Socialism and Modern Industrialism: of Fabian principles and Magufulism

Karl Lyimo

IT was exactly on a date like today’s 132 years ago that the Fabian Society was founded in London, England on January 4, 1884CE (Christian Era).

It’s a most interesting tale – especially when the Fabian concept is viewed in the Tanzanian context! Look at it this way…

The (British) Fabian Society was formed with the ‘purpose of promoting greater equality of power, wealth and opportunity; the value of collective action and public service; an accountable, tolerant and active Democracy; citizenship, liberty and human rights; sustainable development, and multilateral international cooperation...’ What nobility of purpose!

All in all, it’s a British Socialist organisation aimed at advancing the principles of Democratic Socialism via gradualist and reformist efforts, rather than by revolutionary overthrow of Government in particular, and Establishments in general!

Historians tell us that the ‘Fabian Society has influenced British policy to the present day, from the postwar creation of the modern welfare state to the election of Tony Blair…’ (UK Premier from 1997-to-2007) Notable Fabian Society members included Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of new nations from the former British Empire, who used Fabian principles to create socialist democracies in India, Pakistan, Nigeria and elsewhere as Britain decolonized after the Second World War (WW-II: 1939-45).’ Soon after its formation in 1884, the Society founded the London School of Economics & Political Science in 1895, ‘for the betterment of society.’

Indeed, the ‘School’ has more than lived up to expectations, becoming one of the world’s leading academic institutions – described by admirers as ‘an incubator of influential politicians, economists, journalists, prime ministers and liberal billionaires!’

Noting that ‘the Society functions primarily as a Think Tank, and is one of the fifteen Socialist Societies that are affiliated with Britain’s Labour Party,’ Fabian Society fans wallow in the pride that ‘similar Societies exist in Australia (Australian Fabian Society); Canada (Douglas–Coldwell Foundation and the nowdisbanded League for Social Reconstruction); Sicily (Sicilian Fabian Society), and in New Zealand (New Zealand Fabian Society).’

Historians tell us that the Society was an offshoot of another Society founded a year earlier, ‘The Fellowship of the New Life.’ Its members were ‘visionary Victorian elite, among them Poets Edward Carpenter and John Davidson; Sexologist Havelock Ellis, Sydney & Beatrice Webb, H.G. Wells, Sydney Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Graham Waals and Edward R. Pease.

The ‘New Lifers’ wanted to ‘transform (British) Society by setting an example of clean, simplified living for others to follow. Some members also wanted to become politicallyinvolved to aid Society’s transformation – and, to that end, they set up a separate society, the Fabian Society, with the added ambition of ‘advocating renewal of Western European Renaissance ideas and their promulgation throughout the world…!

’ The Fellowship of the New Life was dissolved in 1899, thus allowing/enabling the Fabian Society to grow and become the pre-eminent academic society in the UK in the Edwardian period (roughly 1890s to WW-I: 1914-18) that was characterized by opulence and a complacent sense of material security.’

When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published their ‘Communist Manifesto’ in 1848, much of Europe was in political turmoil, with workers and intellectuals starting to indulge in bloody revolutions against the feudal ruling classes of the day.

But, the situation was significantly different in England, which was undergoing ‘a slow, nonviolent political and industrial transformation of the non-Marxist kind!’ This was the background against which the Fabian Society was established on a date like today’s 257 years ago to the day…

The name of the Society was begged, borrowed or stolen from the Roman Military General Fabius Maximus – nicknamed ‘Cunctator:’ the ‘Delayer!’ –whose military ‘(Fabian) strategy in defending Rome against the Carthaginian army under its renowned General Hannibal sought gradual victory through persistence, harassment and wearing the enemy down by attrition rather than head-on, confrontational battles.’

Among intriguing Fabian views are that ‘Society develops… and Social reorganization cannot usefully be hastened by violent means, but only through methods that are consonant with natural, historical progression that’s gradual, peaceful and democratic.’

‘Individualist enterprise in Capitalism was a hangover from early days, and was bound to defeat itself, since Socialism is the inevitable accompaniment of modern industrialism…’ ‘Men (and women, to be politically-correct today!) are rational enough to accept, in their common interest, developments which can be demonstrated as necessary; thus, public opinion will come to see that socialization of the land and industries is essential – in the same way that they came to accept the already-existing acts in respect of Housing, Insurance, Medical Care and Working Conditions…’ [Sydney Webb (1859-1947), eminent British Socialist, Founder & Editor (1913-1922) of the ‘New Statesman’ publication. What is Tanzania’s position on this vis-à-vis the Fabian Society, pray…?


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