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Fabian Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 10/9/10 7:42 PM

Fabian Society
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The Fabian Society is a British socialist movement, whose purpose is
to advance the principles of socialism via gradualist and reformist, Socialism
rather than revolutionary, means. It is best known for its initial ground-
breaking work beginning late in the 19th century and continuing up to
World War I. The society laid many of the foundations of the Labour
Party and subsequently affected the policies of states emerging from the
decolonisation of the British Empire, especially India.

Today, the society is a vanguard think tank of the New Labour Currents
movement. It is one of 15 socialist societies affiliated to the Labour
Marxist socialism
Party. Similar societies exist in Australia (the Australian Fabian
Scientific socialism
Society), Canada (the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation and in the past the
Democratic socialism
League for Social Reconstruction) and New Zealand.
Libertarian socialism · Mutualism
Market socialism · State socialism
Utopian socialism · Communism
Social anarchism · Syndicalism
Social democracy Revolutionary socialism
Contents Green socialism · Guild socialism
21st century socialism
1 History Agrarian socialism
2 Legacy Key topics and issues
2.1 Young Fabians
2.2 Influence on Labour government Types
3 Criticism Economics
4 See also State
5 References Criticisms
5.1 Notes
5.2 Bibliography Concepts
6 External links Economic planning · Free association
Equality of opportunity
Economic democracy
Adhocracy · Technocracy
History Self-management · Direct democracy
Public ownership · Common ownership
The group, which favoured gradual change rather than revolutionary
Social dividend · Basic income
change, was named – at the suggestion of Frank Podmore – in honour
Production for use
of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus (nicknamed
Calculation in kind · Labour voucher
"Cunctator", meaning "the Delayer"). His Fabian strategy advocated
Industrial democracy · Collaboration
tactics of harassment and attrition rather than head-on battles against
Material balance accounting
the Carthaginian army under the renowned general Hannibal.
The society was founded on 4 January 1884 in London as an offshoot of Charles Hall · Henri de Saint-Simon
a society founded in 1883 called The Fellowship of the New Life.[1] Robert Owen · Charles Fourier
Fellowship members included poets Edward Carpenter and John William Thompson Thomas Hodgskin ·
Davidson, sexologist Havelock Ellis and future Fabian secretary, Louis Blanc Moses Hess · Karl Marx
Edward R. Pease. They wanted to transform society by setting an Friedrich Engels · Ferdinand Lassalle
example of clean simplified living for others to follow. But when some William Morris · Mary Harris Jones
members also wanted to become politically involved to aid society's John Dewey · Eugene V. Debs
transformation, it was decided that a separate society, The Fabian Enrico Barone · Ben Tillett
Society, also be set up. All members were free to attend both societies. Bertrand Russell · Robin Hahnel
The Fabian Society additionally advocated renewal of Western Michael Albert
European Renaissance ideas and their promulgation throughout the rest
of the world.
First International
The Fellowship of the New Life was dissolved in 1898[2] , but the (International Workingmen's Association)

Fabian Society grew to become the preeminent academic society in the Second International
United Kingdom in the Edwardian era, typified by the members of its Third International (Comintern)
Fourth International

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vanguard Coefficients club. Fourth International

Socialist International
Immediately upon its inception, the Fabian Society began attracting World Federation of
many prominent contemporary figures drawn to its socialist cause, Democratic Youth
including George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Annie Besant, Graham International Union of
Wallas, Hubert Bland, Edith Nesbit, Sydney Olivier, Oliver Lodge, Socialist Youth
Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf, Ramsay MacDonald and Emmeline World Socialist Movement
Pankhurst. Even Bertrand Russell briefly became a member, but Religious socialism
resigned after he expressed his belief that the Society's principle of
Buddhist · Christian
entente (in this case, countries allying themselves against Germany)
Islamic · Jewish left
could lead to war.
Regional socialism
At the core of the Fabian Society were Sidney and Beatrice Webb. African socialism · Arab socialism
Together, they wrote numerous studies of industrial Britain, including Chinese socialism · Titoism
alternative co-operative economics that applied to ownership of capital Maoism
as well as land. Labour Zionism Third World Socialism
Third World Socialism
The first Fabian Society pamphlets advocating tenets of social justice Left-wing nationalism
coincided with the zeitgeist of Liberal reforms during the early 1900s.
Related topics
The Fabian proposals however were considerably more progressive than
those that were enacted in the Liberal reform legislation. The Fabians Criticism of capitalism
lobbied for the introduction of a minimum wage in 1906, for the Class struggle · Democracy
creation of a universal health care system in 1911 and for the abolition Dictatorship of the proletariat
of hereditary peerages in 1917[3] . Egalitarianism · Equality of outcome
Impossibilism · Internationalism
Fabian socialists were in favour of an imperialist foreign policy as a State-owned enterprise
conduit for internationalist reform and a welfare state modelled on the Left-wing politics · Marxism
Bismarckian German model; they criticised Gladstonian liberalism both Mixed economy · Nationalization
for its individualism at home and its internationalism abroad. They Socialization of production ·
favoured a national minimum wage in order to stop British industries Planned economy
compensating for their inefficiency by lowering wages instead of Proletarian revolution
investing in capital equipment; slum clearances and a health service in Reformism · Socialism in One Country
order for "the breeding of even a moderately Imperial race" which Socialist market economy
would be more productive and better militarily than the "stunted, Post-capitalism · Trade union
anaemic, demoralised denizens...of our great cities"; and a national Mode of production
education system because "it is in the class-rooms that the future battles
of the Empire for commercial prosperity are already being lost"[4] .

