Chapter 14-The More It Changes…

Chapter 14 of the book Fabian Freeway.


Less than six weeks after the formation of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, the Rand School of Social Science was born. It was named for Elizabeth Rand, who died in July, 1905, leaving a $200,000 trust fund to “carry on and further the work to which I have devoted the later years of my life.” An ardent Abolitionist in girlhood, Elizabeth Rand became an equally ardent Socialist in her old age. Wealthy and openhanded, she had been a donor to many obscure Socialist publications and schemes in America.

Trustees of the fund created under Elizabeth Rand’s will were her daughter, Carrie Rand Herron, and her son-in-law, George D. Herron, a deposed Congregationalist minister. Dr. Herron had been the first chairman of the Socialist Party of America, elected at its founders’ convention in 1902; and he was one of two persons chosen to represent organized Socialist groups in the United States at the International Socialist Congress of 1902 in Brussels. Previously, he had been Professor of Applied Christianity at Grinnell College in Iowa, a unique chair endowed by the same Elizabeth Rand.

In 1901, Dr. Herron had obtained a divorce from his wife, (1) the mother of four children, and made Carrie Rand his bride in a poetic but unconventional ceremony recognized as binding under the common law of the State of New York. One Saturday evening in May, with the scent of flowers filling the room) George Herron and Carrie Rand announced to a small circle of Socialist comrades and to the world at large the accomplished fact of their “spiritual union”—the long-standing “marriage of our souls.” Next, the host of the evening, Dr. Charles Brodie Patterson, editor of The Arena and Mind, made a brief address. He was followed by the Reverend William Thurston Brown of Plymouth Church, Rochester, whose Annunciation Service was described by one listener as a “poem in prose.” Each of the fourteen guests present, among them the romantic poet, Richard Le Gallienne, was invited to make a brief verbal offering to the consummation of this love union. William Mailly, national secretary of the young Social Democratic Party (soon to be merged into the Socialist Party), declared that the marriage meant, above all, a more complete consecration to Socialism! (2)

Uplifting as the event may have seemed to sentimental Socialists of the period, Dr. Herron’s colleagues and neighbors back in Iowa found it both bizarre and shocking. Just ten days later the council of the First Congregational Church in Grinnell recommended that Dr. Herron be dropped from church membership rolls, deposed from the Christian ministry and removed from the teaching staff at Grinnell College, a church-sponsored institution. (3) While the Socialist press attempted to depict Dr. Herron as a martyr to his political beliefs, the circumstances of his divorce from a loyal wife, and his remarriage without benefit of clergy, were the actual reasons for his ouster. (4) Despite the great increase in divorce statistics since the turn of the century, grass roots reaction to such apparently carefree personal behavior on the part of religious or civic leaders remains much the same today as yesterday.

Taking a cue from Sidney and Beatrice Webb, with whom they had fraternized at the Brussels Congress, the Herrons decided to use the trust fund left by Elizabeth Rand to found a school designed as “an intellectual center for the Socialist movement in the United States.” (5) The sum available was very much larger than the Hutchinson Trust employed by Sidney Webb to launch the London School of Economics. Moreover, unlike the London School, the Rand School of Social Science was not connected with any accredited university and thus did not feel constrained to dissemble its Socialist aims. Its functions more nearly approximated those of the Workers’ Educational Association in Britain, which offered courses in Socialism to working men and women and trained future Trade Union and Labour Party officials.

After a short while, the Herrons very considerately retired to spend the rest of their lives in Italy, where the scandal provoked by their common-law marriage could less readily be adduced by the general press to discredit the Socialist cause in America. Possibly anticipating their departure, the Herrons-made Morris Hillquit a co-trustee of the Rand School Fund. Hillquit, born Mischa Hilkowics, was a canny labor lawyer in New York City who became a chronic aspirant to political office on the Socialist Party ticket. An inspirer and founder of the ISS, Morris Hillquit also helped to found the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, which acquired wealth and political power under his leadership and that of Sidney Hillman. Rand School of Social Science always maintained close ties with Amalgamated. To this day, Amalgamated officials still sit on the Board of the Rand School (now known as the Tamiment Institute) and serve as officers and directors of the League for Industrial Democracy.

The original Board of Directors named in the school’s certificate of incorporation included Algernon Lee, Job Harriman, Benjamin Hanford, William Mailly, Leonard D. Abbott and Henry Slobodin. (6) All had formally declared themselves to be “in full accord with the principles and tactics of the modern Socialist movement in America.” (7) Job Harriman, who was born on an Indiana farm and practiced law in Los Angeles, was to be at various times the Socialist Party’s candidate for mayor and governor of New York, and vice president. Algernon Lee and Leonard D. Abbott, whose propaganda efforts dated from the era of the Bellamy Nationalist clubs, were among the founders of the ISS.

In addition, a three-man advisory committee for the school was appointed. (8) Members were Dr. P. A. Levine, later of the Rockefeller Institute, the first but not the last recorded Socialist to penetrate the great private foundation; Herman Schlueter, (9) Social Democratic editor of the New Yorker Volkszeitung; and Professor Charles A. Beard of Columbia, also listed as a “faculty sponsor”(10) of the ISS. Dr. Beard, a widely respected historian, eventually renounced the Marxian approach to history after a lifetime as a Socialist. By that time, however, he had already produced a number of influential books, written jointly with his wife, Mary, that portrayed the Founding Fathers as self-interested spokesmen for a propertied clique and deprecated the American Constitution as a class-inspired document.

In 1907 the Rand School gave desk space to the ISS in a brownstone house at 122 East 19th Street, in New York, site of its present headquarters. (11) Successive secretaries of the Rand School, William J. Ghent and Algernon Lee, served as titular secretaries of the ISS, and the school’s trusted assistant secretary, Rose Laddon Hanna, (12) handled ISS correspondence—their salaries being paid from Rand School funds.

Plainly, the relationship between the two organizations was a family one, of shared ideas, facilities and personnel. Few observers realized that the seemingly mild and modest ISS, which for some time appeared to be almost a pensioner of the Rand School, was in reality the superior, policy-making body.

The school was the ISS link to revolutionary labor groups and Socialist Party politics, in which members of the ISS were prominent without involving the parent body. Every facet of American Socialism’s high-strung, contentious political history during the first two decades of the twentieth century was reflected in the Rand School, where the atmosphere was often more emotional than intellectual. Its cooperative cafeteria advertised, “Every bite a nibble at the foundations of capitalism!”

Members of the ISS—including such noted Marxist ideologues as John Spargo and labor economist I. A. Hourwich, along with an ever increasing number of professors from Columbia University—taught at the Rand School. (13) Over the years, the school offered lectures on a broad range of cultural subjects, to which a Socialist flavor was added. There were “courses” in psychology, literature, music, foreign languages and the arts, for which no formal academic credits were given. Algernon Lee, as Educational Director of the Rand School, stated flatly that the teaching work of the school fell into two parts:

1) That which offers general public opportunities to study Socialism and related subjects.

2) That which gives Socialists such systematic instruction and training as may render them more efficient workers in the Socialist Party, the Trade Unions, the Cooperatives.(14)

Rand School “students,” largely immigrants and children of immigrants from Czarist Russia, played a lively part in the strikes and demonstrations of the garment workers in New York. They supported the dynamite-laden strikes of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), organized among miners and railroad men in the Far West and among the textile workers of Lawrence, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Big Bill Haywood. The Rand School in its early years sponsored Red Sunday Schools for children in various parts of the country and helped to establish local “labor schools” in a number of industrial cities. In the IWW-led copper strike of 1911-12, it set up a temporary training school for strike organizers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Certainly the Rand School was far from being an ivory tower and in no way resembled the traditionally peaceful groves of academe.

With the coming of World War I the Socialist movement in the United States found itself sharply divided on the issue of American participation. A species of radical pacifism, more or less discreetly encouraged by some Fabian visitors from England and by agencies of the Imperial German Government, gained the upper hand within the Socialist Party. In May, 1915, just after the sinking of the Lusitania, the Party amended its national constitution to include the following provision:

“Any member of the Socialist Party elected to office who shall in any way vote to appropriate moneys for military and naval purposes, or war, shall be expelled from the Party.” (15)

Through the Socialist Propaganda League, Scott Nearing and Eugene V. Debs, perennial Socialist Party candidate for the Presidency, of the United States, attempted to spread their gospel of non-cooperation to American labor in wartime. In 1918 Debs preached pacifism to three million members of the American Federation of Labor and received a ten-year prison sentence, later commuted. In February, 1919, the Federal Government tried Scott Nearing and the Rand School for publishing, writing and circulating a pamphlet, The Great Madness, during the war. Though Nearing was acquitted, the Rand School was fined $3,000. Yet in 1955 Mina Weisenberg frankly described Debs as having been a “cooperator” and frequent lecturer of the ISS, and she listed the wife of Scott Nearing as a director of the LID in 1923.(16)

Many other members of the ISS were identified, first or last, with the pacifist agitation and anti-patriotic intrigues of the World War I era. Still the ISS itself—like the Fabian Society of London—denied any responsibility for the actions of its individual members and refrained from taking a public stand on the controversial issue of the war. A telegram of January 27, 1919, from Harry W. Laidler, then secretary of the ISS with offices at 70 Fifth Avenue, to the chairman of a U.S. Senate Investigating Committee, asserted disingenuously:

“In the list of alleged pacifists and radicals submitted by the Military Intelligence Bureau to the Senate Committee, the names of several college professors are included, and after their names the words Intercollegiate Socialist Society. In most instances, the only connection that these men have had with the society has been as endorsers of the society’s stated object to promote an intelligent interest in socialism among college men and women. The society is an educational, not a political propagandist organization, having been organized to throw light on the worldwide movement towards industrial democracy known as socialism, in the belief that no intelligent collegian can afford to be ignorant of the movement, and that no one can intelligently support or intelligently oppose socialism unless he understands its ideals and aims.” (17)

Not long afterwards, by order of President Wilson, himself a former college professor, the Military Intelligence Bureau was instructed to destroy its card files on subversives during World War I—a loss described as irreparable by Thomas M. Johnson, author of Our Secret War, an account of United States intelligence operations in the First World War.


With the outbreak of revolution in Russia, which Socialists everywhere believed to be the forerunner of world revolution, the excitement in American Socialist circles was intensified. To comprehend the attitude of international Socialism towards the Bolshevik seizure of power, it should be recalled that Vladimir Lenin had long been the leader of a minority faction in the Russian Social Democratic Party, a branch of the prewar Socialist International. With the same topsy-turvy use of language practiced today by Soviet spokesmen, it called itself the majority (or Bolsheviki).

Prior to 1917, Lenin had attended congresses of the Socialist International in person or by proxy, and his militant tactics were privately condoned by a good many Social Democrats in other countries as being justified by internal conditions peculiar to Czarist Russia. (18) He was one of the Socialist family, the wayward son who made good. The entire clan was impressed, even though it might sometimes be annoyed at his high-handed methods.

In the coup of October, 1917, Lenin was joined by Leon Trotsky, previously a member of the majority faction inaccurately dubbed the Mensheviki (or minority) in the Russian Social Democratic Party. (19) During the premature revolution of 1905 in Russia, Trotsky had been closely associated with a Russian-born Socialist and international mystery man named Israel Helfant, who took his doctorate in finance at a Swiss university and thereafter acted as a fiscal agent for various international Socialist enterprises. Better known by his cover name of “Parvus,” Helfant made a personal fortune in the Balkans and Turkey during the years just preceding and after the outbreak of World War I. Returning to Germany in 1915, he founded a Socialist newspaper, Die Glocke, supporting the Social Democratic majority in the German party. He was frequently consulted on Russian affairs by the Imperial German Government. (20)

It is an interesting sidelight on the shadowy origins of the Bolshevik Revolution to know that “Parvus”-Helfant was the man who advised the German Government to pass Lenin through Germany en route from Switzerland to Russia in 1917. (21) He was also responsible for bringing Lenin and Trotsky together, as joint leaders of the revolution. All this might seem remote from events in the United States, if it were not for the fact that Trotsky had spent several years in New York just prior to the October revolution. His former associates there were delighted when he suddenly emerged as commandant of the Red Army and co-leader of the Bolshevik coup in Russia. Theoretical differences were overlooked in the general rejoicing.

Personally, Trotsky enjoyed a considerable following among Russian American labor groups in New York who formed the bulwark of the Rand School and the American Socialist Party. In 1915 the latter Party had advocated use of the general strike as a political weapon. (22) Its members and sympathizers were naturally interested when British Socialists threatened to call a general strike in support of Trotsky’s Red Army, stalled at Warsaw in August, 1920, on what had appeared to be the start of a triumphal sweep through Europe.

In its heyday the Socialist Party of America had some 150,000 dues-paying members.(23) It more nearly resembled Britain’s Independent Labour Party, led by the maverick Fabian, Keir Hardie (for whom the Intercollegiate Socialist Society staged a big Carnegie Hall rally), than the present British Labour Party which came to prominence after World War I.

By 1920 the American Socialist Party, an affiliate of the Socialist International, had succeeded in electing more than one thousand of its members to political office, published hundreds of newspapers, secured passage of a considerable body of legislation, won the support of one-third of the American Federation of Labor membership, and was instrumental in organizing the Industrial Workers of the World. (24) While it offered no serious electoral challenge to the two major political parties, its influence was far from negligible.

Because of the Socialist Party’s international ties and the strong sympathy so many of its members, themselves of Russian origin, displayed for the Bolshevik Revolution, there was some fear that Socialist elements would take advantage of the industrial unrest predicted after World War I to organize politically inspired strikes and disorders in America. Even college boys, too young to vote, were being infected with the idea of radical social change.

In the Intercollegiate Socialist for April-May, 1919, (25) a bimonthly edited by Harry W. Laidler under the imprint of the ISS, the Reverend John Haynes Holmes, pastor of the Community Church in New York, urged that college youth be prepared to play a part in the stirring events anticipated for the postwar era. “The times call for a fearless and comprehensive statement of the Socialist message,” Reverend Holmes declared. “Furthermore, this should be especially directed at the minds of our young men and women everywhere, for the Great War has prepared these minds for the sowing of the seed of radical social change.”

The same issue of the same publication contained an article entitled “Two Years of the Russian Revolution” by Alexander Trachtenberg, member of the executive committee of the ISS and director of Labor Research at the Rand School of Social Science. On page 32, Trachtenberg wrote, heatedly:

“Menaced by foreign military forces, the work of social and economic regeneration is now endangered. The Russian Revolution is the heritage of the world. It must not be defeated by foreign militarism. It must be permitted to develop unhampered. It must live, so that Russia may be truly free, and through its freedom blaze the way for industrial democracy throughout the world.”(28)

In August, 1920, the Fabian Socialist-dominated Labour Party of Great Britain set an example to the American brethren of revolutionary action aimed at ending the threat of Allied military intervention in Soviet Russia. At a joint conference held August 9 at the House of Commons by the Parliamentary Committee of The Trades Union Congress, the National Executive of the Labour Party and Labour Party Members of Parliament, it was resolved:

“That this joint Conference . . . feels certain that war is being engineered between the Allied Powers and Soviet Russia on the issue of Poland, and declares that such a war would be an intolerable crime against humanity. It therefore warns the Government that the whole industrial power of the organized workers will be used to defeat this war.”

Executive committees of affiliated organizations throughout Britain were summoned to proceed to London for a national conference. Meanwhile, they were advised to instruct their members to be ready to “down tools” if and when the conference gave the word. On August 13 the assembled national conference pledged itself “to resist any and every form of military intervention against the Soviet Government of Russia.” It demanded:

“1) an absolute guarantee that the armed forces of Great Britain shall not be used in support of Poland, Baron Wrangel, or any other military and naval effort against the Soviet Government;

“2) the withdrawal of all British naval forces operating directly or indirectly as a blockading influence against Russia;

“3) the recognition of the Russian Soviet Government and the establishment of unrestricted trading and commercial relationship between Great Britain and Russia.” (27)

Although the British Labour Party at its annual conference in Scarborough two months before had voted by a large majority against affiliation with the Communist Third International, still Labour Party leaders were prepared to take extreme measures, far beyond the bounds of parliamentary propriety, to defend and preserve the Socialist Fatherland. The meaning was spelled out in a speech by J. H. Thomas, described as a relatively moderate British labor leader of the day, who said:

“Desperate as are our measures, dangerous as are our methods, we believe the situation is so desperate that only desperate and dangerous methods can provide a remedy. These resolutions do not mean a mere strike. Do not make any mistake. They mean a challenge to the whole Constitution of the country.” (28)

Whether that widely publicized threat mirrored the actual sentiments of British labor, then about 70 per cent organized in trade unions; (29) or whether it was merely a well-engineered bluff based on Fabian Socialist control of Labour Party and trade union machinery, (30) will never be known. If it was a bluff, the reigning Liberal Party Government of Great Britain did not venture to call it—and any prospect of Allied military action against Bolshevik Russia speedily collapsed. Lloyd George could not take the risk of even a short-lived general strike in an election year. No wonder Sidney and Beatrice Webb, whose long and patient maneuvers had made all this possible, were received with royal honors during their visit to Moscow in 1932.

On August 14, 1920, the London Daily Herald, organ of the British Labour Party edited by Colonel House’s old friend, George Lansbury, reported: “Labour’s National Conference yesterday made the dramatic decision to vest in the Council of Action full authority to call at its discretion an immediate national strike to enforce the demands of the Conference. After the main resolution was passed, the delegates stood silent a full minute, then broke into the strains of the ‘Red Flag.'” It may or may not be noteworthy that the Herald used the expression, “All Power to the Council [the Soviet]!”

This historic meeting was attended by at least one American observer, Professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, formerly of Columbia University and then a lecturer at the New School for Social Research. His glowing account of it appeared on November 14, 1920, in The Call, then the leading New York Socialist newspaper, under the heading, “Three Revolutionary Trades Union Congresses.” In 1920 Professor Dana, grandnephew and namesake of the revered New England poet, was vice president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.

Signs of intimacy between British and American Socialists, and the apparent readiness of both to place the survival of Soviet Russia above any domestic concerns, led the New York State Legislature to expel five Socialist Assemblymen-elect in the spring of 1920. They were disqualified on the strength of their pledges to the Socialist Party, as well as their own personal acts and statements. Legislators complained that the Socialist Party was not properly a political party at all, because it admitted minors and non-citizens to its councils, and because its constitution prohibited members from voting funds for military purposes.

Unlike some State legislatures, which are narrowly political, the New York body once maintained an extremely high level of brains and legal talent. Its 1920 report on Socialist activities—sometimes referred to as the Lusk Report, and mockingly disparaged by Socialist-minded publicists and historians (31)—is a classic document that could serve even now as a model for Congressional investigators. Published under the title, Revolutionary Radicalism, it sounded the first sober warning of the danger that international Socialism portended for the future of America.

Among the ousted Socialist Assemblymen was that fun-loving old German-American revolutionary, August Claessens, who in addition to his duties as a Party agitator also taught at the Rand School of Social Science. Some of his best friends had joined the Communist Party, which split away from the Socialist Party in 1919 and for a time was the object of Department of Justice raids indignantly protested by radicals of every hue. In a speech delivered early in 1919 at the Brownsville Labor Lyceum and reported in The Call, Claessens was quoted as saying:

“There is little real difference between the Socialist Party and the Communists. We want to get to the same place but we are traveling different roads. The reason they are being raided and we unmolested is not because we are considered more conservative, but because we are more powerful than those little groups.” (32)

The power to which Claessens referred was the voting strength of the big needle trade unions in New York City, which from their inception had voted en bloc for the Socialist Party. The Socialist role of those unions is reflected in the dramatic history of the Jewish Daily Forward, described by one of its own editors as “a powerful instrument of Socialist persuasion.”(33)

At its national convention of May, 1920, the Socialist Party showed itself to be of two minds. One group, led by prominent instructors in the Rand School, insisted the Party should not mislead the public, but instead should boldly proclaim its revolutionary principles and aims. Another group, led by Morris Hillquit, favored Fabian tactics of delay and compromise, and advised modifying the Party’s constitution to meet the technical objections raised by the New York State Assembly. Shrewd and worldly-wise as Sidney Webb himself, Hillquit judged that the United States was not yet Ape for revolution, and that there was nothing to be gained by forcing the issue.

More clearly than many of his foreign-born associates, Hillquit recognized the essentially conservative temper of the American people. He foresaw the widespread resentment, especially among returning servicemen, that any direct attack on American institutions would provoke. Moreover, as a lawyer he perceived the legal obstacles to undertaking a frankly anti-constitutional program.

Since the purpose of the Socialist convention was, after all, to draft an election program, Hillquit argued that the Party could not win independent voters with a blanket statement of destructive aims. It must appeal to discontented elements throughout the country on a purely parliamentary basis. Had not Lenin only recently recommended parliamentary action for British labor and warned against imitating too closely “the first forms of the revolution in Russia”? (34)

Denounced by old comrades as an opportunist, Hillquit was stung into making a public profession of his own radical faith. “We have never at any time changed our creed,” he protested. “Never, certainly, to make ourselves acceptable to any capitalist crowd …. As international Socialists, we are revolutionary, and let it be clearly understood we are out to destroy the entire capitalist system. The capitalist system . . . must come to an end!” (35)

While that rousing pronouncement hardly justifies the label of right wing Socialist which is sometimes applied to Hillquit, in practice his counsel of caution won the day. The Party’s constitution was amended, and the five expelled Assemblymen were duly permitted to take their seats in the New York State Legislature. In the Presidential election of 1920 the Socialist Party chalked up nearly a million votes for its candidate, Eugene V. Debs, who directed his campaign from a prison cell; but it never again conducted a major national campaign. By 1921 its membership had dropped to a mere 13,500: only a few thousand more than when the Party was founded. Whatever the future of Socialism in America, as a Columbia University historian remarked, obviously it no longer lay with the Socialist Party. (36)


1. In 1892, Dr. Herron dedicated his book, A Plea for the Gospel, “to my wife, Mary Everhard Herron, who has been to me a living conscience.”

2. Leonard D. Abbott, “A Socialist Wedding,” International Socialist Review (July, 1901).

3. The Congregationalist (June 15, 1901).

4. Ibid. Concerning Dr. Herron, the Reverend E. M. Vittum, pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Grinnell, wrote: “Any statement that he has been persecuted by his church on account of heresy or socialism is an absolute falsehood. For some time past there have been increasing suspicions of his moral character, culminating when a divorce, with custody of the children, was granted to Mrs. Herron.”

5. Chicago Socialist (October 30, 1905).

6. Morris Hillquit, Loose Leaves from a Busy Life (New York, The Macmillan Co., 1934), pp. 65-66.

7. Rand School Bulletin, 1911.

8. Hillquit, op. cit., pp. 65-66.

9. Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen and Unwin, 1935).

10. See Appendix II.

11. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 20.

12. Ibid. After retiring form the school, Mrs. Hanna resided for some years at the Grand Hotel in Moscow, where as representative of the Open Road Travel Bureau she arranged tours of the Socialist Fatherland, chiefly for Russian-American labor groups, and helped bring millions in tourist dollars to the Soviet Union.

13. Rand School Bulletin, 1911. A partial list of Rand School teachers for that year named Professors Franklin H. Giddings, D. S. Muzzey, Charles A. Beard, Columbia; Professor William Noyes; Professor I. A. Hourwich; Professors Vida D. Scudder and Emily Balch Green, Wellesley; Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman; William N. Leiserson; George R. Kirkpatrick; Algernon Lee; Robert W. Bruere, afterwards president of the Morris Plan Bank; John Spargo; Morris Hillquit; W. J. Ghent; Benjamin C. Gruenberg; Florence Kelley.

14. American Labor Yearbook, 1919-20, p. 207.

15. Revolutionary Radicalism, Its History, Purpose and Tactics. Report of the Joint Legislative committee Investigating Seditious Activities, filed April 24, 1920, in the Senate of the State of New York. (Albany, J. P. Lyon Company, 1920), Vol. II, pp. 1777 ff.

16. See Appendix II.

17. Senate Document No. 62, 66th Congress, Vol. III, p. 2857.

18. Max Beer, op. cit., pp. 144-159.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid. After 1919, Max Beer was employed by Helfant as editor of Die Glocke.

21. Ibid.

22. Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. II, pp. 1777 ff.

23. Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement, 1897-1912 (New York, Columbia University Press, 1952), p. 422.

24. Ibid., p. 5.

25. Later the Socialist Review.

26. Trachtenberg later became a member of the Central committee of the Communist Party, USA. In 1945 he was in charge of all the Party’s national and Moscow-obtained literature. Louis Francis Budenz, This Is My Story (New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1947), pp. 230, 305.

27. Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. II, pp. 1599 ff.

28. Ibid.

29. Max Beer, op. cit., p. 228.

30. In the British elections of 1920, the Labour Party was so far from obtaining a majority of the working class vote that one wonders how much popular support it could have mustered and held for a general strike.

31. The textbook on American history by David Saville Muzzey, long used in many high school classes, reflects Socialist opinion about the Lusk Committee. Dr. Muzzey, who taught at Columbia University, lectured regularly at the Rand School and was listed as a “cooperator” of the League for Industrial Democracy in 1955. See Appendix II.

32. Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. I, p. 587.

33. J. C. Rich, “60 Years of the Jewish Daily Forward,” The New Leader Section Two (June 3, 1957).

34. According to a report by Haden Guest, joint secretary of a British Labour Delegation to Russia in 1920, Lenin had told the delegates: ‘The Left Communists in England are making blunders because they are too much copying the first forms of the revolution in Russia. I am in favour of Parliamentary action. We had 20% of Communists in the Constituent Assembly and this was enough for victory. In your country 15 % might be enough for complete victory. . . . I hope Henderson comes into power with the Labour Party. It will be a lesson to the workers.” Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. II, pp. 1599 ff.

35. Ibid., p. 1789.

36. Kipnis, op. cit., p. 429.

Chapter 13 << | >> Chapter 15

Chapter 13–Left Hands Across The Sea

Chapter 13 of the book Fabian Freeway.


Organizationally, Fabian Socialism struck roots in the United States with the founding of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS) in 1905. Earlier attempts to establish Fabianism in America, which for a time seemed so promising, had proved impermanent—possibly because they tried to cover too much ground too fast. Fabian gradualists had not yet discovered how to make haste slowly in America.

After nearly twenty years of experimenting with utopian front-organizations, social-reform clubs and secret study circles in ivied halls—of proselyting among writers, preachers, suffragists, settlement workers, university professors and assorted intelligentsia—the Fabian Socialist movement in the United States of 1905 was no more than a sprinkling of disconnected groups and scattered individuals. Robert Hunter, who became a member of the Executive Committee of the ISS but in the end renounced his ties with Socialism, has described the situation as he knew it in those early days:

When I was a resident at Hull House in Chicago, at Toynbee Hall in London, and at the University settlement in New York, I was drawn by some bond of sympathy into close association with the labor and socialist leaders of the three great cities. For many years at home and abroad, I passed from one group to another in a world little known at the time—a world almost exclusively occupied with social problems and their solutions. The groups in America were small and without influence; but in Europe the leaders were in Parliament, and lines were forming in preparation for the class conflicts which followed the World War.(1)

Over the years, a certain number of Americans had discreetly joined the Fabian Society of London, partly because of its snob appeal, partly because there did not seem to be any comparable organization at home. In Britain, the Fabian Society taught manners to raucous partisans of revolution and made university-trained men and women the spokesmen for a type of Socialism that to many seemed a substitute for or an adjunct of religion.

In America, a new Socialist Party, formed in 1902 by Eugene V. Debs and Morris Hillquit,(2) had polled a total of 400,000 votes in the presidential elections of 1904. When analyzed, much of that vote was found to have come from Russian-Jewish immigrants in the New York needle trades, who had streamed to America in the eighties and nineties, bringing with them European ideologies of revolt; (3) and from the remnants of outlawed Anarchist labor groups in the West who flocked into Big Bill Haywood’s newly organized Industrial Workers of the World. Despite an impressive showing at the polls, in the light of America’s election laws there was little prospect that Socialism could ever really come to power in the United States through a third party. For most of those who had voted the Socialist ticket, revolution was still the goal and violence was by no means abjured.

It was not by political platforms and programs, but as an alleged “educational” movement that Fabian Socialism gained a lasting foothold in the United States. Lessons in leftism for college students proved to be the magic formula that unexpectedly opened the door to future influence and respectability. Under the pretext of satisfying young peoples’ “normal desire” for information on the nature of Socialism, the ISS—which in 1921 changed its name to the League for Industrial Democracy (LID)—was able to establish itself unobtrusively as an American outpost and affiliate of the London Fabian Society.

Having endured more than half a century, it is today the oldest continuing Socialist society in the country—the deceptively mild and beneficent mother society from which a whole swarm of destructive activities and organizations has sprung. The LID in 1956 even supplied a chairman for the Socialist International.(4) At a succession of latter-day anniversary dinners, graced by an imposing array of higher educators, theologians, industrial union czars and public officials, the tale of its modest beginnings has been told and re-told.

Late in the afternoon of September 12, 1905, a hundred-odd dissatisfied adults and two college students gathered in a loft above Peck’s Restaurant in New York’s famed fish market district. Of the ten who signed the original call to the meeting, all but the youthful Jack London and Upton Sinclair had been moving spirits in the American Fabian League. (5) Some, like Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Clarence Darrow, had even helped to launch the first Bellamy Nationalist clubs, demonstrating a continuity in the Fabian movement, from its beginnings in this country, that persists to the present day. It is a species of profane apostolic succession, traceable directly to the first high priest of Fabian Socialism, Sidney Webb, and beyond him more mysteriously to the author of all Social Democracy—the diabolically inspired Karl Marx, seated in his London study with half a dozen black cats climbing up his arms and shoulders. (6)

Not only the signers of the call but those who responded to it were confirmed advocates of Socialism in quest of a following. Among them were such characters as William Z. Foster, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Ella Reeve Bloor, who at a later date became leaders of the Communist Party in the United States. Their presence at the founders’ meeting of the ISS testified to the essential unity of all professing the Social Democratic faith, despite some differences on method, procedure and dogma which became increasingly acute during World War I and after the Russian Revolution.

This basic sympathy serves to explain certain otherwise mystifying features in the society’s subsequent history. Namely, its intensive efforts during the nineteen-twenties to furnish legal aid and subsistence for the then-illegal Communist Party of the United States; and the visible determination of ISS members, individually and collectively, since 1917 to insure the survival of the Socialist Fatherland, notwithstanding the fact that their organization ultimately took steps to bar known American Communists from its ranks.

From that first enthusiastic gathering at Peck’s Restaurant, the ISS was born. The object of the new venture was discreetly understated —a departure from previous techniques—yet broad enough to embrace many Socialist factions. It was declared to be purely “for the purpose of promoting an intelligent interest in Socialism among college men and women, graduate and undergraduate . . . and the encouraging of all legitimate endeavours to awaken an interest in Socialism among the educated men and women of the country.” Membership in the Socialist Party was not a prerequisite for membership in the ISS.

Jack London, flushed with his recent success as the novelist of the great outdoors and the darling of the conservationists, was the unanimous choice for president. J. G. Phelps Stokes and Upton Sinclair were elected vice presidents and Owen R. Lovejoy, reformer and Ethical Culturist, was treasurer. Morris Hillquit, Katherine Maltby Meserole, George Strobell and the Reverend George Willis Cooke were named to the Executive Committee. On the plea that the Executive of a collegiate society ought to include at least one undergraduate, Harry Laidler, then a student at Wesleyan, was added as an afterthought.

In various fumigated accounts of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society’s formation, one point is passed over lightly if not wholly suppressed. Nominally, the new organization existed chiefly to stimulate an interest in Socialism among undergraduates, who were to be organized in campus chapters or clubs under a centralized leadership. Yet only a few of its hundred or more founding members were primarily involved in collegiate activities. What, then, was the function of the ISS with reference to its adult founders and to the successive generations of college alumni who remained so firmly attached to it over the years?

Not for more than fifty years was its true purpose officially disclosed. By that time a substantial number of its trainees and “cooperators” had achieved influential posts in education and in government. (7) Others controlled the expenditure of multi-million dollar labor union funds. Their combined influence was widespread, and their personal respectability was assured. Only then was it considered safe to admit, in literature designed for student recruitment, that the ISS had actually been founded as an American Fabian Society (8)—a secret society of intellectuals, that would provide the leadership for a Fabian Socialist movement devoted to gaining political power in America, directly or indirectly. Just as in the London Fabian Society, individual members were expected to be politically active in their chosen spheres, while the ISS itself remained aloof from public controversy on electoral and policy matters.

Because British Fabians of the day gave top priority to the formation of student groups at Oxford and Cambridge, their American understudies now stressed the importance of recruiting bright and ambitious adolescents. Here, again, the ISS preferred to mask its motives. For years ISS spokesmen continued to protest that their intention was not to indoctrinate. To an attack in Collier’s, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson replied wittily but far from truthfully: “The primary aim of the society was to create students of Socialism, not to produce Socialists, and any who criticized this object must be classed with those medieval grammarians who wrote, ‘May God confound thee for thy theory of irregular verbs!’” (9) There is a marked similarity between his argument and the grounds sometimes given today for inviting Communist Party speakers to address campus audiences.

By way of further dissembling their proselyting zeal, student chapters of the ISS even adopted the practice of inviting an occasional speaker opposed to Socialism. In the organization’s Bulletin for 1912, Professor V. Karapetoff of Cornell University explained: “From an educational point of view, this is an excellent training for analysis and debate.” As a result, university administrations did not seriously interfere with the “peaceful activities” of the student chapters. At the same time, such undergraduate groups provided a buffer for Socialist professors, who had previously feared, with good reason, to expose themselves.

It was a full half century before the ISS finally conceded that from the first its intent had been fiercely and fervently missionary. In a fiftieth anniversary commemorative booklet, (10) inscribed to Dr. Harry Laidler “for a lifetime of dedicated service,” Mina Weisenberg acknowledged that the organization had always aimed to capture the heads and the hearts of the nation’s future leaders.(11) True, one did not need to be a Socialist in order to join a college club; but somehow—as in the earlier American Fabian League—only convinced Socialists were accepted as officers of campus chapters or were welcomed after graduation into the parent society.

On the proverbial shoestring, the ISS began its work among the colleges within a few months after its formation. Unlike European universities, which had fang been breeding-places for student Socialism, the undergraduate field in America was still largely a virgin one. Before the Intercollegiate Socialist Society arose, only two Socialist study groups for college students were known to exist in the United States. One had been started at the University of Wisconsin by William Leiserson, ultimately a chairman of the National Mediation Board, and Dan Hoan, future Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee. Both men became enduring members of the new Socialist Society.

