Fabian Society

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Fabian Society

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 (see under Webb, Beatrice Potter 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.


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

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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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Analogous to the idea of Freeman & Medoff (1984) that trade unions have two faces--a positive voice face and a negative monopoly face, it is argued that the theory of the Webbs also has two faces, a positive industrial relations face and a negative Fabian Socialism face.
The first stream is a field of labor studies known as industrial relations with roots in historical-institutional economics and sociology and the second is a collectivist-oriented doctrine of evolutionary democratic socialism known as Fabian Socialism. Although the Webbs intend both parts to seamlessly fit together, they nonetheless have an identifiably separate presence in their work and the latter is considerably more radical and transformative than the former.
However, they also propose in their Fabian Socialism face a growth model which creates these conditions by stifling entrepreneurship and capital investment.
The Fabian leaders, especially the Webbs, were worried by the bad publicity Fabian socialism was receiving, and they privately condemned Wells's moral laxity.
Another charge made by Laski's detractors is that, by moving from liberalism and pluralism to Fabian socialism and then to Marxism, his thinking was confused, if not contradictory, and lacked coherence and unity.
And the latter group, beloved of presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, is indistinguishable in its turn from American progressivism and British Fabian socialism. All of these groups attempt to institute socialism by popular consent and are content to work within the forms of the law to accomplish their ends instead of trying to violently uproot existing laws and social norms by revolutionary subversion.
But inasmuch as the aims of progressivism, Fabian socialism, and communism--as well as the democratic socialism so beloved of Bernie Sanders--are all the same in the long run, so must they have similar outcomes for humanity, sooner or later.
Shaw in this period combined a Fabian Socialism with a Bergsonian belief in the "Life Force".
Orwell wrote his powerful satire to show how Fabian socialism could reform the world until it resembled Stalin's Soviet Union, even if it took 100 years.
O'Brien reflects the new Fabian socialism emerging in the 1940s, led by William Beveridge, who laid the foundation for Britain's National Social Insurance and National Health Service with The Report on Social Insurance, commonly known as the Beveridge Report.
In her book The Story of Fabian Socialism, British Fabian Margaret Cole described this strategy as " 'honeycombing,' converting either to Socialism or to parts of the immediate Fabian Programme ...
Baer insists that "the Bellamy type of Fabian Socialism [did] more to make the American middle class think seriously about [socialist] principles than any other force in the latter half of the nineteenth century."