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Harry Quelch

Harry Quelch


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Harry Quelch, the son of a blacksmith, was born in Hungerford, Berkshire, on 30th January, 1858. The Quelch's were very poor and at the age of ten Harry was forced to leave school to help increase the family income. Harry found work in an upholster's shop and this was followed by spells working for a dairyman and a cattle dealer.

At the age of fourteen, Quelch left Berkshire for London and successively worked as a factory worker producing biscuits, a tanyard, an iron foundry, and a wholesale paper warehouse. Although Quelch left school early he retained an interest in education and in his twenties he taught himself French.

Quelch read numerous books on politics including a French edition of Das Capital by Karl Marx. The book converted him to revolutionary socialism and after hearing H. M. Hyndman lecture on Marx in 1881, Quelch joined the Social Democratic Federation.

Quelch was elected to the executive of the SDF in 1883 and remained a loyal supporter of H. H. Hyndman when William Morris, Ernest Belfort Bax, Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling left the party in 1884 to form the Socialist League. Quelch now became an increasing important member of the Social Democratic Federation and in 1886 he left his job in the warehouse and became the paid editor of the party's journal, Justice.

Along with H. Hyndman, John Burns and Robert Cunninghame Graham, Harry Quelch played an important role in organising the protest meeting on 13th February, 1887, in Trafalgar Square that led to the events that became known as Bloody Sunday.

Despite attempts by Ben Tillett and Tom Mann to keep the Social Democratic Federation away from the London Dockers' Strike in 1889, Quelch worked with Will Thorne on the South Side Strike Committee that organised strikers south of the Thames.

Quelch represented the Social Democratic Federation at the Trade Union Congress in the early 1890s. Quelch, who had also taught himself German as well as French, attended several conferences held by European socialist groups. He also regularly represented the SDF at the annual congress of the German Social Democratic Party.

On 27th February 1900, Quelch represented the Social Democratic Federation at the meeting in London that established a Labour Representation Committee (LRC). However, the following year Quelch led the campaign that resulted in the SDF withdrawing from the LRC. Despite his hostility to what he considered to be the non-socialist policies of the LRC, Quelch continued the attend their conferences as a delegate of the London Trades Council.

Quelch made several attempts to enter the House of Commons. In January 1902 he was the defeated SDF candidate at the Dewsbury by-election. In the 1906 General Election Quelch came bottom of the poll in Southampton. He was also badly defeated at Northampton in the 1910 General Election.

Quelch was a strong opponent of the idea of women's suffrage based on property qualifications. Quelch, like most socialists, favoured universal adult suffrage and when the WSPU agreed to a plan that would give the vote to women householders, he denounced the organisation as "anti-proletarian, anti-Socialist and anti-democratic.

In April 1913, ill-health forced Quelch to retire from his full-time post with Justice, the journal he had edited for twenty-seven years. However, Harry Quelch continued to write for the journal until his death on 17th September, 1913.


Harry Quelch

On Wednesday, September 17 (September 4, 0. S.), Comrade Harry Quelch, leader of the British Social-Democrats, died in London. The British Social-Democratic organisation was formed in 1884 and was called the Social Democratic Federation. In 1909 the name was changed to Social-Democratic Party, and in 1911, after a number of independently existing socialist groups amalgamated with it, it assumed the name of the British Socialist Party.

Harry Quelch was one of the most energetic and devoted workers in the British Social-Democratic movement. He was active not only as a Social-Democratic Party worker, but also as a trade-unionist. The London Society of Compositors repeatedly elected him its Chairman, and he was several times Chairman of the London Trades Council.

Quelch was the editor of Justice, Ώ] the weekly organ of the British Social-Democrats, as well as editor of the party monthly journal, the Social-Democrat.

He took a very active part in all the work of the British Social-Democratic movement and regularly addressed party and public meetings. On many occasions he represented British Social-Democracy at international congresses and on tile International Socialist Bureau. Incidentally, when he attended the Stuttgart International Socialist Congress he was persecuted by the Wurtemburg Government, which expelled him from Stuttgart (without trial, by police order, as an alien) for referring at a public meeting to the Hague Conference as a “thieves’ supper”. When, the day following Quelch’s expulsion, the Congress resumed its session, the British delegates left empty the chair on which Quelch had sat, and hung a notice on it bearing the inscription: “Here sat Harry Quelch, now expelled by the Wurtemburg Government.”

The South Germans often boast of their hatred for the Prussians because of the Prussian red tape, bureaucracy and police rule, but they themselves behave like the worst Prussians where a proletarian socialist is concerned.

The historical conditions for the activities of the British Social-Democrats, whose leader Quelch was, are of a very particular kind. In the most advanced land of capitalism and political liberty, the British bourgeoisie (who as far back as the seventeenth century settled accounts with the absolute monarchy in a rather democratic way) managed in the nineteenth century to split the British working-class movement. In the middle of the nineteenth century Britain enjoyed an almost complete monopoly in the world market. Thanks to this monopoly the profits acquired by British capital were extraordinarily high, so that it was possible for some crumbs of these profits to be thrown to the aristocracy of labour, the skilled factory workers.

This aristocracy of labour, which at that time earned tolerably good wages, boxed itself up in narrow, self-interested craft unions, and isolated itself from the mass of the proletariat, while in politics it supported the liberal bourgeoisie. And to this very day perhaps nowhere in the world are there so many liberals among the advanced workers as in Britain.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, however, things began to change. Britain’s monopoly was challenged by America, Germany, etc. The economic basis for the narrow, petty-bourgeois trade-unionism and liberalism among British workers has been destroyed. Socialism is again raising its head in Britain, getting through to the masses and growing irresistibly despite the rank opportunism of the British near-socialist intelligentsia.

Quelch was in the front ranks of those who fought steadfastly and with conviction against opportunism and a liberal-labour policy in the British working-class movement. True, isolation from the masses sometimes infected the British Social-Democrats with a certain sectarianism. Hyndman, the leader and founder of Social-Democracy in Britain, has even slipped into jingoism. But the party of the Social-Democrats ΐ] has fought him on this, and over the whole of Britain the Social-Democrats, and they alone, have for decades been carrying on systematic propaganda and agitation in the Marxist spirit. This is the great historical service rendered by Quelch and his comrades. The fruits of the activities of the Marxist Quelch will be reaped in full measure by the British working-class movement in the next few years.