The other group had been experimentally launched at the University of Chicago by William English Walling, who gained some prominence during his lifetime as a writer on labor politics and a member of the Labor Delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. An ardent Socialist of the gradualist persuasion, Walling likewise became an inspirer and founder in 1909 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In that enterprise, which during more than half a century has swelled to formidable dimensions, Walling was associated with W. E. B. Dubois, a Negro alumnus of Harvard (1890), who joined the ISS as an adult, became a well-known educator and eventually attached himself to the Communist apparatus. (12)

Walling’s chief claim to posthumous fame, however, derives from his book, American Labor and American Democracy, published in 1926 with an introduction by Professor John R. Commons. There he advanced a plan for effecting State Socialism in the United States under cover of the traditional “two-party system, rather than through a third party. That his plan was of interest to British Fabians is evident, since he lectured in 1929 at a Fabian Summer School in England.(13) William English Walling is generally regarded as a precursor of the present-day school of “democratic” action in American politics. He was among those who signed the original call leading to the founding of the ISS.

Another patriarch of “democratic” Socialism, Upton Sinclair, actively aided the ISS in its infancy. From his home at Princeton, New Jersey, in the fall and winter of 1905-08, Sinclair shipped out bundles of. Socialist propaganda, Fabian-fashion, to inquiring students and professors.

Then twenty-seven years old, Sinclair had just spent nine years as a wandering graduate and undergraduate student in universities from California to New York and had written five unknown novels. Immensely facile, persistent and energetic, he aspired to become an American Emile Zola, but never quite achieved it. In those journeyman years he was a protégé and house guest of Elizabeth Glendower Evans, whose well-appointed Boston home was simultaneously frequented by Florence Kelley and Judge Louis D. Brandeis.

At the moment, Sinclair was engaged in completing still another novel, The Jungle, a subsidized expose of conditions in the Chicago stockyards, which he wrote without ever having been in Chicago. His source was an early American Marxist, A. M. Simons, who had written a pamphlet, called Packingtown, six years before. Simons (14) did the “research” for Sinclair and served as a model for the election-night orator in the final pages of The Jungle. Because muckraking was just coming into style, and because President Theodore Roosevelt had a legitimate bone to pick with the meat packers dating from the beef scandals of the Spanish-American War, Sinclair’s sixth novel proved a sensation, catapulting him into a long and profitable career as a Socialist muckraker.

When President Theodore Roosevelt invited Upton Sinclair to come to Chicago as one of a commission to investigate the stockyards, the latter prudently declined. In his place, he sent Ella Reeve Bloor, “the little nut-brown woman” later known to Communists as Mother Bloor, whose son, Hal Ware, was to found a Communist espionage cell within the United States Department of Agriculture in 1934. Sinclair’s persistent connection with individuals who became well-known Communists eventually won for him a wide and enthusiastic audience in Soviet Russia, where his highly-colored literary cartoons of the American scene remained popular for decades after they were passe in America. In later life, he described such friendships with apparent frankness in memoirs that were serially published in the Rand School’s Institute of Social Studies Bulletin for 1952-53.

The most spectacular event in the first two years of the ISS was Jack London’s speaking tour of the colleges. This was something new in America, suggested by the British Fabian practice of having student clubs at Oxford and Cambridge sponsor visiting Socialist lecturers. The notion of expanding a single lecture into a coast-to-coast campus tour, however, was a distinctly American feature, which proved useful then and later to the new organization, since it allowed a single organizer, or at most a bare handful, to cover the country. In time, it would also provide income and outlets for peripatetic British Fabians—from S. G. Hobson in 1908 to Harold Laski in 1924-1949, to Herman Finer, John Strachey, Rebecca West, St. John Ervine, and a host of less well advertised English Socialists in more recent years.

So Jack London was merely the first m a long left-ward procession that to this day has never ended. Then at the peak of his literary popularity, a husky figure in an open-necked white flannel shirt, he looked as sturdily American as his native redwoods, although his mission was less indigenous. The day after his appearance at Yale University, the New Haven Register declared: The spectacle of an avowed Socialist, one of the most conspicuous in the country, standing on the platform of Woolsey Hall, was a sight for God and man!” Unabashed by such comments, Jack London retorted by inscribing himself in various hotel registers, “Yours for the Revolution!”—a flamboyant gesture that appealed to his immature audiences and to the wealthy hostesses who vied with each other in lionizing him.


During 1906, a number of student groups sprang up at Columbia, Wesleyan, Yale, Harvard and other colleges. Of these, the Columbia University crop proved in the long run to be of most direct service to the future “educational” work of the parent organization in New York City; while the Harvard club developed a top-level, largely undercover elite, more closely resembling and intimately allied to its progenitors of the British Fabian Society.

Charter members of the Harvard Socialist Club included Walter Lippmann, Kenneth MacGowan, Lee Simonson, Nicholas Kelley, Osmond Fraenckel and Heywood Broun; with Sam Elliott, Hiram Moderwell, John Reed, Robert Edmond Jones and others soon joining up.(15) “If anyone taking a bird’s-eye view of Cambridge at one o’clock in the morning were to see five or six groups of excited Harvard men gesticulating on various street comers, let him know that a Socialist club held a meeting that night,” wrote young Walter Lippmann in the Harvard Illustrated Review.

There is no evidence that any of the individuals mentioned ever renounced their allegiance to Socialism—with the possible exception of the New York World columnist, Heywood Broun, first president of the American Newspaper Guild. After serving for years on the Board of Directors of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID) and developing close ties with the Communists, (16) Broun finally became a near-deathbed convert to Catholicism. John Reed, now buried beside the Kremlin wall, openly threw in his lot with the Communists after 1917, becoming an employee of the “international revolutionary propaganda bureau” in Moscow. (17) Reputedly the victim of a typhus epidemic, John Reed left behind him a purported eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution, Ten Days That Shook The World—a potent piece of Soviet propaganda, now believed (like the Webbs’ later work on Soviet civilization) to have been of composite authorship.

Others of the group found it preferable after graduation to masquerade under the name of liberal. Nicholas Kelley sat from 1912 to 1933 on the Board of Directors of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and the LID. Nevertheless, he became the liberal vice president and general counsel of the Chrysler Corporation (18)—first automobile company to capitulate in the industry-wide strike of the middle nineteen-thirties which was sparked by young Walter Reuther, who had been president of the Students’ League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) chapter at Wayne University.

Lee Simonson and Robert Edmond Jones helped to found the Theatre Guild in New York City, which popularized the plays of George Bernard Shaw according to techniques borrowed from the Moscow Art Theatre. Kenneth MacGowan, president of the Harvard Socialist Club in 1910, became a professor of Theater Arts at the University of California and a motion-picture producer.

Strangest of all and hardest to unravel is the tangled web of Walter Lippmann’s career—the lad who had seemed to be the brightest and most promising among the charter members of the Harvard Socialist Club and who gradually became so entrapped in his own obscurantism that in the end he found it difficult to express and maintain a plain-spoken position on any topic. Perhaps the case of Walter Lippmann best illustrates the secretive nature and frequently confusing surface manifestations of top-echelon Fabian Socialism in the United States.

Only son of well-to-do and cultured German-Jewish parents in New York City, the boy Lippmann was handsome, well mannered and remarkably but not offensively precocious. At Harvard he made a brilliant scholastic record, ingratiated himself with his professors, and joined a quantity of non-social clubs, being ineligible at that time for membership in the more exclusive Porcellian and Hasty Pudding Clubs. He did volunteer work at Hale House, a Boston settlement house where generations of young Harvard Socialists went to learn how the less fortunate lived.

With fellow members of the Harvard Socialist Club, Lippmann spent idyllic weekends at the country home of the Reverend Ralph Albertson, exponent of Christian Socialism and president of Twentieth Century Magazine. During the summer of 1909 the attractive, ambitious youth was received into the Fabian Society of London, (19) which watched over and promoted his subsequent career, judging him qualified for tasks of infiltration at the highest levels.

After graduation, Lippmann served briefly as aide to the Socialist mayor of Schenectady, New York. Thereafter he withdrew from the rough and tumble of Socialist Party politics to become a “liberal” interpreter of British Fabian Socialist policies—first to Democratic leaders in the Wilson Administration, later to financial pillars of the Republican Party. True, an uninstructed reader of Lippmann might find it difficult to form a clear picture of where he really stood. A painstaking analysis of his column, “Today and Tomorrow,” from 1932 to 1938 finds him taking favorable, unfavorable and neutral positions in somewhat bewildering succession on identical issues of the days. (20)

During those years he was engaged in penetrating the upper ranks of the American business and financial community and gaining the good will of industrial statesmen. Having supported his World War I chief in the War Department, Newton D. Baker, against Franklin D. Roosevelt for the 1932 Democratic nomination, Lippmann recouped his error by becoming a columnist for the Republican New York Herald Tribune and the author of “liberal” Republicanism. It was not only his function to let the conservatives know what the “other half thinks,” but also to let Socialists know what the conservatives thought and planned. (21)

Articles attacking him in the pro-Socialist weekly, The Nation, by LID members Amos Pinchot and Max Lerner merely aided him to win friends in other circles. (Pinchot variously called him “The Great Elucidator” and “The Great Obfuscator”!) Lippmann’s trip to Europe in the middle nineteen-thirties with Thomas W. Lamont of J. P. Morgan and Company appeared to confer the final accolade upon him. It is unjust, however, to assume as many did that Lippmann had abandoned his Socialist faith. A chronological sampling of his books and articles to date reflects, in a more or less guarded fashion, the changing policies of British Fabian Socialism—from the Wilsonian Fourteen Points and League of Nations to the Atlantic Community and regional federations; from outright defense of the Socialist Fatherland to the tacit assumption that Communism is here to stay; from advocacy of direct government operation of the basic means of production and exchange to indirect political control of the nation’s wealth through “cooperation” and voluntary renunciation of their historic role by leaders of private enterprise.

Forsaking any hope of political rewards at an early age, when the best he might have expected was to be named Ambassador to Turkey, Lippmann dedicated himself instead to reaching key persons in diplomacy, business and the academic world—and to benefitting unostentatiously from his private investments and an ample income derived from syndication of his column. Lippmann’s social success, fiscal good fortune and unerring gift for restricting his contacts to persons of importance, have naturally provoked some ill-natured comments from Socialists of lesser status, not privy to his lofty role in what H. G. Wells in The New Machiavelli called “the open conspiracy.” They fail to perceive his lifelong consistency as a penetrator and permeator par excellence, or to recognize his continuous service as a forecaster of Fabian fashions in thought and action. It must not be forgotten that Lippmann was the first American intellectual to advocate the use of applied psychology in promoting Socialism. He was also the first to introduce John Maynard Keynes to America, having helped to arrange for the publication in this country of Keynes’ early and mischievous work, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.(22)

Above all, Walter Lippmann has been the chief literary practitioner in this country of a tactic which the British Fabian Sidney Webb developed to a fine art in politics and which Vladimir Lenin himself approved on occasion, describing it as “one step backward, two steps forward.” This tactic was rediscovered and emulated in Washington in the early nineteen-sixties by both “liberal” Democrats and “modern” Republicans. Life magazine for March, 1961, reported that Walter Lippmann, rescued from apparently harmless desuetude, had become one of President John F. Kennedy’s favorite columnists and informal advisers. He survived Kennedy, so many years his junior, to become an adviser behind the scenes to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Toward the public at large, Lippmann’s attitude does not differ materially from that which he expressed many years ago as president of the Harvard Socialist Club: “In a general way, our object was to make reactionaries standpatters; standpatters, conservatives; conservatives, liberals; liberals, radicals; and radicals, Socialists. In other words, we tried to move everyone up a peg. We preferred to have the whole mass move a little, to having a few altogether out of sight. (23) That year he circulated a petition requesting a course in Socialism, which was signed by three hundred students and which apparently bore fruit. In 1910 Professor Graham Wallas, one of the original Big Four of the London Fabian Society, was invited to deliver the Lowell Lectures at Harvard.

It was a time when American Fabian Socialism, still in the exploratory stage and unsure of its future, was seeking to discover techniques for moving the great mass of American public opinion in the direction of “peaceful” social revolution. The Harvard student group and its mentors, disturbed by press reactions to Jack London’s cheerful rowdiness, were beginning to ask themselves earnestly, as G. D. H. Cole did much later in a jocular vein:

How shall we educate the Americans

To admire the Fabian Socialist elegance . . . ?(24)

To such questions, Professor Graham Wallas seemed in his day to be the answer incarnate.

Wallas had been one of the first two instructors at the London School of Economics, when the number of its students could be counted on the fingers of a single hand. Conversational in his manner of teaching, smiling, insinuating and attractive, (25) he made a lasting impression on many young people at Harvard and some of their elders as well. His field was politics, which he treated primarily as a problem in social psychology. More than any other person, he initiated the psychological approach to Socialism, by which widely disparate elements of the population could be led, step by step and almost unawares, to accept and foster radical changes in the social, economic and political spheres. For Graham Wallas, as he wrote in The Great Society, the aim of social psychology was “to control human conduct!”

Superficially, Wallas appeared to be just another free-lance professor, unfettered by organizational ties or loyalties. He had purportedly severed all connections with the London Fabian Society in 1904, after tilting publicly with Sidney Webb on tariff policy and on the matter of municipal aid to Catholic schools—of which Wallas disapproved. In fact, however, he had taken upon himself an isolated mission of key importance. America was truly a land flowing with milk and honey, which must be subjugated before British Fabians could hope to build their own peculiar version of Blake’s Jerusalem in the New World as well as the Old. It was advisable, however, that any such schemes of conquest should not seem to originate with the London Fabian Society.

In his time, Wallas was a one-man Fabian International Bureau, beamed directly at the United States, fully thirty years before such a bureau was officially created. At intervals he returned to teach in the London School of Economics and to be warmly welcomed by old comrades. Through the select contacts which he cultivated on both sides of the water, Wallas proved helpful in securing appointments, fellowships and emoluments for individual British Fabians, as well as money from American foundations for expanding the London School. He also appears to have exercised some influence on Socialist-minded individuals already holding, or soon to hold, policy-making posts in Washington.

Demonstrating that Anglo-American Fabians never ceased to treat Wallas as one of themselves, Harold Laski, a future chairman of the London Society then teaching at Harvard, wrote on March 11, 1918, to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A brief note came from Felix full of eagerness and a cry of joy about the general sanity and foresight of Graham Wallas. I wish he were back. (26) The “Felix” was, of course, the late Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, then counsel and secretary of President Wilson’s Mediation Commission, which had just issued its Report on Industrial Unrest.

During 1919 Graham Wallas was lecturing at the New School for Social Research in New York City. The school had recently been founded by the New Republic editor, Alvin Johnson, as an adult education center for the well-to-do and a haven for lame duck professors of the Socialist persuasion. In a letter of December, 1919, Wallas told Laski that Sir William Beveridge, as director of the London School of Economics, had just written to inquire about the prospects of Harold Laski’s working in London, and added: “I am suggesting to him that you should try to teach both at Oxford and in London.” (27) Sidney Webb also wrote urging that a post be found for Laski at the London School—a sign that Wallas and Webb still saw eye to eye on matters of importance to the London Society.

In recommending the psychological approach to control of public opinion, Graham Wallas set the tone for several generations of Fabian Socialist activity in America. He bequeathed his literary style and intellectual mannerisms to Walter Lippmann, for whom Wallas cherished high hopes that were only partially fulfilled. More significantly, the studied and carefully timed application of social psychology to practical politics, which furnished the impetus for Roosevelt’s New Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society, can be traced to the ideas first instilled among Harvard “liberals” by Graham Wallas. Such latter-day developments as the Institute for Advanced Behavioral Studies at Stanford University—where respectable Socialists like Bruce Bliven, erstwhile editor of the New Republic, have been sustained in their declining years—sprang from the seeds sowed by Wallas over half a century before.

Friends recall Graham Wallas as a kindly and cultured English gentleman with a natural sweetness of disposition, (28) a useful trait in any missionary endeavor. Even Beatrice Webb, ordinarily acid in commenting on the cronies of Sidney’s bachelor days, described Wallas as “lovable.” It is instructive to note that ever since Wallas made his appearance on the American scene, the Fabian Socialist leadership in the United States has recognized the value and enjoyed its share of “lovable” characters—from August Claessens to Harry Laidler and Norman Thomas; from Robert Morss Lovett to John Dewey and the venerable, omnipresent Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Director Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, whom it seemed difficult to credit with any destructive purpose.

Testifying before a Congressional Committee in 1956, Harry Laidler, who for some fifty years administered America’s counterpart of the London Fabian Society, suggested that the choice of such front personalities was deliberate. In a purely secular vein, Laidler cited the words of St. Francis de Sales: “You can catch more flies with one drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”


Not only the taste of honey, but the newly organized opportunities for gaining prominence and/or success in their chosen fields captivated and held many gifted young intellectuals through the years. Continuity of membership, often handed down from father to son, and the steady acquisition of new blood well mixed with the old, proved to be as characteristic of the revitalized American Fabian movement as of the London Society. Walter Rauschenbusch (29) and his son Stephen, the Arthur M. Schlesingers, Senior and Junior, are only a few of the more outstanding examples.

Husband-and-wife teams, following in the footsteps of the Sidney Webbs and their coterie, flourished this side of the water. Among them were J. G. Phelps Stokes, an early president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and his wife; Richard L. Neuberger and his wife Maurine, who successively became United States Senators from Oregon on the Democratic ticket; Paul H. Douglas, who served as president of the American Economic Association in 1947 and was elected United States Senator (D.) from Illinois the next year, and his wife Emily Taft Douglas, a former Congresswoman; Melvyn A. Douglas and his wife, Helen Gahagan Douglas, former actress and Congresswoman; Avraham Yarmolinsky and his wife, Babette Deutsch, the poetess, whose son, Adam, became a key Defense Department official in the Kennedy Administration. Thus the American Fabian movement, re-launched under such modest circumstances in 1905, has survived and snowballed to the present day through the polite tenacity of individuals and families.

Like the Fabian Society of London, the membership of the ISS and its successor, the League for Industrial Democracy, consisted of a few hundred publicists and public figures usually better known for their activity in related organizations than in the parent group; plus a much larger group of industrious but less widely trumpeted associates whose connection with the parent organization remained constant but vague. Membership lists of the LID have never been published, but from first to last the membership appears to have been more numerous than is commonly believed.

In 1955, on the occasion of the ISS’s 50th anniversary celebration, a “partial record of past and present collaborators” was officially made public by Mina Weisenberg. Inserted into the Congressional Record, this list provides a disturbing picture of persons in influential places, up to and including the White House itself, committed to the gradual but ever more rapid achievement of a so-called Cooperative Commonwealth in America.30 Here, among other things, is the key to the modern influx of Socialist-oriented university professors who have not only shaped the current philosophy of education in the United States but who—like Professors Alvin H. Hansen and Seymour E. Harris and a host of like-minded colleagues since 1932–have been called upon as Executive “consultants” to formulate and steer the policies of the United States Government.

It became a tacit tradition among native Fabians, open or covert, to promote not merely their friends and relatives but approved individuals often personally unknown to them yet known to the leadership of the American group. As trusty Fabian Socialists, frequently wearing the “liberal” or “progressive” label, established themselves gradually, firmly and increasingly in the professions, literature and popular journalism; in higher education and research; in reform movements, labor union leadership, politics and government service, they trained and carried their successors along with them. Thus the movement for “peaceful” social revolution in the United States expanded, becoming ever more diffuse and more difficult to pinpoint, until it assumed the aspect of a nationwide fraternity with a largely secret membership held together by invisible ties of ideology. Few outsiders realized this movement emanated always from a single center, whose unchanging aim was to supplant the constitutional American system of checks and balances with a collectivist state under Socialist International guidance.

It is noteworthy how many who subsequently became “valued leaders of thought in their respective fields,” (31) started their careers as collegiate leaders of Socialist clubs and devoted the whole of their lives, directly or indirectly, to furthering the same destructive cause. By 1910, when Harry Laidler became the first paid organizer of the ISS, that society admitted it was holding lectures and discussions and distributing literature through its chapters in fifteen universities. Two years later it reported forty-three chapters, (32) and by the time of World War I the tally had risen to sixty.(33)

Active officers of student clubs in that era, who became prominent in the intellectual ferment following the war, included: Inez Milholland, Mary Fox and Edna St. Vincent Millay, the bohemian poetess, of Vassar; Bruce Bliven of Stanford, who became a senior editor of the New Republic, and Freda Kirchwey (of Barnard) longtime editor of its sister left wing weekly, The Nation; Randolph Bourne’ the essayist, Paul Douglas, the liberal Senator, and Louis Lorwin, the columnist, all of Columbia; Isadore Lubin, of Clark, who became a Labor Department official in the New Deal Administration, together with Edwin Witte and David Saposs of Wisconsin. From 1945 to 1952 Dr. Lubin represented the United States on the United Nations Economic and Social Council.(34)

Amherst produced Evans Clark, afterwards of The New York Times and the Twentieth Century Fund; Ordway Tead, writer and lecturer, who became Research Director of the LID and served as chairman of the Board of Higher Education in New York City; and the Raushenbushes, father and son. (35) The father strove to perpetuate Socialist dogmas among the clergy, while the son helped to found the National Public Ownership League, which spawned the Tennessee Valley Authority and other schemes for political control of electric power.

There were also Broadus Mitchell of Johns Hopkins; Abraham Epstein of Pittsburgh, sometimes called “the little giant of social insurance”; Theresa Wolfson of Adelphi, long a professor of Economics at Brooklyn College; Otto Markwardt and William Bohn, then instructors at Wisconsin, the latter to become an editor of the Socialist New Leader; and others, too numerous to mention, coming from Ivy League colleges as well as land-grant colleges. Harvard University, though an acknowledged leader in the production of Socialist intellectuals, was far from being the unique source.

In those pre-World War I years British Fabian lecturers were already roaming the campuses and cities of America. Fiction by British Fabian authors, whom few Americans recognized as Socialists, headed the best seller lists. The novels of H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy, the published plays of George Bernard Shaw, became standard reading matter for literate Americans and were favored as high school graduation gifts to boys and girls preparing for college.

Immediately after the war, publication in this country of two works by two British Fabian economists, J. M. Keynes’ Economic Consequences of the Peace and R. H. Tawney’s The Acquistive Society, helped to popularize Marxian critiques of the economic and social order, even though the name of Marx was not mentioned. The “social unrest” that a number of serious thinkers hopefully predicted would follow the First World War and usher in a new world order was seized upon by Wilsonian liberals in America, abetted by Christian Socialist divines, as a pretext for advancing piecemeal the program outlined in Sidney Webb’s Labour and the New Social Order.

A generally tolerant attitude towards the Russian Revolution and a sophisticated indifference to its bloodier aspects, tempered by some public finger shaking, have characterized American Fabians from 1917 to the present day. The roots for this must be sought in the splintered history and joint Marxist-IWW origins of the Socialist movement in the United States. And for this movement the American Fabians, like their British tutors, attempted to provide intellectual leadership and direction behind a blandly respectable front.


1. Robert Hunter, Revolution (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1940), p. 6.

2. Morris Hillquit, New York; national secretary, Socialist Party of America; joint publisher, The Call; instructor, and lecturer, Rand School of Social Sciences; national council, League for Industrial Democracy; national committee, American Civil Liberties Union; one of original founders, Intercollegiate Socialist Society; contributing editor, Labor Age; chairman, Committee on Organization and Finance, Conference for Progressive Political Action. Railway Review, Chicago (January 27, 1923).

3. Mark Starr, “Garment Workers: ‘Welfare Unionism,’” Current History (July, 1954), Reprint by International Ladies Garment Workers Union. No page numbers.

4. The late Bjaarne Braatoy, a former president of the League for Industrial Democracy and a World War II staff member of the Office of Strategic Services, became chairman of the Socialist International in 1956. He died of a heart attack in 1957.

5. Signers of the original call were: Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Clarence Darrow, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, J. G. Phelps Stokes, B. O. Flower, Leonard O. Abbott, Oscar Lovell Triggs, William English Walling, Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

6. Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen & Unwin, 1935), p. 137. Account of an interview with Maltman Barry, a contributor in the eighteen-seventies to the London Standard, who frequently visited Karl Marx at home.

7. See Appendix II.

8. From a prospectus of 1959-60 issued nationwide for the Students’ League for Industrial Democracy, under the masthead of the League for Industrial Democracy.

9. Italics were originally added, now removed.

10. Reprinted in full in the Congressional Record of October 12, 1962.

11. Italics were originally added, now removed.

12. Bela Hubbard, Political and Economic Structures (Caldwell Idaho, Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1956), p. 111.

13. Fabian News (July, 1929).

14. William A. Glaser, “A. M. Simons: American Marxist.” Institute of Social Studies Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 6, p. 67.

15. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 19.

16. J. B. Matthews, Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler (New York, Mt. Vernon Publishers, Inc., 1938), p. 272.

17. Senate Document No. 62, 66th Congress, Vol. III, p. 469. Testimony of Louise Bryant, wife of John Reed. According to Louise Bryant, Reed’s chief in the propaganda bureau was Boris Reinstein of Buffalo, New York, afterwards Lenin’s secretary.

18. See Appendix II.

19. Fabian News (October, 1909).

20. David Elliott Weingast, Walter Lippmann: A Study in Personal Journalism. With an introduction by Harold L. Ickes. (New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1949), pp. 61-77.

21. Ibid., p. 130.

22. Congressional Record (October 12, 1962), p. 22120.

23. Ibid.

24. Fabian Journal (February, 1951).

25. Max Beer, op. cit., pp. 82-83.

26. Holmes-Laski Letters, 1916-1935. With a foreword by Felix Frankfurter. DeWolf Howe, ed. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 141.

27. Kingsley Martin, Harold Laski: A Biographical Memoir (New York, The Viking Press, Inc., 1953), p. 38.

28. Max Beer, op. cit., pp. 82-83.

29. See Appendix II. Walter Rauschenbusch was from 1886 to 1897 pastor at the Second Baptist Church, New York City. There he read and was influenced by the works of Henry George, Tolstoi, Mazzini, Marx, Ruskin and Bellamy. In 1891-92 he spent some time abroad, studying economics and theology at the University of Berlin and industrial conditions in England. “There, through Sidney and Beatrice Webb, he became interested in the Fabian Socialist movement.” Dictionary of American Biography, Dumas Malone, ed. (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935), Vol. XV, pp. 392-393.

30. This official list is printed in full in Appendix II and merits detailed study.

31. Forty Years of Education, op. cit., p. 20.

32. Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism (New York, Funka and Wagnalls Co., Inc., 1910 Edition), p. 355.

33. Social Democratic Herald (May 11, 1912).

34. Alice Widener, Behind the U. N. Front (New York, The Bookmailer, 1962) p. 107.

35. Ibid. The father spelled his name Rauschenbusch; the son dropped the Germanic c.

Chapter 12 << | >> Chapter 14

Chapter 12-The Perfect Friendship

Chapter 12 of the book Fabian Freeway.

By far the most influential of Woodrow Wilson’s advisers (who always disclaimed responsibility, however, for any errors in Mexican policy) was a gray, neat, quiet, almost wraith-like little man, with luminous blue eyes and receding chin, Edward M. House of Texas. He held the honorary title of Colonel, conferred on him by Governor Hogg, one of two Texas “reform” governors he had propelled into office. In disgust, House gave the gold-braided uniform and regalia that went with the title to his Negro coachman, preferring to be addressed simply as “Mister.”

He was a potent but anonymous figure in Democratic Party councils and knew politics from the grass roots up. His support, pre-convention strategy and adroit instructions to floor lieutenants insured Wilson’s nomination at Baltimore in 1912. So confident was House about the outcome that he felt no need to watch the proceedings and sailed for Europe the day the convention opened. Without his help Wilson could not have been nominated—nor without the Texas delegation and its resounding “Forty Votes for Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey,” repeated throughout 48 ballots.

Since 1902, the very year Woodrow Wilson became president of conservative and Presbyterian Princeton University, House had waited patiently for this moment. He was looking for a fail-proof candidate to replace William Jennings Bryan, perennial Democratic candidate for the Presidency. A brilliant orator, the Great Commoner thundered against the trusts, “the interests” and the gold standard, (1) and deified labor and the common man. Bryan held audiences spellbound, but he could not win elections and would not stop running. What House wanted was a candidate who might be trusted to carry out a program fully as radical but more systematic than Bryan’s—quietly and without alarming the public.

A southerner born and bred, who had migrated to the North and captured the governorship of an important industrial state, Woodrow Wilson seemed the ideal candidate—in fact, almost too good to be true. He was a respected scholar who had been exposed since 1885 to Fabian Socialist views on economics and the social sciences; he was a specialist in American history and constitutional law who wanted to see the Constitution revised; and to top it all, he was a perfect model of decorum and schoolmasterly rectitude. From Sidney Mezes—the brother-in-law whom House elevated by political leverage to the presidency of the University of Texas—and from other professorial friends, House heard about the battles waged by Dr. Wilson at Princeton in the interests of academic “liberalism.”

During what he sometimes referred to as his twilight years from 1902 to 1911, House made a point of cultivating key persons in the academic world. Even President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard was numbered among his friends. As one who had failed to meet the entrance requirements at Yale and barely squeezed through a few years at Cornell, it gave House a good deal of quiet satisfaction to move among the academic mandarins—and even be able through his political connections to name the heads of certain city and state universities. At a later date he arranged to have his brother-in-law made president of the City College of New York, where Mezes instituted a regime of hospitality towards radical professors and students. (2)

From afar House watched Wilson’s progress as governor of New Jersey, previously a Republican stronghold, where the former professor was being educated for still higher things. When the two men finally met in 1911 through publisher Walter Hines Page of World’s Work, afterwards Ambassador to England, an immediate bond of sympathy was established. It was the beginning of what Woodrow Wilson called “the perfect friendship,” one of the strangest friendships in American political history.

Of his second meeting with Wilson, House said: “It was remarkable. We found ourselves in agreement upon practically every one of the issues of the day. I never met a man whose thoughts ran so identically with mine.” And a few weeks later, when Woodrow Wilson again visited him, House could not resist saying as his caller rose to go: “Governor, isn’t it strange that two men, who never knew each other before, should think so much alike?”

Wilson answered: “My dear fellow, we have known each other all our lives?” (3)

Edward M. House has been described by another friend, who actually did know him for more than twenty-five years, as being “highly conventional in the social sense” and “highly radical, more than liberal, in the politico-social sense.” (4) House believed the United States Constitution, creation of eighteenth century minds, was “not only outmoded, but grotesque” and ought to be scrapped or rewritten. (5) As a practical politician, he realized this could not be done all at once, given the existing state of popular education; so he favored gradual changes which, in the long run, would produce the same results.

A similar point of view was expressed in Woodrow Wilson’s campaign speeches, afterwards printed as The New Freedom. Previously it had been voiced by both American and British Fabians. Perhaps the voters who read or heard Wilson’s speeches at the time dismissed the point as mere campaign oratory; but it was one of those basic issues on which Wilson and House found themselves in full agreement, having reached identical conclusions by alternate routes. As a man who never held an official position, though for nearly seven years he was to wield extraordinary power, the Texas Colonel was technically free to subscribe to any ideas he chose. One cannot help wondering, however, by what superior intellectual process President Wilson was able to reconcile such convictions with the oath he took on March 4, 1913, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The political and social credo of Colonel House, in which Wilson so warmly concurred, was unveiled in fictional form shortly after the presidential election. Late in the fall of 1912 there appeared a curious novel entitled Philip Dru, Administrator. It was published by B. W. Huebsch, a favorite publisher of the Left and for many years a valued collaborator of American Fabian Socialist groups. (6) Though the book was anonymous, some people surmised that House was the author, and he confessed as much to intimates. The Colonel had written the first draft in December, 1911, while in Austin, Texas, recovering from an illness.

Its radical ideas attracted a degree of attention unwarranted by the book’s literary merits, or lack of them. Philip Dru was a young West Pointer who led an armed rebellion against a tyrannical and reactionary government in Washington subservient to the privileged “interests.” He became the ruler of America and by a series of Executive decrees proceeded to remold the mechanics of administration, revise the Judiciary, reshape the laws affecting labor and capital, revamp the nation’s military forces, and arrange to set up an international body or league of nations.

More specifically, the Administrator appointed a board of economists to work out a tariff law leading to “the abolition of the theory of protection as a government policy.” He also instructed the board to work out a graduated income tax. Philip Dru further called for “a new banking law, affording a flexible currency bottomed largely on commercial assets”; and proposed to make corporations “share with the government and states a certain part of their earnings.” (7) The former foreshadowed the Federal Reserve Bank; the latter, the corporation income tax.

Labor, said Dru, should “no longer be classed as an inert commodity to be bought and sold according to the law of supply and demand.” The Government would give employment to all who needed it. Dru “prepared an old-age pension law and also a laborers’ insurance law,” and provided for certain reforms “in the study and practice of medicine.” Finally, he “incorporated in the Franchise Law the right of labor to have one representative on the boards of corporations and to share a certain per cent of the earnings above wages, after a reasonable per cent upon the capital had been earned.” In return, labor was to submit all grievances to compulsory arbitration.

When the newly installed Democratic Administration announced the legislative program it wished enacted, House’s novel aroused even more pointed comments. Cabinet members remarked on the similarity between Dru’s program and the legislation requested over the years by Woodrow Wilson. “All that book has said should be, comes about,” wrote Franklin K. Lane, Wilson’s Secretary of the Interior, in 1918 to a personal friend. “The President comes to Philip Dru in the end.” (8)

Among the junior officials who read the novel and took it to heart was a handsome young Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his doting mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, was then and always a close friend of Colonel House. The Texas Colonel was the first important Democrat to support Roosevelt’s nomination for the Presidency in 1932.(9) Whether House presented a copy of Philip Dru, Administrator to the dowager Mrs. Roosevelt or to her son, (10) its contents unquestionably played a part in the political education of still another American president. It even recommended “fireside chats.”

Few works of fiction have so deeply affected, for better or worse, the trends of contemporary life in the United States. In effect, Philip Dru, Administrator became a kind of handbook or Cooke’s Guide for Democratic presidents, who proceeded to throw away the old book of presidential protocol spelling out the Chief Executive’s relation to the Congress, the Judiciary and the military. Those tried and true precepts had been honored by every American president, irrespective of party, until Woodrow Wilson and, whatever the personal inadequacies of the incumbent, had served to hold the country together along constitutional lines and preserve it from the dangers noted by de Tocqueville as inherent in any democratic system of government.

