05. Anarchism Develops in the Socialist League

For all its hopeful beginnings there was a built-in time-bomb in the Socialist League. The group of people that had seceded from the S.D.F. had done so for different reasons, some because of hostility to Hyndman, others because of hostility to Hyndman and his politics. There were continual attempts by the group that initially centred on the Avelings to turn the League into an electoral party. At first these attempts took no great part of the League's time or attention. The first proposals that the League should strive 'to conquer political power by promoting the election of Socialists' were rejected at the annual conference in June 1885. [1] Another attempt was made the following year and was again defeated. Morris wrote : 'the alterers were defeated and bore their defeat with good temper.' [2] From this point on things began to deteriorate. In September 1886 Lane was putting a motion to the League Council which asserted that 'some speakers of the League are in the habit of advocating Parliamentary action and palliatives of the present system as a means of bringing about socialism. The council believes that this is opposed to the principles of the League and to the wishes of a large majority of the members [and] requests those speakers to desist from advocating this means of propaganda.' [3] By the summer of 1887 Morris was writing that : 'I am trying to get the League to make peace with each other and hold together for another year. It is a tough job; something like the worst kind of pig-driving I should think.' [4]

In two years then, the inner circles of the Socialist League had been transformed from examples of harmonious 'agreeing to differ' to a quarrelsome battleground. Without doubt the disputes were over electoral involvement though the course of the argument is not totally clear. By 1886, however, the parliamentary faction were using the opportunity provided by the branch structure and name of the League to advocate their policy. Naturally enough, this could be expected to annoy the anti-parliamentarians in the organization. But whereas at the base this advocacy could be seen as the occasional expression of 'personal opinion', in the council and its committee it was more clearly perceived as the deliberate policy of a faction. The conflict began to explode with monotonous regularity. On one level this took the form of a power struggle - which the parliamentarians equally monotonously won. Aveling resigned as co-editor of the Commonweal in early 1886, presumably for doctrinal reasons. ( He was encouraged in this by Eleanor Marx and Engels - the latter after a brief honeymoon period was now calling the League and its paper a 'swindle'. [5] ) Bax, who succeeded Aveling, also 'resigned' in early 1887 when he too began to hanker after involvement in elections. Attempts were made to dissolve the Ways and Means Committee which was, in effect, the real executive of the League. [6] This was always dominated by the anti-parliamentarians and was bitterly regarded by their opponents, particularly because it handled the information that went to branches from the council. It is significant that the motion to dissolve it came from its one parliamentarian member who was in a position to know its activities. This power struggle emerged into full view at the 1887 and 1888 conferences, though it remained more or less restricted to the council before then.

On another level the dispute was an ideological one - or rather one from which ideology developed. All the seceders from the S.D.F. had been opposed to any shoddy alliances with the Radicals and related kinds of electoral jiggery-pokery. Their suspicions of Hyndman's opportunism seemed amply justified by his organization's disastrous involvement with the 1885 general election. Yet the group round the Avelings had a general commitment from the beginning to a socialism on the German Social Democrat model, and found a natural sympathy with those who called for an independent political party of labour. The activists of the L.E.L. and the English Revolutionary Society, on the other hand, had been used to an issue-based propaganda and had an ultimate commitment to mass revolutionary action. The group round Morris was concerned to 'make socialists' by an educational propaganda without intrigue or compromise with day-to-day exigencies. For the time being the latter two groups could work well enough together and could not be expected to do other than oppose any specific proposals for electoral activity. For Morris the issue was clear; the only time that socialists should endeavour to enter Parliament was when it was time to break it up and in the mean time education was the only worthwhile activity. [7] For Kitz, Lane, Mowbray and Mainwaring and their group the situation was somewhat different. They were activists rather than educators. Their joy at every manifestation of working-class rebellion and their experience of various agitations left them hazy when it came to a formulation of a unified theory and strategy. Confronted with a body of people like the parliamentary faction who did have a coherent reformist strategy they were forced to develop or accept ideas which could provide them with a more general scenario. These ideas were progressively Anarchist.

When Engels wrote in 1886 'the anarchists are making rapid progress in the Socialist League', whether he knew it or not he was not talking about any coherent Anarchist faction but of a faction trying to achieve coherence through a self-developed Anarchism. The only committed Anarchists in the organization were exiles like Dave. That the process of self-education was messy there was no doubt. A trades union member resigned from the council in 1886 because of its inconclusive wranglings ( though it is worth pointing out that he was also a parliamentarian ). He wrote : 'I earnestly hope the League is not going to degenerate into a mere Quixotic debating society for the discussion of philosophic fads. I care not how angelic may be the theories of Anarchists or Anarchist-Communists. I contend that the real solid basis of the Revolutionary movement is the economic question.' [8] The irritation of this correspondent seems to have been a feature of Council proceedings generally. The general wranglings were both resented and felt to be inevitable. The L.E.L. activists for example were evidently furious that so much time had to be spent on them yet felt that they had to continue to defend the original principles of the League and develop the polemic or give up the League to the parliamentarians. Lane, particularly, was irritated in the extreme that he could spend so little time on organization in the East End.

Meanwhile the branches were carrying on in their own way and where able people were involved they were doing good work. They were being let down by the council which could have provided a forum for creative thinking but which was locked in increasingly bitter strife. It was inevitable that this would spill out into the League as a whole. As the 1887 Conference approached Lane circulated a leaflet to the membership which illustrates something of what was going on. It also fired the first shots in the now public battle. He wrote :

Comrades, Directly after our last conference which endorsed the policy carried out by the League hitherto, two separate parties were formed on the Council, caused by the fact that as early as July members on and off the Council were publicly urging the League into a parliamentary course of action; the other party wished to maintain the League as an educational party of principle.

As an attempt to make an understanding possible it was decided to draft a policy agreeable to both sides and a committee was formed with Mahon and Lane for the 'principled side', Bax and Binning for the parliamentarians. Agreement was complete except for the question of an Eight Hour Labour Bill and parliamentary action. Mahon told Bax and Binning that if this was what they wanted they should join the S.D.F. However :

At the next meeting Mahon volunteered to draw up a policy to submit to the committee. At this meeting, of which I had no notice, Mahon presented his draft, the other two finding it a parliamentary policy and nothing more, accepted it with pleasure, threw over all previous arrangements and presented it to the Council as the report of the committee. On hearing it read to the Council I disagreed with it and claimed my right to put it in a minority report. Mahon has since regained possession of the majority report and declines to give it up or bring it before the Council except in the way of resolutions from the Croydon branch. This I was not aware of until a week after the time for sending in notices of motion for the agenda paper. I have to the best of my ability carried out the instructions of the Council in drawing up a report. The Council having declined to send the minority report to the branches, the majority report having gone round on legs, I now further carry out the instructions of the Council in submitting it to the Branches. [9]

Lane's minority report was his Anti-Statist Communist Manifesto which can fairly be claimed as the first English Anarchist home grown pronouncement. Like most pioneers Lane did not write a masterpiece. He paid a disproportionate amount of attention to the religious question - though this section is interesting for its echoes of Bakunin's God and the State. He shared Morris's rejection of palliative measures in Parliament or through trades unions. Yet his ideas are distinguishable from Morris's in two areas. Where Morris emphasized the necessity to make socialists, Lane emphasized the necessity to make revolution. Lane clearly called for mass violent action whereas on the occasion of the West End Riot Morris had clearly been dubious about a policy of riot. A second distinction between Lane and Morris was Lane's firm opposition to the state as an entity : 'We aim,' he said, 'at the abolition of the State in every form and variety.' Lane expected nothing but tyranny from any state machine. Morris on the other hand was less emphatic. For example we find Morris writing in 1888 : 'Even the crudest form of State Socialism ( which I do not agree to ) would have this advantage over the individual ownership of the means of production, that whereas the State might abuse its ownership, the individual ownership must do so (...)'. Thus when Morris and Lane both emphasized education as the proper means for achieving their stated aims they were talking of education in different contexts.

Lane submitted his Anti-Statist Communist Manifesto to the 1887 conference as a restatement of League policy after the Croydon branch called for electoral activity by the League. William Morris was the proposer of a motion from Hammersmith which wanted the League to postpone any discussion of the parliamentary question for a year. Morris was obviously trying to reconcile the two extreme wings but at the May 29 conference it rapidly became apparent that reconciliation was not possible - at least not at the level of restraint that Morris was proposing. Lane, it would appear, was stressing the anti-parliamentary position to bring matters to a head. Urging that Morris's 'peacemaking motion' be withdrawn, he said, 'Members from the country do not know the bitterness, jealousy, etc., shown in this matter. The matter has lasted some time in Council. Delegates ought to settle one way or another.' [10] Lane would probably have been quite prepared to expel every 'politician' in the organization. The feeling of the conference was not with him however and his Manifesto was not accepted as the policy of the League. On the other hand, neither was the conference prepared to suspend the issue and Morris withdrew his motion. Finally the conference voted to accept Morris's amendment to the Croydon branch motion. This simply asserted the principles of the League as laid down in the Socialist League Manifesto. For all the fact that this re-asserted the anti-parliamentarian position it did not finish the matter by any means. The 'political' faction showed no readiness to leave the League or to moderate its stance. They simultaneously left the bulk of the work of running the League to the anti-parliamentarians and made that work doubly difficult by systematically undermining the agreed policy of the League. Furthermore, the bad temper which burst forth every now and again at the conference showed that the 'bitterness jealousy, etc.' had been deepened rather than dispersed by its airing. With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to say that it might have been better for the Socialist League if the matter had been pushed to a final conclusion. Uncomfortable it might have been but at least it would have been short and sharp instead of encouraging the ulcerous persistence of the dispute through the following year. Though the events of 1887 might seem to obscure the difficulties within the organization, the 1888 conference was to show that the rival factions were growing yet more irreconcilable. For the rising social tensions of 1887 were to throw into sharp relief the choices open to the socialist movement. As both revolution and electoral gains appeared more possible their partisans became more intransigent.

