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Fabian Tract No. 41. 



THE FABIAN SOCIETY: 

ITS EARLY HISTORY. 

By G. BERNARD SHAW. 



A Paper read at a Conference of the London and 

Provincial Fabian Societies at Essex Hall on 

the 6th February, 1892, 

and ordered to be printed for the information of members 



Published and Sold by 

THE FABIAN SOCIETY. 



PRICE ONE PENNY. 



LONDON : 

The Fabian Society, 3 Clement's Inn, Strand, W.C. 

Published 1892. Reprint 1906. 



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i) 



THE FABIAN SOCIETY:* 



What it has done; 

and 
How it has done it. 



§F any delegate present thinks that the Fabian Society was wise 
from the hour of its birth, let him forthwith renounce that error. 
— The Fabian wisdom, such as it is, has grown out of the Fabian 
experience ; and our distinction, if we may claim any, lies more in 
our capacity for profiting by experience (a rarer faculty in politics 
than you might suppose) than in any natural superiority on our part 
to the follies of incipient Socialism. In 1883 we were content with 
nothing less than the prompt " reconstruction of society in accordance 
with the highest moral possibilities/' In 1884 we were discussing 
whether money should be permitted under Socialism, or whether 
labor notes would not be a more becoming currency for us ; and I 
myself actually debated the point with a Fabian who had elaborated 
a pass-book system to supersede both methods. Then we were joined 
by Mrs. Wilson, now one of the chief members of the Freedom Group 
of Kropotkinist Anarchists ; and a sort of influenza of Anarchism soon 
spread through the society. When we issued our fortunately little- 
known Tract No. 4, " What Socialism Is," we divided it into two 
sections, one answering the question from the Collectivist and the 
other from the Anarchist point of view. The answer did not amount 
to much either way ; for the tract contains nothing that was not 
already to be found better stated in the famous Communist Manifesto 
of Marx and Engels. 

On the Warpath. 

>* It must not be supposed that Anarchism encountered any resist 
/ance among us on the ground of its associations with physical force 
I The Fabian Society was warlike in its origin : it came into existence 
through a schism in an earlier society for the peaceful regeneration • 
of the race by the cultivation of perfection of individual character. 3 
Certain members of that circle, modestly feeling that the revolution 
would have to wait an unreasonably long time if postponed until 
they personally had attained perfection, set up the banner of Socialism 

* A paper by G. Bernard Shaw, read at a Conference of the London and 
Provincial Fabian Societies at Essex HaU on the 6th February, 1892, and ordered 
to be printed for the information of members. 



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militant ; seceded from the Kegenerators ; and established themselves 
independently as the Fabian Society. That was how the Fabian 
began ; and although exactly the same practical vein which had led 
its founders to insist on an active policy afterwards made them the 
most resolute opponents of Insurrectionism, the Constitutionalism 
which now distinguishes us was as unheard-of at the Fabian meetings 
in 1884 and 1885 as at the demonstrations of the Social-Democratic 
Federation or the Socialist League. For example, in 1885, a conflict 
with the Government arose over the right of free speech at Dod 
Street — a conflict precisely similar to that now [February 1892] on 
hand at the World's End, Chelsea. But nobody dreamt of giving 
the Fabian delegate to the Vigilance Committee of 1885 the strict 
instructions which bind the delegates of 1892 to use all their 
influence to avert a conflict with the police. He was simply to 
throw himself into the struggle on the side of the Socialists, 
and take the consequences. In short, we were for a year or two 
just as Anarchistic as the Socialist League and just as insurrectionary 
as the Federation. It will at once be asked why, in that case, 
we did not join them instead of forming a separate society. Well, 
the apparent reason was that we were then middle-class all 
through, rank and file as well as leaders, whereas the League and 
Federation were quite proletarian in their rank and file. But what- 
ever weight this sort of consideration may have had with our mem- 
bers in general, it had none with our leaders, most of whom, indeed, 
were active members of the Federation as well. It undoubtedly 
prevented working-men from joining the Fabian whilst we were 
holding our meetings in one another's drawing-rooms; but it 
did not prevent any Fabian worth counting from joining the 
working-class organizations. The true cause of the separation 
lay deeper. ( Differences, which afterwards became explicit and 
definite, were latent from the first in the temperament and character 
of the Fabians. ) When I myself, on the point of joining the Social- 
Democratic Federation, changed my mind and joined the Fabian 
instead, I was guided by no discoverable difference in program or 
principles, but solely by an instinctive feeling that the Fabian and 
not the Federation would attract the men of my own bias and 
intellectual habits who were then ripening for the work that lay 
before us. 

However, as I have said, in 1885 our differences were latent or 
instinctive; and we denounced the capitalists as thieves at the 
Industrial Eemuneration Conference, and, among ourselves, talked 

(revolution, anarchism, labor notes versus pass-books, and all the v 
rest of it, on the tacit assumption that the object of our campaign, j 
with its watchwords, "Educate, Agitate, Obganize." was to bring^ 
about a tremendous smash-up of existing society, to be succeeded by 
complete Socialism. And this meant that we had na true practical 
understanding either of existing society or Socialism. CWithout being 
quite definitely aware of this, we yet felt it to a certain extent 
all along ; for it was at this period that we contracted the invaluable 
habit of freely laughing at ourselves which has always distinguished 



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us, and which has saved us from becoming hampered by the gushing 
enthusiasts who mistake their own emotions for public movements. 
From the first, such people fled after one glance at us, declaring that 
we were not serious.*^ Our preference for practical suggestions and 
criticisms, and our impatience of all general expressions of sympathy 
with working-class aspirations, not to mention our way of chaffing 
our opponents in preference to denouncing them as enemies of 
the human race, repelled from us some warm-hearted and eloquent 
Socialists, to whom it seemed callous and cynical to be even 
commonly self-possessed in the presence of the sufferings upon which 
Socialists make war. But there was far too much equality and 
personal intimacy among the Fabians to allow of any member pre- 
suming to get up and preach at the rest in the fashion which the 
working-classes still tolerate submissively from their leaders. We 
knew that a certain sort of oratory was useful for "stoking up" 
public meetings ; but we needed no stoking up, and, when any orator 
tried the process on us, soon made him understand that he was 
wasting his time and ours. I, for one, should be very sorry to lower 
the intellectual standard of the Fabian by making the atmosphere 
of its public discussions the least bit more congenial to stale declama- 
tion than it is at present. If our debates are to be kept wholesome, 
they cannot be too irreverent or too critical. And the irreverence, 
which has become traditional with us, comes down from those early 
days when we often talked such nonsense that we could not help 
laughing at ourselves. 

Tory Gold at the 1885 Election, 

When I add that in 1885 we had only 40 members, you will be 
able to form a sufficient notion of the Fabian Society in its nonage. 
In that year there occurred an event which developed the latent 
differences between ourselves and the Social-Democratic Federation. 
/The Federation said then, as it still says, that its policy is founded on 
va recognition of the existence of a Class War.) How far the fact of 
the working classes being at war with the proprietary classes justifies 
them in suspending the observance of the ordinary social obligations 
in dealing with them was never settled ; but at that time we were 
decidedly less scrupulous than we are now in our ideas on the sub- 
ject ; and we all said freely that as gunpowder destroyed the feudal 
system, so the capitalist system could not long survive the invention 
of dynamite. Not that we were dynamitards : indeed the absurdity 
of the inference shows how innocent we were of any practical 
acquaintance with explosives ; but we thought that the statement 
about gunpowder and feudalism was historically true, and that it 
would do the capitalists good to remind them of it. Suddenly, how- 
ever, the Federation made a very startling practical application of 
the Class War doctrine.( They did not blow anybody up ; but in the 
general election of 1885 they ran two candidates in London — Mr. 
Williams, in Hampstead, who got 27 votes, and Mr. Fielding, in 
Kennington, who got 32 votes. And they made no secret of the fact 



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6 

that the expenses of these elections had been paid by one of the 
established political parties in order to split the vote of the other. 
From the point of view of the abstract moralist there was nothing to 
be said against the transaction ; since it was evident that Socialist 
statesmanship must for a long time to come consist largely of taking 
advantage of the party dissensions between the Unsocialists. It may 
easily happen to-morrow that the Liberal party may offer to con- 
tribute to the expenses of a Fabian candidate in a hopelessly Tory 
stronghold, in order to substantiate its pretensions to encourage 
Labor representation. Under such circumstances it is quite possible 
that we may say to the Fabian in question, Accept by all means ; and 
deliver propagandist addresses all over the place. Suppose that 
the Liberal party offers to bear part of Mr. Sidney Webb's ex- 
penses at the forthcoming County Council election at Deptford, as 
they undoubtedly will, by means of the usual National Liberal Club 
subscription, in the case of the poorer Labor candidates. Mr. 
Webb, as a matter of personal preference for an independence which 
he is fortunately able to afford, will refuse. But suppose Mr. Webb 
were not in that fortunate position, as some Labor candidates will not 
be ! It is quite certain that not the smallest odium would attach to 
the acceptance of a Liberal grant-in-aid. Now the idea that taking 
Tory money is worse than taking Liberal money is clearly a Liberal 
party idea and not a Social-Democratic one. In 1885 there was not 
the slightest excuse for regarding the Tory party as any more hostile 
tv" Socialism than the Liberal party ; and Mr. Hyndman's classical 
quotation, " Non olet"— fit does not smell," meaning that there 
is no difference in the flgnror of Tory and Whig gold once it comes 
into the Socialist treasury, was a sufficient retort to the accusations 
of moral corruption which were levelled at him. But the Tory 
money job, as it was called, was none the less a huge mistake in 
tactics. Before it took place, the Federation loomed large in the 
imagination of the public and the political parties. This is con- 
clusively proved by the fact that the Tories thought that the Socialists 
could take enough votes from the Liberals to make it worth while to 
pay the expenses of two Socialist candidates in London. The day 
after the election everyone knew that the Socialists were an abso- 
lutely negligeable quantity there as far as voting power was con- 
cerned. They had presented the Tory party with 57 votes, at a cost 
of about £8 apiece. What was worse, they had shocked London 
Eadicalism, to which Tory money was an ubter abomination. It is 
hard to say which cut the more foolish figure, the Tories who had 
spent their money for nothing, or the Socialists who had sacrificed 
their reputation for worse than nothing. 

The disaster was so obvious that there was an immediate falling 
off from the Federation, on the one hand of the sane tacticians of the 
movement, and on the other of those out-and-out Insurrectionists 
who repudiated political action altogether, and were only too glad to 
be able to point to a discreditable instance of it. Two resolutions 
were passed, one by the Socialist League and the other by the Fabian 
Society. Here is the Fabian resolution : 



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" That the conduct of the Council of the Social-Democratic Federation 
in accepting money from the Tory party in payment of the election ex- 
penses of Socialist candidates is calculated to disgrace the Socialist move- 
ment in England." — 4th Dec, 1885. 

Here is the resolution of the League, characteristically non- 
Fabian in tone : 

" That this meeting of London members of the Socialist League views 
with indignation the action of certain members of the Social Democratic 
Federation in trafficking with the honor of the Socialist party, and desires 
to express its sympathies with that section of the body which repudiates 
the tactics of the disreputable gang concerned in the recent proceedings." — 
7th Dec, 1885. 

The Unemployed Agitation. 

