Chapter 1 of the book Fabian Freeway.
As A very young college graduate, searching for literary employment in the New York City of the middle nineteen-twenties, the author of this book happened to discover a colony called Turtle Bay. It included about a dozen remodeled town houses on East Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Streets, arranged for gracious living before the phrase was current. One of the first modern restorations in the Forties and Fifties near the East River, it bloomed unexpectedly in a neighborhood of tenements and abandoned breweries. Evidently its builders were versed in the colonial history of Manhattan Island, when the entire region consisting of a few large farms had been known as Turtle Bay. For its twentieth century revivalists, the name had a double meaning.
The colony was planned by Mrs. John W. Martin (the former Prestonia Mann), wife of a British Fabian Socialist who had transferred his activities to the United States before the turn of the century. (The colony real estate was owned by Mrs. Walton Martin, nee Charlotte Honeywell, also of Boston, not a relative of Prestonia, but also thought to be a founder)! Founded as a quiet haven for a little group of serious thinkers, the Turtle Bay restoration listed among its early settlers the Pulitzer prize winning novelist, Ernest Poole, and several editors of the New Republic.
There was Philip Littell, whose family once owned the Living Age in Boston; Francis Hackett, popular Anglo-Irish biographer and book critic; and a perennial summer and fall tenant on leave from the University of Chicago English Department, Robert Morss Lovett. Some had permanent summer cottages and others were recurrent weekend guests at Cornish, New Hampshire, in the White Mountains, where they fraternized annually with Harvard alumni Edward Burling, Sr. and George M. Rublee, members of the same prosperous Washington law firm to which a future Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, belonged.
All were charming, witty, well-bred, industrious, solvent: clearly superior persons and all aware of the fact. The Harvard men among them typified in one way or another the revolt against New England Puritanism and utilized the Bible as a prime source of wit and humor. (Philip Littell named his canary Onan, because it scattered its seed.) These were the American cousins of a species commonly cultivated in England by the Fabian Society, because such individuals made Socialism appear attractive as well as respectable. Being socially beyond reproach, it would be difficult to attack them, however dubious the doctrines they favored.
Turtle Bay colonists of the twenties personally knew and admired a good many of the English Fabians, a fact frequently reflected in their writings. Ernest Poole had retired in 1918 from a six-year term as vice president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, which changed its name in 1921 to the League for Industrial Democracy and was hailed at its 40th Anniversary dinner as “America’s Fabian Society.” (1) The chief activist among Turtle Bay residents was Robert Morss Lovett, whom the others affected to regard as an enfant terrible because of his pacifist stand during World War I.
Besides serving as literary editor of the New Republic six months of the year, Lovett was an official of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League for Industrial Democracy, the latter occasionally listed in British Fabian Society literature among its overseas branches. He was also a trustee of the American Fund for Public Service, known as the Garland Fund, which financed a swarm of so-called liberal organizations hospitable both to Socialists and covert Communists, as well as to old-fashioned social reformers. In those days, the terms “front organization,” and “fellow traveler,” were still unknown.
A central feature of Turtle Bay was its pleasant Italian-style garden, shared by all the residents and wonderfully green in spring. Set in the flagstone walk was a small figure of a turtle in mosaic with the inscription, Festina lente (“Make haste slowly”). To casual visitors, the turtle merely added a picturesque touch. Few recognized this unobtrusive little beast as an emblem of Britain’s Fabian Society, which, since its formation in 1884, has preached and practiced a philosophy of achieving Socialism by gradual means.
Over the years to the present, the Fabian turtle has won a series of gradual victories that could hardly have been predicted in 1920, when the possibility of Socialist control in England and the United States seemed remote to its own leaders. Even now the results are hardly credible to the great majority of people in this country.
