Chapter 7 of the book Fabian Freeway.
“A thousand years of English history went out the window” between 1945 and 1951—to borrow a phrase from Harold Wilson, M.P., chairman of the Labour Party in 1962. Wilson was subsequently Fabian leader of the Labour Party in Parliament in 1963, and Prime Minister from 1964. That headlong dissipation of national glories and personal liberties was effected by strictly lawful means. Indeed, this was accomplished by a whole series of parliamentary acts drafted well ahead of time by the ebullient pioneers of the New Fabian Research Bureau.
Over a decade before, in 1934, the Bureau had published a study on what it termed Parliamentary Reform, over the signature of Sir Ivor Jennings. Little noticed at the time, it later proved to be quite significant; for it prescribed certain changes in established parliamentary procedure, by means of which a Socialist government could work its will “democratically” on a trusting people. In 1945, most of those suggested changes were hastily adopted by the newly elected Labour Party majority in the House of Commons, over two-thirds of whom belonged to the Fabian Society. No legal or moral barriers remained to block the rush of the prefabricated Socialist legislation that followed. Within a few short years a Labour Party government, manned at every key point by Fabian Socialists, had, for all practical and impractical purposes, socialized the economy of Britain. This was done by nationalizing about one-quarter of the island’s economic processes outright and socializing the rest indirectly through an overall system of government planning that controlled both production and credit.
Basic industries and services commandeered by the State included: the Bank of England (finance and credit); utilities (gas and electricity, which furnished the power for industry); coal mines (which supplied the basis for electrical power); internal transport (railways, bus, truck and inland waterways); civil aviation (both domestic and overseas); cables, wireless and broadcasting (which afforded control of propaganda channels as well as communications). In 1949, the Fabian-packed House of Commons finally voted to nationalize the iron and steel industry.
The inconvenience resulting from these State-run enterprises was only exceeded by their inefficiency. Former stockholders, who were paid off in bonds, proved to be the sole beneficiaries,(1) since the bonds drew interest when dividends were unwarranted. Could the Fabians have failed to foresee that unless nationalized industry was operated at a profit, either the British taxpayer or Uncle Sam would be called upon to make up the losses? The railroads ran at a deficit. Each ticket sold on British Overseas Airways cost the government, on the average, $250 more than was taken in. While production and export figures in most sectors of industry showed a monetary paper increase, the rise was in terms of inflated postwar values but obscured a decline in the real amount of goods and services.
Under political management, British coal production in 1947 fell seven million tons below the output of privately owned mines ten years earlier, even though several hundred million dollars had been spent to modernize the mines and increase their output! That year Emanuel Shinwell, Fabian-trained Minister of Fuel and Power, was obliged by the coal shortage to cut off industrial electricity in the London and Midlands areas for a three-week period. The effect was to close down 75 per cent of British industry, put two million working-class families on the dole, and lose Britain over three-quarters of a billion dollars in much needed export orders.
Moreover, it appeared that national planning involved other arbitrary features for which the public was unprepared. Planned production, while failing visibly to produce abundance, had certain other unavoidable corollaries. It demanded wage controls, price controls, rationing at home; currency control and export control in foreign trade. Though such measures might be accepted as necessary during a war, in time of peace they proved as oppressive as they were economically unsound.
At a moment when other victorious nations were moving as quickly as possible to lift war-imposed restrictions, Britain’s Fabian Socialist Government acted to prolong them. In addition to being continued, their effects were multiplied, almost beyond the capacity of the people to endure, by a swarm of subsidiary regulations. Daily the press announced new decrees affecting not only the management of business and industry but the lives of every householder and small shopkeeper as well. The earthly paradise Labour Party spokesmen had promised the common man still glimmered beyond the horizon, more distant than ever. But even the glimmer was imaginary.
Far from ending wage slavery, the Fabian Socialist leaders of Britain gave literal meaning to what had formerly been a figure of speech. Ignoring trade union protests, they actually decreed a job freeze in 1946. Their Control of Engagements Order enabled the Ministry of Labour to compel workingmen and women to take and hold specific jobs at a fixed wage. Rules, permits and excessive paper work not only killed personal initiative but poisoned the daily life of the average citizen. In cases of dispute, which were frequent, some indifferent bureaucrat in London always enjoyed the final word.
In February, 1947, as Fabian Prime Minister Attlee admitted in the Commons, seventeen Government Ministries were free to enter private homes without search warrants. Ten thousand officials had authority to invade the Englishman’s traditional castle for purposes of inspection. Due process was abandoned as farmers and workingmen became subject to arrest or eviction by official order. In a single year, over thirty thousand prosecutions for violating routine regulations were recorded—an impossible burden on the law courts as well as the taxpaying public.
