THE FABIAN SOCIETY -
1884 and still going - How the Fabians Policy of Gradualism Made Our Democracy Possible, Provided the Basis of the Welfare State and is needed to solve the Problems We Face in the Future.
One phrase in a new book caught my attention:
"...the slavery which binds and blinds the masses in modern Fabian Socialism"
I believe this to be a common Catholic blind spot. This paper is intended to show why we should be thankful for Fabians and the work they do.
The Fabian Society started in 1884. The Secretary, for 25 years, was Edward R Pease who wrote a history of the Society up to 1916. (Now available on the www, as an E Book, no cost or restrictions.)
He states that the ideas of the early eighties were Evolution, Positivism - Henry George - John Stuart Mill - Robert Owen - Karl Marx - The Democratic Federation - The Christian Socialists - Thomas Davidson. All these had an influence, but all had disadvantages and the Fabians slowly worked out their own ideas, which came to be known as Democratic Socialism.
The society grew, collecting such people as Sydney Webb and George Bernard Shaw. It is said that GBS and friends used to walk across London, discussing politics, and noted the amount of poverty that existed in the many poor housing areas. This was something they vowed to put right. The society held fortnightly meetings with a speaker and soon started to print tracts and pamphlets. One of the most notable was "Facts for Socialists" by Sydney Webb, an expert in economics and statistics. These were strung together to prove that the bulk of the wealth annually produced, goes to a small fraction of the community in return for small services, and that the poverty of the masses is not, as claimed, due to the deficiencies of individual character, but to the excessive share of the national dividend that goes to the owners of Land and Capital. Many reprints and updated revisions of this pamphlet were made through the years.
In 1890 the "Fabian Essays" was published. The seven authors and the Fabian Society, then unknown to the public, became famous throughout the world. It was reprinted many times, published in the USA and other countries and translated into several languages. It made clear that socialism did not have to mean revolution, with violence and a complete change of government. Rather, it based socialism not on the speculations of a German philosopher, but on the evolution of society that we see around us, on the foundations of our existing political and social institutions. It pointed to our Municipal organizations, in which we have a vote, which owns property and runs many businesses in our name, for our benefit, including roads, water supply, tram lines, schools, the work house and more. Virtually a socialized industry, the world had not fallen apart, so why should we be so concerned?
Fabian Research; The society has always based its pamphlets on meticulous research into the facts and checking by experts, very like scientists who present their papers for peer review. One of their greatest researchers was Beatrice Potter. She joined the Charity Organization Society, designed to help the poor, but she soon realized it was the causes of poverty that needed to be tackled such as education standards, housing and public health.
She then researched the many cooperative societies doing good work in Britains’ Industrial Towns. While writing a book on the subject she met Sydney Webb, and they were married in 1892. She had an inheritance of £1000.00 pa and they agreed to live on this and devote their lives to their political work. Together they worked on several books including The History of Trade Unionism (1894) and Industrial Democracy (1897) and many more. In 1895 thanks to a bequest to the Society they were able to found the London School of Economics and Political Science. (LSE)
In 1898 the Webbs went on a world research trip to North America, Australia and New Zealand investigating local government. On their return they wrote, over a period of 23 years an 11-volume work, English Local Government, which became the standard work on the subject.
The Society was involved in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee, 1900, the forerunner of the British Labour Party. The Society was awarded a seat on the Labour Party Executive which they hold to this day,. becoming known as the "Think Tank" of the party.
Beatrice Webb was a member of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law (1905-09), She and Sydney wrote the Minority Report, advocating the confrontation of poverty through government organizations, and the breaking up of the Poor Law. William Beveridge, while not a Fabian at that time, also worked with Beatrice Webb on the 1909 Poor Laws Report and was appointed director of the LSE in 1919. He was a good economist and worked towards the founding of the British Welfare State. In 1940 the then Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevan, asked him to look into existing social security schemes and in 1941 the government ordered a report on how Britain should be rebuilt after WW2. The 1942 report proposed that all people of working age should pay a weekly National Insurance contribution, benefits to be paid for sickness, unemployment, retirement or widows pension . Beveridge argued that this system would provide a minimum standard of living "below which no one should be allowed to fall."
This led to the culmination of the Fabian’s projects, the setting up of a modern welfare state and a National Health Service under the Attlee government. Naturally the reports went across the world. Governments, their departments and political parties in most countries worked out how to update their system. Some installed a National Health system before the British system was enacted in 1948, which had been delayed by the objections raised by the Doctors. Canada, Australia, and many European countries benefitted, but the USA finished up with a 2nd class system, where the middle classes could not afford the high fees for medical insurance and earned too much money to be entitled to medicaid or medicare.