In conclusion we cannot refrain from mentioning Quelch’s sympathy for the Russian Social-Democrats and the assistance he rendered them. Eleven years ago the Russian Social-Democratic newspaper had to be printed in London. The British Social-Democrats, headed by Quelch, readily made their printing-plant available. As a consequence, Quelch himself had to “squeeze up”. A corner was boarded off at the printing-works by a thin partition to serve him as editorial room. This corner contained a very small writing-table, a bookshelf above it, and a chair. When the present writer visited Quelch in this “editorial office” there was no room for another chair.


Harry Quelch - History

[This article is a brief summary of the longer Wikipedia article]

Summary:

Henry Quelch (30 January, 1858 – 17 September, 1913), known exclusively as Harry Quelch, was one of the first Marxists in Great Britain. He was a socialist activist, journalist and trade unionist. His brother, Lorenzo "Len" Quelch, was also a socialist activist, while his son, Tom Quelch, achieved note as a prominent socialist activist.

Early years:

Harry Quelch was born 30 January 1858 in Hungerford. He was the son and grandson of a village blacksmith his maternal grandfather had been an agricultural labourer.

Circumstances forced the eldest child, Harry, into the world to contribute to the family's maintenance from a very young age, with Harry taking his first job at the age of 10. He worked variously in an upholsterer's shop and later for a local dairyman and cattle dealer. At the age of 14 he left Berkshire for good to make his way in the big city of London.

In London the boy worked a succession of jobs in a biscuit factory, in a tannery, and in an iron foundry before landing a better job as a packer in a paper warehouse. This last job allowed the boy sufficient free time to teach himself French. It was in this language that he first read the writing of Karl Marx as part of the process of his self-education. It was in this way that he was converted to the ideas of Social-Democracy. He also later taught himself German, the de facto official language of international socialism.

Quelch married in 1879 and soon fathered a family of his own. His son, Tom, followed in his father's footsteps as a radical political activist, becoming a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Political career:

Harry Quelch joined the Democratic Federation (forerunner of the Social Democratic Federation, SDF) in 1881 at the age of 23. Just two years later the young man was elected to its executive. In April 1884 Quelch became an international delegate of the British socialist movement for the first time when he and Hyndman were sent to Paris to attend a congress of the French Workers' Party.

When a large section of the party's active membership, led by William Morris, departed the SDF in 1884 to form the Socialist League, Quelch stayed behind, redoubling his efforts on behalf of the organisation. it was around this time that Quelch's abilities as a speaker and journalist began to fully develop.

Quelch became the full-time editor of the SDF's newspaper, Justice. He also represented the SDF on bodies including various strike committees and the Trades Union Congress, and at socialist conferences across Europe. He was heavily involved in the London dock strike of 1889, and was the main organiser and first general secretary of the South Side Labour Protection League, a union for dock workers founded after the strike. He was elected several times as the chair of the London Trades Council, and was one of the founders of the Labour Representation Committee. From 1892 until the end of 1908, he was also the business manager for the 20th Century Press, a radical publisher.

In 1901, Quelch arranged for the SDF to print Vladimir Lenin's newspaper Iskra which had been banned in Russia. A thin partition was installed in a small corner of the printing works and Quelch was forced to "squeeze up" into these cramped quarters as a makeshift editorial office to make room for the Russians. There was only room for a small writing desk with a bookshelf above it and a single chair.

Quelch was a perennial representative of the British socialist movement to international gatherings of the Second International. He attended Congress of the International in Paris in 1889, Brussels in 1891, Zurich in 1893, London in 1896, Paris in 1900, Amsterdam in 1904, Stuttgart in 1907, and finally at Copenhagen in 1910.

It was as a delegate of the SDF to the 1907 Stuttgart Congress that Quelch achieved his greatest notoriety as an international socialist. There in a speech he condemned an international conference of diplomats then sitting at The Hague, attended by Tsar Nicholas II, as a "thieves' supper." Government authorities were swift in expelling Quelch from the country for his remarks, an action which boosted British esteem in the eyes of their radical peers.

Death:

Harry Quelch was chronically ill from about the beginning of 1912 until his death in London on 17 September 1913, at the age of 55. Sanitariums and bracing sea air proved insufficient to cure whatever the illness from which he suffered. His funeral was a political event, attended by socialists from all over the country. He was buried at Camberwell Old Cemetery, Southwark, on Saturday, 20 September.

The Canal Wharf, Apr 2011

Hungerford, England, is a market town of about 5,800 people at the Berkshire / Wiltshire border.
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Early years

Harry Quelch was born 30 January 1858 in the small town of Hungerford, Berkshire, England. He was the son and grandson of a village blacksmith his maternal grandfather had been an agricultural labourer.

Circumstances forced the eldest child, Harry, into the world to contribute to the family&aposs maintenance from a very young age, with Harry taking his first job at the age of 10. He worked variously in an upholsterer&aposs shop and later for a local dairyman and cattle dealer. At the age of 14 he left Berkshire for good to make his way in the big city of London. [1]

In London the boy worked a succession of jobs in a biscuit factory, in a tannery, and in an iron foundry before landing a better job as a packer in a paper warehouse. This last job allowed the boy sufficient free time to teach himself French. It was in this language that he first read the writing of Karl Marx as part of the process of his self-education. It was in this way that he was converted to the ideas of Social-Democracy. [2] He also later taught himself German, the de facto official language of international socialism.

Quelch married in 1879 and soon fathered a family of his own. [3] His son, Tom, followed in his father&aposs footsteps as a radical political activist, becoming a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Political career

Harry Quelch joined the Democratic Federation (forerunner of the Social Democratic Federation, SDF) in 1881 at the age of 23. Just two years later the young man was elected to its executive. In April 1884 Quelch became an international delegate of the British socialist movement for the first time when he and Hyndman were sent to Paris to attend a congress of the French Workers&apos Party.

