Webb, Sidney, and Beatrice Webb

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Webb, Sidney, and Beatrice Webb


(married in 1892). English economists and political figures, reformist historians of the English working-class movement, and theoreticians of trade unionism and of so-called Fabian socialism. V. I. Lenin characterized them as “sound scholars (and ’sound opportunists’) …” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 61).

Sidney Webb was born on July 13, 1859, in London and died on Oct. 13, 1947, in Liphook. Born into the family of a clerk, he became a lord in 1929. He was a lawyer by profession. From 1878 to 1891 he worked in various ministries on economic and legal problems. He was one of the organizers and leaders of the Fabian Society. From 1892 to 1910, Webb was a member of the London County Council. From 1912 to 1927 he was a professor at the London School of Economics. From 1915 to 1925 he was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, on which he represented the Fabian Society. He became president of the Board of Trade in 1924, dominion secretary in 1929-30, and colonial secretary from 1929 to 1931.

Beatrice Webb, whose maiden name was Potter, was born on Jan. 22, 1858, in Gloucester and died on Apr. 30, 1943, in Liphook. Her father was an important industrialist. She studied the working conditions of laborers in London enterprises and was a member of many government commissions on the questions of unemployment and the position of women.

The works of Sidney and Beatrice Webb (the majority of which were written jointly), pervaded by the ideas of Fabianism and liberal reformism, concealed the class contradictions of capitalist society. Rejecting the idea of class struggle, the Webbs defended the theory of the possibility of solving the workers’ problem under capitalism and considered realizable the transition to socialism by means of the gradual growth of cooperatives and municipal property, the activation of the trade-union movement, and the development of local self-management. Their reformist views led the Webbs to an underestimation of the historical significance of Chartism, which they considered, according to Lenin, to be “an accidental and abnormal deviation not worthy of serious attention …” (Ibid., vol. 16, p. 25). At the same time, the abundance of factual material on the history of the English working-class movement, which distinguished the works of the Webbs, created a great interest among Marxists in these works. One of the Webbs’ major works was Industrial Democracy (1897; Russian translation The Theory and Practice of English Trade Unionism, vols. 1-2, 1900-01; V. I. Lenin translated the first volume of this work into Russian and edited the translation of the second volume).

In 1932 the Webbs visited the USSR and in 1935 they published the book Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (vols. 1-2; Russian translation, 1937), written in an objective and friendly tone. Sidney Webb’s book The Truth About Soviet Russia (1942) is dedicated to the heroism of the Soviet people.


In Russian translation:
Webb, S., and B. Webb. Istoriia rabochego dvizheniia v Anglii. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Webb, S., and B. Webb. Istoriia tred-iunionizma, vols. 1-5. Moscow, 1922-25.
Webb, S., and B. Webb. Zakat kapitalizma. Moscow, 1925.
Webb, B. Kooperativnoe dvizhenie v Velikobritanii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1918.
Webb, S. “Istinnyi i lozhnyi sotsializm.” In the collection Sotsializm v Anglii, 2nd ed. Petrograd, 1918.
Webb, S. Polozhenie truda v Anglii za poslednie 60 let. St. Petersburg, 1899.


Zvavich, I. S. “Istoriia angliiskogo rabochego dvizheniia v trudakh Vebbov i ikh shkoly.” Voprosy istorii, 1947, no. 11.
Tawney, R. H. Webbs in Perspective. London, 1953.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.