For all the boasts of Labour Party propagandists about new housing provided for the masses, progress in that department was slow and extremely dear. The Government constructed 134,000 fewer houses per year at a much higher per unit cost than were built in either of the two years preceding the war. The Government was consciously building Socialism into the community structure of its dreary New Towns. As late as 1949, in one Midlands industrial city alone, nearly fifty thousand families were still on the waiting list for unfinished public housing.
While wages were frozen at wartime levels, prices soared as stocks of food declined—a fact hardly improved by the government’s donation of $2.50 per week to each householder’s grocery bill. Premiums for social insurance were a further drain on the income of employed persons and pensioners. Failure to make these payments was punish able by fine and/or jail. Yet the cost to the Government of such social services far exceeded the sums collected annually for the purpose.
Although the widely touted Beveridge Plan was in effect, it had by no means succeeded in abolishing want. As one left wing American commentator noted, (2) the plan merely furnished a thin cushion against total disaster for the most impoverished third of the population. True, every citizen (whether or not he needed it) was entitled to prenatal care, a~birth subsidy, hospitalization and medical care of sorts, unemployment insurance, an old-age pension, funeral costs, and an allowance for his widow and dependent orphans. The subsidies and allowances were tiny, and, with mounting inflation, barely sufficed for the poorest—sixteen dollars at birth and eighty dollars for a pauper burial. Medical services were spread so thin that even at the price of nationalizing the existing medical profession, it was impossible to guarantee first-rate care. With food rations hovering near the starvation level, sickness became more frequent and national production fell still lower.
So poverty was not eliminated but increased to plague proportions, and life was a nightmare for everyone but the most dedicated bureaucrats. A man might have “social security,” yet he could not go out and buy a dozen eggs. After four years of Socialist government, he was only entitled to an egg and a half per week, as decreed by Marxist No. 1, John Strachey, Fabian Minister of Food and Supply.
A vacation in Ireland where food was plentiful became the dream of every famished Briton. In those years an Irish-American writer for the New Yorker magazine described his stay at a seaside resort in Ireland, once known as a land of famine. He marveled at the huge breakfasts being consumed by an English family sitting near him in the hotel dining room, and was touched by the concern of the Irish waiter who remarked: “Ill just run and get some more eggs for the children. They still look a little hungry to me!”
Inadequate as the British social services were, their overall costs, added to deficits in nationalized industries and to swollen administrative payrolls, created a condition verging on national bankruptcy. This would have been evident much sooner, except for the fact that a free-handed administration in Washington had been paying most of the bills for Britain’s Fabian Socialist experiments at home and in the dwindling colonies. In 1947 alone, the Labour Party used over two and three-quarter billion dollars from funds voted by the United States Congress. During the same year British planners drew an impromptu one-quarter billion dollars from the International Monetary Fund, of which the late Harry Dexter White was chief architect (3) and first Executive Director from the United States.
As Under Secretary of the United States Treasury from 1934 to 1946, wielding powers far beyond public knowledge and beyond his nominal title, (4) White had personally engineered arrangements for the multi-billion dollar American loans to Britain’s postwar Socialist Government. Negotiations for the first of these so-called loans—all handled independently of the Marshall Plan—began even before the Labour Party assumed office, but at a time when informed British Fabians like Arthur Creech-Jones and Harold Laski already felt assured of the election results. Without the active connivance of Harry Dexter White, it would have been impossible for Britain’s spendthrift planners to carry on as long as they did. A crony of Lord Keynes, who fathered the theory of deficit spending, White was also a warm admirer of Professor Harold Laski, whose Marxist views he once extolled in an hour-long interview with a United States Treasury Department publicist, Jonathan Mitchell. (5)
Shortly after Harry Dexter White’s mysterious death, documentary evidence in White’s own handwriting was introduced on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. This document, made public January 26, 1950, proved conclusively that, in addition to his other key functions, the late Under Secretary of the Treasury had also acted as a Soviet agent and informer.(6) So for several years the Labour Party Government owed its survival as much to undercover Soviet favor as to American largesse! Were British support of Soviet policy in Asia and recognition of Red China the favors exacted in return?
