MikeMarotta

The Secret of the League

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Ernest Bramah Smith (March 20, 1868 - June 27, 1942) [see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Bramah] wrote action and detective stories such as "The Transmutation of Ling", The Story of Yung Chang", and Max Carrados (stories about a blind detective). The Secret of the League: The Story of a Social War also appeared as What Might Have Been: The Story of a Social War. In the words of the fan website http://ernestbramah.com/

According to William White, "a rather weak forecast of England under a Socialist government." Men with mechanical wings are featured, which has led to its inclusion in several science fiction bibliographies. As a Socialist dystopia, it is apparently highly regarded by Ayn Rand enthusiasts. Originally printed anonymously.

Written in 1907, and set about a decade later, the story does have personal aviation via mechanical wings as a feature. It also offers telefax, electric automobiles and a cryptographic typewriter, all of them plausible for the technology of 1907, looking a short distance into the future.

It is a "weak forecast" only because the better classes did not revolt when Labour first came to its fullest power. In this story, they do. Led by the mysterious "George Salt" the Unity League invests two years planning the downfall of the Socialist clique. Anyone can join the League for the sum of five pounds, about a month's wages for a worker. In terms of gold, that would be one and a quarter ounces. Figure the advance of technology against inflation and this is $1500 at least and perhaps $3000 in today's money. At first, they have about 500,000 members. Eventually, they gain ten times that. For two years, the League has no agenda except to defeat Labour and oust the Socialists from government. Then, they move. Members of the Unity League refuse to buy coal. The secondary effects cascade. In about six months, the government falls. The new constitution replaces "one man one vote" with voting shares at 10 pounds each, with multiple shares being expected in the new order.

Certain elements of this story will be unavoidably familiar to fans of Ayn Rand. The Socialist cabal includes many familiar characters. George Salt is captured and rescued and then he flies to rescue the person we meet first, Irene Lisle, a sensible and insightful middle class girl who is holding the fort at the abandoned League headquarters while a howling mob of the unemployed attempts to burn it down. But this is a dime novel. Early on, the Labour cabinet is bearded in its den by one "Brother Ambrose" and a ragged mob of lumpenproletarians. It is easy to expect this rabble to push at the stodgy Labourites -- in the 60s Labour's slogan was not really "sod you, Jack, I've got mine" -- but that's pretty close. However, Brother Ambrose never comes back. The Socialist cabinet does turn over, but the key posts of Prime Minister and Home Secretary remain. So, the two years of increased taxation and regulation pass quickly and quietly. Also, as the Exchequer is drained, the government never hits on the expedient of paper money. They just cut welfare benefits. The League has stockpiled oil for its own members to see them through the hardest winter in memory. The government never seeks to seize it, but only demurs from protecting it from a mob. Finally, the fact that the Secret of the League has been revealed to the Socialists comes by way of an excruciatingly long passage involving League president Sir John Hampden's being a member of another secret guild, The Order of St. Martin, a cabal devoted to anonymous charity.

On the other hand, among the capitalist class is at least one character whose egotism was earned rising from the coal pits to owning a collier. He still employs his brother at miner's wages 1500 feet down. Would that there had been more like him to meet. For all their good graces, the ruling class is rather thin of character and thinner of actual presence. Only George Salt, Sir John Hampden and a few others are drawn well. Next to George Salt, Irene Lisle is the most animated.

I placed a different view at Rebirth of Reason, here. The story runs about 300 octavo pages of 11 point roman old style. It took about five hours to read. If you know Atlas Shrugged quite well, you will find many similarities in the plot element. that Ayn Rand's work is more deft and adept will be obvious. That this came 50 years earlier is also true.

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Ernest Bramah Smith (March 20, 1868 - June 27, 1942) [see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Bramah] wrote action and detective stories such as "The Transmutation of Ling", The Story of Yung Chang", and Max Carrados (stories about a blind detective). The Secret of the League: The Story of a Social War also appeared as What Might Have Been: The Story of a Social War. In the words of the fan website http://ernestbramah.com/
According to William White, "a rather weak forecast of England under a Socialist government." Men with mechanical wings are featured, which has led to its inclusion in several science fiction bibliographies. As a Socialist dystopia, it is apparently highly regarded by Ayn Rand enthusiasts. Originally printed anonymously.

