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The secret of the League

par Ernest Bramah

Prix : 2,99 €
ISBN : 978-1-909782-99-0
Nombre de pages : 352 pages
Langue du livre : en

Thème : English eBooks

“The secret of the league” is a dystopian novel written by Ernest Bramah in 1907. It was first published as “What might have been: the story of a social war”, but later was republished in 1909 as “The secret of the league”. The novel is widely credited as having influenced George Orwell for his 1984.

Political context

In the 1906 General elections, the Labour party arises from nowhere (2 seats) to become a potent force in British politics (29 seats). The surprising result is followed by social unrest and strikes, scaring the middle and upper classes, as the prospect of a Labour government is no longer so far-fetched.

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Context in the book

In the novel, the vision of a Labour Government is frankly dystopian. A mix of ultimate do-gooders and heavy taxation addicts, the Labour government as described by Bramah is not very different from Tory MPs' worst nightmares. A point here, most commentators of “The secret of the league” seem to all have read the same paragraph written by George Orwell in 1940 commenting on the rise of Hitler and Fascism, but they apparently have not read the book itself. In truth, the leftist government which springs to power and is overthrown through an undemocratic plot is not just a nice, left-wing Government, it is a semi-dictatorial one. See for yourself: “abolished the House of Lords, suspended the Naval programme and confiscated all ecclesiastical landed property.”; those Labour rulers are only satisfied when railway companies collapse, when they deplete the defence budget, etc. This is not the vision of Attlee coming to power in 1945, this is the vision of a Communist government. It just shows that Bramah and Lenin both found their inspiration in the French Revolution.

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Plot fomented by the League and rise to power

Absolutely scared and devastated by the situation, the upper and middle classes unite and create the League in a bid to overthrow the democratically elected Government. They will design an ingenious plot aimed at wrecking the economy through hoarding coal, converting coal-burning factories to oil-burning ones, creating mass unemployment and civil war, then rise to power thanks to foreign help. What is astonishing about this book, written in 1907, is that we have many of the components of the political strife which prevails in the next ten decades, with energy as the source of economic power and political unrest, right-wing government rising to power thanks to foreign help, and the interesting feeling that Bramah is not so sad at the outcome. That he hated the prospect of Labour rising to power seems pretty obvious, but whether he is truly wishing for a Fascist government to rise to power, or whether he is rather describing it as a sad outcome of Labour coming to power is not clear, at least to us.

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George Orwell writes about “The secret of the league” in “Prophecies of Fascism”

“The Secret of the League” was written in 1907, when the growth of the labour movement was beginning to terrify the middle class, who wrongly imagined that they were menaced from below rather than from above. As a political forecast it is trivial, but it is of great interest for the light it casts on the mentality of the struggling middle class”.... then “ Why should a decent and kindly writer like Ernest Bramah find the crushing of the proletariat a pleasant vision? It is simply the reaction of a struggling class which felt itself menaced not so much in its economic position, but more as in its code of conduct and way of life.”, and “ Time, and Hitler, have taught the middle classes a great deal, and perhaps they will not again side with their oppressors against their natural allies. But whether they do so or not depends partly on how they are handled, and the stupidity of Socialist propaganda, with its constant baiting of the ‘petty bourgeois', has a lot to answer for.”

©2014-Les Editions de Londres

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