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"A Short History of the Fabian Society" at the Fabian Society website
It is because full ownership is necessary to the most intelligent and effective use of any materials, that no mere system of taxation of Rent and Interest, even when so drastic as Mr. Henry George's scheme of universal State absentee landlordism, is likely to exist except as a transition stage toward Social Democracy. Indeed the anarchist idea which allows the State to receive Rent and Interest, but forbids it to employ labor, is obviously impracticable. Unless we are willing to pay every citizen in hard cash a share of the State Rent of the future, it, like the taxes of to-day, must be wholly invested in payments for work done. It would always be a very serious difficuly for a Socialist legislature to decide how far communities should be allowed to incur debts or pay interest. Socialism once established, the chief danger to its stability would be just at this point. We all know the inept attack on Socialism which comes from a debating-society orator who considers the subject for the first time, or from the cultured person who has been brought up on the He tells us that if property were equally divided to-morrow, there would be for the next ten years forty men out of every hundred working extremely hard, and the other sixty lazy. After that time, the sixty would have to work hard and keep the forty, who would then be as lazy as the sixty were before. It is very easy to explain that we do not want to divide all property equally; but it is not so easy to guard against any result of that tendency in human nature on which the argument is grounded. Men differ so widely in their comparative appreciation of present and future pleasures, that wherever life can be supported by four hours' work a day, there will always be some menanxious to work eight hours in order to secure future benefits for themselves or their children, and others anxious to avoid their four hours' work for the present by pledging themselves or their children to any degree of future privation. As long as this is so, communities as well as individuals will be tempted to avail themselves of the freely offered services of the exceptionally energetic and farsighted, and to incur a common debt under the excuse that they are spreading the payment of such services over all those benefited by them. The Municipalities, Boards of Works, School Boards, etc., of England have already created enormous local debts; and unless men grow wiser in the next few months the new County Councils will probably add to the burden. As we sit and think, it may seem easy to prevent any such trouble in the future by a law forbidding communities to incur debts under any circumstances. But in the case of a central and supreme government such a law would, of course, be an absurdity. No nation can escape a national debt or any other calamity if the majority in that nation desire to submit to it. It is reassuring to see how the feeling that national governments should pay their way from year to year grows stronger and stronger. National debts no longer even in France go up with the old light-hearted leaps and bounds. But local debts still increase. In Preston the local debt is said to amount to seven times the annual rating valuation. And although at present (November, 1888), since the "surf at the edge of civilization" is only thundering to the extent of three small colonial wars, our own national debt is slowly going down; still if war were declared to-morrow with any European State no ministry would dare to raise all the war expenses by immediate taxation either on incomes or on property. It may be objected that no such danger would arise underSocialism; for there would be no fund from which a loan could be offered that would not be equally easily reached by a direct levy. But if we are speaking of society in the near future there would certainly be plenty of members of non-Socialist States, or English holders of property in them, ready to lend money on good security to a timid or desperate or dishonest Socialist government. Again, in times of extreme stress a government might believe itself to require even personal possessions; and it might be difficult under such circumstances not to offer to restore them with or without interest. In any case there would be no more economic difference between the new fund-holders and the old landlords than between Lord Salisbury as owner of the Strand district and Lord Salisbury now that he has sold his slums and bought consols. Perhaps the most serious danger of the creation of a common debt would arise from the earnings of exceptional ability. Modern Socialists have learned, after a long series of coöperative experiments and failures, that the profits of private adventure will withdraw men of exceptional business talent from communal service unless work of varying scarcity and intensity is paid for at varying rates. How great this variation need be in order to insure full efficiency can only be decided by experience; and as the education and moralization of society improves, and industry becomes so thoroughly socialized that the alternative of private enterprise will be less practicable, something like equality may at last be found possible. But, meanwhile, comparatively large incomes will be earned by men leading busy and useful lives, but often keenly anxious to secure leisure and comfort for their old age and aggrandizement for their family. Ihave already suggested that some of the earnings of a man employed by the community might be left for a time in the common treasury to accumulate without interest. Now, it would suit both these men and the lazier of their contemporaries that the reward of their services should be fixed at a very high rate, and be left to the next generation for payment; while the next generation might prefer a small permanent charge to any attempt to pay off the capital sum. It is often hinted that one way to obviate this would be for each generation to cultivate a healthy indifference to the debts incurred on its behalf by its forefathers. But the citizens of each new generation attain citizenship not in large bodies at long intervals, but in small numbers every week. One has only to warn sanguine leaders that veiled repudiations may always be effected in such emergencies by a judicious application of the Income Tax, and to hope that the progress of education under Socialism would tend to produce and preserve on such matters a certain general minimum of common sense. If this minimum is sufficient to control the central government the debts of local bodies can be easily and sternly restricted.
The Fabian Essays, published in 1889 by an intellectual London club called the Fabian Society, aimed to make socialism palatable to a largely suspicious British public and became a surprise bestseller. The volume was edited by George Bernard Shaw, who was a leading figure in the Fabian Society before his career as a dramatist. In the Fabian Essays, the Fabians distanced themselves from the insurrectionary radicalism of both Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation and Morris’s Socialist League, claiming instead that Britain was inevitably and gradually evolving into a sensible socialist state. The Fabians’ advocacy of pragmatic socialist parliamentary politics helped pave the way for the rise of the Labour Party in 1900.