Strongly opposed to the division of powers prescribed in the Constitution, Edward M. House was one of the first Americans to foresee the possibility of evading constitutional safeguards by Executive decree and to perceive the vast power to be derived from control over the mechanics of administration—two lush possibilities further explored by other White House advisers since 1932 on a scale unimagined by Colonel House. In 1963, a Chief Executive even induced the Congress to convey its traditional and long-cherished tariff-making authority to his office, with hardly a voice throughout the country raised in protest.

There was nothing so very mysterious about the source of Woodrow Wilson’s radicalism, which he preferred to call “liberalism.” It developed (and in his case was perhaps deliberately fostered by far-seeing associates) in an academic atmosphere already tinged with Socialist thinking, where the “scientific” approach to economics and sociology was being extended to history and to the law. From John Stuart Mill, whom Wilson admired, it was not such a far cry to Sidney Webb, who claimed Mill had died a Socialist. The real mystery is how a man like Edward M. House, product of the Old Frontier and the pistol-packing politics of the Southwest, happened to become a vehicle for ideas and programs that were plainly Socialist in origin. For some reason, this has never been explained.

Two years younger than Wilson, House was born in Houston, Texas, in 1858. Reared in an era of gunplay, Comanche raids and rule-of-thumb law in the wild Southwest, he was soft-spoken and courteous; but to the end of his life, prided himself on his skill with a pistol. His father, Thomas William House, was an Englishman who had gone to Texas to fight under General Sam Houston and stayed on to make a fortune there. The elder House often remarked that he wanted to raise his sons to “know and serve England.”

Thomas William House acted as an American agent for London banking interests, said by some to be the House of Rothschild, which had invested in Texas rice, cotton and indigo from 1825. At any rate, he was one of the few residents of a Confederate state to emerge from the Civil War with a handsome personal fortune in cotton, land and private banking. (11) He gave his seventh son, Edward, the middle name of Mandell, after a Houston merchant who was a family friend. In later years, this gave rise to a rumor that Edward Mandell House, who became a friend and ally of Kuhn, Loeb and Company in New York City, was of Jewish origin—which was not the case.

As a small boy, Edward attended school for several years in England Much of his youth and adult life was spent in the British Isles, which he regularly revisited. Like his well-cut suits and proper boots, the radical views he affected so unobtrusively from early manhood were made to order for him in London. Being his father’s son, he was readily accepted into those prosperous middle class circles that voted traditionally for a Liberal Party which was increasingly penetrated, after the turn of the century, by Fabian Socialists. Concerning the period from 1895 to 1911 in Britain, a distinguished European visitor, Professor Francisco J. Nitti of Milan, observed:

“Indeed, in no country of the world are the middle classes so much inclined towards Socialism as in England, where eminent men of science, dignitaries of the Church and profound thinkers tend more and more towards Socialist doctrines.” (12)

Personally, House preferred the company of authors, playwrights and professors, of which the British Fabian Society boasted a noteworthy assortment. Among other connections, Edward M. House formed a lasting friendship with the journalist, George Lansbury, (13) a lifelong pillar of the Fabian Society, who for some years represented its more outspokenly radical wing inside the Independent Labour Party and finally became Parliamentary Leader of the Labour Party. Lansbury’s biographer tells how he once persuaded the American soap millionaire, Joseph Fels (a member of the London Fabian Society, thanks to the prodding of Mrs. Fels, nee Rothschild (14)), to lend five hundred pounds sterling to underground Russian Social Democrats including Lenin and Trotsky, when they were stranded in England. (14a) From 1912 to 1925 George Lansbury was the editor of the London Daily Herald, organ of the Fabian-dominated Labour Party until it ceased publication in 1964.

Though few historians mention it, the medical history of Edward M. House accounts in part for a career that might otherwise seem a marplot’s dream. An attack of brain fever in boyhood, followed by a severe sunstroke, had permanently impaired his health. House lived to be nearly eighty, but only by taking precautions not to over exert himself. His preference for remaining in the shadow of large events he had helped shape was due, in the first instance, to a physical inability to endure strong sunlight or heat. He could never spend a summer in Washington.

Passionately interested in politics, domestic and international, House faced the fact as a very young man that he could not hope to withstand the strain and stress of public office. After his father’s death, he arranged matters so as to be assured of a regular income of $25,000 a year—an amount he judged suitable to support him comfortably throughout a lifetime of anonymous and unsalaried “public service.” A similar notion of Socialist “public service,” subsidized by capitalist dividends, was popular among leading British Fabians of Victorian and Edwardian days, notably Sidney Webb, and has its modern counterpart in the support received by outstanding Fabian Socialists from private foundations in the United States.

It is hard to say just when House conceived the bold plan of penetrating America’s Democratic Party at the apex and molding the policies of a sympathetic Chief Executive in the interests of a Socialist program to change the face of America. Whether the idea was his own or inspired by Fabian friends in Britain, every step he took over the years appeared to be directed toward its fulfillment. Though it involved years of obscure political chores and patient waiting, in the end House came closer to achieving his purpose than England’s Fabian Socialists were ever able to do within the framework of the Liberal Party. His career was a living example of Socialist gradualism at work.

With the election of Woodrow Wilson, House became a power at home and abroad. From then until their final break at Paris in 1918, the President relied on House, trusted him completely and never made a move without consulting him. While previous Presidents had their confidants, nothing quite like the association between House and Wilson had ever been seen before in America. The understanding between them was based on ideology as well as affection. It was as if they shared a mutual secret not to be divulged to the American people.

As Bernard Baruch said, and he had reason to know, “the Colonel’s hand was in everything”—from Cabinet appointments to decisions affecting war and peace. The small apartment Colonel House had rented in an unfashionable block on East Thirty-fifth Street in New York City became a nerve center of the nation. There was a switchboard with direct telephone lines to the White House and the State, War and Navy Departments, and a constant stream of callers. People came to House, as they had been doing all his life, because he was too fragile in health to go to them; and this merely enhanced his importance. Even the President visited him incognito, almost as often as the Colonel visited the White House.

From the time the United States declared war on Germany, the apartment above Colonel House’s was occupied by Sir William Wiseman, wartime chief of the British Secret Service in America, whose functions included counterespionage as well as high politics. Introduced to the President by House, the young and enterprising Sir William had already become a great favorite with Wilson, who naively used him as a personal emissary on various confidential missions to London and Paris. When the war ended, Sir William Wiseman remained in the United States and joined the firm of Kuhn, Loeb and Company.

Just after the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany as a preliminary to declaring war, an episode involving Sir William occurred, which shows the partiality that highly placed American liberals felt for the outbreak of revolution in Russia. In New York City Leon Trotsky—then employed as an electrician at the Fox Film Studios—was the leader of a Russian revolutionary group with headquarters at 63 West 107th Street. (15) Wiseman was interested in this group principally because its activities were financed by a German-language newspaper in New York known to be receiving funds from German Government sources. Following the Kerensky Revolution, Trotsky sailed for Russia with a group of associates on March 27, 1917, via the Norwegian American Line. He was carrying a substantial amount of money.

When the vessel stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canadian authorities picked Trotsky off the ship and held him. (16) From Petrograd the gentle Social Democrat, Kerensky, cabled Woodrow Wilson asking the latter to intervene. Colonel House informed Wiseman of the President’s desire that Trotsky be allowed to proceed. Wishing to oblige its new and powerful Ally in what did not appear to be a very important matter, London instructed the Canadians to send Trotsky on his way—leaving Sir William Wiseman, who had forwarded the President’s request, technically blameless.

So Washington and London innocently furthered the plans of German Military Intelligence, which at about the same time passed Lenin in a sealed railway car through Germany to Russia, there to assume with Trotsky the leadership of the Bolsheviki. Together, Lenin and Trotsky soon overthrew Kerensky, pulled Russia out of the war, and freed German armies on the Eastern front to fight Allied troops in the West. The release of Trotsky was a prime instance of the dangerous results of high-level civilian meddling in wartime; (17) as well as a classic demonstration, the first in history, of how Socialism opens the door to Communism.

This remarkable episode has been preserved for posterity by the usually well-informed Sir Arthur Willert, London Times correspondent in Washington, who worked closely with Sir William Wiseman. Willert was distressed by what he called the “deplorable” tendencies of a good many British lecturers and travelers who roved the United States during the earlier part of the war “saying whatever their politics and prejudices dictated.” (18) Conspicuous among them was Mrs. F. W. Pethick-Lawrence, distaff member of a well-known British Fabian husband-and-wife team, who waged an energetic “peace campaign” in America after her own country was at war.

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence stayed at Hull House in Chicago, rallying feminists, social workers and college professors and receiving the wholehearted backing of Jane Addams and her many Socialist friends. (19) Jane Addams, an American Fabian Socialist and an eventual Nobel Peace Prize winner, became a world celebrity as a result of her pacifist activities, which continued throughout the war. Even Colonel House had conferred with her before departing for Berlin on his own peace mission preceding the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. (20) In June, 1915, on her way to the Hague Conference as a leading representative of the “neutral women,” Jane Addams was the admired guest in London of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who had visited her at Hull House seventeen years before. (21)

What troubled Willert and other more or less official British observers was the fact that so many of these self-styled peace movements were also fostered by representatives of the German Foreign Office, (22) eager to deter the United States at any cost from joining the war on the side of the Allies. Among the groups supporting Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence was the Organization of American Women for Strict Neutrality, founded by a Miss L. N. Miller of Roland Park Baltimore. Supposedly an independent movement, this organization received monetary and other aid from German Government sources and had branches in many American cities. (23) It was reported that the Chicago membership list included Nina Nitze, wife of a University of Chicago professor.

Nina Nitze’s brother, Paul Hilken (24) of Roland Park, Baltimore, was later discovered to have served as the chief paymaster for German saboteurs in the United States, who on instructions from the Dritte Abteilung in Berlin set off the notorious Black Tom and Kingsland explosions.(25) Her son, Paul Nitze, has risen in our own day to become Secretary of the Navy in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations and a spokesman for civilian as opposed to military defense planning—which only goes to show how neatly World War I memories have been swept under the rug.


In March, 1916, Sir Arthur Willert wrote to his editor in London: “We ought to make it impossible for people like _____, _____, _____ , or _____ to find here the hearing they are refused in England. It is really extraordinary how the country is being penetrated by the wrong sort of Englishmen . . . . I imagine there are plenty of German Social Democrats who would be only too glad to come over here from Germany and air their views. But they do not come for obvious reasons; and I cannot see why our own precautions should be so patently inferior to those of Germany.” (26)

As a result of this pointed suggestion, some official steps seem to have been taken. Soon Willert was pleased to report a “different” type of British lecturer and traveler coming to the United States. Among the “right sort,” he guilelessly listed Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragist; Granville Barker, the playwright; G. M. Trevelyan, the historian; and S. K. Ratcliffe, author and editor.(27) Ironically enough, they too all belonged to the London Fabian Society which, like American Socialism, was divided on the war issue. S. K. Ratcliffe was a member of the Fabian Executive and its chief wartime courier to the United States. He was an editor of the Fabian-controlled New Statesman (28) and became the London representative of the New Republic, a so-called liberal weekly which had been founded in New York in 191314 as an opposite number to the New Statesman.

Financed by Dorothy Whitney Straight, whose brother was a J. P. Morgan partner, the New Republic was staffed in the beginning by a number of talented, ambitious and socially acceptable young Socialists from Harvard, who dropped the Socialist label but not its program soon after graduation. Among them was the pundit and columnist, Walter Lippmann, who had joined the Fabian Society of London in 1909.(29)

The British Marxist and Fabian, Professor Harold J. Laski, teaching at Harvard from 1915 to 1919, was a frequent wartime contributor, though his articles were discreetly signed H. J. L. The New Republic (30) supported Woodrow Wilson and continued to support him throughout the war—in contrast to its more overtly radical sister weekly, The Nation, which maintained a pacifist and anti-war stand, idolized conscientious objectors like Eugene V. Debs and Scott Nearing, yet did not blanch at bloody revolution in Russia.

Always limited in circulation, the New Republic catered to an intellectual and professional elite rather than to the perfervid mass of Socialist sympathizers in New York City. Apparently, it was in high favor with key personages in the Wilson Administration, especially Colonel House. By what Lippmann prudently calls “a certain parallelism of reasoning,” the New Republic often suggested policies that President Wilson followed. In those years the paper enjoyed a kind of mysterious importance which it never quite equaled again, not even under the New Frontier.

During the winter of 1916 young Lippmann had several interviews, “such as any journalist has,” with the President; but he denied that his personal relations with Wilson were ever close. Thereafter, Herbert Croly, senior editor of the New Republic, and Walter Lippmann met about once every fortnight with Colonel House to discuss problems “relating to the management of neutrality” prior to the reelection of President Wilson in 1916. (31) With S. K. Ratcliffe commuting from London to attend editorial luncheons at the New Republic, the Fabian circuit was complete.

Following the example of top-level British Fabians, New Republic editors moved in good society and were considered eminently respectable. Penetration and permeation were their tasks. Like the Webbs and other worldly-wise leaders of the London Fabian Society, they accepted the war as inevitable and concentrated on planning for the New Order, which all good Socialists felt sure must emerge from social unrest anticipated after the war. (32)

It was no accident that the Fabian Socialist Walter Lippmann, while on the staff of the New Republic, was named by Colonel House in 1917 as executive secretary of a confidential group to formulate war aims and postwar policy for President Wilson. There the famous—or infamous—slogan, “Peace Without Victory” was born, to be revived in a more literal sense many years later during the Korean War.

That postwar planning group, dubbed The Inquiry (or Enquiry), was headed by Dr. Sidney Mezes, president of the City College of New York and brother-in-law of Colonel House. On the pretext that any publicity might give rise to rumors that the United States was preparing to accept a negotiated peace, the existence of the group was kept secret. Meetings were held in the New York headquarters of the National Geographic Society at 156th Street and Broadway by courtesy of Dr. Isaiah Bowman, a director of the Geographical Society and longtime president of Johns Hopkins University. According to Lippmann, some 150 college professors and other “specialists” (who included the Reverend Norman Thomas, later head of the American Socialist Party) were recruited to collect data for eventual use at the Peace Conference. Since no government funds were provided in those days for such lofty projects, the working expenses of the group were privately paid—presumably by President Wilson himself, although he was not a wealthy man.

Eight memoranda, the so-called territorial sections of the Fourteen Points, were prepared by The Inquiry. This document, with several additions, was given by the President to Congress and to a waiting world on January 8, 1918. One impromptu addition was some kind words uttered by President Wilson about the “sincerity of purpose” of the Russian Bolsheviki—though the same might also be said of any forthright thug. While the implications of the Fourteen Points, wrapped as they were in high-flown verbiage, were not generally understood, the document was widely applauded by members of President Wilson’s own party in Congress as well as by Progressive Republicans and Socialists—and, of course, by the college professors whose thinking was guided by the New Republic. (33)

Since then, it has sometimes been said that Walter Lippmann “wrote the Fourteen Points for President Wilson,” a claim Lippmann has taken pains to disavow. Obviously, he assisted at the birth in more ways than one. When a clarification of the Fourteen Points was asked by Allied Prime Ministers in November, 1918, thirteen of the fourteen interpretive sections were written by Walter Lippmann at the request of Colonel House. The fourteenth (relating to the League of Nations) was written by Frank Cobb, editor of the Pulitzer-owned New York World, where Lippmann was subsequently employed as chief editorial writer. The demands outlined in the Fourteen Points, however, did not originate with Lippmann nor with The Inquiry. They were conceived by Sidney Webb and the Fabian Society of London.

In December, 1917, a statement of war aims, prepared by Fabian members of the International Socialist Bureau in London, had been laid before a special conference of the British Labour Party and Trades Union Council. Its authors were Camille Huysmans, a Belgian Socialist, then secretary of the International Socialist Bureau; British Fabians Arthur Henderson and Sidney Webb; and the alleged “ex”Fabian, Ramsay MacDonald. Sidney Webb, whose skill in drafting memoranda has rarely been equaled, did the actual writing. Promptly published as Labour’s War Aims, it was the first general statement of British Fabian Socialist policy in world affairs and was designed to be copied by Socialists in other countries and to establish the primacy of the Fabian Society within the postwar Socialist International.

Labour’s War Aims antedated the Fourteen Points and included every item covered in the later document: universal “democracy”; an end to imperialism and secret diplomacy; arms limitation, and abolition of profits from armaments; plans for settling such thorny issues as Alsace-Lorraine, Poland and Palestine, and for the self-determination of subject nationalities in the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires; economic controls and an international commission for reparations and war damage. Moreover, it called for collective security, a supranational authority, an international court of justice and international legislation on labor and social matters, (34) in what its Fabian authors fondly hoped might soon be an all-Socialist world.

These were the high-sounding aims which afterwards became the stock in trade of liberal-Socialist and Socialist-labor groups in every Allied country. Somehow, Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, became a mouthpiece for the selfsame demands. Walter Lippmann, always gifted at double-talk, would doubtless attribute the resemblance to “a certain parallelism of reasoning.” It hardly seems necessary, however, to invoke extrasensory perception when such well-placed physical facilities existed for transmitting the original Fabian program verbally and textually to the President. How far Woodrow Wilson was aware of his debt to the British Fabian Socialist planners, we may never know; but it seems impossible that the alert, omniscient Colonel House, who shortly before the New Year, 1918, carried all documentary material relating to the Fourteen Points to the White House, could have failed to be informed of or to connive in the transmission.

That view is confirmed by the curious mission on which Ray Stannard Baker, the former muckraker who became press chief at the Paris Peace Conference, was sent by House in February, 1918. Baker was to “report fully for the information of the President and the State Department on the state of radical opinion and organization, especially the attitude of labor in England, and later possibly in France and Italy.” (35) He was given confidential introductions to various left wing leaders in Great Britain and instructed to send his letters via Embassy pouch and his cabled reports in secret code. At House’s suggestion that it would be better if Baker were not known to be an agent of the government, he was accredited as a correspondent of the New Republic and the New York World—though he never sent dispatches to either.

The first person Baker met in England was Professor Gilbert Murray, an Asquith Liberal of long-standing Fabian sympathies. Murray told him that the Asquith faction, opposing Prime Minister Lloyd George, was prepared to accept Wilson’s leadership and program of action, and in this was supported by nearly all of the labor groups, including the Labour Party. The next Englishman he saw was Graham Wallas, one of the original Big Four of the Fabian Society, who had delivered the Lowell Lectures at Harvard and dedicated his book, The Great Society, to young Walter Lippmann. A further list of the persons interviewed by Baker reads like a Who’s Who of the London Fabian Society—G. M. Trevelyan, Arthur Ponsonby, Philip Snowden, H. W. Massingham, George Lansbury, Arthur Henderson, Bertrand Russell and Mary Agnes Hamilton, to mention only a few.

Though he met several Lords of the Round Table group, who backed Lloyd George and the Empire, Baker felt they had outlived their time. His real enthusiasm was reserved for the Fabians; although he did not appear to be aware of the existence or function of that discreet Socialist Society. To him the Fabians were merely “thoughtful intellectuals” and Labourites. Finally, at the invitation of the playwright, Granville Barker, he lunched with Sidney and Beatrice Webb —and pronounced it one of the great experiences of his life to sit between them and be instructed in the laws of economic affairs. Baker found the Webbs “great admirers of President Wilson, and anxious for a better understanding between the ‘democratic’ groups of England and the United States.” (36)

Even now, almost half a century after the fact, it is humiliating for an American to find an emissary of the White House displaying such worshipful admiration for the leaders of a foreign secret society, anxious only to utilize the world-wide prestige of the President of the United States to further their own radical intrigues at home and abroad. Yet Baker’s abject performance was praised by House’s man in the State Department, the then-Counselor, Frank Polk. And much later, Wilson himself told Baker, “Your letters at that time helped me.” (37) Ray Stannard Baker was the individual finally chosen by Wilson to be his official biographer.

As Sidney Webb’s honored guest, Baker was present at the fateful conference of June, 1918, when the British Labour Party was formally constituted under Fabian Socialist control and adopted Webb’s blueprint for chaos, Labour and the New Social Order, as its permanent platform. Baker appraised that managed conference as being quite the most revealing exhibit of British opinion he had yet seen. In a lyric report to Washington he described the new Party as “the most precious and vital force in British life today”—differing sharply with America’s wise old labor chieftain, Samuel Gompers, who said the Labour Party in England did not really represent the rank-and-file of the British working class. (38)

The confidential reports sent by Baker were calculated to persuade President Wilson that labor in Britain, as well as on the Continent, regarded him as a man of supreme vision, called by destiny to unite the forces of “true liberalism” throughout the world. Slightly reversing the true order of events, Baker assured Wilson that British labor was not only in sympathy with his “democratic” policies, but “indeed, had incorporated them in its own statement of War Aims!” At the same time, Baker’s letters warned that “Mr. Wilson can never hope for whole-hearted support upon the reconstructive side of his program from those at present in power, either here or in France.” Thus the ground was prepared for the Peace Conference, even before the bloodshed had ended; and seeds of personal prejudice were planted in the President’s mind against the Allied statesmen, representing old-line Liberal Parties, with whom he would be obliged to deal.

Such advice from a trusted source naturally tended to strengthen Wilson in his determination to hold out for unconditional acceptance of the Fourteen Points as a basis for peace, and to insist that the League of Nations be considered an integral part of any peace treaty. The first American version of a “convention” for a League was drafted by the President’s friend, Colonel House, on July 13 and 14, 1918, in his summer home at Magnolia, Massachusetts, with the aid of Professor David H. Miller of The Inquiry group. Colonel House did not undertake this task until after he received a copy of the British Government’s draft plan, which was forwarded to him, unread, by the President.(39) It was by no means the first plan for a supranational authority, purporting to be a preventive against war, that had come to the Colonel’s attention.

Fully three years earlier the Fabian Research Department in London, then shepherded by Beatrice Webb, had prepared two reports of its own on the subject, together with a project by a Fabian Committee for an international authority along Socialist lines. Bearing the signature of Leonard Woolf, it was printed in 1915 as a special supplement of the New Statesman and hailed with rapture by Herbert Croly’s New Republic. Under the title International Government, this Fabian Socialist document was published the following year by Brentano’s in New York.

The draft so speedily produced by Colonel House on two summer days m Massachusetts bore a striking resemblance to the Fabian proposals, whose Socialist authors were not otherwise in a position to impose their ideas on the British Foreign Office. House’s twenty-three articles formed the basis for the President’s tentative draft, which adopted all but five of those articles and became the first official American plan for a League of Nations. Eventually the so-called Wilson plan was incorporated with a revised British Government version for presentation to the League of Nations Commission at the Paris Peace Conference.

From such motley materials the Covenant of the League was stitched together. And yet, when it was finally completed, Woodrow Wilson considered it so peculiarly his own that he was willing to invite personal and political defeat, to sacrifice the fortunes of his Party and his own far from robust health rather than allow a single line of it to be changed. To a practical politician like Colonel House —who had long since learned, as Sidney Webb also had, the necessity for graceful compromise when no better recourse offered—Wilson’s attitude must have seemed fantastic as well as suicidal.

The perfect friendship of Woodrow Wilson and Edward M. House ended as abruptly as it began. All the world knows that the break between the two men, predicted annually for seven years by newsmen, occurred at the Peace Conference in Paris. No two historians agree on the reasons, and the principals have never divulged them. Certain facts, however, are evident. Public sentiment in America had turned against the President and his internationalist views. In November, 1918, he lost the Congress and with it any hope of securing rubber-stamp approval for the Treaty or the League. House attributed this, in part, to Wilson’s own indiscretion. For Wilson, House had lost his political magic.

In December, 1918, Woodrow Wilson went to the Peace Conference in Paris, a defeated man too unfamiliar with defeat to recognize it. Such authority as he enjoyed was derived from popular acclaim in Europe and was largely ceremonial. Though hailed as a savior by millions, his power was strictly limited. He was a president nearing the end of his second term who had forfeited his support at home— and every politician in the world knew it. While he might persuade, he could not command.

Shrewdly, House had advised Wilson to make no more than a brief appearance and a few speeches in Europe, and return to pull strings from the White House. The Colonel also recommended sending a bipartisan committee of Congress to the Peace Conference. But their relationship had already changed: Wilson no longer listened to anything so unflattering as common sense. As Sir William Wiseman cynically remarked, the President was drawn to Paris as a debutante is entranced by the prospect of her first ball.

In those days it was a generally accepted fact that the treaty-making power of the United States resided not merely in the President, but in the President with two-thirds of the Senate present and voting. The Constitution said so; and as yet no techniques had been devised by faceless bureaucrats or Executive aides for diverting or assigning that power, or preempting it piecemeal. Philip Dru, Administrator, was not yet in the saddle—Yalta and Teheran were still undreamed of—and nobody in America except a handful of Socialist intellectuals and foreign-born radicals wanted any part of International Government. So Wilson, the bitter-ender, went home to failure and~collapse; while House, the gradualist who never stopped trying, remained in Paris, attempting to salvage by negotiation whatever fragments of his program could still be saved. As it had been from the beginning, their real quarrel was still with the Constitution, and on that rock they foundered separately.

The first attempt by Fabian Socialists to penetrate and permeate the Executive branch of the United States Government failed in the end. But they would try again, and go on trying, until fortress America was leveled, or until their own long-range subversion was definitely exposed. Colonel House was only one man, where a multitude was needed. He had set the pattern and outlined goals for the future, and he still had a scheme or two in mind. In particular, he foresaw it would be necessary for the Fabians to develop a top-level Anglo-American planning group in the field of foreign relations which could secretly influence policy on the one hand and gradually “educate” public opinion on the other. His experience in Paris had shown him that it must be a bipartisan group.

To the ambitious young Fabians, British and American, who had flocked to the Peace Conference as economists and junior officials, it soon became evident that a New World Order was not about to be produced at Paris. Most of the younger men in whom House placed his hopes for the future of liberalism and a positive foreign policy in America had already departed—Walter Lippmann, Felix Frankfurter, and above all, young Franklin D. Roosevelt. The few American intellectuals still remaining in Paris, who clustered around Professor James T. Shotwell, were young men of still undefined political affiliations and excellent social standing—such as John Foster and Allen Dulles, nephews of Wilson’s Secretary of State, Robert Lansing; Christian Herter, and Tasker Bliss, the political general who did not get along well with Pershing.

For them, Colonel House arranged a dinner meeting at the Hotel Majestic on May 19, 1919, together with a select group of Fabian-certified Englishmen—notably, Arnold Toynbee, R. H. Tawney and John Maynard Keynes. All were equally disillusioned, for varied reasons, by the consequences of the peace. They made a gentlemen’s agreement to set up an organization, with branches in England and America, “to facilitate the scientific study of international questions.” As a result two potent and closely related opinion-making bodies were founded, which only began to reach their full growth in the nineteen-forties, coincident with the formation of the Fabian International Bureau. The English branch was called the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The American branch, first known as the Institute of International Affairs, was reorganized in 1921 as the Council on Foreign Relations.

Edward M. House, the lifelong radical whose name was listed in the New York Social Register, in his quiet way had set the wave of the future in motion.


1. Bryan’s famous Cross of Gold speech proclaimed, “You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold!”

2. See Appendix II for names of professors at the City College of New York who were student-leaders and/or valued “cooperators” of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and its successor, the League for Industrial Democracy.

3. Arthur D. Howden Smith, Mr. House of Texas (New York, Funk and Wagnalls, Co., Inc., 1940), p. 43.

4. Ibid., p. 23.

5. Ibid., pp. 23; 93.

6. In 1922, B. W. Heubsch was a member of the Executive Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, a Socialist-inspired organization; and in April, 1961 he was one of the sponsors of a rally in New York City to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee.

7. The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, Charles Seymour ed. (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1926), pp. 152-159.

8. Smith, op. cit., pp. 49-50.

9. Arthur Willert, The Road to Safety (London, Derek Verschoyle, 1952), p. 172. From a letter of Sir William Wiseman to Lord Grey of Falloden.

10. Smith, op. cit., pp. 366-367.

11. Ibid., pp. 8-11.

12. Francisco, J. Nitti, Catholic Socialism (London, Sonnenschein, 1895; New York, The Macmillan Co., 1911), p. 312.

13. Smith, op. cit., pp. 35; 102.

14. Fabian News (March, 1905), in an article entitled “New Farm Colonies,” refers to Joseph Fels as “one of our members.” Beatrice Webb, in her diary during May, 1904 quoted by Margaret Cole, Beatrice Webb (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1946), p. 189 confirms the fact that both Joseph and Mary Fels belonged to the Fabian Society of London. A descendant, Joseph Fels Barnes, currently on the editorial staff of a New York publishing house, was in Moscow on a Rockefeller fellowship during 1931-32, where he was warmly received in deference to his family history.

14a. Raymond Postgate, The Life of George Lansbury (New York, Longmans, Green and Company, Ltd., 1951), pp. 69-70.

15. Willert, op. cit., p. 29.

16. On the night before his departure, Trotsky had made a speech before a joint meeting of German and Russian Socialists at Harlem River Park Casino in New York City. Speaking in both German and Russian, he said: “I am going back to Russia to overthrow the provisional government and stop the war with Germany and allow no interference from any outside government.” A report on this meeting had been submitted to Colonel Van Deman and General Churchill of United State Military Intelligence. Senate Document No. 62, 66th Congress, Report and Hearings of the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 1919, Vol. II, p. 2680.

17. Willert, op. cit., p. 29. Based on information obtained from the private papers of Sir William Wiseman.

18. Ibid., p. 89.

19. Revolutionary Radicalism, Its History, Purpose and Tactics. Report of the Joint Legislative committee Investigating Seditious Activities, filed April 24, 1920, in the Senate of the State of New York (Albany, J. P. Lyon Co., 1920), Vol. I, p. 974. Report by Louis P. Lochner, January 18, 1915: “Almost coincident with Mme. (Rosika) Schwimmer (A German agent) came a noted Englishwoman, Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence of London, England. For several weeks she was a guest of Miss Addams, and came before many organizations with her Woman’s Movement for Constructive Peace.”

20. Smith, op. cit., p. 102.

21. Cole, Beatrice Webb, p. 40.

22. Senate Document No. 62, 66th Congress. Extensive testimony and exhibits to this effect are presented throughout Vol. I and Vol. II. See especially Vol. II, pp. 1394-95; 1791-1795.

23. Ibid., p. 1792.

24. A special Act of congress was passed compelling Paul Hilken to testify concerning his World War I dealings with German sabotage agents. This testimony became a part of the Mixed Claims Commission Record, now preserved at the National Archives in Washington. It was reviewed in Justice Owen D. Roberts’ report on his decision of October 30, 1939, rendered as Umpire for the Commission.

25. The Dritte Abteilung, or Section III of German Military Intelligence, planned for and recruited volunteers for sabotage and terrorist acts abroad. See Records of the Mixed Claims Commission, National Archives, Washington.

26. Willert, op. cit., p. 89.

27. Ibid., p. 93.

28. In the Jubilee Issue of the New Statesman (April 19, 1963, p. 543) the editor, John Freeman, stated: “We were founded in April, 1913, by a group of Fabians, among whom Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Bernard Shaw and J. C. Squire were most closely concerned. Clifford Sharp was the first editor. He was succeeded in 1931 by Kingsley Martin, who occupied the editorial chair for 30 years.” In the same issue, R. H. S. Crossman, a former chairman of the Fabian Society, stated (p. 551): “During 50 years the fortunes of the New Statesman and the Labour Party have been more intimately linked than either side would care to admit. Why have successive editors and successive Party Leaders deliberately underestimated this intimacy?”

29. Fabian News (October, 1909).

30. In addition to Lippmann, the original staff of the New Republic included Herbert Croly, author of The Promise of American Life, who secured the financial backing; Philip Littell, Walter Weyl, Charles Rudyard and Francis Hackett. Soon Charles Merz and Alvin Johnson, later to head the New School for Social Research, joined the board of editors. In 1922 Robert Morss Lovett became its book review editor.

31. Walter Lippmann, “Notes for a Biography,” New Republic (July 16, 1930).

32. In 1919, the Reverend Lyman P. Powell, President Wilson’s old friend, edited a two volume symposium published by The Review of Reviews Company, entitled Social Unrest. It contained articles by many well-known British and American Fabian Socialists as well as some non-Socialists.

33. John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson’s War, Lewis Gannett, ed. (New York, Doubleday & Co., 1962), p. 307.

34. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), pp 169-171.

35. Ray Stannard Baker, An American Chronicle (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945), p. 306.

36. Baker, op. cit., p. 339.

37. Ibid., p. 355.

38. Ibid., pp. 343-345.

39. Smith, op. cit., pp. 259-260.

Chapter 11 << | >> Chapter 13

Chapter 11-The Professor Goes To Washington

Chapter 11 of the book Fabian Freeway.

Far from the noise of popular celebrations which hailed the hopeful opening of the twentieth century, a small but crucial event occurred in England that seemed straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Sidney Webb induced the Royal Commission of London University to declare economics a science—and once declared so by that August body, it was assumed to be so! On February 20,1900, Beatrice Webb confided to her diary, “This divorce of economies from metaphysics and shoddy history is a great gain,” that is, for the advancement of scientific Socialism in the English-speaking world. She admitted blandly that the coup had been achieved by trickery, through successfully packing the University of London Commission.(1)

In those days science was a word to conjure with and the Webbs were gifted at legerdemain. While attracting little general notice, the Royal Commission’s pronouncement went a long way toward establishing the authority of research and teaching methods pursued with political intent by British Fabians—not only at the little London School of Economies (2) where they ruled supreme, but also at the larger universities of England and America where they were making converts.

Soon other types of social inquiry were invested with the lofty title of “social science” and presumed by a guileless public to be as free as the physical sciences from subjective or doctrinal bias. Thus professors who happened to be Socialists could present propagandist conclusions as though they were laws of nature, determined by “impartial” research. No wonder the British Fabian Socialist, John Atkinson Hobson—who wrote Free Thought in the Social Sciences, pointing out the uses of social psychology as a tool for manipulating the masses—could assert so confidently, if somewhat after the fact, that the future secret weapon of strategy would be the university professor!