When the United States Congress finally served notice that it would no longer finance the Socialist fiasco in London, there was consternation in the Fabian Executive now meeting for convenience’s sake at the House of Commons, because so many members of that Executive held seats in Parliament. (7) As a final expedient, Fabian Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, was reduced to telling the British people the truth: that future costs of Socialism in Britain must come from the taxes, production and privations of the British workingman. Attempting to prolong the agony a little further, he submitted his notorious budget of “taxation and tears.”
Socialism in practice, unlike its glowing predictions, was turning out to be a dreary treadmill for the great majority of the British people. Confiscatory taxes on land, inheritance and income, coupled with the restrictions on productive investment, had driven into flight whatever capital was left, or forced it to remain idle. By 1949, according to statistics cited by a sympathetic reporter, there were just forty-five individuals in Britain with incomes of $24,000 a year or more after taxes, and only thirty-five thousand with incomes from $8,000 to $16,000. Yet the disappearance of affluence for the few did not insure it for the many. Future government payrolls, even under a pattern of deficit financing, could only be met by imposing still heavier taxes on the common man, by limiting food imports still more rigidly and increasing per man production for export.
Though the best brains of the Fabian Society were engaged in the futile effort to make Socialism work, it was becoming obvious that the new system of improvisation and promises simply could not deliver the goods. Socialist theory in action was wrecking the economy of Britain, which for several centuries had prospered from the profitable sale and brokerage of goods and services around the world. If persisted in, the new policy would end by reducing the once tight little island to a status no more impressive than some Caribbean isle like Cuba. Several Socialist Members of Parliament and Labour Peers (8) openly announced their disillusionment in 1949 and resigned from the Labour Party. The bright slogan, “Fair Shares for Everyone,” on which that Party rode to victory four years earlier, turned out to mean ever smaller shares in a contracting and top-heavy economy.
To the mounting chorus of popular complaints, the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool retorted by approving an expanded program of nationalization and public spending. Defiantly, it proposed to take over cement manufacture, sugar refining, cold storage and meat packing, much of the chemical industry, and, most controversial of all, industrial and marine insurance. Fortunately for British consumers and their commercial creditors overseas, more pressing problems intervened before this plan could be put into effect. Faced by labor unrest, vanished gold reserves and the threat of total fiscal collapse, Britain’s Labour Party Government was booted out of office a year later by a popular vote of no confidence.
Repudiated in the General Elections, the Party was forced to postpone new nationalization schemes for a future day. It retired in confusion, leaving behind it a truncated Empire, a bankrupt economy, and as many Socialist officials as it had been able to blanket with permanent Civil Service. No wonder that the Fabian Society declined responsibility and chose to minimize its controlling interest in the discredited Labour Party Government of 1945-51. More than ever the Society’s “self-denying ordinance” proved to be a self-serving device.
The Society’s preference for the shadows was dictated by instincts of preservation rather than modesty. While incoming Conservatives were left to repair as far as possible the damage caused by their predecessors, Fabians (starting with Lord Attlee) who had served in the defeated Administration sat down comfortably and dictated their memoirs. In that avalanche of ghostwritten prose, it is noteworthy that even veteran and dedicated Fabians mention the Society in the briefest, most fugitive manner, if at all! Confirmation of such longstanding ties can be more readily obtained from the files of the Fabian News and Fabian Journal, from the information sheets of the Socialist International, and from official histories of the Society all destined for more or less limited circulation.
Though the enthusiasm with which rank-and-file labor had spurned them was a slight shock to Fabian Socialist chiefs of the Labour Party, outwardly they accepted it calmly as no more than a battle lost in the long-range struggle for power. In a sense, they could hardly help but count it a blessing in disguise. Defeat saved them, after all, from having to cope with the consequences of their own folly and provided a timely exit from the house of cards they had erected. They did not foresee that it would be a full thirteen years before they returned to power in Britain.
As they had done after previous political reverses at home, British Fabians promptly consoled themselves with adventures abroad. Among other projects, they moved to reorganize the old Labor and Socialist International, where they occupied the lordly position once held by the German Social Democrats. The Fabian Society’s handwriting was plain in the International’s 1951 Frankfurt manifesto which declared “democratic planning” to be the basic condition £or achieving Socialism.(9) Statism and the welfare state, as demonstrated by the British Socialists during their spell of majority Labour Party Government, were being packaged deceptively for export around the world.
