Today, as ever, the Fabian Society of London together with its affiliated provincial societies consists of several hundred well-known publicists and politicians whose connections with the Society can readily be confirmed, although the general public seldom identifies them as Fabians; plus a larger number of unknown and unsung adherents, engaged in a wide variety of more or less obscure tasks. Frequently, their long and faithful services are recorded only by a brief death notice in Fabian News or the Fabian Society Annual Report. On the whole, it is a case of “join for five years, join for fifty, and Fabians are notoriously long-lived.” (1)
As always, the Society is composed mainly of middle class professionals, many engaged in writing, teaching and various types of “research.” Leading symbol of Fabian Research in 1963 was a lean, hollow-eyed pundit from the London School of Economics, with a name reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s tea party: Professor Richard Titmuss. More and more, the Society seeks to enlist engineers, technicians and managerial personnel; and a special effort has been made to penetrate the modern communications industries—radio, television and motion pictures(2)—with an eye to their “educational,” that is, propagandist value for Socialism.
There is a firm nucleus of Fabian civil servants in every government department, and Fabian Socialists have been regularly appointed as Opposition members on government Advisory Boards, notably Labor, Commonwealth Affairs and Immigration—as well as to key posts in the United Nations. A. D. K. Owen, better known as David Owen, who served as personal assistant to Sir Stafford Cripps in 1941-43, has been a fixture at the United Nations since its inception.(3) As director of the Office of Technological Services in the UN Secretariat, he has been for years in a position to dispense patronage to Fabian Socialists on a world-wide basis.
Though the terminology has changed with the times, the Fabian Society remains a secret society of Socialists, dedicated to transforming the existing world order by methods necessarily devious and not always short of sedition. Despite its nominal emphasis on “democratic” practices and parliamentary means to accomplish its ends; despite its respectable front of good manners, charm and learning; despite the fact that its Summer Schools stress such sources of innocent merriment as croquet, table tennis and country dancing—in essence, the goals of the Fabian Society parallel those of the Communists and at some point short of infinity find a common meeting place.
Rosa Luxemburg, the Left Wing Polish Social Democrat who was “executed” under mysterious circumstances in Germany following the abortive Spartacus revolt of 1919, long ago noted a disturbing likeness between the British Fabian Society and Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. Each, she pointed out, was a secret society of intellectuals grasping for power through control of the working-class—and she feared and distrusted them both. (4)
It is true that methods of discipline governing the two organizations vary—the Bolshevik parties being operated along quasi-military lines, while the Fabian Society appears to impose little or no control over its members. Inquiry reveals, however, that major policy decisions of the Fabian Executive are binding; and that virtually all important speeches or publications by Fabians are prepared and/or cleared by the New Fabian Research Bureau, even when they appear for tactical reasons to be mutually contradictory. The Society’s bylaws provide that members or associates may be dropped for “want of confidence,” and in some cases, individuals condemned to that silent treatment have been known to drop completely from political sight. Except in the strictly superficial give-and-take of conversation and debate, the boasted Fabian tolerance is a myth, and Fabians are by no means the “gentle people” they claim to be.
During a prolonged period of political Opposition in Britain, Fabian Socialists nursed their strength at the municipal level, while gradually increasing the number of their seats in Parliament. For instance, on the London County Council, Sidney Webb’s old stronghold from which he moved into national politics, Fabians still retain a majority (including the chairmanship) that assures them control of local educational institutions. In September, 1956, Fabian News announced that “the new leader of the Labour Group (majority) on the Leeds County Council, Frank O’Donnell, is a member of the Leeds Fabian Society” and that “all four sitting M.P.’s” (including Hugh Gaitskell, M.P. and Denis Healey, M.P.) are “members of the Leeds Society.”
This item was interesting in the light of an Associated Press dispatch of November 12, 1962, announcing that Owen Lattimore, the former Johns Hopkins University professor, had just been appointed to a teaching post at Leeds University, a public institution. Many Americans will recall that Owen Lattimore, author of books on Communist Asia and alleged secret agent of the Soviet Foreign Office, was indicted for perjury for his testimony before a United States Senate Subcommittee investigating the notorious Institute of Pacific Relations case. Fabian writers and publicists in England rallied volubly to his defense at the time—though the same circles later professed to be shocked by reports that Soviet spies and informers had succeeded in filching some British Government secrets.
From 1956 to his sudden death in January, 1963, Hugh Gaitskell of the Leeds Fabian Society was Parliamentary Leader of the British Labour Party. As a member of the Leeds County Council, he could scarcely have failed to be aware of Lattimore’s appointment to Leeds University. Yet Gaitskell was the man slated to become Britain’s next Prime Minister, in the event of a Labour Governments return to power! While publicly mourned, his demise may have proved providential for British Socialism. At least the Labour Party was able to present a new, youthful and relatively noncontroversial face to the world, at a time when aggressive new tactics were urgently needed.
Gaitskell’s successor, Harold Wilson, M.P., was named on St. Valentine’s Day, 1963. A Fabian victory in the mock contest for the post was a foregone conclusion, following an “election” in which all three candidates for the Opposition leadership turned out to be long-standing members of the Fabian Society. Harold Wilson, a former chairman of the Society who more recently headed its Local Societies section, had been an active Fabian Socialist since his undergraduate days at Oxford. Somehow, that pertinent fact was not featured in general press and television accounts, which heralded his “election” as Opposition Leader as respectfully as if he were already the effective Prime Minister.
Like his “rivals,” George Brown, M.P., and James Callaghan, M.P., Wilson belonged to the Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet chosen to man a future Labour Government. His place as “Shadow” Foreign Minister was promptly filled by Denis Healey, M.P., member of the Advisory Council of the Fabian International Bureau as well as a stalwart of the Leeds Fabian Society. Of the twelve Labourites named to the Gaitskell Shadow Cabinet in 1959, nine belonged to the Fabian Society.(5) If and when they became Cabinet Ministers in substance, it was certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that plans and programs prepared in advance by New Fabian Research would once more become the official policies of the British Government.
