George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
Morris and Wells: Friend and Foe

THE FABIAN SOCIETY HAS BEEN THE PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY FOR THE INTELLECTUAL and studious among Socialists in England. The meetings were forums for discussion, where everything was considered from Marx's Surplus Value to "gas and water" Socialism, from Bakunin and Proudhon to Jack Cade and Francis Place. The Fabians were derisively called "Gas & Water Socialists"; and the members of the other societies, which believed in direct political action, laughed at the Fabians as parlor radicals, compromisers and opportunists.

In the Fabian Society, there was a group of civil servants whose knowledge of practical administration and access to statistics enabled them to make an effective propaganda, quite peculiar to the Fabian Society, of every sort of public activity with which the advance of Socialism was concerned. In Sidney and Beatrice Webb they had two famous investigators whose water-paper baskets alone contained matter for many tracts and lectures. By the year 1900 the Society had published about a hundred valuable pamphlets, crammed with hard facts, and linking up theoretical Socialism to already existing developments of State and municipal enterprise in a manner undreamed of by the romantic revolutionists of 1848-1871.

As the result of adopting the political policy of permeation, and making their way into public authorities and their committee chairmanships under all sorts of party colors, the Fabians and their Society became a byword in the naïvely intransigent Federations and Leagues which regarded themselves as the temples of the true Marxist or Communist. But even these they resolutely permeated. "Many of us--Bland among others--were members of the S. D. F., and I was constantly speaking for the S. D. F. and the League. We did not keep ourselves to ourselves; we aided the working class organizations in every possible way; and they were jolly glad to have us. In fact the main difference between us was that we worked for everybody (permeation) and they worked for their own societies only. The real reason that we segregated for purposes of thought and study was that the workers could not go our pace or stand our social habits. Hyndman and Morris and Helen Taylor and the

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