“I’m not,” Jameson Jameson admitted frankly, “in direct communication with Lenin, but I’ve read about Bolshevism in a magazine, and I know a bit about it from that. The Bolshevists want to share things out so as we’re equal and that’s only right, isn’t it? Does anyone,” he glared round fiercely, “wish to contradict me?” No-one did.
- Number: 4.1
- Published: 1924 (1921 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Fourth
- Synopsis: Robert becomes a temporary Communist.
In many ways, this story is less about William and William’s friends than about Robert and Robert’s friends.
But in another way, it basically is about William, because Robert and Robert’s friends are far more similar to William than they may care to admit.
Like William, they take up and drop crazes with mind-spinning rapidity. Like William, they convene over-formal and over-ambitious societies which are, in reality, just themselves with a fancy name. Like William, they are motivated more by immediate needs than by any wider principle.
William became the Junior Branch of the Society of Reformed Bolshevists. Alone he was President and Secretary and Committee and Members. He resented any suggestion of enlarging the Junior Branch. He preferred to form the Branch himself. He held meetings of his Branch under the laurel bushes in the garden, and made eloquent speeches to an audience consisting of a few depressed daffodil roots.
Jameson Jameson, the William equivalent of the older brothers’ generation, organises his peers into a local Communist party. Somewhat reluctantly recognising that equality means equality, they accept that William could not be excluded purely on the grounds of age, so they siphon him off into a one-man Junior Branch.
But when the Junior Branch discovers what Communism really means (“We can take anything to make us equal”) he invites his friends to join. Together, they raid the bedrooms of their older brothers in the Senior Branch and take control of the means of production, bicycles, fountain pens and so on.
This practical demonstration of social justice marks a turning point for Robert, who, along with his fraternal comrades, disbands the Society of Reformed Bolshevists:
It’s all right when you can get your share of other people’s things, but when other people try to get their share of your things, then it’s different.
The first of Richmal Crompton’s several satires of extreme political positions. Best, though, is the parallel between the ‘immature’ William and the ‘mature’ Robert.