E. Belfort Bax


(December 1891)

From Justice, 19 December, 1891.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Those Fabians seem to be already on the Fabian-Radical warpath in view of the coming general election. Mr. William Clark, a gentleman who ought to, and who we can hardly believe does not know better, was accordingly put up to talk nonsense the other night at St. James’ Hall to the effect that there is no such thing as a distinct Socialist party anywhere.

In this country there was only a small knot of persons calling themselves Socialists who held views or were aiming at measures differing from those of the Fabian Radical Union. The growing formation of a Social-Democratic labour-party was equally scouted. Not content with this country, Mr. Clark made excursions into foreign parts, and in proof of his assertion that the Socialist party was equally extinct on the Continent, cited Herr von Vollmar, who as the “most able leader” of the German party, it was alleged had thrown over broad Cosmopolitanism in favour of Nationalism. We presume it is this alleged change of front, which “bien entendu,” Herr von Vollmar himself professes to repudiate, that gave Mr. Clark this high opinion as to Herr von Vollmar’s so very exceptional abilities, for they were never discovered either by his colleagues or the public till now, although he was generally admitted to be a fairly good-looking man. But surely a conversion from Cosmopolitanism to Nationalism is hardly sufficient to constitute a claim to such high distinction! Why we have known persons who have been believers in the spread-eagling of their own nation all their lives, and, yet were not so very clever for all that,

The Fabian Society are really almost as rummy a lot as the Ten Commandments. An amiable military gentleman of our acquaintance, of somewhat decided reactionary sympathies, told us that he had been subscribing to the Fabian Society for some years but had resigned his membership as he thought that on the whole, it was hardly a body he could conscientiously belong to. Then their ideas as to the qualifications of candidates may in truth be described as, if not extensive, at least peculiar. At this time of day it is surely hardly enough for a man to be in favour of “free education,” and general improvement in the condition of the masses constitute him a candidate of a Society calling itself Socialist. As to women, we firmly believe that supposing (per impossibile) one were to be found whose only claim to favour was an ability to economically exploit the male (e.g. husband) in her own interest, as, let us say for example, to compel him to maintain her in expensive style at Biarritz for six months out of the year, and then to grudgingly concede him a fortnight at a Margate lodging-house in September, we say that we verily believe that a similar display of administrative ability on the part of a lady would constitute her in the eyes of the Fabians an eligible candidate for the London County Council. They would probably forget that any female could do this who had got a male partner of adequate imbecility to deal with.

The aim of Fabianism seems to be to prove that there is no such thing as a Socialist economy, a Socialist theory of society, or a Socialist party. To one sort of Fabians, the political and working body, Socialism means essentially the municipalisation of the gas and water supply of the metropolis, although it perhaps comprises other things of minor importance. To another, Socialism means advanced ideas, “precipitated” in the shape of sympathetic young women, who dress tastefully “a la ‘Liberty.’” Now this latter element in the Fabian Society has our heartiest sympathy, and is scarcely amenable to adverse criticism. But while we respect the superhuman industry of one or two political Fabians, notably, Mr. Sidney Webb, in public affairs, we venture to doubt whether they are an equally useful factor in social progress; and for a reason that has before been expressed in these columns, to wit, that useful as are gas and water they are nothing in themselves and the importance of the municipalisation of gas and water bears no sort of proportion to the importance of the organisation of the working-classes on a social-democratic basis. It follows from this that “municipalisation,” except as the effect of organised class action, runs imminent danger of becoming a snare, delusion and red herring. As it is, what are the Fabians politically but the last vertebra in the tail of the Liberal party? And this is why Mr. Clark was so anxious the other night to prove that there was only a heterogeneous mass of Liberals, Radicals and Democrats, but no Socialist and no Labour party in this or any other country.

His conscience smote him and therefor[e] he said they were not.



Last updated on 29.2.2004