The Fabians also favored the nationalisation of land, believing that rents collected by landowners were unearned,
an idea which drew heavily from the work of American economist Henry George.

Many Fabians participated in the formation of the Labour Party in 1900 and the group's constitution, written by
Sidney Webb, borrowed heavily from the founding documents of the Fabian Society. At the Labour Party
Foundation Conference in 1900, the Fabian Society claimed 861 members and sent one delegate.

In the period between the two World Wars, the "Second Generation" Fabians, including the writers R. H.
Tawney, G. D. H. Cole and Harold Laski, continued to be a major influence on social-democratic thought.

It was at this time that many of the future leaders of the Third World were exposed to Fabian thought, most
notably India's Jawaharlal Nehru, who subsequently framed economic policy for India on Fabian social-
democratic lines. Obafemi Awolowo who later became the premier of Nigeria's defunct Western Region was also
a Fabian member in the late 1940s. It was the Fabian ideology that Awolowo used to run the Western Region but
was prevented from using it on a national level in Nigeria. It is a little-known fact that the founder of Pakistan,
Barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was an avid member of the Fabian Society in the early 1930s. Lee Kuan Yew,
the first Prime Minister of Singapore, stated in his memoirs that his initial political philosophy was strongly
influenced by the Fabian Society. However, he later altered his views, believing the Fabian ideal of socialism to
be impractical.

Among many current and former Fabian academics are the late political scientist Bernard Crick, the late
economists Thomas Balogh and Nicholas Kaldor and the sociologist Peter Townsend.

Through the course of the 20th century the group has always been influential in Labour Party circles, with

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members including Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Anthony Crosland, Richard Crossman, Tony Benn,
Harold Wilson and more recently Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The late Ben Pimlott served as its Chairman in
the 1990s. (A Pimlott Prize for Political Writing was organised in his memory by the Fabian Society and The
Guardian in 2005 and continues annually). The Society is affiliated to the Party as a socialist society. In recent
years the Young Fabian group, founded in 1960, has become an important networking and discussion
organisation for younger (under 31) Labour Party activists and played a role in the 1994 election of Tony Blair
as Labour Leader. Following a period of inactivity, the Scottish Young Fabians were reformed in 2005.

The society's 2004 annual report showed that there were 5,810 individual members (down 70 from the previous
year), of whom 1,010 were Young Fabians and 294 institutional subscribers, of which 31 were Constituency
Labour Parties, co-operative societies, or trade unions, 190 were libraries, 58 corporate and 15 other—making
6,104 members in total. The society's net assets were £86,057, its total income £486,456 and its total expenditure
£475,425. There was an overall surplus for the year of £1,031.

On 21 April 2009 the Society's website stated that it had 6,286 members: "Fabian national membership now
stands at a 35 year high: it is over 20% higher than when the Labour Party came to office in May 1997. It is now
double what it was when Clement Attlee left office in 1951."

The latest edition of the Dictionary of National Biography (a reference work listing details of famous or
significant Britons throughout history) includes 174 Fabians. Four Fabians, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Graham
Wallas and George Bernard Shaw founded the London School of Economics with the money left to the Fabian
Society by Henry Hutchinson. Supposedly the decision was made at a breakfast party on 4 August 1894. The
founders are depicted in the Fabian Window [5] designed by George Bernard Shaw. The window was stolen in
1978 and reappeared at Sotheby's in 2005. It was restored to display in the Shaw Library at the London School of
Economics in 2006 at a ceremony over which Tony Blair presided. [6]

Young Fabians
Members aged under 31 years of age are also members of the Young Fabians. This group has its own elected
Chair and executive and organizes conferences and events. It also publishes the quarterly magazine
Anticipations. The Scottish Young Fabians, a Scottish branch of the group, reformed in 2005.

Influence on Labour government

Since Labour came to office in 1997, the Fabian Society has been a forum for New Labour ideas and for critical
approaches from across the party. The most significant Fabian contribution to Labour's policy agenda in
government was Ed Balls' 1992 pamphlet, advocating Bank of England independence. Balls had been a
Financial Times journalist when he wrote this Fabian pamphlet, before going to work for Gordon Brown. BBC
Business Editor Robert Peston, in his book Brown's Britain, calls this an "essential tract" and concludes that Balls
"deserves as much credit – probably more – than anyone else for the creation of the modern Bank of England"; [7]
William Keegan offers a similar analysis of Balls' Fabian pamphlet in his book on Labour's economic policy,[8]
which traces in detail the path leading up to this dramatic policy change after Labour's first week in office.

