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  Fabianism is the name of both a socialist intellectual organization which originated in Britain in 1884, and of a general type of socialism. The Fabian Society took its name from the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator (known as the ‘delayer’) who defeated Hannibal through a battle of attrition, striking at the appropriate moment, and avoiding wasteful direct battle. However, the British Fabians have never been very much enthused by battle: they have been intellectual.

In politics, the principal authors of the Fabian agenda were Beatrice and Sidney Webb. The slogan ‘the inevitability of gradualness’ became the Fabians\' guiding theme, as they commended the gradual development of socialism, engineered not by revolution, but by the application of rational analysis to problems of government, and by socialists deliberately working within liberal and capitalist institutions. Gradualism as opposed to ‘revolutionism’ would educate the public in the merits of socialist solutions.

Writers associated with the movement from the beginning included Annie Besant, Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. However, each had private obsessions and interests, which ran hand in hand with their socialist beliefs, and resulted in their own, idiosyncratic views of Fabianism—somewhat to the dismay of pure politicians like the Webbs. Besant was interested in religious mysticism (she later became a leading theosophist); Shaw was an ardent advocate of such things as naturism, reformed spelling, teetotalism and vegetarianism; while Wells was convinced that science was not an objective study, but a beneficent and redemptive force in human affairs.

Ideas such as these tended to give Fabianism an aura of crankiness, both in popular opinion (it was much mocked in tabloid newspapers) and in the minds of the ‘governing classes’ whose influence the Fabians aimed to subvert, but who nevertheless idolized Shaw, Wells and the others even as they sidelined their ideas. In the end, many Fabian politicians moved on to support the newly-formed Labour Party. The society, however, remains in existence. Unlike some of its early members, contemporary Fabians are resolutely hostile to Marxism, especially in its Leninist variants, believing that revolution is counter-productive for the advancement of democratic socialist ambitions. They are also critical of producer-based socialism, believing that socialists must pursue the public interest rather than that of narrow or sectional interest-groups. They also maintain that socialism, or social democracy, is the logical completion of liberalism, rather than its ideological enemy.

The Fabian Society continues to influence political debate in the UK (especially in the Labour Party), although many other think-tanks and policy organizations now rival it in significance. Fabian socialism has also been influential in the countries of the British Commonwealth. KMcL BO\'L

Further reading Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism; , B. Pimlott, Fabian Essays in Socialist Thought (especially the chapter by , R. Barker); , P. Pugh, Educate, Organize: a Hundred Years of Fabian Socialism.



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