E. Belfort Bax

Harry Quelch

(27 September 1913)

E. Belfort Bax, Harry Quelch, Justice, 27th September 1913, p.4. [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

Quelch is dead! To us of the “Old Guard” it is difficult to realise that this beloved leader of the Cause is no more. Harry Quelch was, as it were, the personification in his own person of the Social-Democratic Federation, in a way perhaps, even more than its great founder, our dear and esteemed comrade, Henry Mayers Hyndman. No one can be more devoted to the Cause than Hyndman; that we all know. But Hyndman has always been a man of many interests, supreme though that of Socialism is undoubtedly among them. For Quelch, however, his whole life, from its centre to its circumference, ever since he joined the movement, a generation ago, had, as its single interest and single aim transformation of the civilisation of the present into the Socialism of the future. For him there was but one Socialism, the International Socialism based on the teaching of Karl Marx, and there was but one organisation in this country which embodied this Socialism, and that was the Social-Democratic Federation (now represented by the British Socialist Party). Meyerbeer in the Huguenots has given in the character of Marcel the personification of the religious enthusiast of the Reformation period as symbolised in the strains of the Lutheran hymn, Ein’ feste Burg. Similarly with Quelch, I have always felt that if the religion of our modern period, the religion of Socialism, were to be symbolised in a musical theme (which unfortunately at present it is not), that that musical theme would ever stand for the personality of Harry Quelch, just as Ein’ feste Burg does for that of the old Huguenot soldiers in Meyerbeer’s opera. The life of Harry Quelch was the life of the International Socialist movement. The whole man was absorbed in the great Cause he had espoused.

It has been said of Harry Quelch that, affectionate comrade though he was, he was also a good hater. In a certain sense this may have been true. He was, as are so many men of character, strong both in his likes and dislikes. But his dislikes were never mere whims of personal antipathy, or caused, as is so often the case, by some petty offence or slight, real or imagined. If Quelch entertained any strong feeling of dislike to any person, it was always because he conceived, rightly or wrongly, that that person was a danger to the movement – either that he was aiming at exploiting the movement for his personal ends, or had already done so, or that he was vain and a poseur, or, at the best, that he was unsound in his Socialism. To those whom he conceived to belong to one or other of these categories, he had, it is true, an intrinsic aversion, which he was not always at pains to hide. On the other hand, those whom he had really taken to his heart – whatever their shortcomings may have been – those whom he regarded as au fond, sincere and true comrades, had no more constant and affectionate friend than Harry Quelch. He was, to use a favourite expression of his to those with whom he was intimate, always “a good pal.”

The personal loss sustained by the comparatively few who enjoyed his close friendship can never be fully repaired even by time, that great healer of wounds, moral and material. I know, for my own part, I shall always miss the opportunity of discussing with him the passing events and current questions of the day, of hearing his acute criticism in the light of what he conceived to be their true interpretation from the standpoint of his own stern and unbending Socialist principles. I cannot but feel how immeasurably poorer England is to-day for the loss of that strong, true and sincere nature. He is gone, but his memory lives for us. Of none has the often-repeated phrase greater reality than of Harry Quelch – “He has fought a good fight, he has finished his course, he has kept the faith!”



1. A tribute to Quelch published with those of many others including Hyndman, James Macdonald, Dan Irving, Edward Hartley and the Countess of Warwick after his funeral which occurred on the 20th, a week previously. Bax was present among the mourners.


Last updated on 28.5.2007