More speedily than in England, Hobson’s dictum proved true in the United States, where professors as well as students aspired to become the future rulers of America. All across the continent at the turn of the century, little clusters of college professors had begun studying Socialism in secret, because an open avowal of such interest might have led to their dismissal. Recalling his youth as an instructor at the University of California, Dr. Harry L. Overstreet—long a professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and sponsor of many Socialist causes—said: “We were studying Socialism [at California] and didn’t want anyone to know we were doing it.” (3)

At the Philadelphia University Extension, a group of self-styled liberals gathered around Woodrow Wilson, professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Princeton University. Most of them held regular positions elsewhere, as Wilson did, commuting to Philadelphia (4) to lecture in their free time as a means of augmenting their incomes and improving their extracurricular contacts. Some, like Professor Henry C. Adams and, at a later date, Professor Richard T. Ely, were the acknowledged leaders of academic Socialism in their day.

Others belonging to the Wilson circle were Dr. Albert Shaw, of the Review of Reviews; Professor William Graham Sumner, who explained morality in terms of folkways and tribal taboos, and who helped blur the distinctions between primitive and civilized man to an extent still reflected today in United States foreign policy; and the Reverend William Bayard Hale, editor and correspondent, who had gone to Oxford in 1695 and returned to write The Eternal Teacher, advocating a species of Christian Socialism akin to that of W. D. P. Bliss. They contributed to the University Extension World, which became the American Journal of Sociology; and they brought to the group, if nothing more, an awareness of the municipal politics of Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

With other American intellectuals of British ancestry, they attended summer meetings at Oxford announced in The Citizen (1895-1901), a publication of the Philadelphia University. British extension-type lecturers such as J. Hudson Shaw (better known as Broughman Villiers) and the arch-Fabian Graham Wallas—both of whom also taught at summer sessions in Philadelphia and New York—addressed the visiting scholars. The ancient halls and towers of Oxford provided a mellow setting for spokesmen from the London School of Economics still in its somewhat unpromising infancy. It is remarkable, and certainly a tribute to the Fabian talent for impressing Americans, that so small and ill-favored a nursling, which the London School continued to be for some years, had already gained so large a reputation among leaders of liberal thought in the United States.

Even after he became president of Princeton University in 1902 and could no longer participate actively in the work of tho Philadelphia University Extension, Woodrow Wilson continued to take a lively interest in that little backwater of academic ferment. New personalities appeared there from time to time whose interest in national politics was undisguised. Among them were William T. Harrison, United States Commissioner of Education under Theodore Roosevelt, and Columbia University’s chief political economist, Dr. E. R. A. Seligman, one of the earliest to perceive the presidential possibilities of Woodrow Wilson.

There was also Lincoln Steffens, who wrote “The Shame of the Cities” for McClure’s Magazine—a series purporting to expose corruption and poverty in American cities and suggested by the Fabian tract, “Facts for Londoners.” An early article in the New England Magazine (June, 1894) by the migrant British Fabian William A. Clarke had quoted the poet Shelley as saying, “Hell is a city very much like London,” and remarked that Shelley was unfair to Hell. The same Manichean spirit pervaded Steffens’ work, though expressed in the astringent journalistic style, known as muckraking, then coming into vogue. For a dozen years Fabian-type “fact finding” in a popular vein—practiced not only by outspoken Socialists like Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair, but by such skilled reporters as Ray Stannard Baker and Ida Tarbell, who only leaned toward Socialism—enjoyed a field day in the American press.

In a period when Fabian Socialists were devoting themselves to penetration and permeation of the Liberal Party in England, a mixed bag of professors and publicists who had borrowed the liberal label prepared the way for a similar parasitic development in the United States. To a greater or lesser degree, they had been touched by Socialist ideas—a condition unsuspected by the general run of Americans. Within a surprisingly short time, Dr. Woodrow Wilson, the professors’ choice, became the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency of the United States. He was elected due to a split in Republican ranks, fomented in part by old-fashioned patriots, in part by Eastern liberals and Midwestern progressives.

Immediately after Wilson’s election, the United States Department of Labor was established. It absorbed the old Bureau of Labor, now the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau furnished, like the factory inspectors’ reports in England, facts and figures Socialists have utilized to advantage for agitation and propaganda purposes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is known today chiefly as the oracular source of the monthly Consumer Price Index, to which the “escalator-clause” in many modern union contracts is tied and which assures an overall, if gradual, inflationary spiral.

That move to consolidate Federal labor agencies in Washington had been promoted by the Fabian W. D. P. Bliss, who became a Bureau of Labor investigator in 1907, the first of a flock of Socialist bureaucrats who have quietly roosted in the Department of Labor ever since. The wide and variegated connections enjoyed by Bliss were evident in the list of contributors to his New Encyclopedia of Social Reform, published by Funk and Wagnalls in 1908. There the names of well-known British Fabians (Percy Alden, M.P., Right Honorable John Burns, Sidney Webb, Edward R. Pease) and leading American Socialists of the day (Professors E. W. Bemis and F. H. Giddings, Morris Hillquit, Robert Hunter, Upton Sinclair) appeared side by side with names of such eminent non-Socialists as Samuel Gompers, Honorable Oscar Straus, Booker T. Washington and Cardinal Gibbons.

Under the Wilson Administration still another long-desired Fabian Socialist objective became a reality: the income tax, which was super-imposed on the older and kindlier American tradition of indirect taxation. Originally proposed by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, a heavily graduated income tax had been urged by American Fabian Leaguers as well as by their mentors of the London Fabian Society. Twice branded unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, it was finally legalized by pushing through the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution after the outbreak of World War I— at a time when distracting questions of foreign policy were uppermost in the public mind. The income tax became law in 1918, just in time to help pay for the war, a war out of which Woodrow Wilson had vowed to keep the country. Feather light at the beginning, like the “Old Man of the Sea” it has proved a progressively heavier burden upon the shoulders of an entire people—as well as a subtle political device for altering the basic economy and social structure of the nation.

While Woodrow Wilson could not actually be named a Socialist, he was the first Chief Executive of the United States to accept Socialist-minded intellectuals as aides and advisers and to present Fabian Socialist programs as his own. His book, The New Freedom, was an early attempt to equate the Democratic Party with a strange new concept of democracy which mirrored the Industrial or Social Democracy of the British Fabians. As he admitted in the preface, with a frankness seldom matched today, he did not write the book at all.5 It was compiled by a former colleague of the Philadelphia University Extension days, the Christian Socialist William Bayard Hale, on the basis of Wilson’s 1912 campaign speeches.

From first to last, The New Freedom denounced capitalism as being contrary to the interests of the common man. Justice, not charity, was its theme. Somewhat quaintly, it identified the captains of industry of the day with the trustees of Princeton University who seemed to have given Dr. Wilson a hard time during his presidency of that institution. Opening with the bleak assertion (reiterated by Wilson’s political successors during half a century of unparalleled industrial growth) that the American economy was stagnant and individual opportunity was dead, it stated:

“We stand in the presence of a revolution—not a bloody revolution, America is not given to spiring of blood—but a silent revolution, whereby America will insist upon recovering in practice those ideals which she has always professed, upon securing a government devoted to the general and not to special interests.” (6)

And it concluded with the premature but eerie prediction:

“. . . We are just upon the threshold of a time when the systematic life of this country will be sustained, or at least supplemented, at every point by government activity. And we have now to determine what kind of governmental activity it shall be; whether, in the first place, it shall be direct from the government itself, or whether it shall be indirect, through instrumentalities which have already constituted themselves and which stand ready to supersede the government.”(7)

The instrumentalities referred to by Wilson were large industrial and financial concerns, headed by the United States Steel Corporation and J. P. Morgan and Company, which according to the Socialist demonology of the period constituted a kind of invisible government. Whatever instrumentalities may stand ready to supersede the American Government today are internationalist in character and Fabian Socialist-directed; and it was in Wilson’s time that such left wing groups made their first tentative efforts to grasp power in the United States by exerting influence over the Chief Executive.

As Bellamy had done, The New Freedom called for “a new declaration of independence.” (8) It deplored the system of checks and balances in government, devised by well-meaning but sadly outdated Founding Fathers, and demanded an “evolutionary” interpretation of the Constitution, as well as sweeping changes in the Judiciary. “Development” and “evolution” were the “new scientific watchwords.”(9)

Having been a teacher of law in its political aspects, Wilson found the judicial outlook of Louis D. Brandeis, Harvard Law School professor, highly congenial. Brandeis was the author of the historic “Brandeis Brief,” which ushered in a whole new phase of constitutional law based more on sociological than legal interpretations. He was a frequent caller at the White House during the first Wilson Administration, when others found it difficult to see the President. Together with the Progressive Senator La Follette of Wisconsin, he plied Wilson liberally with advice and information.(10)

Brandeis had read and greatly admired Wealth Against Commonwealth by Henry Demarest Lloyd of the American Fabian League. (11) In fact, it was through Lloyd that Brandeis was asked to serve on a panel of lawyers to present the miners’ case before Theodore Roosevelt’s Anthracite Coal Commission of 1902. For a time, American Fabians and their “liberal” satellites had hoped to advance their cause through the “New Nationalism” of the first President Roosevelt. But they found that Roosevelt’s interest in genuinely needed regulation and reforms stopped short of tampering with the Constitution.

The Harvard jurist was a close friend of Florence Kelley, of the National Consumers League,(12) whose activities in behalf of working-class women and children demonstrated dramatically how middle class Socialists in the early nineteen-hundreds managed to capture the momentum of legitimate reform drives for their own far-flung ends. Brandeis was for years a neighbor of Elizabeth Glendower Evans, Socialist hostess and financial angel with whom Florence Kelley’s daughter lived while studying at Radcliffe. When the Oregon Ten Hour Law for Women was due for a test before the Supreme Court, Florence Kelley enlisted the services of Brandeis.

His niece, Josephine Goldmark—aide and biographer of Florence Kelley—has described the circumstances under which the now-famous Brandeis Brief was prepared in 1907.(13) For two hectic weeks Josephine Goldmark and Florence Kelley assembled and sifted a huge mass of statistics, reports and precedents from foreign lands, hastily supplied by Socialist researchers. The result was something new in legal presentations, with a mere page and a half of legal argument attached to many pages of carefully slanted social and economic research, which the honorable Justices were scarcely equipped by training or experience to evaluate. Termed revolutionary at the time, this method (based on a novel concept of “juridical notice”) has by now become standard practice and serves, at least in part, to explain some otherwise teaming Supreme Court decisions of recent years.

Significantly, Woodrow Wilson named Louis D. Brandeis, nominally a Progressive Republican, to the Supreme Court in 1915, where he continued to work for liberalization of the Constitution. His appointment was bitterly contested in the Senate, along with the appointment of a former Harvard Law School instructor and fellow Progressive, George Rublee, to the Federal Trade Commission. Born in Wisconsin, Rublee was a polished product of both Groton and Harvard. His vacations in Cornish, New Hampshire, dated from an era when visitors to Washington, who had tried and failed to reach the President, complained: “Wilson stays in Cornish and communes with God.”(14) During the summer of 1914, Wilson occupied the spacious red brick home of the American novelist, Winston Churchill, in Cornish, while the chief presidential adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, resided in nearby Manchester.

Members of the discreet summer colony which developed in Cornish and survived for decades included Edward Burling, Sr., Rublee’s colleague on the World War I Shipping Board, and his partner in a Washington law firm that specialized in hiring Harvard alumni who had been law clerks in Justice Brandeis’ office. Cornish familiars also included Philip Littell, later an editor of the liberal-Fabian weekly, the New Republic; and the very personable Professor Robert Morss Lovett, who was to serve as the leading front man for revived American Fabian Socialist organizations after World War I. (15) Some wintered at the Turtle Bay colony in Manhattan.

All had been honor students at Harvard together in the late eighteen-eighties and early eighteen-nineties when Bellamy’s Nationalism, adorned with touches of John Ruskin and William Morris, captivated young campus intellectuals. The old school tie endured, and in a rarefied, profitable and mysterious fashion, certain of its wearers permeated the highest circles in Washington politics and New York finance—particularly after a third partner in the Burling-Rublee law firm, Dean Acheson, became Under Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State in later Administrations.

Still another member of that long-lived Harvard group was Thomas W. Lamont, Sr.—affectionately known to old college chums as “Tommy”—who never ceased to be impressed by the superior wisdom of George Rublee, an upperclassman when Lamont was a sophomore. From financial reporter on a New Jersey newspaper, Lamont rose to become a senior partner of J. P. Morgan and Company, in the dismantlement of which he eventually assisted. In 1933 Lamont signed the so-called Bankers’ Report advocating diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia.

As President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson did not hesitate to name outspoken Socialists to obscure but critical posts in government A case in point was Fred C. Howe, Wilson’s Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of New York. A writer and lecturer by profession, Howe resigned after a congressional investigation into alleged neglect of duty, in connection with his unauthorized action in releasing alien radicals held for deportation by the Department of Justice.(16) Both before and after the incident, he figured prominently in a number of Socialist-dominated organizations. (17)

Wilson had also sent the Christian Socialist William Bayard Hale (18) as his special representative to revolution-torn Mexico in 1913-14, instituting a species of presidential diplomacy which has since become almost routine. In Mexico Wilson received private reports both from Hale and from another erstwhile lecturer at the Philadelphia University Extension, Lincoln Steffens, who was in Vera Cruz to attend a Socialist conference in 1914. Those reports helped to effect some curious results, including support and eventual recognition of the junta of General Venustiano Carranza, at a time when the latter controlled no more than ninety square kilometers in all Mexico and when his councils were deeply infiltrated by agents of German Military Intelligence.

In 1940-41 the writer of this book was permitted to examine the Woodrow Wilson Papers in the Library of Congress. A folder relating to Mexico contained a personal letter from Secretary of State Robert Lansing commenting on Wilson’s preference for soliciting amateur advice often contrary to the observations of seasoned and responsible officials.

Recent hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security disclosed that, in a more recent Latin American crisis, diplomatic policies of the United States, which placed and have maintained Fidel Castro in power, were similarly instigated by reports from a “liberal,” journalist, Herbert L. Matthews, of The New York Times. Meanwhile, well-founded advance warnings by professional diplomats, concerning Castro’s long-standing Moscow ties, were ignored or suppressed.(19) Compounding that folly, plans for the ill-starred Bay of Pigs invasion were entrusted to amateurs under presidential supervision rather than to military technicians. So, from all indications, history repeats itself; and the same brand of Socialist-suggested ineptitude as practiced by President Wilson, has once more invited penetration of the Western Hemisphere by a European military power.


1. Beatrice Webb, Our Partnership (London, Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 1948), p. 195.

2. In 1895, five years after its founding, the London School of Economics, then occupying two rooms in Adelphi, boasted exactly eight registered students and two lecturers. One of these instructors was the Director, W. A. S. Hewins, who voiced conservative views on economics but faithfully followed Sidney Webb’s lead in matters of organization. The other was the radical Graham Wallas, whose field was politics. Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen & Unwin, 19350, pp. 83-83.

3. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), pp. 46-47.

4. From 1893 to 1898 the Nationalists continued to maintain their “Bureau of Nationalist Literature” in Philadelphia, which distributed Bellamy’s speeches and Looking Backward, and Professor Frank Parsons’ Public Ownership of Monopolies and Philosophy of Mutualism–all known to Woodrow Wilson. Sylvia E. Bowman, The Year 2000–A Critical Biography of Edward Bellamy (New York, Bookman Associates, 1958), p. 136.

5. Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People (New York, Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), p. vii.

6. Ibid., p. 30.

7. Ibid., p. 217.

8. Ibid., pp. 48-49.

9. Ibid., pp. 4247.

10. Ray Stannard Baker, An American Chronicle (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945), p. 276. Wilson later excoriated Senator La Follette as one of “a little group of wilful men” for his continued opposition to United States participation in World War I, even after war had been declared.

11. Josephine Goldmark, Impatient Crusader, Florence Kelley’s Life Story. (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1953), p. 153.

12. Florence Kelley, who called herself a Marxist, had been a Nationalist and an American Fabian. She later served as president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and vice president of the League for Industrial Democracy, affiliates of the London Fabian Society. See Appendix II.

13. Goldmark, op. cit., pp. 143-159. On page 159, Miss Goldmark states: “The Brandeis Brief in the Muller case, reprinted together with Judge Brewer’s opinion, was in great demand from law schools and universities as well as from labor unions and libraries . . . Gone was the deadening weight of legal precedent.”

14. Baker, loc. cit., p. 276.

15. To the end of his life, Professor Lovett was the house guest of Edward Burling, Sr., when visiting Washington.

16. Record of the Sixty Sixth Congress (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1919), pp. 1522-23.

17. Railway Review, Chicago (January 27, 1923). “Fred C. Howe, New York City; National Committee, American Civil Liberties Union; special writer, Federated Press; . . . chairman, committee on resolutions and member of National Council, Peoples’ Legislative Service; contributing editor, Labor Age; Defense Committee, I. W. W.; organizer, School of Thought, Siasconset, Nantucket, Mass.” Howe was also a director of the League for Industrial Democracy. See Appendix II.

18. A telegram of June, 1916, from the German Ambassador in Washington to the German Foreign Office, furnished by the United States Department of State and presented by Bruce Bielaski testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary on December 6, 1918, revealed that from the outset of World War I William Bayard Hale held a contract extending until June 23, 1918, as a confidential agent of the German Foreign Office at a salary of $15,000 per year. Subsequently he went to Germany as correspondent for an American press service which, as the telegram also reveals, was not aware of Hale’s connection with the German Government. He returned to America following the entry of the United States into World War I. Senate Document No. 672, 66th Congress. Report and Hearings of the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1919), Vol. II, pp. 1393-94.

19. Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate. (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1962), 87th Congress, Part 5 (January 9, February 8, 1961. February 2, 1962). Testimony of William Wieland, pp. 485-681, Part 13 (July 13, 1962). Testimony of Whiting Willauer, pp. 861-888.

Chapter 10 << | >> Chapter 12

Chapter 10-Putting The Silk Hat On Socialism

Chapter 10 of the book Fabian Freeway.

For a few years, the Bellamy cult spread like a brush fire across the United States. By November, 1890, its leaders reported 158 Nationalist clubs in twenty-seven states. Sixteen of these clubs were located in New York and sixty-five in California, which Laurence Gronlund exuberantly judged to be more nearly ripe for the Cooperative Commonwealth than any other state in the Union. The movement bypassed former Confederate states and made few overtures to the Catholic church, generally viewed in the nineteenth century as an immigrant church—notwithstanding the fact that Catholic colonists in Maryland and Pennsylvania had fought almost to a man in the War of Independence.

According to Edward Bellamy, his new social gospel was to be spread “not by foreign malcontents, but by Americans descended from generations of Americans.” In February, 1891, 165 chartered clubs existed throughout the country, a majority of them in the Far and Middle West. Fully fifty newspapers supported the Nationalist cause in whole or in part, and Sylvester Baxter declared you could not go into a major newspaper office in New York, Philadelphia or Boston without finding one or more Nationalists on the staff. Though the Atlantic remained aloof, other respected monthly magazines of the age opened their pages to Nationalist propaganda. Bellamy himself contributed a brief article to the North American Review on the “Progress of Nationalism in the United States.”(1)

The first issue of a brand-new periodical called The Literary Digest, launched in March, 1890, featured a lead article by General Francis A. Walker, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and original president of the American Economic Association. It was a critique, mildly critical but none the less friendly, of that much-reviewed novel, Looking Backward. Early numbers of The Literary Digest were loaded with references to Nationalism in America and Socialism in Great Britain, though no connection between the two was inferred. There were items on Nationalist clubs in California and elsewhere; as well as an article by one Angelo Majorama on “Socialism in England,” reporting that “Socialism has invaded the Universities” and “in England is closely allied with religion.” And the reelection of Annie Besant to the London School Board was politely noted.

Repeatedly, the middle class character of the Nationalist clubs was stressed—especially in their own club notes, printed in a short-lived official monthly, The Nationalist. Started in Boston with fifty members, the clubs attracted some rather well-known personalities of the day; and the movement as a whole was stamped with the hallmark of New England culture. The membership of the Boston club was a good deal more impressive, if less cohesive, than the London Fabian Society’s had been at the time of its founding only five years earlier.

There was William Dean Howells, venerable and kindly dean of American letters;(2) the Reverend Edward Everett Hale, product of the Harvard Divinity School and scion of Mayflower Pilgrims, widely known as the author of that patriotic classic, The Man Without a Country; Hamlin Garland, writer of homespun tales from the mid-western prairies; and John Storr Cobb, a founder of the Theosophical Society in America. While subscribing to the club’s Socialist program, most of these respectable gentlemen were apparently unaware of the Marxist philosophy that prompted it. Each in his own fashion was a prototype of the non-analytical do-gooder who has contributed so liberally ever since to the spread of what Eleanor Marx called “unconscious Socialism” in America.

Like the Fabian Society of London, the Nationalist clubs welcomed members of both sexes, a somewhat daring innovation in a nineteenth century politico-cultural movement. Active women who joined the Boston club included Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, Frances E. Willard, reformer and temperance leader; Anne Whitney, the sculptress who made a bust of James A. Walker, president of Harvard University; Mary A. Livermore, editor and suffragette; and Lucy Stone, the feminist whose followers embarrassed three decades of hotel clerks by their insistence that married ladies should use their maiden names.

In Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Fall River, Massachusetts, it was said the best people in town attended Nationalist meetings. In San Francisco, a popular rabbi resigned from his synagogue to preach the tidings of Nationalism to Jew and Gentile alike. The Chicago club, which assembled by written invitation on May 6,1889, in the gilt and plush elegance of the recently opened Palmer House, was composed of merchants, bank officers, lawyers and other presumably solid citizens. Nationalist groups, like their cousins of the British Fabian Society, always claimed to have the working man’s welfare at heart, but apparently desired few personal contacts with him.

A handful of confirmed Socialists steered the organizational work and controlled policy statements. Besides Bellamy himself, they included Laurence Gronlund, the bridge from an earlier Marxism; Eltweed Pomeroy, owner of an industrial plant in New Jersey, who sponsored one of the country’s first employee profit-sharing schemes; and the Reverend W. D. P. Bliss, Fabian apostle to the clergy, who spent much of his time trying to convince various Protestant churchmen and their flocks that Christianity and Socialism were compatible in practice—contrary to what they might chance to read in Papal Encyclicals. (3) On Manhattan Island, Percival Chubb, a charter member of the London Fabian Society who sailed to America in 1888 and lived there till his death at the age of ninety-nine, proselyted cheerfully among the Ethical Culturists. (4)

In their delight at the movement’s sudden growth, its organizers failed to follow the cautious example of the English Fabians, who refused to identify their Society with the fortunes of any political splinter party. As a result, the Nationalist clubs were quickly absorbed into the People’s Party, which in the national elections of 1892 gleaned over a million votes and won twenty-two seats in the electoral college. William Dean Howells claimed that Edward Bellamy virtually founded the Populist Party, and indeed its platform clearly reflected the ideas of Looking Backward.

By the close of 1892, most of the Nationalist clubs had disappeared. By that time, also, Bellamy’s much-vaunted Americanism had begun to ring a bit hollow, thanks to an editorial of his which appeared in the Boston Globe for July 4, 1892. There he proclaimed that “in the year 1992… the Fourth of July will have ceased to be a popular holiday of much note.” He predicted “another Declaration of Independence in America” which “in importance will quite eclipse the document (great in its way as that was) promulgated in Philadelphia a hundred and sixteen years ago.” It would, he said, abolish distinctions between employer and employed, capitalist and proletarian, and put an end to economic inequality. Without specifying the precise day, month or year when this “newer and greater Declaration of Independence” would come, he announced: “I believe it will come and that society will be, peaceably or forcibly, conformed to its terms within the expectations of men now middle-aged.”

Those explosive remarks were made in an era when “the Glorious Fourth” was celebrated with picnics, parades and firecrackers everywhere in the United States, and when the day itself was regarded by adults and children alike as being only second in importance to Christmas. While Bellamy’s editorial was greeted with cheers by all convinced Socialists, including a close-knit group of upperclassmen and recent alumni of Harvard University who had succumbed to the Nationalist lure, it offended public opinion in Boston and the country as a whole. His prediction that society would be peaceably or forcibly transformed within a relatively few years rather deflated the claims made by Bellamy admirers, then and since, to the effect that he was “one of the most peaceful and humane revolutionists who ever lived.”

Partly because of this incident, partly because the novelty of the whole thing had worn thin, the Nationalist movement was soon extinct, despite efforts of Bellamy and his friends to revive it. Nevertheless, it accomplished the one practical purpose for which it had been so hastily launched. When the Congress of the United States, impelled by the violence-scarred Homestead and Pullman strikes, passed a law in 1894 declaring Anarchism illegal, Socialism escaped the prohibition.

Having caught the fancy, however fleeting, of many middle class folk in urban communities throughout the United States, Socialism had acquired some veneer of respectability. As Edward Bellamy noted in his introduction to the 1894 American edition of Fabian Essays, Nationalism was, chiefly, the form in which “scientific Socialism” had thus far been brought to the attention of the American people. Older, more literal Marxists were impressed in spite of themselves and agreed with something like relief that Bellamy had succeeded in “putting the silk hat on Socialism in America.”

To a number of younger men and women, Nationalism also provided the starting point for future careers in other Socialist-dominated enterprises to come. Along with the aging Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, such youthful sprigs as Mary Livermore and Mary Austin of the Boston Nationalist Club in time became pillars of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS), afterwards the League for Industrial Democracy. So did Florence Kelley of the New York club, who had studied Marxism in Switzerland. She became a self anointed crusader against child labor, and as chairman of the National Consumers League lobbied incessantly throughout the country for state and federal control of wages and working conditions.

William J. Ghent, a fellow member of New York’s Nationalist Club, and Algernon Lee of the Milwaukee club, became successive directors of the controversial Rand School of Social Science. From the Chicago club came Clarence Darrow, dramatic defender of the McNamara brothers and other accused dynamiters, and a charter member of the ISS; and Henry Demarest Lloyd, author of Wealth Against Commonwealth and an inspirer of the Public Ownership League of Chicago which eventually fathered the Tennessee Valley Authority. Lloyd’s son,-David Demarest Lloyd, followed in his papa’s footsteps, becoming Director of Research and Legislation in the Fabian-instigated Americans for Democratic Action (6) and serving just prior to his death in 1951 as a White House speech writer for Fair Deal President Harry S. Truman. By that time the Fabian technique of “penetration” had developed into a fine art in America.


For the time being, however, a good many budding radicals of Anglo-American stock and middle class education found that with the collapse of the Nationalist movement they had no place to go. When the need for a helping hand became evident, William A. Clarke of the London Chronicle and a member of London’s Fabian Executive was dispatched to assist those drifting American intellectuals who still dreamed of achieving a gradual and bloodless revolution in their native land. For the March, 1894, issue of The New England Magazine, highly rated in academic and literary circles, Clarke wrote an article simply entitled, “The Fabian Society.”

An able journalist and propagandist, William Clarke was well qualified to pen an official apology for the British Fabian Society in the United States. Almost casually, he brushed aside the view “still expressed sometimes in American newspapers, that the Socialist movement is largely made up of cranks and scoundrels.” On the contrary, he said, “In Marx, Lassalle, Rodbertus and others, the Socialist movement has been served by some of the best brains of our century …. I know the inside of the Socialist movement well, and it certainly numbers among its adherents the ablest men I know. The Fabian Society contains not a few of these men …. At present, almost all callings are represented in the Fabian Society of London and its forty-eight provincial societies …. Lawyers, artists, journalists, doctors, workingmen; clergymen, teachers, trade union leaders; literary people, shopkeepers, and persons of no occupation …. No millionaires … but quite a few well-to-do people. A large proportion are bright young men, and there are not a few bright and active women.”

This seems to have been the first public image of the London Fabian Society to be formally unveiled in America by one of its own leading spokesmen. The Society was falsely depicted as being no more than a mild-mannered reform movement—”not looking for the millennium or any perfectly blissful earthly paradise.” Its ultimate revolutionary aims, as expressed in the Basis, were not stated. What the article sought chiefly to convey was an impression that most Fabian Socialists were “educated, intelligent, of sweet disposition . . . people who enjoy books and music and the theater and good society. . . . The Socialist movement . . . has taught them there is a great suffering world beyond the four walls of home to be helped and worked for.” Clarke’s artful press agentry was not only a timely prelude to the American edition of Fabian Essays, which appeared the same year, but served in a general way to whitewash the Fabians and their friends at home and abroad.

Somehow he contrived to suggest that the still youthful London Fabian Society was a solid, long-established British institution: one that could serve (although he tactfully refrained from saying so) as a model for Socialist intellectuals aspiring to develop a similar leadership group in America. Just as soon as it became evident that Socialist activities in the United States were not going to be declared illegal, William Clarke offered his personal services in helping to found an American Fabian Society in Boston, with branches in other cities.

Early in 1895, the irrepressible W. D. P. Bliss—stimulated by a recent visit to London, where he had mingled happily with the Fabian masterminds and arranged for the publication by Sonnenschein of his own Handbook of Socialism–assumed the editorship of a new monthly journal, The American Fabian. Published by the Fabian Educational Company of Boston, it was to become the organ of a projected American Fabian League, as soon as such a body could be formed. Subscriptions were solicited from erstwhile Nationalists and other Socialist sympathizers on or off the university campuses, at the modest price of fifty cents a year—eighty cents if ordered jointly with The Dawn, a Christian Socialist sheet started by Bliss in 1889 Headquarters of the Fabian Educational Company were located at 241 Tremont Street by arrangement with the People’s Party Club of Boston.

A twenty-page monthly, more pretentious in format than the slim but durable little Fabian News of London, The American Fabian first saw the light of day in February, 1895. Disarmingly, the front page of its inaugural issue carried a photograph and profile of the British utopian philosopher, William Morris, who believed in embellishing social reform with art, poetry and other cultural adornments. The masthead featured a quotation from Mazzini, the Italian Anarchist: “The next great word is Association”—a seemingly innocent word which the Nationalists had employed in their platform as a synonym for nationalization.

On an inner page a new, long-term revolutionary objective of the journal’s founders was succinctly stated. It was not merely to rewrite the Declaration of Independence, as Bellamy had once suggested; but to effect a series of basic changes in the Constitution itself that would make possible the introduction of State Socialism step by step in the United States. With all the valor of inexperience the editors announced, more boldly than most of their modern counterparts would care to do today:

“We call our paper “The American Fabian” for two reasons: we call it Fabian because we desire to make it stand for the kind of educational Socialist work which is so ably done by the English Fabian Society …. We call our paper “The American Fabian” because our politics must in a measure differ from those of the English Fabians. England and America are alike in some things. in some things they are utterly unlike. England’s [unwritten] Constitution readily admits of constant though gradual modification. Our American Constitution does not readily admit of such change. England can thus move into Socialism almost imperceptibly. Our Constitution being largely individualistic must he changed to admit of Socialism, and each change necessitates a political crisis. This means the raising of great new issues. . . . .” (7)

Such far-reaching calculations were not wholly the fruit of American thinking, as can be deduced from the fact that the very next issue of The American Fabian printed the text of the London Fabian Society’s Basis. The “need” to alter the Constitution of the United States as a preliminary to radical social change was reaffirmed just three years later by the British Fabian Socialist, Ramsay MacDonald. Returned from a trip to America, he gave a talk on the United States at the London Fabian Society’s headquarters in Clement’s Inn. “The great bar to [Socialist] progress [in the United States],” said he, “is the written constitutions, Federal and State, which give ultimate power to a law court.” This assertion by a future Socialist Prime Minister of England was made on January 14, 1898; (8) and there is no reason to presume he or his Fabian associates in Britain and America ever deviated from that view.

To subvert the underlying principles of the United States Constitutions, Federal and State, which upheld the right to own and operate private property as a corollary of the Natural Law, was a project of real magnitude. When proposed in The American Fabian, most Americans deemed such a thing to be impossible—just as it seemed impossible that a handful of “gentle” Fabian intellectuals in England could seriously shake the foundations of the British Empire. Confession of intent to revise the Constitution in America of the eighteen-nineties appeared more visionary than alarming. If it was ever to be accomplished, it would have to be done obliquely, secretively and gradually over a period of years by a Socialist elite schooled to take advantage of every local and national crisis for their own covert ends.

The first step was to develop a leadership group and a receptive body of public opinion, through the organized promotion of Socialist thought and study. To that end, the April, 1895, issue of The American Fabian offered a tentative constitution for an American Fabian League. It was to be a federation of clubs, with national executive and publication committees but without other national officers. Any club working in any way to spread Socialist ideas or to advance any Socialist measures could join the American Fabian League by applying to the secretary of the Executive Committee.

The various local clubs or societies were free to organize in any manner they wished and choose their own special objectives, methods of work, and time of meetings. They could use any name they preferred, and could exercise full autonomy over their own members, who might or might not be outright Socialists. One thing, however, was essential: the American Fabian League constitution specified that in any club only those persons who communicate in writing to the Secretary of the Executive Committee their acceptance of the principle of ownership and conduct of industry by the community shall have a right to hold office in the National Executive Committee, or to vote in the National League ….” The Publications Committee would draft a program of “measures or subjects for the federated clubs to consider and study or agitate upon, month by month, in order to produce systematic concerted action.”

Here was the blueprint for a semi-secret national organization whose sole visible link with its members was The American Fabian. It is noteworthy that the magazine during its five-year existence printed few names except those of publicists already well-known. Club officers and personnel of the Executive Committee were not identified, and no membership figures were announced. Articles were generally unsigned, or signed with only an initial, except when reprinted from other periodicals. In fact, it was several years before The American Fabian ventured to print a list of its own contributing editors—all Socialists and former Nationalists. As of February, 1898, they were: Edward Bellamy, W. D. P. Bliss, Helen Campbell, Eltweed Pomeroy, (10) Henry Demarest Lloyd, Prestonia Mann, Professor Frank Parsons, (11) and Charlotte Perkins Stetson.

The Christmas issue of 1895 displayed a Nativity scene, captioned “The Birth of the First Socialist,” on the same page with a brief biography of the profoundly anti-religious Karl Marx. It also contained the following modest organizational items: “The Kensington Fabian group meets every Tuesday evening. Mr. Bliss is giving his course of lectures and the hall is filling up …. The Philadelphia group meets every Saturday at 1305 Arch Street…. The New York Society (formerly the Altrurian Society) meets every Wednesday evening at 10 East 33rd Street. It has weekly discussions and debates, and on January 8 will have a supper.”