When a large section of the party&aposs active membership, led by William Morris, departed the SDF in 1884 to form the Socialist League, Quelch stayed behind, redoubling his efforts on behalf of the organisation. it was around this time that Quelch&aposs abilities as a speaker and journalist began to fully develop. [4]

Quelch became the full-time editor of the SDF&aposs newspaper, Justice. He also represented the SDF on bodies including various strike committees and the Trades Union Congress, and at socialist conferences across Europe. [4] He was heavily involved in the London dock strike of 1889, and was the main organiser and first general secretary of the South Side Labour Protection League, a union for dock workers founded after the strike. [5] He was elected several times as the chair of the London Trades Council, and was one of the founders of the Labour Representation Committee. From 1892 until the end of 1908, he was also the business manager for the 20th Century Press, a radical publisher. [4]

In 1901, Quelch arranged for the SDF to print Vladimir Lenin&aposs newspaper Iskra which had been banned in Russia. A thin partition was installed in a small corner of the printing works and Quelch was forced to "squeeze up" into these cramped quarters as a makeshift editorial office to make room for the Russians. There was only room for a small writing desk with a bookshelf above it and a single chair. [6]

Quelch was a perennial representative of the British socialist movement to international gatherings of the Second International. He attended Congress of the International in Paris in 1889, Brussels in 1891, Zurich in 1893, London in 1896, Paris in 1900, Amsterdam in 1904, Stuttgart in 1907, and finally at Copenhagen in 1910. [4]

It was as a delegate of the SDF to the 1907 Stuttgart Congress that Quelch achieved his greatest notoriety as an international socialist. There in a speech he condemned an international conference of diplomats then sitting at The Hague, attended by Tsar Nicholas II, as a "thieves&apos supper." Government authorities were swift in expelling Quelch from the country for his remarks, an action which boosted British esteem in the eyes of their radical peers. [7]

Death and legacy

Harry Quelch was chronically ill from about the beginning of 1912 until his death in London on 17 September 1913, at the age of 55. [8] Sanitariums and bracing sea air proved insufficient to cure whatever the illness from which he suffered. His funeral was a political event, attended by socialists from all over the country. He was buried at Camberwell Old Cemetery, Southwark, on Saturday, 20 September. [9]

Lenin remembered his friend with a memorial article published in the Bolshevik newspapers Pravda Truda [Labour Truth] and Nash Put&apos [Our Path]:

Harry Quelch was one of the most energetic and devoted workers in the British Social-Democratic movement. He was active not only as a Social-Democratic Party worker, but also as a trade unionist. The London Society of Compositors repeatedly elected him its chairman, and he was several times Chairman of the London Trades Council.

He took a very active part in all the work of the British Social-Democratic movement and regularly addressed party and public meetings. On many occasions he represented British Social-Democracy at international congresses and on the International Socialist Bureau.

Quelch was in the front ranks of those who fought steadfastly and with conviction against opportunism and a liberal-labour policy in the British working class movement. [O]ver the whole of Britain the Social-Democrats, and they alone, have for decades been carrying on systematic propaganda and agitation in the Marxist spirit. This is the great historical service rendered by Quelch and his comrades. [10]


VETERAN STEALS A KISS WITH MRS MAY

More than 300 veterans packed into Bayeux War Cemetery yesterday — joined by Prince Charles and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Ex-Marine Robert Yaxley, 94, from Chelmsford, even pinched a kiss with the PM, on her last day in office.

Robert was an 18-year-old commando in a landing craft that reached Sword Beach.

He told the PM: “We landed ashore and then moved through the land. I went all the way through to Germany and I didn’t get a scratch. The lord was watching over me.”

Of his peck he said: “I took her by the arms and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Why not?

“Not everyone can do that. She said, ‘Ooh thank you’.”

MY TEARS AT SERVICE

THIS is the fifth time I’ve photographed D-Day services at Bayeux — but the first it moved me to tears.

As men in their 90s saluted friends and comrades who died on the beaches of Normandy, I could not stop crying.

Many veterans had to be helped by carers to lay their wreaths, while others in wheelchairs struggled.

But they all did so with amazing dignity — determined to say farewell to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Navy Signalman Frank Baugh, 95, told how he saw infantryman cut down by gunfire or drown as he stormed Sword Beach at 7.25am.

His task was to land 200 men from the 2nd Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry — from a landing craft that “bobbed around like a cork in a bucket”.

Frank choked back tears and recalled: “As we approached the beach we received a direct hit which set fire to the No2 troop space and holed us below the waterline on the starboard side.

“Under heavy fire they landed in about four feet of rough water.

“Many were cut down by machine-gun fire, falling in the water face down.” Three of the dead — Pte Ernest Blewett, 26, from Tooting, South London, Pte Harry Hall, 28, of Gateshead and Lt John Whitebrook, from Lincoln’s Inn, London — are among the more than 4,100 men buried at Bayeux.


Hayes Peoples History



At least one of the three Sutherland Highlanders sentenced to five years' imprisonment, following a mutiny among the troops in Jamaica, according to news which has just reached the Daily Worker is in Maidstone Gaol, Kent.

The exact place where the others are imprisoned is not yet known, but here is an opportunity for London workers to strengthen the campaign for the immediate release of these men.

It will be remembered that these four men received this vicious sentence about eighteen months ago at a court martial following a mutiny and the singing of the "Red Flag " in the barracks by the soldiers.

The Capitalist Press made a great show of the affair about six weeks ago, pointing to it as an example of how stern measures had to he enforced in order to maintain discipline.

The whole scandalous affair of the brutal sentence and the way news concerning the case was being suppressed bv the Capitalist Press was exclusively exposed in the " Workers' Life last August. The whole affair first came to light following the publication, in a Communist pit paper in Fife, of a letter from a soldier in the Sutherland Highlanders.

His regiment was stationed in Jamaica, in the West Indies, and his
letter stated that scandalous conditions for the men prevailed. Deep resentment was growing among the soldiers against the bad conditions, and this came to a head in the revolt .