In England the Fabian Society, numbering at most five thousand listed members, has succeeded in penetrating and permeating organizations, social movements, political parties, until today its influence pervades the whole fabric of daily life. At one time, with a Labour Government in power, 10 Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister, 35 Under Secretaries and other officers of State, and 229 of 394 Labour Party Members of Parliament held membership in the Fabian Society. (2) After World War II Fabians presided, as England’s Winston Churchill declined to do, over the liquidation of Britain’s colonial empire, and today, through their control of opinion-forming groups at the highest levels, they play a powerful role in formulating foreign policy on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the United States the progress of the Fabian pilgrims, though more difficult to trace, has been impressive. On the whole, United States Fabians in public office have been more cautious than their British models about admitting that Socialism is their goal. The gradualist and freewheeling character of the movement, plus the generally unsuspicious nature of the American people where gift horses are concerned, has allowed our native Fabian Socialists to pursue their goals step by step without disclosing their direction. Their once slow and cautious pace has been gradually accelerated to a breakneck speed.
In the past, Fabians were more successful in capturing administrative than legislative posts in the United States. They have left their mark on three decades of legislation largely through a combination of Executive pressure and the allure of free spending. The interpretive role of the Judiciary and the power of Executive decree have assumed new importance for Fabian-inspired officials unable to legislate Socialism by more direct methods.
With the multiplication of Federal agencies and employees (2,515,870 Federal civilian employees in November, 1962, as compared to 605,496 in June, 1932 (3)), the progress of Fabianism through government channels was further veiled. Not only the general public but many public officials as well were confused, and still remain so. The Romans had a word for it–obscurantism–which means the purposeful concealment of one’s ultimate purpose.
By September, 1961, at least thirty-six high officials of the New Frontier Administration were found to be past or present members of an Anglo-Fabian-inspired organization calling itself Americans for Democratic Action. The tally included two Cabinet members, three White House aides, Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries in various departments of government, and holders of other policy-making posts ranging from ambassadors to the director of the Export-Import Bank.(4)
Americans sometimes wonder why so many members of a leftist elite occupy posts of great influence in Washington today. Others ask why United States spokesmen at home and abroad seem so often to be following policies counter to our traditional interests as a nation, and why in Cold War operations we so frequently lose by default to our declared mortal enemy, international Communism.
We will try to discover the honest answers to such puzzling questions. First, we will trace the movement represented by Americans for Democratic Action and related groups from its historic origin in British Fabianism to the present day. Second, we will make plain, beyond the shadow of any future doubt, the tactical service rendered by the Socialist International, with which the Fabian Society is allied, in advancing the ultimate goals of the Communist International.
A curious thing about our American Fabians—so reticent as public officials about admitting their Socialist motivation—is that in private life they tend to express themselves rather freely in signed articles for publications reaching a limited circle of readers. With research, it becomes possible to demonstrate their Socialist views in their own words. However, any attempts to confront them with the evidence or to interpret their programs in the light of their own confessed philosophy are promptly and vigorously denounced as “unfair,” if not downright wicked.
In the past thirty years a whole series of loaded epithets has been invented for that purpose, beginning with “reactionary” in the early nineteen-thirties and proceeding through “Fascist” and “McCarthyite” to “Birchite.” At present, “Right Wing extremist” is the automatic catchword applied to any person who seeks to expose or oppose the Socialist advance, and even to persons expressing the mildest sort of patriotic sentiments.
Still, men must be judged by what they advocate. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Pulitzer prize winner and Harvard history professor, writing on “The Future of Socialism” for the Partisan Review in 1947, said: “There seems to be no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of Socialism in the United States through a series of ‘New Deals.'” Elsewhere he describes the New Deal as “a process of backing into Socialism.
In 1949 Schlesinger was advocating “liberal Socialism” and calling on a powerful state “to expend its main strength in determining the broad levels and conditions of economic activity.” Three years later he insisted that those who called him a Socialist were seeking to smear him; but he still asserted that he was a “New Dealer.” 6 In 1954 he contributed what the Fabian News described as “an important article on foreign policy” to the Fabian International Review.