No attempt was made to conceal the fact that the American movement maintained close ties with the British Fabian Society. A note in the same issue stated: “Mr. E. R. Pease, secretary of the London Society, writes us that if secretaries of American Fabian Societies will send him their names and addresses, he will send them the Fabian News and tracts as they appear. Let us accept this generous offer and bind the English and American movements together. We need not and should not copy the English movement, but surely we may learn from the older and parent movement.”(12)

Besides establishing direct contacts between the London Executive and key individuals in American Fabian groups throughout the country, the generous offer made by Pease had other uses. Both the Fabian News and the tracts issued by the British Society, which appeared to the general reader to have a purely informational and propagandist content, could be construed by the faithful as providing quiet but unmistakable directives from the fountainhead of Fabian Socialism in London. A full set of selected Fabian tracts for Americans was advertised at seventy-five cents in The American Fabian, bolstered by an admiring quotation from the Review of Reviews which said: “The peculiarity of the Fabian tracts is that every fact and statement in them has been verified [sic].”

The American Fabian League was not planned as a mass organization. Its avowed purpose was to unite all existing reform movements in America under the leadership of individual Socialists, who in turn received their instructions from a single national Executive Committee. The original program included planks on sound currency, a national eight-hour law, women’s suffrage, state employment bureaus and aid for the unemployed? and control over the sale of alcoholic beverages. Most of these proposals, since enacted into law, were not in essence Socialist. They simply made it easier for individual Socialists to penetrate labor, women’s and temperance groups, with a view to winning mass support for other, more far-reaching Socialist objectives outlined by the League’s Executive Committee.

Americans today may be surprised to find that the same Fabian program advocated a severely graduated income tax and a heavy and graduated inheritance tax, as well as a tax on land values. It also called for proportional representation, which aimed to give left wing splinter parties a voice in government, local and national; the initiative and referendum, which would permit legislation to be initiated outside of the legislatures; and “any Constitutional amendments that might be needed” to legalize the Fabian Socialist plan for America.

A strictly non-partisan approach to Socialism was recommended for the American Fabian League. This would leave individual Fabians free to join any political party, Socialist or otherwise, and work inside it to promote Socialist legislation. When W. D. P. Bliss, in his capacity as editor of The American Fabian, came out strongly for Bryan and free silver in 1896, he was rebuked by Edward R. Pease for committing the American Fabian movement to the platform of a political party.

Prestonia Mann, a well-to-do bluestocking who aspired to become the Madame Recamier of a Socialist salon, inherited the editorship of The American Fabian from Bliss. She had heartily endorsed the stand taken by Pease. “The British Fabian Society,” she wrote in a letter of December 30, 1896, to Henry Demarest Lloyd, “owes most of its strength to its steadfastness in standing by its determination not to be beguiled into becoming a political party …. We must follow the example of British Fabians.”

In April, 1898, The American Fabian, whose editorial offices had been transferred from Boston to New York, reported briefly: “Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the distinguished authors of a History of Trade Unionism and Industrial Democracy, arrived in New York last week. They will remain in the country for a few months, returning to London about Christmas by way of New Zealand and Australia.” Sydney Olivier, of the original Fabian Big Four, traveled with them as far as Washington on business for the British Colonial Office, (13) lending a spuriously official aura to their journey.

The Webbs encountered none of the disagreeable publicity which had attended the tour of Wilhelm Liebknecht and Eleanor Marx a dozen years before and which marked the visit of the Russian Socialist, Maxim Gorki, several years later. For one thing, they were properly married and acceptable in good society. For another, they shunned the limelight. With the caution and worldly wisdom that always characterized their personal behavior, they spoke at no mass meetings, made no conspicuous public appearances or political pronouncements. They lectured only to small groups of serious thinkers or handpicked audiences on university campuses, and mingled with leading lights of the American Economic Association whose books were regularly advertised in The American Fabian.

In New York City, they dined with Prestonia Mann, at whose summer place in the Adirondacks and town house in Manhattan upperclass Socialists met and mingled. The Webbs established the pattern for future visits to the United States by British Fabians, in which social diversion and Socialist purpose were discreetly combined.

In Chicago the Webbs stayed at Hull House as guests of the very ladylike spinster, Jane Addams, whose beautifully modulated voice and great, inscrutable dark eyes masked a defiant and firebrand spirit. Beatrice Webb recalled the event long afterwards im her diary (14)— failing to mention, however, that thereafter almost every British Fabian who visited the United States included a stop at Hull House on his schedule. Founded in 1889 and modeled after Toynbee Hall in London where so many members of the London Society made their first carefully limited contacts with slum dwellers, Hul1 House launched the social-settlement phase of the Socialist movement in America which afterwards spread to other cities. Like the earlier gospel missions, it combined the occasional soup kitchen and the supervised playground with indoctrination in a new gospel of “social reform.” It preceded by some fifty years the enactment of legislation creating politically administered city, state and federal welfare agencies; and, in addition to its many incidentally charitable aspects, it served as an early experimental laboratory for the Fabian-invented “social sciences.” By now the golden legend of Hull House has been so assiduously cultivated in book and story by friends and former residents that any attempt to expose its persistent Socialist connections would be viewed as a sacrilege. (15)

And yet, as a sympathetic historian records, the doors of Hull House were always open to social and economic “reformers” and political radicals. (16) There the Social Democratic Party was organized by Eugene V. Debs in 1898, to replace what American Fabians termed the “barbarous”(17) Socialist Labor Party headed by the Curacao-born and German-educated Marxist, Daniel De Leon—subsequently professor of International Law at Columbia University. Like future Socialist splinter parties, the short-lived Social Democratic Party sought to win working-class votes under the guidance of Socialist intellectuals; but in no sense represented the full spectrum of intellectual Socialism’s activities and aims in the United States.

A sudden upsurge of patriotic feeling in America preceded the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. In that atmosphere of hostility to all types of European penetration of the Western Hemisphere, it was once again obvious to sophisticated observers that no movement in the United States could survive which acknowledged foreign inspiration and leadership. Laurence Gronlund raised the question, saying he preferred to be known as a collectivist rather than a Fabian. So did the former Altrurian Society of New York, which had objected to the name Fabian because “it seemed English” and “because a successful Socialist movement in this country should be distinctly American.” (18) Evidently the Webbs reached a similar conclusion, and their tour of 1898 signaled the beginning of the end for The American Fabian— though not for the movement it had helped to form.

In the fall of that year John W. Martin—graduate of London University, former vestryman from Hackney and member of the Fabian Executive from 1894 to 1899—followed the Webbs to America. Nominally, he was to deliver a series of lectures arranged for his benefit by branches of the American Fabian League. (19) Additionally, his mission was to liquidate The American Fabian and to serve as a personal link between the surviving Executive Committee of the American Fabian League and the Fabian Executive of London. With Prestonia Mann, Martin edited the last issues of the journal under the joint pseudonym of “John Preston.” The final issue appeared in 1899, approximately a year after the death of Edward Bellamy.

Following the example of his London confreres—like himself of lower middle class origin—who improved their fortunes and social position by wedding women of property, John W. Martin duly married the energetic Prestonia Mann. Settling in New York, he dabbled in local school board politics and enjoyed the status derived from authorship of an occasional unpopular book. After gaining some slight notoriety in World War I as a financial backer of the Liberator magazine, he became, in his latter days, a consultant on international affairs at Rollins College. Martin and his wife appear to have remained lifelong Fabians, maintaining contacts with high-level Fabian Socialists, British and American, both in New York and at their ultimate retreat in Winter Park, Florida. (20)

Though the official organ of American Fabianism folded in 1899, the movement itself lived on in many seemingly disconnected small reform clubs across the nation. A Bellamy Memorial Meeting of June 7, 1898, presided over by William Dean Howells and described in The American Fabian, had been sponsored by a Fabian group calling itself The Social Reform Club. In September, 1898, W. D. P. Bliss was reported to be organizing a Union Reform League on the Pacific Coast, with tracts being prepared by Professor Commons of Syracuse University, Professor Frank Parsons of Boston University, Professor E. W. Bemis of the University of Chicago, and Dr. Charles B. Spahr of The Outlook. Already the name Fabian and even the name Socialist were being discarded as a matter of procedure—though as late as 1919 local groups calling themselves Fabian Societies were revived in Boston and Chicago.(21)

The brief public appearance of an American Fabian League in the eighteen-nineties coincided with what has been called the London Society’s first blooming. Just as some persons still aver that the Fabian Society of London—which not only dominates the British Labour Party today, but the Socialist International as well—died at the turn of the century; so it is misleadingly claimed that Fabian Socialism died long ago in America, at the time when the American Fabian League dropped out of sight. A conveniently premature death notice found its way into American encyclopedias—confirmed with tongue in cheek by such an authority on Socialist affairs as the late Morris Hillquit, himself a leading member of more than one Fabian-affiliated organization.(22)

The long-range objectives of Fabian Socialism in the United States were clearly and permanently defined in The American Fabian. Techniques for achieving them had still to be developed, along with the openings for putting those techniques into practice. From the first, it was recognized that the difficulties of organization in the United States were very great. Such difficulties were variously attributed to the size of the country; the diversity of races, religions and national! origins; the patriotic spirit innate in the majority of Americans; the opportunities for self-improvement offered by an expanding capitalist system. To this the secretary of the London Fabian Society, Edward R. Pease, who had no love in his heart for America, added contemptuously: “European countries with their great capitals have developed national brains. America, like the lower organisms, has ganglia for various purposes in various parts of its gigantic frame.”(23) The task of Fabian Socialism in America was to discover means of transmitting self-destructive impulses to those hidden ganglia.

By announcing its own apparent demise and voluntarily going underground at a well-chosen moment, the Fabian Socialist movement in America, steered and manipulated with cold-blooded determination by British Fabians, has succeeded in outliving its founders and in becoming an integral, potent and progressively more deadly tool of the international Socialist movement. The future was forecast by William Dean Howells in words that seem more ominous today than when they were spoken. Asked “What are the prospects for Socialism in America?” Howells replied: “As to that, who can say? One sees the movement advancing all around him, and yet it may be years before its ascendancy. On the other hand, it may be but a short time. A slight episode may change history. A turn here or a turn there, and we may find our nation headlong on the road to the ‘ideal’ commonwealth.” (24)

Howell’s statement was made in February, 1898. History has proved that Fabian Socialism in America, wearing the silk hat of respectability, did not end there. It was only the beginning.


1. Edward Bellamy, “Progress of Nationalism in the United States,” North American Review, CL (June 1892), pp. 362-363.

2. In February, 1898 William Dean Howells was quoted as saying: “It was ten years ago that I first became interested in the creed of Socialism. I was in Buffalo when Laurence Gronlund lectured there before the Fortnightly Club. Through this address I was led to read his book, The Cooperative commonwealth, and Kirkup’s article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Afterward I read the Fabian Essays; I was greatly influenced also by a number of William Morris’s tracts. The greatest influence, however, came to me through reading Tolstoi. Both as an artist and as a moralist I must acknowledge my deep indebtedness to him.” The American Fabian (February, 1898), p. 2. Published in an article signed G. for Gronlund.

3. In three Encyclicals Pope Leo XIII traced the social rules to be followed by Christian democrats: 1) In “Quod Apostolici Muneris,” December 28, 1878, he indicated that “the equality existing among the various members of society consists only in this: that al men have their origin in God the Creator, have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and are to be judged and rewarded or punished by God exactly according to their merits or demerits.” 2) In “Rerum Novarum,” May 15, 1891, he affirmed that “the right of private property, the fruit of labor or industry, or of concession or donation by others is an incontrovertible natural right; and everybody can dispose reasonably of such property as he thinks fit.” 3) In “Graves de Communi,” January 18, 1901 he pointed out that “Totally different from the movement known as ‘Social Democracy,’ [Christian democracy] has for its basis the principles of Catholic faith and morals–especially the principle of not injuring in any way the inviolable right of private property.” These views of Leo XIII were specifically reaffirmed by his successor, Pope Pius X, in the “Motu Proprio on Popular Christian Action” given at Rome, December 18, 1903. Quotations cited above are form that document.

4. Percival Chubb was for many years Director of Education at the Ethical Culture High School in New York City. He retained his interest in Socialism and his membership in the Fabian Society of London to the end. In the August, 1923 issue of Fabian News the following personal note appeared: “Percival Chubb, who was the first secretary of the Fellowship of the New Life on its formation in 1883, is on a visit to London from America where he has resided since 1888. He would like to be remembered to any old friends still in the Society.

5. Had italicized, but now removed.

6. To be treated in detail in a later chapter.

7. Had italicized, but now removed.

8. Fabian News (February, 1898).

9. Had italicized, but now removed.

10. Eltweed Pomeroy was also president of the National Direct Legislation League.

11. Of Boston University.

12. The American Fabian (December, 1895), p. 5.

13. Fabian News (April, 1898).

14. Beatrice Webb, My Apprenticeship (London, Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 40.

15. On February 3, 1945, Robert Morss Lovett, president for nearly twenty years of the Fabian-affiliated League for Industrial Democracy and a long time resident of Hull House, sent a telegram on the occasion of the League’s fortieth anniversary, saying: “. . . I always regard my connection with the League as one of the happiest of my life–perhaps next to Hull House.” Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 53.

16. Howard Quint, The Forging of American Socialism (Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1953), p. 320.

17. Papers of Henry Demarest Lloyd. Letter of Prestonia Mann to H. D. Lloyd, December 30, 1896. (University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois).

18. The American Fabian (April, 1895), p. 5.

19. The American Fabian (May, 1898), p. 12. Under the heading, “Proposed Fabian Lecture Tour,” it was announced: “Mr. John W. Martin, a member of the London Fabian Executive Committee, intends visiting this country this fall, if a sufficient number of lectures can be arranged for him. . . . Here will be an excellent opportunity for American groups or individuals to assist in propagating the faith by securing Mr. Martin for one or more lectures. Application for further information should be sent to Mr. J. W. Martin, 49 Downs Roads, London, N. E., or to Edw. R. Pease, Secretary of the Fabian Society, 276 Strand, London, W. C.”

20. Fabian Society 73rd Annual Report, July, 1955-June, 1956, contains a notation (p. 17) regarding “the death overseas of Dr. John Martin, who served on the Executive from 1894 to 1899 and founded the American Fabian Society [sic]–itself, alas, no more.”

21. Fabian News (April, 1919). Letter from Stuart Chase.

22. Fifty Years of Education, 1905-1955 (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1955). Morris Hillquit is listed as having served from 1908-15 as treasurer of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, later called the League for Industrial Democracy, which British Fabian Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), p. 347, designates as a connection of the London Fabian Society.

23. Edward R. Pease, History of Socialism (London, A. & C. Black, 1913), p. 341.

Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen and Unwin, 1935), pp. 108-115. This book is dedicated to Fabian Professor R. H. Tawney.

24. The American Fabian (February, 1898), p. 2.

Chapter 9 << | >> Chapter 11

Chapter 9-The Fabian Turtle Discovers America

Chapter 9 of the book Fabian Freeway.

Part 2–United States

Shortly after the New Year in 1888, a shy, frail and previously undiscovered young American awoke to a new life. For the next ten years—until his death at the age of forty-eight—he was not only to experience the rewards of literary success but to be acclaimed as the lay prophet of a new and fashionable political cult. His name, Edward Bellamy, would soon be known from Massachusetts to California, and even in such world capitals as London, Paris and Berlin. The reason? One of the most ingenious manuscripts ever received by Benjamin Ticknor of the Boston publishing firm, Lee and Shepherd, had just been published over Bellamy’s signature, and it proved to be the best-selling American novel since Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Edward Bellamy was a former editorial writer and book reviewer who appeared to have been something of a drifter. Son of a New England minister, he had studied for a few terms at Union College in Schenectady and then spent a year in Dresden, Germany, where he pursued an already awakened interest in Socialism.(1) Everything he started seemed to be cut short either by illness or his own restless temperament; for Bellamy suffered intermittently from tuberculosis, that plague of early America.

Returning from Europe Bellamy prepared for the bar, but practiced only briefly. Instead he went to New York City with a letter of recommendation from Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the well-known Abolitionist and latter-day Socialist, and began writing for the New York Evening Post. When he was only twenty-two, Bellamy delivered a lyceum address on the “barbarism” of competitive industry and the beauties of a socialized system, which apparently resulted in his leaving New York and joining the staff of the Springfield Union.

Poor health made regular work difficult; but an early retirement brought Bellamy the fame that had so far escaped him. Though he had published some two dozen short stories in respected American magazines of the day, his circle of admirers was small. Settling down in the little cotton-mill town where he was born and fortifying himself with generous infusions of whiskey and black coffee, he produced several novels that gained him but slight attention. At last he wrote Looking Backward, the tale of an American utopia and a singularly effective piece of propaganda for a non-American doctrine.

Like many another popular novel, it was not destined to become a classic. By now it remains little more than a literary curiosity, bused in libraries throughout the world and resurrected only occasionally. A briefer edition, reprinted in the nineteen-thirties, (2) gives hardly a clue to its original impact. When the book first appeared, however, it was noted for its novelty and for the fact that it was a socialist romance which never once mentioned Socialism.

A book review of March 29, 1888, in The Nation (then owned by the New York Evening Post, where Bellamy had been a contributor) did not hesitate to mention the proscribed word. Hailing the work as a “glowing prophecy and gospel of peace,” the anonymous critic added that even if Bellamy’s schemes for solving the land question “ought theoretically to have restored the society of ancient Peru instead of banging about the millennium, . . . Mr. George himself would rejoice in a realized ideal of Socialism such as this.”

The “Mr. George” referred to was, of course, Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty, who had run unsuccessfully for mayor of New York City less than two years before and polled the surprising total of 67,000 votes—7,000 more than a muscular young Republican named Theodore Roosevelt. As The Nation’s reviewer noted, the brand of Socialism offered in fiction-coated form by Bellamy was stronger medicine than any prescribed by Henry George, who urged a Single Tax on land as the remedy for humanity’s ills. Looking Backward predicted that America’s golden age would be achieved not merely by making real estate unprofitable, but by making all other investments equally unprofitable.

This marvel was to be wrought, presumably by peaceful means, through “the national organization of labor under a single direction.” For like its predecessor, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had sparked anti-slavery agitation in New England, Looking Backward was Abolitionist in spirit. In the most polite and indirect way, it preached to the questing Puritan conscience the abolition of “wage slavery.”

There was nothing accidental about it, as some biographers assert today. In the same year that Edward Bellamy began writing his long-projected utopian novel, Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor—George Bernard Shaw’s Dark Lady (3)—toured the United States, noticed a great deal of “unconscious Socialism,” and announced that some day “the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of Capitalism would be written.” (4) A mutual friend, Laurence Gronlund, transmitted the word to Bellamy, with a further specification that the book should be designed to attract persons of “judgement and culture.” Five other utopian novels were published in 1888; but Bellamy’s was the only one to be promoted by a clique of Socialist-tinged intellectuals even then in the process of formation. Though its popularity waned as fashions in fiction changed, the long-range movement it served to launch has persisted in various related forms for some three-quarters of a century.

Julian West, the hero of Looking Backward, was a properly well-to-do Bostonian of the type Bellamy and Gronlund hoped to reach. In 2000 A.D. Julian awoke £rom a long, hypnotic sleep to find that the United States had evolved painlessly into something called the Cooperative Commonwealth, where everyone was happy, comfortable and behaved like an angel. Looking backward, he was able to detect many flaws in the society of his birth and to perceive that they had all been corrected by the new collectivist system. It was, as the British social evangelist, William Morris, rather snobbishly remarked, “a cockney Paradise” which he personally would not care to inhabit. (5)

Sweetened by a sentimental love-interest, this optimistic fantasy appealed to America’s kindly, culture-hungry middle class, in an era when the routine of daily life was brightened by the Lend-a-Hand Clubs and the Chatauqua Circles. For a time Looking Backward sold at the then fantastic rate of a thousand copies a day. Total sales in the United States eventually topped half a million and in England reached nearly half that amount. As a result, Edward Bellamy became the figurehead and symbol of an American Fabian Socialist movement, whose future pattern of growth he could not foresee in detail. British Fabians, however, and their disciples in the United States were available to guide its development, from the eager beginnings to the grim conclusion which a veteran American Socialist, Upton Sinclair, (6) assures us blithely was never closer than it is today.

Lee and Shepherd, original publishers of Looking Backward, were promptly besieged with questions about its unknown author. Among others,, Frances E. Willard, then heading the very respectable National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., wrote to a friend employed by the firm: “Have been reading Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and think it’s a revelation and an Evangel. Who and where is he? . . . What manner of man is he in private?” To which she received the reply: “We do not know, except that his letters are mailed from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.”(7)? Three weeks later Frances Willard, ever an ardent advocate of women’s causes, wrote to say, “Some of us think that Edward Bellamy must be Edwardina —that a big-hearted, big-brained woman wrote the book. Won’t you please find out?”

As the moving spirit of the International Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Frances E. Willard was a lifelong intimate of English temperance leader Lady Henry Somerset and a perennial house guest at her country estate. Like a number of early American feminists and reformers, Frances Willard also joined the Fabian Society of London.(8) Though disappointed to learn that the author of Looking Backward was no female, her enthusiasm for the novel was not diminished. Frances Willard quickly brought it to the attention of British friends and claimed credit for introducing the book to students at Oxford, besides commending it to her many lecture audiences in America. In a face-to-face discussion, Bellamy even persuaded her that references to after-dinner wine and cigars in the year 2000 were permissible, since by then the curse of intemperance would have been safely removed.

In private life, Edward Bellamy was addicted to stronger beverages than wine; (9) but his frequent inability to appear in public was usually ascribed to “dyspepsia.” He was no less guarded about revealing the origins of his Socialist creed. In a letter to William Dean Howells, the silver-haired New England poet and essayist, he stated: ‘I have never been a student of Socialist literature, or have known more of Socialist schemes than any reader of newspapers might.” This careful denial may be doubted, for Bellamy was a voracious reader of German as well as English books. In his lyceum address of 1872, he had already shown more than a bowing acquaintance with Socialist doctrines.

To others, he “confessed” that he learned all he knew of “scientific Socialism” from a little volume by Laurence Gronlund, a Danish-American lawyer then living in Philadelphia. It was called The Cooperative Commonwealth—a term that modern Socialists still use interchangeably with the term “industrial democracy,” given currency some years later by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Published in 1884, also by Lee and Shepherd, The Cooperative Commonwealth was the first book deliberately to present the doctrines of Marxian Socialism in non-Marxist terms for American readers. Four years later Gronlund ordered his own work withdrawn from circulation, in order to help promote the sales of his friend Bellamy’s novel—a rare example of literary altruism.

Educated in Europe, Laurence Gronlund was already a full-blown Marxist when he emigrated to the United States. As a lawyer, teacher and would-be labor organizer in this country, he had come to the conclusion that neither European methods nor an alien terminology could ever succeed in making Socialism acceptable to the great majority of Americans. (10) Social revolution must be disguised. It must be a gradualist movement for social reform. Perhaps it was not purely by coincidence that a similar idea occurred at precisely the same time to the founders of the London Fabian Society. This idea coincided with the long-term plan for England and America of the two tireless arch-conspirators, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, from whom modern Social Democracy stems.

As early as 1872 Karl Marx, speaking in Amsterdam, had intimated that social revolution might be accomplished by peaceful means in England and America—that is, by taking advantage of libertarian traditions and free institutions to subvert them. Both countries were well-known to Marx and had treated him kindly. London was his home during years of exile. There he set up the First International, known as the Workingmen’s International Association, on September 28, 1864 at a public meeting in St. Martin’s Hall, Long Acre. While Marx never visited the United States, the weekly five dollars which he received as a special correspondent for the New York Tribune was for a time his chief source of income. (11) He sent articles on the Crimean War to that newspaper, whose editor, Horace Greeley, likewise called himself a Socialist—although Greeley seems to have perceived little difference between the utopian farm colonies inspired in antebellum America by Charles Fourier and Robert Owen and the “scientific socialism” of a Karl Marx.

The father of modern Social Democracy believed that in certain respects the United States held the key to world revolution. In the preface to Volume I of Das Kapital, Marx wrote: “As in the eighteenth century, the American War of Independence sounded the tocsin for the European middle class, the American Civil War sounded it for the European working class.”

Following the collapse of the Paris Commune which he had backed after its formation, Marx ordered the headquarters of his First International transferred to New York City in 1872, under the direction of a trusted aide, Friedrich Adolph Sorge. Seventy years later a grandson of that selfsame Sorge headed a Communist spy ring in Tokyo, whose intrigues precipitated the Japanese decision to strike southward at Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II in time to save Communist Russia.

In his lifetime, Karl Marx freely deplored the fact that his Socialist followers in the United States were no more than a displaced group of angry trade unionists—refugees from the revolutions of 1848 and 1870. Their meetings were held and minutes were written in German. Socially, politically and psychologically, they were not only isolated from the main current of American life, but for years they rebuffed attempts by English-speaking Socialists to join them. Laurence Gronlund; his friend Charles Southeran, the biographer of Horace Greeley; and Florence Kelley, who translated Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (pristine Marxists, all), were expelled in turn from America’s Socialist Labor Party for being unorthodox— and non-German.

A British Fabian Socialist and charter member of the London Fabian Society, Edward R. Pease, once observed tartly that the early Social Democrats in the United States resembled some small dogmatic sect whose every action required a Marxian text to sanctify it.(12) For years, this remained the characteristic mood of working-class Socialism in America. Though the General German Workingmen’s Union and the Socialist Labor Party made some temporary headway in centers of immigrant population—notably New York City, where the slogan “Down with German Socialism and German lager!” became a war cry of Tammany Hall—Engels remarked in a private letter to Sorge that the disappearance of the stubborn, unruly old German comrades would be a healthy thing for the Socialist movement in America. Revolutions and barricades, dynamite and rifles were all the talk among the German-American Marxists of the eighties, and anybody who suggested anything else was unworthy of the name of Socialist.

The decade had been a stormy one for the comrades. In Russia, social revolutionaries conspired to kill grand dukes and ministers of state, and in 1882 had actually succeeded in assassinating the Czar. In Chicago three German-American Anarchists and one native American, Albert Parsons, were hanged in 1887 for complicity in the Hay-market Square bombings the year before. Socialist protests against these executions had led the American public to believe that Socialists and Anarchists were identical—and in some instances, they were, as persistent Anarchist infiltration of the First International and the Socialist Labor Party demonstrated.

To the average American of the eighties, as Edward Bellamy said, the very word Socialism brought to mind ideas of atheism, revolution and sexual novelties. Visits to the United States in 1884 by Frederick Engels and in 1886 by Wilhelm Liebknecht, a co-founder of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, did nothing to dispel that impression. Engels’ godless views on religion and marriage, as expressed in his Origin of the Family, were widely publicized. Wilhelm Liebknecht, who prophesied the future triumph of Socialism in the United States one Sunday afternoon at Brommer’s Park in New York City, (13) was accompanied by Eleanor Marx and her common-law husband, Edward Aveling, translator of Das Kapital into English. During a fifteen week lecture tour as guests of the Socialist Labor Party, the couple’s unconventional union provoked a public scandal. Here, it seemed, was living proof that Socialists favored free love and flouted family ties; and the topic was revived at intervals long after the unhappy Eleanor Marx, in England, had committed suicide as a result of Aveling’s desertion.

Abhorred by native American workingmen and members of the urban middle class, Socialist ideas nevertheless began in the middle eighties to exert a certain fascination in learned circles. They were spread by professors and students of a new, somewhat occult science known as Political Economy. Foremost among these campus soothsayers was Professor Richard T. Ely of Johns Hopkins University— later of the University of Wisconsin, where, notably, he influenced the thought of a future governor of Wisconsin and Progressive Senator, Robert M. La Follette, Sr. It was Professor Ely who took the initiative in organizing the American Economic Association, which convened for the first time on September 9, 1885, at the fashionable United States Hotel in Saratoga, New York. (14)

Minutes of this historic meeting show that the Socialist-minded element at once captured a majority of the Association’s elective offices. Professor Ely, who served as chairman, was voted general secretary of the organization. Two like-minded colleagues, Professors H. C. Adams of Cornell and E. J. James of Pennsylvania, were elected first and second vice presidents; and Professor E. W. Bemis (later on the faculty of the University of Chicago) attended as secretary of the Connecticut branch. Included among the several hundred charter members, not yet a recognized authority, was the future Professor John R. Commons of Indiana and Michigan Universities, whose outline of political economy became a standard textbook for several generations of college students throughout the country.

Those five were the main leaders of academic socialism, (15) which in their day cast a shadow no larger than a man’s hand. They argued privately, and sometimes publicly, for the municipal or national ownership of what they termed “natural monopolies,” but for the time being did not profess to the full Socialist program of nationalizing all land and capital. (16) The new learned society provided a dignified sounding board for their doctrines, as it does for their modern counterparts. It is interesting to note that the American Economic Association very soon published over its imprint two essays by an amateur economist who also happened to be the chairman of the London Fabian Society —the emerging Sidney Webb.

Lending the authority of the cloth to the Association’s original meeting were the Reverend Lyman Abbott and the Reverend Washington Gladden, both to become prominent in the Christian Socialist movement. There was also Dr. E. R. A. Seligman of Columbia, the Association’s first treasurer, who became something of a power behind the scenes in national politics as well as in the academic world. Member of a wealthy German-American banking family in New York and privately tutored as a lad by Horatio Alger of the rags-to-riches precepts, Dr. Seligman was usually regarded as a conservative; yet throughout a long lifetime he condoned every heterodoxy in the name of academic freedom. The Reverend Abbott (a future editor of The Outlook) and Dr. Seligman were promptly named to the council of the American Economic Association together with a reserved, lantern-jawed young associate professor from Bryn Mawr College, Dr. Woodrow Wilson, who none suspected would one day be President of the United States.

Appointed to the Labor Committee was Woodrow Wilson’s good friend, Dr. Albert Shaw, then editor of the Tribune in Minneapolis with its strongly German-Socialist population, and later chosen to edit the influential Review of Reviews. Dr. Shaw’s personal contacts with British Fabians were established in the nineties, when he published a book entitled Municipal Government in Great Britain.

Other characters of incidental interest attending the founders’ meeting of the American Economic Association were Thomas Davidson, who had inadvertently helped to found the Fabian Society of London, and F. H. Giddings, editor of the Springfield Union, where Edward Bellamy was employed for five years. It must be recorded that representation from the New England colleges was slight and not a single professor from Harvard was elected to office that year—an omission long since rectified. In those post Civil War years education was moving westward, along with the expanding economy.

At its annual meeting three years later, members of the same Association listened to a paper by a solemn, bearded little Englishman wearing a beribboned pince-nez. It was Sidney Webb in person, appearing as an emissary of the British Economic Association (afterwards the Royal Economic Society) which a fellow-Fabian, George Bernard Shaw, had been instrumental in founding. Flanked by his faithful lieutenant, Edward R. Pease, Webb came to America for the first time in September, 1888, and remained for a full three months. (17) In his portmanteau he carried the manuscript of an essay, “The Historical Aspects of the Basis of Socialism”—shortly to be published as “Socialism in England” over the imprint of the American Economic Association, and later included in the Fabian Essays, for whose American edition of 1894 Edward Bellamy wrote a foreword.

In America of the late eighteen-eighties the cocksure young Londoner found a strange new world, pulsating and throbbing with gigantic economic forces that were producing fresh forms of wealth undreamed of by even the most utopian imagination; (18) but his conceit was equal to the challenge. He had no scruples in recommending the same gradualist tactics of revolution which he felt were destined to conquer England for Socialism. To Webb’s calculating eye, it was plain that any frontal attack against the vast new citadel of capitalism was doomed to failure. In fact, owing to the furor already created by a handful of Anarchists and militant Socialists, the little Socialist movement in the United States faced the possibility of being outlawed by act of Congress unless it could speedily muster the support of a large body of respectable middle class opinion around the country.

For that purpose Edward Bellamy’s well-contrived novel, which its author acknowledged was written “to convert the cultured and conservative classes,” provided a practical springboard. New England with its close cultural ties to Old England and its susceptibility to New Thought of all kinds, seemed the logical place from which to launch a new and less vulnerable type of Socialist movement. Sentimental memories still lingered there of Brook Farm and other utopian communities, and the influence of the English Christian Socialists had lately made itself felt through the writings of Dr. Elisha Mulford and the Reverend Washington Gladden. Theosophy, which stressed the brotherhood of a fatherless humanity, was also winning converts. Bostonians had heard of the beautiful Annie Besant, a leading British Theosophist who was likewise a member of the London Fabian Society.

When Sidney Webb and Edward Pease appeared im Boston during the autumn of 1888, armed with letters of introduction to literary folk, college professors, clergymen and assorted uplifters, no more than ten thousand copies of Looking Backward had been sold.(19) Enough to make it a best-seller at the time, but only a glimmering of what was to comer While literary promotion was not the Fabians’ prime purpose, from first to last they have never objected to making the fortune of an author or a publisher, provided they could, in the process, create a cordial climate of opinion for Socialism. Chief beneficiary in this instance was the Houghton Mifflin Company,(20) which purchased the rights from Lee and Shepherd and, as a result of certain activities set in motion by the two English visitors, was able to develop Bellamy’s book into a uniquely valuable property.

The previous June, a pair of Boston newspapermen had already written to Bellamy expressing their desire to form a club for the propagation of his ideas. They were Cyrus Field Willard, labor reporter for the Boston Globe and a relative of Frances E. Willard, and Sylvester Baxter, editorial writer for the Boston Herald, who had penned the first ecstatic review of Looking Backward. Both were Theosophists, devotees of Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant. Since summer hardly seemed the best season for rounding up an organization of cultured Bostonians, Baxter seized the opportunity for making a trip to Germany with a stopover in London.

Meanwhile, several former army officers in Boston wrote to Bellamy on September 7 telling him of their own plan to found a club in his name. The leaders were Captain Charles E. Bowers and General Arthur F. Devereux, a Civil War hero who had made a name for himself at Gettysburg. Whatever their intention, it was certainly not to advance the cause of Socialism. In common with other thoughtful citizens, they viewed the sudden eruption of trusts and monopolies in the United States with concern. At the same time, they could not fail to be aware of the problems created by wave after wave of immigrant labor pouring into a country largely unprepared to receive them, so that the newcomers were often victimized both by earlier arrivals from their own native lands and by chaotic new conditions of industry.

In establishing a club “for the elevation of man,” General Devereux and his friends hoped to suggest the need for specific reform measures to both major political parties in America before the problems at hand became too acute for an orderly solution. On September 18 their little group, named the Boston Bellamy Club, held an initial meeting with twenty-seven charter members. At this point it began to look as if more patriotic elements had stolen a march on the Socialists. In haste,` Edward Bellamy sent a letter from his retreat in Chicopee Falls, begging the military men to postpone further meetings and to unite with the group which Willard and Baxter still hoped to organize. The moment was a delicate one, calling for some diplomacy, and just then, as if by prearrangement, a master diplomat in embryo, Sidney Webb, appeared on the scene. Minutes of the British Fabian Society indicate that by September 21 Webb had already left London for the United States.