In his letter Private Clark described the events which led up to the revolt. An N.C.O. and two officers entered the barrack room to arrest two soldiers for making a noise after 10 o'clock. The men, it is said, demanded the remedying of certain grievances, and had the complete support of the two hundred men -in the barrack room, who commenced to singing the " Red Flag." Eventually the revolt was crushed, the four men taken to the guard room and. Later, court martialed.

Daily Worker first Edition
January 1st 1930

The association produced a record of The Red Flag, sung by the Glasgow Socialist Choir and the Young Communist League Singers to the tune of Maryland on the one side and to the tune of The White Cockade on the other.

Reviewing the record, on 19 January 1963, Fred Dallas, music critic of the Daily Worker, decided there was 'no question' which tune the Labour Movement should choose. The answer was Maryland simply because it is so much better sung. The Maryland version is sung so as to give each word its proper weight and the diction of the massed Glasgow Socialist and Young Communist League Singers is so impeccable that the whole point of the song comes over.

But The White Cockade version is taken at a tremendous lick, with the words emerging like mouth music, a meaningless gabble which passes in one ear and out the other.

Fred Dallas also observed that as soon The Red Flag was sung in Glasgow and in Liverpool in December 1889 it was no longer Jim Connell's property. It belonged to the Labour movement which had created both Connell and the song. The movement had therefore the right to sing The Red Flag to whatever was judged to be the better tune.

The Red Flag was played for the first time on the BBC in 1936 as part of the BBC radio "Songs that made history" series despite the opposition of the British Empire Union (Times 26 September 1936)


Harry Quelch - History

The Social Democratic Federation (SDF), founded in 1884, was the first Marxist party in Britain and became a forerunner of the British Socialist Party, founded in 1911, and the Communist Party of Great Britain, founded in 1920. However, due to poor leadership, sectarian divisions and lack of understanding of the role of trade unions, the SDF remained a minority grouping within late Victorian socialism and labour movement.

Founder

In 1881, Henry Mayers Hyndman (1842-1921), the son of a West India merchant and a former Tory radical, aided by two other Tory radicals, H. A. M. Butler Johnstone and John Morrison Davidson, brought together several radical and socialist clubs in London and founded the Democratic Federation, as a grouping of radicals, including former Chartists, O'Brienites (adherents of the Chartist leader Bronterre O'Brien) and land reformers. The group was transformed into the Social Democratic Federation in 1884. The new organisation propounded socialist ideas derived from Karl Marx’s writings.

Hyndman beca me fascinated by Karl Marx’s Das Capital , which he read in a French translation during his voyage to America in 1880. After return to England he invited Marx and his youngest daughter Eleanor (&ldquoTussy&rdquo) to dinner and told them that he considered the reviving of the Chartist movement. (Tsuzuki 33) Hyndman did not share Marx’s belief in the inevitability of popular revolution. Instead, he preferred gradual constitutional transformation because he genuinely had faith in the parliamentary road to socialism. He wrote to Marx:

Revolution is possible, since the recent foolish action of our Government in many directions I had almost put probable. But what I mean is I do not wish to push men on to what must be violence when they might easily attain their objects by peaceful action in common. [Tsuzuki 34]

In his Record of the Adventurous Life (1911), Hyndman quotes a curious conversation with Benjamin Disraeli, a staunch conservative, about the future of Britain.

'You can never carry it out with the Conservative party. That is quite certain. Your life would become a burden to you. It is only possible through such a democracy as you speak of. The moment you tried to realize it on our side you would find yourself surrounded by a phalanx of the great families who would thwart you at every turn: they and their women. And you would be no better off on the other side.'

'But this party system,' I rejoined, 'need not go on for ever?'

'No, but private property which you hope to communize, and vested interests which you openly threaten, have a great many to speak up for them still. I do not say it to discourage you, but you have taken upon yourself a very — heavy — work indeed, and' (smiling), 'even now you are not a very young man to have so much zeal and enthusiasm. It is a very difficult country to move, Mr. Hyndman, a very difficult country indeed, and one in which there is more disappointment to be looked for than success. But you do intend to go on?' I said I did. 'Then I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again.' (Tsuzuki 35)

Hyndman did not, however, have the opportunity to talk to Disraeli again. The Tory leader died within a few weeks, but interestingly, Hyndman tried to suggest in his memoir that Disraeli was not indifferent to socialist ideas. In fact, Disraeli had devised a political philosophy which is known as Tory socialism.

Programme

The programme of the Democratic Federation, founded in 1881, reminded of the Chartist programme, with the exception of the substitution of 'triennial' for 'annual' Parliaments.

  • Adult Suffrage
  • Triennial Parliaments
  • Equal Electoral Districts
  • Payment of Members and Official Expenses out of the Rates
  • Bribery, Treating, and Corrupt Practices, to be made acts of Felony
  • Abolition of the House of Lords as a Legislative Body
  • Legislative Independence for Ireland
  • National and Federal Parliaments
  • Nationalization of the Land. [Tsuzuki 40]

In 1881, Hyndman published a pamphlet England for All: The Text-Book of Democracy , which contained a more detailed exposition of his political, social and economic views. Strangely enough, Hyndman blended some of the ideas of Disraeli's Tory democracy, or rather Tory socialism, with Marx's concept of surplus value. The pamphlet provoked Marx's anger because some its fragments plagiarised Das Kapital .

In his next pamphlet, Socialism Made Plain (1883), Hyndman, inspired by The Communist Manifesto , called for better housing for artisans and agricultural workers, free and compulsory education for all social classes, free meals for school children, the eight-hour workday, cumulative taxation, state ownership of railways and banks, the abolition of the national debt, and the organisation of the agricultural and industrial armies. (Busky 82)

In 1883, Hyndman published a book, The Historical Basis of Socialism in England , in which he acknowledged Marx's influence on his ideas and claimed that capitalism would soon collapse and that Britain was on the brink of anarchy. (Bevir 78) Hyndman tried to devise a strategy within the SDF to build a form of centralised state socialism in Britain, which was in line with Marx's ideas and the tradtion of English radicalism.