From that time forward we were counted by the Federation as 
a hostile body; and we ourselves knew that we should have to find 
our way for ourselves without looking to the other bodies for a 
trustworthy lead. You will perhaps expect to hear that the im- 
mediate result was the extinction of the Federation and the advance 
to the front of the Fabian with its peculiar opportunist policy. 
But this was not so. Even those members of the Federation who 
seceded from it then under the leadership of C. L. Fitzgerald and 
J. Macdonald, never thought of joining the Fabian. They formed 
in Feb. 1886 a new body called " The Socialist Union," which barely 
managed to keep breathing for two years. Still, it suited them 
better than the Fabian. The fact is, 1886 and 1887 were not 
favorable years for drawing room Socialism and scientific politics. 
They were years of great distress among the working classes — years 
for street-corner agitators to marshal columns of hollow-cheeked men 
with red flags and banners inscribed with Scriptural texts to fashion- 
able churches on Sunday, and to lead desperate deputations from 
the Ilolborn Board of Guardians to the Local Government Board 
office and back again, using stronger language at each official rebuff 
from pillar to post. These were the days when Mr. Champion told 
a meeting in London Fields that if the whole propertied class had 
but one throat he would cut it without a second thought, if by doing 
so he could redress the injustices of our social system ; and when 
Mr. Hyndman was expelled from his club for declaring on the 
Thames Embankment that there would be some attention paid to 
cases of starvation if a rich man were immolated on every pauper's 
tomb. Besides these London gatherings, there were meetings of 
the unemployed, not always unaccompanied by window-breaking, in 
Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Yarmouth, and many of the 
large towns throughout the country. Matters were much the same 
in Holland and Belgium. In America the Eight Hours Movement, 
intensified by the distress of the unemployed, who N were estimated at 
a million strong in the United States, led to riots in April 1886, 



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8 

culminating on the 4th May with the famous Chicago meeting where 
the bomb was thrown which led to the hanging of four Anarchists. 
In London the police supervision of the meetings was sufficient to 
prevent any violence until Monday, 8th February 1886, when a Sugar 
Bounty meeting was held in Trafalgar Square. It was swamped by 
a huge crowd of the unemployed. The Federation orators, who were 
present, seized the opportunity to hold a counter demonstration ; 
after which there was an adjournment to Hyde Park. Unfortunately, 
on this occasion the police, through some blunder in telephoning or 
the like, received orders to proceed, not to Pall Mall, but to The 
Mall. Accordingly, they were shivering in St. James's Park whilst 
the unemployed were passing through the street of rich men's clubs. 
The rich men crowded to the windows to see the poor men pass 
along; and Dives, not noticing the absence of the police, mocked 
Lazarus. Lazarus thereupon broke Dives's windows, and even 
looted a shop or two, besides harmlessly storming the carriage of a 
tactless lady near the Achilles statue. Hyndman, Champion, Burns 
and Williams were arrested and tried for this affair ; but there were 
one or two good men on the jury, notably a Christian Socialist 
named Crickmay ; our friend Sparling was proved by himself and 
others to have used the most terrible of the phrases for which Burns 
was indicted; and what with these advantages and the unim- 
peachable gentility of two of the defendants, all four were acquitted. 
This was a great success, especially as the Mansion House Fund 
for the relief of the unemployed had gone up with a bound from 
£30,000 to £79,000 after the window breaking. The agitation 
went on more violently than ever afterwards ; and the restless 
activity of Champion, seconded by Burns's formidable oratory, 
seized on every public opportunity, from the Lord Mayor's 
Show to services for the poor in Westminster Abbey or St. 
Paul's, to parade the unemployed and force their claims upon the 
attention of the public. A commercial firm attempted to make a 
census of the unemployed in order to advertize themselves ; the 
Pall Mall Gazette tried also; and matters looked very gloomy 
indeed when Champion, impatient of doing nothing but marching 
hungry men about the streets and making stale speeches to them, 
offered the Federation the alternative of either empowering him to 
negotiate some scheme of relief with his aristocratic sympathizers, 
or else going to Trafalgar Square and staying there day and night 
until something should happen — the something being perhaps the 
best available attempt at a revolution possible under the circum- 
stances. The Federation refused both alternatives ; and Champion 
withdrew from the agitation in disgust. A long-brewing dissension 
between Burns and Hyndman also came to a head about this time ; 
and the result was that the unemployed agitation was left almost 
leaderless at the moment when the unemployed themselves were 
getting most desperate. Early in the winter of 1887 the men them- 
selves, under all sorts of casual leaders, or rather speechmakers, took 
to meeting constantly in Trafalgar Square, thus taking up Champion's 
alternative for want of anything else to do. Champion, however, 



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9 

was gone ; and the shopkeepers began to complain that the sensa- 
tional newspaper accounts of the meetings were frightening away 
their customers and endangering the Christmas quarter's rent. On 
this the newspapers became more sensational than ever ; and those 
fervid orators who preserve friendly relations with the police began 
to throw in the usual occasional proposal to set London on fire 
simultaneously at the Bank, St. Paul's, the House of Commons, the 
Stock Exchange, and the Tower. This helped to keep the pot boil- 
ing ; and at last the police cleared the unemployed out of the Square. 
Immediately the whole working-class political organization of Lon- 
don rallied to the defence of the right of meeting. The affair of 1866, 
when the railings of Hyde Park were thrown down and the right 
of meeting there vindicated, and the Free Speech triumph at Dod 
Street, were precedents in favor of the people. The papers which de- 
clared that the workers had an excellent forum in Hyde Park without 
obstructing Trafalgar Square, were reminded that in 1866 the conveni- 
ence of Trafalgar Square for public meetings was made an excuse for 
the attempt to put down meetings in the Park. Mr. Stead, who was 
then editing the Pall Mall Gazette, and who, with all his enthusiasm, 
had about as much practical knowledge of how to do the Dod Street 
trick* as a London tram-conductor has of conducting classical 
concerts, gave the word " To the Square ! " To the Square we 
all went, therefore, with drums beating and banners waving, in 
our tens of thousands, nominally to protest against the Irish 
policy of the Government, but really to maintain the right of 
meeting in the Square. The meeting had been proclaimed; but 
the authority cited was an Act for the Eegulation of Traffic which 
clearly gave no power to the police to prohibit processions, and 
which was abandoned by the Government when they had to justify 
their action in court. However, the new Chief Commissioner of 
Police, successor to him who had been dismissed for making that 
mistake in the previous year about Pall Mall, had no notion of shar- 
ing his predecessor's fate. He took no half measures in the matter : 
there was no reading of the Riot Act, or calling on the processions 
to disperse, as they had arranged to do peacefully and constitutionally 
if so ordered. It was, as one of Bunyan's pilgrims put it, but a 
word and a blow with him ; for the formal summons to disperse was 



* It may be useful to say here that " the way to do the Dod Street triok" is 
simply to find a dozen or more persons who are willing to get arrested at the rate 
of one per week by speaking in defianoe of the polioe. In a month or two, the 
repeated arrests, the orowds whioh they attraot, the soenes whioh they provoke, 
the sentenoes passed by the magistrates and at the sessions, and the consequent 
newspaper descriptions, rouse suffloient publio feeling to force the Home Secretary 
to give way whenever the polioe are dearly in the wrong. Mr. Matthews, 
victorious in Trafalgar Square, has been oompletely beaten at the World's End, 
Chelsea, by this method sinoe the above paper was read. The method, however, 
is extremely hard on the martyrs, who suffer severely, and get no compensation, 
and but little thanks. 



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10 

accompanied by a vigorous baton charge, before which the pro- 
cessionists, though outnumbering their assailants by a hundred to 
one, fled in the utmost confusion and terror. That eventful 13th 
November 1887 has since been known as " Bloody Sunday." The 
heroes of it were Burns and Cunninghame Graham, who charged, 
two strong, at the rampart of policemen round the Square and were 
overpowered and arrested. The heroine was Mrs. Besant, who may 
be said without the slightest exaggeration to have all but killed her- 
self with overwork in looking after the prisoners, and organizing on 
their behalf a " Law and Liberty League" with Mr. Stead. Mean- 
while the police received the blessing of Mr. Gladstone ; and Insurrec- 
tionism, after a two years' innings, vanished from the field and has 
not since been much heard of. For, in the middle of the revengeful 
growling over the defeat at the Square, trade revived ; the unem- 
ployed were absorbed ; the Star newspaper appeared to let in light 
and let off steam : in short, the way was clear at last for Fabianism. 
Do not forget, though, that Insurrectionism will reappear at the 
next depression of trade as surely as the sun will rise to-morrow 
morning.* 

The Fabian Conference of 1886. 

You will now ask to be told what the Fabians had been doing 
all this time. Well, I think it must be admitted that we were 
overlooked in the excitements of the unemployed agitation, which 
had, moreover, caused the Tory money affair to be forgotten. The 
Fabians were disgracefully backward in open-air speaking. Up to 
quite a recent date, Graham Wallas, myself, and Mrs. Besant were 
the only representative open-air speakers in the Society, whereas the 
Federation speakers, Burns, Hyndman, Andrew Hall, Tom Mann, 
Champion, Burrows, with the Socialist Leaguers, were at it con- 
stantly. On the whole, the Church Parades and the rest were not 
in our line ; and we were not wanted by the men who were orga- 
nizing them. Our only contribution to the agitation was a report 
which we printed in 1886, which recommended experiments in tobacco 
culture, and even hinted at compulsory military service, as means 
of absorbing some of the unskilled unemployed, but which went care- 
fully into the practical conditions of relief works. Indeed, we are at 
present trying to produce a new tract on the subject without finding 
ourselves able to improve very materially, on the old one in this 
respect. It was drawn up by Bland, Hughes, Podmore, Stapelton, and 
Webb, and was the first of our publications that contained any solid 
information. Its tone, however, was moderate and its style somewhat 
conventional ; and the Society was still in so hot a temper on the 
• 

. * This is the sentence which led a London evening newspaper (The Echo) to 
denounce the author in unmeasured terms for inciting the unemployed to armed 
rebellion. The incident is worth mentioning as an example of the ordinary Press- 
criticism of Socialist utterances. 



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11 

social question that we refused to adopt it as a regular Fabian 
tract, and only issued it as a report printed for the informa- 
tion of members. Nevertheless we were coming to our senses 
rapidly by this time. We signalized our repudiation of 
political .sectarianism in June, 1886, \?y inviting the Eadicals,. 
the Secularists, and anyone else who would come, to a great 
conference, modelled upon the Industrial Eemuneration Con- 
ference, and dealing with the Nationalization of Land and Capital. 
It fully established the fact that we had nothing immediately prac- 
tical to impart to the Eadicals and that they had nothing to impart 
to us. The proceedings were fully reported for us ; but we never 
had the courage even to read the shorthand writer's report, which 
still remains in MS. Before I refreshed my memory on the 
subject the other day, I had a vague notion that the Conference cost 
a great deal of money; that it did no good whatever; that Mr. 
Bradlaugh made a speech ; that Mrs. Fenwick Miller, who had no- 
thing on earth to do with us, was in the chair during part of the 
proceedings ; and that the most successful paper was by a Strang e 
gentleman whom we had taken on trust as a Socialist, but who 
turned out to be an enthusiast on the subject of building more 
harbors. I find, however, on looking up the facts, that no less than 
fifty- three societies sent delegates ; that the guarantee fund for ex- 
penses was £100 ; and that the discussions were kept going for three 
afternoons and three evenings. The Federation boycotted us ; but 
the Times reported us. Eighteen papers were read, two of them by 
members of Parliament, and most of the rest by well-known people. 
William Morris and Dr. Aveling read papers as delegates from the 
Socialist League; the National Secular Society sent Mr. Foote 
and Mr. Eobertson, the latter contributing a " Scheme of Taxa- 
tion " in which he anticipated much of what was subsequently 
adopted as the Fabian program ; Wordsworth Donisthorpe took the 
field for Anarchism of the type advocated by the authors of " A Plea 
for Liberty"; Stewart Headlam spoke for Christian Socialism and 
the Guild of St. Matthew ; Dr. Pankhurst dealt with the situation 
from the earlier Eadical point of view ; and various Socialist 
papers were read by Mrs. Besant, Sidney Webb, and Edward 
Carpenter, besides one by Stuart - Glennie, who subsequently 
left us because we fought shy of the Marriage Question when 
revising our "Basis." I mention all this in order to shew you how 
much more important this abortive Conference looked than the 
present one. Yet all that can be said for it is that it made 
us known to the Eadical clubs and proved that we were able to 
manage a conference in a businesslike way. It also, by the way, 
shewed off our pretty prospectus with the design by Crane at the 
top, our stylish-looking blood-red invitation cards, and the other 
little smartnesses on which we then prided ourselves. We used to 
be plentifully sneered at as fops and armchair Socialists for our 
attention to these details ; but I think it was by no means the least of 
our merits that we always, as far as our means permitted, tried 
to make our printed documents as handsome as possible, and did 



^ 



12 

our best to destroy the association between revolutionary literature 
and slovenly printing on paper that is nasty without being cheap. 
One effect of this was that we were supposed to be much richer 
than we really were, because we generally got better value and a 
finer show for our money than the other Socialist societies. 

The Fabian Parliamentary League. 