Gilded with the prestige of the high offices they had recently held and the patents of nobility conferred on them, top Fabians now applied themselves discreetly to promoting the same system in other lands that had just failed so dismally in Britain. Their plans provided for leveling the wealth of nations as well as individuals—with the United States the prime target and natural victim. The barbarian practice of stripping the more developed nations to satisfy the primitive hordes of Asia and Africa had been advocated centuries before in less polite accents by the Tartars, Huns and Moors. It was urged again in September, 1962, by Fabian Socialist Hugh Gaitskell, M P., writing in Socialist International Information on “The British Labour Party’s Foreign Policy.” Calling for a “mobilisation of our Western resources for the crusade against world poverty,” that none-too-Christian soldier concluded:
“The British Labour movement dedicated to equality and the ending of the divisions between the haves and have-nots in these islands, recognises that a Socialism which stops at our own shores is a hypocrisy; that the coexistence of the privileged with the under-privileged is as indefensible between nations as it is within nations.”
Coexistence with the Soviet Union and its satellites, however, was defensible, and remained a basic point of Fabian foreign policy. It was echoed by the Socialist International, whose forty-two member and “observer” parties claim to speak for 11.8 million persons and to control 64.5 million votes around the world; (11) it was echoed by a succession of Fabian Socialist Ministers in the Commonwealth countries, typified by Prime Minister Walter Nash of New Zealand. (12) In August, 1954, Morgan Phillips of the Fabian International Bureau, a former chairman of both the British Labour Party and the Committee of the International Socialist Conference (COMISCO), had led a British’ Labour delegation that included Lord Attlee on a junket to Moscow and Red China. En route, the group also visited Stockholm, Helsinki, Singapore, Beirut and Tokyo; met representatives from Malaya and Burma; and “exchanged views with many Socialist Parties at these places.” As a result, the Asian Socialist Conference met for the first time in a joint congress with the Socialist International in July, 1955.
Before departing on that global tour, Morgan Phillips had a warm and animated meeting in Geneva with Chou En-lai, Red China’s Foreign Minister. The Chinese Communist leader, “wearing his simple blue-gray uniform,” came in hurriedly and announced through an interpreter that he had just seen Charlie Chaplin, so much admired and touted by Fabians in other years. After a further exchange of civilities, Phillips “reflected that a great new age was now dawning for Asia, an age that the Labour Government in Britain had helped to usher in when it granted independence to India, Pakistan and Burma.” And he reflected, too, “that Chou En-lai must inevitably play one of the leading roles in guiding the newly-awakened Asia.”(13)
Fabian lenience towards Communist movements and leaders was held to be justified not only by their joint Socialist heritage, but by their common purpose of achieving Socialism throughout the world. In the lead essay of the New Fabian Essays, published in 1952 as a “restatement” in modern terms of unchanging Fabian objectives, R. H. S. Crossman (14) of the Fabian Executive noted that Communist movements are often the most effective way of introducing Socialism into backward countries which lack parliamentary experience.
By inference, “Democratic Socialism” as preached by Fabians is designed~primarily to captivate advanced industrial nations, where the more direct Communist methods of attack do not appeal and cannot so easily penetrate. Plainly the two movements supplement each other, even if their vocabulary is different and their tasks are divided. Thus Crossman urged coexistence with the Communists; though he protested almost too emphatically that coexistence did not mean cooperation.
Evidently Fabian Socialists still preferred to retain their separate identity and their perennial “right to criticize,” which is the Fabian definition of freedom. A critical attitude towards friend and foe alike has characterized the movement from its earliest days, and confirmed in its practitioners a satisfying sense of being superior persons. At tunes, that habit makes it difficult for an outsider to distinguish the Fabians’ friends from their foes. Anyone reading the critical “tributes” to G. D. H. Cole in the Fabian Journal, following his death in 1959, finds it hard to believe they were penned by some of his warmest friends and admirers. Similarly, Fabian Socialist criticism of Communist behavior cannot be interpreted as pure hostility.
Outspoken cooperation with the Communists, Crossman implied, must be reserved for a future day when every country on earth should be either Communist- or Socialist-ruled; and the two kindred movements could finally merge their differences on the basis of some higher dialectic not yet apparent. Meanwhile, Fabian contacts with Communist leaders were cultivated at the uppermost level; and the vice-president of the British Communist Party, Rajani Palme Dutt, was invited to speak at the Fabian Society’s Autumn Lectures in 1956.
The Fabian-steered Socialist International continued, through its socially acceptable friends and individually respected leaders, to put pressure on its various home governments in support of Soviet foreign policy goals in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thus the Socialist International, which takes precedence historically over the Communist International, presented itself as a kind of Third Force, maintaining and manipulating the balance between the two major world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, but somehow always leaning towards the latter.
