Fabian Society

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Fabian Society,

British socialist society. An outgrowth of the Fellowship of the New Life (founded 1883 under the influence of Thomas Davidson), the society was developed the following year by Frank Podmore and Edward Pease. George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb joined soon after this and became its outstanding exponents. The group achieved recognition with the publication of Fabian Essays (1889), with contributions by Shaw, Webb, Annie Besant, and Graham Wallas. The Fabians were opposed to the revolutionary theory of Marxism, holding that social reforms and socialistic "permeation" of existing political institutions would bring about the natural development of socialism. Repudiating the necessity of violent class struggle, they took little notice of trade unionism and other labor movements until Beatrice Potter (who later married Sidney Webb) joined the group. They subsequently helped create (1900) the unified Labour Representation Committee, which evolved into the Labour party. The Labour party adopted their main tenets, and the Fabian Society remains as an affiliated research and publicity agency.

Bibliography

See studies by A. Fremantle (1960), P. Pugh (1984), and F. Lee (1988).

Fabian Society

a society founded in Britain in 1884 to advance democratic SOCIALISM while pursuing a policy of gradualism’ rather than REVOLUTION. The name derives from a Roman general, Fabius Cunctator, who gained victories by avoiding pitched battles. Well-known Fabians include Sydney and Beatrice WEBB, and the dramatist George Bernard Shaw. The society still survives, and as an approach to social research and social policy and SOCIAL REFORM, Fabianism remains an important orientation in British left-wing politics.

Fabian Society

 

a reformist organization in Great Britain, founded in 1884. The society’s members were drawn primarily from the bourgeois intelligentsia, such as G. B. Shaw, S. Webb, B. Webb, and H. G. Wells. The society’s organizers took their name from Fabius Maximus Cunctator (“the Delayer”), who was known for his cautious, delaying tactics in fighting Hannibal.

Although they considered socialism the inevitable result of economic development, the Fabians regarded that development as evolutionary and rejected revolutionary change. They opposed the class struggle of the proletariat and the creation of an independent proletarian political party. V. I. Lenin characterized Fabianism as “the trend of extreme opportunism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 16, p. 338).

The widespread demand among the British working class for an independent workers’ policy resulted in the Fabians’ endorsing the creation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. The Fabians supported the Labour Party (created in 1900, but known as the Labour Representation Committee until 1906) and were affiliated with it, but retained their own organization. To the present day the Fabian Society has formed the ideological center of the Labour Party, elaborating the programmatic and tactical principles of Labourism. Many prominent leaders of the Labour Party have come from the Fabian Society.

REFERENCES

Vinogradov, V. N. Uistokov leiboristskoi partii. Moscow, 1965.
Kertfnan, L. E. Rabochee dvizhenie v Anglii i bor’ba dvukh tendentsii v Leiboristskoi partii (1900–1914). Perm’, 1957.
Cole, M. The Story of Fabian Socialism. London, 1961.
Pease, E. R. The History of the Fabian Society, 2nd ed. London, 1925.