The Conference was the last of our follies. We had now a very 
strong Executive Committee, including Mrs. Besant, who in June 

1885 had effected her public profession of Socialism by joining the 
Fabian. Five out of the seven authors of " Fabian Essays," which 
were of course still unwritten, were at the helm by 1887. But by 

1886 we had already found that we were of one mind as to the 
advisability of setting to work by the ordinary political methods and 
having done with Anarchism and vague exhortations to Emancipate 
the Workers. We had several hot debates on the subject with a 
section of the Socialist League which called itself An ti- State Com- 
munist, a name invented by Mr. Joseph Lane of that body. William 
Morris, who was really a free democrat of the Kropotkin type, 
backed up Lane, and went for us tooth and nail. Eecords of our 
warfare may be found in the volumes of the extinct magazine called 
To-Day, which was then edited by Hubert Bland ; and they are by 
no means bad reading. We soon began to see that at the debates 
the opposition to us came from members of the Socialist League, 
who were present only as visitors. The question was, how many 
followers had our one ascertained Anarchist, Mrs. Wilson, 
among the silent Fabians. Bland and Mrs. Besant brought this 
question to an issue on the 17th September, 1886, at a meeting in 
Anderton's Hotel, by respectively seconding and moving the follow- 
ing resolution : 

" That it is advisable that Socialists should organize themselves as a 
political party for the purpose of transferring into the hands of the whole 
working community full control over the soil and the means of production, 
as well as over the production and distribution of wealth." 

To this a rider was moved by William Morris as follows : 

" But whereas the first duty of Socialists is to educate the people to 
understand what their present position is, and what their future might be, 
and to keep the principle of Socialism steadily before them ; and whereas 
no Parliamentary party can exist without compromise and concession, 
which would hinder that education and obscure those principles, it would 
be a false step for Socialists to attempt to take part in the Parliamentary 
contest." 

I shall not attempt to describe the debate, in which Morris, Mrs. 
Wilson, Davis, and Tochatti did battle with Burns, Mrs. Besant, 
Bland, Shaw, Donald, and Rossiter : that is, with Fabian and S.D.F. 



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combined. Suffice it to say that the minutes of the meeting close 
with the following significant note by the secretary : 

" Subsequently to the meeting, the secretary received notice from the 
manager of Anderton's Hotel that the Society could not be accommodated 
there for any further meetings." 

Everybody voted, whether Fabian or not ; and Mrs. Besant and 
Bland carried their resolution by 47 to 19, Morris's rider being sub- 
sequently rejected by 40 to 27. 

I must not linger over those high old times, tempting as they are. 
In order to avoid a breach with the Fabians who sympathized with 
Mrs. Wilson, we proceeded to form a separate body within the 
society, called the Fabian Parliamentary League, which any Fabian 
could join or not as he pleased. I am afraid I must read you at full 
length the preliminary manifesto of this body. It is dated February, 
1887: 

Manifesto of the Fabian Parliamentary League. 

The Fabian Parliamentary League is composed of Socialists who believe 
that Socialism may be most quickly and most surely realized by utilizing 
the political power already possessed by the people. The progress of the 
Socialist party in the German Eeichstag, in the Legislatures of the United 
States, and in the Paris Municipal Council, not only proves the possibility 
of a Socialist party in Parliament, but renders it imperative on English 
Socialists to set energetically about the duty of giving effect in public affairs 
to the growing influence of Socialist opinion in this country. 

The League will endeavor to organize Socialist opinion, and to bring it 
to bear upon Parliament, municipalities, and other representative bodies ; 
it will, by lectures and publications, seek to deal with the political questions 
of the day, analysing the ultimate tendencies of measures as well as their 
immediate effects, and working for or against proposed measures of social 
reform according as they tend towards, or away from, the Socialist ideal. 

The League will take active part in all general and local elections. 
Until a fitting opportunity arises for putting forward Socialist candidates to 
form the nucleus of a Socialist party in Parliament, it will confine itself 
to supporting those candidates who will go furthest in the direction of 
Socialism. It wiU not ally itself absolutely with any political party ; it will 
jealously avoid being made use of for party purposes ; and it will be guided 
in its action by the character, record, and pledges of the candidates before 
the constituencies. In Municipal, School Board, Vestry, and other local 
elections, the League will, as it finds itself strong enough, run candidates 
of its own, and by placing trustworthy Socialists on local representative 
bodies it will endeavor to secure the recognition of the Socialibc principle in 
all the details of local government. 

It will be the duty of members of the League, in every borough, to take 
active part in the public work of their districts; and to this end they 
should organize themselves into a Branch of the League. They should 
appoint a secretary to keep lists of all annual and other elections in his dis- 



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brict and of all candidates ; to attend to the registration of Socialists ; to 
watch the public conduct of all officials, and keep a record thereof for 
guidance at future elections ; to enlist volunteers for special work, and 
generally to act as a centre of the organization. Individual members 
should write to their Parliamentary representatives on any Bill on which 
the League takes action ; should take every opportunity of defending and 
advocating Socialism in their local press ; should visit the workhouses 
of their neighborhood ; and should exercise a careful supervision of local 
funds. By steady work on these and similar lines, Socialists will increase 
their power in the community, and will before long be able to influence 
r ■ effectively the course of public opinion. 

Socialists willing to co-operate should communicate with J. Brailsford 
Bright, hon. sec. of the Fabian Parliamentary League, 34 Bouverie Street, 
Fleet Street, E.G., who will give full details as to the method of organizing 
a Branch of ttie League. 

The Council of the 
February, 1887. Fabian Parliamentaey League. 

BULES OF THE LEAGUE. 

1. That the name of the Society be The Fabian Parliamentary League. 

2. That the minimum subscription be 2s. 6d. per annum. 

3. That at the annual general meeting the Society shall elect a Council, 

which shall hold office for one year, the secretary or secretaries, and 
the treasurer being appointed at the same meeting. 

4. That each Branch shall appoint a member to serve on the Council. 

5. That meetings of the members of the League shall be held at least once 

in every three months, and on such other occasions as the Council 
shall think necessary. 

Here you have the first sketch of the Fabian policy of to-day. 
The Parliamentary League, however, was a short-lived affair. Mrs. 
Wilson's followers faded away, either by getting converted or leaving 
us. Indeed, it is a question with us to this day whether they did not 
owe their existence solely to our own imaginations. Anyhow, it soon 
became plain that the Society was solidly with the Executive on the 
subject of political action, and that there was no need for any sepa- 
rate organization at all. The League first faded into a Political Com- 
mittee of the Society, and then merged silently and painlessly into 
the general body. During its separate existence it issued two 
tracts, a criticism of seven Bills then before Parliament, and 
" The True Eadical Programme," which still survives in an 
up-to-date form as our Tract No. 11, " The Workers' Political Pro- 
gram." One other point about the League must be noted. Mrs. 
Besant tried to form provincial branches of it; and some such 
branches did draw breath for a moment here and there in the 
country. I have not the least idea what became of them, nor is any 
one present, I venture to say, wiser than I in the matter. This 
failure was not to be wondered at; for outside Socialist circles 



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in London the Society remained unknown. It was still unable 
to bring up its roll of members to a hundred names; and its 
funds were so modest that nobody ever thought of proposing that we 
should keep a banking account or rent an office. In fact, we were 
literally passing rich on £40 a year. There may be among the dele- 
gates of the younger Societies represented here, one or two who 
stand in some awe of the London Society. It may do them good to 
know that the Birmingham Fabian Society, on the very first day 
of its existence, was more numerous and more prosperous pecuni- 
arily than the London Society was until quite the other day ; and 
I daresay the same is true of other provincial Fabian bodies. If ever 
there was a Society which lived by its wits, and by its wits alone, 
that Society was the Fabian. 

Socialism " Equipped with All the Culture 
of the Age." 

By far our most important work at this period was our renewal 
of that historic and economic equipment of Social-Democracy 
of which Ferdinand Lassalle boasted, and which had been getting 
rustier and more obsolete ever since his time and that of his con- 
temporary Karl Marx. In the earlier half of this century, when 
these two leaders were educated, all the Socialists in Europe were 
pouncing on Bicardo's demonstration of the tendency of wages to fall 
to bare subsistence, and on his labor theory of value, believing that 
they constituted a scientific foundation for Socialism; and the 
truth is that since that bygone time no Socialist (unless we 
count Buskin) had done twopennyworth of economic thinking, or 
made any attempt to keep us up to date in the scientific world. In 
1885 we used to prate about Marx's theory of value and Lassalle' s 
Iron Law of Wages as if it were still 1870. In spite of Henry George, 
no Socialist seemed to have any working knowledge of the theory of 
economic rent: its application to skilled labor was so unheard-of 
that the expression "rent of ability" was received with laughter 
when the Fabians first introduced it into their lectures and discus- 
sions ; and as for the modern theory of value, it was scouted as a 
blasphemy against Marx, with regard to whom the Social-Demo- 
cratic Federation still maintains a Dogma of Finality and Inf allibility 
which has effectually prevented it from making a single contribu- 
tion to the economics of Socialism since its foundation. As to 
history, we had a convenient stock of imposing generalizations about 
the evolution from slavery to serfdom and from serfdom to free wage 
labor. We drew our pictures of society with one broad line dividing 
the bourgeoisie from the proletariat, and declared that there were 
only two classes really in the country. We gave lightning sketches 
of the development of the medieval craftsman into the manufacturer 
and finally into the factory hand. We denounced Malthusianism 
quite as crudely as the Malthusians advocated it, which is saying a 
good deal; and we raged against emigration, National Insurance, 



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Co-operation, Trade- Unionism, old-fashioned Eadicalism, and every- 
thing else that was not Socialism ; and that, too, without knowing at 
all clearly what we meant by Socialism. The mischief was, not that 
our generalizations were unsound, but that we had no detailed 
knowledge of the content of them : we had borrowed them ready- 
made as articles of faith ; and when opponents like Charles Bradlaugh 
asked us for details we sneered at the demand without being in the 
least able to comply with it. The real reason why Anarchist and 
Socialist worked then shoulder to shoulder as comrades and brothers 
was that neither one nor the other had any definite idea of what he 
wanted or how it was to be got. All this is true to this day of the 
raw recruits of the movement, and of some older hands who may be 
absolved on the ground of invincible ignorance ; but it is no longer 
true of the leaders of the movement in general. In 1887 even the 
British Association burst out laughing as one man when an elderly 
representative of Philosophic Eadicalism, with the air of one who was 
uttering the safest of platitudes, accused us of ignorance of political 
economy ; and now not even a Philosophic Eadical is to be found 
to make himself ridiculous in this way. The exemplary eye-opening 
of Mr. Leonard Courtney by Mr. Sidney Webb lately in the lead- 
ing English economic review surprised nobody, except perhaps Mr. 
Courtney himself. The cotton lords of the north would never 
dream to-day of engaging an economist to confute us with learned 
pamphlets as their predecessors engaged Nassau Senior in the days 
of the Ten Hours Bill, because they know that we should be only 
too glad to advertize our Eight Hours Bill by flattening out any such 
champion. From 1887 to 1889 we were the recognized bullies and 
swashbucklers of advanced economics. 

How to Train for Public Life. 

Now this, as you may imagine, was not done without study ; and as 
that study could not possibly be carried on by the men who were orga- 
nizing the unemployed agitation in the streets, the Fabians had a 
monopoly of it. We had to study where we could and how we could. 
I need not repeat the story of the Hampstead Historic Club, founded 
by a handful of us to read Marx and Proudhon, and afterwards 
turned into a systematic history class in which each student took 
his turn at being professor. My own experience may be taken as 
typical. For some years I attended the Hampstead Historic Club 
once a fortnight, and spent a night in the alternate weeks at a private 
circle of economists which has since blossomed into the British 
Economic Association — a circle where the social question was left 
out, and the work kept on abstract scientific lines. I made all my 
acquaintances think me madder than usual by the pertinacity with 
which I attended debating societies and haunted all sorts of hole- 
and-corner debates and public meetings and made speeches at them. 
I was President of the Local Government Board at an amateur 
Parliament where a Fabian ministry had to put its proposals into 
black-and-white in the shape of Parliamentary Bills. Every Sunday 



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I lectured on some subject which I wanted to teach to myself ; and it 
was not until I had come to the point of being able to deliver separate 
lectures, without notes, on Rent, Interest, Profits, Wages, Toryism, 
Liberalism, Socialism, Communism, Anarchism, Trade-Unionism, 
Co-operation, Democracy, the Division of Society into Classes, and 
the Suitability of Human Nature to Systems of Just Distribution, 
that I was able to handle Social-Democracy as it must be handled 
before it can be preached in such a way as to present it to 
every sort of man from his own particular point of view. In 
old lecture lists of the Society you will find my name down 
for twelve different lectures or so. Nowadays I have only one, 
for which the secretary is good enough to invent four or five 
different names. Sometimes I am asked for one of the old ones, 
to my great dismay, as I forget all about them ; but I get out of 
the difficulty by delivering the new one under the old name, which 
does as well. I do not hesitate to say that all our best lecturers 
have two or three old lectures at the back of every single point in 
their best new speeches ; and this means that they have spent a 
certain number of years plodding away at footling little meetings and 
dull discussions, doggedly placing these before all private engagements, 
however tempting. A man's Socialistic acquisitiveness must be keen 
enough to make him actually prefer spending two or three nights 
a week in speaking and debating, or in picking up social informa- 
tion even in the most dingy and scrappy way, to going to the theatre, 
or dancing or drinking, or even sweethearting, if he is to become a 
really competent propagandist — unless, of course, his daily work is 
of such a nature as to be in itself a training for political life ; and 
that, we know, is the case with very few of us indeed. It is at such 
lecturing and debating work, and on squalid little committees and 
ridiculous little delegations to conferences of the three tailors of 
Tooley Street, with perhaps a deputation to the Mayor thrown in 
once in a blue moon or so, that the ordinary Fabian workman or 
clerk must qualify for his future seat on the Town Council, the School 
Board, or perhaps in the Cabinet. It was in that way that Bradlaugh, 
for instance, graduated from being a boy evangelist to being one of 
the most formidable debaters in the House of Commons. And the 
only opponents who have ever held their own against the Fabians in 
debate have been men like Mr. Levy or Mr. Foote, who learnt in the 
same school. 