From 1961 to 1964 Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was Administrative Assistant to the President of the United States. Since his case is by no means an isolated one, and since we have the example of England to show us what a well-placed group of dedicated Socialists can accomplish in transforming the economic and political life of a nation, it would seem reasonable to inquire where all this is leading us.
Where, indeed? In a rare moment of candor Gus Hall, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, told us just where. Addressing a capacity audience of University of California students at the off-campus YMCA in January, 1962, Hall announced that the trend in the United States is towards Socialism, “not like in other countries but based on America’s background, and still Socialism.” And he predicted that “the United States will move gradually from Socialism to the higher state of Communism.”
Though he was then under criminal indictment for refusing to register as a foreign agent, pursuant to provisions of the McCarran Act, Hall seemed to consider this no more than a passing annoyance.
With Socialists of established respectability sitting in high places today in many countries, the Communists evidently feel they can afford to parry with a smile attacks on their own visible party organs. The Kremlin agents are unconcerned as long as an untouchable Socialist elite continues with increasing speed to prepare this nation and others for what Communists believe will be their own final victory.
Military men will recognize the procedure as an elementary tactic in warfare. An infantry commander only orders his front line troops into action after the territory to be occupied has been properly softened up by artillery and air-power based behind the lines. In the world-wide theater where Marxists wage class war, the Communists can be regarded as front line troops; while the Socialists serve as the big guns in the rear, firing over the heads of the men in forward positions and enabling them at a well-chosen moment to seize their objective rapidly.
It is a simple pattern, which any GI can recognize. Politically, it was the pattern of events in Czechoslovakia, in the Hungary of Bela Kun, even in Russia itself, where Socialist governments prepared the ground for a Communist seizure of power. Seen in this light, the value of the Socialist International to the Communist International becomes plain.
Popular confusion on the subject has given rise to a dangerous myth; namely, that a basic and irreconcilable enmity exists between Socialists and Communists. This is by no means true. Though superficially different and sometimes at odds about methods or timing, both are admittedly followers of the doctrines of Karl Marx or “Social Democracy” and they go together like a horse and carriage. In every country not yet under Communist control, the Socialists remain Communism’s most potent and necessary allies. In fact, if they did not exist, the Communists would have had to invent them.
When Khrushchev insulted British Fabians, his insult was in all likelihood a calculated one. His gesture only heightened their respectability and enhanced their ability to promote Marxist programs piecemeal. A survey of the Fabian record will disclose how often Fabian policies have had the effect of serving Communist objectives. It will show not only that Fabian tolerance for what was once called “the Soviet experiment” insured its survival and expansion, but also that avowed Communists have been personally tolerated in Fabian circles. Finally, it will reveal how often founders and leaders of the Fabian Society have, in their later years, openly traveled the road to Moscow.
This survey of Fabian Socialism is offered for people who feel they need to know where this country is heading and why. Since the movement is one about which many Americans are confused, and since an understanding and a healthy distrust of its activities seems vital to our survival as a nation, clarity is the prime objective.
As to why this writer feels called upon to undertake a task so apt to invite abuse and reprisals from persons who may feel themselves touched by it, the laconic last words of a New York newspaper editor at the turn of the century can be cited. He had killed his wife, and, asked why he did it, replied: “Somebody had to do it!”
1. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 56.
2. The General Election and After, Fabian Research Series, No. 102 (London, The Fabian Society, 1946).
3, Figures obtained from Legislative Reference Division, Library of Congress. (The payroll for Federal civilian employees for the month of November, 1962 was $1,295,088,000, an annual rate of 15.5 billion dollars. This annual payroll exceeds the total national budget for 1932. )
4. From a list compiled by Robert T. Hartmann, Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times, September, 1961.
5. Peter Minot, “Inside Schlesinger . . . Slingshot of the New Frontier,” Washington World (January 17, 1962).