It should be noted, however, that Hyndman's socialism did not contradict his imperialistic views. &ldquoTo my mind,&rdquo he stated, &ldquowe have to base the first real Socialistic combination upon the common interests and affinities of the great Celto-Teutonic peoples in America, in Australia, in these islands, and possibly in Germany.&rdquo He also declared: &ldquoI am quite content to bear the reproach of Chauvinism in regard to what I say about the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples.&rdquo (Tsuzuki 51)

As Norman Etherington pointed out, programmes designed to combine revolutionary socialism with imperial expansion attracted not only the SDF leadership but also its rank-and-file members. (89) However, after the Boer War, the SDF dreams of a socialist British Empire were completely smashed and the SDF took an anti-imperialist position.

Membership

The SDF attracted in its early days a number of radical middle-class intellectuals, including the poet William Morris, journalist and philosopher Ernest Belfort Bax, Eleanor Marx and her partner Edward Aveling, the artist Walter Crane, Henry &ldquoHarry&rdquo Quelch, the editor of the SDF press organ, Justice , who, nota bene, arranged for the SDF to print in 1902-03 Vladimir Lenin's newspaper Iskra , which had been banned in Russia, Helen Taylor, the step-daughter of John Stuart Mill, as well as labour activists, such as Tom Mann, John Burns and George Lansbury.

Apart from them a few upper-class Tory socialists also joined the SDF. They were: Henry Hyde Champion, Robert Frost, and James Joynes. These Tory radicals encouraged Hyndman and the popular radicals to accept the label 'socialist'. (Bevir 73) William Morris, who joined the Democratic Federation in 1883, soon became its coleader, and under the double leadership the group evolved towards a socialist party, and in 1884, its name was changed to the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). The SDF membership rose rapidly in the middle 1890s, reaching over 10,000 in 137 branches all over the country. (Tsuzuki 108)

The SDF press organs

Edward Carpenter, a former Cambridge don who had given up his fellowship to live the simple life in a cottage near Sheffield, where he wrote &ldquoTowards Democracy,&rdquo a long socialist verse in the style of Walt Whitman, welcomed the emergence of a new socialist movement and gave the Federation a donation of 300 pounds (Tzusuki 52). The money was used to start a weekly paper, called Justice and subtitled 'Organ of the Social Democracy'. Its first number appeared on 19th January 1884, and within a few weeks Hyndman became its editor. Hyndman and his party comrades sold the newspaper for one penny in London's busiest thoroughfare. Jack Williams, a member of the SDF recalled:

There was Hyndman, in his immaculate frock coat and high hat there was Morris, dressed in his usual blue serge suit and soft hat Joynes in his aesthetic dress Champion looking every inch the military man Frost looking every inch the aristocrat Quelch and myself in our everyday working clothes. I am sure we made an impression on that day. [Tsuzuki 52]

Until the end of the Victorian era, Justice remained one of the most highly respected socialist newspapers in Britain. It published many articles on socialist theory and history, but less on the daily concerns of the working class, and therefore, it failed to attract a wider readership (Crick 40).

The SDF also published from 1897 a monthly magazine, the Social Democrat , which brought more theoretical issues and translations of foreign socialist publications. It began as a twopenny magazine of 32 pages, and continued in that form for six years. In 1903, it was expanded to 64 pages and issued at 6d. However, the sale steadily diminished and in 1908 its price was reduced to threepence. In January, 1912, the Social Democrat was renamed the British Socialist .

Forms of agitation

The Social Democratic Federation exerted a marginal influence on the labour movement in the late Victorian era largely because of its relatively small membership and sectarian divisions. The SDF was successful in campaigning on behalf of the unemployed and free speech, but was unable to create a strong nationwide socialist movement in Britain.

The SDF was focused on political activity and tried unsuccessfully to run candidates in the 1885 General Election. However, the Federation damaged its reputation by accepting money from the Tories to run three of its socialist candidates.

The SDF also perceived itself as an educational, political organisation which had a mission to enlighten the working classes to the iniquities of capitalism and the advantages of socialism. To this end, the SDF contributed to the emergence of the network of Socialist Sunday Schools for children in 1886, which were set up as alternatives to Christian Sunday Schools. They taught children socialist ideas and ethical principles.

The Trafalgar Square Riots (Black Monday and Bloody Sunday)

In the years 1885-87, the SDF branches in London organised several demonstrations of the unemployed, calling for &ldquoA Right to Work.&rdquo On 8 February 1886, its leadership and a rival organisation, the London United Workingmen’s Committee, participated simultaneously in a demonstration which began peacefully in Trafalgar Square, but after the speeches, a crowd of 5,000 marched down Pall Mall, smashing windows and looting shops. After pausing in Hyde Park, much of the crowd then returned down Oxford Street, again breaking windows and looting, until it was dispersed by the police using a baton charge. The riot was later called Black Monday (Bevir 37). On 13 November 1887, the SDF and the Irish National League participated in another demonstration in support of the unemployed, coercion in Ireland and the release of MP William O'Brien, the Irish agitator. The demonstration, which was later called Bloody Sunday, turned into a violent riot as a result of which three people were killed and over two hundred wounded. These two unsuccessful demonstrations in the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee diminished the revolutionary spirit within the SDF leadership.

Attitude to trade unions

The SDF was criticised for overlooking the role of trade unions, although many of its members were active in labour movement. Some of them led the 'New Unions' of the 1880s. Will Thorne, led the National Union of Gasworkers & General Labourers John Burns and Ben Tillett played an important role in the London Dock Strike of 1889.

Nevertheless, Hyndman was rather contemptuous of trade unionism in the early 1880s. Paradoxically, by family background and by political formation he was a radical Tory socialist rather than a Marxist socialist. He failed to take advantage of the growing power of new trade unionism, and wasted his talent on doctrinaire, mechanistic interpretations of Marxist theory. Hyndman believed that the welfare of the working-class could be improved through parliamentary reform and not through trade union agitation.

The SDF and the Woman Question

The SDF was ambivalent about the women's movement. Hyndman, Harry Quelch (editor of Justice ) and Belfort Bax were critical of the suffragettes, but some others, for example, Charlotte Despard, Dora B. Montefiore and George Lansbury supported women's suffrage (David Young 5-6). Women, especially middle-class women, were generally perceived as a conservative force within society and as such were regarded as an enemy of socialism (oung 90).