Collaring the " Star." 

Now let me return from this digression as to how we grounded 
ourselves in the historic, economic and moral bearings of Socialism, 
to consider the consequences of our newly acquired proficiency. The 
first effect was, as we have already seen, to make us conscious that 
we were neither Anarchists nor Insurrectionists. We demolished 
Anarchism in the abstract by grinding it between human nature and 
the theory of economic rent ; and when, driven in disgrace out of 
Anderton's Hotel, and subsequently out of a chapel near Wardour 



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18 

Street in which we had taken refuge, we went to Willis's Booms, 
the most aristocratic, and also, as it turned out, the cheapest place 
of meeting in London, our favorite sport was inviting politicians and 
economists to lecture to us, and then falling on them with all our 
erudition and debating skill, and making them wish they had never 
been born. The curious may consult the files of Mr. George Stand- 
ring's extinct journal, called The Badical, for a graphic account, 
written by an individualist, of the fate of a well-known member of 
Parliament who was lured into our web on one of these occasions. 
The article is suggestively entitled, " Butchered to make a Fabian 
Holiday." We also confuted Co-operation in the person of Mr. 
Benjamin Jones on a point on which we now see reason to believe 
that we were entirely in the wrong, and he entirely in the right. 

The butchery of the M.P. took place on the 16th March, 
1888, four months after the rout at Trafalgar Square. Trade had 
revived; and with the disappearance of the unemployed the 
occupation of the Federation was gone. Champion was trying to 
organize a Labor party with a new paper ; Burns, just out of prison 
for the Square affair, was getting into political harness at Battersea; 
and the Star newspaper was started. We collared the Star by a stage- 
army stratagem, and before the year was out had the assistant editor, 
Mr. H. W. Massingham, writing as extreme articles as Hyndman 
had ever written in Justice, Before the capitalist proprietors woke 
up to our game and cleared us out, the competition of the Star, which 
was immensely popular under what I may call the Fabian regime, 
had encouraged a morning daily, the Chronicle, to take up the run- 
ning ; and the Star, when it tried to go back, found that it could not 
do so further than to Gladstonize its party politics. On other ques- 
tions it remained and remains far more advanced than the wildest 
Socialist three years before ever hoped to see a capitalist paper. 
Nowadays even the Daily News has its Labor column, although five 
years ago the editor would as soon have thought of setting aside a 
column for Freethinkers. 

Permeating the Liberals. 

However, I must not anticipate. In 1888 we had not been found 
out even by the Star, The Liberal party was too much preoccupied 
over Mr. O'Brien's breeches and the Parnell Commission, with its 
dramatic climax in the suicide of the forger Pigott, to suspect that 
the liveliness of the extreme left of the Badical wing in London 
meant anything but the usual humbug about working-class interests. 
We now adopted a policy which snapped the last tie between our 
methods and the sectarianism of the Federation. We urged our 
members to join the Liberal and Eadical Associations of their dis 
tricts, or, if they preferred it, the Conservative Associations. We 
told them to become members of the nearest Badical Club and Co- 
operative Store, and to get delegated to the Metropolitan Badical 
Federation and the Liberal and Badical Union if possible. On these 
bodies we made speeches and moved resolutions, or, better still, got 



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the Parliamentary candidate for the constituency to move them, and 
secured reports and encouraging little articles for him in the Star, 
We permeated the party organizations and pulled all the wires we 
could lay our hands on with our utmost adroitness and energy ; and 
we succeeded so far that in 1888 we gained the solid advantage of 
a Progressive majority, full of ideas that would never have come 
into their heads had not the Fabian put them there, on the first 
London County Council. The generalship of this movement was 
undertaken chiefly by Sidney Webb, who played such bewildering 
conjuring tricks with the Liberal thimbles and the Fabian peas, that 
to this day both the Liberals and the sectarian Socialists stand 
aghast at him. It was exciting whilst it lasted, all this " permeation 
of the Liberal party," as it was called ; and no person with the 
smallest political intelligence is likely to deny that it made a foot- 
hold for us in the press and pushed forward Socialism in municipal 
politics to an extent which can only be appreciated by those who re- 
member how things stood before our campaign. When we published 
"Fabian Essays" at the end of 1889, having ventured with great 
misgiving on a subscription edition of a thousand, it went off like 
smoke ; and our cheap edition brought up the circulation to about 
twenty thousand. In the meantime we had been cramming the 
public with information in tracts, on the model of our earliest 
financial success in that department, namely, " Facts for Socialists," 
the first edition of which actually brought us a profit — the only 
instance of the kind then known. In short, the years 1888, 1889, 1890 
saw a Fabian boom, the reverberation of which in the provinces at 
last produced the local Fabian societies which are represented here 
to-night. And I now come to the most important part of this paper; 
for I must at once tell you that we are here, not to congratulate our- 
selves on the continuance of that boom, but to face the fact that it 
is over, and that the time has come for a new departure. 

One day, about a year ago, a certain "Liberal and Eadical' 
London member of Parliament, having been coaxed by Webl 
to the point of admitting that his aims were exactly those of the 
Socialists, namely, the extinction of incomes derived from pri- 
vately appropriated rent and interest, and that it was therefore 
his high destiny to lead the working-classes along the path ol 
progress, was asked to get to business. Thereupon he made 
the discovery that he was not a Socialist and that Webb was. 
The intelligence spread with remarkable rapidity to all the 
official Liberals who had been reached by the Fabian influence ; 
and the word was promptly given to close up the ranks of 
Capitalism against the insidious invaders. As in the case of 
the Star newspaper, the discovery came too late. It is only 
necessary to compare the Nottingham program of the National 
Liberal Federation for 1887 with the Newcastle program for 1891, 
or to study the Liberal and Eadical Union program for the 1892 
London County Council election, to appreciate the extent to which the 
policy of permeating the party organizations with Socialism had 
succeeded. The official leaders of the Liberal party cannot now turn 



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their followers back : they can only refuse to lead them and sit as 
tight as they can under the circumstances. The Radicals are at last 
conscious that the leaders are obstructing them ; and they are now 
looking for a lead in attacking the obstruction. They say to us, in 
effect, " Your policy of permeating has been successful : we are per- 
meated; and the result is that we find all the money and all the official 
power of our leaders, who are not permeated and cannot be permeated, 
arrayed against us. Now shew us how to get rid of those leaders 
or to fight them." I want to impress this situation on you, because 
there are some Rip Van Winkles in our movement who are only now 
waking up to the special variety of permeating work which was 
begun in 1886 and finished in 1890, and who, now that it is over 
and done with as far as the London Fabian is concerned, are pro- 
testing loudly against its being begun. No doubt there still remains, 
in London as everywhere else, a vast mass of political raw material, 
calling itself Liberal, Radical, Tory, Labor, and what not, or even 
not calling itself anything at all, which is ready to take the Fabian 
stamp if it is adroitly and politely pressed down on it. There are 
thousands of thoroughly Socialized Radicals to-day who would have 
resisted Socialism fiercely if it had been forced on them with taunts, 
threats, and demands that they should recant all their old professions 
and commit what they regard as an act of political apostasy. And 
there are thousands more, not yet Socialized, who must be dealt 
with in the same manner. But whilst our propaganda is thus still 
chiefly a matter of permeation, that game is played out in our 
politics. As long ago as 1889 we plainly said, in the last Fabian 
Essay — Bland's " Political Outlook" — that the moment the party 
leaders realized what we were driving at, they would rally round all 
the institutions we were attacking, even at the cost of coalescing 
with their rivals for office, unless they could put us off more 
cheaply by raising false issues such as Leaseholds Enfranchisement, 
Disestablishment of the Church, or bogus " endings or mendings" 
of their cherished bulwark the House of Lords. We now feel 
that we have brought up all the political laggards and pushed 
their parties as far as they can be pushed, and that we have there- 
fore cleared the way to the beginning of the special political 
work of the Socialist — that of forming a Collectivist party of those 
who have more to gain than to lose by Collectivism, solidly arrayed 
against those who have more to lose than to gain by it. That is the 
real subject of this Conference. Whether the time is ripe now or 
not, to that it must come at last ; for even the most patient Fabians 
are growing anxious to make their position clear and to escape from 
the suspicion of being a mere left wing of the party which rallies 
round Messrs. Bryant & May's statue to Mr. Gladstone. We are 
especially loth to let the forthcoming general election pass without 
making it known that the eight years' work which I am sketching 
for you in this paper was not done for the sake of the sweaters and 
place-hunters who will presently be claiming the credit of it at the 
polls. Not that we would hesitate to let the credit go for the moment 
to any quarter, however venal, from which we could get a fair return 



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in substantial concessions to our cause ; but in this instance we 
believe that our natural inclinations and our political interests point 
to the same course, that of making it understood that Fabianism is 
neither official Liberalism nor official Toryism, but an intelligent 
Collectivism that will eventually wear down both. 

The Tactics of the Social - Democratic 
Federation. 

And now, some of you will be inclined to ask whether this does 
not mean that we have at last come round to the views of the Social- 
Democratic Federation ? The reply is that our views have always 
been the same as those of that body. On the 29th February, 1884, 
Mr. Bland moved at a Fabian meeting the following resolution : 

" That whilst not entirely agreeing with all the statements and phrases 
used in the pamphlets of the Democratic Federation and in the speeches 
of Mr. Hyndman, this Society considers that the Democratic Federation 
is doing a good, and useful work and is worthy of sympathy and support.*' 

That was carried nem. con. ; and it would no doubt be carried 
unanimously here this evening if Mr. Bland were to move it again. 
But we did not proceed to amalgamate with them in 1884 any more 
than we shall to-night. Our organization and our methods are 
radically different ; and the experience of the past eight years has 
strengthened our preference for our own and confirmed our objection, 
to theirs. Let me enumerate a few of the differences. In the first 
place, the Fabian Society is a society for helping to bring about the 
Socialization of the industrial resources of the country. The 
Social-Democratic Federation is a society for enlisting the whole 
proletariat of the country in its own ranks and itself Socializing 
the national industry. The Federation persistently claims to be the 
only genuine representative of working-class interests in England. 
It counts no man a Socialist until he has joined it, and supports no 
candidate who is not a member. If one of its speakers supports an 
outside candidate, he is disowned. Only the other day the Executive 
Council of the Federation proposed that no member should even 
vote for any candidate not enrolled in its ranks.* The Federation 
chooses its own candidates without consulting its neighbors, and 
sends them to the poll, when it has the money, without the 
slightest regard to the possibility of such a course making a 
present of the seat to the least Socialistic candidate in the field. 
This implacably sectarian policy evidently depends for its success 
on the recruiting powers of the Society which adopts it. It 
was planned in the days when we all believed that Socialism had 
only to be explained to the working-classes to bring every working- 

* This policy was finally adopted, and promulgated in the S.D.F. Manifesto 
issued on the occasion of the General Election in June-July, 1892. See, however 
the postscript to this tract. 