In February, 1957, the official Fabian News reported: “Fabians are playing a major part in the preparation of Labour policy documents. The Party’s National Executive has recently set up working parties to report to the Party Conferences in 1957 and 1958 on the Ownership of Industry, Control of Industry, Public Industries, Agriculture and Education. The first working party is composed entirely of Fabians, and there are several Fabians on each of the others.”
Whatever the Fabian Society had in mind for Britain, the privations, indignities and follies from 1945 to 1951 were merely a foretaste of things to come. Enlarged schemes, glimpsed in publications of the Socialist International, seemed to include a coolly calculated timetable for synchronizing “peaceful social revolution” in England with simultaneous developments in the other nations of Atlantica. Even emigration would no longer afford an escape for the regimented Britons of the future.
Domestic plans for a Socialist Britain were outlined in the flood of publications which the Society continued to issue on virtually every subject under the sun. Over the signature of John Hughes, a basic plan to renationalize the steel industry was distributed to all members of the Society in 1962 as Document No. 198 of the Fabian Research Series. Other happy suggestions, guaranteed to finish off the free enterprise system by more indirect methods, have been announced since 1956. They propose to control existing industrial and business corporations via government purchase of shares (stocks); to set up new plants with government funds, plants that will work towards the gradual extinction of competitive private industry; to “decentralize” the management of nationalized industries (6) and to require government-owned enterprises to show a profit ( along lines remarkably similar to those proposed in Soviet Russia as of November, 1962).
There were political plans for “reforming” the House of Lords and for downgrading and humiliating the Monarchy, approved by Eirene White, M.P., a chairman of the Fabian Society.(7) In fact, more outspokenly radical elements of the Society—typified by Hugh Gaitskell’s teacher, the late G. D. H. Cole, and until recently by Harold Wilson himself—had long urged complete abolition of the Monarchy and the watchdog House of Lords. A favorite pupil of the departed G. D. H. Cole tells how the latter, after freely describing the various revolutionary changes he hoped to see the next Labour Party Government make, suddenly realized he had failed to mention a particular reform dear to his heart. As the students to whom Cole had imparted his plans were leaving, he exclaimed: “Why, I forgot to include the abolition of God!”(8)
Since the day when that graceless quip was uttered more in earnest than in jest, G. D. H. Cole has gone to his reward. He died in 1959 as president of the Fabian Society, a post awarded to his widow in 1962; but his destructive ideas still survive among his numerous disciples in Britain and the Commonwealth countries. G. D. H. Cole’s influence on the current crop of Fabian Socialist leaders has been profound, however obliquely it was sometimes expressed in statements from the Opposition benches. When Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson opposed Britain’s entry into the Common Market in 1962, even Socialists seemed puzzled by the unaccustomed strain of patriotism in their arguments. Yet, on closer inspection, their stand was neither surprising nor prompted by abnormal respect for tradition.
For any Cole-tutored Marxist, the obvious if unspoken complaint against the Common Market was quite simply that it did not “destroy confidence in the prospect of sustained profits,” but on the contrary seemed to produce general prosperity by a capitalist formula. If Socialist administrations held office simultaneously in France, Holland, Italy, West Germany, Belgium and England, as they have long been striving to do, opposition to the Common Market by British Fabians might be expected to subside. Gaitskell and Wilson left the door open against that eventuality; but General de Gaulle, (9) for reasons best known to himself, slammed it shut.
The imminence of a Labour Party victory in England was somberly underscored by the tribute paid to the departed Fabian Socialist, Hugh Gaitskell. On January 31, 1963, memorial services for him were held in Westminster Abbey, an honor usually reserved for a Prime Minister. The Queen, so often derided from the Labour benches, was courteously represented in the Abbey by the Earl of Eldon; the Duke of Edinburgh by Rear Admiral D. C. Bonham-Carter; and Sir Winston Churchill by Lady Churchill.
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his colleagues in the Government shared the choir stalls with the Shadow Cabinet of the Opposition. In the procession to the sanctuary, the Archbishop of Canterbury was accompanied by the Moderator of the Free Church Council. At the close of the service, spectators seated in the nave and standing in the cloisters joined with mixed emotions in singing William Blake’s hymn which envisages the building of Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. (10)
In that overflow congregation of diplomats, nobles, civil servants, parliamentarians and trade unionists, the Socialist International was well represented. The Prime Minister of Denmark, J. O. Krag, head of the Danish Social Democratic Party; Willy Brandt, Socialist Mayor of West Berlin; and D. Segall, of the Social Democratic Party of West Germany, flew to London for the occasion. Other representatives of foreign Socialist groups who were present remained discreetly nameless, including a delegation from the United States. Gaitskell’s stepson, Raymond Frost, who came from Washington for the funeral, could not attend the Abbey tribute because he had to leave England on a World Bank mission to Colombia. (11)
The obsequies over, Britain’s Fabian Socialists applied themselves hastily to transmuting Gaitskell’s cold-eyed successor into what they fondly hoped would be the irresistible image of a future Prime Minister. In this alchemy they were assisted by the British version of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, which distributed photographs of Harold Wilson in several unlikely attitudes. One showed the forty-seven year old Opposition Leader with eyes downcast, hands prayerfully raised as in the Duerer etching—and a pipe clamped between his teeth! Another was a photomontage of Harold Wilson at the age of eight, posed outside the door of 10 Downing Street.
