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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Roots

One thing we've always known about the Progressives is that many of their ideals originated in Europe. But until recently, no one really had a grasp on exactly where the ideal came from within Europe. Obviously there were Socialist, Communist, Fascist, and other ideals of a totalitarian governments. But very few have heard or dug into the Fabian Socialist and the Fabian Society.

I grant that my knowledge of the Fabian Socialist is limited to the bit of information I have found on a quick search. But more intensive research will be done as just that brief scratch of the surface has reviled so much. The group favoured gradual change rather than revolutionary change. It's name was derived in honor of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus (nicknamed "Cunctator", meaning "the Delayer"). His Fabian strategy advocated tactics of harassment and attrition rather than head-on battles against the Carthaginian army under the renowned general Hannibal.

The Society was founded on January 4, 1884 in London as an offshoot of a society founded in 1883 called The Fellowship of the New Life. The ideal of The Fellowship was to transform society by setting an example of a clean and simplified life. But when many wanted to be politically involved to further this transformation, it was decided that the group would separate.

Fabian Society began attracting many prominent contemporary figures drawn to its socialist cause, including George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Annie Besant, Graham Wallas, Hubert Bland, Edith Nesbit, Sydney Olivier, Oliver Lodge, Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf, Ramsay MacDonald and Emmeline Pankhurst. Even Bertrand Russell briefly became a member, but resigned after he expressed his belief that the Society's principle of entente could lead to war. At the very heart and core of the Fabian Society were Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Together, they wrote numerous studies of industrial Britain, including alternative co-operative economics that applied to ownership of capital as well as land.

The first Fabian Society pamphlets advocated tenets of social justice coincided with the zeitgeist of Liberal reforms during the early 1900s. The Fabian proposals however were considerably more progressive than those that were enacted in the Liberal reform legislation. The Fabians lobbied for the introduction of a minimum wage in 1906, for the creation of a universal health care system in 1911 and for the abolition of hereditary peerages in 1917.

All of the above sound very familiar to today's Progressive agenda. At the same time these ideas were going on Europe, Progressive President Theodore Roosevelt was enacting the Monroe Doctrine. Today we have the Progressives raising minimum wage and forcing people to purchase Obamacare.

Fabian socialists were in favour of an imperialist foreign policy as a conduit for internationalist reform and a welfare state modelled on the Bismarckian German model; they criticised Gladstonian liberalism both for its individualism at home and its internationalism abroad. They favoured a national minimum wage in order to stop British industries compensating for their inefficiency by lowering wages instead of investing in capital equipment; slum clearances and a health service in order for "the breeding of even a moderately Imperial race" which would be more productive and better militarily than the "stunted, anaemic, demoralised denizens...of our great cities"; and a national education system because "it is in the class-rooms that the future battles of the Empire for commercial prosperity are already being lost"

The Fabian Society believed that landowners collecting rent was money unearned and believe that they shouldn't be able to collect rent. The Fabian Society participated heavily in the creation of the Labour Party which grew out of the trade union movement and the socialist organizations of the times. And much like the Progressives and Socialist, the Labour Party was in favor of policies such as public ownership of key industries, government intervention in the economy, redistribution of wealth, increased rights for workers, the welfare state, publicly funded healthcare and education.

Through the course of the 20th century the group has always been influential in Labour Party circles, with members including Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Anthony Crosland, Richard Crossman, Tony Benn, Harold Wilson and more recently Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The above is only a brief scratch. Imagine what can be found if you really dig into this Society of Socialist and later Progressives. We knew that many of these ideals that call for the destruction of a country like America derived from Europe, but nothing like this. The ideas above gave birth to people such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Benito Mussolini, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Cloward, Frances Piven, Saul Alinsky, John Holdren, Barack Obama, George Soros, Bill Ayers, and many others through history who have believed in some of the ideals or all of them. The sad thing is, they actually believe that these ideals and what they are doing, is the right thing.

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