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man, not only in England but in Europe — nay, in the world—into- 
our ranks. It would clearly be the right policy if four out of every 
five men in England were members of the Social-Democratic Federa- 
tion. But the experience of over half a century of agitation has 
proved that no such result is possible. The Federation, in every 
centre of the population where it exists, is practically as insignificant 
a minority as the Fabian. The ablest working-class agitators it ever 
produced, John Burns and Tom Mann, had to free themselves from 
it the moment they gained sufficient political experience to see that 
a united nation of subscribers to the Social-Democratic Federation 
can never be anything more than a dream. A necessary part of the 
Federation policy is the denunciation, as misleaders of the people, of 
Eadicals, Co-operators, Teetotallers, Trade-XJnionists, Fabians, and 
all rival propagandists. The result of this is that the Federation 
branches are not merely insignificant in numbers, but unpopular 
as well, in spite of the admittedly stimulating effect of their meet- 
ings on the political activity of the working class. Their hand 
being against every outsider, every outsider's hand is naturally 
against them; and as the outsiders outnumber them by more 
than a thousand to one, they cannot get any real influence among 
the men who really manage the political work and organization 
of the working-classes, and who are of course all Co-operators, 
Teetotallers, Trade Unionists, or party men of one kind or another. 
For it is only your middle-class enthusiast who comes into the 
movement by reading Mazzini or Marx, without any previous ex- 
perience in the only sort of organization hitherto open to working 
men of any organizing capacity. The net result is that wherever the 
Federation can shew a fair degree of success in branch work, it will 
be found that the branches have modified their policy in the Fabian 
direction. In Battersea, for instance, they were only masters of the 
situation whilst they followed John Burns, who, like Tom Mann, is 
insanely denounced by the central council as a mercenary renegade r 
and who, in return, makes no secret of his unbounded contempt 
for Federation tactics. At Manchester, too, where the Federation 
has had a creditable success, the branch practically repudiates the 
central authority by maintaining harmonious relations with the new 
Unionism which Burns inaugurated down at the docks here. In 
London the Federation would be a cipher but for the fact that it 
has stopped short of boycotting the Trades Council, on which it 
is strongly represented. 

Fabian Tactics. 

Now let us look at the Fabian tactics. We have never indulged 
in any visions of a Fabian army any bigger than a stage army. In 
London we have never publicly recruited except for other bodies. 
When I lecture for the Federation, I do not invite workmen to join 
the Fabian, but to join the branch for which I am lecturing. So far 
are we from encouraging the rush of members that has lately come- 



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upon us, that we have actually tried to check it by insisting on 
stricter guarantees of the sincerity of the applicants' acceptance of 
our basis ; and I do not hesitate to say that if it were not for the need 
of spreading the cost of our work over as large a number of subscribers 
as possible, we should be tempted to propose the limitation of 
our society in London to a hundred picked members. We have 
never advanced the smallest pretension to represent the working- 
classes of this country. No such absurdity as a candidate nominated 
by the Fabian Society alone has ever appeared in London, though 
we flatter ourselves that a candidate finds it no disadvantage now to 
be a Fabian. Although we think we can see further ahead than the 
mere Trade-Unionist or Co-operator, we are ready to help them 
loyally to take the next step ahead that lies in their path. When 
we go to a Eadical Club to inveigh against the monopolies of land 
and capital, we know perfectly that we are preaching no new doc- 
trine, and that the old hands were listening to such denunciations 
twenty-five years before we were born, and are only curious to know 
whether we have anything new in the way of a practical remedy. 
In short, we know that for a long time to come we can only make 
headway by gaining the confidence of masses of men outside our 
Society who will have nothing to do with us unless we first prove 
ourselves safe for all sorts of progressive work. For this we are 
denounced by the Social-Democratic Federation as compromisers of 
our principles, Liberal wire-pullers, and sham middle-class Socialists 
of the gas-and-water variety. 

Again, consider our relation to the local Societiss. Unlike the 
Federation branches, these are so perfectly independent of our control 
or dictation, that one of them has already tried Federation tactics at 
the School Board election, with the result that its candidates were 
thoroughly beaten and the Society effectually discredited. We insisted 
on this independence ourselves, seeing the advantage of each Society 
being able to appeal for support as an independent and autonomous 
local body, not committed in any way to the proceedings of people 
in London on whom they could have no effective check, and yet 
sharing the prestige and freedom from insurrectionary associations 
of the Fabian name. Suppose we reversed this policy, and made 
the whole set of Fabian Societies into a Fabian Federation on the 
S.D.F. plan. They would all become the slaves of a council here in 
London on which they could not be represented. For though they 
would be entitled to have delegates on it, yet as they could not afford 
to pay the expenses of these delegates up and down for every council 
meeting, they would have to fall back on the S.D.F. or Trade-Union 
plan of asking London members to represent them, which would 
produce that worst form of pseudo-democratic slavery which consists 
in the appearance of representation without the reality of it. 

Take another point. The Federation runs a newspaper called 
Justice, which has not hitherto been worth a penny to any man 
whose pence are so scarce as a laborer's, and which has made re- 
peated attacks on the ordinary working-class organizations without 
whose co-operation Socialists can at present do nothing except cry in 



' 



24 

the wilderness. The branches are expected to sell this paper at 
their meetings. Now I hope no Fabian tract at present in the 
market is worth less than a penny, or is calculated to give needless 
offence to any of our allies. As to a paper, we recognize that a 
workman expects for his penny a week a newspaper as big and as full 
of general news as any of the regular Sunday papers. Therefore 
our policy has been to try to induce some of these regular papers to 
give a column or two to Socialism, calling it by what name they 
please. And I have no hesitation in saying that the effect of this 
policy as shewn in the Manchester Sunday Chronicle, the Star, the 
London Daily Chronicle, and other more exclusively working-class 
papers, notably The Clarion, has done more for the * cause than all 
the time and money that has been wasted on Justice since the Star 
was founded. Fabian News does everything for us that Justice does 
for the Federation ; but what would you think of us if we invited 
you to offer it for a penny to the man in the street as the leading 
organ of Social-Democracy in England? Our mission is to Socialize 
the Press as we hope to Socialize Parliament and the other Estates 
of the realm, not to run the Press ourselves. 

Finally, how has the Federation policy succeeded as a means of 
maintaining discipline and solidarity in its own ranks ? Evidently 
not at all. First came the secession of the Socialist League, in 
which they lost their greatest man, William Morris, besides Andreas 
Scheu, Belfort Bax, the late C. J. Faulkner, Bobert Banner, E. T. 
Craig (of Balahine fame), Bland, Aveling, Mrs. Marx-Aveling, and 
others. But they retained Helen Taylor, John Burns, Champion, and 
Tom Mann. Not one of these remain with them. Now look at the 
Fabian record. Our first regular Executive Council was that appointed 
to serve from January 1885 to April 1886. The names are Pease, 
Bland, Shaw, Webb, and Mrs. Wilson. To them we added Mrs. 
Besant and Podmore in 1886, Olivier and Phillips in 1887, Graham 
Wallas and William Clarke in 1888. Look at the Executive of to-day, 
and you find Webb, Bland, Shaw, Pease, Olivier and Wallas there 
still ; and you would find Podmore, Phillips and Clarke but for the 
fact that they voluntarily withdrew in favor of members who were 
better able to attend the Executive meetings. They are still avail- 
able whenever they are called upon. Mrs. Wilson is the only one 
whom we have lost through any political incompatibility ; for Mrs. 
Besant's loss is a grief which we share with all the advanced societies 
in London except the Theosophic Society. We are a regular old gang. 
But if you consider that we are all persons of tolerably strong indi- 
viduality, and very diverse temperaments, and take that along with 
the fact that no one of us is strong enough to impose his will on the 
rest, or weak enough to allow himself to be overridden, you will, 
I think, allow me to claim our escape from the quarrels which rent 
asunder both the Federation and the League as a proof that our 
methods stand the test of experience in the matter of keeping our 
forces together. 

In saying all this, I have had to be a little hard on the S.D.F., 
the rank and file of which are for the most part our very good friends, 



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25 

as they shew by the freedom with which they help us and invite 
us to help them in any convenient way without the slightest regard 
to the denunciations of us in which Justice periodically indulges. 
On our side we take no offence and bear no grudge, knowing too well 
how often our success has been made easy by their exertions in 
breaking ground for us. But I think you will now see that it is 
impossible for us ever to amalgamate with the Social-Democratic 
Federation whilst it remains a federation, or to recommend any of our 
local Societies to venture on such a step. If such an amalgamation 
ever takes place, it will come about by branches of the Federation 
from time to time throwing off the leading strings of that body 
and combining with the other Socialists of the town, including the 
Fabians, to form a local independent Socialist Society. 

Scientific Class Warfare. 

But however we may combine or divide pur forces, our tactics 
must always depend on our strength at the moment. At present it 
is good tactics for the United States to bully Chili ; but it would be 
bad tactics for Portugal to bully England. It is good tactics to run 
a Labor candidate at Battersea : it would be folly to run one at 
Hampstead. If the numbers of the Fabian Society in any con- 
stituency ever rise to the point of making the result of the election 
depend on the Fabian vote, that Society will not only run Fabian 
candidates, but will run them with a highhandedness that will astonish 
even the Federation. It may be said, roughly, that the tactics of 
the Fabian Society will change with every additional thousand of 
its members. Only, remember, the addition must be a real addition. 
Our rolls of membership must not be padded with the names of dead- 
heads who join in a fit of short-lived enthusiasm, and drop off after 
three weeks. In London we have always kept up a system of 
periodical purging so as to make our roll represent our real strength. 
If a member disappears for any length of time, or ceases to subscribe, 
he is asked whether he has changed his mind, and is struck off if his 
reply is not satisfactory. Thus our first rule is not to try and deceive 
ourselves as to our power. I will not pretend that we are always as 
scrupulous in the matter of enlightening other people. Though we 
have never deceived the public by overstating our numbers, we have 
not always insisted on undeceiving them when they shewed a dis- 
position to make concessions to us which they would perhaps have 
thought twice about if their notions of our bulk had been derived 
from our official records instead of from their imaginations. But in 
politics as in the game of poker, bluffing belongs only to the early 
days of the game. The moment you go to the poll, all concealment 
is at an end. When the Social-Democratic Federation consisted of 
about forty members, the Church Beview estimated them at about 
4,000 ; and it was possible then to laugh at the Church Beview with 
an air which conveyed to the superstitious that 40,000 would have 
been nearer the mark. But after 1885 there was an end of that, 



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26 

just as there will be an end, after the coming general election, of all 
romantic notions about the influence of the Fabian. In 1888 it only 
cost us twenty- eight postcards written by twenty-eight members to 
convince the newly-born Star newspaper that London was aflame 
with Fabian Socialism. In 1893 twenty-eight dozen postcards will 
not frighten the greenest editor in London into giving us credit for 
an ounce over our real weight. The School Board election has robbed 
us of half our imaginary terrors ; the County Council election may 
take away the rest; the General election will finish the bluffing 
element in our tactics for ever.* No more unearned increment of 
prestige for us then ; for though rumor may count us at two hundred 
to the score, the returning-officer will count us strictly at twelve to 
the dozen, and publish the results where everyone will read them. 
Thenceforth we shall play with our cards on the table. Our business 
will then be, not to talk crudely about the Class War, with very 
cloudy notions as to the positions of the two camps and the uniforms 
of the two armies (both of which, by-the-bye, will sport red flags), 
but to organize it scientifically so that we shall drain the opposite 
host of every combatant whose interests really lie with ours. The 
day has gone by for adopting Fergus O'Connor's favorite test of the 
unshaven chin, the horny hand, and the fustian jacket as the true dis- 
tinctive mark of the soldier of liberty. Nor will the Trade-Unionist 
test of having at some time done manual work for weekly wages 
serve us. Such distinctions date from the days when even the ability 
to read and write was so scarce, and commanded so high a price both 
in money and social status, that the educated man belonged econo- 
mically to the classes and not to the masses. Nowadays the Board 
Schools have changed all that. The commercial clerk, with his 
reading, his writing, his arithmetic and his shorthand, is a proletarian, 
and a very miserable proletarian, only needing to be awakened from 
his poor little superstition of shabby gentility to take his vote from 
the Tories and hand it over to us. The small tradesmen and rate- 
payers who are now allying themselves with the Duke of Westminster 
in a desperate and unavailing struggle against the rising rates entailed 
by the eight hours day and standard wages for all public servants, 
besides great extensions of corporate activity in providing accommo- 
dation and education at the public expense, must sooner or later see 
that their interest lies in making common cause with the workers to 
throw the burden of taxation directly on to unearned incomes, and 
to secure for capable organizers of industry the prestige, the pensions, 
and the permanence and freedom from anxiety and competition 
which municipal employment offers. The professional men of no 
more than ordinary ability, struggling with one another for work in 



* This anticipation has fortunately not been justified by the event. Six 
members of the Fabian Society are now members of the County Council; and it 
is not too much to claim that the result of the General Election upset every 
estimate of the political situation except the Fabian one. See the preface to the 
1892 edition of Fabian Tract No. 11, "The Workers* Political Program." 