For by 1887 working-class discontent was growing. In the trades unions a sharper, more militant note was being struck. At the T.U.C. conference, the young Keir Hardie clashed with the Liberal's lap-dog, Broadhurst. A determined attempt to get an Eight Hour campaign under way in the Engineering Union and the T.U.C. was made. John Burns and Tom Mann were active in this latter campaign. New organizations in the provinces, the Labour Federation on Tyneside and the Knights of Labour in the Midlands, proved surprisingly effective and grew rapidly. New organizational attempts also met with some success among the seamen. This new militancy was both spread by socialists and proved responsive to them.

It was a period of high unemployment and the mood of the unemployed was restive. The lesson of the West End Riot were clear enough - trouble meant attention and attention meant aid. But the authorities had been alarmed and were taking steps to make sure nothing like it happened again. Sir Charles Warren was appointed to reorganize the police in London and was being encouraged to keep the streets clear of 'loafers' and other members of the dangerous classes by the Tory government and press. As if to underline the fears of the authorities and the respectable classes, on Friday January 14 the unemployed rioted at Norwich. The riot broke out after the unemployed had marched from a meeting addressed by Mowbray and Henderson of the local Socialist League branch to the Guildhall to demand help. Here 'the insulting tone of the Mayor, the unconcealed contempt for their fellows on the part of the councillors and aldermen ( ... ) angered the crowd and they broke away'. [11] The mansions of the wealthy had their windows smashed and shops in the centre of Norwich were looted. Mowbray and Henderson were arrested and sentenced to nine and four months respectively for their part in the affair. The riot, if anything, made the League more popular and there were large demonstrations to welcome the men on their release. The situation improved somewhat over the summer but as winter approached unemployment rose again. A placard posted in Norwich in October 'by unknown hands' was threatening : 'Notice to all concerned : The unemployed do not intend to starve any longer. If employment is not found for them, they will soon make some.' [12] As a result 200 special constables were sworn in. More sensibly the local authorities tempered their show of force by providing public works. Commonweal later quoted two councillors :

'How much extra did it cost ... ?'

'£150 !'

'Well ... none of us will grudge that. It's a damned cheap price to have kept them quiet for.'

The correspondent commented : 'it seems after all that fear of a repetition of rioting was their motive. Let the unemployed learn the lesson this teaches.' [13]

In London, however, the authorities seemed determined to solve the 'problem' of the unemployed by force alone. In the earlier part of 1887 the S.D.F. had organized many parades by the unemployed - to Westminster Abbey during services among other places. While individual members of the League had participated in them the League as a whole rather saw them as intended to be advertisements for the S.D.F. There were sporadic outbreaks of looting - for example after a meeting in February on Clerkenwell Green. Due, apparently, to some internal difficulties in the S.D.F. that organization discontinued its parades some time in the summer. As unemployment increased during the autumn mounting numbers of the unemployed began to meet daily in Trafalgar Square and between 400 and 600 homeless people were sleeping there at night. Socialists began to hold meetings in the Square on a freelance basis and increasingly violent threats were being uttered by them. While it would seem that one of them at least was a police paid agent provocateur; the violence being urged was a violence the unemployed felt. Prominent in the agitation in the Square was an Anarchist inclined Socialist Leaguer called James Allman, who had already served a month's imprisonment earlier in the year for 'obstruction' while addressing a meeting.

Processions were organized. One to the Bow Street magistrate on 12 October was met with a blank refusal of aid and a suggestion that the unemployed enter the workhouse. 'Asked if he would give them food and shelter in prison if they sacked bakers shops he replied that they were "exceedingly impertinent" and "deserved no compassion".' Freedom noted that 'unfortunately this did no more than cause a march through the City'. [14] The police had already begun to attack processions of the unemployed though these attacks met with stiff resistance. On 15 October the police attacked a meeting of the unemployed in Trafalgar Square itself with both foot and horse 'hustling, charging, striking and trampling the people'. Attacks on meetings in the Square continued daily with ever increasing numbers of police involved until the unemployed were finally driven out on 19 October. The centre of the agitation then moved to Hyde Park. 'For days the conflict was carried on in and around the Park. On one occasion the gates were closed on the people and the mounted police charged the crowd thus hemmed in and helpless.' Many stragglers were arrested, beaten and sentenced to vicious sentences on often perjured evidence. 'But in spite of police court terrorism and sentences of hard labour by the dozen, the people defended themselves with sticks and stones and their fists and held their meetings just the same. And on Sunday, 23 October they returned to the Square in a solid mass, filling the huge Square to overflowing and afterwards marching to Westminster Abbey.'

The escalating conflict had brought protests against police violence from the Liberal press and screeches from shopkeepers in the area of Trafalgar Square, who claimed their takings were being hit by the demonstrations. It was quite clear whose views Warren took to heart. The police continued to attack the daily meetings until, on 8 November, Warren banned all further meetings in the Square on the grounds that it was the private property of the Crown. This brought a storm of protest from the Radicals, who had taken no part in the unemployed agitation but were very strong on the right of free speech. As a reply to the ban the Radicals announced that they would hold a mass demonstration in the Square on 13 November to protest at Coercion in Ireland. The demonstration was to converge in a number of processions from different parts of London. It could be readily assumed that the police would have no intention of allowing the processions to reach the Square and that violence was to be expected; yet the morale of the various large contingents was good. Lane said that Morris 'quite thought the revolution had come'. [15] The marchers were to be brutally disabused of any such opinion.

Knowing the time of the demonstration, the direction from which the contingents were to come and their approximate size allowed Warren every advantage, a fact that he used to the full :

The 'Square', i.e. the sunken space, was guarded by foot-policemen four deep, whose business was simply to guard it and who had orders not to stir from their posts, outside these were strong bodies of horse police who took careful note of any incipient gathering and at once scattered it.

This defence was ample against anything except an organized attack from determined persons acting in concert, and able to depend on one another. In order that no such body should be formed and no such attack be possible, the careful general had posted strong bodies of police, with due supports to on if necessary, about a radius of about a quarter of a mile of the Square, so that nothing could escape falling into the meshes of this net.

Into this net we then marched. [16]

The contingent which included most of the League marchers was attacked at Seven Dials and taken on the flank. Though they fought back as best they could they were confused and taken by surprise. Morris wrote : 'I was astounded at the rapidity of the thing and the ease with which military organization got its victory.' The police behaved with utter savagery. One witness said, 'As I was being led out of the crowd a poor woman asked a police inspector ( ... ) if he had seen a child she had lost. His answer was to tell her she was a damned whore and knock her down.' [17] The story was the same with the other contingents and only unorganized and confused stragglers reached the Square itself where they were quickly dispersed. Three people died as a result of injuries received from the police on 13 November and another man was killed the following week when police horses were again clearing the Square. Many arrests were made and jail sentences were liberally handed out. The day is properly remembered as Bloody Sunday.

Reactions from the participants were quite naturally angry. But there were a variety of responses beyond that. E. P. Thompson suggests that from the time of Bloody Sunday onwards Morris drastically extended his time scale for the achievement of socialism. The ease with which the large bodies of people had been dispersed profoundly depressed him and persuaded him of the vast power at the disposal of the authorities. This neither changed his general political strategy or his ideas but did reduce his intense political activity. For others, too, Bloody Sunday represented a crisis in any belief they might have had in the likelihood of an incipient revolution, but, unlike Morris, it pushed them steadily towards a more reformist position. For the majority of the League activists, however, it seems to have been treated as a lesson in not fighting against impossible odds. Bloody Sunday did indeed mark a defeat but this did not in itself represent a defeat for a policy of riot. There was little doubt that they shared Freedom's opinion of events : '( ... ) the inclination of the people increases to rush on the smallest pretext to demonstrate in the streets. There have been more or less tumultuous street gatherings during the past year [i.e. 1887] in London, Glasgow, Norwich, Northampton, in Wales and in Ireland ( ... ) The increase in such stormy gatherings marks the arrival of the period of action. Before the next new year it may well happen that we shall find ourselves amid the first crisis of a Social Revolution.' [18]

Anarchist ideas began to appeal more specifically to the activists of the League in 1887. The context was the increasing class confrontation represented by the unemployed demonstrations culminating in Bloody Sunday. The example that fascinated them was the trial and judicial murder of the Chicago Anarchists. Four men were hanged after a series of events in Chicago in 1886 which had culminated in a bomb being thrown at police who were attacking a peaceful meeting. Chicago was a militant centre of Anarchism and had seen a series of strikes in pursuit of demands for the eight-hour day. Pickets had been shot and beaten by Pinkerton thugs and police. ( The meeting attacked by the police had been called in the Haymarket to protest against police violence. ) After the bomb explosion, which killed one policeman, the police arrested eight men who were all either Anarchist editors or active propagandists in the eight-hour struggle. The Anarchist press in Chicago had been stridently calling for preparation on the part of the working class for armed revolution. For all that, none of the men could be proved to have had anything to do with the bomb. They were all charged with complicity in the murder of the policeman. After a series of farcically unfair trials they were condemned to death, though three of them, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab had their sentences commuted. The dignity and conviction of the condemned men in the face of a frenzied hate campaign compelled attention. One can go far towards understanding the motives of an Anarchist assassin when one is confronted by the truly bestial relish with which the newspapers described the details of the preparation for the hanging, and the execution itself. Albert Parsons, one of the men who were hanged, had every chance to go into hiding but returned to face trial since his status as a native English-speaking American might just tip the balance for his foreign comrades. Louis Lingg appealed for revenge for their imminent deaths and as his parting words to the court said : 'I despise you. I despise your order, your laws, your force propped authority. Hang me for it !' Lingg chose to take his own life by exploding a smuggled dynamite cartridge in his mouth. On the scaffold Engel said 'Long live Anarchism !'; Fischer said 'This is the happiest moment of my life !'; Spies said 'There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.' The men were executed on 11 November 1887.