Such primitive publicity stills made older and more sophisticated Fabians shudder, and were frowned upon by trade unionists who paid the bills. Soon it was announced that a new group of assorted image-makers, resembling the Advertising Council in the United States, had volunteered to promote Harold Wilson’s campaign gratis. They would use billboards, buttons, stickers and other visual aids to which the frugal British electorate was still unaccustomed. Names of advertising men involved and the amounts of money to be spent were not revealed. Labour Party spokesmen at Transport House, however, were quoted as saying their early-bird campaign would be styled along the lines of the 1960 campaign that put John F. Kennedy into the White House, with Theodore H. White’s book, The Making of the President, 1960, serving as a text. (12)
It was a neat compliment to those “democratic” Americans who, after having been initially trained and cued by British Fabians (as we shall subsequently see), were now in a position to furnish aid and comfort to their tutors. Returning from a visit to Washington in April, 1963, Harold Wilson wrote ecstatically: “. . . for sheer quality, the United States Government from President Kennedy downward, is without equal in any administration in any country.”(13) The harsh treatment accorded Prime Minister Macmillan in the Slybolt affair, followed by the exquisite kindness shown to visiting Opposition Leader Harold Wilson in upper echelons of the New Frontier, helped to convey the notion that Conservative Party leaders could not “deal effectively” with Washington.
In England the shopworn promises of “a new dynamism” to “get the country moving again,” heard during the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson campaign in America, were dusted off by Fabian orators and presented as fresh merchandise to the British electorate. Wilson was billed as the only leader capable of “mobilizing the energies of Britain in the sixties.” One advantage of such rousing generalities was that they sounded vigorous and bold, without obliging the speaker to commit himself to any particular philosophy of action. They tended to reassure moderates, and to head off discussion of specific methods by which Harold Wilson and his associates planned to impose full-scale Socialism in Britain and the Commonwealth, once they succeeded in recapturing power.
If any doubted this to be Wilson’s intention, his answer to Sir Gerald Nabarro’s query on the floor of the Commons was plain enough to dispel uncertainty. Brusquely, the newly chosen Opposition Leader reaffirmed his Party’s Socialist pledge to work without qualification for public control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Wilson has long been identified with the irreconcilable or Jacobin wing of the British Labour Party, which views taxation more as a means of “ensuring social justice” than of raising revenue. His Party’s program of “tax reform” disclosed on February 26, 1963—extracts from which were proudly published in Socialist International Information (14)—included a scaled increase in Social Security contributions obtained via payroll deductions; a steep rise in corporation taxes; and an annual capital levy on all wealth exceeding twenty thousand pounds. Personally, Wilson has favored retributive taxes ever since he decided, as a precociously embittered schoolboy in Huddersfield, to become Chancellor of the Exchequer someday and to tax phonograph records because his family did not own a phonograph! This bit of prophetic nonsense was related in campaign biographies of Wilson, and may or may not be true. Eventually, of course, he would decide to serve as First Lord of the Treasury rather than Chancellor of the Exchequer, the better to negotiate funds for his government in the course of discreet periodic visits to Washington.
Another Fabian Socialist spokesman for the Labour Party, James Callaghan, M.P., explained mildly that the proposed capital levy would not affect more than one voter out of a hundred. (15) He failed to mention, however, that confiscatory taxation, by sharply reducing the area of private investment, could affect the employment of millions, and within a relatively short time make them wholly dependent on government bounty. To cope with unemployment—or “redundancy,” as it is quaintly called by present-day Fabian economists— Harold Wilson proposed that new factories be built, equipped, financed and run by the State. “We have to have State factories,” said Wilson brightly, “to provide some of the goods the Commonwealth is going to want.” (16)
The plump, prematurely silver-haired Oxonian, whose formal speeches and occasional witticisms are handily supplied by Fabian Research, was described by news correspondents as a Socialist in a gray flannel suit. He might just as well have been called a wolf in sheep’s clothing—the Aesopian symbol, which George Bernard Shaw long ago suggested was more appropriate than the tortoise as a heraldic device for the Fabian Society—and which appears in the Shavian stained-glass window at Beatrice Webb House in Dorking. It is not the outer apparel, but the inner nature of the Fabian Society that has made Harold Wilson what he is today.
As a scholarship student at Oxford during the middle nineteen-thirties, he attached himself to the Society in an era when Marxist doctrines were openly professed by its leaders, and when Socialist and Communist undergraduates merged in the activities of the Popular Front. The pacificism of the Oxford movement was perpetuated in Wilson’s prolonged association with the extreme left wing Fabian, Aneurin Bevan. (17) It persists today in Harold Wilson’s frank opposition to nuclear deterrents for Britain, (18) and his advocacy of conventional military forces for Western Europe to confront the Soviet hordes. He is committed to abandoning Formosa and to procuring a seat for Red China in the United Nations. (19) Though no trace of traditional Marxian phraseology appears today in the cautiously stated Aesopian programs of Harold Wilson and his Fabian associates, to paraphrase Napoleon: Scratch a Fabian, and find a Marxist.
Wilson succeeded to the political leadership of Britain’s Labour Party at a moment when International Socialism appeared more confident of being able to move into a position of world-wide control, than at any time since the Russian Revolution. With left wing Social Democratic administrations in office or on the verge of it in a majority of countries throughout the so-called Free World, few Socialists doubt that they can readily establish a modus vivendi with the economically embarrassed Socialist Fatherland and its satellites. As in the nineteen-twenties—though on a far more imposing scale—world trade once more becomes the medium by which Socialist governments plan to aid each other to retain power at home, as well as to strengthen the strained Communist economies. Production surpluses are to be siphoned off without counting the cost, to build or bolster Socialism in other lands.