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27 

the overstocked professions, are already becoming far more tired of 
Unsocialism and Competition than the dock laborers are, because 
revivals of trade bring them no intervals of what they consider 
good times. In short, all men except those who possess either ex- 
ceptional ability or property which brings them in a considerable 
unearned income, or both, stand to lose instead of to win by Un- 
socialism ; and sooner or later they must find this out and throw in 
their lot with us. Therefore to exclude middle-class and professional 
men from our ranks is not "scientific Socialism" at all, but the 
stupidest sort of class prejudice. It would be far more sensible to 
exclude those skilled artisans who make several pounds a week; 
work overtime with reckless selfishness ; and have even been known 
to refuse to employ laborers belonging to unions. But there is 
no need to exclude anybody. The real danger is that since we 
are certain to have an increasing number of professional men, trades- 
men, clerks, journalists and the like in our ranks, these men may by 
their superior education, or rather their superior literateness — which 
is not exactly the same thing — and by their more polished manners, 
be chosen too often as candidates at elections and as committee-men. 
This would be a most fatal mistake ; for it is of the first importance 
that all our candidates and executive council-men should be the 
ablest men in the movement, whereas the presumption must always 
be that our recruits from the professions and from business would 
not have joined us if they had not lacked the exceptional energy and 
practical turn which still enable men to make fortunes, or at least 
very comfortable incomes, in those classes. To become a Fabian 
agitator would hardly be looked on as promotion by Sir Charles 
Eussell, or Mr. Whiteley, or the President of the Eoyal Academy, 
or a physician or dentist earning £1,500 a year. Speaking for 
myself as a professional man, claiming to be able to do a somewhat 
special class of work, I may say that the more my ability becomes 
known, the more do I find myself pressed to spend my time in 
shovelling guineas into my pocket instead of writing Fabian 
papers, attending to the Fabian Executive work, lecturing, revising 
or compiling tracts, and writing papers like the present. My case is 
a typical one ; and it shews that if the working-classes run after 
middle-class men as representatives, they will have to choose between 
pecuniarily disinterested men and men who are discontented because 
they are not clever enough to get their fill of work or money in 
their professions or businesses. Now, though every clever and 
warmhearted young gentleman bachelor enjoys from two to ten 
years of disinterestedness, during which good work can be got from 
him, yet in the long run he gets tired of being disinterested. 
Permanently disinterested men of ability are very scarce : it is easier 
to find a thousand men who will sacrifice valuable chances in life once 
than to find a single man who will do it twice. And average duffers, 
though plentiful, are not to be trusted with the generalship of so great 
a campaign as ours. Consequently, the workers should make it a rule 
always to choose one of their own class as a candidate or council- 
man, except when the middle-class candidate has given special proofs 



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28 

of his ability and disinterestedness. This is why I myself have so 
often urged working-class audiences to believe in themselves and not 
run after the tall hats and frock coats. It is only the clever wage- 
workman to whom political leadership in the workman's cause 
comes as a promotion. 

My task, I am happy to say, is now done. You know what we 
have gone through, and what you will probably have to go through. 
You know why we believe that, the middle-classes will have their 
share in bringing about Socialism, and why we do not hold aloof 
from Eadicalism, Trade-Unionism, or any of the movements which 
are traditionally individualistic. You know, too, that none of you 
can more ardently desire the formation of a genuine Collectivist 
political party, distinct from Conservative and Liberal alike, than we 
do. But I hope you also know that there is not the slightest use in 
merely expressing your aspirations unless you can give us some 
voting power to back them, and that your business in the provinces 
is, in one phrase, to create that voting power. Whilst our backers 
at the polls are counted by tens, we must continue to crawl and 
drudge and lecture as best we can. When they are counted by 
hundreds we can permeate and trim and compromise. When they 
rise to tens of thousands we shall take the Held as an independent 
party. Give us hundreds of thousands, as you can if you try hard 
enough, and we will ride the whirlwind and direct the storm. 



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29 



POSTSCRIPT. 

The lapse of time between the reading of the above paper and 
its publication, makes it necessary, in justice to the Social-Demo- 
cratic Federation, to add a few words. The explanation of the 
delay is very simple : a glance back at pages 5 and 6 will shew that 
their publication on the eve of the General Election might have 
injured the prospects of the two Federation candidates who were in 
the field. The close of the polls has not only set the Fabian 
Society free to issue this tract; it has also apparently convinced 
the S.D.F. of the practically reactionary effect of its sectarian 
tactics. The victory of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the official Liberal 
candidate for Central Finsbury, who won by a majority of three 
only, was secured by the votes of the Clerkenwell branch of the 
S.D.F. , which very sensibly threw off its allegiance to the central 
council and " went Fabian" for the occasion in flat defiance of the 
S.D.F. manifesto calling on the workers to vote for none but Social- 
Democratic candidates. Instead of a sentence of excommunication, 
there came from headquarters the following utterance in Justice 
(No. 444, 16th July, 1892), presumably from the pen of Mr. Belfort 
Bax, who was then acting as editor. 

Pbinciples and theib Application. 
Talking about Naoroji affords us an opportunity of seconding the 
point mentioned in the letter above referred to, namely, as to the desir- 
ability on special occasions of relaxing the generally excellent principle of 
not voting or working for either side. The laxity we complained of last 
week which is shown by members of the S.D.F. who get the "election 
fever" in throwing themselves indiscriminately into the struggle on the 
Radical side irrespective of the programme or the candidate is undoubtedly 
due to the slightly pedantic attitude sometimes taken up on this point. 
Now the pollings are over we do not hesitate to say that we think that the 
nonpossumus rule should have been relaxed in the North Lambeth election 
for the purpose of keeping Stanley out, and thereby checkmating the 
designs of the British East Africa Company, even at the expense of assist- 
ing a colorless Radical nonentity to obtain the seat ; and also in Central 
Finsbury, both as a demonstration against the conduct of official Liberal- 
ism and for the sake of getting a friendly outsider the chance of bringing 
the claims of the people of India for the first time prominently before the 
larger British public. If you give a Social Democrat some, at least more 



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30 

or less, useful work in an election, you keep him out of the mischief of 
squandering his time in promiscuous assistance to worthless Liberals. 
For it is not given to every man during the excitement of election times 
to be able to twirl his thumbs and repeat the obvious Socialist truism that 
one political party is as bad as the other, as the Moslem reiterates the 
well-worn and doubtless to him equally certain dictum, "Allah is great." 
There may be a zeal of principle, "but not with discretion." We take it 
there is no compromise in a momentary alliance with any party for the 
purpose of carrying an important point. This is a very different thing 
from the principle of "permeation" advocated by the Fabians. 

The recantation in the last sentence but one is complete. The 
last sentence means only that since Justice has given the Fabian 
dog a bad name, it feels bound to go on hanging him in spibe of its 
tardy discovery of his good qualities. 

I do not know whether this declaration of Opportunism is any* 
thing more than a passing excuse for the action of the insurgent 
branch. It would, however, be clearly unfair to allow pages 21 and 
22 to become public without mentioning it. 

July, 1892. G. B. & 



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BASIS OF THE FABIAN SOCIETY. 



The Fabian Society consists of Socialists. 

It therefore aims at the re-organization of Society by the emanci- 
pation of Land and Industrial Capital from individual and clas& 
ownership, and the vesting of them in the community for the 
general benefit. In this way only can the natural and acquired 
advantages of the country be equitably shared by the whole people. 

The Society accordingly works for the extinction of private pro- 
perty in Land and of the consequent individual appropriation, in the 
form of Eent, of the price paid for permission to ,use the earth, as 
well as for the advantages of superior soils and sites. 

The Society, further, works for the transfer to the community of 
the administration of such industrial Capital as can conveniently be 
managed socially. For, owing to the monopoly of the means of pro- 
duction in the past, industrial inventions and the transformation of 
surplus income into Capital have mainly enriched the proprietary 
class, the worker being now dependent on that class for leave to 
earn a living. 

If these measures be carried out, without compensation (though 
not without such relief to expropriated individuals as may seem fit 
to the community), Eent and Interest will be added to the reward of 
labor, the idle class now living on the labor of others will necessarily 
disappear, and practical equality of opportunity will be maintained 
by the spontaneous action of economic forces with much less inter- 
ference with personal liberty than the present system entails. 

For the attainment of these ends the Fabian Society looks to 
the spread of Socialist opinions, and the social and political changes 
consequent thereon. It seeks to promote these by the general dis- 
semination of knowledge as to the relation between the individual 
and Society in its economic, ethical, and political aspects. 

The work of the Fabian Society takes, at present, the following 
forms : — 

1. Meetings for the discussion of questions connected with Socialism. 

2. The further investigation of economic problems, and the collection of facts 

contributing to their elucidation. 

3. The issue of publications containing information on social questions, and 

arguments relating to Socialism. 

4. The promotion of Socialist lectures and debates in other Societies and Clubs. 

5. The representation of the Society in public conferences and discussions on 

social questions. 

The members are pledged to take part according to their abilities 
and opportunities in the general work of the Society, and are 
expected to contribute annually to the Society's funds. 

The Society seeks recruits from all ranks, believing that not only 
those who suffer from the present system, but also many who are 
themselves enriched by it, recognize its evils and would welcome a 
remedy. 

The Society meets for lectures and discussions on two Fridays in 
the month, at 8 p.m. 



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FABIAN SOCIETY.— ThePabian Sooiety oonsists of Socialists. A state- 
j. ment of ite Rules and the following publications oan be obtained from the 
Seoretary, at the Fabian Offioe, 3 Clement's Inn, London, W.O. 
FABIANISM AND THE EMPIRE: A Manifesto. 4d. post free. 
FABIAN ESSAYS IN SOCIALISM. (35th Thousand.) 
Paper oover, x/- ; plain oloth, a/-, post free from the Seoretary. 
FABIAN TRACTS and LEAFLETS. 
Tracts, each 16 to 62 pp., price Id., or 9d. per doM., unless otherwise stated. 
Leaflets, 4 pp. each, price Id. for six copies, Is. per 100, or 8/6 per 1000. 

The Set of 88, 3s. ; post free 3/5. Bound in Buckram, 4/6 ; post free for 5s. 

I. — General Socialism in«its various aspects. 

Tracts. — 121. Public Service versus Private Expenditure. By SirOuvEB 
Lodge. 113. Communism. BvWm. Mobris. 107. Socialism for Million- 
aires. By Bernard Shaw. 78. Socialism and the Teaching of Christ. 
By Dr. John Clifford. 87. The same in Welsh. 42. Christian Social- 
ism. By Rev. S. D. Headlam. 75. Labor in the Longest Reign. By 
Sidney Webb. 72. The Moral Aspects of Socialism. By Sidney Ball. 
69. Difficulties of Individualism. By Sidney Webb. 51. Socialism : True 
and False. By S. Webb. 45. The Impossibilities of Anarchism. By 
Bernard Shaw (price 2d.). 15. English Progress towards Social Demo- 
cracy. By S.Webb. 7. Capital and Land (6th edn. revised 1904). 5. Facts 
for Socialists (10th edn., revised 1906). Leaflets— 13. What Socialism Is. 
1. Why are the Many Poor? 38. The same in Welsh. 

II. — Applications of Socialism to Particular Problems. 

Tracts.— 128. The Case for a Legal Minimum Wage. 126. The Aboli- 
tion of Poor Law Guardians. 122. Municipal Milk and Public Health. 
By Dr. F. Lawson Dodd. 120. " After Bread, Education." 125. Munici- 
palization by Provinces. 119. Public Control of Electrical Power and 
Transit. 123. The Revival of Agriculture. 118. The Secret of Rural 
Depopulation. 115. State Aid to Agriculture : an Example. 112. Life 
in the Laundry, zzo. Problems of Indian Poverty. 98. State Rail- 
ways for Ireland. 124. State Control of Trusts. 86. Municipal Drink 
Traffic. .85. Liquor Licensing at Home and Abroad. 84. Economics 
•of Direct Employment. 83. State Arbitration and the Living Wage. 
73. Case for State Pensions in Old Age. 67. Women and the Factory 
Acts. 50. Sweating : its Cause and Remedy. 48. Eight Hours by Law. 
23. Case for an Eight Hours Bill. 47* The Unemployed. By John 
Burns, M.P. Leaflets. — 89. Old Age Pensions at Work. 19. What the 
Farm Laborer Wants. 104. How Trade Unions benefit Workmen. 