The hate campaign in America was matched by the Tory press in Britain. To counter their propaganda a series of protest meetings were organized by the Freedom Group, the Socialist League and branches of the S.D.F. both jointly and separately. Propaganda tours were made through the radical clubs. Accounts of the trials of the Chicago men were sent to the Commonweal from America by Henry Charles and the Socialist League devoted much space in the paper and considerable organizational effort to the campaign in defence of the condemned men. The Freedom Group and the Socialist League not only cooperated with each other in the organization of meetings, they jointly issued and distributed a thick pamphlet, The Chicago Martyrs, which gave the lives and speeches of the condemned men, and described the events leading up to their execution. In late 1887 and early 1888 the biographies of the eight Chicago men were serialized in the Commonweal. The courage and fortitude of the Chicago martyrs, the cooperation with the Freedom Group, the increasing penetration of Anarchist ideas within the League both from long-standing foreign Anarchist members and from Freedom itself, the ideologies developing out of the struggle with the parliamentarians - all these were intertwined in the Commonweal and the minds of the activists. The Chicago men were hanged on 11 November. Bloody Sunday was on 13 November. Close connections were drawn between them - they were both commemorated at the same meetings the following year. Naked force, it appeared, was the final answer of the state when the dispossessed insisted on pressing their claims - and claims for what ? For work or bread, for an eight-hour working day. Why then did the people not claim all and have done ? These were the feelings of the militants.

In the months after Bloody Sunday there was a deceptive calm in the Socialist League. Cooperation was a simple matter when it came to decrying the violence of the police. Receptions for those people jailed after the fighting were occasions when comradely feeling was easy. Yet the Annual Conference of the League on May 20 brought to a head the in-fighting that had simmered since the conference of the previous year. The obvious desire of William Morris to reconcile the politicians, now concentrated in the Bloomsbury branch of the League, and the more peremptory anti-parliamentarians had in no way changed the situation. Joe Lane had been proved right in his objection to the proposal 'that the matter be adjourned for twelve months, the result of which would be that the battle would still be carried on, weakening our propaganda forces'. [19] Reasserting the principles of the League had been equivalent to an adjournment.

The run-up to the conference started in earnest when the Bloomsbury branch sent in their resolutions. There were four, three of them proposals on organization which could only increase the control of the large, rich Bloomsbury branch. The other resolution, number two, proposed that the 'Constitution be amended ( ... ) adding "That its objects shall be sought to be obtained by all available means; and that Branches of the League be empowered ( ... ) to run or support candidates for all the representative bodies of the country." ' In the internal circular of 7 May the seriousness of the threat was underlined, the Ways and Means Committee asserting that 'the carrying of this resolution in the opinion of the committee would involve the immediate dissolution of the Socialist League'. [20] It was an indication that this time there would be no attempt at compromise. A better example of the mood of the anti-parliamentarians came in other documents. The 14 May internal letter revealed that Sam Mainwaring had called for the immediate dissolution of the Bloomsbury branch at a council meeting though he was prevailed upon to leave the matter until the conference. The reasons for his angry gesture can be found in two internal documents, one circulated by Lane and Charles, the other by the Hackney branch.

The first document listed all the anti-parliamentary policy statements of the League and then proceeded to its real business. Lane and Charles reprinted what appear to be the purloined minutes of a meeting of the parliamentary faction which took place on the day after their defeat at the 1887 conference. Aveling was in the chair and present among others were Eleanor Marx-Aveling, A. K. Donald, Bax and Tom Binning. The most interesting section reads :

Shirley - proposed to make Bloomsbury a Head Centre of Socialism.

Utley - To become active working members of the L.E.L. without withdrawing from the S.L. Stay in League till we can work it for our own party.

E. Aveling - Sorry we left the S.D.F. Reverse our blunder made there and get the League into our own hands. Get a Conf. in about three months and reverse the decision of this last one. Make W. Morris give up the paper. Work the L.E.L. and suggest that every parliamentary supporter joins the L.E.L. Force the hands of the Council by joining the L.E.L. and if resistance is offered, resign and leave the League, but hold on to League for time being.

E. M. Aveling - Branches in harmony with party subscribe funds for working provincial branches. [21] That Branches pay subscriptions to L.E.L. and pay as affiliated bodies to League.

Tom Binning - L.E.L. could arrange early meeting.

Lane and Charles then go on to say that 'the attempt to use the L.E.L. for their party purposes was an ignominious failure and they have therefore adopted the course of proposing these resolutions from the Bloomsbury branch'. [22] No one can deny that the anti-parliamentary faction had also been lobbying for support [23] but the shoddy self-advancing and opportunist tone of these minutes would by no means calm tempers.

Neither could the second internal document circulated by the Hackney branch. This concerned the proposals designed to increase the control of large rich branches like Bloomsbury. Now the Hackney branch had an interest here, it was a small branch. But it was also emphatically anti-parliamentarian. The secretary was George Cores and its members included two Anarchist members of the Berner Street club, one of whom, W. Wess, was a member of the Freedom Group. In addition its delegate to the conference was Joe Lane. The real point of this circular issued by the branch was the sentence 'Those who know how the large numbers of the Bloomsbury Branch have been obtained namely by inducing very many members of the S.D.F. to join while still members of the S.D.F. merely for the purpose of swamping the votes of others.' [24] It was this allegation that had made Sam Mainwaring want to dissolve the Bloomsbury branch at the council meeting before the conference.

The Bloomsbury branch made no attempt to circulate serious material of their own before the conference. In addition they put some effort into being provocative at the conference itself. Their report in what appears to be a late entry boasts of joint activity with the S.D.F. in promoting candidates for the St Pancras Board of Guardians. [25] Furthermore their mandates for delegates were written on the back of a leaflet made up of the text of a simultaneously perceptive and rather silly letter which had been refused by the Commonweal. This read in part :

The S.L. has followed so closely in the steps of that society which Socialists desire to overthrow, that in it has arisen a curious phase of Jingoism. The jingo patriot exalts devotion to the State into a virtue far higher than devotion to the cause of humanity, and similarly there are many of our comrades who have put devotion to the S.L. before devotion to the cause of Socialism ( ... ) While our present Executive exists any branch or any member exercising the right of thought or free discussion runs the risk of expulsion. [26]

This explicitly referred to Mainwaring's attempt to expel the Bloomsbury branch. It might have been less irritating to use this to write mandates on if the people checking branch credentials had not been Lane and Mainwaring.

The Conference was structured in such a way that it allowed everyone plenty of time to lose their temper before the Bloomsbury motions were debated. There were wrangles over whether branches existed or not and Bax's branch ( Croydon ) was declared collapsed. There were wrangles over the control of the Commonweal. It was not until 6.00 pm after a day of it that the Bloomsbury motions were discussed. This immediately started with a spat between Donald and Lane. 'Bloomsbury number two' was taken first, immediately amended by Morris and Mowbray to convert it into a reassertion of anti-parliamentarianism. The debate was noisy and disorderly. Eventually the amendment was carried by nineteen votes to six. The other Bloomsbury motions were defeated as heavy. But this time it was not intended to leave it at that. A further motion was put by Davis and Morris recommending the League to 'take steps to reconciliate, or if necessary, exclude the Bloomsbury Branch from the Socialist League'. This was carried by eighteen to seven. The Bloomsbury branch then replied with a motion to divide the assets of the League. They were again defeated.

Thus the Conference ended any hopes the Bloomsburyites might have had of capturing the Socialist League. It seems clear, though, that it was less of an attempt to persuade and more of a wrecking expedition. The resolution calling for the division of the League assets sounds like an attempt to have themselves bought out, since most of the assets of the League were bought by Morris and as he had written 'the parls. cannot do without us moneyly as we have found most of the money; if you think it mean to say this I must say in turn that they have rather speculated on my known horror of a split in their machinations'. [27] Their tactics remained disruptive after their clear defeat at the conference. They issued and distributed an 'illustrated squib' derisive of the conference and at the next council meeting the branch was suspended. They then insisted on attending the next council meeting and refused to leave. A final attempt at reconciliation was made by Morris but failed. The branch claimed its 'complete autonomy'. Finally at the 25 June meeting of the council it was resolved to dissolve the Bloomsbury branch. And here the battle ended.

But there were still birds limping home to roost. The Labour Emancipation League at Hoxton decided to withdraw its affiliation to the League in June and the Walsall branch similarly seceded in August. These resignations were received with regret and it was hoped that cooperation could take place on points where they were in agreement. But an important stage had been reached in the life of the League. No matter how firmly Morris and the other committed anti-parliamentarians had stated their case since the inception of the League, it had become, particularly in the provinces, a gathering point for socialists of every description. The reasons were twofold. Firstly, many people found Morris both as a man and as a socialist more attractive than Hyndman. The political differences between them seem to have figured little initially. This, at least, is the impression one gains reading memoirs by early members of the League. Secondly, the looser branch structure of the League suited some provincial socialists and the provincial branches of the League represented more or less a federation of local socialist societies. The struggle between the parliamentary and anti-parliamentary factions was primarily a struggle involving those members whose socialism was more theoretically specific. Thus Walsall and Hoxton were branches where the parliamentarians had a base of a kind - Walsall probably because Donald of the Bloomsbury branch had been working near by. Meanwhile the only branches who specifically endorsed an article entitled 'The Policy of the League' which underlined the anti-parliamentary stand of the League were Norwich, Hackney and Hammersmith, influenced by Charles, Lane and Morris respectively. It has already been said that the struggle had started in the council of the League and had been kept there until it boiled over at the 1887 and 1888 conferences. It is not at all surprising that those branches to whom the generally humanitarian socialism of Morris was the most attractive feature of the League would shrink back somewhat from this 'irrelevant' and passionate conflict. Some of them, Leeds for example, had quietly lapsed as branches in any real sense between the 1887 and 1888 conferences. For them systematic electoral activity was as yet unconsidered on practical rather than ideological grounds. They shared Tarleton's opinion at the 1887 conference and 'objected to parliamentary action by a body of 800. Party action [had been] damaging so far because [it had been] used by Conservatives to damage Radicals.' Yet when there seemed to be real prospects of success in elections the bitter disputes of the 1888 conference would be repeated up and down the country.

