The Story of Fabian Socialism

The Story of Fabian Socialism

The Story of Fabian Socialism

The Story of Fabian Socialism

Excerpt

One reason for writing this book must be obvious. The only history of the Fabian Society which exists was published by Edward Pease in 1916, written during the period of quiescence which followed the outbreak of the first world war, and reissued, with a concluding chapter added, in the year of the first Labour Government. Since then there has not been a straight history of the oldest Socialist society in the world, whose name has given an adjective, 'fabian', to English and foreign political terminology. This does not seem to have been for want of trying. There are, to my knowledge, several 'theses' on the Fabian Society or on various aspects of Fabianism existing in the libraries of universities, in this country and elsewhere, and if enquiries of the Fabian office are any indication, there must be others unknown to me; but so far none of them has seen the light in England, and it is therefore very difficult for any seeker to find out what the Fabian Society was, or was doing, at any time in its history after 1914.

I am here trying to fill that gap, as well as making the adjustments in Pease's very readable account from fuller information derived, for example, from Beatrice Webb Diaries or from studies in the origins of the Labour Party and the London School of Economics--which were not available when he wrote. But the book aims at being a history, not of the Fabian Society in isolation, but of Fabian Socialism, because, as I came to study the period more closely, I found that the Fabian Society's own archives represented only a part of the whole. Many students of Socialist history believe that the drawing of the tortoise which adorns the covers of modern Fabian publications was happily, if not deliberately, chosen as a symbol for a society which was capable of hibernating inactively for many years at a time and then reviving, as the Fabian Society did in 1938-9. This picturesque approach is true enough if the Society alone is taken into account; after the stormy period which ended in 1915 with the possibility of its either splitting or finishing altogether it did sink, gradually, into an unimportant somnolence from which it . . .

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