Having served at the age of thirty-one as president of the Board of Trade in Britain’s former Labour Party Government—he was the youngest member of any British Cabinet since William Pitt!—Harold Wilson was the logical candidate to promote Socialist world hegemony via foreign-trade channels. He envisaged Socialist control, not only of raw materials but of manufactured goods as well, through price-fixing commodity agreements and foreign-exchange control. The ever generous United States would be expected to supply the “monetary lubrication.”
“Now, for the first time,” exulted Harold Wilson on February 11, 1963, “we have an American government in active sympathy!” What Wilson meant was that the United States now had a program of international commodity agreements. He went on to say:
“Commodity agreements for temperate foodstuffs must provide the machinery for channeling the overspill of our advanced countries into the hungry countries. But why food only? There is a surplus of steel in many advanced countries, and in this country the steel mills are working at 80 per cent capacity. We all want to help India and a score of other developing countries. Why not send them a million tons of ingot steel? We might go further . . .” (20)
We might, indeed, go further! The world giveaway program projected by Harold Wilson and his colleagues of the Socialist International has endless possibilities, limited only by the resources of the donor countries. Launched by an international cartel of Socialist rulers and administered by a supranational authority, (21) it might well go on and on—until the advanced nations of the earth are drained, exhausted and reduced to a common level of weakness and confusion. At that point, the sole military power still permitted to retain its independence, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, can move to take over, with hardly a struggle, its progressively enfeebled benefactors.
Initially, the Fabians propose to maneuver within the “mixed economy,” part nationalized and part seemingly free, but in fact wholly controlled by government fiat, punitive taxation, and negotiated price-fixing arrangements inside and outside the British Commonwealth. By such means they hope to disarm preliminary opposition and to accomplish their ends more adroitly than by outright confiscation. The more extreme dangers and discomforts of a manipulated world economy, based on international agreements between all-powerful Socialist planners, still remain to be experienced. As with other attempts to subject living creatures to a totally controlled environment, unpredictable malignancies and painful side effects can be expected to result.
Still, as Harold Wilson points out, “the sacrifices, if sacrifices there must be, will at least be fairly shared”(22)—that is, by the captive industrialists and the helpless, security-drugged population. Only the salaried bureaucrats of the Fabian-approved inner circle can hope to better themselves individually. For the rest, we are led to believe, there will at least be freedom of discussion, if not of decision. In the New Britain, the Go-Ahead Britain, as planned by the fertile brain trusters of Fabian Research, men will learn to bear with docility the yoke of public happiness!
A new generation of voters had grown to manhood and womanhood since a previous Labour Party Government ruled the United Kingdom. Children of a Fabian-permeated educational system, they were exposed from infancy to a barrage of direct and indirect Fabian Socialist propaganda, not only in the schools and universities, but also through the popular news and entertainment media. Those young people never knew that virtually every key post in the Government between 1945 and 1951 was filled for some time at least by a Fabian.(23) As for their elders, the painful memories of postwar scarcity had dimmed, and many were prepared to gamble that Labour would do better next time.
Among nearly thirty-six million Britons who went to the polls in October, 1964, few realized that Fabian Socialists invariably framed the policies and supplied the top personnel for the so-called Labour Party. In 1964 (as in the 1959 General Election) over one-third of all Labour Party candidates belonged to the Fabian Society; (23) but they refrained from mentioning that interesting fact in their campaign speeches and literature. Of 220 Fabians seeking election to Parliament, 120 were successful. (24) Blandly the Fabian News assured its own limited circle of readers that the proportion of Fabians in the Executive branch of the new government would be very much higher.
So, for the fourth time in precisely forty years, the Fabian-controlled Labour Party came to power in England. It received only a plurality of the total vote, winning by a frail majority of six parliamentary seats. Immigrants of color moving to Britain from Commonwealth countries reputedly furnished the margin of victory— even though popular feeling against the newcomers in some localities led to the defeat of several old Fabians. Prominent among the casualties was Patrick Gordon Walker, who lost the Smethwick seat he had held since 1945.
As a student and teacher at Christ Church College, Oxford, Gordon Walker was a contemporary of Dean Rusk, Walt Whitman Rostow and other liberally disposed Rhodes Scholars who attained high office in Washington under the Kennedy-Johnson Administration. After World War II he served as parliamentary private secretary for a year to Harold Laski’s great friend and ally, Herbert Morrison. Appointed Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in 1947, Gordon Walker was properly helpful in “solving the Palestine question.” As Commonwealth Secretary in 1950-51, he speeded the dissolution of the British Empire: a process initiated by his former chief, the late Arthur Creech-Jones, an early chairman of the Fabian Colonial Bureau.(25)
Following an American visit in 1947, Gordon Walker had played host in London to moving spirits of Americans for Democratic Action, (26) a group whose outlook on world affairs closely resembled his own. Members and friends of that organization were frequently in a position to exert decisive influence in Washington. Like them, Gordon Walker was an enthusiastic advocate of the Socialist International’s plan for aid to underdeveloped countries: (27) a plan whereby, among other things the United States was induced to assume the major burden of financial support for Britain’s orphaned ex-colonies.
When a debate on foreign affairs was held in the British Parliament on June 16-17, 1964, it was Gordon Walker who spoke for the Labour Party, expressing views shortly to become the official policy of Her Majesty’s Government. It happened to be the occasion of Winston Churchill’s final appearance in the House of Commons. For that old warrior the debate must have stirred painful memories of the arms limitation arguments of the nineteen-thirties, which encouraged Adolf Hitler to plunge the world into war.
