1900s >> 1908 >> no-48-august-1908

The Pease that Passeth Understanding

I have before me as I write a most interesting document. It is from Mr. E. R. Pease, the secretary of the Fabian Society, who writes under date of May 23rd, 1908, thus—

 

  “It would take too long to describe the difference between the S.P.G.B. and the I.L.P. in full. Briefly the I.L.P. is the most important political body of Socialists in England, and it largely controls the policy of the Labour Party. It is the form of Socialism which is going to win in England. The Fabian and the I.L.P. are different sides of the same movement, and work together cordially. The S.P.G.B. is, so far as 1 know, and I do not profess to speak with much information, a tiny body of half educated young men who think that the State can be reformed by the use of violent language and who are convinced that everybody who does not belong to their little sect is a traitor, a fool or a criminal. I understand that their main occupation is disturbing the meetings of other Socialists.”

 

So now you know what the genial Pease thinks about us. He doesn’t speak with much information of course, he is only half educated on the matter as it were, but we are only a half educated lot whose main occupation is disturbing the meetings of other Socialists. The justice of this Pease is a sweet thing. Let us treasure it. Let me go even further and attempt to emulate it. “I do not profess to speak with much information,” but I understand that Mr. Pease is regularly carried home drunk and knocks his wife about summat shameful. He doesn’t wash his neck and it is rumoured that Bernard Shaw has to keep his hand in his money pocket every time he visits the Fabian office for fear the hand of the secretary might stray into it! Let me add that I am prepared to lay six to four (I do not speak with much information but I understand that is a term well understood in the Fabian Society) that I have nearly as much evidence for my statement as Mr. Pease has for his.

 

But I’m comforted a little by the information that, although only half educated, we are Socialists. Obviously, we cannot disturb other Socialists if we are not. True, I had no idea before that a Socialist as such could be half educated, and even now I am not convinced. I prefer to think that this is another matter upon which my dear friend Pease speaks without information. Indeed, I am sure of it. It is the only possible explanation of his description of the I.L.P. as a body of Socialists. How can they be Socialists if they are another side of the same movement that embraces the Fabian Society? The thing is inconceivable.

 

Well, but what is this movement to which the I.L.P. and Fabian Society belong if it is not Socialist?  ’Tis the voice of the earnest seeker after truth I hear. And he has put me a poser. 1 hardly know how best to answer. Perhaps, after all, the implied description of Mr. Pease himself is the best answer. It is the movement that is after the control of the Labour Party. And as the I.L.P. is the same sort of thing as the Fabian Society, and as the Fabian Society is the Lord High Exponent of the back-door and subterranean method which it glorifies by the name of the ‘‘policy of permeation,” it follows that the I.L.P. movement is after the control of the Labour Party without knowing anything about it.

 

If that is the idea, and I can see no other, and if that constitutes the I.L.P. the most important political body of Socialists (I deny them the right to the use of the term “Socialist,” of course), so much the worse for their movement. They will be found out one of these fine days, and then well, the Pease that passeth all understanding to-day will have a little more information upon the only method by which Socialism can be won by the workers.  Even now the I.L.P. leaders who wish to control the Labour Party, body and bones and money-bags, are rather concerned about the Labour Party seeing the game too soon. Consequently I am given to understand, as Mr. Pease would say, that no more I.L.P. candidates are to be run on Labour Party money until the number of Labour Party candidates more closely approximates to the proportion to which the amount of their contribution to the Party funds entitles them. Interesting developments are hourly expected.

 

As to the biting irony of the perfect Pease’s reference to our size and our youth, I’m afraid it is a case of pot and kettle as far as the first is concerned, and sour grapes in regard to the second. We are not a large body when compared with the Tory or Liberal Parties, but there’s more of us than a superman and an amanuensis. Can you say as much, prosperity Pease? And the virility of youth is preferable to the senility of the lean and slipper’d pantaloon period — what? Besides, the test of our membership is knowledge. The test of your membership is subscription. And even then you can’t get members. Oh ! Pease. Yours must be a rotten organisation!

A. James