The Conference of 1888 left the Socialist League now completely committed to an anti-parliamentary policy. The sordid tail-end of the dispute with the Bloomsbury branch lingered on for a few weeks but the tension of that dispute had left the organization. Morris had plainly felt disgusted with the whole thing even before battle was joined. Before the conference he had written : 'Plainly speaking, the shadow of corruption which we should certainly tumble into if we became Parl. is already on us, and there has been a great deal too much intriguing going on.' [28] After the conference he withdrew to a certain extent and his letters take on a gloomy tone. He began increasingly to see himself out of the mainstream of activity and to immerse himself in literary and other creative activity. But if the 1888 Conference left Morris feeling rather flat it was not a feeling shared by the majority of the new Council. This was now dominated more or less by the progressively Anarchist group of activists including Kitz, Lane, Mainwaring and Tochatti. The secretary of the League was now Charles who had been in Switzerland looking for evidence against Peukert as a police spy. Lane had persuaded him to stand on his return. It should be stressed that this group did not have a policy of taking over the League - 'there were no definite plans to alter the League or make it more Anarchist but agitating always to keep it to its manifesto,' Charles was reported as saying many years later. [29]

This would seem to be flatly contradicted by Morris writing in December 1888 : 'there seems to be a curse of quarrelling upon us. The Anarchist element in us seem determined to drive things to extremity and break us up if we do not declare for Anarchy - which I for one will not do.' Yet the real cause of the curse of quarrelling is revealed later in the same letter. The Hammersmith branch, he says, is 'getting into bad odour with some of our fiercer friends, I think principally because it tacitly and instinctively tries to keep up the first idea of the League, the making of genuine convinced Socialists without reference to passing exigencies of tactics, whether they take the form of attacking ( or running away from ) the police in the streets, or running a candidate for the school board ( ... )' [30] Morris apparently did not see that by this time one man's refusal to take account of 'passing exigencies of tactics' could be another antiparliamentarian's withdrawal from the fray. The events of the years 1888 to 1890 were summed up from the latter point of view by Frank Kitz :

There existed in the League itself opposing elements which eventually led to its disruption. The merely negative policy of Anti-Parliamentarianism could be endured by the West End branches, of which Hammersmith was the strongest, and in which Morris's personality was dominant : but the East End comrades, confronted by a fierce struggle for existence and in the midst of gigantic Labour conflicts, drifted towards a definitely Anarchist attitude. A quantity of ink has been shed over the question of the split between the West and East End branches which caused the dissolution of the League; but the temperamental differences have always been ignored. Many of the West End members would have found a more suitable environment and method of exposition of their ideal within the ranks of the I.L.P. or the Fabian Society; and ( ... ) it was only Morris's personality which caused them to give lip service to opinions from which many of them have now seceded. They seemed to be afflicted with the timidity of anaemic respectability. [31]

The position of the Socialist League in the first years of its existence has often been called 'purist'. But its purism can be seen in two ways : one, as an educational propaganda speaking to working-class movements, with which it is not involved, from the outside; the other, as the simple recognition that possible avenues of reform from electoral activity to trades unionism do not imply the fundamental changes that their socialism demanded. The question here is one of emphasis. Educational propaganda alone implies a deliberately withdrawn position which often expresses itself as a superior defeatism. Suspicion of reform dressed up as revolution on the other hand, means a different kind of involvement or propaganda. Every member of the League on the anti-parliamentary side can be accused of 'educational defeatism' in the early years. Yet the class war hotted up as the 1880s drew to a close, and it became impossible for some people in the League to insist that there could be no socialist action without socialist theory. The unemployment battles of 1887 and the industrial struggles from 1889 onwards seemed to have something of the stuff of revolution about them. It became impossible for the activists to stand aside. For them socialism became something that the working class learned in action out of the practical experience of solidarity and confrontation. The new conflict in the League was over the question of whether action or theory came first.

In the early part of 1888, just before and after the Conference, Lane and Charles were preparing for a massive effort to propagandize the East End of London. Their intentions were described as follows :

The East End branches of the Socialist League and our foreign comrades at the Berner Street and Princess Square Clubs have just formed themselves into the East End Socialist Propaganda Committee and are commencing a systematic distribution from house to house in all the streets, lanes, etc. of leaflets, pamphlets ( which are left in the houses of one street one week, then called for and taken to another street the following week ) and other literature as well as pasting up leaflets, bills, etc., on the walls, hoardings, lamp-posts, church noticeboards and other similarly available places. They have besides commenced holding regular open-air meetings at about 20 places in the district ( ... ) In view of the threatened anti foreigner agitation they specifically appeal for the assistance of the foreign comrades in London to show that they are not the enemies of the English worker but comrades working with them for the emancipation of labour the world over. [32]

This campaign represents something of the energies released at the end of the unprofitable dispute with the Bloomsburyites. In early June they had surpassed their projected twenty speaking pitches and had managed to man twenty-seven in a week. They had drastically over-extended themselves, however, and, by August and September the East End pitches had shrunk to ten per week. Morris was describing the agitation as a failure by this time, which was both true and a little unfair : Lane, who was undoubtedly the architect of the East End Propaganda Committee, was in ill-health and was to be prevented thereby from taking any active part in the League from that point on. ( He was eventually to leave the League in 1889 after a silly squabble with Sparling. ) Charles left London and a number of other people who were active left the East End districts. And as Morris had already said in July, 'the whole of the work in London is now on the shoulders of the section of principle'. [33]

The propaganda effort of the League was greatly enhanced before the end of 1888 by the visit of Lucy Parsons - the widow of Albert Parsons, hanged in Chicago. She had been an active propagandist both before and after the judicial murder of her husband and had been involved in the restarting of Parsons's paper, the Alarm. This was being distributed in England by the League and an internal circular from the Council in July was urging branches to order it at once. By September the East End Propaganda Committee was calling on the Council to bring Mrs Parsons to England for the commemoration meetings planned for the Chicago men and the victims of Bloody Sunday in November. She came and made a strong impression both at her London meetings and on her provincial tour which was also arranged by the League. She was no pathetic, sorrow-struck victim. She came as a propagandist to whom tragedy had given a stronger voice. Her visit, more than any other factor, accelerated the drift towards a 'definitely Anarchist attitude' in the Socialist League. But even without her aid this process was well under way in 1888. The Freedom Group were holding regular public discussion meetings in the Socialist League Hall, Farringdon Street, which certainly attracted a number of Socialist League members. Apart from cooperation with the Berner Street club ( whose members were mainly Jewish Anarchists ) in the East End Propaganda Committee, the Berner Street club was also the meeting-place of the Hackney branch of the League. Similarly the North London branch met at the Autonomie Club, an Anarchist centre with mainly German and French members.

The increasing Anarchist influence did not, as Glasier slanderously asserts, lead the League into the paths of sloppy incompetence. [34] Charles, it was true, proved a failure as a secretary yet Kitz took over this position later in 1888 and proved vastly more effective. He had proved his organizational stamina in the latter part of 1887 and in the early part of 1888 when he had been stumping round London attempting to boost the sale of Commonweal through retail shops. The Ways and Means Committee had taken over the printing of the paper and were able to significantly cut production costs. The circulation of the paper had fallen after the Conference ( its circulation just before had risen to 2,600, largely as a result of Kitz's efforts ) and continuous effort was needed to try and boost circulation. Five thousand copies were ordered for the Chicago Martyrs/Bloody Sunday meetings but generally the sale remained static at somewhere just over 2,000. The problem was partly the paper itself which was rather dull, reflecting its editor's rather withdrawn and gloomy mood. A noticeable brightening of the paper took place when David Nicoll became co-editor ( with Sparling and Morris ) after the 1889 Conference. This conference reflected the fact that the League was now almost completely an Anarchist organization - except for the delegates from the Hammersmith branch all the 1889 council members were at some point to be identified with the Anarchist position.

Throughout the earlier part of 1889 a discussion on Anarchism between committed Anarchists was printed in the Commonweal. The bone of contention was individual liberty and the voluntary principle. The contributions of the Anarchists were over-abstract and wilful in comparison with Morris's determined attempts at clarity. The Anarchists insisted too much on philosophical principle and not enough on social practice. Morris wrote : 'I am not pleading for any form of arbitrary or unreasonable authority, but for a public conscience as a rule of action : and by all means let us have the least possible exercise of authority. I suspect that many of our Communist-Anarchist friends do really mean that, when they pronounce against all authority.' [35] The Anarchists H. Davis and James Blackwell were too ready to take issue with Morris's phrase 'the least possible exercise of authority', failing to see that the 'public conscience' he proposed as the basis of Communism was the culmination of the voluntary principle in a society where it had become custom and habit. If Morris chose to call that a situation where authority was exercised then the dispute was semantic.

The events of the summer and autumn of 1889 were to cure many of them from over-abstract philosophizing. Many of the League Anarchists were experienced in political propaganda and confrontation with 'law and order' on the streets, yet their experience until the early part of 1889 had been of difficult work, inching itself forward. To be sure the unemployed in 1887 had shown themselves in a pugnacious mood and their clashes with the police had been spectacular. But their struggle, starting with demands for maintenance, had been reduced to a defensive battle to keep the right of assembly, particularly in Trafalgar Square. And they had lost that battle. Thus when the Socialist League militants and Anarchists from other English groupings ( James Blackwell was recruited from the S.D.F. by the Freedom Group ) talked of revolution and the future society they were talking of something which had no basis in action around them. Inevitably their talk was abstract though it need not have been as abstract as it was. The industrial battles from the summer onwards, however, provided an environment and example of aggressive organizing by the working class. Here at last was the spontaneous upsurge with its solidarity and mutual aid which they had predicted and hoped for. If the upsurge turned out to be more containable and cooptable than they had hoped it was a revelation and lesson which would have to be confronted later.