In October a conference was held, and the two factions agreed to combine. On December 6 a committee was named to draft a joint statement of policy quite unlike that previously adopted by the military group. Besides the two army officers and the two journalists, another voice was introduced on the committee. It was the voice of the Reverend W. D. P. Bliss, carefully prompted by Sidney Webb. Bliss was a local clergyman, soon to assume the duties of pastor at Grace Church in South Boston and to be dismissed a few years afterwards for his Socialist activities, Christian and otherwise.

Born in Constantinople of American missionary parents, Bliss was a frequent visitor to London where he fell under the Fabian spell. For some twenty years he proved himself an eager spokesman of Fabian Socialism in the United States and an exponent of the superior virtues of the London Fabian Society. As a writer, editor and organizer, he was almost abject in his adulation of Webb and Pease, who sometimes found themselves embarrassed by his misplaced zeal. Ousted from one church after another and unable to support himself by writing, he later secured a position with the United States Bureau of Labor— the first but by no means the last old Socialist to withdraw to that snug harbor.

The twelve weeks Webb and Pease spent in the United States during the autumn of 1888 coincided exactly with the period when the revised Boston Bellamy Club was in process of being formed. In certain respects the club was similar to the London Fabian Society, with a declaration of principles corresponding to the Fabian Basis, and subscribed to by members of the parent club and affiliates to be set up throughout the country. The name proposed for the new organization was typical of the Webb talent for compromise. It was to be called the Nationalist Club, a name which appealed on one hand to patriotic pride, and on the other hand suggested the club’s final goal: namely, the nationalization of private industry. The purpose of the club was to “educate” the American people through lectures, books and publications in the reform measures and general ideas advocated by Looking Backward, and thereby to stimulate such political action as might ultimately lead to the establishment of the Cooperative Commonwealth—a polite synonym for the all-embracing State foretold in other terms by Marx and Engels.

The declaration of principles showed the imprint of Sidney Webb’s hand, down to the use of the words “practical” and “practicability” which characterized so many impractical documents drafted by him over the years. (21) The statement is worth quoting at least in part, because of its devious nature and because of its subsequent acceptance by thousands of well-meaning, if ingenuous, Americans:

“The principle of the Brotherhood of Humanity is one of the eternal truths that govern the world’s progress on lines which distinguish human nature from brute nature. . . .

“No truth can avail unless practically applied. Therefore those who seek the welfare of man must endeavor to suppress the system founded on brute principles of competition and put in its place another based on the nobler principles of association. . . .

“We advocate no sudden or ill-considered changes; we make no war upon individuals who have accumulated immense fortunes simply by carrying to a logical end the false principles upon which business is now based.

“The combinations, trusts and syndicates of which the people at present complain demonstrate the practicability of our basic principle of association. We merely seek to push this principle a little further and have all industries operated in the interests of the nation—the people organized— the organic unity of the whole people.”

At a meeting on December 15,1888, where Edward Bellamy made one of his rare personal appearances and was elected vice president of the club, this declaration was approved by the leaders. Private papers of the president, General Devereux, reveal that a member of the Fabian Society of London, presumed to be Sidney Webb himself, attended incognito. The same statement was read and adopted by the general membership at the first public meeting of the Boston Nationalist Club in Tremont Hall on January 18, 1889.

By that date Sidney Webb had resumed to England, leaving behind a lively memento of his visit. Historically, it was only the first in a long series of informally linked undertakings to be promoted under Fabian Socialist tutelage in the United States. All have been marked by the same superficial candor and mildness, and an air of bland self-righteousness which seems to be the peculiar contribution of New England to the American psyche. And yet, from the very beginning, all these organizations were penetrated at the core by a Fabian Socialist conspiracy to capture the mind of America and eventually the machinery of government, in the interests of a revolutionary future wholly alien to the American tradition.


1. Sylvia E. Bowman, The Year 2000–A Critical Biography of Edward Bellamy (New York, Bookman Associates, 1958), pp 97-98.

2. Modern Library Edition, New York, Random House, no date, with a foreword by Heywood Broun. A new British edition of Looking Backward was published in 1948 and advertised in reviving “native Communism.”

3. Hesketh Pearson, Bernard Shaw (London, Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1961), p. 120.

4. Bowman, op. cit., pp. 116-177.

5. E. P. Thompson, “William Morris,” Monthly Press Review (New York, 1961), p. 632. Letter form Morris to Glasier, May 13, 188.

6. In a television interview with Upton Sinclair by Paul Coates, originating at Station KTTV, Los Angeles, May, 1962.

7. Frances E. Willard, “An Interview with Edward Bellamy,” Our Day, Vol. IV, 1889.

8. William A. Clarke, “The Fabian Society,” New England Magazine (March, 1894), p. 91.

9. Bowman, op. cit., pp. 149-150.

10. Richard T. Ely, Socialism and Social Reform (Boston, T. Y. Crowell & Co., 1894), p. 102.

11. John Spargo, Socialism, A Summary and Interpretation of Socialist Principles (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1913), p. 210.

12. Edward R. Pease, History of Socialism (London, A. & C. Black, 1913), p. 339.

13. The New York Times (September 21, 1886).

14. Minutes of the American Economic Association, Vol. I.

15. W. D. P. Bliss, A Handbook of Socialism (London, Sonnenschein, 1895), p. 146.

16. Ibid.

17. Edward R. Pease, The History of the Fabian Society (London, A. C. fifield, 1916), pp. 75-76.

18. Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen & Unwin, 1937), p. 109.

19. Edward Bellamy, Edward Bellamy Speaks Again (Kansas City, Peerage Press, 1939), p. 206. This sales statement was made by Bellamy himself.

20. Bowman, op. cit., p. 115. A new edition subsequently issued by Houghton, Mifflin was based on the amended text prepared by Bellamy in 1888 for Rabbi Solomon Schindler of Boston, who translated Looking Backward into German.

21. See “Labour and the New Social Order,” written by Webb and adopted by the British Labour Party Conference in June, 1918, which similarly denounces “the competitive struggle” and advocates “the socialisation of industry so as to secure the elimination of every kind of inefficiency and waste.” It also refers to “practical programmes of the Labour Party often carelessly derided as impracticable.”

Chapter 8 << | >> Chapter 10

Chapter 8-Tomorrow, The World?

Chapter 8 of the book Fabian Freeway

Today, as ever, the Fabian Society of London together with its affiliated provincial societies consists of several hundred well-known publicists and politicians whose connections with the Society can readily be confirmed, although the general public seldom identifies them as Fabians; plus a larger number of unknown and unsung adherents, engaged in a wide variety of more or less obscure tasks. Frequently, their long and faithful services are recorded only by a brief death notice in Fabian News or the Fabian Society Annual Report. On the whole, it is a case of “join for five years, join for fifty, and Fabians are notoriously long-lived.” (1)

As always, the Society is composed mainly of middle class professionals, many engaged in writing, teaching and various types of “research.” Leading symbol of Fabian Research in 1963 was a lean, hollow-eyed pundit from the London School of Economics, with a name reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s tea party: Professor Richard Titmuss. More and more, the Society seeks to enlist engineers, technicians and managerial personnel; and a special effort has been made to penetrate the modern communications industries—radio, television and motion pictures(2)—with an eye to their “educational,” that is, propagandist value for Socialism.

There is a firm nucleus of Fabian civil servants in every government department, and Fabian Socialists have been regularly appointed as Opposition members on government Advisory Boards, notably Labor, Commonwealth Affairs and Immigration—as well as to key posts in the United Nations. A. D. K. Owen, better known as David Owen, who served as personal assistant to Sir Stafford Cripps in 1941-43, has been a fixture at the United Nations since its inception.(3) As director of the Office of Technological Services in the UN Secretariat, he has been for years in a position to dispense patronage to Fabian Socialists on a world-wide basis.

Though the terminology has changed with the times, the Fabian Society remains a secret society of Socialists, dedicated to transforming the existing world order by methods necessarily devious and not always short of sedition. Despite its nominal emphasis on “democratic” practices and parliamentary means to accomplish its ends; despite its respectable front of good manners, charm and learning; despite the fact that its Summer Schools stress such sources of innocent merriment as croquet, table tennis and country dancing—in essence, the goals of the Fabian Society parallel those of the Communists and at some point short of infinity find a common meeting place.

Rosa Luxemburg, the Left Wing Polish Social Democrat who was “executed” under mysterious circumstances in Germany following the abortive Spartacus revolt of 1919, long ago noted a disturbing likeness between the British Fabian Society and Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. Each, she pointed out, was a secret society of intellectuals grasping for power through control of the working-class—and she feared and distrusted them both. (4)

It is true that methods of discipline governing the two organizations vary—the Bolshevik parties being operated along quasi-military lines, while the Fabian Society appears to impose little or no control over its members. Inquiry reveals, however, that major policy decisions of the Fabian Executive are binding; and that virtually all important speeches or publications by Fabians are prepared and/or cleared by the New Fabian Research Bureau, even when they appear for tactical reasons to be mutually contradictory. The Society’s bylaws provide that members or associates may be dropped for “want of confidence,” and in some cases, individuals condemned to that silent treatment have been known to drop completely from political sight. Except in the strictly superficial give-and-take of conversation and debate, the boasted Fabian tolerance is a myth, and Fabians are by no means the “gentle people” they claim to be.

During a prolonged period of political Opposition in Britain, Fabian Socialists nursed their strength at the municipal level, while gradually increasing the number of their seats in Parliament. For instance, on the London County Council, Sidney Webb’s old stronghold from which he moved into national politics, Fabians still retain a majority (including the chairmanship) that assures them control of local educational institutions. In September, 1956, Fabian News announced that “the new leader of the Labour Group (majority) on the Leeds County Council, Frank O’Donnell, is a member of the Leeds Fabian Society” and that “all four sitting M.P.’s” (including Hugh Gaitskell, M.P. and Denis Healey, M.P.) are “members of the Leeds Society.”

This item was interesting in the light of an Associated Press dispatch of November 12, 1962, announcing that Owen Lattimore, the former Johns Hopkins University professor, had just been appointed to a teaching post at Leeds University, a public institution. Many Americans will recall that Owen Lattimore, author of books on Communist Asia and alleged secret agent of the Soviet Foreign Office, was indicted for perjury for his testimony before a United States Senate Subcommittee investigating the notorious Institute of Pacific Relations case. Fabian writers and publicists in England rallied volubly to his defense at the time—though the same circles later professed to be shocked by reports that Soviet spies and informers had succeeded in filching some British Government secrets.

From 1956 to his sudden death in January, 1963, Hugh Gaitskell of the Leeds Fabian Society was Parliamentary Leader of the British Labour Party. As a member of the Leeds County Council, he could scarcely have failed to be aware of Lattimore’s appointment to Leeds University. Yet Gaitskell was the man slated to become Britain’s next Prime Minister, in the event of a Labour Governments return to power! While publicly mourned, his demise may have proved providential for British Socialism. At least the Labour Party was able to present a new, youthful and relatively noncontroversial face to the world, at a time when aggressive new tactics were urgently needed.

Gaitskell’s successor, Harold Wilson, M.P., was named on St. Valentine’s Day, 1963. A Fabian victory in the mock contest for the post was a foregone conclusion, following an “election” in which all three candidates for the Opposition leadership turned out to be long-standing members of the Fabian Society. Harold Wilson, a former chairman of the Society who more recently headed its Local Societies section, had been an active Fabian Socialist since his undergraduate days at Oxford. Somehow, that pertinent fact was not featured in general press and television accounts, which heralded his “election” as Opposition Leader as respectfully as if he were already the effective Prime Minister.

Like his “rivals,” George Brown, M.P., and James Callaghan, M.P., Wilson belonged to the Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet chosen to man a future Labour Government. His place as “Shadow” Foreign Minister was promptly filled by Denis Healey, M.P., member of the Advisory Council of the Fabian International Bureau as well as a stalwart of the Leeds Fabian Society. Of the twelve Labourites named to the Gaitskell Shadow Cabinet in 1959, nine belonged to the Fabian Society.(5) If and when they became Cabinet Ministers in substance, it was certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that plans and programs prepared in advance by New Fabian Research would once more become the official policies of the British Government.

In February, 1957, the official Fabian News reported: “Fabians are playing a major part in the preparation of Labour policy documents. The Party’s National Executive has recently set up working parties to report to the Party Conferences in 1957 and 1958 on the Ownership of Industry, Control of Industry, Public Industries, Agriculture and Education. The first working party is composed entirely of Fabians, and there are several Fabians on each of the others.”

Whatever the Fabian Society had in mind for Britain, the privations, indignities and follies from 1945 to 1951 were merely a foretaste of things to come. Enlarged schemes, glimpsed in publications of the Socialist International, seemed to include a coolly calculated timetable for synchronizing “peaceful social revolution” in England with simultaneous developments in the other nations of Atlantica. Even emigration would no longer afford an escape for the regimented Britons of the future.

Domestic plans for a Socialist Britain were outlined in the flood of publications which the Society continued to issue on virtually every subject under the sun. Over the signature of John Hughes, a basic plan to renationalize the steel industry was distributed to all members of the Society in 1962 as Document No. 198 of the Fabian Research Series. Other happy suggestions, guaranteed to finish off the free enterprise system by more indirect methods, have been announced since 1956. They propose to control existing industrial and business corporations via government purchase of shares (stocks); to set up new plants with government funds, plants that will work towards the gradual extinction of competitive private industry; to “decentralize” the management of nationalized industries (6) and to require government-owned enterprises to show a profit ( along lines remarkably similar to those proposed in Soviet Russia as of November, 1962).

There were political plans for “reforming” the House of Lords and for downgrading and humiliating the Monarchy, approved by Eirene White, M.P., a chairman of the Fabian Society.(7) In fact, more outspokenly radical elements of the Society—typified by Hugh Gaitskell’s teacher, the late G. D. H. Cole, and until recently by Harold Wilson himself—had long urged complete abolition of the Monarchy and the watchdog House of Lords. A favorite pupil of the departed G. D. H. Cole tells how the latter, after freely describing the various revolutionary changes he hoped to see the next Labour Party Government make, suddenly realized he had failed to mention a particular reform dear to his heart. As the students to whom Cole had imparted his plans were leaving, he exclaimed: “Why, I forgot to include the abolition of God!”(8)

Since the day when that graceless quip was uttered more in earnest than in jest, G. D. H. Cole has gone to his reward. He died in 1959 as president of the Fabian Society, a post awarded to his widow in 1962; but his destructive ideas still survive among his numerous disciples in Britain and the Commonwealth countries. G. D. H. Cole’s influence on the current crop of Fabian Socialist leaders has been profound, however obliquely it was sometimes expressed in statements from the Opposition benches. When Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson opposed Britain’s entry into the Common Market in 1962, even Socialists seemed puzzled by the unaccustomed strain of patriotism in their arguments. Yet, on closer inspection, their stand was neither surprising nor prompted by abnormal respect for tradition.

For any Cole-tutored Marxist, the obvious if unspoken complaint against the Common Market was quite simply that it did not “destroy confidence in the prospect of sustained profits,” but on the contrary seemed to produce general prosperity by a capitalist formula. If Socialist administrations held office simultaneously in France, Holland, Italy, West Germany, Belgium and England, as they have long been striving to do, opposition to the Common Market by British Fabians might be expected to subside. Gaitskell and Wilson left the door open against that eventuality; but General de Gaulle, (9) for reasons best known to himself, slammed it shut.

The imminence of a Labour Party victory in England was somberly underscored by the tribute paid to the departed Fabian Socialist, Hugh Gaitskell. On January 31, 1963, memorial services for him were held in Westminster Abbey, an honor usually reserved for a Prime Minister. The Queen, so often derided from the Labour benches, was courteously represented in the Abbey by the Earl of Eldon; the Duke of Edinburgh by Rear Admiral D. C. Bonham-Carter; and Sir Winston Churchill by Lady Churchill.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his colleagues in the Government shared the choir stalls with the Shadow Cabinet of the Opposition. In the procession to the sanctuary, the Archbishop of Canterbury was accompanied by the Moderator of the Free Church Council. At the close of the service, spectators seated in the nave and standing in the cloisters joined with mixed emotions in singing William Blake’s hymn which envisages the building of Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. (10)

In that overflow congregation of diplomats, nobles, civil servants, parliamentarians and trade unionists, the Socialist International was well represented. The Prime Minister of Denmark, J. O. Krag, head of the Danish Social Democratic Party; Willy Brandt, Socialist Mayor of West Berlin; and D. Segall, of the Social Democratic Party of West Germany, flew to London for the occasion. Other representatives of foreign Socialist groups who were present remained discreetly nameless, including a delegation from the United States. Gaitskell’s stepson, Raymond Frost, who came from Washington for the funeral, could not attend the Abbey tribute because he had to leave England on a World Bank mission to Colombia. (11)

The obsequies over, Britain’s Fabian Socialists applied themselves hastily to transmuting Gaitskell’s cold-eyed successor into what they fondly hoped would be the irresistible image of a future Prime Minister. In this alchemy they were assisted by the British version of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, which distributed photographs of Harold Wilson in several unlikely attitudes. One showed the forty-seven year old Opposition Leader with eyes downcast, hands prayerfully raised as in the Duerer etching—and a pipe clamped between his teeth! Another was a photomontage of Harold Wilson at the age of eight, posed outside the door of 10 Downing Street.

Such primitive publicity stills made older and more sophisticated Fabians shudder, and were frowned upon by trade unionists who paid the bills. Soon it was announced that a new group of assorted image-makers, resembling the Advertising Council in the United States, had volunteered to promote Harold Wilson’s campaign gratis. They would use billboards, buttons, stickers and other visual aids to which the frugal British electorate was still unaccustomed. Names of advertising men involved and the amounts of money to be spent were not revealed. Labour Party spokesmen at Transport House, however, were quoted as saying their early-bird campaign would be styled along the lines of the 1960 campaign that put John F. Kennedy into the White House, with Theodore H. White’s book, The Making of the President, 1960, serving as a text. (12)

It was a neat compliment to those “democratic” Americans who, after having been initially trained and cued by British Fabians (as we shall subsequently see), were now in a position to furnish aid and comfort to their tutors. Returning from a visit to Washington in April, 1963, Harold Wilson wrote ecstatically: “. . . for sheer quality, the United States Government from President Kennedy downward, is without equal in any administration in any country.”(13) The harsh treatment accorded Prime Minister Macmillan in the Slybolt affair, followed by the exquisite kindness shown to visiting Opposition Leader Harold Wilson in upper echelons of the New Frontier, helped to convey the notion that Conservative Party leaders could not “deal effectively” with Washington.

In England the shopworn promises of “a new dynamism” to “get the country moving again,” heard during the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson campaign in America, were dusted off by Fabian orators and presented as fresh merchandise to the British electorate. Wilson was billed as the only leader capable of “mobilizing the energies of Britain in the sixties.” One advantage of such rousing generalities was that they sounded vigorous and bold, without obliging the speaker to commit himself to any particular philosophy of action. They tended to reassure moderates, and to head off discussion of specific methods by which Harold Wilson and his associates planned to impose full-scale Socialism in Britain and the Commonwealth, once they succeeded in recapturing power.

If any doubted this to be Wilson’s intention, his answer to Sir Gerald Nabarro’s query on the floor of the Commons was plain enough to dispel uncertainty. Brusquely, the newly chosen Opposition Leader reaffirmed his Party’s Socialist pledge to work without qualification for public control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Wilson has long been identified with the irreconcilable or Jacobin wing of the British Labour Party, which views taxation more as a means of “ensuring social justice” than of raising revenue. His Party’s program of “tax reform” disclosed on February 26, 1963—extracts from which were proudly published in Socialist International Information (14)—included a scaled increase in Social Security contributions obtained via payroll deductions; a steep rise in corporation taxes; and an annual capital levy on all wealth exceeding twenty thousand pounds. Personally, Wilson has favored retributive taxes ever since he decided, as a precociously embittered schoolboy in Huddersfield, to become Chancellor of the Exchequer someday and to tax phonograph records because his family did not own a phonograph! This bit of prophetic nonsense was related in campaign biographies of Wilson, and may or may not be true. Eventually, of course, he would decide to serve as First Lord of the Treasury rather than Chancellor of the Exchequer, the better to negotiate funds for his government in the course of discreet periodic visits to Washington.

Another Fabian Socialist spokesman for the Labour Party, James Callaghan, M.P., explained mildly that the proposed capital levy would not affect more than one voter out of a hundred. (15) He failed to mention, however, that confiscatory taxation, by sharply reducing the area of private investment, could affect the employment of millions, and within a relatively short time make them wholly dependent on government bounty. To cope with unemployment—or “redundancy,” as it is quaintly called by present-day Fabian economists— Harold Wilson proposed that new factories be built, equipped, financed and run by the State. “We have to have State factories,” said Wilson brightly, “to provide some of the goods the Commonwealth is going to want.” (16)

The plump, prematurely silver-haired Oxonian, whose formal speeches and occasional witticisms are handily supplied by Fabian Research, was described by news correspondents as a Socialist in a gray flannel suit. He might just as well have been called a wolf in sheep’s clothing—the Aesopian symbol, which George Bernard Shaw long ago suggested was more appropriate than the tortoise as a heraldic device for the Fabian Society—and which appears in the Shavian stained-glass window at Beatrice Webb House in Dorking. It is not the outer apparel, but the inner nature of the Fabian Society that has made Harold Wilson what he is today.

As a scholarship student at Oxford during the middle nineteen-thirties, he attached himself to the Society in an era when Marxist doctrines were openly professed by its leaders, and when Socialist and Communist undergraduates merged in the activities of the Popular Front. The pacificism of the Oxford movement was perpetuated in Wilson’s prolonged association with the extreme left wing Fabian, Aneurin Bevan. (17) It persists today in Harold Wilson’s frank opposition to nuclear deterrents for Britain, (18) and his advocacy of conventional military forces for Western Europe to confront the Soviet hordes. He is committed to abandoning Formosa and to procuring a seat for Red China in the United Nations. (19) Though no trace of traditional Marxian phraseology appears today in the cautiously stated Aesopian programs of Harold Wilson and his Fabian associates, to paraphrase Napoleon: Scratch a Fabian, and find a Marxist.

Wilson succeeded to the political leadership of Britain’s Labour Party at a moment when International Socialism appeared more confident of being able to move into a position of world-wide control, than at any time since the Russian Revolution. With left wing Social Democratic administrations in office or on the verge of it in a majority of countries throughout the so-called Free World, few Socialists doubt that they can readily establish a modus vivendi with the economically embarrassed Socialist Fatherland and its satellites. As in the nineteen-twenties—though on a far more imposing scale—world trade once more becomes the medium by which Socialist governments plan to aid each other to retain power at home, as well as to strengthen the strained Communist economies. Production surpluses are to be siphoned off without counting the cost, to build or bolster Socialism in other lands.

Having served at the age of thirty-one as president of the Board of Trade in Britain’s former Labour Party Government—he was the youngest member of any British Cabinet since William Pitt!—Harold Wilson was the logical candidate to promote Socialist world hegemony via foreign-trade channels. He envisaged Socialist control, not only of raw materials but of manufactured goods as well, through price-fixing commodity agreements and foreign-exchange control. The ever generous United States would be expected to supply the “monetary lubrication.”

“Now, for the first time,” exulted Harold Wilson on February 11, 1963, “we have an American government in active sympathy!” What Wilson meant was that the United States now had a program of international commodity agreements. He went on to say:

“Commodity agreements for temperate foodstuffs must provide the machinery for channeling the overspill of our advanced countries into the hungry countries. But why food only? There is a surplus of steel in many advanced countries, and in this country the steel mills are working at 80 per cent capacity. We all want to help India and a score of other developing countries. Why not send them a million tons of ingot steel? We might go further . . .” (20)

We might, indeed, go further! The world giveaway program projected by Harold Wilson and his colleagues of the Socialist International has endless possibilities, limited only by the resources of the donor countries. Launched by an international cartel of Socialist rulers and administered by a supranational authority, (21) it might well go on and on—until the advanced nations of the earth are drained, exhausted and reduced to a common level of weakness and confusion. At that point, the sole military power still permitted to retain its independence, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, can move to take over, with hardly a struggle, its progressively enfeebled benefactors.

Initially, the Fabians propose to maneuver within the “mixed economy,” part nationalized and part seemingly free, but in fact wholly controlled by government fiat, punitive taxation, and negotiated price-fixing arrangements inside and outside the British Commonwealth. By such means they hope to disarm preliminary opposition and to accomplish their ends more adroitly than by outright confiscation. The more extreme dangers and discomforts of a manipulated world economy, based on international agreements between all-powerful Socialist planners, still remain to be experienced. As with other attempts to subject living creatures to a totally controlled environment, unpredictable malignancies and painful side effects can be expected to result.

Still, as Harold Wilson points out, “the sacrifices, if sacrifices there must be, will at least be fairly shared”(22)—that is, by the captive industrialists and the helpless, security-drugged population. Only the salaried bureaucrats of the Fabian-approved inner circle can hope to better themselves individually. For the rest, we are led to believe, there will at least be freedom of discussion, if not of decision. In the New Britain, the Go-Ahead Britain, as planned by the fertile brain trusters of Fabian Research, men will learn to bear with docility the yoke of public happiness!


A new generation of voters had grown to manhood and womanhood since a previous Labour Party Government ruled the United Kingdom. Children of a Fabian-permeated educational system, they were exposed from infancy to a barrage of direct and indirect Fabian Socialist propaganda, not only in the schools and universities, but also through the popular news and entertainment media. Those young people never knew that virtually every key post in the Government between 1945 and 1951 was filled for some time at least by a Fabian.(23) As for their elders, the painful memories of postwar scarcity had dimmed, and many were prepared to gamble that Labour would do better next time.

Among nearly thirty-six million Britons who went to the polls in October, 1964, few realized that Fabian Socialists invariably framed the policies and supplied the top personnel for the so-called Labour Party. In 1964 (as in the 1959 General Election) over one-third of all Labour Party candidates belonged to the Fabian Society; (23) but they refrained from mentioning that interesting fact in their campaign speeches and literature. Of 220 Fabians seeking election to Parliament, 120 were successful. (24) Blandly the Fabian News assured its own limited circle of readers that the proportion of Fabians in the Executive branch of the new government would be very much higher.

So, for the fourth time in precisely forty years, the Fabian-controlled Labour Party came to power in England. It received only a plurality of the total vote, winning by a frail majority of six parliamentary seats. Immigrants of color moving to Britain from Commonwealth countries reputedly furnished the margin of victory— even though popular feeling against the newcomers in some localities led to the defeat of several old Fabians. Prominent among the casualties was Patrick Gordon Walker, who lost the Smethwick seat he had held since 1945.

As a student and teacher at Christ Church College, Oxford, Gordon Walker was a contemporary of Dean Rusk, Walt Whitman Rostow and other liberally disposed Rhodes Scholars who attained high office in Washington under the Kennedy-Johnson Administration. After World War II he served as parliamentary private secretary for a year to Harold Laski’s great friend and ally, Herbert Morrison. Appointed Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in 1947, Gordon Walker was properly helpful in “solving the Palestine question.” As Commonwealth Secretary in 1950-51, he speeded the dissolution of the British Empire: a process initiated by his former chief, the late Arthur Creech-Jones, an early chairman of the Fabian Colonial Bureau.(25)

Following an American visit in 1947, Gordon Walker had played host in London to moving spirits of Americans for Democratic Action, (26) a group whose outlook on world affairs closely resembled his own. Members and friends of that organization were frequently in a position to exert decisive influence in Washington. Like them, Gordon Walker was an enthusiastic advocate of the Socialist International’s plan for aid to underdeveloped countries: (27) a plan whereby, among other things the United States was induced to assume the major burden of financial support for Britain’s orphaned ex-colonies.

When a debate on foreign affairs was held in the British Parliament on June 16-17, 1964, it was Gordon Walker who spoke for the Labour Party, expressing views shortly to become the official policy of Her Majesty’s Government. It happened to be the occasion of Winston Churchill’s final appearance in the House of Commons. For that old warrior the debate must have stirred painful memories of the arms limitation arguments of the nineteen-thirties, which encouraged Adolf Hitler to plunge the world into war.

Like a voice from the tragic past, tinged again with overtones of disaster, Patrick Gordon Walker declared: “The supreme objective of foreign affairs must be the achievement of disarmament…. The most important hope of advance lies, I think, in the idea of a minimum deterrent.” Naively, he continued, “The Soviet Union seems genuinely interested in this.” And well it might be, since a minimum deterrent is as good as none at all! Persons seated near Churchill saw his eyes flash as in the past, and heard the old patriot growl quietly under his breath. The speaker concluded by saying hopefully that “when the British and United States elections are over there may be a real chance of a breakthrough in disarmament.” (28)

Considering Gordon Walker’s failure at the polls in October, 1964, Prime Minister Wilson must have had strong personal reasons for appointing him to the post of Foreign Secretary. In the normal course of events, that place would have gone to Denis Healey, M.P., an equally devout Fabian Socialist and a past chairman, like Gordon Walker, of the Fabian International Bureau. As a consolation prize Healey was named Secretary of Defense in a government pledged to the gradual erosion of Britain’s military defenses.

Such assurance was given by Prime Minister Wilson himself, who told the House of Commons on November 23: “A Defense policy which does not contain within itself the seeds of further progress towards disarmament is one which in the present state of the world we can no longer regard as appropriate.”(29) He did not deign to explain how it is possible to arm and disarm at the same time. Apparently Healey knew the answer without being told.

Nevertheless, it was evident to Fabian insiders that with Gaitskell’s death Denis Healey lost his best friend at court. He, too, knew a number of important people in America, and in 1962 had been a featured speaker before a Council of World Affairs seminar at Asilomar in California. But what John Freeman of the New Statesman charitably described as Healey’s “offbeat sense of humor” almost proved his undoing. In 1958, for instance, a political journalist from West Germany interviewed various prominent Britons on the technical question of the Bonn Government’s reluctance to accept the Oder-Neisse boundary for a united Germany. They were asked: “Would the British nation, in a similar situation . . . ever accept the loss of one-quarter of the United Kingdom, including the complete denationalization of those territories by the mass expulsion of their inhabitants?” With one exception they replied, “No, of course not” The exception was Denis Healey, M.P., who said, “Certainly, we would agree.” (30)

There is some question as to whether Healey’s famous sense of humor might not again betray him and his associates. His answer in 1964 to the question, “Why are we still fighting overseas?” contained statements that could prove lethal to multitudes, if taken seriously in high quarters. “The idea that international Communism is the problem which we face in Africa and Asia is a nonsense from the start,” declared Healey, “because Communism is no longer as it once was, a single monolithic bloc.” (31) Did he, with typical Fabian conceit, regard himself as more than a match for the wily Russians and wilier Chinese?

Like his colleagues of the Socialist International at home and abroad, Denis Healey accepted at face value the Communist world’s amoeba-like application of the ancient adage, Divide and Conquer. In a fine-spun argument that undoubtedly caused some mirth in Moscow and Peking, Healey pointed out that it was Britain’s duty to seek agreements with other world powers, and above all with the Soviet Union, for achieving stability in Asia and Africa. Ever mindful of the “necessity” for being fair to the Red Chinese, he explained:

“. . . in those parts of Asia where Communism is clearly at work subverting institutions of the non-Communist world, it would be a mistake to assume without evidence that Communism is centrally directed from Moscow or even from China. There is much evidence to suggest that even the Vietnamese Communist Party, although it holds heavy responsibility for Laos and South Vietnam, is not acting as a satellite of Peking.” (32)

The names of Denis Healey and Patrick Gordon Walker appeared on an unusually long list of official appointments marking the advent of the Labour Party Government in Britain. A number of brand new departments had been created, sometimes with functions that overlapped the old. More than ever veteran Fabians predominated. According to the Fabian News of November-December, 1964, which printed a list of government appointments and conveniently marked with a cross the names of members of the Society, they filled nearly two-thirds of all ranking government posts.(33) The cross mark was inadvertently omitted from some well-known old Fabian names, such as Lord Gardiner, a former member of the Fabian Executive, Jennie Lee, Alice Bacon and others, who may have allowed their formal memberships to lapse. So the actual count was probably higher. Far from being a composite picture of youthful vigor, the Cabinet represented the unchangeable old guard of the Society. Practically all had served in one capacity or another in the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951, and their average age was fifty-seven years.

On the authority of Fabian News, nineteen of twenty-three Cabinet Members could be counted as belonging to the “National Fabian Society”—a term not hitherto used. (34) The others (such as Sir Frank Soskice, the new Home Secretary, or Frank Cousins of the Transport Workers Union, appointed to head the new Ministry of Technology and Science) were almost equally well-known and trusted in Fabian circles. Yet no whisper of that open secret reached the air waves or percolated into the general press.

So strictly was Fabian security maintained, that the informed New Statesman felt free to indulge in a little discreet private fun on the subject. “Most of the reformist movements,” remarked a columnist on that Fabian-controlled weekly, “seem to have lost to the Government either a chairman or a valued committee member. Flourishing limbs have thus been lopped off the National Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, the Howard League, the Albany Trust, the New Bridge, the Josephine Butler Society and the Prison Reform Council, to name only a few. Letters of congratulatory regret have been flowing into ministers’ offices.” (35)

Unmentioned, of course, was the fact that names of five past chairmen of the Fabian Society turned up on the revised roster of Her Majesty’s Government, (36) released by British Information Services in November, 1964. Or that nine Cabinet Members and at least five Ministers outside the Cabinet had seen service on the Fabian Executive. (37) These statistics were already known to delighted members and friends of the Fabian Society (sometimes referred to by Communists as a “reformist movement”), which had also relinquished most of its current officers and committee heads to the Government.

Chief Secretary of the Treasury with rank of Minister was John Diamond, a longtime honorary treasurer of the Society. Postmaster General Anthony Wedgwood Benn was the Fabian Society’s current vice chairman, as well as the chairman of its combined International and Commonwealth Bureau. William Rodgers, general secretary of the Fabian Society, went to the Ministry of Economic Affairs as a parliamentary Under Secretary. Few, indeed, of that suddenly exalted company saw fit to record in Who’s Who their lifelong organizational ties with Britain’s oldest and boldest Socialist Society, bellwether of the world-wide Socialist International.