However, the female members of the SDF expressed a different opinion about feminist activism. In 1909, one of the prominent female members of the SDF, Dora Montefiore stated that:

nothing but a social and economic revolution, in which, women themselves take a conscious and active part, can make for them complete emancipation. For this reason, we militant women strongly protest against the idea that Socialism can be given us by men. It is in working for our own emancipation that we shall gain that inner freedom, that sense of striking off our own chains, that really frees the individual. [93]

The anti-suffrage attitude remained quite strong in the SDF until 1907, when the SDF published its manifesto on the Question of Universal Suffrage. However, &ldquothe idea of the 'woman worker,'&rdquo as David Murray Young writes, &ldquowas not unproblematic for the SDF. Many believed that the phrase was self-contradictory and that under socialism women would not be a part of the workforce&rdquo (99).

Factions in SDF and secession

There were a few factions within the early SDF. Hyndman's faction aimed to create a united Marxist party in Britain. The second faction, led by John Burns, was less interested in Marxist radical ideology, but more in trade union activism and industrial disputes. The third faction, led by Joseph Lane, had an anarchist bias and was opposed to parliamentary politics. The fourth faction included intellectuals, such as William Morris and Ernest Belfort Bax, who were critical of Marxist economic determinism. Two more factions were regional one was in Scotland and the other in Ireland.

On 23 December 1884, a major split occurred within the Social Democratic Federation which led to the resignation of William Morris, Belfort Bax, Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling, and a few other prominent members of the Federation. The secessionists accused Hyndman of 'autocratic' rule.

The secession of William Morris and his supporters from the SDF and the formation of the Socialist League in reaction to the autocratic leadership of Henry Hyndman proved that there were fundamental divisions within British socialism which thwarted the formation of a united socialist party in Britain at the end of the Victorian era.

The subsequent offshoots of the SDF included the Socialist Labour Party (1903), the Socialist Party of Great Britain (1904), and the National Socialist Party (1916). Some former members of the SDF turned to local working-class activism and later joined with the Fabian Society or the Independent Labour Party, and eventually, the Labour Party.

In spite of a severe blow caused by the secessions, the SDF continued to exist as an Anglo-Marxist organisation in the early twentiethth century, but its popularity faded. The SDF participated in the inauguration conference of the Labour Party in 1900, but remained ambivalent about its politics until 1918, when it adopted a socialist programme. In 1907, the SDF changed its name to the Social Democratic Party. The Social Democratic Federation was revived by Hyndman in 1919, when the National Socialist Party changed its name. After Hyndman's death in 1921, the SDF affiliated with the Labour Party. It ceased to exist after the outbreak of World War Two.

Conclusion

The Social Democratic Federation was a strand in late Victorian socialism and the first Marxist party in Britain, although Hyndman, quarreled with both Marx and Engels, who regarded him not as a socialist but a British 'chauvinist' and 'jingoist.' The SDF attracted, but did not always retain, the support of many of radical reformers and labour agitators, as well as some Tory radicals, who were adherents of Hyndman, but it could never effectively rouse the masses. However, it should be emphasised that in late Victorian Britain, H. M. Hyndman, the founder of the SDF and forerunner of Anglo-Marxism, was more identified with socialism than his famous contemporaries, Karl Marx, William Morris, or Bernard Shaw, and the SDF, which shared a lot of features of traditional English radicalism, remained the most pronounced Marxist organisation in England until the breaking out of the First World War. Its weakness lay not only in an uncritical adherence to vulgar and dogmatic Marxism (plain economic determinism), but also in an inability to understand the political potential of the growing trade unions and industrial actions.

References and Further Reading

Bauman, Zygmunt. Between Class and Elite: The Evolution of the British Labour Movement: A Sociological Study . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1972.

Beer, M. History of British Socialism . London: George Bell, 1929.

Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx:His Life and Environment . New York: Time, 1963.

Bevir, Mark. The Making of British Socialism . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Busky, Donald F. Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey . Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2000.

Collins, H. "The Marxism of the Social Democratic Federation," in Essays in Labour History, 1886–1923 , ed. A. Briggs and J. Saville. London: Macmillan, 1971.

Crick, Martin. The History of the Social-Democratic Federation . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

Ely, Richard T. Socialism: An Examination of Its Nature, Its Strength and Its Weakness, with Suggestions for Social Reform . New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1894.

Etherington, Norman. &ldquoHyndman, the Social-Democratic Federation and Imperialism,&rdquo Historical Studies , 16(62) 1974, 89-103.

Johnson, Graham. Social Democratic Politics in Britain 1881-1911 . Lewiston, Queenston and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.

Howell, David. British Workers and the Independent Labour Party 1888-1906 . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983.

Hobsbawm, E. Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959.

Hunt, Karen. Equivocal Feminists: The Social Democratic Federation and the Woman Question . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hyndmann, Henry Mayers. England for All. The Text-Book of Democracy . London: Gilbert and Rivington, 1881.

______. The Historical Basis of Socialism in England . London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co., 1883.

______. The Record of an Adventurous Life . London: Macmillan, 1911.

Thompson, E. The Making of the English Working Class . Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

____. William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary . London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1955.

Tsuzuki, Chushichi. H. M. Hyndman and British Socialism . London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Young, James D. Socialism and the English Working Class: A History of English Labour 1883-1939 . Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989.


Army Reform

Source : Social Democrat, Vol. IX No. 11, November, 1905, pp. 663-665
Transcribed : by Ted Crawford.

Whatever other charge may be laid against the members of the present Administration no one will, most assuredly, ever accuse them of undue modesty. If there is one department in which more than any other the record has been one of ghastly failure, it is the army yet here we have that opera-bouffe army reformer, the present Secretary of State for War, not only glorifying what he has already accomplished, but bragging of what he intends to do. Speaking recently at Croydon, he prophesied that in three years’ time the army would be better than it had ever been. Mr. Arnold-Forster should remember the old proverb, and refrain from prophesying until after the event. Considerably more than three years have elapsed since Lord Roberts assured us that the South African War was over yet, according to “our greatest general,” nothing has yet been done to remedy the defects of army organisation which manifested themselves in that campaign. Mr. Arnold-Forster has but a short time in which to remedy all this. For one thing everybody interested in army reform may be grateful for, and that is that before three years have elapsed, the present War Secretary will be relieved of all further responsibility in the matter. This consideration, however, does not deter him from bold assertions with regard to the future. There is to be a perfect transformation in three years. The men are to be better men, the artillery will be stronger than it has ever been in our history, the armament will be the best in Europe, the organisation will be the best for many years, and the reserve far greater than it has ever been.