The impact of the strikes of 1889 was clearly powerful. In June-July the London gasworkers organized in a union which had only been started in March of the same year, and managed to force a reduction of hours from twelve to eight on their employers without a strike. It was an example which proved infectious. A strike in the South-West India Dock by a small number of men over a wage demand on 13 August sparked off a strike in the whole of London's dockland. Its beginnings were quite spontaneous, though the strikers very quickly came to rely on Ben Tillett, the secretary of a small dock union, and other organizers he brought in, notably Tom Mann and John Burns. The example of the dock strike inspired other workers, first those with some connection with the docks and then others, to similarly strike for increased wages or shorter hours. 'Coal porters and car-men, printers labourers, iron workers, tin-plate workers, rope making and jam factory girls, tobacco workers, orange porters, candlemakers, tailors, bricklayers and their labourers, basket makers, chemical works employees, screw makers and other workers ceased work.' [36] The atmosphere in the East End was electric. The area was in a state of near general strike and to some of the Leaguers it seemed that London was on the verge of revolution. David Nicoll wrote : 'The cry is still they come ! The workers are pouring by thousands from their workshops - printers, labourers and brass finishers. The coal heavers leave their yard in response to the shouts pf their comrades. Bands of them are marching round the Northern suburbs turning out the men at every yard. The police are powerless.' [37]

He described the almost carnival atmosphere in the East End. 'I saw a ring of factory girls at the gates of a rope factory performing a Carmagnole dance, occasionally bumping against the gates as if with the intention of forcing them in. Further down they were bringing out men, boys and girls from a biscuit factory, a good humoured crowd standing at the door laughing and chaffing the strikers in a most fraternal manner ( ... ) I entered a quiet street where there was already some appearance of fermentation. Gathered round a sweaters shop was a large crowd; the shop was guarded by a strong force of police, who were evidently apprehensive of having their windows broken.' In the streets the children were parading and playing at strikers. ( They were later to strike themselves at several East End schools. ) Processions of dockers were taking place through the City and daily meetings were being held at Tower Hill or Hyde Park. Other workers, too, were parading in the East End and nightly vast meetings were held on Mile End Waste. Streets normally gloomily gas-lit and empty at eleven o'clock at night were now ablaze from light from open front doors and excited groups in the street were discussing the latest news - and the latest rumours : ' "The tram men have revolted, cars have been left on the road out Bow and Bromley way"; "Rioting has broken out, the docks are to be fired"; "The strikers are marching to attack the railway depots and turn the carmen out"; "Deptford meat market is in the hands of the insurgents who won't allow London to be fed" ( ... ) The East End is like Paris in the first revolution.' [38]

The organization of picketing was effective after a number of blacklegs were imported because of the opportunity provided by too many parades. The dock strike was effective too on the level of its supply lines, 'showing the powers of the working men for organizing the supply and distribution of food for a large population of strikers' as Kropotkin later noted. [39] As happens in most strikes, the paying of rent became less than a priority for the strikers - and the cry of 'No Rent' was raised and met with some response. The strike at one point threatened to escalate from a virtual general strike in the East End to a general strike in the whole of London - but the call for this was withdrawn almost as soon as it was issued by the Strike Committee. It was this that explains Kropotkin's later ( private ) accusations of cowardice against Burns in the face of a potential revolution. Kropotkin had misjudged neither the mood of the time nor had he misjudged the dependence of the strikers on their leaders for the next step to be taken. The crisis point passed. The edge of desperation in the strike was taken away by a massive influx of funds from Australia in support of the strikers. The edge of class conflict was blunted by the good offices of Cardinal Manning and the Lord Mayor of London. Finally the demand for the 'docker's tanner' - sixpence an hour - was met by the employers and the men returned to work. Once they were back the employers began steadily to chip away at every condition they had agreed to. The many small strikes which had accompanied the big dock strike were to suffer a similar fate. Burns, meanwhile, had already got himself elected to the new London County Council and was beginning a political career which was to eventually gain him a Cabinet place in a Liberal government.

While the dock strike was at its height, socialists had been very active. Freedom remarked : 'One of the most satisfactory features of the agitation was the apparent disappearance of the various Socialist bodies as such. The names of organisations seldom transpired but Socialism and Socialists were everywhere ( ... ) Political humbug disappeared from the Socialist programme as soon as our comrades in the various societies found themselves face to face with a live workers movement.' [40] Pearson, Blackwell and Turner from the Freedom Group were active speakers - the first named being another recruit from the S.D.F. From the League, Kitz, Mowbray, Nicoll, Brookes and W. B. Parker 'addressed large meetings and tons of literature and leaflets have been distributed. More work could be done but funds are lacking.' [41] In one sense these people were tourists, advocating policies from outside the struggle. It is to be expected that the necessity for revolution as opposed to 'mere palliatives' would be stressed, as too would the necessity for the preparative general strike. This 'outsideness' is stressed by a note which appeared in the Commonweal in reply to inquiries and which said that of course members of the Socialist League could take part in strikes but they should not become so involved in such struggles as to forget their revolutionary propaganda.

It is worth examining a little more closely the message that was being preached. John Turner, in a debate with Herbert Burrows of the S.D.F. on 'Anarchist Communism versus Social Democracy', outlined something of the Anarchist approach. Criticizing the Social Democrats for advocating palliatives and at the same time 'continuously writing and speaking to the effect that these palliatives, if put into operation tomorrow would be of little use (...)', he goes on to say :

We Anarchists have a line to work upon, to teach the people self-reliance, to urge them to take part in non-political movements directly started by themselves for themselves ( ... ) Look at the strike now in progress. When the Anarchists have said that as soon as the people learn to rely upon themselves they will act for themselves without waiting for parliament, it has been disregarded. But their words have come true. We have an example of this truth in London now. The strike has gone upon the old Trade Union lines but had it started on the lines of expropriation, who knows how rapidly it might have spread. We teach the people to place their faith in themselves, we go on the lines of self-help. We teach them to form their own committees of management, to repudiate their masters, to despise the laws of the country - these are the lines which we Anarchists intend to work along. Let them, if they will, commence by claiming the right to elect their own foremen. This very day I have suggested to the men on strike that the trade unions should take over the work rather than the contractors. They might follow this up until they gradually get control of the whole concern, and they would find the capitalists as unnecessary as monarchs have been found to be. [42]

But if the Anarchist speakers were tourists as far as the dock strike itself was concerned, they were increasingly speaking as participants in other industrial struggles. The passing of the crisis in the dock strike by no means stopped the grumbling labour war. Though the ending of the dock strike took away a central focus of activity, disputes, both small and large, continued to flare up throughout 1889 and 1890. The successes of the Gas workers Union and the Dockers Union inspired imitation. The organization nearest to the dock workers was that of the carmen ( cart drivers ). Many of them had struck during the dock strike in sympathy - without assistance from the strike fund, be it noted. As a result many of them were sacked. This provided the impetus to form a Carman's Union and Commonweal reported that 'now they have their own organization and are winning all along the line'. [43] Active in this union was Ted Leggatt, an Anarchist member of the St George's in the East branch of the League who had been battered, arrested and jailed on Bloody Sunday. He was later to become the union's full-time organizer. Mowbray was active in the tailors' strikes both in the East and West End. He was a lay official of the West End Society himself and helped the sweated Jewish workers in the East End through his friends in the Berner Street club. Kitz, and Reynolds of the Merton branch, were active in organizing carmen, labourers and laundry women into a small Surrey Labourers Union. A hand-bill issued in October 1889 advertised its intentions 'to obtain shorter hours and advance the wages of the working men of Surrey' and to form a branch in Croydon in addition to those already formed at Mitcham, Streatham and Merton. [44] In West London, Tochatti and Lyne of the Fulham branch, together with Jack Williams of the S.D.F., were active organizers and 'outside agitators' during a strike at Thorneycrofts factory. Also active in West London was a Shop Assistants Union formed by Turner and others. Nobly active in this union was Edith Lupton who would take a job, sign up the assistants working there, resign and take a job somewhere else. ( She remained active in the union until late in 1890 when she was organizing a laundry women's co-op. ) Samuels was in Leeds organizing tailoring and slipper workers. These are the more prominent examples, it is to be expected that every trades union member of the League would take part in disputes in his trade.

So the League Anarchists and the Freedom Group activists were by no means outside the labour organization of the time and took an active part in every phase of its development. There was no doubt that their unwillingness to commit themselves totally to trades union work made them less prominent than the Social Democrats - without going further into the area of invidious personal comparisons. Their reservations about trades union activities were expressed in phrases which indicated that the Anarchists did not think them revolutionary enough, even though they might be 'palliatives in the right direction', as Freedom put it. This lack of revolutionary fire was often blamed on the personal cowardice of the leaders. As it rapidly became apparent that these leaders saw the next step in terms of electoral activity, the accusations changed to those of personal ambition. Yet behind the personal accusations lay hardly grasped worries of a more general kind. There seemed to be a connection between over-prominent leaders, electoral proclivities, the denial of revolutionary aims and increasingly exclusive attitudes within the new trades unions themselves. Some of these factors could be fitted into a general anti-election critique, but there were obviously loose ends which did not fit so well.

