|Written||11 September 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 369-371.
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, 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 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....
- Justice—a weekly founded in London in 1884 as the central organ of the Social Democratic Federation of Great Britain; from 1911 onwards it was the organ of the British Socialist Party. When the party was split in 1916 it became the organ of the minority of social chauvinists; it continued publication until 1925.
In 1902 and 1903, Lenin’s Iskra was printed by the Justice press.
- The party here referred to is the British Socialist Party, founded in 1911.—Ed.