chapter  XIV
8 Pages

The Beginnings of the London School of Economics

XIV The Beginnings of the London School of Economics T h e years 1895-97 are memorable in my life for giving me an opportunity to enter into the spirit of English life. On my arrival in London in June, 1894, 1 knew, of course, every­ thing about the English, as is the case with all new-comers from the Continent. The English were selfish, haughty, hypocritical, despising all other people, proud of their wealth and liberties, contemning all ideas that were not convertible into spot cash. I f a German transmutes hats into ideas and cherishes them, the Englishman changes ideas into hats and sells them. My intercourse with Germans of the generation born after 1870 was not at all calculated to make me revise my views; but my coming in touch with young Jews and Jewesses of the East End of London, who read Dickens, and attended evening lectures at Toynbee Hall and Sunday ethical services at South Place Chapel, gradually caused me to feel that I knew nothing yet about England. And the consciousness of ignorance, a mortifying yet compelling feeling, is the beginning of wisdom. In the Jews’ Free School in the East End I began to take a course in English, organized by the Jewish community for its alien co-religionists, and the first book which I read there, and which greatly impressed me, was Forster’s Citizenship. Once initiated into a new way of thinking I kept on pursuing it, as is my wont. At the end of 1894 I joined the Social Democratic Federation, led by Henry M. Hyndman, who was always at loggerheads with Frederick Engels-it was a case of Greek meeting Greek. I read Justice, the Social Democratic weekly, which I liked for its Marxist views; I attended also the lectures of the Fabian Society, which I contemned as reformist and as flagrantly biased against Marxist teaching; and in 1895 I entered the London School of Economics, which was then