Where the question of elections was concerned the pronunciations were clear and forthright. The anti-parliamentary socialists of the League had always said socialism and elections did not mix. With other matters objections were made piecemeal. When John Burns started denouncing the 'dead-beats and riff-raff' who hung round the docks waiting for odd hours of casual work, the Commonweal could only put its objections in negative form : 'Emphatically, Revolutionary Socialism does not mean the carving out of a new close order of labour, which will kick those already down.' [45] Gradually there began to creep into the Anarchist press through 1890 the beginnings of criticisms of the new union-leaderships as a social phenomenon rather than as a collection of cowardly or ambitious men. The notes of the Commonweal in December 1890 are interesting here. Tom Mann and the other dockers' officials are described as 'bureaucrats' who are keeping an exclusive grip on decision-making in the union, 'it seems that these superior persons have a "plan" which they will not allow more impetuous - not to say energetic - warriors to interfere with'. And simultaneously these officials were blaming some branches for their apathy. There was discontent in the rank and file and Mann had attended a stormy meeting at which strong complaints were made that union officials were aloof and difficult to contact. These are strangely modern complaints. It is no way claimed however that such criticisms were the core of the Anarchist misgivings about the new unions.

In any case the main concern of the Anarchists was to find answers to the more pressing social situation and their criticisms tended to be a spin-off from consideration of the practical problems facing the working-class movement. By the summer of 1890 all the high promise of the previous year seemed to have become dissipated. The new unions were now much more on the defensive. Over the winter of 1889-90 the Gasworkers Union had fought and lost two strikes, one at the South Metropolitan Gas Company and another at a large rubber factory in West Ham. Similarly the Dockers Union had lost a five months' strike at Hays Wharf which ended in May 1890. Attempts to organize the postmen failed after a disastrous stoppage. Outside the capital, dockers were defeated at Southampton. Other organizational attempts were bitterly fought and often defeated. To shrink back in the face of this onslaught seemed, to the Anarchists, to be a grave mistake. Their concern was given greater point in July 1890, for they were already noting the early-warning signs of a new depression on the way. Whatever had to be done had to be done quickly before the masses were again starved into submission. The May Day demonstrations had shown them the less adventurous direction the new unions were taking. Out of two chaotic international socialist conferences in Paris in late 1889, one clear proposal had emerged. This was that in pursuit of the eight-hour day and in memory of the Chicago Martyrs an international one-day general strike would be declared on 1 May. In England the Socialist League and Jack Williams' 'Federation of Trades and Industries' ( composed of a number of small new unions ) were the only organizations to declare for a strike on 1 May 1890. The rest of the socialist bodies and the larger new unions held a march on the following Sunday, 4 May. The difference in the way these two demonstrations were treated was striking. The Sunday demonstration received every assistance from the police. The smaller 1 May marches ( 10,000 as opposed to 100,000 ) were considerably harassed. An East End contingent was attacked in Aldgate by the police, a French contingent from Soho was ambushed in St Martin's Lane and women strikers from an envelope factory assembling at Clerkenwell Green for the march were similarly attacked. It seemed to the Anarchists that the movement was being split into respectable and dangerous socialists, and respectable socialists would never make a revolution.

To the Anarchists it seemed imperative that a new initiative should be taken to bring the workers back to the pitch of excitement and the sense of possibility of the summer of 1889. To this end two small conferences, one of anti-parliamentary socialists in March and another of 'London revolutionists' in June, pledged themselves to propagandize for an international general strike and a universal rent strike. There were further discussions on the action to be taken 'in the event of a crisis'. At first the discussions represented something of a post-mortem on the 1889 dock strike, which was now seen as something of a lost chance. The English Anarchists were later described as a small group of 'fanatical enthusiasts ( ... ) who spend their time mainly in deploring the lost opportunity of the Dock Strike…' [46] The hopes that such a crisis might present itself again were greatly raised by the course taken by the stormy and successful Leeds gas strike, which culminated with a massive riot on 2 July. The events were described as follows by a participant :

( ... ) the City Gas Committee demanded that their employees should engage themselves for four months at a time, having no power to strike within that period and that the stokers eight-hour day should be increased. The men refused the terms and were locked out.

Blacklegs were imported and fierce fighting took place between the townspeople and the military who guarded the newcomers. The gas gave out and for five nights Leeds was in complete darkness. Hundreds more police and a regiment of cavalry were sent for.

The cavalry tried to convey fresh blacklegs through the town, but was trapped under a railway bridge which was crawling with furious men and women. One mob faced the soldiers ahead, another poured down on their behind; and meantime the townsmen on the bridge literally pulled it to bits with their bare hands and hurled down tons of brickwork, stones and rubble on the helmeted soldiers and their struggling horses.

Slowly the defenders were forced off the ruined bridge; bitterly the struggle went on in the streets below till nightfall and fog blotted it out. Women flung themselves against the flattened sabres, children stood on the outskirts of the whirling crowd and flung stones into it at every gleam of a red jacket. [47]

It was thus with new hope in the hearts of the participants that a large Revolutionary Conference was held at the Autonomie Club on 3 August. This was called, as the others had been, to consider 'United International Action' by revolutionaries 'in the event of a European crisis' and to determine 'the best means of propaganda'. Present were many of the foreign clubs and groups, some English Anarchist-Communists and eleven branch delegates of the Socialist League. The account of the conference reveals it to have been unable to come to any organizational conclusions; yet there was a consistency in the contributions that made it clear that a generalizing of particular struggles should be encouraged to 'light a fire that would end the whole damn thing' as Charles put it. Mowbray felt that 'In the event of a crisis at home the first thing to do was to fire the slums and move the people into the West End mansions.' Kent said that a coal strike was near : 'Leaders would be required to prevent people acting all together in mobs and to utilize them individually. We wanted to know where the gatling guns and other instruments of destruction were kept so that we might find them when wanted. So we wanted to know where the storehouses of food and clothing were that we might take them.' The organizational problem was most clearly faced ( if left unresolved ) by Malatesta :

( ... ) the problem of the best means of assuring combined international action had been often discussed. The authoritarian solution was to have committees everywhere. The committees were always too late or ill-informed, and consequently the movement was paralysed. Another system was to renounce all system. The results of this course were no better. By all means trust to individual initiative, but let every individual have a clear idea of what he should do, without necessity for any kind of word of command. To establish an initiative of this kind the individual must know the strength behind him. As a rule men were not heroes and they wanted to be assured that if they did some great thing they would have the sympathy of their comrades. For practical purposes, too, we should distinguish future plans from present action ( ... ) Let us urge the people to seize the property and go and dwell in the mansions of the rich; do not let us paralyse our efforts by discussion as to the future. Some organisation was desirable. There was an authoritarian system which encouraged spies and accustomed the people to the system of delegation; but there was also a system of organisation which was spontaneous and Anarchist. A party which did not believe in organisation would do nothing; a party which believed in organisation only would soon join the Social Democrats or the politicians. In all things we went from one exaggeration to another before finding the mean. It was so in discussing the problem of how to make the Revolution. At one time Anarchists had abandoned trade-unions and strikes and thought of nothing but making the Revolution by force. Then we found the bourgeois too strong for us on this ground, and after the great Dock Strike we began to fancy that the General Strike would do everything. A strike however was not the Revolution but only an occasion to make it. The General Strike would be good if we were ready to make use of it at once by immediate military action whether by barricades or otherwise. [48]

Malatesta was a 'professional' from a country with a revolutionary tradition. He had his own ideas about action in a revolution. But making a revolution happen was still a problem neither he nor anyone else had solved. It was not surprising that the English delegates could make but a small contribution to an answer. As far as the discussion on the best methods of propaganda was concerned a number of suggestions were made. From the Socialist League came their suggestions for an advocacy of the general strike and the total rent strike. There was also a fair amount of reference to 'individual initiative'. Not to put too fine a point on it, this was a barely veiled reference to propaganda by deed, particularly through dynamite. This was still an underground matter at this point but it was steady coming to the forefront and was to contribute to the deepening crisis in the Socialist League.

For while the Anarchists were looking for a means to make a speedy revolution, the 'educators' who were their fellow members were looking on with deepening unease. On the surface the Socialist League had survived moderately well into 1890. It had twenty-two branches ( nine in London ) and manned nineteen speaking pitches a week in London. The Commonweal sales were going up a little. Yet in real terms the organization was static at a time when the S.D.F., for example, had doubled its membership between 1889 and 1890. Every new trade agitation took people away from the organization and the League could not cash in on the new unionism like the S.D.F. because of their position of ( necessarily ) critical support. The Anarchists in the League wanted a revolution but were unclear about how to achieve it on the level of immediate action. The S.D.F. on the other hand were quite prepared to use revolutionary rhetoric about eventual aims but had an immediate 'practical' means to offer their members, namely elections. The Anarchists might be correct in their call for a general strike as a solution for the difficulties the labour movement found itself in but they did not have the means at that point to convince the mass of workers that it was a real possibility. Meanwhile their cult of immediate revolution was causing opposition within the League itself. Morris was writing in April 1890 : 'Outside the Hammersmith Branch the active( ? ) members in London mostly consider themselves Anarchists but don't know anything about Socialism and go ranting revolution in the streets, which is about as likely to happen as the conversion of Englishmen from stupidity to quickwittedness ( ... ) Now I must do notes for C'weal. I don't like the job as I have a new book which amuses me vastly.' [49]

The Anarchist influence was undoubtedly growing fast in the League. Out of the Freedom Group discussions at the Socialist League Hall a number of activists had been recruited to it. The paper had remained more or less Charlotte Wilson's preserve, however, until she fell ill in early 1889. As a consequence it was announced in March that some of the new recruits had formed 'a committee of workmen ( ... ) to manage the publication and sale of the paper'. ( One of them, James Blackwell, had been manager of the S.D.F. paper Justice. ) The new group proved a distinct improvement and by August a column devoted to accounts of the 'Propaganda' had been started to cover the increasing activity. At first the reports were mainly of debates and discussions, particularly with S.D.F. members. ( One report from Manchester, however, gave accounts of meetings where 'Anarchy pure and simple' was being preached. ) But by the end of 1889 it was becoming clear that Anarchism was a matter for assertion rather than debate. Kropotkin began what was to be a heavy schedule of talks throughout the country in 1890. In addition to the centrifugal force of trade disputes, the making of specifically Anarchist propaganda began to attract away members of the Socialist League. Samuels, Mainwaring, Cores, Mowbray, Davis and others are all to be found as Anarchist propagandists in late 1889 and 1890. In April 1890 it was reported from Manchester that the Socialist Leaguers there 'like those of Norwich have largely adopted Anarchism as their political ideal'. By July there were two groups of Anarchist-Communists in London. One, in St Pancras, was mainly composed of Freedom Group activists. The other, the East London Group, was basically some members of the Clerkenwell branch of the Socialist League wearing different hats. The Group had taken over the branch propaganda sheet, the Labour Leaf, which now appeared as the Anarchist Labour Leaf and was used for free distribution at public meetings. And the tone of the Anarchist propaganda was getting sharper.

