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 DavidsonDavidson, Thomas,
1842–1900, American scholar and philosopher, b. Scotland, grad. Univ. of Aberdeen, 1860. In 1866 he went to Canada and then to the United States.
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), the society was developed the following year by Frank Podmore and Edward Pease. George Bernard ShawShaw, George Bernard,
1856–1950, Irish playwright and critic. He revolutionized the Victorian stage, then dominated by artificial melodramas, by presenting vigorous dramas of ideas. The lengthy prefaces to Shaw's plays reveal his mastery of English prose.
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 and Sidney Webb (see under Webb, Beatrice PotterWebb, Beatrice Potter,
1858–1943, English socialist economist; daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She took an early interest in social problems and worked with Charles Booth on his survey of working life in London.
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 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 BesantBesant, Annie
, 1847–1933, English social reformer and theosophist, b. Annie Wood. She steadily grew away from Christianity and in 1873 separated from her husband, a Protestant clergyman.
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, and Graham WallasWallas, Graham
, 1858–1932, English political scientist and psychologist. He joined (1886) the Fabian Society and was the author of one of the Fabian Essays. In 1914, Wallas became professor of political science at the Univ. of London.
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. The Fabians were opposed to the revolutionary theory of MarxismMarxism,
economic and political philosophy named for Karl Marx. It is also known as scientific (as opposed to utopian) socialism. Marxism has had a profound impact on contemporary culture; modern communism is based on it, and most modern socialist theories derive from it (see
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, 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 partyLabour party,
British political party, one of the two dominant parties in Great Britain since World War I. Origins

The Labour party was founded in 1900 after several generations of preparatory trade union politics made possible by the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884,
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. 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 ?
From Radicalism to Socialism: Men and Ideas in the Formation of Fabian Socialist Doctrines, 1881-1889.
(18.) Minus: "For the last several years he had perused English socialist literature and was excited by the call of Sidney Webb and other Fabian Socialist leaders for a gradual evolution of English society that extended the blessings of liberty into the economic realm; through education and legislation--not the violence of the radicals--workers' misery would be ended and their opportunity for full participation in English life ensured" (Paul M.
Gravitating to London and marrying a Fabian socialist and pacifist, Chesterton found himself living near the headquarters of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists.
Author Jasper failed to mention FDR was already a full-blossomed Fabian Socialist in 1932 when he was first elected president.
He had graduated from Harvard in 1936, then gone on to study economics at the Fabian Socialist Society's London School of Economics and the University of Chicago.
DARPA defended the program, saying it was part of a research effort "to investigate the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks." DARPA's partners in the project are Net Exchange, a San Diego-based tech company, and the Intelligence Unit of The Economist, Britain's prestigious (and Fabian Socialist) journal of news and commentary.
This interpretation conformed well with the British Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which, under the leadership of Fabian socialist and Soviet sympathizer Bertrand Russell, adopted the new ND symbol in 1958.
Lurking behind Wilson's diplomatic proposals was a shadowy clique of Insiders organized by House with some help from Britain's Fabian Socialist movement.
Keller insists, why would he have joined the Fabian Socialist society?
Baer notes that by 1891, Bellamy's Nationalist movement, along with the Society of Christian Socialists, had developed formal institutional links with Britain's Fabian Socialist movement.