 80,000 over the course of Martin's thirty years in the editor's chair. Martin supported the policy of demanding an unconditional surrender from the Nazis during the Second World War. Martin became disillusioned with the Soviet Union after the Hitler-Stalin Pact, which he denounced; in response the Communist Party Daily Worker ran an editorial attacking Martin. After attending the Soviet-sponsored World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wrocław, Poland, Martin wrote a hostile account of the conference, entitled "Hyenas and other Reptiles". Kingsley Martin remained at the New Statesman until 1960 when he retired.
Dispute with George Orwell
Martin's editorship resulted in what D. J. Taylor called a "titantic feud" with NS contributor George Orwell. Returning to the UK after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell contacted Martin and offered to give him an account of the conflict; Martin accepted the offer. But Martin rejected Orwell's first article, "Eyewitness in Spain", on the grounds it could undermine the Spanish Republicans. As compensation, Martin then offered Orwell a chance to review Franz Borkenau's book The Spanish Cockpit. However, Martin and the literary editor Raymond Mortimer turned down Orwell's review on the grounds "it is very uncompromisingly said and implies that our Spanish correspondents are all wrong", and that it was more a restatement of Orwell's opinions than a review. Mortimer later wrote to Orwell to apologise for the rejection of his articles on Spain, stating "There is no premium here on Stalinist orthodoxy". Orwell never forgave Martin for this rejection; although he continued to write for the New Statesman, he often made "wounding remarks" in his journalism about the magazine being "under direct communist influence" and its readers being "worshippers of Stalin". Orwell also included Martin's name in a list of "fellow travellers" he passed on to the Information Research Department, a branch of UK intelligence.
In The Magic of Monarchy (1937, described by Brian Pearce as an "excellent account") and The Crown And The Establishment (1962) he put forward the first modern arguments for British Republicanism. The Crown and The Establishment caused considerable controversy, with Gerald Nabarro condemning Martin's views on the monarchy as "scurrilous".
Martin was married to Olga Walters; they divorced in 1940. Martin then became romantically involved with the activist Dorothy Woodman. They remained together for the rest of his life, although they never married.
- Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1492-1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.404
- William Fitter "Portrait of an Editor" (Review of Kingsley by C.H. Rolph), The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 1973. p.46
- Cole, Margaret. "Kindly Dissenter", Tribune, 28th January 1966.
- Bill Jones The Russia complex: the British Labour Party and the Soviet Union, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977, p.25, 100
- Bashir Abu-Manneh, Fiction of the New Statesman, Lexington Books, 2011. ISBN 1611493528, (p. 169-70).
- Jones, (1977) (p.40).
- Jones, (1977) (p. 194-5).
- "The Orwell Wars", D.J. Taylor and Adrian Smith. New Statesman, 12-25 April 2013.
- David Caute, Politics and the Novel During the Cold War. Transaction Publishers, 2009 ISBN 1412811619, (p.46-7)
- Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, 1999, Granta, ISBN 1-86207-029-6. (p. 299)
- Brian Pearce "The Queen Cult", The Newsletter, 6 June 1959
- "Attack on Queen Stirs Row", The Sun (Vancouver), May 28th, 1962, p.1
Charles Mostyn Lloyd
|Editor of the New Statesman