By July Morris was writing to Nicoll to protest over a piece which had appeared in the Commonweal, sent from Samuels in Leeds describing the gas-strike riots. After describing the hail of missiles 'on to the horse and foot soldiers, police, scabs, mayor and magistrates' Samuels continued : 'The consternation and confusion baffles description; and if the people had only the knowledge ( they had the pluck ) the whole cursed lot would have been wiped out. As the horses and men picked themselves up, it was seen that many were bruised and bleeding but, alas ! no corpses to be seen. The party on the bridge got off without trouble or hurt' [50] Morris wrote to Nicoll : 'I think you are going too far - at any rate further than I can follow you. You really must put a curb on Samuels' blatant folly or you will force me to withdraw all support ( ... ) Please understand that this is meant to be quite private; and do your best not to drive me off. For I assure you it would be the greatest grief to me if I had to dissociate myself from men who have been my friends so long.' [51] ( Morris had by this time given up the editorship of the Commonweal to Nicoll. )

The tone of the Revolutionary Conference in August cannot have helped things much and an open breach was threatened in October. The dispute concerned the first part of an article on 'Revolutionary Warfare' by Nicoll. This did little more than repeat Nicoll's earlier support for a general strike and a 'No Rent' campaign, though the language and title used were stronger. Kitz says, 'The publication of a second instalment of it was made a test case by the Hammersmith Branch, and as he refused to withdraw it, they severed their connection with the League.' [52] The dispute over Nicoll's article more or less coincided with the meetings to commemorate Chicago and Bloody Sunday in early November. At a meeting at the Kay Street Radical club on 11 November it was evident that little sympathy existed between Morris and the other Socialist League speakers. Samuels said : 'We socialists ought to feel very sad that night and try if we could not find some means to avenge our friends' deaths. He did not advocate force but sooner or later force might have to be resorted to if we were attacked ( ... )' Burnie talked of paying back the debt of Trafalgar Square 'with compound interest'. Kitz said that the worker's life was shortened by what he suffered. 'Why then should he fear bloodshed, if bloodshed were to come ?' Morris in his speech spoke directly to these remarks : 'The essence of the Revolution was the intense desire and settled intention of the people to be free ( ... ) by the realization of equality of condition. If that feeling once grew in people's hearts it could not be put down. Something had been said about revenge, but the only real revenge we could possibly have was by our own efforts bringing ourselves to happiness. Only unhappy people thought of revenge : when we were happy we should forget it.' [53] During his speech Samuels said that, with others, he had intended to 'polish off' the judge in the trial of John Bingham of Sheffield if Bingham was found guilty. ( Bingham had been charged with incitement to kill blacklegs in a speech in 1889. ) Nicoll later asserted that these remarks were responsible for Morris's final decision to leave the League. Morris was only to refer in his letters to 'Nicoll's folly' but the question remains open. What is certain is that when Morris walked out of the hall that night he was walking out of the Socialist League.

He went back to Hammersmith and wrote the article he described as his farewell - it is said on the same night. This was entitled 'Where are we now ?' and appeared in the issue of the Commonweal following the meeting. It was written without bitterness and in it Morris emerges as the more remarkable a man in his objective treatment of what he obviously felt to be a defeat. It does not diminish his humanity to add that he was better able to bear this defeat since he no longer believed in imminent social revolution. In his article he reviewed the obvious advance of socialist ideas and underlined his belief that socialism was ultimately inevitable. The major questions, he felt, were now questions of method. Morris's own preference was to 'put forward the simple principles of Socialism regardless of the policy of the passing hour.' The danger he saw was that socialists would seize on 'the methods of impatience' :

There are two tendencies in this matter of methods : on the one hand is our old acquaintance palliation, elevated now into vastly greater importance than it used to have, because of the growing discontent, and the obvious advance of Socialism; on the other is the method of partial, necessarily futile, inconsequent revolt, or riot rather, against the authorities, who are our absolute masters and can easy put it down.

With both these methods I disagree; and that the more because the palliatives have to be clamoured for and the riots carried out by men who do not know what Socialism is, and have no idea what their next step is to be, if contrary to all calculation they should happen to be successful. Therefore our masters would be our masters still because there would be nothing to take their place. We are not ready for such a change as that ! The authorities might be a little shaken perhaps, a little more inclined to yield something to the clamours of their slaves, but there would be slaves still, as all men must he who are not prepared to manage their own business themselves. Nay, as to the partial violent means, I believe that the occurrence of those would not shake the authorities at all, but would strengthen them rather, because they would draw to them the timid of all classes, i.e., all men but a very few. [54]

While he had made out a strong case against the policy of riot he could not ( and did not ) expect the Anarchists to accept it. The reasons are clear enough. For them, Morris's position implied doing nothing and doing nothing implied defeat. At the back of the Anarchist rejection of Morris's 'defeatism' was a feeling, never fully articulated, that people learned their power - and what to do with it - through riotous action. The expected progression of events was seen by Nicoll as follows : 'Individual assaults on the system will lead to riots, riots to revolts, revolts to insurrection, insurrection to revolution.' [55] This was putting it at its most hopeful and implied a change of consciousness as the scale of events grew greater. But at the very least the Anarchist were asserting the immediate material advantage to the working class of 'palliatives by riot' and urging the use of new weapons to resist the most immediate forms of repression. There were two replies to Morris's last article, from John Creaghe and Charles Mowbray. Creaghe said, 'Every man should take what he requires of the wealth around him, using violence wherever necessary and when dragged before his enemies he should tell them plainly that he has done what he knows to be right and what he is proud of having done. His example will soon find imitators ( … )' Mowbray wrote the first piece ever to openly advocate dynamite in the Commonweal : 'I feel confident that a few determined men ( ... ) who are prepared to do or die in the attempt could paralyse the forces of our masters providing they were acquainted with the power which nineteenth century science has placed within their reach.' [56] The tone of these replies shows that Morris was quite right when he wrote after his article had been published : 'It was and it was meant to be, directly opposed to anything the Anarchist side would want to say or do. If I had remained in the League after that I must have attacked them persistently. And why should I ? I shouldn't have converted them.' [57]

Morris's presence in the League had, however, kept the more violent incitements out of the Commonweal - his letter to Nicoll over Samuels had a real effect. In addition his money had enabled the paper and organization to function relatively smoothly. ( He had been spending in the region of £500 per year on the League. ) When Morris left the League his moderating influence and his money went with him. But perhaps more importantly the organization lost its enormous prestige as Morris's own. These losses threw everything into turmoil. The morale of even the firmly Anarchist members was severely shaken and many of them seem to have assumed that the end of the League was nigh. From December 1890 onwards the Commonweal was temporary issued monthly instead of weekly. The League moved into much less salubrious quarters at 273 Hackney Road. A circular from the Hammersmith branch ( now renamed the Hammersmith Socialist Society ) explaining the reasons for their secession seems to have isolated the Commonweal from the provincial branches that had no strong Anarchist influence. By December 1890 the branches of the League had shrunk from nine to two ( North Kensington and North London ) if we except the group round the Commonweal. Matters were not helped by rumours that the League and the Commonweal were finished, rumours put about by 'ink-slingers' who had left the League earlier when it passed 'the drawing-room and aesthetic stage of the Socialist movement', in Kitz's words. All this inevitably put strains on the small numbers left to carry on the work. Kitz and Mowbray fell out after some dispute and Kitz left in March 1890 just as things seemed to be getting better. It is more than likely that the dispute had something to do with Mowbray's inclinations towards the power of nineteenth-century science. In April 1890 Kitz had written : 'Some of the younger and hotter amongst us, disheartened at what appears to be a hopeless task ( ... ) either give up in despair or dream of more forceful methods of agitation ( ... ) As well prepared and willing as any to make reprisals should there be a determined effort on the part of the "haves" to suppress the murmurings of the "have nots" ( ... ) I still contend that in agitation and education ( ... ) and in preaching the gospel of discontent lays our chief chance of success.' [58] The loss of Kitz was serious, as Nicoll was forced to admit in the Commonweal : 'The defection of the late General Secretary caused much confusion and loss, but every effort has been made.' [59]

The Anarchist section of the League in London ( now renamed the London Socialist League ) only just survived these ructions. That it survived at all was due to the efforts of Nicoll and Mowbray to keep the Commonweal going. Nicoll wrote later : 'The paper had been carried on after Morris had left us by the scanty pence of workmen who often lacked food. It was edited by a man who in the few hours he had left from the Commonweal, for there was no money for salary for the editor, barely enough for the compositors, had to pick up a living from stray journalism.' [60] ( Nicoll had exhausted a small legacy. ) In April 1891 the London Socialist League was in a bad shape, with an estimated membership of no more than 120. Only six speaking pitches were being kept open. From this point, however, having overcome its most immediate internal and material difficulties, the organization had more time for agitation and began to expand. From 2 May the Commonweal again came out weekly, though only in an edition of four pages. Nicoll came under some pressure to formally declare the paper Anarchist, pressure he resisted for some time. From his point of view, giving anti-parliamentary revolutionary socialism a specifically Anarchist brand-name seemed to unnecessarily restrict the paper's readership. Nevertheless from the first new weekly edition of the Commonweal in May 1891, the sub-title described it as 'A Revolutionary Journal of Anarchist Communism'.