Like a voice from the tragic past, tinged again with overtones of disaster, Patrick Gordon Walker declared: “The supreme objective of foreign affairs must be the achievement of disarmament…. The most important hope of advance lies, I think, in the idea of a minimum deterrent.” Naively, he continued, “The Soviet Union seems genuinely interested in this.” And well it might be, since a minimum deterrent is as good as none at all! Persons seated near Churchill saw his eyes flash as in the past, and heard the old patriot growl quietly under his breath. The speaker concluded by saying hopefully that “when the British and United States elections are over there may be a real chance of a breakthrough in disarmament.” (28)
Considering Gordon Walker’s failure at the polls in October, 1964, Prime Minister Wilson must have had strong personal reasons for appointing him to the post of Foreign Secretary. In the normal course of events, that place would have gone to Denis Healey, M.P., an equally devout Fabian Socialist and a past chairman, like Gordon Walker, of the Fabian International Bureau. As a consolation prize Healey was named Secretary of Defense in a government pledged to the gradual erosion of Britain’s military defenses.
Such assurance was given by Prime Minister Wilson himself, who told the House of Commons on November 23: “A Defense policy which does not contain within itself the seeds of further progress towards disarmament is one which in the present state of the world we can no longer regard as appropriate.”(29) He did not deign to explain how it is possible to arm and disarm at the same time. Apparently Healey knew the answer without being told.
Nevertheless, it was evident to Fabian insiders that with Gaitskell’s death Denis Healey lost his best friend at court. He, too, knew a number of important people in America, and in 1962 had been a featured speaker before a Council of World Affairs seminar at Asilomar in California. But what John Freeman of the New Statesman charitably described as Healey’s “offbeat sense of humor” almost proved his undoing. In 1958, for instance, a political journalist from West Germany interviewed various prominent Britons on the technical question of the Bonn Government’s reluctance to accept the Oder-Neisse boundary for a united Germany. They were asked: “Would the British nation, in a similar situation . . . ever accept the loss of one-quarter of the United Kingdom, including the complete denationalization of those territories by the mass expulsion of their inhabitants?” With one exception they replied, “No, of course not” The exception was Denis Healey, M.P., who said, “Certainly, we would agree.” (30)
There is some question as to whether Healey’s famous sense of humor might not again betray him and his associates. His answer in 1964 to the question, “Why are we still fighting overseas?” contained statements that could prove lethal to multitudes, if taken seriously in high quarters. “The idea that international Communism is the problem which we face in Africa and Asia is a nonsense from the start,” declared Healey, “because Communism is no longer as it once was, a single monolithic bloc.” (31) Did he, with typical Fabian conceit, regard himself as more than a match for the wily Russians and wilier Chinese?
Like his colleagues of the Socialist International at home and abroad, Denis Healey accepted at face value the Communist world’s amoeba-like application of the ancient adage, Divide and Conquer. In a fine-spun argument that undoubtedly caused some mirth in Moscow and Peking, Healey pointed out that it was Britain’s duty to seek agreements with other world powers, and above all with the Soviet Union, for achieving stability in Asia and Africa. Ever mindful of the “necessity” for being fair to the Red Chinese, he explained:
“. . . in those parts of Asia where Communism is clearly at work subverting institutions of the non-Communist world, it would be a mistake to assume without evidence that Communism is centrally directed from Moscow or even from China. There is much evidence to suggest that even the Vietnamese Communist Party, although it holds heavy responsibility for Laos and South Vietnam, is not acting as a satellite of Peking.” (32)
The names of Denis Healey and Patrick Gordon Walker appeared on an unusually long list of official appointments marking the advent of the Labour Party Government in Britain. A number of brand new departments had been created, sometimes with functions that overlapped the old. More than ever veteran Fabians predominated. According to the Fabian News of November-December, 1964, which printed a list of government appointments and conveniently marked with a cross the names of members of the Society, they filled nearly two-thirds of all ranking government posts.(33) The cross mark was inadvertently omitted from some well-known old Fabian names, such as Lord Gardiner, a former member of the Fabian Executive, Jennie Lee, Alice Bacon and others, who may have allowed their formal memberships to lapse. So the actual count was probably higher. Far from being a composite picture of youthful vigor, the Cabinet represented the unchangeable old guard of the Society. Practically all had served in one capacity or another in the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951, and their average age was fifty-seven years.
On the authority of Fabian News, nineteen of twenty-three Cabinet Members could be counted as belonging to the “National Fabian Society”—a term not hitherto used. (34) The others (such as Sir Frank Soskice, the new Home Secretary, or Frank Cousins of the Transport Workers Union, appointed to head the new Ministry of Technology and Science) were almost equally well-known and trusted in Fabian circles. Yet no whisper of that open secret reached the air waves or percolated into the general press.
So strictly was Fabian security maintained, that the informed New Statesman felt free to indulge in a little discreet private fun on the subject. “Most of the reformist movements,” remarked a columnist on that Fabian-controlled weekly, “seem to have lost to the Government either a chairman or a valued committee member. Flourishing limbs have thus been lopped off the National Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, the Howard League, the Albany Trust, the New Bridge, the Josephine Butler Society and the Prison Reform Council, to name only a few. Letters of congratulatory regret have been flowing into ministers’ offices.” (35)
Unmentioned, of course, was the fact that names of five past chairmen of the Fabian Society turned up on the revised roster of Her Majesty’s Government, (36) released by British Information Services in November, 1964. Or that nine Cabinet Members and at least five Ministers outside the Cabinet had seen service on the Fabian Executive. (37) These statistics were already known to delighted members and friends of the Fabian Society (sometimes referred to by Communists as a “reformist movement”), which had also relinquished most of its current officers and committee heads to the Government.
Chief Secretary of the Treasury with rank of Minister was John Diamond, a longtime honorary treasurer of the Society. Postmaster General Anthony Wedgwood Benn was the Fabian Society’s current vice chairman, as well as the chairman of its combined International and Commonwealth Bureau. William Rodgers, general secretary of the Fabian Society, went to the Ministry of Economic Affairs as a parliamentary Under Secretary. Few, indeed, of that suddenly exalted company saw fit to record in Who’s Who their lifelong organizational ties with Britain’s oldest and boldest Socialist Society, bellwether of the world-wide Socialist International.
