Harry Quelch 1913

London For Socialism

Source: Harry Quelch, Justice, August 2, 1913, p.2;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Seldom have I been more delighted with, or encouraged by anything which has appeared in “Justice” than I was by the article in last week’s issue by our friend J. J. Terrett on “London for Socialism.”

Just when some of those who have for a generation stood in the front of the battle appear to be weary, of well-doing, and for some unaccountable reasons are advising a strategic movement to the rear, comes this cheery and inspiring call to action from quite the youngest “veteran” in the Socialist movement. In the same number I asked, “Shall we haul down our flag? and without waiting to hear the question there comes this buoyant, cheery, encouraging, confident and defiant “No!”

Good! I firmly believe that Terrett is right; and I am deeply grieved that I am physically incapacitated from throwing myself into the work with the vigour he is showing, and which I sincerely hope will be emulated by others.

I am the more encouraged because of the quarter from which this rallying cry comes. Terrett has the faults of his qualities. He has committed not a few indiscretions in the course of his connection with the Socialist movement, and we have had occasion to quarrel with him seriously more than once. But he has the flair, and as keen a nose for political developments in the immediate future as any man I know. He is, moreover, a born fighter. When Terrett is in anything, it is going to be lively. Pugnacity is one of his most striking characteristics, but he does not fight, as a rule, for the mere love of it. He fights to win. He is an “organiser of victory.” Other things being equal, it is ten to one in an electoral contest on that party which has Terrett on its side. He it was, more than any other one man, who organised the remarkable series of victories which almost put Socialism in power in South West Ham, which made that borough the point of attack of all the most bitter reactionaries for some years, and which would have achieved far more than was accomplished in a Socialist direction if only his efforts had not been too often thwarted by weakling Labourists on the one hand and hypercritical impossibilists on the other.

Few of the younger generation of Socialists know anything of Terrett or of his early work in the movement Still quite a young man, he has a record of service unequalled by few and excelled by none of his age. The Socialist movement has been and is rich in men who have devoted themselves, whole-heartedly, to unrequited service in its ranks. It has called for the devotion, the heroism, the faithfulness and the self-abnegation of the fanatic, and it has found these in no small degree among those who have allied to its banner. But few have been able to do what Terrett has done, and none has ever done quite the same thing. Some five and-twenty years or so ago Terrett, without purse or scrip, often ill-clad, his feet bursting through his boots, armed only with a Blue Book, tramped from town to town throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire preaching the gospel of Socialism.

We are sometimes told that we have made no progress, that we have lived through thirty years of futility of effort and of ploughing the sands. Ask Terettt! The Socialist agitator of to-day may not find his lot a too easy one, but it is a bed of roses compared with that which Terrett and others had to put up with. Now the Socialist agitator goes to a town on the invitation of at least a number of friends. His railway fare is paid, and he is sure of hospitality and a cordial welcome. How different the circumstances when Terrett was, literally on the road. Then he had to take Shanks’ pony instead of the train for the journey, and had more reason to anticipate a hostile than a friendly reception. But, big. strong, heavy, in spite of the fact that he was only a boy in his teens, with apparently unlimited vigour, strong as a horse and brave as a lion; complete master of his case by his perfectly marvellous faculty for digesting Blue Books and similar dry-as-dust literature, and with full confidence in the cause, Terrett simply bore down all opposition, and became in time the most popular open-air speaker in the movement.

And Terrett knows his London, and he knows that although there may not be much of a working-class movement here, what there is of it is Social-Democratic and not Labourist. The fin fleur of a pallid Labouriam has never flourished in the dry atmosphere of this metropolis. Whenever it has put forth any sprigs they have immediately withered. Cynical and sceptical, like the inhabitants of most capital cities, the cockney calls for something more robust and inspiring than a colourless Labourism. London for Socialism! It is a great and inspiring idea, and I am sure that if we get to work instead of hankering after props and leaning-posts we can achieve that idea. I, personally, am grateful to Terrett for having sounded this note of encouragement, and hope it will meet with a ready response from all London comrades, and we shall then soon have an organised army on the march for the conquest of London for Socialism