In one sense the Anarchists had been ahead of their time in 1890 when they urged more dynamic action on the working class and made carping criticisms of the 'New' unionism. By 1891 it was clear that the boom was over. In the winter of 1890 to 1891 there had been a financial crisis in the City and Barings Bank nearly failed. Trade was slack, unemployment was rising, the incidence of blacklegging ( organized or otherwise ) was increasing and the new unions were very much on the defensive. Audiences could now be found who responded to more revolutionary sentiments. A Christian socialist paper was clearly worried at the new trend : 'Violence has been openly advocated by the more extreme journals, and at meetings of angry workmen revolutionary speeches have been hailed with delight, while more moderate and more reasonable speakers have been listened to with but scant patience. Such sentiments as "putting a little more devil into the strike"; "don't let all the corpses be on one side"; and vague threats of "fanning the class war into a blaze which shall fire the world" are heartily echoed by thousands of excited workers in different parts of London and throughout the provinces.' [61] By no means, however, had this new bitterness become focused by the Anarchists. The 1 May demonstration in 1891 was called by the Anarchists alone and only mustered some 700-800 people in Hyde Park in the daytime. An evening meeting fared somewhat better. When the speakers arrived at Mile End Waste they found a very large body of police, both foot and mounted, waiting to 'prevent any disturbance'. The police did not attempt to break up the meeting but their presence attracted large crowds to hear speeches by Cantwell, Nicoll, Arnold, Mainwaring, Yanovsky and Mowbray. As if to underline the point made by the Christian socialist paper, the Commonweal reported that the audience, mainly composed of dock and riverside workers, responded most enthusiastically to 'the most revolutionary sentiments'. Judging by the Commonweal the action urged on the people was the strike conducted in the Leeds style and riotous looting as a method of feeding the unemployed

As 1891 progressed a number of agitations were conducted by the League Anarchists which showed some real life. A fund was set up to finance propaganda in the army. This seems to have initially involved Charles Mowbray's son, who was sentenced to a prison term and discharge from the army for these activities. Mowbray and Charles then took up the work, visiting Colchester, Rochester and Chatham. At Colchester 500 special ( ? ) numbers of the Commonweal and 2,000 leaflets were distributed in the barracks. At Chatham 1,000 copies of the Commonweal containing an 'Address to the Army' were handed out. The 'Address...' urged the soldiers to remember their working-class origins and to refuse to fire on the people if they were ordered to do so. The agitation seems to have been met with some success. At the very least it was in tune with the dissatisfaction that existed in the army at that time - semi-mutinies were being reported in some Guards regiments. A further agitation was conducted around the question of rent. A 'No Rent League' was founded and their meetings in the Boundary Street slum were excitedly attended by the residents. The choice of Boundary Street was shrewd. The new London County Council had paid the owners of this notorious rookery a generous compensation after acquiring it. The gist of the Anarchist propaganda was that it was the residents who needed compensating. This, it seemed, could be most easily achieved by their refusal to pay rent. This campaign, too, met with some success. As a result of people withholding rent, bailiffs were called in and this led in turn to the formation of an Anti-Broker Brigade to protect people from their depredations.

The No Rent agitation was enthusiastically taken up in Sheffield by Dr John Creaghe and others. Creaghe, an incredible man who had spent much of his life in Argentina, practised what he preached. When bailiffs attempted to distrain goods he drove them out with a poker. This appears to have led to the penning of a little ditty which was put on No Rent propaganda from that point on. It ran :

Hurrah ! for the kettle, the club and the poker
Good medicine always for landlord and broker;
Surely 'tis better to find yourself clobber
Before paying rent to a rascally robber [62]

The Sheffield Anarchists were noticeably active at this point. They were unusual for their time in that instead of remaining a faction within a Socialist Society or Socialist League branch where one existed, they struck out on their own and formed an Anarchist group early in 1891. They unfurled their banner at the Monolith, the regular speaking pitch, on May Day with the motto 'No God, No Master' written on it. They regularly held meetings there and in other parts of the town and established a club. They were popular in the working-class districts, Creaghe's activity with the poker being particularly well received. Among the middle class, however, there was great hostility and in September Commonweal reported that 'well dressed rowdys' had attacked the club and broken windows by throwing pennies. Taking the money as payment the Anarchists had replied by running out and scattering revolutionary literature among the attackers. The Sheffield group also produced several issues of a local paper, the Sheffield Anarchist, which had a short and outrageous career in 1891. And Sheffield was not the only provincial town where Anarchists were beginning to establish themselves : the Leeds Anarchists were, it was alleged, responsible for riots in Bradford during a big strike at Listers Mill through their insistence on holding strike meetings which had been banned by the police.

But these beginnings of an activist Anarchism adapted to English conditions were to be thrown into greater prominence by events early in 1892. In February 1891 a casual note had appeared in the Commonweal : 'Our comrade Mendelsohn has been warning the British public that the Russian police have been good enough to transfer a portion of their attention from Paris to London, and that we may therefore expect to hear of sham dynamite plots here (...)'. The warning, it turned out, was not regarded seriously enough.

[1] The draft proposals of the Avelings. See Chapter 3.

[2] Morris to Jane Morris, 15 June 1886, Letters.

[3] D128-131, S.L. archive.

[4] Letter written summer 1887, Letters.

[5] Engels to Sorge, 29 April 1886.

[6] Motion by Donald, 20 September 1886, S.L. archive.

[7] See letter of Morris to J. B. Glasier, 1 December 1886.

[8] Binning to S.L. council, 3 June 1886. SL. archive.

[9] Circular 'To members of the Socialist League', F173, SL. archive.

[10] MS. minutes, SL. archive,

[11] Report of Norwich branch to 1887 conference, S.L. archive.

[12] Freedom, November 1887.

[13] Commonweal, 10 March 1888.

[14] Freedom, November 1887.

[15] Lane memoirs.

[16] Morris in Commonweal, 19 November 1887.

[17] Cunninghame Graham in Commonweal, 10 November 1888.

[18] Freedom, January 1888.

[19] Internal circular of 1887, F173, SL. archive.

[20] Weekly letters, D95-100, SL. archive.

[21] This is probably the significance of the 'missionary fund' made up of money collected at public meetings, etc., by members of the Bloomsbury branch. According to practice this was to be handed into the office for Commonweal expenses, etc., although with council permission -- which seems to have been given freely enough -- branches could use such money for local propaganda. The Bloomsbury branch, however, didn't hand in their money, refused to account for it and were rude about it when asked. A motion condemning them for this was notified in the internal letter for 4 July 1887. The probable use of the money was for 'working the provincial branch' on behalf of the parliamentarians.

[22] 'To the members of the Socialist League', F174, SL. archive.

[23] Nor were the anti-parliamentarians above a bit of misrepresentation : the Hackney branch claimed eighteen members in the conference minutes; yet Secretary Cores's membership list reveals only eleven names.

[24] Hackney branch circular, 1888, 1533, S.L. archive.

[25] Report of Bloomsbury branch, B43, S.L. archive.

[26] Mandates of Bloomsbury delegates, B36, SL. archive.

[27] Morris to Glasier, 1888, Letters.

[28] Morris to Glasier, 1888, Letters.

[29] MS. notes of a conversation with Fred Charles, IISH.

[30] Morris to Glasier, 15 December 1888, Letters.

[31] Freedom, July 1912.

[32] Freedom, May 1888.

[33] Morris to Glasier, 27 July 1888, Letters.

[34] Glasier, J. B., William Morris and the Early Days of the Socialist Movement, London, 1921.

[35] Commonweal, 18 May 1889.

[36] Freedom, October 1889.

[37] Commonweal, 31 August 1889.

[38] Commonweal, 7 September 1889.

[39] Freedom, October 1907.

[40] Freedom, October 1889.

[41] Commonweal, 7 September 1889.

[42] Debate at the Patriotic Club, Sunday 25 August 1889. From Freedom of September 1889. The word 'expropriation' has a special meaning here. Kropotkin's pamphlet of that name had been published by Seymour in English in 1886. It visualizes the progress of the revolution where the people 'As soon as they have made a clean sweep of the Government ( … ) will seek first of all to ensure to themselves decent dwellings and sufficient food and clothes.' But in order to ensure no return of previous exploitation, expropriation 'must apply to everything that enables any man -- be he financier, mill owner or landlord -- to appropriate the product of another's toil'. Essentially expropriation is the process of communalizing property and capital.

[43] Commonweal, 9 November 1889.

[44] Handbill in Nettlau Collection, IISH.

[45] Commonweal, 30 August 1890.

[46] Latouche P., Anarchy !, London, 1908. p. 6o.

[47] J. R. Clynes, Memoirs, London, 1937, pp. 53-4.

[48] Commonweal, 16 August 1890.

[49] Morris to Glasier, 6 April 1890.

[50] Commonweal, 12 July 1890.

[51] Morris to Nicoll, 19 July 1890, Letters.

[52] Freedom, July 1912.

[53] Commonweal, 22 November 1890.

[54] Commonweal, 15 November 1890.

[55] Commonweal, 23 May 1891.

[56] Commonweal, 29 November 1890.

[57] Morris to Glasier, 5 December 1890, Letters.

[58] Commonweal, 5 April 1890.

[59] Commonweal, April 1891.

[60] Commonweal, Nicoll ( ed. ), Christmas 1904.

[61] Belfast Weekly Star, quoted Commonweal, March 1891.

[62] See for example handbill headed 'MURDER' in W. C. Hart, Confessions of an Anarchist, London, 1906, p. 42