Dedicated for years to the idea of social revolution and the gradual but total extinction of private enterprise, they now preferred for publicity purposes to be described as “moderate” Socialists. In reality, there is no such breed. There are only patient and impatient Socialists—just as Dorothy Day, a left wing Catholic newspaper editor in New York, suggested long ago that there are patient and impatient virgins.(38)
So the same dreary old programs that had proved incapable once before of producing a brave new world were freshened up and given a new look by Fabian Research. Like rabbits pulled from a magician’s hat, they were presented with an air of proud discovery and some variations in the patter designed to divert attention from the timeworn routine. The new Minister of Economic Affairs, George Brown, M.P., might talk ever so brightly about “the development and implementation of a national incomes policy covering all forms of income and related to productivity.” But in the end, it still meant wage controls, price controls, export-import controls, and a capital levy.
Management and unions were invited to collaborate in the “plan,” with government holding the whiphand and deciding just “where the behavior of prices or wages, salaries or other money incomes is in the national interest.” (39) The bureaucrats still had the last word, and for the average Briton there could be no escape and no hiding place from the government’s all-seeing computers.
True, there seemed to be something different about Her Majesty’s opening address to the Parliament on November 3. She no longer spoke in the first person plural, but referred instead to “My Armies, My Ministers, My Government.” Grammatically, at least, the Queen had been stripped of the royal prerogative in an apparent move to belittle the Monarchy. Reading the text prepared by Labour Party Ministers, she likewise found herself compelled to say: “My Government will initiate early action to reestablish the necessary ownership and control of the Iron and Steel Industry ….” (40)
Harrying the throne had been for some time an approved left wing blood sport in England, and there is no question that it was Fabian-instigated. During the fifties Malcolm Muggeridge, a privileged scion of Fabian Socialism’s first family, specialized in taking potshots at royalty. He was a nephew of the autocratic Beatrice Webb and a former Moscow correspondent. He was also a former editor of Punch and a contributor to the New Statesman as well as more highly paid weeklies in Britain and America. While he denied being a Fabian, he was frequently advertised in Fabian News as a speaker at the Society’s meetings and weekend schools. (41)
In the sixties the Queen and her circle became the target of two sharply critical Fabian tracts.(42) With that intellectual snobbery so characteristic of the Socialist elite, it was asserted that the Court lacked appreciation of the finer things of life. Somehow those attacks on the Establishment culminated in a scheme for “integrating” the historic public schools of England into the State-controlled educational system, at an estimated cost to public funds of 15 million pounds. The project was eagerly seconded by the incoming Labour Party Government and promised high priority on its schedule of things to come.
Britain’s so-called public schools were, of course, private and independently financed boarding schools, where many of the men who contributed to England’s past greatness had received their early training. If it was true, as the Duke of Wellington remarked, that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, a future Red Napoleon should have nothing to fear from coming generations of English schoolboys. What a leading Fabian educator calls the “bad characteristics” of such schools—namely, their “emphasis on leadership and character” (43)—will presumably be eliminated by making them tuition-free and by offering their admittedly superior classroom facilities to “children who have had the least opportunities in life.” (44)
According to John Vaizey of the Fabian Executive and the London School of Economics, entry to the better schools where places are scarce must be distributed on the same principle as food rationing. And he asked significantly, “Is not this the better English tradition?” (45) So despite all predictions of plenty made by Fabian orators in the 1964 election campaign, the principle of rationed scarcity was elevated to the status of an enduring tradition!
Undismayed by the slimness of his parliamentary majority, the Right Honorable Harold Wilson, M.P., Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Vice Chairman of the Socialist International, (46) announced he would proceed without delay to implant full-scale Socialism in Britain—and eventually in the world. If anyone misunderstood him, it really was not Wilson’s fault.
Like his predecessors of the postwar era, Wilson’s initial move was to raise four billion dollars abroad, nominally to strengthen the British pound but, in fact, to finance his government’s elusive schemes for what it termed the “social democratic revolution.” The first billion came from the International Monetary Fund, providentially set up twenty years earlier by Lord Keynes and described by a Socialist International spokesman as being “in essence a Socialist conception.”(47)
The remaining sum was contributed by eleven sympathetically minded governments, chief among them being the United States which proffered a cool billion.
Visiting Washington to confer with the newly elected President Johnson, Wilson solemnly told White House correspondents that the theme of these discussions was”‘interdependence.” What at first blush might have seemed no more than a classic bit of Fabian impudence, was spoken in deadly earnest. For the route of “interdependence,” taken in the literal sense and pursued to its logical conclusion, leads in the end to World Government: a goal to which Harold Wilson and his colleagues are profoundly pledged.
In that centennial year of the Socialist International, a Fabian Socialist clique had assumed control of the Mother of Parliaments, whether briefly or enduringly. The Labour Party Platform, which Fabians drafted and on which they stood, stated clearly: “For us World Government is the final objective. . . .” (48) It was no coincidence that the platform of the Socialist International, approved two years before in Oslo, proclaimed the same objective and designated the United Nations as an interim medium for achieving it. Nor was it purely wishful rhetoric when Socialist International Information declared that the British Labour Party’s victory marked “a renaissance of the power and influence of democratic Socialism throughout the world.”(49) The nineteenth century dream of Socialist World Government, which some called a specter, seemed closer to becoming a reality than ever before.
From the first, the strongest obstacles to fulfillment of that conspirators’ dream had been the two great English-speaking nations. It was to capture those twin citadels of personal liberty and private initiative that the Fabian Socialist movement had originally been founded, seeking to accomplish by patient indirection what quite obviously could not be done by frontal attack. After eighty years, with Britain apparently won, all that remained was to persuade the mightiest of her erstwhile colonies to renounce independence without a struggle. And then ….