III. — Local Government Powers : How to use them. 

Tracts. — 117. The London Education Act, 1903: how to make the best 
of it. 114. The Education Act, 1902. in. Reform of Reformatories 
and Industrial Schools. By H. T. Holmes. 109. Cottage Plans and 
Common Sense. By Raymond Unwin. 103. Overcrowding in London 
and its Remedy. By W. C. Steadman, L.C.C. zoi. The House Famine 
and How to Relieve it. 52 pp. 76. Houses for the People. 100. Metro- 
politan Borough Councils. 99. Local Government in Ireland. 82. 
Workmen's Compensation Act. 62. Parish and District Councils. 
6x. The London County Council. 54. The Humanizing of the Poor 
Law. By J. F. Oakeshott. Leaflets.— 68. The Tenant's Sanitary 
Catechism. 71. Same for London. 63. Parish Council Cottages and 
how to get them. 58. Allotments and how to get them. FABIAN 
MUNICIPAL PROGRAM, Fibst Sebies (Nos. 32, 36, 37). Municipaliza- 
tion of the Gas Supply. The Scandal of London's Markets. A 
Labor Policy for Public Authorities. Second Series (Nos. 90 to 97). 
Municipalization of Milk Supply. Municipal Pawnshops. Municipal 
Slaughterhouses. Women as Councillors. Municipal Bakeries. Muni- 
cipal Hospitals. Municipal Fire Insurance. Municipal Steamboats. — 
Second Series in a red oover for Id. (9d. per doz.) ; separate leaflets, 1/- per 100. 

IV. — Books. 29. What to Read on social and economic subjects. 6d. ne , 

V. — General Politics and Fabian Policy. 

127. Socialism and Labor Policy. 116. Fabianism and the Fiscal 
Question : an alternative policy. 108. Twentieth Century Politics. By 
Sidney Webb. 70. Report on Fabian Policy. 41. The Fabian Society: 
its Early History. By Bernard Shaw. 

VI. — Question Leaflets. Questions for Candidates : 20, Poor Law Guard 
ans. 24, Parliament. 28, County Councils, Bural. 56, Parish Oounoils. 57, 
Rural Distriot Councils. 102, Metropolitan Borough Councils. 

Book Boxes lent to Societies, Clubs, Trade Unions, for 6s. a year, or 2/6 a quarter 
Printed by Q. Standring, 7 Finsbury St, London, Jfi.C, and published by the Fabian Society, 
i 3 Clement's Inn, Strand, London W.C. 



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Christian Socialism* 



Long before the Fabian Society was founded I learnt the prinoiplet 
and was familiar with the title of "Christian Socialism" from 
Maurice and Kingsley, the Professors of Philosophy and History at 
Cambridge. 

There were those then, as there are those now, who object both 
to the title and to the principles it expresses : the connection of the 
adjective "Christian" with the noun "Socialism" seems to them 
out of place. And the reason for this is, that for long both earnest 
Christians and those who have equally earnestly opposed the Christ- 
ian religion, have been in the habit of thinking and talking as if 
" other- worldliness" was the note of a true Christian — as if his main 
object should be to get to Heaven after death. Whereas, on the con- 
trary, so far at any rate as the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself is 
concerned, you will find that He said hardly anything at all about 
life after death, but a great deal about the Kingdom of Heaven, or 
the righteous society to be established on earth. And as the whole 
of what I have to say to you depends on the truth of this, I must 
ask you to allow me to elaborate it to you a little at length. 

Take, first of all, that long series of works of Christ's which are* 
generally now called " miracles," but which St. John, at any rate, 
used to call " signs," significant acts shewing what kind of a person 
Christ was, and what He wished His followers to be ; and you will 
find — without troubling for the moment how they were done, but 
merely considering what all those who believe they happened are* 
bound to learn from them — that they were all distinctly secular, 
socialistic works : works for health against disease, works restoring 
beauty and harmony and pleasure where there had been ugliness and 
discord and misery ; works taking care to see that the people were 
properly fed, works subduing nature to the human good, works shew- 
ing that mirth and joy have a true place in our life here, works also 
shewing that premature death has no right here. In fact, if you 
want to point the contrast between Christ and modern Christians,, 
you cannot do better than consider the different way in which He 
and they speak about premature death. They are in the habit of 
saying, when their children die, after their first grief is over : " Oh r 
it is well with them — they have gone to a better place " ; but Christ, 
so far from encouraging that kind of talk, deliberately, according to- 
the stories which all Christians believe to be true, took pains to bring 
back into this beautiful world those who had passed off it before the 
time. The death of an old man, passing away in his sleep, that, 

* A Paper by the Rev. Stewart D. Headlam, read to the Fabian Sooiety on 
the 8th January, 1892, and ordered to be printed for the use of the Society. 



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• who had the key of knowledge and would not enter into the treasure 
house themselves, and hindered those who wished to enter in from 
entering. Yes, even He had language whioh some superfine people 
would call outrageous, ungentlemanly, when He sent that message to 
the king of His country, calling him a jaokal— a word of the utmost 
contempt when we remember that the jackal was the natural scaven- 
ger of the Eastern city. We need not be surprised, then, that He 
who at the right time could be so righteously angry, now and again 
spoke about Hell. 

But who, according to Jesus Christ, was the man who was in 
Hell ? It was the rich man who was in Hell ; and why was he in 
Hell ? Not simply because he was rich, for Christ said it was pos- 
sible, though difficult, for a rich man to enter into His society. No; 
the rich man was in Hell simply beoause he allowed the contrast 
between rich and poor to 20 on as a matter of course, day after day, 
without taking any kind of pains to put a stop to it. That, accord- 
ing to Christ, was the worst state into whioh it was possible for a 
man to fall. 

Or take another parable, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, 
or the parable of Judgment. In it, if you remember, Christ sum- 
moned before His imagination all the nations of the world for judg- 
ment ; and it is important to note that it was nations and not merely 
individuals who were summoned by Christ to judgment ; for you 
cannot be a good Christian merely by being good in private life, or 
domestic life : you must be a good citizen in order to be a good 
Christian : and so it was nations, and not merely individuals, who 
were summoned to judgment. And what, according to Christ, did 
the goodness of a nation consist of ? That nation, according to Christ, 
was good, not whioh said " Lord ! Lord 1 " most, whioh was most 
eager about outward worship or formal religion, but whioh took care 
to see that its pebple were properly clothed, fed, and housed, whioh 
looked after those who were in difficulty and distress ; and even in 
the case of those who said they did not know God, who would call 
themselves or be called by others Atheists, Jesus Christ said that if 
they were taking pains to see that the people were properly clothed, 
fed, and housed, however much they might say that they did not 
know God, God knew them and claimed them as His. Now, what I 
have to suggest is that modern English Christians need not presume 
to be more religious than Jesus Christ was ; and if He said that the 
goodness of a nation consisted in seeing that the people were properly 
clothed, fed and housed, then surely it is the bounden duty of every 
minister of Christ, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the 
humblest Sunday-school teacher, to be doing their best to see that 
the men, women and children of England are properly clothed, 
fed and housed. I hope, then, that I have said sufficient to make it 
clear that, so far as Christ's works and teachings are concerned, not 
only is there no contradiction between the adjective "Christian" and 
the noun " Socialism," but that, if you want to be a good Christian, 
you must be something very much like a good Socialist. 

I know, however, that there are two or three sentences of Christ's 
which are often quoted against this, the whole tone and tenor of His 



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cathedral they were met by the Arohdeaeon with words to this 
effect : No matter, however much yon may educate, agitate, organise, 
yon will never get rid of poverty, for Christ has said " The poor ye 
shall have always with yon." Now, from what I have already shown 
to yon, yon will see that, if Christ had said that, He would have con- 
tradicted the whole of the rest of His work and teaching ; if He had 
said that when His kingdom was established— one object of which 
was to get rid of poverty — there should still be poverty He would 
have stultified Himself ; but He did not say that, He did not pro- 

eesy. He simply said, looking back on the history of His nation, 
>king round on the then condition of His nation, before His king- 
dom was established, that He noted the persistence of poverty — a very 
different thing from saying that there always should be poverty. 
But even if He had said, " The poor ye shall have always with you," 
would He have been giving any kind of sanction to the state of things 
which we see now? I take it that we are all agreed that under the 
best Socialist regime imaginable, if a man is a loafer, whether of the 
east or west ; if a man refuse to work when he has every facility 
and opportunity for working, he will fall into poverty or into 
something much more disagreeable than poverty. But what is it 
we see now ? Why, this : that on the whole those who work the 
hardest and produce the most, have the least of the good things of 
this world for their consumption ; and those who work very little 
and produce nothing, or nothing adequate in return for what they 
consume, have the most of the good things of this world for their 
consumption. Bo much so, that as we have been taught, all society 
at present can be classified into beggars, robbers, and workers. If a 
man is not working for his living, he must either be a beggar, living on 
the charity of others, or a robber preying upon the hard- won earnings 
of others. And if, again, you want a rough description of the 
object of Christian Socialism, I should say that it was to bring about 
the time when all shall work, and when, all working, work will be a joy 
instead of the " grind " it is at present, and to bring about the time 
when the robbers shall be utterly abolished. I hope, then, you will 
see that there is nothing in these three passages, so often quoted 
against us, to contradict the whole of the rest of Christ's work and 
teaching, and that therefore a follower of Christ is bound to be an 
out-and-out fighter against poverty, not merely alleviating its 
symtoms, but getting at the very root and cause of it. 

But you know that Christ not only worked and taught like this, 
but He deliberately founded a society to keep on doing, throughout 
the world on a large scale, what He began to do by way of example, 
in miniature, in Palestine. He said, you know, shortly before His 
death, to those who were to be the leaders in that society : " He 
that is loyal to me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater 
works shall he do." The Christian Church therefore is intended to 
be a society not merely for teaching a number of elaborate doctrines 
— important as they may be for the philosophical defence of the 
faith — not even for maintaining a beautiful ritual and worships — 
important as that is if men and women are to have all their faculties 
fully developed ; but mainly and chiefly for doing on a large scale 

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out the day the Drotherhood which the fatherhood implies, o* who' 
oomes to the Holy Communion, Sunday by Sunday, month by 
month, or festival by festival, and is riot striving in every-day life to 
realise the fellowship which the Holy Communion implies. Yes, 
tiie great sacrament of brotherhood is entirely on our side. ' ' 

, Once more, take the one only document which is binding on all 
members of the Church of England, the Church Catechism.* You 
will find it full of good, sound teaching in the principles of Christian 
Socialism. Let me give you one sentence only, a piece of ethical 
teaching, which, if it were carried out, would alter the whole face of: 
English society. It is there taught that it is the duty which each 
one, man or woman, rich or poor, owes to his neighbor, to learn and 
labor truly to get his own living ; not to himself, be it noted, in 
order that he may "get on" — for you cannot now get on without get- 
ting somebody else off — but to his neighbor, that he may be an 
honest man. It has been calculated, atf you know, that if all took 
their share of the work of the world, none would have to work fo* 
more than four hours a day ; that the reason why so many have to 
work under such evil conditions and for so long a time is because 
they have to produce not only sufficient for themselves and their 
families, but also sufficient for a large number of others who are 
themselves producing nothing, or nothing adequate, in return for 
what they consume. It is against this evil that our socialistic 
Catechism is aimed. And let it be remembered that, according to < 
its teaching, it is no kind of excuse for a man or a woman to say : 
" True, I do not give back in return for what I consume anything 
that I myself have produced, but I give back something which my 
ancestors have produced." To such we say, You eat your own 
dinners, you wear your own clothes, you require for yourself so much 
house-room ; your great-grandfather can't eat your dinners, or wear 
your clothes, or use your house ; and therefore, in common honesty, 
you are bound to give back, not something which your great grand- 
father has produced, but which you yourself have produced. And 
lastly, think of that Song of Our Lady, the gentle mother of Jesus 
Christ, she whom we speak of as not only bright as the sun, fair aa 
the moon, but also terrible as an army with banners. You will 
find that she has some terrible words there. She holds up to the 
scorn of the ages, as pests of society, three sets of people, the proud, 
the mighty, and the rich. " He hath put down the mighty from 
their seats (or dynasties from their thrones), He has scattered the 
proud; the rich He hath sent empty away." No wonder that some 
of the more far-seeing Socialists are eager now and again to go to 
their cathedrals or parish churches, when they have such revolu- 
tionary language as that sung to them. 