Dedicated for years to the idea of social revolution and the gradual but total extinction of private enterprise, they now preferred for publicity purposes to be described as “moderate” Socialists. In reality, there is no such breed. There are only patient and impatient Socialists—just as Dorothy Day, a left wing Catholic newspaper editor in New York, suggested long ago that there are patient and impatient virgins.(38)

So the same dreary old programs that had proved incapable once before of producing a brave new world were freshened up and given a new look by Fabian Research. Like rabbits pulled from a magician’s hat, they were presented with an air of proud discovery and some variations in the patter designed to divert attention from the timeworn routine. The new Minister of Economic Affairs, George Brown, M.P., might talk ever so brightly about “the development and implementation of a national incomes policy covering all forms of income and related to productivity.” But in the end, it still meant wage controls, price controls, export-import controls, and a capital levy.

Management and unions were invited to collaborate in the “plan,” with government holding the whiphand and deciding just “where the behavior of prices or wages, salaries or other money incomes is in the national interest.” (39) The bureaucrats still had the last word, and for the average Briton there could be no escape and no hiding place from the government’s all-seeing computers.

True, there seemed to be something different about Her Majesty’s opening address to the Parliament on November 3. She no longer spoke in the first person plural, but referred instead to “My Armies, My Ministers, My Government.” Grammatically, at least, the Queen had been stripped of the royal prerogative in an apparent move to belittle the Monarchy. Reading the text prepared by Labour Party Ministers, she likewise found herself compelled to say: “My Government will initiate early action to reestablish the necessary ownership and control of the Iron and Steel Industry ….” (40)

Harrying the throne had been for some time an approved left wing blood sport in England, and there is no question that it was Fabian-instigated. During the fifties Malcolm Muggeridge, a privileged scion of Fabian Socialism’s first family, specialized in taking potshots at royalty. He was a nephew of the autocratic Beatrice Webb and a former Moscow correspondent. He was also a former editor of Punch and a contributor to the New Statesman as well as more highly paid weeklies in Britain and America. While he denied being a Fabian, he was frequently advertised in Fabian News as a speaker at the Society’s meetings and weekend schools. (41)

In the sixties the Queen and her circle became the target of two sharply critical Fabian tracts.(42) With that intellectual snobbery so characteristic of the Socialist elite, it was asserted that the Court lacked appreciation of the finer things of life. Somehow those attacks on the Establishment culminated in a scheme for “integrating” the historic public schools of England into the State-controlled educational system, at an estimated cost to public funds of 15 million pounds. The project was eagerly seconded by the incoming Labour Party Government and promised high priority on its schedule of things to come.

Britain’s so-called public schools were, of course, private and independently financed boarding schools, where many of the men who contributed to England’s past greatness had received their early training. If it was true, as the Duke of Wellington remarked, that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, a future Red Napoleon should have nothing to fear from coming generations of English schoolboys. What a leading Fabian educator calls the “bad characteristics” of such schools—namely, their “emphasis on leadership and character” (43)—will presumably be eliminated by making them tuition-free and by offering their admittedly superior classroom facilities to “children who have had the least opportunities in life.” (44)

According to John Vaizey of the Fabian Executive and the London School of Economics, entry to the better schools where places are scarce must be distributed on the same principle as food rationing. And he asked significantly, “Is not this the better English tradition?” (45) So despite all predictions of plenty made by Fabian orators in the 1964 election campaign, the principle of rationed scarcity was elevated to the status of an enduring tradition!

Undismayed by the slimness of his parliamentary majority, the Right Honorable Harold Wilson, M.P., Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Vice Chairman of the Socialist International, (46) announced he would proceed without delay to implant full-scale Socialism in Britain—and eventually in the world. If anyone misunderstood him, it really was not Wilson’s fault.

Like his predecessors of the postwar era, Wilson’s initial move was to raise four billion dollars abroad, nominally to strengthen the British pound but, in fact, to finance his government’s elusive schemes for what it termed the “social democratic revolution.” The first billion came from the International Monetary Fund, providentially set up twenty years earlier by Lord Keynes and described by a Socialist International spokesman as being “in essence a Socialist conception.”(47)

The remaining sum was contributed by eleven sympathetically minded governments, chief among them being the United States which proffered a cool billion.

Visiting Washington to confer with the newly elected President Johnson, Wilson solemnly told White House correspondents that the theme of these discussions was”‘interdependence.” What at first blush might have seemed no more than a classic bit of Fabian impudence, was spoken in deadly earnest. For the route of “interdependence,” taken in the literal sense and pursued to its logical conclusion, leads in the end to World Government: a goal to which Harold Wilson and his colleagues are profoundly pledged.

In that centennial year of the Socialist International, a Fabian Socialist clique had assumed control of the Mother of Parliaments, whether briefly or enduringly. The Labour Party Platform, which Fabians drafted and on which they stood, stated clearly: “For us World Government is the final objective. . . .” (48) It was no coincidence that the platform of the Socialist International, approved two years before in Oslo, proclaimed the same objective and designated the United Nations as an interim medium for achieving it. Nor was it purely wishful rhetoric when Socialist International Information declared that the British Labour Party’s victory marked “a renaissance of the power and influence of democratic Socialism throughout the world.”(49) The nineteenth century dream of Socialist World Government, which some called a specter, seemed closer to becoming a reality than ever before.

From the first, the strongest obstacles to fulfillment of that conspirators’ dream had been the two great English-speaking nations. It was to capture those twin citadels of personal liberty and private initiative that the Fabian Socialist movement had originally been founded, seeking to accomplish by patient indirection what quite obviously could not be done by frontal attack. After eighty years, with Britain apparently won, all that remained was to persuade the mightiest of her erstwhile colonies to renounce independence without a struggle. And then ….

What deterred the Fabian tortoise from striking, and striking hard, was the slight matter of a parliamentary majority—and the abiding common sense of the British people. With Churchill lingering on his deathbed, Englishmen were moved somehow to remember their fighting heritage and to ignore the counsels of submission. They may also have been influenced by the fact that in less than one hundred days of the Wilson government, the price of virtually every household article had soared—due in part to the new 15 per cent tax on imports, in part to the weakness of the pound sterling. Capital was in flight, and who could blame it?

Thus when Patrick Gordon Walker stood again for a presumably safe seat in Parliament, for the second time he suffered an inglorious defeat. The Labour Party’s margin in Parliament was by then reduced to three, with four safe Conservative seats yet to be filled. Nine Liberals in the House had already served notice that they would not vote with Labour on the issue of steel nationalization. Unless a miracle occurred, or unless Wilson could manage to sidestep every controversial issue, it looked very much as if he would be forced to call another general election in a matter of weeks—or months.

Meanwhile, Patrick Gordon Walker resigned as Foreign Secretary. The post went to Michael Stewart, recent Secretary of State for Education and Science—another professor, like Wilson and Gordon Walker. Young Anthony Crosland of the Fabian Executive moved up from a lesser spot in the Treasury to be Secretary of State for Education. And for the first time since October there was gloom at 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister no longer whistled as he polished his boots.

In the face of all the portents, however, Wilson was grimly determined to hang on. The appointment of Michael Stewart as Foreign Secretary was further proof that the Prime Minister did not propose to trim his Socialist sails. Though Stewart was described by press correspondents as a relative unknown, this only meant his background was relatively unknown to the public. In Fabian Socialist circles he was very well-known indeed.

Ten years older than Wilson, Michael Stewart began his career as a young Fabian Socialist official in the Royal Household during 1931. Some years later he stood for the House of Commons, becoming a parliamentary secretary in the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951. He and his wife Mary were another of those high-level Fabian husband-and-wife teams, comparable in spirit if not in productivity to the Webbs or the Coles. In 1962-63 Mary Stewart served as chairman of the Fabian Executive; while Michael owed his ideas on foreign affairs to years of service with the Fabian International Bureau and its important directing committee.(50) He was the author of Fabian Tract No. 296, published in 1955 by the International Bureau: Policy and Weapons in the Nuclear Age.(51)

In January, 1958, Michael Stewart approvingly reviewed Professor Blackett’s book, Atomic Weapons and East-West Relations, (52) in which the theory of the “minimum deterrent” was advanced. “It is hard to dispute the main contention,” wrote the future Foreign Secretary in a properly defeatist vein, “that an attempt to keep world peace by staving for a permanent Western superiority in science and technique is bound to fail ….”

Whether or not the Fabian-packed Labour Party Government was able to hang on, Britain’s Fabian Socialist movement would remain a formidable and destructive power in the future as it had proved to be in the past. Its connections and its influence are world-wide; it has demonstrated more than once that it can be as dangerous in defeat as in victory. Following a political failure at home in 1931, it proceeded to develop really effective plans and means for the greatest coup of its history: the penetration and transformation of the United States of America. And with the help of American admirers, Fabians were returned to office some years later in England. The wealth and power of the largely unsuspecting United States is still the Fabian Society’s trump card.

Certainly no tears were detected in official circles in Washington when Wilson’s Labour Party was handily reelected on March 30, 1966, winning a substantial parliamentary majority. This victory empowered Wilson to move forward along Socialist lines as rapidly as he could do so without alienating the Commonwealth countries or embarrassing his American friends. It also seemed to assure Fabian control in Britain for a full five years to come. By the end of that time, who knows? In the words of an old, sad song, “It may be for years, or it may be forever.”


1. “Fabians Old and New,” Fabian News (May, 1958). As an example of that longevity, Fabian News (May, 1960) reported that Percival Chubb, who attended the first meeting of the Fabian Society at 17 Osnaburgh Street, Regent’s Park, on January 4, 1884, died on February 10, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri at the age of 99.

2. Fabian News (May, 1958). “The Chairman and Vice Chairman [of the Society] share a serious interest in the Cinema: Roy Jenkins as a Governor of the British Film Institute, and Eirene White as a member of the Cinematograph Film Council.”

3. An alumnus of Leeds University, David Owen flew from New York to attend the memorial service honoring the late Hugh Gaitskell, M. P., at Westminster Abbey on January 31, 1963. The Times of London (February 1, 1963).

4. Robert Hunter, Revolution, Committee for Constitutional Government (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1940), p. 350.

5. “Shadow Fabians,” Fabian News (November-December, 1959). Cited as Fabians in the Shadow Cabinet were: Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Anthony Greenwood, Tom Fraser, George Brown, Patrick Gordon Walker, G. R. Mitchison, Fred Willey and Denis Healey. Two peers on the Parliamentary Committee, Lord Faringdon and Lord Lucan, were also described as Fabians.

6. Hugh Gaitskell, M P., “Socialism and Nationalisation,” Fabian Tract No. 300 (London, The Fabian Society, 1956).

7. Eirene White, “Noble Lords and Others,” Fabian News (May, 1958). Eirene White, M. P., was named Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Colonies in the Labour Part Government of October, 1964.

8. “Tribute to G. D. H. Cole,” Fabian Journal (April, 1959).

9. Margaret Cole states that in the early years of World War II the Fabian International Bureau, after “receiving de Gaulle at first with caution, then backed him strongly . . . . returning after the Liberation to more strongly expressed doubts of his political intentions. . . .” Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), p. 288.

10. The Times of London (February 1, 1963).

11. Ibid.

12. United Press International dispatch from London (May 19, 1963).

13. From an article signed by Harold Wilson and distributed by North American Newspaper Alliance. It appeared on April 14, 1963, in the San Francisco Chronicle under the headline, “Future British Premier.”

14. Socialist International Information (March 9, 1963), Vol. XII, No. 10. “British Labor Party Proposals for Tax Reform”, by James Callaghan, M. P., British Labor Party Spokesman for Economic and Financial Affairs.

15. Ibid.

16. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.

17. Bevan’s widow, Jennie Lee, M P., a frequent guest speaker over the years before Socialist and left wing labor bodies in the United States, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Buildings and Works in the Wilson Cabinet of October, 1964.

18. Article written by Harold Wilson for the North American Newspaper Alliance (April, 1963).

19. Ibid.

20. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.

21. Harold Wilson, North American Newspaper Alliance (April, 1963).

22. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.

23. Fabian News. General Election Supplement. (December, 1959).

24. Fabian News. (November-December, 1964).

25. R. W. Sorenson, “Obituary: Arthur Creech-Jones,” Venture (London, The Fabian Society, Vol. XIV, No. 12, December, 1964), p. 5.

26. Fabian Society 67th Annual Report. (July, 1949-June, 1950).

27. “Socialist Policy for the underdeveloped Territories. A Declaration of Principles Adopted by the Second Congress of the Socialist International,” Milan 17-21 October, 1951. Yearbook of the International Socialist Labour Movement 1956-1957. Edited by Julius Braunthal, Secretary of the Socialist International. Under the Auspices of the Socialist International and the Asian Socialist Conference (London, Lincolns-Prager, 1957), pp. 47-52.

28. Patrick Gordon Walker, “Foreign Policy in a changing World,” Socialist International Information (July 4, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 14.

29. Official text supplied by British Information Services, References and Library Division, T 48, New York (November 24, 1964).

30. Bolko von Richthofen, “All Out of Step But Healey.” Sudeten Bulletin. A Central European Review. (Munich, December, 1958), Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 266.

31. Denis Healey, “Why Are We Still Fighting Overseas?” Socialist International Information (July 4, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 14.

32. Ibid.

33. “The General Election,” “The Labor Government” Fabian News (November-December, 1964). See Appendix I, pp. xxxix-xli.

34. Ibid. See Appendix I, p. xxxix.

35. Quoted in the National Review Bulletin (January 5, 1965), p. 7.

36. Cf. Fabian Society Annual Reports, 1954-55 through 1961-62. (The five former chairmen were: Prime Minister Harold Wilson, chairman of the Society, 1954-55; Arthur Skeffington, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and National Resources, chairman of the Society, 1956-57; Roy Jenkins, Minister of Aviation, chairman of the Society, 1957-58; Eirene White, Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, chairman of the Society, 1958-59; C. A. R. Crosland, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, chairman of the Society, 1961-62.

37. Ibid., p. 2. Cabinet members formerly on the Fabian Executive were: Harold Wilson, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury; Lord Gardiner, Lord High Chancellor; Patrick Gordon Walker, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Denis Healey, Secretary of Defense; James Griffiths, Secretary of State for Wales; The Earl of Longford, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords; Douglas Houghton, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Education and Science; R. H. S. Crossman, Minister of Housing and Local Government.

38. Cf., Dorothy Day, The Eleventh Virgin (New York, A. & C. Boni, 1924).

39. British Record, Political and Economic Notes Issued by British Information Services. Supplement to British Record No. 19 (December 22, 1964).

40. Text of Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to Both Houses of Parliament (November 3, 1964), British Information Services.

41. Fabian News (April, 1963), reported that Malcolm Muggeridge, son of H. T. Muggeridge, a leading early Fabian, had contributed an article to London’s Sunday Times entitled “Follies of the Fabians.” There he stated that: “the Fabians’ aloof benevolence and sublime certainties have worked on the corrupt minds of demagogic politicians to produce the telly-watching, bingo-playing, hire-purchasing democracy we have today.” Nevertheless, in the same year he also contributed an article of amiable reminiscences about his family to the fiftieth anniversary issue of the New Statesman.

42. John Vaizey, Education in a Class Society. The queen and Her Horses Reign, Fabian Tract No. 342 (London, The Fabian Society, January, 1962).

Howard Glennerster and Richard Pryke, The Public Schools, Young Fabian Pamphlet, No. 7 (London, The Fabian Society, November, 1964).

43. Vaizey, op. cit.

44. Glennerster and Pryke, op. cit.

45. Vaizey, op. cit.

46. Another Vice Chairman of the Socialist International, former Foreign Minister Giuseppe Saragat, was elected President of Italy in December, 1964.

47. Hilary Marquand, “The Theory and Practice of Planning,” Economic Development and Social Change (London, Socialist International Publication, no date–1962 or 1963), p. 28.

48. The New Britain, The Labour Party’s Manifesto for the 1964 General Election. (London, The Labour Party, Transport House, 1964), p. 22.

49. “The Significance of the Labour Party’s Victory,” Socialist International Information (October 24, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 23.

50. Fabian Society 75th Annual Report, 1957-58, p. 20. Under the heading, “Members of Main Committees,” Michael Stewart is listed as a member of the International Bureau Committee. Fabian Society 80th Annual Report, 1962-63, p. 4, announces the election of Mary Stewart as chairman of the Fabian Executive.

51. With Rex Winsbury, a past chairman of the Young Fabian Group, Michael Stewart was also the author in October, 1963 of Fabian Tract No. 350, An Incomes Policy for Labour. Stewart was described as “an economist and prospective parliamentary candidate for Folkestone and Hythe.”

52. “Grim but Enthralling,” Fabian News (January, 1958).

Chapter 7 << | >> Chapter 9

Chapter 7-Trial By Ordeal

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)

Or this:


“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.

Chapter 6 << | >> Chapter 8

Chapter 6-Dirge For An Empire

Chapter 6 of the book Fabian Freeway.

Shortly after the atom bomb burst upon a war-weary world, the Labour Party swept to power in Britain by an overwhelming majority. Both events illustrated vividly the destructive possibilities of long-range research, a type of activity commonly regarded as harmless and benign. Conducted in relays by anonymous teams and applied with explosive effect at a psychological moment, modern Fabian Research more than any other factor assured the comeback of the Labour Party—which had been the third, then the second and was suddenly the first political party in England.

For a number of years prior to that disruptive climax, “research” had been the prime point of Fabian concentration. It flowed from the New Fabian Research Bureau (1) where the rejuvenated leadership and direction of the movement were centered. This source not only supplied a Socialist elite and its allies with tactical guidance on the climb to power, but also produced a series of strategic plans and programs that became the basis for public policy. Thus Fabian Socialists heading the victorious Labour Party in 1945 became the first government leaders in British history to employ privately controlled research as an official weapon for wrecking the economy of the nation and dissolving its far-flung system of Empire.

The process leading to such tragic results began unobtrusively in the summer of 1930. At that time a group of hard-core Socialists, representing many fields of Fabian endeavor, met in rustic privacy as guests of the Socialist Countess of Warwick at Easton Lodge in Essex, the idyllic setting for many a Fabian policy meeting until the spacious old building was finally torn down in 1948. There the cry of peacocks on well-tended lawns mingled with the insistent call of a neighboring cuckoo. Easton Lodge was just next door to East Glebe, country estate of the novelist and errant Fabian, H. G. Wells, where representatives of the Soviet Government were frequently entertained over the years (2) and where Maxim Gorki’s agent and common-law wife, Baroness Boudberg, a mysterious character who wore three wedding rings, was a regular visitor.

Before the house party at Easton Lodge ended, its busy guests had formed a Society for Socialist Inquiry and Propaganda with Ernest Bevin as chairman. The Society was known to its familiars as ZIP— a quality it tried unsuccessfully to instill into the flagging and badly split Labour Party Government of the moment. When that government fell in 1931, ZIP–was transformed into the New Fabian Research Bureau which would plot the future course of Fabian fortunes at home and abroad.

Both organizations were initiated by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, an energetic husband-and-wife team aspiring to the mantle of the superannuated Webbs. Like so many Fabians of the new generation, G. D. H. Cole did not scruple to call himself a Marxist and an atheist. He proclaimed that the main effort of a Socialist government should be “to destroy confidence . . . in the prospect of sustained profits” by removing “the very foundations on which the opportunities for capitalist profit-making rest.” As a tutor at Oxford and the London School of Economics, Cole recruited a number of promising young disciples—one of whom, Hugh Gaitskell, M.P., became Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party as well as a top figure in the Socialist International.

An academic charmer, handsome, petulant and adored by Fabian women who gladly expended themselves in volunteer political work at his request, the alphabetical Cole was less ponderous but also less patient than Sidney Webb. Prolific in print, Cole was credited with having written ninety-one published books before his death in 1959. Some Socialist leaders, including Beatrice Webb, privately regarded his pert wife Margaret as the more able and tenacious member of the family team, and not wholly on the theory that the female of the Fabian species is deadlier than the male. The Cole household could have served as a model for the three-child family, which Fabian social theorists seek to popularize today—and which Professor Richard M. Titmuss, of the University of London faculty, recommends be encouraged by special family allowances in the far-off and primeval island of Mauritius. (3)

According to G. D. H. Cole, the collective leadership of the New Fabian Research Bureau included the most outstanding figures in the Fabian Socialist movement, some already well-known, others marked for future prominence. (4) Its first chairman was Clement Attlee, a member of the Fabian Society since 1909, who succeeded Ramsay MacDonald as Parliamentary Leader of the Labour Party and became Prime Minister of Britain. The vice chairman was C. M. Lloyd of the New Statesman, for the benefit of whose knowledgeable contributors the Bureau often collected material and even ghosted entire articles. G. D. H. Cole was honorary secretary, and his active assistant was young Hugh Gaitskell, whose labor of love for the Bureau was only briefly interrupted when he went to Austria in 1933-34 on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship. Professor Harold Laski and Leonard Woolf, who headed its international committee, joined the Bureau’s Executive the following year.(5)

The New Fabian Research Bureau proved to be another of those mysterious hybrids so dear to Fabian organizers and so difficult for outsiders to fathom. For eight years it led a nominally independent life as an affiliate but not a unit of the Fabian Society. Founded to perpetuate the tradition of Fabian “research” after the old Labour Research Bureau had been conveniently captured by Communists, it was the true repository of Fabian leadership during a period of transition and political reverses in Britain. Its modest offices staffed by pretty young volunteers sheltered a top-level Socialist brain trust seeking immunity from Labour Party discipline.

This arrangement offered continuity and privacy for the general staff of the Fabian Socialist movement, self-designated apostle to the gentiles of the English-speaking world. Subservient neither to the Labour Party nor the Fabian Society itself, the Research Bureau operated as a remote-control unit and planning body for both. Control was maintained through a system of interlocking memberships on the Executives of all three organizations, a system still faithfully copied by Fabian-inspired groups in the United States. Top authority, however, resided in the Research Bureau which issued its Executive-approved directives in the form of personal briefings, as well as custom tailored material for speeches, reports, resolutions, articles and books. For publicists and politicians too busy to do their homework or lacking literary skills, it was a most opportune arrangement. Few were aware how closely the functions of the Research Bureau’s Executive resembled those of a master-control unit like the Soviet Politburo, with which one leading Fabian or another usually maintained cordial relations.

With the blessing of the Webbs, Shaw, Henderson and the rest of the Fabian old guard, the New Fabian Research Bureau was formally launched at a House of Commons dinner on March 2, 1931. Sentimentalists noted that the founders’ group numbered about one hundred persons, approximately the size of the Fabian Society in 18&9 when the first Fabian Essays had been published. Without a qualm, the new Bureau pledged itself not to engage in direct propaganda, nor to take part in political or electoral activities. Subsequently it published pamphlets on such “nonpolitical” and “non-propagandist” topics as How to Win a Labour Majority, Labour Propaganda and Class Favoritism in the Armed Services.

Displaying the usual eagerness of Fabians to forgive past Communist aggression, the first field project sponsored by the new Research Bureau was a study of Soviet Russia, the land of full employment and forced labor by forgotten men. A select investigating team trailed the Webb cortege to Moscow in the summer of 1932. After being led around for six weeks by official guides, the team returned to write Twelve Studies in Soviet Russia. Like the Webbs’ book it included a lyric account of “Soviet justice,” evidently derived from similar official sources. As for the famine in the Ukraine, the team’s agricultural “expert,” John Morgan, perceived that dietary conditions on collective farms in the South left something to be desired; but he did not ascribe them to bad weather.(6)

One and all were uplifted at discovering among the Soviets “that sense of collective purpose and planning so notably lacking in England and the United States in 1932.” (7) A less publicized effect of the trip was to establish channels of communication between the Socialist Fatherland and the new Fabian leadership. Informed circles in Britain also aver that in the course of this visit arrangements were made for the return of the old Fabian-Labour Research Bureau files, purloined by the Soviet agent Rajani Palme Dutt and containing names, records and statistical data of special value to Socialists.

By 1934 the Fabian Society had turned over all its research activities and most of its propaganda work to the New Fabian Research Bureau. With the “nonpolitical” help of the Bureau, a number of Fabian intellectuals won parliamentary seats in the 1935 elections. That year the Labour Party formally renounced the slogan, “No Arms for a Tory Government,” but as a matter of practical politics the Party’s spokesmen and allies still contrived to delay every effort by patriotic Britons to rearm their country swiftly in the face of Hitler’s mounting military might. How much the Labour Party politicking and Fabian-fabricated propaganda in educational, trade union and social circles weakened the position of British diplomats and speeded the drift to war is a chapter Fabian historians prefer to pass over lightly. Those pacifist intrigues were calculated to transcend party lines and to enlist confused individuals at all levels of society.

Most people today have forgotten that Sir Oswald Mosley and his wife, the former Cynthia Curzon, were ardent Fabian Socialists in the nineteen-twenties and early nineteen-thirties. A wing of the Society shared their misplaced admiration for Hitler, who also called himself a Socialist. Even George Bernard Shaw—more intimately informed than some on Soviet trends, and possibly anticipating the Nazi-Soviet Pact—uttered warm words in favor of the former Austrian house painter. In the years leading up to World War II the Mosley faction, due in part to Sir Oswald’s elegant antecedents, succeeded in permeating certain upper-class circles and inducing them to oppose arms appropriations by Parliament.

As leader of a neo-Fascist Party in Britain today—a noise-making fringe organization which gives no evidence of mass support—Sir Oswald still appears to serve Fabian ends by indirection. His frequent rowdy weekend demonstrations tend to alarm moderate elements among British voters and give Socialists an- opportunity to picture themselves as the desirable happy medium between a largely fictitious right-extremism and a very real left-extremism that Fabians at no time have seriously opposed.

With the announcement of the Munich Pact, dictated as much by Britain’s military weakness as by the visible strength of the Nazi war machine, it became obvious to almost everyone that a general European war was imminent. Though Fabians have invariably depicted themselves as the world’s greatest peace lovers, their political philosophy obliged them to welcome the coming cataclysm as a priceless opportunity for Socialist expansion. Here was the long-awaited conflict which ( as Karl Marx had foretold, and as every Socialist devoutly hoped) would at last destroy the capitalist system and lead straight to social revolution in even the most persistently capitalist countries! In a mood of preparedness which they had notably failed to display in their country’s defense, Britain’s Fabian Socialists closed ranks and regrouped their forces in expectation of a postwar takeover.

After some preliminary palaver, the New Fabian Research Bureau and the Fabian Society agreed in 1938 to amalgamate, thus making a long-standing liaison official. The fifty-five year old Basis was scrapped in favor of a new constitution with more modern phrasing but identical aims, which remains the present constitution of the Society. After announcing as usual that “The Fabian Society consists of Socialists, “ the revised document stated:

“It therefore aims at the establishment of a society in which . . . the economic power of individuals and classes (shall be) abolished through the collective ownership and democratic control of the economic resources of the community. It seeks to secure these ends by the methods of political democracy.”

The new constitution also specified:

“The [Fabian] Society shall be affiliated to the Labour Party. Its activities shall be the furtherance of Socialism and the education of the public along socialist lines by the holding of meetings, lectures, discussion groups, conferences and summer schools; the promotion of research into political, economic and social problems, national and international; the publication of books, pamphlets and periodicals; and by any other appropriate means.” (9)

In self-defense, the rules of the modernized Society included the same “self-denying ordinance” adopted by the Research Bureau. No resolution of a political nature, taking a stand or calling for action, was to be issued in the name of the Society. Delegates to the Labour Party and other conferences were to be nominally uninstructed. Thus the Fabian Society retained freedom from Labour Party discipline, while its informally coached members could exert their influence separately or in concert within the Labour Party and other outside organizations.

The Research Bureau still remained supreme, being authorized to name nine members to the joint Executive “by co-option,” that is, without the formality of election by the Society’s general membership—a strange example of political democracy at work. It continued, as before, to transmit Executive-approved material to allegedly “independent” persons and organizations that might or might not be known as Socialist: a classic subterfuge reminiscent of that old master of the political black arts, Sidney Webb.

Though the total listed membership of the Fabian Society then numbered fewer than two thousand, every one was a hard-core Socialist, frequently boasting a personal following and a well-established reputation in the political, labor, education or communication fields. As a symbol of the Society’s longevity, the elderly Beatrice Webb was invited to serve as first president of the reconstituted body. Despite the rigged Moscow treason trials and blood-purges, the Nazi-Soviet Pact that triggered World War II, the rape of Finland, the seizure of Poland and the Baltic States, the old lady’s devotion to the Soviet Fatherland never wavered.

Other Fabians, who sometimes found such vagaries hard to explain, were almost indecently prompt in condoning them when the Nazis invaded Russia in June, 1941, and the Soviet Union became a wartime Ally of Britain. While Winston Churchill remarked wryly, “If the devil declared war on Hitler, I should feel obliged to mention him favorably in the House of Commons,” members of the Fabian Society took a more cordial view. Communist treachery and brutalities were forgotten in their delight at feeling together again. (10) Hastily the Research Bureau assembled a volume of essays entitled Our Soviet Ally and issued a best-seller pamphlet. Fabian lecturers, following the example of Victor Gollancz, stirred intellectual and trade union audiences by telling them that as allies of the “noble Socialist State” it now became their duty to achieve Socialism in Britain as rapidly as possible!

“Leave the conduct of the war to the Tory politicians, and prepare yourselves to take over at war’s end,” Fabian insiders were coolly instructed. Obviously, the advice was not meant to deter Fabian stalwarts from securing the best available civilian openings for themselves in the wartime Ministries and Civil Service; it rather urged them to utilize such positions for advancing postwar aims, as formulated by the Society’s War Aims Research Committee.

With the fall of the Chamberlain government in 1940, four veteran Fabians had already been named to the War Cabinet—Clement Attlee, Hugh Dalton, Arthur Greenwood (11) and Herbert Morrison. Four junior Ministers were Fabians, and more than a dozen others served as parliamentary private secretaries. As wartime Ambassador to Moscow, Beatrice Webb’s favorite nephew, Sir Stafford Cripps, labored to ensure the survival of the Socialist Fatherland. Cold-shouldered in public by the Russians, he continued to treat them with loving kindness.

While the war lasted, Fabians of Cabinet rank were obliged to render lip service to the War Government, which they did in a bland and superficially correct manner. At the same time, they were able to open many official doors to Fabians of secondary rank, who pursued their Socialist objectives freely. Various members of the Society, including Hugh Gaitskell and E. F. M. Durbin, climbed happily in the wartime Civil Service; while other Fabian Socialist nominees were planted in key spots on special commissions and investigative bodies. Sir William Beveridge, a protégé of the Webbs for over thirty years, bluntly asked Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, to put him in charge of a manpower survey for the United Kingdom, including colonial manpower. When his request was granted in 1940, the liberal Sir William quickly enlisted the services of G. D. H. Cole and a whole crew of Fabian researchers, who familiarized themselves at first hand with a wealth of current data relating to the working-class electorate.

In 1940, while the rest of the country was mourning the disaster at Dunkirk, the fertile planners of the Fabian War Aims Research Committee spawned a sinister offshoot—their own private Colonial Bureau! It was set up to deal directly with the colonial territories, then becoming increasingly involved in the war. Under cover of war’s confusion and Great Britain’s desperate need for support, this conspiratorial Bureau devoted itself to fostering nationalist movements in colonial areas—chiefly, but not exclusively, British. The Fabian Colonial Bureau (since renamed the Fabian Commonwealth Bureau) was established in October, 1940, as a separate section of the Society, with the globe-trotting Arthur Creech-Jones as chairman and Rita Hinden, Ph.D., as permanent secretary.

Although questions relating to India and Palestine were still routed to the Fabian Society’s Executive, the rest of the colonial world was the Bureau’s oyster and Africa its particular pearl. The first research pamphlet published by the Fabian Colonial Bureau, Labour and the Colonies, gave a Socialist twist to material obtained from the manpower survey. Its first book-length offering was Rita Hinden’s Plan for Africa; and it printed at least one pamphlet, America’s Colonial Record, by John Collier who headed the United States Government’s (American) Indian Bureau under Harold Ickes!

Flagrantly anti-imperialist, the Fabian Colonial Bureau fanned the sparks of discontent by publicizing every controversial aspect of British colonial rule—through parliamentary questions, briefing of M.P.’s for debate, letters to the press and a monthly journal, Empire. (12) During the war and after, it maintained personal contacts with a network of chosen native politicians, many already versed in Socialist doctrines derived from Fabian professors at English universities—including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Tom Mboya, Secretary of Kenya’s KANU Party and Jomo Kenyatta,(13) leader of postwar Mau Mau atrocities in Kenya. While Great Britain battled for survival against the most efficient war machine in history, this strictly unauthorized, private Bureau had the hardihood to draft postwar plans for separating the colonies from the mother country, according to a gradualist Fabian timetable.

When a Labour Party Government was acclaimed in 1945, the chairman of the Fabian Colonial Bureau, Arthur Creech-Jones, was promptly posted to the Government’s Colonial Bureau—first as Assistant Secretary for the Colonies, then as Secretary. There he was at liberty to translate Socialist programs, privately concocted by Fabian researchers, into official action by the British Government. In a remarkably short time one jewel after another was plucked from the Imperial Crown, sometimes to the accompaniment of native turmoil and bloodshed—India first, then a succession of territories step by step. What the various colonial demands for independence, presented by a handful of highly articulate native leaders skilled at arousing the primitive masses, owed to Fabian tutelage and prodding is a question that still merits research. Certainly Great Britain’s postwar decision to divest herself progressively of her colonies (as the Fabian News proudly proclaimed) “owes more than can yet be properly assessed to painstaking Fabian work which permeated, in true Fabian tradition, the thinking, not only of the Labour Movement, but gradually of wider circles as well.” (14)

With the creation of the Fabian International Bureau in December, 1941, the structure of the mid-century Fabian Society was complete. Nominally, the International Bureau was organized as a secretariat and clearing house for Socialists in exile, who had found asylum in wartime London and dreamed of heading postwar governments in their homelands after liberation. Actually, it became the directing force of the Socialist International in which German Social Democrats had once played the leading role. Due to its interest in the political aspects of the various liberation movements and its connections with underground groups in the occupied countries, the Fabian International Bureau operated from the start under rules of extreme secrecy. No membership lists or details of its activities were ever published, although the names of its officers and Advisory Committee were always public property.

The first chairman of the International Bureau, which like the Colonial Bureau operated as a separate section of the Society with its own membership lists and affiliates, was Philip Noel-Baker, M.P.—a future Nobel peace prize winner like Dr. Martin Luther King and a Minister in the 1945-51 Labour Governments. This particular Bureau combined underground work with research in international matters; ran a lecture bureau that scheduled propaganda tours for selected publicists; and drafted plans for Britain’s postwar foreign policy, which it proposed to dovetail with an international Socialist policy in foreign affairs. Failing to take into account factors of power-politics, the Fabian International Bureau looked forward starry-eyed to an era of mutual trust and reciprocity between the Soviet Union and Britain after the war. For the United States, the Bureau advocated the scheme of Federal Union with Britain as a prelude to Socialist World Government—a Fabian doctrine promoted even before America entered the war by R. W. G. Mackay, member of the International Bureau’s first Advisory Committee, together with the well-known Anglo-American publicist, Clarence K. Streit.


