E. Belfort Bax


(9 July 1898)

Marxophobia, Justice, 9th July 1898, p.5.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Last week Professor Hewin, of the School of Economics – that institution of endowed Fabianism – gave an address before the National Liberal Club on the State regulation of wages. As might be expected from Professor Hewins, the address showed considerable mastery of facts and research into original sources. But the cloven hoof of` Fabianism of course came out. Fabianesque horror of Marx, and of any doctrine or fact supposed to tell in favour of the Social-Democratic view of history and economics, is amusing – nay, almost farcical. It is veritably a case of “Who said rats?” with our Fabian friends. Thus Professor Hewins, in coming to speak of that noxious piece of class legislation, the Statute of Labourers of 1351, must needs enter a strong protest against its being considered a piece of class legislation at all, and to point the moral that economic evolution (in England at least) has never taken the form of the class struggle! The Statute of Labourers, for example, which enacted a maximum wage that it was criminal for the labourer to exceed in his demands, was, according to Mr. Hewins, only an attempt to order and regulate the relations of master and servant in the common interest. Funny, isn’t it, that neither at that nor at any other time has a Parliament composed of employers, whether feudal lords or modern capitalists, found it necessary, “in the common interest,” to enact criminal laws against giving too low wages?

Mr. Hewins, in defiance, as it would seem to most unFabianesque persons, of the obvious teaching of archaeology and history, maintains as I understand him, the independence of the economic development of every “nation.” Each “nation” has not merely an economic evolution distinct in certain superficial aspects from that of its neighbours, but one organically and essentially different. This view it is clearly the bounden duty of the Fabian to hold, as otherwise he might involve his Fabian soul in the damnable internationalist heresies of Marxism and Social-Democracy. Unfortunately for him, those who are not afflicted with Marxophobia, or haunted by the spectre of a dangerous doctrine to be combatted, cannot avoid the plain inference, based, as it is, on an inexhaustible wealth of facts, that mankind has everywhere passed through the phase of tribal society, with its group-communism, bearing everywhere the same essential features – that where society has progressed, tribal communism has uniformly advanced into the condition of early civilisation, with its well-marked features, thence again into the civilisation with which authentic history begins. Even within the historical period we find successive civilisations forming a continuous chain, and each covering several races or “nations,” if you will, (even when these belong to the same ethnic group, which is by no means always the case). Yet each of these civilisations has a distinctive character of its own. Thus ancient Oriental civilisation, in spite of superficial differences traceable to locality or race, has unmistakeable essential features, economic, political, religious. The same may be said of the Graeco-Roman civilisation, which superseded, and, to some extent, borrowed from it. As for the mediaeval, feudal, organisation of society, this was practically identical in every European country, while to be convinced of the absolute sameness of modern capitalism, and of the civilisation it everywhere engenders, one only requires to have eyes and ears. Anything more self-evident than the fact that difference of nationality merely affects the superficialities of social development is scarcely furnished by nature or man. But our Fabians would doubtless be prepared to dispute the multiplicatlon table if they thought its teachings favoured the principles, theoretic or practical, of “Marxism” or Social-Democracy. There is an eminent Fabian whose special function is to discredit the opinions hitherto unanimously received among scholars anent the early forms of society, they being supposed to be of dangerous tendency, just as there are two other eminent Fabians whose special function is to discredit the classical and obvious definition of economic value for the same reason. Now, I well remember the delight with which the first-mentioned eminent Fabian one day informed me that be had just read an article by the distinguished scholar, Vinogradoff, in the current number of the Historical Review, in which the latter had completely annihilated the old theory of primitive communistic land-tenure. On hearing this, I promptly and carefully read the article in question. Meeting our Fabian friend again an hour or two later, I was in the position to conclusively demonstrate to him review in hand, that in his eagerness he had been a little “too previous” – that, to fact, Professor Vinogradoff in his article had (1) put forward very tentatively a theory to which he admitted there were many objections, and which he did not even pretend represented his final opinion ; and that (2) the theory in question, even if conceded, did not in any essential way invalidate the doctrine of primitive land-tenure as held by Von Maurer, Maine, De Leveleye, and other scholars for at least a generation past. The strength of the Social-Democratic position generally is nowhere more conclusively shown than in the ghastly failure of the Fabian attempts to nibble at or upset it.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 23.6.2004