Fabian Society

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Fabian Society. The Society took its name from the Roman dictator Fabius, nicknamed ‘Cunctator’, or delayer. It was founded in January 1884 by a group of middle-class intellectuals to further ‘the reconstruction of Society in accordance with the highest moral principles’, but gradually. Its first pamphlet, or ‘Tract’, Why are the Many Poor?, made it plain that the highest principles were socialist ones. Shortly afterwards Sidney Webb and Bernard Shaw, its most famous members, joined. The latter penned some of its most brilliant tracts. The society's main importance thereafter was as an amazingly fecund womb of ideas for the infant and maturing Labour parties, not all of which were predictable. In 1900, for example, it came out in support of the British empire, on the grounds that it could be made into a gigantic welfare state, which seemed perverse to other socialists. When Labour came to power, however, the Fabians' willingness to engage with the realities around them was a definite boon. It survives: the most senior of all Britain's socialist organizations.

Bernard Porter

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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.

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

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Fabian Society British society of non-Marxists founded in 1883, who believed that socialism could be attained through gradual political change. With George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb as leaders, the society gained widespread recognition and helped found the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which became the Labour Party in 1906. The Fabian Society is affiliated to the Labour Party and publishes a journal and pamphlets.