Among the North Atlantic Treaty nations already joined in a military defense pact, British Socialists promoted the cause of Atlantic Union and continue to do so today. This high-flown scheme was merely an enlargement of Federal Union, the scale model engineered at the outbreak of World War II by a key member of the Fabian International Bureau, R. W. G. Mackay, aided by the Fabian-approved Rhodes Scholars, Clarence K. Streit and Herbert Agar. (15) Federal Union calls among other things for the Government of the United States to reunite with Britain, while Atlantic Union marshals European support for the same plan. Both in its original and expanded forms, Federal Union has appropriated the secret dream of nineteenth century Empire builder Cecil Rhodes and remolded it along lines more adapted to the schemes of the Socialist International. Such eminent personages of the International as Foreign Minister Paul Henri Spaak of Belgium have lent the luster of their names to Atlantic Union.
What it proposes is that the world’s most advanced Christian nations should revise their idea of national sovereignty and pool their economic as well as their military resources. Its Fabian framers attempt to justify the plan by quoting copiously from the writings of early American Federalists, although the new type of union projected is very far from anything James Madison or Alexander Hamilton had in mind. Atlantic Union, or Atlantica, would embrace a group of fifteen highly industrialized welfare states on both sides of the North Atlantic and culminate in one World Government. The Socialist character of that eventual World State is not emphasized in the smoothly written propaganda and even smoother social functions designed to attract industrialists, financiers, educators, statesmen and military figures of the several NATO nations. Many no doubt believe they are merely helping to further the cause of mutual defense.
Seeking to permeate the upper crust of the North Atlantic community, Atlantic Union has made membership on its 538-man international council a status symbol, and, in some instances, a springboard to higher business and professional opportunity. By indirection its authors also aim to weaken resistance among the socially elite to the adoption of Socialist-sponsored programs in their homelands and in the world. Significantly, a number of British peers who achieved nobility by the grace of the Labour Party have been active in Federal Union and related enterprises. Prominent among them was that well-known international bleeding heart, Sir William (later Lord) Beveridge, the much-publicized “father” of the Welfare State.
After the collapse of Britain’s Socialist Government of 1945-1951 (which in 1949 named him chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation), Lord Beveridge says he “returned to Federal Union across national boundaries, as a necessary step towards World Government and substitution of world justice for war.” (16) Previously, he had been a charter member of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee for World Government. Indeed, he headed a coterie of economists who actually undertook to draft a “practical” plan for Atlantic Union merger (17) and to apportion the wealth of nations on an “equitable” basis. Reports prepared by his committee on the economic aspects of federation, though perhaps a trifle dated, would no doubt prove edifying to members of the United States Congress today.
While striving to render patriotism outmoded and to discredit the concept of national sovereignty in the more literate countries, British Fabians at the same time speeded up their efforts to promote nationalist movements in so-called backward areas of the globe. At first glance, this might seem a contradiction. Closer scrutiny reveals that Fabian aid to national independence movements in colonial and semi-colonial lands stems from theories advanced as long ago as 1902 by the early Fabian, John Atkinson Hobson, in his book Imperialism, which antedated and influenced Lenin’s writings on the subject.
Among latter-day Fabians such aid has assumed two principal forms. First, education of native leaders under Fabian tutelage. In 1951 the Labour Party Government had four thousand colonial-students in England, (18) most of them being carefully schooled in the “social sciences” by Socialist professors. And second, the promotion of trade unions in colonial territories, not simply to raise standards of living for native labor, but as organs of mass pressure for independence. It is planned that ex-colonial nations shall eventually form regional federations under Socialist leadership.
In 1949 Sir Stafford Cripps, then a Minister of the Crown, made the remarkable announcement that “The liquidation of the British Empire is essential to Socialism.” This statement appeared in the March, 1949, issue of Venture, published by the Fabian Colonial Bureau (renamed the Fabian Commonwealth Bureau in 1958). During the same year the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was formed, as an adjunct of the Fabian-led Socialist International, to speed colonial liquidation not only in British territories but in other regions as well—excluding, of course, the Soviet Empire! Making certain that the coolies of Asia and the tribesmen of Africa would not suspect it of being pro-Christian, the Confederation refused to accept the Christian Trade Unions of Europe as affiliates.