The Labour Party’s return to power at war’s end was virtually assured three years earlier, as the result of a shrewdly planned and carefully stage-managed propaganda coup that bypassed the political truce which all parties in Britain had pledged themselves to respect during the war. On December 9, 1941, just two days after Pearl Harbor, t~ very social-minded Sir William Beveridge celebrated the ending of his War Manpower Committee with a cocktail party—”the high point,” as he remarked frivolously, “of a day which included a thirty-five minute personal interview with H. M. the King.” (15) On December 11, he submitted a basic memorandum to the Government regarding the cause and cure of poverty. Within a month, at the instigation of two Fabian Cabinet Ministers, Arthur Greenwood and Ernest Bevin, Sir William was appointed a one-man committee to report on the possibilities of ending poverty through a system of State-financed social insurance.

Since his youth, Fabian patronage had molded the career of Sir William (later Lord) Beveridge. Back in 1909, when Fabians were busily penetrating the Liberal Party, Sidney and Beatrice Webb had recommended “the boy Beveridge” to Winston Churchill, himself an active Liberal at the time. Ten years later Beveridge was the Webbs’ chosen candidate for director of their beloved London School of Economics. Before assuming that position, which he held from 1919 to 1937, Sir William recalls that Sidney Webb was the only trustee with whom he conferred. In 1923 Beveridge received a postcard from Graham Wallas—one of the original Big Four of the Fabian Society— informing him that Beardsley Ruml, a director of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund, was en route to England and would make a special trip to Liverpool to confer with him. As a result of that meeting and the contacts ensuing from it, Sir William eventually extracted some millions of dollars from private foundations in the United States to endow chairs in the social sciences, as well as to erect the new buildings in Bloomsbury now occupied by the leftist school.

Sir William was something of a social lion in his later years. His Olympian dignity, conversational gifts and talent for moving in high society made him a priceless tool of Fabian permeation on both sides of the Atlantic. Always one of Beatrice Webb’s “obedient young men,” his reputation for profundity was assured by a succession of Fabian researchers and ghostwriters—who at one time included Harold Wilson, M.P. (16) Through the agency of this synthetic but imposing personage, the Fabian turtle struck—and struck hard enough to assure the political defeat three years later of the noblest Briton of them all, Sir Winston-Churchill!

Early in the war, a subcommittee of the Fabian Society had prepared a volume of essays on Social Security, edited by W. A. Robson of New Fabian Research but not published until 1943. All the material contained in those essays was presented to Beveridge in the form of “collective evidence” when the authors “testified” before Sir William and a group of interdepartmental employees called in for appearance’s sake to “assist” him. Such testimony formed the basis for a report signed and submitted by Sir William alone—”one man disguised as a Committee,” he noted gleefully, a situation without precedent in British Government circles. (17) Published in December, 1942, the widely-touted Beveridge Report had repercussions which in the opinion of Sir William and his friends quite eclipsed the painful war news of the day from North Africa.

In his effort to muster the virtually unarmed British people for the battles and sacrifices ahead, all that Winston Churchill had honestly been able to promise was blood, toil, tears and sweat. Unless and until the war was won, there was no security on earth; and in December, 1942, the outcome of the war was still problematical. Yet here was Sir William Beveridge offering everyone paradise unlimited, as if victory were already assured. He announced that poverty could and should be abolished through a species of State-administered insurance extending from the womb to the tomb. To a bomb-shattered, blitz-shocked nation and to the anxious troops overseas, his message was enticing. That was precisely what the Fabians, with their cynical grasp of mass psychology, had planned.

If the Beveridge Report had been shelved until after the war, as at first seemed likely, it might have caused little commotion. Fabian Socialists had no intention, however, of allowing their master stroke to be quietly deflected. Somehow, word of the Report’s “exciting” contents was leaked in advance to news correspondents, not by Sir William in person, but by a “friendly Embassy” to which he had submitted a preliminary draft. It was the friendly American Embassy, headed by John G. Winant—whose appointment as an “ideal Ambassador” to the Court of St. James had been suggested to President Roosevelt by the arch-Fabian, Harold Laski. (18) For several weeks following the news leak, Sir William was in disgrace and ignored by his government.

All at once, Beveridge was summoned to a press conference at which the Minister of Information, Brendan Bracken, presided. The same evening he was invited to discuss his report over a world-wide British Broadcasting Company hook up that reached the fighting troops abroad. Brendan Bracken, who had served as Winston Churchill’s private secretary, did not act in this instance without authorization. Pressure had been exerted by highly placed “friends” in America to insure the widest possible publicity for the Beveridge Report—pressure which Prime Minister Churchill, as a suppliant for United States war aid, was in no position to resist and to which he yielded without comment.

As Sir William himself confided, in a memoir modestly entitled Power and Influence: “My friend Mrs. Eugene Meyer of the Washington Post, when at last I did manage to get a copy to her by the Embassy bag, cabled to me on December 9 that the effect over there was electrifying. Professor A. D. Lindsay, just returned from a visit to America, wrote me on December 24 that he had found universal interest in the report all over the United States, and that President Roosevelt had talked of getting it made into a congressional document and having a million copies distributed. Though this did not happen, the British Government [sic] arranged with Macmillan”s in New York for an American edition to be printed at top speed and netted $5,000 for the [British] Treasury.”(19)

In Britain, the public boom of the report was fantastic—partly due to skillful briefing of the press, partly because the report itself played so shamelessly on the deep-rooted hopes and fears of ordinary Englishmen. Lord Pakenham, the Fabian peer and absentee Irish landlord who served as Sir William’s aide, admits to having been “extremely active” in his contacts with the newspaper world. Describing the effect of those news stones on the British housewife, His Lordship tells how, early in the morning after the Beveridge Report was made public, he stopped at a newspaper shop to see the headlines he had helped to plant. (20)

“Papers?” said the old lady in charge. “You don’t think I’ve got any left. It’s that Sir William Beveridge!”

“What’s he done now?” asked Lord Pakenham, pretending innocence as usual.

“It’s what he’s going to do!” answered the poor old lady. “He’s going to abolish want!”

In retrospect the whole performance seems a cruel farce, perpetrated for the shabbiest reasons of political advantage on a hungry and hopeful nation at war. Within a few weeks Sir William was the best-known character in England, more conspicuous for the moment than Sir Winston Churchill himself. A Gallup Poll showed that nineteen of every twenty adults in Britain had heard of his report, and the average Briton was dazzled by that picture of a bright, new world. Such results were not casually achieved. Lord Pakenham confesses that he alone made 250 speeches to help sell the Beveridge Report to the public; and other Fabian propagandists swung simultaneously into action throughout the land.

Shortly after its publication, the National Council of Labour (representing all trade unions), the Cooperative Union and the Labour Party unanimously approved the report, and called on the Government to introduce the necessary legislation for an overall program of cradle-to-grave “security”—literally, an impossibility in time of war or peace! Generously, the Fabian Society loaned its research secretary, Joan Clarke, to the Labour Party to aid in organizing a nationwide Social Security League and in keeping the issue alive among the voters. Whenever the agitation seemed in danger of subsiding, Fabian Members of Parliament on the Labour benches revived it by needling the War Government for an official statement of postwar intentions, and by demanding proof that government leaders could be “trusted” in that regard. Socialism was never mentioned—only social benefits. Most Englishmen were unaware that the blessings so freely promised must be paid for in time, not merely out of earnings but at the price of total dependence on a bureaucratic State.

On February 3, 1945, Arthur Creech-Jones, M.P., member of the Executive of the British Labour Party and chairman of the Fabian Colonial Bureau, addressed the 40th Anniversary dinner event of the League for Industrial Democracy at the Hotel Astor in New York City. There he announced brazenly: “We anticipate before long that our movement will be in power …. We believe that the time will not be very far after making of peace in Europe …. The movement is preparing for this great opportunity.” (21)

Before the year ended, his prediction had become a reality. To the astonishment of most of the world, the British people renounced their wartime leader, Winston Churchill. Instead, they voted into office a Labour Party government dominated by a secret society of Fabian Socialist intellectuals who were pledged to dissolve the Empire and the economic structure sustaining it. Only the Fabians and their friends showed no surprise. That little band of prophets knew in advance what the election returns would be. Through a combination of long-term “research,” a coldly calculated appeal to mass psychology and a deep-dyed duplicity, Socialism had achieved full power in Britain by “constitutional” means. While congratulating themselves on exploiting the methods of political democracy, Englishmen overlooked the fact that only a few years earlier the late Adolf Hitler’s party had been elected no less legally and democratically—and with equally firm intentions of subverting the constitution that made possible its rise to power.

So Britannia won the war and abandoned her symbol of victory. In doing so, she moved to release colonies which promptly developed into pensioners instead of assets—and of which many have since signed separate trade and “technical aid” treaties with Soviet Russia or its satellites. At the same time, Britons voted themselves quite cheerfully into Socialist bondage at home, transposing the major strains of “Rule Britannia” into a plaintive minor key. What had once been a stirring victory march became, for the time being, a dirge. So Britons never, never, never shall be slaves? Never? Well, hardly ever!


1. “Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue.” C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, The Macmillan Co., 1960), 1960 ed., p. 146, Letter XXIX.

2. Kingsley Martin, Harold Laski: A Biographical Memoir (New York, The Viking Press, Inc., 1953), pp. 52-53.

3. Richard M. Titmuss and Brian Abel-Smith assisted by Tony Lynes, Social Policies and Population Growth in Mauritius. A report to the Governor of Mauritius. (London, Methuen & Co., Ltd., no date).

4. G. D. H. Cole, “Remembering the New Fabian Research Bureau,” Fabian Journal, No. 19 (July, 1956), pp. 2-5 (Newsletter).

5. Ibid.

6. As late as 1946, Margaret Cole stated cold-bloodedly: “It was not until after the experiences of the winter of 1932-33 that the Soviet collective farming really got on its feet.” Margaret Cole, Beatrice Webb, (New York, Harcourt Brace, 19460, p. 195.

7. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), pp. 228-229.

9. As a condition for full membership, the Fabian Society required that applicants be eligible for membership in the Labour Party. Associate memberships in the Society were provided for “members of other radical parties,” including the Communist Party.

10. Cole, op. cit., p. 270.

11. Arthur Greenwood’s son, Anthony Greenwood, M.P., became the Fabian Socialist Secretary of State for Colonies in the Labour Party Government of October, 1964.

12. “The Fabian Commonwealth Bureau,” Fabian News (April, 1958).

13. Nkrumah and Kenyatta also studied in Moscow.

14. “The Fabian Commonwealth Bureau,” Fabian News (April, 1958).

15. Lord Beveridge, Power and Influence (New York, The Beechhurst Press, Inc., 1955), pp. 306ff.

16. Beveridge, op. cit., p. 260.

17. Ibid., pp. 317-318.

18. Letter from Harold Laski to Felix Frankfurter, quoted by Kingsley Martin, op. cit., p. 139.

19. Beveridge, op. cit., p. 320.

20. Lord Pakenham, Born to Believe, An Autobiography (London, Jonathan Cape, 1953), pp. 125ff.

21. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 31.

Chapter 5 << | >> Chapter 7

Chapter 5-Sedition Between Two Wars

Chapter 5 of the book Fabian Freeway.

In 1918 a revitalized Labour Party marched to the polls in the “khaki election” and was spankingly defeated in a first test of strength. Confidently it plugged organizational loopholes and intensified its propaganda in labor and Liberal as well as university circles, where Fabian groups were transformed into “Labour Clubs.” Following the initial defeat, Sidney Webb in 1919 openly took charge of affairs as head of the Labour Party Executive, which sent him to Parliament in 1920 and 1922.

One of the industrious minor characters who went to the House of Commons with Webb was Harry Snell, offspring of agricultural laborers. Long a member of both the Fabian and Labour Party Executives, he had represented the Society many years before on the board of the London School of Economics. Besides being a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist, Snell was also a prime mover in American as well as British Ethical Culture Societies of the day, having long since abandoned the Protestant faith of his boyhood. His biography in Who’s Who contains the grim notation: “Recreations: None.”

Suddenly in January, 1924, to the surprise of almost everyone, the Labour Party was called to power as the better half of a Labour-Liberal coalition. The circumstances were peculiar and have never been satisfactorily explained. As against 258 Conservatives sent to Parliament, there were 191 Labourites and 158 Liberals. Over the protests of Lloyd George, the old war-horse, the Liberal Party chose to throw its votes to Labour instead of to the Conservatives. Some interpreted this move as an expedient on the part of the Liberals to rid themselves of Lloyd George. Others like Lord Grey, the former Foreign Minister who had seen the lamps go out in 1914, described it as a well-calculated risk.

Years of Fabian penetration and permeation of Liberal circles, including the long, close friendship of George Bernard Shaw with the Liberal Party leader, Lord Asquith, may also help to explain this curious domestic application of the balance-of-power theory, that is, throwing one’s weight behind the second strongest power. The volatile Lady Asquith, as well as Lord Lothian, accompanied Shaw in 1931 on his triumphal trek to Moscow; and in Shaw’s final years as a nonagenarian, the ever-loyal Margot Asquith was among the few surviving intimates who visited and cared for him.

The decision to back the Labour Party in 1924 proved suicidal for British Liberals of the day, recalling those gifted patricians of Imperial Rome who at the most unexpected moments chose to open their veins and watch their lifeblood ebb away. From its self-inflicted death-blow the Liberal Party has not yet recovered, growing more and more feeble until by 1945 it could muster only twelve seats in Parliament and no more than six in 1959.(1) Following World War I the Labour Party under Socialist tutelage usurped the Liberals’ reformist role, and thereafter every social reform introduced by the Fabian-steered Labour Party was carefully contrived to weaken one sector or another of the national economy.

Ramsay MacDonald, an ex-Fabian surrounded by Fabian advisers, became the first “Labour” Prime Minister in England’s history. His twenty-five man Cabinet contained at least five “old” Fabians of the London Society, and there were many more in lesser posts. Sir Sydney Olivier became Secretary of State for India. Sidney Webb—who with Beatrice had recently published a long essay entitled, The Decay of Capitalist Civilization, in which they declared that Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes had “called the moral bluff of Capitalism” (2)–became, of all things, President of the Board of Trade!

Climax to years of Socialist effort and scheming, the new administration proved premature and short-lived. MacDonald’s first go-round at 10 Downing Street lasted less than a year, owing largely to an indiscretion on the part of his supposed Soviet friends. By October his government had crashed spectacularly, in an atmosphere of popular excitement and fear, stirred by publication of the Zinoviev “Red Letter.”

So many shock waves have assailed the world’s nerves since then that people have almost forgotten the impact of the notorious Red Letter found in a Secret Service raid on the offices of Arcos, the Soviet Trade Bureau in London. Apparently the Zinoviev Letter was a directive from the Third International in Moscow, advising British Communists how to seize power from the “weak” government of MacDonald. Their coup was to be effected by disarmament and corrupting the allegiance of British military forces, as well as by arming the workingmen in key areas. Action was to be taken when the MacDonald-sponsored trade treaties with Russia were signed, possibly because Soviet merchant vessels could then more readily transport munitions for an insurrection.

Promptly denounced as a forgery by Communists, the Red Letter was considered genuine by the British public and by MacDonald himself, whose Foreign Office penned a protest to Rakovsky, the unofficial Soviet representative in London. Few Englishmen believed the time-honored British Secret Service to be guilty either of committing or abetting a public forgery. Although the contents of the Letter appeared fantastic, only the year before Germany had narrowly escaped a Moscow-planned Communist revolution—called off at the eleventh hour everywhere but in Hamburg, where the stop order arrived too later Events of 1923 in Germany supplied a pretext for the emergence of Adolf Hitler, who staged his first National Socialist demonstration that year in Munich. In Great Britain, publication of the ill-fated Zinoviev Letter merely insured the electoral defeat of Ramsay MacDonald, whose subsequent attitude towards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics appeared to be no less compounded of “love and pity” than before.

The consensus of sober opinion is that publication of the Red Letter just three days before the election was purposefully timed by Opposition elements in the Civil Service; but that the document itself was authentic. The Fabian historian, C. Delisle Burns, asserted it was and said the Secret Service furnished a copy. (3) The former Fabian solicitor, Henry Slesser, confirmed this view. (4) George Bernard Shaw himself accepted the missive at face value, for in December, 1924, he published an open letter simultaneously in the Labourite Daily Herald of London and Izvestia of Moscow, informing the Russian comrades that British Socialists were quite capable of handling their own show and would appreciate not being embarrassed in future.

Shaw asked the Soviet Government “to tell Mr. Zinoviev plainly that he must choose definitely between serious statesmanship and cinematographic schoolboy nonsense if the Soviet Government is to be responsible for his proceedings, which will otherwise make Mr. Rakovsky’s position here almost impossible.” And he added, “From the point of view of English Socialists, the members of the Third International do not know even the beginnings of their business as Socialists.” Plain language from an old revolutionary to his fellows, and the fact that it was printed verbatim in the official newspaper Izvestia suggests that Shaw was already persona grata in the very highest circles in Moscow. Zinoviev at a later date paid with his life for this and other miscalculations.

The same puzzling ambivalence—a combination of love and occasional hatred which psychologists assert is characteristic of all true affairs of the heart—marked the attitude of Fabian Socialists towards Moscow throughout the nineteen-twenties and thirties, and exists today. Following the Russian Revolution, a wing of British industrial labor pressed increasingly for “Socialism Now,” threatening to upset the somewhat more gradual program envisioned by Webb.

Soviet agents were active and hospitably received in Labour as well as Fabian circles. One of the more conspicuous was Rajani Palme Dutt, a half-caste of mixed East Indian and Scandinavian parentage, who after perfecting his dialectic in Moscow worked from 1923 to 1926 with Fabians G. D. H. and Margaret Cole in the Labour Research Bureau, formerly the Fabian Research Department. The Bureau printed a monthly circular, a kind of leftist Ministry of Labour Gazette, intended to furnish factual ammunition for Socialists in their day-to-day political battles. Eventually Dutt ousted his Fabian hosts at which point Communists brazenly took over the Labour Research Bureau. Rajani Palme Dutt became editor of the Communist Labour Monthly and was listed in 1962 as vice president of the Communist Party of Britain; yet former Fabian colleagues refer to him without rancor as “that cuckoo in the Fabian nest.”

The General Strike of 1926 was touched off at Communist instigation by direct actionists in the Trades Union Council. (5) Once more Fabians yielded easily to pressure from the catastrophic Left. This revolutionary strike, which Fabians had not provoked but found it necessary to support, placed them in the same situation as a citizen of the French Revolution who was once seen racing down a Paris street in the wake of a milling crowd. When asked where he was going, he replied breathlessly, “I am their leader—I must follow them!”

During the strike emergency the Fabian-edited Daily Herald, then being run by one William Mellor ( an erstwhile nonconformist preacher), published the official strike newspaper, the Workers’ Gazette. Other Fabian publicists tried painfully to justify the very doubtful legality of a revolutionary general strike. When Cardinal Bourne, the Roman Catholic primate of England, expressed the view that the General Strike was unconstitutional and violated the Trade Union Act of 1906, he was publicly rebuked by Socialist Members of Parliament led by the nominally Catholic Fabian, John Scurr.

With the collapse of the strike movement, the emphasis shifted once more to politics, and there Fabians were in their element. Working-class groups, discouraged by the failure of direct action, and middle-class liberals, alarmed at what had seemed to be the first hot breath of revolution, turned to the Labour Party for salvation. Forgetting the debacle of 1924, the electorate was even prepared to approve the Labour Party’s Soviet-oriented foreign policy that still promised to provide full employment at home. In a few short years the Fabian Socialist tail was again in position to wag the trade-union dog.

By the summer of 1929 the Labour Party returned to power with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, though still something less than a majority. Forty-seven seats were won by Fabians, of the forty-nine Fabians who ran. (6) Among them were such clever and ambitious younger men as Hugh Dalton, Herbert Morrison and Sir Stafford Cripps, a nephew of Beatrice Webb, who was to serve as president of the Fabian Society from 1950 to 1952.

The Fabian News for July, 1929, reported eight Fabians in the Cabinet and eleven Fabian Under Secretaries in the Government. Eleven out of seventeen new Labour peers, created to block possible veto of Labour Party measures in the Upper House, were veteran members of the London Fabian Society. They included the solemn Lord Henry Snell who was assistant to a delighted Sidney Webb, by then Lord Passfield, at the Colonial Office. That year also saw the publication of Fabian Tract No. 230, entitled Imperial Trusteeship. Signed by Lord Sydney Olivier, who had served in the West Indies and India, it advocated release of the colonies to independent native governments under Socialist tutelage and looked forward to eventual Socialist world control of raw materials. Owing to a relatively brief term in office, however, the Labour Party was compelled to postpone dismemberment of the Empire until a later date.

A feature of the 1929 elections was the part played for the first time by British women. Some seven hundred thousand new women voters joined the Labour Party, lured by the promise of jobs for their men and by various social benefits to be bestowed free of charge—except, of course,-for the eventual tax bill which was not mentioned. The Labour Party had been late in announcing support for women’s suffrage, even though a number of early suffragists like Inez Milholland and Annie Besant had been Fabians; yet it managed somehow to reap the benefits of the Liberal Party’s record in that field, as it did on the freedom-for-Ireland issue.

Among the first three Labour women to be elected to Parliament was the redoubtable A. Susan Lawrence, who had just written a novel, Clash, purporting to tell the inside story of the General Strike. Like her friend Ellen Wilkinson, later head of Preparatory Commission for UNESCO, “our Susan” was typical of those Fabian lady politicos with iron in their souls and a bright red bee in their bonnets, to whom secular Marxism was a substitute for religious profession. For thirty-three years of her life she sat on the Executive of the London Fabian Society. Long a member of the Labour Party Executive and active in garnering the women’s vote, she served as its chairman in 1930, gazing absently through her lorgnette at unruly males as in her youth she had disconcerted her professors at Newnham College. To a colleague Susan remarked significantly, ‘I don’t preach the Class War, I live it.” (7)

The common philosophical basis of Socialism and Communism was more evident to observers in 1929 and succeeding years than it had been before. All that distinguished many a Fabian Socialist from the local Communist gentry was the lack of a Communist party card and a preference for indirect over direct action. If a few like Ellen Wilkinson in 1929 (8) or Ivor Montague in 1941 (9) admitted to carrying the Communist party card as well, this was held to be their privilege, and an understanding Fabian Executive did not reprimand them.

Arthur Henderson, the Fabian politician, stage-managed the Labour Party’s return engagement of 1929. In the process he angled for Communist votes and placated the British Communist Party leader Harry Pollitt, who demanded “Socialism in every sentence” of the program. Henderson came to the Foreign Office pledged to European disarmament and recognition of Soviet Russia, as outlined in the Geneva protocol written by Fabian Socialist R. H. Tawney. Sharply reduced appropriations for the British armed services (shades of the Zinoviev Letter!) were advocated in 1928-29 as a means of paying for State-financed social welfare benefits, and a strange new type of internationalism that demanded “the sacrifice of national self-interest” was propounded.

For many months prior to becoming Foreign Minister the sonorous voiced Henderson, with other traveling Fabians, had been active in rebuilding the Socialist International—which, despite Ramsay MacDonald’s verbal sparring matches with the “giants of the Communist International, Radek and Bukharin,” displayed unwavering loyalty towards the Soviet Union in practical matters of trade and diplomacy. Even the Soviet Union’s wholesale dumping of commodities was defended by Sidney Webb, who described it as being “no more than the competition of cheaper commodities.”

Britain’s second Labour Government, like the first, was undone by its own contradictions. Caught in the grip of a world-wide depression, its Socialist leaders moved to cut the dole and raise taxes on the poor as well as the rich. Ramsay MacDonald resigned in 1931 only to join over his Party’s protest, a new disaster coalition composed of unfrocked Labourites, Conservatives and Liberals.

The Monarch who at Conservative Leader Stanley Baldwin’s request formally invited MacDonald to return to the Government—although his former party had just been definitely whipped at the polls—was denounced by the Left Wing for “interference.” For the first but by no means the last time, Fabian Socialists like Professor Harold Laski attacked the throne as an institution, calling it a “dignified hieroglyphic” and warning that future interference would be grounds for revolution. During the next few years Fabian faith in constitutional action waned visibly, as symbolized by the visits of the Webbs and Shaw to Moscow.

Organizationally, the Fabian Society could not help but suffer from the crushing defeat of the Labour Party with which it had allied itself so closely; yet like the Party it preserved the spark of life. Though its financial resources appeared to shrivel and provincial Fabian Societies in Britain—most of which had been turned into Labour Clubs—declined from 120 in the middle twenties to a mere six in the late thirties, the London Society and its Executive brain trust were far from extinct.

Like the tortoise, the Fabian Society had withdrawn temporarily into its shell, to emerge at a more favorable moment. The Fabian News still published notices of meetings, lectures, municipal and overseas Socialist activities; A. Emil Davies of the Fabian Executive continued to rally the morale and retain the support of hard-core Fabians; the individual members devoted themselves as assiduously as ever to world travel and a variety of left wing causes chiefly identified with the Popular Front activities of the thirties.

There was always a Fabian in the person of W. Stephen Sanders or Philip Noel-Baker at the International Labour Office in Geneva, and Fabian voices were prominent at the annual International Socialist congresses. A Fabian idol who had penetrated the Liberal Party years before and never resigned from it, the economist John Maynard Keynes, acquired immense prestige as a financial oracle. By turns he terrorized financiers with predictions of doom and induced his own and foreign governments to adopt policies of deficit spending calculated to assure the long-range destruction of the capitalist system he pretended to “save.” Fabian mischief makers of Marxist inspiration were by no means lacking during the Society’s apparent quiescence.

In the field of popular education, sometimes termed propaganda, individual members of the Society were never more dangerously active than during the years leading up to World War II. The Left Book Club—an enterprise similar to book clubs in the United States, in that it furnished pre-selected popular reading at cut-rate prices— proved a most profitable venture, both financially and propaganda-wise. Its political bias was plain from the fact that its first literary offering was a volume by Maurice Thorez, secretary of the Communist Party of France. So faithfully did its output-follow the Stalinist line that in the Daily Worker of London for May 9, 1936, Harry Pollitt, secretary of the British Section of the Communist Party, praised the Left Book Club as a project “worthy of support.”

In a few years its membership exceeded fifty thousand and its annual income neared $400,000—proof of a substantial following in Britain. Actually the circle reached by the Club was much wider, since subscribers were urged through the Left News to organize Left Book Groups in their neighborhoods for purposes of reading and discussion. In March, 1938, the Left News announced that 831 such groups had been formed under the wing of the Left Book Club. Whether Communist- or Socialist-led, their trend was frankly Marxist and clearly catastrophic. The fine lines of demarcation between one brand of Marxism and another were blurred in those days of the Popular Front.

What is interesting for purposes of this study is that the Selection Committee of the Left Book Club was controlled by three well-known members of the Fabian Executive. They were Victor Gollancz, publisher of Left Books who also published Left News and the Fabian News; Professor Harold Laski of the London School of Economics, who from 1946 to 1948 was chairman of the Fabian Society and in 1945 served as chairman of the Labour Party; and John Strachey, a frequent Labour Member of Parliament who became Minister of Food and Supply in the post-World War II Labour Government.

Concerning Strachey, the admiring Left News for March, 1938, wrote, “In American newspaper jargon John Strachey would be described as ‘Marxist No. 1′ and the title would be deserved.” His claim to that title might well have been challenged by Professor Harold Laski, whose revolutionary influence on the youth of many nations has proved so decisive a factor in our times. Laski is quoted by his personal friend and biographer, Fabian and late New Statesman editor Kingsley Martin, as saying to a questioner at one of his lectures: “My friend, we are both Marxists—you in your way and I in Marx’s!”

Both the late John Strachey and Professor Laski had occasion to deny under oath that they ever held membership in the Communist Party, and it may be inferred they spoke the truth. Such a technicality as a party card would merely have restricted the broad range of their privileged activities. When asked by a reporter for The New York Times (10) whether he preferred Socialism or Communism, Fabian John Strachey replied, “Like all Socialists, I believe that the Socialist Society evolves in time into the Communist society.” With this statement —which was echoed in 1962 by the American Communist, Gus Hall— most Fabians would feel compelled to agree.

Closely linked with the Left Book Club was a still more impudent contrivance known as the Christian Book Club, whose sole publisher was Fabian Victor Gollancz. Its general editor was the Dean of Canterbury, Dr. Hewlett Johnson, often referred to as the “Red Dean.” The first book this Club recommended for Christian readers was Soviet Socialism, A New Civilisation, by Sidney and Beatrice Webb—the same work which had been prepared with the aid of the Soviet Secret Police and which announced the Soviets’ fabled policy of tolerance towards religion. Members of the so-called Christian Book Club were also privileged to purchase virtually the whole list of the Left Book Club selections at the reduced prices.

The inference seemed to be that, since Christians were not overly bright, they could easily be led down the garden path to Socialism by a false appeal to ideals of brotherhood and social justice. In the Fabian Socialist movement, as in Soviet Marxism, there was always a strong element of political messianism, diametrically opposed to the religious messianism of One who proclaimed: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Both Socialist and Communist literature stressed the supposedly communal character of early Christianity, undetectable to anyone familiar with the Epistles of St. Paul. Revolutionary Marxism, open or disguised, was presented as being the “Christianity of today.” Voluntary charity and renunciation of one’s own goods were confused with the forcible confiscation of other people’s property, as illustrated in the phrase of John Maynard Keynes, “the euthanasia of the rentier,” that is, the mercy-killing or painless extinction of those who live on income from invested capital.

From the beginning, the personal coolness of many Fabian leaders towards religion—ranging from polite agnosticism to the frank atheism of Shaw and Laski and the amorality of a Bertrand Russell—had been balanced by their far from indifferent attitude towards the religious-minded electorate. To churchgoers among the voting population, Sidney Webb had reasoned shrewdly, Socialist goals must be presented cautiously—in terms that did not appear to conflict with their religious beliefs. (11) Thus, Fabian News recorded that from 1891 to 1903 one Bruce Wallace, an honorary Minister of a Congregational Church, held a conference every Sunday afternoon, and after a fifteen-minute prayer service a Fabian lecturer spoke at considerably greater length. From chat day to this, a good many nonconformist ministers of the Gospel have deserted their pulpits to pursue political careers under the auspices of the Fabian Society, one of the most notable being Arthur Henderson who negotiated Britain’s recognition of Soviet Russia.

It was not accidental that the endless series of pamphlets launched by the Fabian Society were piously called “tracts,” like the earlier publications of the “Christian Socialists” in England. With the formation of the Labour Party, even Catholic workingmen could vote for Socialist programs without subscribing directly to a Socialist philosophy. Catholic Members of Parliament on the Labour benches were permitted to “vote their conscience” on such matters as birth control and aid to Catholic schools, which to most Fabians seemed of minor importance. Though the Fabian Graham Wallas differed with Webb on the school issue and found an early audience for his views in the United States, Sidney Webb and his successors were understandably reluctant to provoke any controversy chat might block their route to power by popular consent.

In this connection, however, it must be emphasized that Karl Marx is the natural father of all modern Social Democracy, not excluding those groups which for reasons of propriety choose to deny or dissemble the relationship. As the writings of Marx disclose, that herald of “the new social order” hated all religions with impartial fervor. Marx visualized the Class War—since his time a basic concept in both Socialist and Communist philosophy—as being essentially an inverted crusade against the Deity whose existence he denied. Non serviam (“I will not serve”), the phrase of Lucifer before the Fall, is innate in the dogmas of Marx.

The blasphemous slogan, “Religion is the opium of the people,” was emblazoned for years on a billboard overlooking Red Square. A fellow Georgian and boon companion of Stalin, Orjonokidze, headed the official Soviet Society of the Godless and fomented militant action against religion at home and abroad. Until his death he was a member of the Politburo, superior organ of Soviet policies which Christian Book Club readers in Britain were invited to approve.

Napoleon Bonaparte, product of an earlier revolution, reached somewhat different conclusions on the subject of religious faith. “Without religion, France would be a nation of highwaymen,” remarked Napoleon, who had retained few illusions about the perfectibility of human nature by government decree. Not yet arrived at chat pinnacle of power, the Fabian Society viewed religion less from the angle of the Public Prosecutor and more from the standpoint of the aspiring politician and social propagandist. For the most part its spokesmen prudently avoided outraging the beliefs of religious-minded persons, while soliciting their support for Socialist candidates and projects. The Christian Book Club was a unique but significant venture for which the Society, as usual, disclaimed any official responsibility.

The vogue of the Left Book and Christian Book Clubs in Great Britain declined with the announcement of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which plunged the world into war and ended the diversions of the Popular Front. More exacting tasks lay ahead for the Fabians, who organized, planned and plotted unceasingly during the whole of World War II to put a Labour Party Government into office at war’s end with Fabian Socialists at the helm. Harold Laski’s death a few years after the war was ascribed by his biographer, Kingsley Martin, to the fatigue induced by his intensive non-combat activities in a war-time era of political truce.


1. “Election Guide,” Socialist Commentary (October, 1964), p. 20.

2. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation (London, The Fabian Society and Allen and Unwin, 1923), p. 177.

3. C. Delisle Burns, A Short History of the World, 1918-1928 (New York, Payson and Clark, 1928), pp. 186-188.

4. Henry Slesser, Judgment Reserved (London, Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., 1941), pp. 96-98.

5. Margaret Cole, Beatrice Webb (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1946), p. 157.

6. Fabian News (July 1929).

7. Fabian Quarterly (Summer, 1948), p. 23.

8. M. P. McCarran, Fabianism in the Political Life of Britain (Chicago, Heritage Foundation, 1954), p. 439.

9. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), p. 277.

10. The New York Times (October 11, 1938).

11. Bernard Shaw, “Report on Fabian Policy,” Fabian Tract No. 70, 1896. “The Fabian Society endeavors to pursue its Socialist and Democratic objects with complete singleness of aim. For example: it has no distinctive opinions on the Marriage Question, Religion, Art, Abstract Economics, Historic Evolution, Currency or any other subject than its own special business of practical Democracy and Socialism.”

Chapter 4 << | >> Chapter 6