George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview
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The Search for Utopia

DURING THE FOUR YEARS BETWEEN THE OUTBREAK OF THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUtion in Russia in 1917 and the desperate resort to the New Economic Policy put forward in 1921, Shaw regarded the Russian experiment with dubiety and disquiet. The Fabians had long since learned that "Socialist statesmen must not nationalize a penny of capital nor an acre of land until the nation is provided with a civil service ready to use that capital and cultivate that land without a day's delay." When Lenin appeared upon the scene, he won Shaw's accolade as "the greatest statesman of his time" because he abandoned the suicidal policy of expropriation of the capitalists and introduced the New Economic Policy which was Fabian and evolutionary, not catastrophic. The N.E.P. was, as Shaw expressed it, "nothing but the old economic policy revived and tolerated until the Socialist Policy had developed far enough to take its place." When Shaw visited Russia in 1931 he told Stalin that Webb's motto, "The Inevitability of Gradualness," should be engraved upon Lenin's tomb. Lenin, years earlier (during his exile), had demonstrated his interest in Fabianism by translating into Russian the Webbs' History of Trade Unionism. Shaw himself early conceived an admiration for Lenin and sent him, as mentioned earlier in this book, a copy of one of his books, with a handsome inscription. He never received an acknowledgment, and was never sure that the volume had reached Lenin. It is certain, however, as reported by a British visitor to Russia, that Shaw's inscription, in a lithographed facsimile, was widely circulated throughout Russia.

Shaw maintained that Lenin, "among a million others," spoke for Fabianism. After the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution, however, both Fabians and labor leaders in England spoke in the bitterest terms of the Russian revolutionists. Shaw, who from the middle eighties championed Marx, particularly for his "demonstration" that Communism would inevitably triumph in the end over Capitalism, inescapably doomed by its own internal weaknesses, was never to turn aside, even when the tide was against him; and at a public meeting of the Fabian Society startled his listeners by the asseveration that the Russian side was their side.1 According to Shaw, this put an end to Fabian

Bernard Shaw, "Fabian Failures and Successes," Fabian Quarterly, No. 41 ( April, 1944), p. 2.


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George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century
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