After the fall of the Labour Party Administration, Fabian spokesmen continued to urge Empire liquidation from the Opposition benches. Since their ranks in the Commons were thinner, they were obliged to lean more heavily than ever on outside sources of support and agitation in order to complete this unfinished business. In 1953 the mild-mannered Sir Stafford—who had just completed a term as president of the Fabian Society—urged the need for exerting all possible pressure on Britain’s Conservative Government to carry out the Fabian-planned schedule of Empire dissolution.
By that time, the ICFTU boasted one hundred affiliated organizations in seventy-five countries, including Poland and Yugoslavia. It claimed the support of fifty-four million trade unionists throughout the world, many of whom had certainly never heard of that body as such.(19) As a “labor-minded” international pressure group oriented towards Socialism, the Confederation maintained close and cordial relations with the “political-minded” Socialist International. It also worked closely with the Fabian Colonial Bureau, much of whose own globe-girdling activity was financed by donations from the large British trade unions. (20)
The ramifications of Fabian Socialism in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the West Indies, during the nineteen-fifties and after, can be traced in the pages of Venture. Here Fabian ties with international unionism are plainly revealed, as well as the drive to use the trade unions as mere stepping stones to Socialism.
The methods and aims of those fantastically widespread operations were summarized with perfect clarity by Fabian Socialist Arthur Skeffington (21) in a speech delivered before the Commonwealth Section at Transport House, headquarters of the British Labour Party. His speech was reprinted in Socialist International Information for October 16, 1954, under the title, “From Crown Colony to Commonwealth,” and it is by way of being a historic document.
First of all, Skeffington noted “the fine practical cooperation of the British Trades Union movement in sending out colonial trade union officers, assisting the budding trade unions in the colonies, bringing their officials over here for training and advice, and now agreeing to a levy of 2d. per member on their whole [British] membership to increase their colonial activities.” In the next breath he praised the initiative of the defunct Labour Party Government in promoting colonial independence, saying, “We introduced no less than forty new colonial constitutions—bringing Nigeria and the Gold Coast to the doorstep of self-government, besides giving independence to 400 million people in Asia.”
While admitting that the same Administration had freed India with no assurance or evidence of “democratic” government except the Socialism of Nehru, on the whole Skeffington opposed self-government in colonial countries unless it was sure to be “democratic”— that is, socialistic. “We must be certain,” he continued blandly, “that all the people have the machinery and the ability to express their own will before self-government is accorded.” Then, in a burst of frankness, he concluded: “We must take the opportunity, indeed, we must create the opportunities to associate them with our movement, for, as Socialists, we surely believe that the only future healthy development [sic] in the colonial territories must be based on the principles of Socialism.”
This speech, which gives every indication of having been prepared in the New Fabian Research Bureau, unquestionably reflects the policy of the Fabian Society which named Skeffington its chairman three years later. Trade unions around the world were to be inoculated with Socialism and to press for the political independence of colonial regions. Such pressure was employed to spur the further dismemberment of the British Empire. It strengthened the hand of the enfeebled Labour Party Opposition in the Commons, and eventually helped to win acceptance for such Communist-trained and Fabian-approved native leaders as Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya. (As Crossman remarked in the New Fabian Essays, the success of Communist methods in backward countries must be recognized!)
More feverishly than ever before in the history of the Society, overseas contacts and affiliations were cultivated under the personal supervision of leading British Fabians. New front organizations and their offspring in the political, educational and cultural fields sprang up all over the map, usually based on plans originating in the fertile New Fabian Research Bureau. There seemed to be Fabians everywhere, Rita Hinden of the Colonial Bureau reported in 1957. (22) In Tokyo she and Arthur Lewis were feted, together with Fabians from India and Yugoslavia, by the Fabian Institute of Japan—a body “quite independent of the British Society, but performing a similar function.”
Delegations from Poland, Germany, Scandinavia and all the Commonwealth countries visited London, to be entertained graciously at Lord Faringdon’s town house in Brompton Square and to confer with representatives of the Fabian International and Commonwealth Bureaus on matters of peculiar interest to Socialists. Members of Americans for Democratic Action from the United States were welcomed regularly at Fabian Summer Schools.(23)
In recent years top British Fabians, taking advantage of jet-age facilities and, at times, of their own privileged positions as Members of Parliament, have become world commuters on a grand scale. Typical of the breed was Kenneth Younger, Minister of State at the Foreign Office in 1950-51, whose schedule of arrivals and departures would have exhausted a diplomatic courier—though his colleague on the International Bureau’s Advisory Committee, Denis Healey, seemed to be a close runner-up for the title of Most Traveled Fabian. In the space of a week or two, Younger might be reported Hitting in and out of half a dozen countries, and he slipped through the Iron Curtain as if by osmosis.