The Fabian Society Tax Commission of 2000 was widely credited[9] with influencing the Labour government's
policy and political strategy for its one significant public tax increase: the National Insurance rise to raise £8
billion for National Health Service spending. (The Fabian Commission had in fact called for a directly
hypothecated "NHS tax" [10] to cover the full cost of NHS spending, arguing that linking taxation more directly
to spending was essential to make tax rise publicly acceptable. The 2001 National Insurance rise was not
formally hypothecated, but the government committed itself to using the additional funds for health spending.)
Several other recommendations, including a new top rate of income tax, were to the left of government policy
and not accepted, though this comprehensive review of UK taxation was influential in economic policy and
political circles.[11]

Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik and an influential 20th century revolutionary socialist and former Red Army General,
wrote that Fabianism was an attempt to save capitalism from the working class. He wrote that "throughout the
whole history of the British Labour movement there has been pressure by the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat
through the agency of radicals, intellectuals, drawing-room and church socialists and Owenites who reject the
class struggle and advocate the principle of social solidarity, preach collaboration with the bourgeoisie, bridle,
enfeeble and politically debase the proletariat". [12]

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In the early 1900s some members advocated the ideal of a scientifically planned society and supported eugenics
by way of sterilisation. In an article published in The Guardian on 14 February 2008, (following the apology
offered by Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd to the "stolen generations") Geoffrey Robertson criticised
Fabian socialists for providing the intellectual justification for the eugenics policy that led to the stolen
generations scandal.[13]

John Taylor Gatto argues Fabianism is at fault for trends in education policy he opposes.[14]

In The Broken Compass, Peter Hitchens identifies the influence of Fabianism as one of the contributing factors to
what he sees as a current malaise in British politics, and also in detail argues elements within the 20th century
Fabian Society adopted an apologist stance towards some of the most egregious elements of Stalinist Russia.[15]

See also

Fabian strategy Journals:

Gradualism New Statesman
Keir Hardie The New Age
Labour Research Department
List of UK think tanks
Young Fabians

1. ^ Pease, Edward (1916). A History of the Fabian Society (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13715/13715.txt) . New York:
E.P. DUTTON & COMPANY. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13715/13715.txt.
2. ^ Pease, 1916
3. ^ Fabian Society (http://www.fabian-society.org.uk/About/history.asp)
4. ^ Bernard Semmel, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought 1895-1914 (London: Allen and
Unwin, 1960), p. 71, p. 73.
5. ^ Press release, "A piece of Fabian history unveiled at LSE," London School of Economics & Political Science
Archives [1]
(http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/pressAndInformationOffice/newsAndEvents/archives/2006/FabianWindow.htm) Last
accessed 23 February 2007
6. ^ Andrew Walker, "Wit, wisdom and windows", BBC News [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4944100.stm) Last
accessed 23 February 2007
7. ^ [quoted here; http://www.afsp.msh-paris.fr/archives/congreslyon2005/communications/tr4/wickham.pdf]
8. ^ Observer review: The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown by William Keegan | By genre | guardian.co.uk Books
9. ^ Honesty turns out to be the best policy | News | The Observer
10. ^ BBC News | UK POLITICS | Think tank calls for NHS tax (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1042801.stm)
11. ^ In defence of earmarked taxes - FT 07/12/00 (http://www.samuelbrittan.co.uk/text65_p.html)
12. ^ Writings on Britain, Volume 2, New Park, London 1974, p. 48
13. ^ We should say sorry too (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/feb/14/australia)
14. ^ [3] (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/9e.htm)
15. ^ Hitchens, Peter (2009). The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way. Continuum International Publishing
Group Ltd. ISBN 1847064051. – see conclusion, 'The Broken Compass'

Plan for Britain: A Collection of Essays prepared for the Fabian Society by G D H Cole, Aneurin Bevan,
Jim Griffiths, L F Easterbrook, Sir William Beveridge and Harold J Laski (Not illustrated with 127 text
pages). (Detail taken from Plan for Britain published by George Routledge with a date of 1943 and no

External links
Official website (http://www.fabians.org.uk/)
The History of the Fabian Society (http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/13715) by Edward R. Pease, its
secretary for 25 years; from Project Gutenberg
Catalogue of the Fabian Society archives held at the London School of Economics

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Fabian tracts and early Fabian Society minute books are available online (http://lib-

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabian_Society"

Categories: 1884 establishments | Political and economic think tanks based in the United Kingdom | Social
democracy | Democratic socialism | Labour Party (UK) socialist societies | London School of Economics |
Victorian era | Socialist think tanks | Edwardian era

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