This, then, must be sufficient to indicate to you what is the 
religious basis of our Socialism. The work and teaching of Jesus 
Christ, the testimony of His apostles, of the two greatest sacraments, 
of the Church Catechism, of the Magnificat — they all surely make it 

* See the author's " Laws of Eternal Life : being Studies in the Churoh 
Catechism" (Guild of St. (Matthew, 376 Strand, London, W.O. ; one shilling, 
net). 



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clAar that a Christian is 63ond*to cut tight aWay'at the root of that 
evil vthich is the main cause of poverty, and which prevents men 
from living f uE lives in this world. 

But at this point I can fancy some of my hearers saying, This is 
all very well, but if this be true, then the logical result of it is that 
the bishops in each diocese with their cathedrals, and the parsons in 
each parish with the churches, should be real leaders and centres of 
Social-Democracy, leading the Church forward to war against poverty; 
whereas we know that the bishops and clergy, so far from leading, 
have often tried to hinder all who would help. And though I pro- ! 
bably should maintain that there are many more exceptions to the 
truth of this charge than my hearers would be disposed to admit, I 
acknowledge the truth of it, and I seek for the cause of it. And 
there is one reason, at any rate. It is this : that you and your fore- 
fathers have allowed the Church to be gagged and fettered ; instead 
of allowing the Church to elect her own bishops and clergy, you 
have forced them on her from outside. And so, now, anyone rather 
tfyan the whole body of the parish elects the parish priest; some- 
times the landlord, sometimes the bishop ; or a builder who wants 
his villas to let, or a college at Oxford or Cambridge, or a peer, or a 
jtfckey at Newmarket ; anyone, rather than the only people who ought 
to do it, has the power given them by you to do it. I suggest to you, 
therefore, by the way, that you cannot expect the Church to live up 
to the law of her being until you have disestablished and disendowed 
those whom you now allow to lord it over the Church, and left her 
free to manage her own affairs. A complete Christian Socialism 
cannot be brought about until the Church is free to use influence 
and discipline for the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven upon 
earth. 

In the meanwhile, much can be done by those Churchmen who 
remember that the State is a sacred organisation as well as the 
Church. They can unite with Socialists of every sort in their en- 
deavor to seize the State and to use it for the well-being of the 
masses instead of the classes ; or in more prosaic words, they may 
help to get delegates or deputies returned to Parliament who will 
carry out the people's will. And therefore for the rest of this 
paper, having given you what seem to me to be the principles upon 
which a Christian is bound to be a Socialist, I will touch upon three 
items on which, in practical politics, we should specially lay stress. 
And it is important to do this, both because many Christians are 
somewhat vague in their Socialism, and many Socialists, in my 
opinion, fail to get at the root of the matter in their joy at getting 
this or that restriction carried out effectually. First of all, then, we 
naturally think of the children ; and having got the London day- 
schools free, we should put forth what energy we can for a liberal 
expenditure in making them comfortable and pleasant, spending 
ungrudgingly on such matters as music and swimming ; decreasing 
the number of childen for each teacher, especially in the case of 
the highest standard and of the exceptionally backward children. 
We should of course also make the continuation classes free, and, 
further, allow no grant of public money to be given in any form 

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whatever to privately managed schools. These may seem but mild 
matters to many of the Fabians ; but I cannot help thinking that if 
oar society had been in dead earnest about them last November, the 
result of the elections would have been different. Of course, it must 
be frankly stated that these little reforms will not directly tend to 
raise wages, unless they could be accompanied by general raising of 
the school age, and then only slightly. While the means of produc- 
tion are monopolised by a few, the reasons for giving the many the 
best possible schooling are not that it will enable them to get on, 
but that it will give them the key of knowledge, that it will help to 
make them discontented, and that it will to some decree teach the 
value of discipline and inter-dependence. We school them to a large 
degree with this in view, that they may know what is the evil they 
have to attack and how to attack it. We do want to educate them 
above their station — not indeed above that state of life into which it 
shall please God to call them, but above that into which devilish 
robbery and monopoly has forced them. Let us once have a genera- 
tion of young people growing up, fairly well educated and thoroughly 
discontented, and the legal, orderly social revolution for which some 
of us are working cannot be long delayed. 

Secondly, in considering their practical political program, Chris- 
tian Socialists have to remember, and to remind others, that we art 
all employers of labor. Now it is a commonplace of Christian ethics 
that, while there exist employers and employed, they have duties 
towards each other. No self-respecting middle-class householder 
would deny this in the case of his housemaid. What we have to 
do is to extend the sphere of duty — to get men to understand that 
nationally or municipally they have thousands of servants whom 
they employ, and to feel that it is their duty to see that these are 
not overworked or underpaid; or, in other words, to follow the 
example set by the last London School Board, and see to it that all 
those employed by School Boards, Vestries, County Councils, and 
Parliament are not worked for more than, say, eight hours a day, 
and are paid the minimum trade union rate of wages. This a 
Christian Socialist must insist upon simply as a duty of the delegate 
of the people to those whom the people employ. If he so treats it, 
he will not be surprised to find that three years after the duty had, 
for the first time in English history, been done, those who had bene- 
fited by it were so far from being grateful for it that they would not 
take the trouble to come out on a wet afternoon and vote for those 
who had got them the benefit. But, further, the people have to 
remember that no railways, tramways, water-pipes, gas-pipes, wires, 
etc., can be laid down without their consent ; and that therefore it 
is their duty, whenever through their various delegates or deputies 
they give that consent, to make as a condition that those who are 
employed in these various industries should not be overworked or 
underpaid. This I am urging as a matter of duty from the people 
to those whom they employ, not as a matter of right on the part of 
the workers from those who employ them. Duty is a stronger 
motive power than right ; and it will be time enough for the great 
mass of the workers to claim their rights from those who employ 



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aa bfccktegV The useful and ^ the' Christian thing t6 do is what Mr. s 
Veririder and his Red Vans have done, arid help to keep them, in the 
country and there fight landlordism. For of bourse you know that, 
forced off the soil, they crowd into the already overcrowded large 
towns ; there they compete against the men and women of the towns 
hi their trades and employments and so tend to lower their wages ; 
and they compete also for house room, and so tend to raise rents. 
This, I say, is proved by experience, and could be proved by statistics ; 
the population of the villages and country districts not having 
increased in anything like the ordinary normal increase of the birth- 
rate over the death-rate ; while the population in the large towns 
has increased very much more than the ordinary normal increase of 
the birth-rate over the death. So I have shown to you that land- 
lordism prevents wages from being raised, tends directly to the 
lowering of wages and the raising of rents. Am I not right therefore 
in saying that this is the root question, the bottom question, which 
must be dealt with if we want not merely to alleviate poverty by 
charity, or tinker at it by semi-socialistic trade restrictions, but to 
get rid of it altogether ? 

But this question can be dealt with, if you like, entirely from the 
point of view of townsfolk and their rights. If, when discussing the 
matter, you find that your friend is learned in manures and crops 
and scientific agriculture, you can for the moment, for the sake of 
argument, give him in the country altogether, and look at the 
question solely as the dweller in a large town. I remember, some 
years ago now, at the Industrial Remuneration Conference, held in 
Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, presided over by Sir Charles Dilke, whom 
that most immoral Mr. Stead is still trying to keep from serving his 
country, that Mr. Balfour, the atheist coercionist, was reading a 
learned paper, in the course of which he said that the land question, 
however interesting to philosophers and economists, was not a 
practical question; for land in England was almost unsaleable. I 
ventured to interrupt him by asking whether the land on which we 
were then met was altogether unsaleable. He replied that he was 
only speaking of land in the country. Well, I have already pointed 
out to you, that if the laborers could get access to it, land in the 
country would not be altogether unsaleable; that it may not be well 
able to support landlord, farmer, and laborer, but that it could well 
support one man willing to work hard if he was landlord, farmer, 
and laborer combined. And by the way, however much men say 
land is unsaleable, you never find them willing to give away, out and 
out, one single acre of it. But I say, if you like, you can look solely 
at town lands. And what do you find then? Why, you find land 
in the City of London worth more than £30 per superficial foot ; 
land in Belgravia worth more than land in Bethnal Green ; land in 
Bethnal Green worth more than land in Epping Forest. Now what 
is it that makes the land more and more valuable ? Simply the 
people living or working in any neighborhood, or wanting to live 
and work there. Yet into whose pockets does the whole of this 
value go ? Not into the pockets of the men and women who create 
it, but into the pockets of those who, often simply because they are 



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Yes, but someone says, this would be all right if you were starting 
in a new country, but the nation in the past has sanctioned the pre- 
sent system ; it would be destructive of all credit to get rid of land- 
lordism without compensating the landlords. To which we reply 
that the nation has never given its verdict one way or the other, and 
that now that it is gradually getting its power to speak, it is begin- 
ning to be evident what it will say ; and further, that even if the 
whole nation in the past had given away to a few people in this 
generation that without which the whole body of the people cannot 
live full lives, it would have been doing that which it had no kind of 
right to do ; that the land of every country belongs of natural and 
inalienable right to the whole body of the people in each generation, 
and as for compensation, from the point of view of the highest 
Christian morality, it is the landlords who should compensate the 
people, not the people the landlords. But practically, if you carry 
out this reform by taxation, no compensation would be necessary 
or even possible. We say therefore, " You need not kick the 
landlords out; you must not buy them out; you had better tax 
them out." And by this process no one will suffer; land will 
naturally get into the hands of those who will use it best; the 
thrifty artisan who has bought the piece of land on which his 
house is built will be much better off than he is now if all he has 
to pay in taxation, local or imperial, is its ground value to the 
State. The man— say, the vestryman — who is partly working for 
his living, and partly living by speculating on the wants of 
others by having bought a street or two of houses, will find that 
this reform will make it more convenient for him to live entirely by 
working. The Duke of Westminster and the Duke of Bedford— or 
rather their children — will be healthier and happier people if they 
have to take their fair share of the work of the world. BusseU 
Square, if the owners of the houses round have the choice of being 
rated at what it would let at for building purposes, or of opening 
it to the public, would fulfil the old prophecy, and the gardens pf 
the city would be full of boys and girls playing ; and marriage- 
hindering Mammon being utterly annihilated, the Alma Venus of 
Lucretius would again have her way. Hinc Imtas urbes pueris florere 
videbis. 

I have now endeavored to put before you the theological basis of 
Christian Socialism, and the special political work with which it is 
concerned. But, although during the last few years there is an 
increasing number of the clergy who are becoming more or less 
socialistic in their teaching, it would be affectation to pretend that 
the kind pf doctrine I have given in this lecture is the current teach- 
ing in. the Church at present.. In fact, we are often seriously con- 
demned for the line. we have taken. It is complained of that we 
ignore t]ae Eighth Commandment, that we talk about rights rather 
than duties, that we value material rather than spiritual things. As 
to the Eighth Commandment, we .should indeed be foolish as well 
as wrong to ignore it; for it is entirely on our side. "Thou shalt 
npt steal" is proclaimed. from the altar of West-end churches to 
upper and middle- class congregations, its well as in prison and peni- 



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FABIAN SOCIETY.— The Fabian Sooiety oonsists o! Socialist*. A state- 
ment of its Boles and the following publications oan be obtained from the 
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THIS MISERY OF BOOTS. By H. G. Wells. Paper cover, design 
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Tbaot8. — 121. Public Service versus Private Expenditure. By Sir Oliver 
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Pbboy Drarmer. 78. Socialism and the Teaching of Christ. By Dr. 
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1. Why are the Many Poor? 38. The same in Welsh. 
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TBA0T8. — 131. The Decline in the Birth -Rate. By Sidney Webb. 130. 
Home Work and Sweating. By Miss B. L. Hutchtns. 128. The 
Case for a Legal Minimum Wage. 126. The Abolition of Poor Law 
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Economics of Direct Employment. 83. State Arbitration and the Living 
Wage. 48. Eight Hours by Law. 23. Case for an Eight Hours Bill. 
47. The Unemployed. By John Burns, M.P. Leaflet. — 104. How 
Trade Unions benefit Workmen. 

III. — Local Government Powers : How to use them. 

Tbaots. — 1x7. The London Education Act, 1903: how to make the best 
of it. xxx. Reform of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. By H. T. 
Holmes. 109. Cottage Plans and Common Sense. By Raymond Unwot. 
103. Overcrowding in London and its Remedy. By W. 0. Stbadman. 
76. Houses for the People. 99. Local Government in Ireland. 8a. 
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IV. — Books. 132. A Guide to Books for Socialists. 29. What to Read 
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V. — General Politics and Fabian Policy. 

127. Socialism and Labor Policy. xx6. Fabianism and the Fiscal 
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Sidney Webb. 70. Report on Fabian Policy. 41. The Fabian Society: 
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