What deterred the Fabian tortoise from striking, and striking hard, was the slight matter of a parliamentary majority—and the abiding common sense of the British people. With Churchill lingering on his deathbed, Englishmen were moved somehow to remember their fighting heritage and to ignore the counsels of submission. They may also have been influenced by the fact that in less than one hundred days of the Wilson government, the price of virtually every household article had soared—due in part to the new 15 per cent tax on imports, in part to the weakness of the pound sterling. Capital was in flight, and who could blame it?
Thus when Patrick Gordon Walker stood again for a presumably safe seat in Parliament, for the second time he suffered an inglorious defeat. The Labour Party’s margin in Parliament was by then reduced to three, with four safe Conservative seats yet to be filled. Nine Liberals in the House had already served notice that they would not vote with Labour on the issue of steel nationalization. Unless a miracle occurred, or unless Wilson could manage to sidestep every controversial issue, it looked very much as if he would be forced to call another general election in a matter of weeks—or months.
Meanwhile, Patrick Gordon Walker resigned as Foreign Secretary. The post went to Michael Stewart, recent Secretary of State for Education and Science—another professor, like Wilson and Gordon Walker. Young Anthony Crosland of the Fabian Executive moved up from a lesser spot in the Treasury to be Secretary of State for Education. And for the first time since October there was gloom at 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister no longer whistled as he polished his boots.
In the face of all the portents, however, Wilson was grimly determined to hang on. The appointment of Michael Stewart as Foreign Secretary was further proof that the Prime Minister did not propose to trim his Socialist sails. Though Stewart was described by press correspondents as a relative unknown, this only meant his background was relatively unknown to the public. In Fabian Socialist circles he was very well-known indeed.
Ten years older than Wilson, Michael Stewart began his career as a young Fabian Socialist official in the Royal Household during 1931. Some years later he stood for the House of Commons, becoming a parliamentary secretary in the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951. He and his wife Mary were another of those high-level Fabian husband-and-wife teams, comparable in spirit if not in productivity to the Webbs or the Coles. In 1962-63 Mary Stewart served as chairman of the Fabian Executive; while Michael owed his ideas on foreign affairs to years of service with the Fabian International Bureau and its important directing committee.(50) He was the author of Fabian Tract No. 296, published in 1955 by the International Bureau: Policy and Weapons in the Nuclear Age.(51)
In January, 1958, Michael Stewart approvingly reviewed Professor Blackett’s book, Atomic Weapons and East-West Relations, (52) in which the theory of the “minimum deterrent” was advanced. “It is hard to dispute the main contention,” wrote the future Foreign Secretary in a properly defeatist vein, “that an attempt to keep world peace by staving for a permanent Western superiority in science and technique is bound to fail ….”
Whether or not the Fabian-packed Labour Party Government was able to hang on, Britain’s Fabian Socialist movement would remain a formidable and destructive power in the future as it had proved to be in the past. Its connections and its influence are world-wide; it has demonstrated more than once that it can be as dangerous in defeat as in victory. Following a political failure at home in 1931, it proceeded to develop really effective plans and means for the greatest coup of its history: the penetration and transformation of the United States of America. And with the help of American admirers, Fabians were returned to office some years later in England. The wealth and power of the largely unsuspecting United States is still the Fabian Society’s trump card.
Certainly no tears were detected in official circles in Washington when Wilson’s Labour Party was handily reelected on March 30, 1966, winning a substantial parliamentary majority. This victory empowered Wilson to move forward along Socialist lines as rapidly as he could do so without alienating the Commonwealth countries or embarrassing his American friends. It also seemed to assure Fabian control in Britain for a full five years to come. By the end of that time, who knows? In the words of an old, sad song, “It may be for years, or it may be forever.”
1. “Fabians Old and New,” Fabian News (May, 1958). As an example of that longevity, Fabian News (May, 1960) reported that Percival Chubb, who attended the first meeting of the Fabian Society at 17 Osnaburgh Street, Regent’s Park, on January 4, 1884, died on February 10, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri at the age of 99.
2. Fabian News (May, 1958). “The Chairman and Vice Chairman [of the Society] share a serious interest in the Cinema: Roy Jenkins as a Governor of the British Film Institute, and Eirene White as a member of the Cinematograph Film Council.”
3. An alumnus of Leeds University, David Owen flew from New York to attend the memorial service honoring the late Hugh Gaitskell, M. P., at Westminster Abbey on January 31, 1963. The Times of London (February 1, 1963).
4. Robert Hunter, Revolution, Committee for Constitutional Government (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1940), p. 350.
5. “Shadow Fabians,” Fabian News (November-December, 1959). Cited as Fabians in the Shadow Cabinet were: Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Anthony Greenwood, Tom Fraser, George Brown, Patrick Gordon Walker, G. R. Mitchison, Fred Willey and Denis Healey. Two peers on the Parliamentary Committee, Lord Faringdon and Lord Lucan, were also described as Fabians.
6. Hugh Gaitskell, M P., “Socialism and Nationalisation,” Fabian Tract No. 300 (London, The Fabian Society, 1956).
7. Eirene White, “Noble Lords and Others,” Fabian News (May, 1958). Eirene White, M. P., was named Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Colonies in the Labour Part Government of October, 1964.
8. “Tribute to G. D. H. Cole,” Fabian Journal (April, 1959).
9. Margaret Cole states that in the early years of World War II the Fabian International Bureau, after “receiving de Gaulle at first with caution, then backed him strongly . . . . returning after the Liberation to more strongly expressed doubts of his political intentions. . . .” Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), p. 288.