We wonder how it is all going to be accomplished. Mr. Arnold-Forster says that he has regarded the army as purely a weapon for war – that, doubtless, is a step in advance, his predecessors probably have generally regarded it as a weapon for peace, to shoot down mutinous workmen, or as a plaything for princes – and we must have a long-service army. Why the present Secretary for War should have arrived at such a conclusion, seeing that the tendency among the chief military nations of the Continent is towards reducing the term of service, and how he expects to get more and better men for a long-service army than under the short-service system, we cannot pretend to say. Neither is it easy to discover how, with such a long-service army, even supplemented by short-service men “passing rapidly through the ranks,” a reserve, “greater than there has ever been,” is to be provided. This, at any rate, is quite certain, that if better men, and more of them, are to be attracted to the army, and for a long term of service, they will require better pay. If the scheme of the Government as thus shadowed forth is to be carried out, our army, like our food, will “cost us more.”

It will be well, therefore, before people go into ecstasies over Mr. Arnold-Forster’s bright vision of a re-organised and effective army, for them to ask themselves if they are prepared to bear the additional cost. We are paying pretty dearly for our army now. It costs some forty millions a year, or two-thirds of the total national expenditure of thirty years ago. But if we are to get better men and more of them, it is quite certain that it will cost considerably more. It will be interesting to see how the Liberals, who will inherit Mr. Arnold-Forster’s great scheme, will contrive to effect their promised retrenchment in military expenditure.

As a matter of fact, of course, it will be quite impossible for the Liberals to retrench if only a portion of this latest scheme of the latest army reformer becomes an accomplished fact within the next two years. There is only one method by which any appreciable reduction in expenditure can be achieved and that is by a reduction of the number of men enrolled. But neither party is prepared to approve of that. On the contrary, all are agreed that the army needs strengthening rather than weakening. That is out of the question, without increasing the cost, unless the principle of universal military training, in some form or another, is adopted. We know that Mr. Arnold-Forster is not in favour of that, and has made himself responsible for a preposterous estimate of its cost. Yet it is not difficult to show that such a system would be far cheaper than any standing regular army of professional soldiers could possibly be under any circumstances, to say nothing of a long-service army. We are glad to see that Lord Roberts is in opposition to Arnold-Forster on this issue, and the prospective Liberal Government will have to choose between a costly long-service army of professional soldiers, a weapon alike for peace and war, or universal military training, which will enable vast economies to be effected in military expenditure, and will render the maintenance of a standing army unnecessary.


Quelch Tom

Harry, Tom's father, died before the formation of a British Communist Party but had been General Secretary of the Social Democratic Federation, an early Marxist formation. As such he edited its newspaper, Justice and in 1901 had shared an office in Clerkenwell Green with Lenin. Indeed, it had been Harry Quelch who had arranged for the SDF to print Lenin's newspaper, which had been banned in Russia. Harry Quelch&rsquos funeral on 20 th September 1913 at Forest Hill Cemetery was attended by Kier Hardie, Ben Tillett, and H M Hyndman and a a huge crowd of supporters.

His son, Tom was a leading Communist in the early 1920s and d elegate from the British Socialist Party to the second congress of the Communist International, which was held from July 19th to August 7th 1920 in Moscow and Petrograd (St Petersburg). He was also at the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East held in September 1920.

This led to service on a c ommission of the Comintern to examine the differences between two Indian Communist factions. This seems to have been a rather high-powered affair as well as Tom Quelch , the Commission was composed of Michael Borodin , August Thalheimer (the theoretician of the German Communist Party), S J Rutgers (Holland), Mátyás Rákosi (Hungary), and James Bell (also of Britain).


Contents

Formative period (1911-1913)

The founding conference which established the British Socialist Party was called by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a group best remembered to history by its pre-1908 moniker, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). The old SDF had long sought the unity of the British Left, having originally begun negotiations on the topic with the Independent Labour Party (ILP) not long after the formation of the latter in 1893. Ώ] The ILP had long been unwilling to merge forces with a doctrinaire Marxist organization such as the SDF, however, and unity negotiations had reached an impasse. Finally, as the decade of the 1910s dawned, there seemed to be some interest in the topic among the rank and file of the ILP, and the 1910 Annual Conference of the SDF/SDP had decided to try again in earnest. ΐ]

The gathering, held in Salford also drew some Independent Labour Party branches and groups adhering to the Clarion newspaper, alongside individuals and representatives of smaller socialist groups. It continued to publish the SDF's newspaper, Justice. The resulting organisation, the BSP, contained a multiplicity of views and was organized as a loose federation of clubs and branches rather than as a centralised and disciplined party. Α]

Leading members of the former SDF, led by the party's patriarch, H. M. Hyndman, rapidly took control of the new organisation. This leading group advocated that the BSP place an emphasis on electoral politics and the effort to capture the state through the ballot box rather than through labour agitation, the formation of trade unions, and pursuit of an extra-parliamentary route to power via the strike movement.

This cautious, electoral orientation of Hyndman and the early BSP leadership put the party at odds with the tumultuous situation in workplaces around the country. The last five years before the eruption of World War I in August 1914 were a period of mass labour turmoil. As one historian has noted:

"The mass strike wave of 1910 to 1914 remains unique in British history. A wild, elemental, pent-up force seemed suddenly let loose, disregarding precedents and agreements, impatient of compromise, shaking the old complacent trade unionism by the ears, sometimes, as in the rail strike of 1911, forcing conservative leaders ahead of it like fallen leaves driven before an autumn wind. The trade union leaders, almost to a man, deplored it, the government viewed it with alarm. yet disregarding everything, encouraged only by a small minority of syndicalist leaders, the great strike wave rolled on, threatening to sweep away everything before it." Β]

The 2nd Conference of the BSP was held 10 to 12 May 1913 at the seaside town of Blackpool. It was attended by about 100 delegates, the majority of whom stood in opposition to the standing Executive Committee of the party. This executive was headed by Henry Hyndman one of the founders of the SDF, an individual who had grown steadily more nationalistic in viewpoint, coming to advocate greater funding the British military to oppose German belligerency. This proved increasingly controversial within the BSP, and opposition to militarism among the party's rank and file came to a head at the 2nd Conference.