Local Societies have been a feature almost since 1884. After WW2 there was a great increase in the number of societies (more than 100) distributed throughout England and Scotland. I joined the Forest Hill and Sydenham (South London) Society in about 1948. They held monthly meetings which were similar to our Humanist Society meetings. They attracted a large variety of people but teachers predominated. This was because teachers were not allowed to take part in politics, the Fabian Society did not elect parliamentary candidates, and being an education and research group it was not classed as a political party, so teachers could join.
An intriguing story is told about a local labour party meeting where the old unionist would look over the new young talent and pick out the most intelligent suggesting to them that if they wanted to get on they should go to the local Fabian Society meeting, where they met and made friends with a professor. The Professor taught the young man something of philosophy and the young man taught the professor about living conditions and what really went on in the slums at the back of the railway yard.
The result has been that the great majority of Labor MP’s are Fabians who have rejected the Marxist theory of class struggle but wish to promote equality, education, and health for all, by means of peaceful and gradual change in accordance with the democratic process.
In Australia there have been Fabian Societies and Whitlam, Dunstan and Bannon were all Fabians. So were Hawke, Keating, John Cain, Jim Cairns, Neville Wran, and Frank Crean. There are probably many more.
Today the Australian Fabian Society has meetings in all six states and in the ACT. I went to the South Australian meeting last month where we heard a talk by Dr. Richard Dennis on the weaknesses of the current climate change proposals. Chris Schacht was there making very clear what the political realities are. Remarks were added by Anne Levy.
It is difficult to imagine that a society which encourages friendship between Professors and working men, which is essentially a society which researches and educates on questions of poverty, welfare, education, which promotes democracy and gradual change, could possibly be accused of inflicting slavery.
If there had been no Fabian Society, the Labour Party would not have been educated in democracy, so their policy would have swung to the left or the right as it did in Europe between the wars, finishing up with dictators, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, all these ran Gestapoes, police thugs, making their own law which had no relation to Democracy.
I must point out that persons arguing that Fabians desire slavery, are themselves recommending economic systems which result in economic slavery for the destitute masses.
The Last 40 Years-
The general trend has favoured the right wing of politics, industrialists and big business. Less money has been made available for infrastructure, Schools, Hospitals etc. In South Australia the Housing Trust has been starved of funds causing higher priced housing and higher debt. The advice of Prof. Hugh Stretton has been ignored. The Press has supported these trends. The recent election of Rudd and Obama indicates a change but they are clearly restricted by right wing pressure from big business.
Neoliberalism was originated by Friedrich Hayek, who was appointed a professor under Beveridge at the LSE. These ideas were taken up in America and spread world wide by inviting business and professors to lavish symposiums. Thus high financing from big business ensured that Schools of Economics taught little else and only partial corrections have been made today. Margaret Thatcher and Reagan brought these ideas to Great Britain and the USA governments. Many economists have spoken out against Neoliberalism, including Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Susan George.
The next 40 Years -
The problem as generally discussed is known as global warming caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels. The government is attempting to pass laws dealing with carbon trading and permits, but this will do little to reduce CO2 nor will it solve two other problems which don’t get much publicity.
The most immediate problem will be Oil running out. The majority of oil wells are in decline. Australian wells are declining faster and will supply less than 50% of our needs within five years. The worlds’ output could be down 25% within 10 years. We cannot expect the worlds’ exporters to sell us more than they do now, as their home demands will be up. Running on gas will only be a temporary solution. Bio Fuels may well be prohibited as food gets scarce and more people get hungry. All this will result in the next financial crash, so big that recovery will be doubtful. It is in the Oil and Motor industries interests to switch to alternate sustainable energy and save oil for manufacturing fertilizers.
Coal produces a lot of CO2 and many impurities such as mercury known to poison the oceans, but an even more important reason for banning its use is the fine particulates emitted. Peter Schwerdtfeger June 23, 2009 in an article from The Australian points out that: "satellite maps of southeast Australia, enhanced by Rosenfeld, show the frightening persistence and longevity of pollutant trails across vast areas, including the all-important Snowy Mountains catchments. It may well be concluded that the increasing emissions from the brown coal-burning power stations at Hazelwood and other locations in Gippsland, Victoria, have substantially wrecked the natural precipitation processes over the once hydrologically rich Australian Alps." It is in the Coal Industries interests to first concentrate on the brown coal plants, build solar generators to supply steam, and if this must be done in a different locality, then you move the dynamoes.