10. The Times of London (February 1, 1963).
12. United Press International dispatch from London (May 19, 1963).
13. From an article signed by Harold Wilson and distributed by North American Newspaper Alliance. It appeared on April 14, 1963, in the San Francisco Chronicle under the headline, “Future British Premier.”
14. Socialist International Information (March 9, 1963), Vol. XII, No. 10. “British Labor Party Proposals for Tax Reform”, by James Callaghan, M. P., British Labor Party Spokesman for Economic and Financial Affairs.
16. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.
17. Bevan’s widow, Jennie Lee, M P., a frequent guest speaker over the years before Socialist and left wing labor bodies in the United States, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Buildings and Works in the Wilson Cabinet of October, 1964.
18. Article written by Harold Wilson for the North American Newspaper Alliance (April, 1963).
20. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.
21. Harold Wilson, North American Newspaper Alliance (April, 1963).
22. Harold Wilson, M. P., “The Labour Party’s Plan for Britain’s Future,” Socialist International Information (February 23, 1963), Vol. XIII, No. 8.
23. Fabian News. General Election Supplement. (December, 1959).
24. Fabian News. (November-December, 1964).
25. R. W. Sorenson, “Obituary: Arthur Creech-Jones,” Venture (London, The Fabian Society, Vol. XIV, No. 12, December, 1964), p. 5.
26. Fabian Society 67th Annual Report. (July, 1949-June, 1950).
27. “Socialist Policy for the underdeveloped Territories. A Declaration of Principles Adopted by the Second Congress of the Socialist International,” Milan 17-21 October, 1951. Yearbook of the International Socialist Labour Movement 1956-1957. Edited by Julius Braunthal, Secretary of the Socialist International. Under the Auspices of the Socialist International and the Asian Socialist Conference (London, Lincolns-Prager, 1957), pp. 47-52.
28. Patrick Gordon Walker, “Foreign Policy in a changing World,” Socialist International Information (July 4, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 14.
29. Official text supplied by British Information Services, References and Library Division, T 48, New York (November 24, 1964).
30. Bolko von Richthofen, “All Out of Step But Healey.” Sudeten Bulletin. A Central European Review. (Munich, December, 1958), Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 266.
31. Denis Healey, “Why Are We Still Fighting Overseas?” Socialist International Information (July 4, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 14.
33. “The General Election,” “The Labor Government” Fabian News (November-December, 1964). See Appendix I, pp. xxxix-xli.
34. Ibid. See Appendix I, p. xxxix.
35. Quoted in the National Review Bulletin (January 5, 1965), p. 7.
36. Cf. Fabian Society Annual Reports, 1954-55 through 1961-62. (The five former chairmen were: Prime Minister Harold Wilson, chairman of the Society, 1954-55; Arthur Skeffington, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and National Resources, chairman of the Society, 1956-57; Roy Jenkins, Minister of Aviation, chairman of the Society, 1957-58; Eirene White, Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, chairman of the Society, 1958-59; C. A. R. Crosland, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, chairman of the Society, 1961-62.
37. Ibid., p. 2. Cabinet members formerly on the Fabian Executive were: Harold Wilson, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury; Lord Gardiner, Lord High Chancellor; Patrick Gordon Walker, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Denis Healey, Secretary of Defense; James Griffiths, Secretary of State for Wales; The Earl of Longford, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords; Douglas Houghton, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Education and Science; R. H. S. Crossman, Minister of Housing and Local Government.
38. Cf., Dorothy Day, The Eleventh Virgin (New York, A. & C. Boni, 1924).
39. British Record, Political and Economic Notes Issued by British Information Services. Supplement to British Record No. 19 (December 22, 1964).
40. Text of Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to Both Houses of Parliament (November 3, 1964), British Information Services.
41. Fabian News (April, 1963), reported that Malcolm Muggeridge, son of H. T. Muggeridge, a leading early Fabian, had contributed an article to London’s Sunday Times entitled “Follies of the Fabians.” There he stated that: “the Fabians’ aloof benevolence and sublime certainties have worked on the corrupt minds of demagogic politicians to produce the telly-watching, bingo-playing, hire-purchasing democracy we have today.” Nevertheless, in the same year he also contributed an article of amiable reminiscences about his family to the fiftieth anniversary issue of the New Statesman.
42. John Vaizey, Education in a Class Society. The queen and Her Horses Reign, Fabian Tract No. 342 (London, The Fabian Society, January, 1962).
Howard Glennerster and Richard Pryke, The Public Schools, Young Fabian Pamphlet, No. 7 (London, The Fabian Society, November, 1964).
43. Vaizey, op. cit.
44. Glennerster and Pryke, op. cit.
45. Vaizey, op. cit.
46. Another Vice Chairman of the Socialist International, former Foreign Minister Giuseppe Saragat, was elected President of Italy in December, 1964.
47. Hilary Marquand, “The Theory and Practice of Planning,” Economic Development and Social Change (London, Socialist International Publication, no date–1962 or 1963), p. 28.
48. The New Britain, The Labour Party’s Manifesto for the 1964 General Election. (London, The Labour Party, Transport House, 1964), p. 22.
49. “The Significance of the Labour Party’s Victory,” Socialist International Information (October 24, 1964), Vol. XIV, No. 23.
50. Fabian Society 75th Annual Report, 1957-58, p. 20. Under the heading, “Members of Main Committees,” Michael Stewart is listed as a member of the International Bureau Committee. Fabian Society 80th Annual Report, 1962-63, p. 4, announces the election of Mary Stewart as chairman of the Fabian Executive.
51. With Rex Winsbury, a past chairman of the Young Fabian Group, Michael Stewart was also the author in October, 1963 of Fabian Tract No. 350, An Incomes Policy for Labour. Stewart was described as “an economist and prospective parliamentary candidate for Folkestone and Hythe.”
52. “Grim but Enthralling,” Fabian News (January, 1958).