On his travels Kenneth Younger wore a variety of hats. He was billed as a Member of Parliament; as a representative of the Fabian Executive; as the chairman of the British-Asian and Overseas Fellowship, an organization set up to establish residential centers in Britain for “overseas comrades”; or as director general of the August Royal Institute of International Affairs (British counterpart of the American Council on Foreign Relations), with headquarters at Chatham House, 10 St. James Square, London. Whatever title he might have used at a given moment, there is little doubt that he ranked for many years as Fabian Socialism’s foremost flying salesman.
In the summer of 1962, just a fortnight after it had been announced that Kenneth Younger was in Saudi Arabia, the world press carried a pronouncement in favor of Socialism by a younger member of that oil-rich country’s royal family. Prince Talal, challenging the rule of his brother, King Ibn Saud, in the age-old Middle Eastern tradition, had discovered a new approach. “I am a Fabian Socialist,” he told reporters.(24)
Combining infiltration and propaganda with ceremonial duties, the globe-trotting routine merely confirmed the leadership role of British Fabians in world Socialist affairs. Almost any issue of Fabian News, selected at random, contained items like these:
“Arthur Skeffington, the Society’s Chairman, is spending a very busy Parliamentary recess. He returned from a visit to East Germany to direct the Summer School at Oxford, and then left on a Parliamentary delegation to Tanganyika. He will return for the Labour Party Conference at the end of September.
“Another Fabian with a tight schedule is T. E. M. McKitterick, who is at present commuting between France, Turkey, British Guiana and New York.
“Colin Jackson is again visiting the Middle East, and James MacColl is visiting Virginia for Tercentenary Celebrations.” (25)
“There were probably some eminent Fabians still left in the UK [United Kingdom] during the summer [of 1963] but not very many. Robert Heild has been in India studying India’s economic problems under the auspices of the M.I.T. Center for International Studies; Thomas Balogh has been in Algeria on behalf of a U.N. agency; Anthony Crosland was lecturing in Australia, and Brian Abel-Smith was last heard of in the Congo; John Parker and Tom Ponsonby are leading lots of other Fabians around Russia.” (26)
Returning to England, eager voyagers regaled the more earthbound and anonymous majority of the Society’s members with eyewitness accounts of “conditions” in other lands. Their reports were featured events at Fabian Summer Schools and weekend conferences, giving audiences the vicarious and cost-free pleasure of foreign travel as well as the feeling of being directly involved in exciting events abroad. All of which stimulated the rank-and-file in the local societies to carry on the more pedestrian work of home research, propaganda and organization needed to prepare for a Labour Party comeback in Britain.
In July, 1952, a weekend school headed by Kenneth Younger and sponsored by the Fabian International Bureau was announced in Fabian News. Lectures were devoted to various aspects of Anglo-American relations. Among others attending it were a French Senator belonging to the left-of-left NRP; a representative of the Yugoslav Embassy in London; and an unnamed United States Embassy attache. Although Younger, in answer to an inquiry from a non-Fabian, conceded that other Americans were present as well, he firmly declined to identify them.
Occasionally, there were “reports” from other foreign friends of the Society which suggested a deeper degree of involvement in foreign intrigue than the Fabian Society officially admits. During a 1962 Easter Weekend School held at Beatrice Webb House, Dorking, the young unofficial Algerian envoy to London, Cherif Guellal, foretold with uncanny accuracy the role an independent Algeria would play in international affairs. He not only predicted that his country would range itself after “liberation” with the “non-aligned”—neutralist and pro-Soviet—nations; but made it clear that on the domestic front Algeria would pursue a Socialist policy. (27) This prophetic declaration was made several months before the rest of the world had heard of Ahmed Ben Bella or could guess he was plotting a left wing coup to seize power in Algeria.
While accelerating its movements and expanding its influence outside the British Isles, the Fabian Society is never idle at home. True, its listed membership (which rose to an all-time peak after 1945, when many people regarded the Society as a means of entry into politics and government) was cut back to the usual serviceable hardcore following the defeat of 1951. Much of that trusted membership has proved to be hereditary. It includes children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces of bygone Fabians—an ironic touch, since the Society objects so vigorously to the hereditary principle in other areas, especially in the House of Lords. Its present (unpublished) list of dues-paying members, which the Society estimates at about five thousand, (28) gives no inkling of the uncounted thousands who quietly follow the Fabian line in Britain. Long before Communists adopted the practice, the Fabian Society found it convenient, in the main, to abolish card-carrying memberships.