Written in 1907, and set about a decade later, the story does have personal aviation via mechanical wings as a feature. It also offers telefax, electric automobiles and a cryptographic typewriter, all of them plausible for the technology of 1907, looking a short distance into the future.

It is a "weak forecast" only because the better classes did not revolt when Labour first came to its fullest power. In this story, they do. Led by the mysterious "George Salt" the Unity League invests two years planning the downfall of the Socialist clique. Anyone can join the League for the sum of five pounds, about a month's wages for a worker. In terms of gold, that would be one and a quarter ounces. Figure the advance of technology against inflation and this is $1500 at least and perhaps $3000 in today's money. At first, they have about 500,000 members. Eventually, they gain ten times that. For two years, the League has no agenda except to defeat Labour and oust the Socialists from government. Then, they move. Members of the Unity League refuse to buy coal. The secondary effects cascade. In about six months, the government falls. The new constitution replaces "one man one vote" with voting shares at 10 pounds each, with multiple shares being expected in the new order.

Certain elements of this story will be unavoidably familiar to fans of Ayn Rand. The Socialist cabal includes many familiar characters. George Salt is captured and rescued and then he flies to rescue the person we meet first, Irene Lisle, a sensible and insightful middle class girl who is holding the fort at the abandoned League headquarters while a howling mob of the unemployed attempts to burn it down. But this is a dime novel. Early on, the Labour cabinet is bearded in its den by one "Brother Ambrose" and a ragged mob of lumpenproletarians. It is easy to expect this rabble to push at the stodgy Labourites -- in the 60s Labour's slogan was not really "sod you, Jack, I've got mine" -- but that's pretty close. However, Brother Ambrose never comes back. The Socialist cabinet does turn over, but the key posts of Prime Minister and Home Secretary remain. So, the two years of increased taxation and regulation pass quickly and quietly. Also, as the Exchequer is drained, the government never hits on the expedient of paper money. They just cut welfare benefits. The League has stockpiled oil for its own members to see them through the hardest winter in memory. The government never seeks to seize it, but only demurs from protecting it from a mob. Finally, the fact that the Secret of the League has been revealed to the Socialists comes by way of an excruciatingly long passage involving League president Sir John Hampden's being a member of another secret guild, The Order of St. Martin, a cabal devoted to anonymous charity.

On the other hand, among the capitalist class is at least one character whose egotism was earned rising from the coal pits to owning a collier. He still employs his brother at miner's wages 1500 feet down. Would that there had been more like him to meet. For all their good graces, the ruling class is rather thin of character and thinner of actual presence. Only George Salt, Sir John Hampden and a few others are drawn well. Next to George Salt, Irene Lisle is the most animated.

I placed a different view at Rebirth of Reason, here. The story runs about 300 octavo pages of 11 point roman old style. It took about five hours to read. If you know Atlas Shrugged quite well, you will find many similarities in the plot element. that Ayn Rand's work is more deft and adept will be obvious. That this came 50 years earlier is also true.

As What Might Have Been, the book can be found as a free PDF download in a listing at Google book search. I'd never heard of it before, but sf scholars like Everett Bleiler were aware of it. I hadn't remembered the name of the author either, but one of his other titles, Kai Lung's Golden Hours, rings a bell with me somehow. Bramah was very reclusive, according to the Wikipedia entry, but quite well known in his time -- George Orwell considered The Secret of the League an accurate forecast of fascism, and while I can't make any authoritative judgment from just a summary, that summary makes it sound like Jack London's The Iron Heel stood on its head. But The Iron Heel came out a year later!

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As a Socialist dystopia, it is apparently highly regarded by Ayn Rand enthusiasts. Originally printed anonymously.

The only "Ayn Rand enthusiasts" for this book I have seen are those who "enthusiastically" bash Ayn Rand for anything they can dream up -- in this case they claim that Ayn Rand stole the book for Atlas Shrugged.

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