Fabianism, also known as Fabian Socialism, is a social and political movement founded on January 4th, 1884 named after the Roman general Fabius Maximus (Green). The Fabian Society is a group of people, primarily located in the United Kingdom, who unite through the common goal of promoting democratic socialism. It has “played a central role in developing political ideas and public policy on the left,” focusing on the belief that there should be “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” (Fabian Society). Although Fabians wanted drastic changes within the government, they believed that the best way to make these changes were through gradual reforms, rather than revolutions. The Fabian Society considers themselves to be the most important group in the Labour Party, and believe that they are accountable for giving socialism a name in England (Bever, 179).
The Fabian Society focuses largely on economic issues, and was instrumental in the implementation of minimum wage in England (Fabian Society), but also takes strong stances on many other political issues. By combatting the effects of a Capitalist society, in which profit was valued over people, Fabians hoped to “reconstruct society in accordance with the highest moral possibilities” (Spartacus Educational). In 1900, the Fabian Society produced a statement called Fabianism and the Empire, which detailed the society’s view on foreign affairs and was also written by one of the most famous Fabians, George Bernard Shaw, along with the other members of the group. Shaw, an Irish playwright, was a devoted socialist, and his concern about the exploitation of the middle class lead to his involvement in the Fabian Society. In Fabianism and the Empire, the society lobbied for several reforms, including the addition of a minimum wage, a universal health care system, increased gender equality, nationalization of land, and “abolition of heredity peerages”—removal of inherited titles of nobility that allowed certain people to have influence in the House of Lords while others had none (Green).
The Fabian Society was absolutely instrumental in the reforms that took place in England in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and is still an active group today. One very important aspect of Fabianism to remember is the fact that, while they did work for change, this society felt that revolution was not the way in which to get it. This was very different from many of the views of active political and social groups during and around the time it was created.
Archival and Primary Materials
This political cartoon featuring Indiana Jones explains the Fabian view that the world should be going more towards the left in a political way, pushing Socialism and equality.
I thought that this article was particularly interesting because it is so recent—just from within the last few days—and shows what the Fabian Society has evolved into. Although it has become more of a “think-tank” than a social movement, it is clear that the same values (such as the importance of equality) are still held by the society.
Sites for Further Exploration:
1. Bevir, Mark. The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 179-196. Cambridge University Press.
2. Green, Jared. Personal Communication. Spring 2012.
3. www.fabian-society.org.uk. About the Fabian Society. Accessed April 18th, 2012.www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Fabian Soci