The events of the 1913 Blackpool Conference were described by a radical Russian émigré named Vladimir Ulyanov, better known to history by his pen name, N. Lenin:

"[Hyndman] has been acting for a number of years without any attention to the party, and even against the party, on the important question of armaments and war. Hyndman has got it into his head that Germany is threatening to crush and enslave Britain and that socialists should, therefore, support the demand for a 'proper' (i.e., strong) navy for the defence of Britain! * * *

"Understandably, this fancy idea of Hyndman's pleased the British bourgeoisie (the Conservatives and the Liberals). It can also be understood that British Social-Democrats — be it said to their credit — would not tolerate this disgrace and shame and heatedly opposed it.

"The struggle was a long and stubborn one attempts at a compromise were made, but Hyndman was incorrigible. It is greatly to the advantage of British Socialism that Hyndman was forced to leave the executive at this Conference and the composition of the executive was, in general, changed by 75 percent (of its eight members only two were reelected — Quelch and Irving)." Γ]

Further turnover of the executive soon followed, with Harry Quelch dying in London on 17 September 1913.

Internationalism versus national defence (1914-1916)

The party was hampered by a steady attrition of members and branches due to poor organization. A significant percentage of the membership had no clear conception of Marxist theory and were unwilling to dedicate time and effort to advancing the mission of the organization. Δ]

On 13 April 1914 a meeting was convened by the International Socialist Bureau between representatives of three of Britain's leading socialist organisations — the BSP, the Independent Labour Party, and the Fabian Society. The body recommended the formation of a United Socialist Council for the three groups, if the BSP would affiliate with the Labour Party. In line with this recommendation, the party's 1914 Annual Conference decided to take a membership referendum on the question. Ε]

The 2nd Conference of the BSP of May 1913 did not resolve the fundamental question facing the party — the decision as to whether it should pursue a policy of anti-militarist internationalism, come what may, or whether it should rally around the flag in the event of military conflict with foreign enemies. The nationalist Hyndman faction had been dealt a defeat at Blackpool, but they remained in the organisation and licked their wounds, preparing for the next battle in the factional war.

The eruption of the Great War in August 1914 made the question of unification of the British socialist movement largely moot. All socialist organisation split over the question to greater or lesser degree, between left wing "internationalist" factions, which continued to seek the united action of the working class against worldwide capitalism without regard to territorial boundaries, and right wing "defencists," who rallied to their national colors to defend their country in time of military conflict. This tension between internationalism and national defence was particularly acute in the BSP, as the bitter disagreement had already shown itself in the factional politics of the organisation before the start of the war. Henry Hyndman was the unquestioned leader of the pro-nationalist BSP right, while Zelda Kahan (later Zelda Coates) was the leader of the BSP's internationalist wing. Ζ]

Early in 1915 came the inevitable split, with the conservative Hyndman wing of the party leaving to form the Socialist National Defence League, while the leadership was defeated in elections in 1916 by an internationalist group, essentially pacifist, supporting the programme of the Zimmerwald Conference. Hyndman and his followers established the National Socialist Party.

John Maclean, the party's leader in Scotland, played a leading role in Red Clydeside strikes during World War I.

Triumph of the anti-militarist wing (1916-1918)

The party's new leadership, around Secretary Albert Inkpin, Treasurer Alf Watts, and key labour leader John Maclean maintained the desire to join the Second International. The BSP was finally accepted into the Labour Party later that year.

BSP as a proto-communist party (1918-1920)

The BSP was a de facto Communist Party prior to the establishment of the CPGB in the summer of 1920.

By 1918, a large percentage of the party, including Inkpin and Maclean, were inspired by the lead of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution and determined to establish a British Communist Party on the model of Lenin's organization in Russia. From this time forward the BSP, devoid of its right wing since 1916, emerged as a de facto Communist party.

Negotiations about unity began with the Socialist Labour Party, a group centered in Scotland espousing a vision of revolutionary industrial unionism not far removed from the Russian soviets, but no agreement could be reached on various organizational details, including the question of whether the new party should affiliate to the Labour Party. An interlude in which the British political landscape was sprinkled with an array of small radical grouplets followed.

The BSP remained the largest of the proto-Communist radical organizations, however, claiming a membership of about 6,000 in 1920. Η] The BSP also gained the cachet of parliamentary representation when it was joined by former Liberal Party MP Cecil L'Estrange Malone.

The BSP remained patient and persistent in its efforts to establish a new Communist Party in Great Britain. ⎖] During the weekend of 31 July to 1 August 1920, a founding convention was held in London at which the Communist Party of Great Britain was established. The new organization included some dissident members of the SLP and representatives of several other small radical groups, such as the South Wales Socialist Society and the South Wales Communist Council (SWCC), individuals affiliated with the radical shop steward's movement, and adherents of a pro-Comintern faction of the Independent Labour Party. ⎗]

A Joint Provisional Committee was chosen to organise the foundation convention of the new party. Representatives of the BSP were J.F. Hodgson, A.A. "Alf" Watts, and Fred Willis, joined by Tom Bell, Arthur MacManus, and William Paul of the "Communist Unity Group" faction formerly associated with the SLP, as well as W.J. Hewlett of the SWCC. Secretary was Albert Inkpin of the BSP. The group agreed in advance that a Provisional Executive Committee should be established by the forthcoming Communist Party of Great Britain by the Convention electing six more to add to this list. ⎘]

Effective with the merger, the BSP and its newspaper, The Call, was terminated, replaced by the new party with its new weekly publication published in London called The Communist.


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