We continue to be skeptical about the coal industry’s promise to clean up its act.
This is why we must act now, we must stop burning oil and coal and develop all power sources that run on alternative energy, saving as much oil as possible to manufacture fertilizers etc. Emission targets must be high, to cope with the increasing population, both human and bovine. Our present rate of consumption will cause us to run out of water, many minerals, fish and grain. Failure of the oil and coal industries to change to alternate fuels will mean that they will crash as well as us. The same remedies apply to both global warming, oil shortage and particulates. .
Present government programs, are not much better than a licence for industry to continue polluting and will not, by themselves, do much to reduce emissions. A better way is to get industry to agree to convert to alternative energy. The government needs to make grants to industry to install solar equipment and close down fossil fuel burners. Government would declare no compensation for any losses.
* Thus metal smelters should be required to build solar smelters (as in France).
* Coal and Electricity plants need to build concentrating solar generators with heat storage to feed the dynamoes.
* Oil companies must be required to invest in batteries and convert petrol stations to Charging Stations.
* Vehicle Manufacturers need to build electric cars and stop building petrol guzzlers.
* Every person or firm that cuts down a tree, must plant and water two trees in the same locality.
* The government needs to re-train miners as solar technicians.
These proposals are all simple, well understood, easily designed and built by most engineers. They do not depend on advanced technology and working examples are to be found in California, Spain and France. Atomic Energy proposals are too expensive and take too long and should not be considered for at least 20 years. New inventions will be made but we cannot wait for these to solve problems, but more research on all aspects is essential.
* The Government has promised to build a Concentrating Solar Energy Power Plant, the largest in the world. This needs to be built with the utmost speed and determination like the Snowy Scheme.
This leaves the problems of finance and overpopulation that need fixing.
For most nations a one child policy is unnecessary. First world nations have found that if boys and girls receive comprehensive education and their living conditions are improved, then the fertility rate reduces below replacement level even in Italy in spite of the Vatican’s policy relating to family planning and birth control.
Are all these Reforms Possible?
There is also the general feeling that we have been using coal and oil for more than 100 years, we still get cold weather, the weeds in the garden grow as well as ever, it is not `reasonable’ to suppose that there is going to be a future crash. Its not `natural’.
But it is you know, it happens in nature, at irregular intervals. Four years ago I told the story of the rat plague.
Mr. and Mrs. Rat find a nice spot to live, with plenty of food so they start a family. Soon they are multiplying and the rat population rises in a very steep and familiar curve. The place is teeming with rats and they soon run out of food and begin eating each other. Because they are living in congested conditions disease spreads rapidly through the population, which falls as steeply as it had risen and they nearly all die horrible deaths except for a few who escape to start it all over again. Man is a two-legged rat! He has gone forth and multiplied and is now a plague upon the earth.
The bell like curve which traces out the rise and fall of the population of plague rats and other species is well known to scientists and it is becoming very obvious that the human species is following the same curve. We are now two thirds up the curve which will peak around 2050 and then crash to the level of 100 years ago. As man is likely to go to war and has developed awful weaponry, it could be much worse next time. Scientists examining this problem say there is little hope that man can avoid this fate. If we can stop burning coal and oil, there is a chance that we can avoid this catastrophe, provided we are prepared to give the example and convince the world to do likewise.
There is only one solution, Fabians, Humanists, Socialists, Scientists, Conservationists and anybody else who will join, must write to our politicians, and media, we must search out the future, young George Bernard Shaws, Beatrice and Sydney Webbs, and give them every encouragement to research the facts and prepare pamphlets. We must ensure that they are distributed everywhere, papers, magazines, books, radio, TV, the Internet, so that no one can be under any illusion as to where present policies are taking us, and what reforms are necessary to retain our civilization, repair and improve the reforms that Fabians worked so hard to achieve. To reform our economic system and population policy. We need a revitalized Fabian Society!
The Four Horseman of the Modern Apocalypse Same theme, more detail.
Please distribute these papers widely.
The Author runs a small charity to help up to 250 Liberian Children go to school. They were in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana and were returned to Monrovia, a few months ago. Conditions are as bad in Liberia as they were in Ghana.
Your donation, however small will be welcome. Please make out your cheque to "Liberian Refugee Scholarship Fund" c/o 120 Goodman Rd Elizabeth South, SA, 5112
Full details available here Thank You.