1. Permission was secured from the U. S. commission to use some 80 million dollars in United States funds advanced to Britain, to pay interest on these bonds.
2. John W. Vandercook, “Good News Out of England,” Harper’s Magazine (March, 1947).
3. Post War Foreign Policy Preparation, U. S. Department of State (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 142.
4. United States Treasury Department Order No. 43, dated December 15, 1941, and signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, gave Harry Dexter White “full responsibility for all matters with which the Treasury had to deal having a bearing on foreign relations.” Pursuant to a further Order of February 25, 1943, White became the official Treasury representative on all interdepartmental and international bodies. Cited in the Report of the Subcommittee on Internal Security to the committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Senate, 83rd Congress, First Session (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, July 30, 1953), pp. 29-30.
5. Hearings of the Subcommittee on Internal Security of the Committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Senate, 83rd Congress, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, March 25, and April 6, 1954), Part 19, pp. 1933ff.
6. Report of the Subcommittee on Internal Security of the Committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Senate, 83rd Congress (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, July 30, 1953, p. 32.
7. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., p. 309.) Of the twenty-five members of the Fabian Executive, at least te held seats in the Commons, 1945-1951.
8. John T. Flynn, The Road Ahead (New York, The Devin-Adair Company, 1949), p. 58. In July, 1949, Lord Milverton, Labour Whip in the Lords, who had been crated a peer by the Labour Party in 1947, renounced his party affiliation during the debate on steel. In a speech on the floor, quoted in the Times of London, he declared that “he had certain aims and ideals, and he had thought the Labor Party could ‘deliver the goods.’” Previously, Albert Edwards, M.P. had stated in the Commons, “I have spent years discoursing on the defects of the capitalist system. I do not withdraw those criticisms. But we have seen the two systems side by side. And the man who would still argue for socialism as the means of ridding our country of the defects of capitalism is blind indeed. Socialism just does not work.”
9. C. A. R. Crosland, “The Transition from Capitalism,” New Fabian Essays, edited by R.H.S. Crossman (London, Turnstile Press, 1952), pp. 59-60. Crosland, a long time member of the Fabian Executive, became Economic Secretary to the Treasury with rank of Minister in the Fabian-dominated Labour Party Government of October, 1964.
11. Socialist International Information, Vol. XIII, No. 34-35 (August 24, 1963).
12. Fabian News (March, 1958).
13. Socialist International Information (August 21, 1954).
14. Named Minister of Housing and Local Government with Cabinet rank in the British Labour Party Government after the October, 1964 elections.
15. Both have been cited favorably in Fabian News.
16. Beveridge, Power and Influence (New York, The Beechhurst Press, Ltd., 1955), p. 356.
17. George Catlin, The Atlantic Community (London, Coram, Ltd., 1959), p. 82.
18. Socialist International Information (October 16, 1954).
19. Ten years later, in a press release of May 20, 1963, from its world headquarters at 37-47 Rue Montague aux Herbes Potageres, Brussels, the ICFTU claimed over fifty-seven million members in 108 countries.
20. Cole, op. cit., p. 318.
21. Named Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and National Resources in the Labour Party Government of October, 1964.
22. “Fabians in a Japanese Tea House,” Fabian News (July, 1957).
23. “Invitation,” Fabian News (July, 1947). This item states: “The Society has often welcomed to summer schools members of Americans for Democratic Action . . . . Now A.D.A. is offering places at its summer school at half-rates to visitors from Britain . . . . Lecturers will include Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, and the school is to be held in Dutchess county overlooking the Hudson River. . . .”
24. Fabian News (November 1962).
25. “Busy Chairman,” Fabian News (September, 1957).
26. “Travelers,” Fabian News (September, 1963).
27. “Easter School,” Fabian News (June, 1962).
28. According to the Fabian Society Annual Report, national membership figures were listed at 2,692 full members and 91 associate members as of June 30, 1963. These figures are somewhat misleading, since the national membership figures include subscribing bodies and organizations which are listed as individual members. As of June 30, 1963, subscribing bodies numbered 137 Labor Parties, Cooperatives and Trades Unions, and 92 libraries. On the same date the Commonwealth Bureau claimed 167 members and the International Bureau 57; but these apparently modest figures also included subscribing bodies. Since that time the Commonwealth and International Bureaus have merged to form a single bureau. Membership of local societies as of March 31, 1963, was listed at 1,848, organized into 76 societies. Total: 4,855.