"A History of the Fabian Society" at the Fabian Society website
After 1875, leaping and bounding prosperity, after a final spurt during which the Income Tax fell to twopence, got out of breath, and has not yet recovered it. Russia and America, among other competitors, began to raise the margin of cultivation at a surprising rate. Education began to intensify the sense of suffering, and to throw light upon its causes in dark places. The capital needed to keep English industry abreast of the growing population began to be attracted by the leaping and bounding of foreign loans and investments, and to bring to England, in payment of interest, imports that were not paid for by exports—a phenomenon inexpressibly disconcerting to the Cobden Club. The old pressure of the eighteen-thirties came back again; and presently, as if Chartism and Fergus O'Connor had risen from the dead, the Democratic Federation and Mr. H. M. Hyndman appeared in the field, highly significant as signs of the times, and loominghideously magnified in the guilty eye of property, if not of great account as direct factors in the course of events. Numbers of young men, pupils of Mill, Spencer, Comte, and Darwin, roused by Mr. Henry George's left aside evolution and freethought; took to insurrectionary economics; studied Karl Marx; and were so convinced that Socialism had only to be put clearly before the working-classes to concentrate the power of their immense numbers in one irresistible organization, that the Revolution was fixed for 1889—the anniversary of the French Revolution—at latest. I remember being asked satirically and publicly at that time how long I thought it would take to get Socialism into working order if I had my way. I replied, with a spirited modesty, that a fortnight would be ample for the purpose. When I add that I was frequently complimented on being one of the more reasonable Socialists, you will be able to appreciate the fervor of our conviction, and the extravagant levity of our practical ideas. The opposition we got was uninstructive: it was mainly founded on the assumption that our projects were theoretically unsound but immediately possible, whereas our weak point lay in the case being exactly the reverse. However, the ensuing years sifted and sobered us. "The Socialists," as they were called, have fallen into line as a Social Democratic party, no more insurrectionary in its policy than any other party. But I shall not present the remainder of the transition to Social Democracy as the work of fully conscious Social Democrats. I prefer to ignore them altogether—to suppose, if you will, that the Government will shortly follow the advice of the and, for the sake of peace and quietness, hang them.
Kelly Moore, Disrupting Science: Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008); Michael Albert, Remembering Tomorrow: From SDS to Life After Capitalism-a Memoir (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), pp. 97, 99; and Richard Lyman, Stanford in Turmoil: Campus Unrest, 1966-1972 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 136, 180-181. On Bechtel, see Sally Denton, The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), pp. 84, 85.
Shaw, Fabian Tract 41: The Early History of the Fabian Society, 3.
It was evident that capitalist monopoly must be restrained, reluctant as English statesmen brought up under the commercial system were to interfere. The zenith of was at the close of the last century; but a great fabric often looks most imposing shortly before it begins to collapse. The first piece of labor legislation was the Morals and Health Act of 1802, which interfered with the accommodation provided to children by the employers, to which reference has been made. The Cotton Mills Act was passed in 1819,partly owing to the exertions of Robert Owen. It limited the age at which children might work in factories; and it limited the time of their labor to seventy-two hours per week. Seventy-two hours for a child of nine who ought to have been playing in the green fields! And even that was a vast improvement on the previous state of things. Saturday labor was next shortened by an Act passed by the Radical politician, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, in 1825. Workmen, Radicals, Tories, and philanthropists then joined in an agitation under Mr. Richard Oastler, a Conservative member of Parliament, to secure a Ten Hours' Bill. Hobhouse tried by a Bill introduced in 1831 to reduce the time in textile industries; but he was beaten by the northern manufacturers. However, Althorp the Whig leader, who had helped to defeat Hobhouse, was obliged himself to introduce a measure by which night work was prohibited to young persons, and the hours of work were reduced to sixty-nine a week. Cotton-mill owners were at the same time disqualified for acting as justices in cases of infringement of the law. This measure is regarded by Dr. E. Von Plener in his useful manual as the first real Factory Act. Mr. Thomas Sadler, who had succeeded Oastler as leader in the cause of the factory operatives, brought in a Bill in 1832 limiting the hours of labor for persons under eighteen; but it was met by a storm of opposition from manufacturing members and withdrawn.
The immense development of English industry under the conditions previously set forth was due in great degree to the fact that England had secured an immense foreign market in which she had for a long time no formidable rival. Most of the wars in which England was engaged during the eighteenth century are quite unintelligible until it is understood that they were commercial wars intended to secure commercial supremacy for England. The overthrow of the Stuart monarchy was directly associated with the rise to supreme power of the rich middle class, especially the London merchants. The revolution of 1688 marks the definite advent to political power of this class, which found the Whig party the great instrument for effecting its designs. The contrast between the old Tory squire who stood for Church and King, and the new commercial magnate who stood by the Whigs and the House of Hanover, is well drawn by Sir Walter Scott in The Banks of England and Scotland and the National Debt are among the blessings conferred on their descendants by the new mercantile rulers. They also began the era of corruption in politics which is always connected closely with predominance of capitalists in the State, as we see in France, the United States, and the British Colonies. "The desire of the moneyed classes," says Mr. Lecky, "to acquire political power at the expense of the country gentlemen was the first and one of the chief causes of that political corruption which soon overspread the whole system of parliamentary government." What remained of the old aristocracy often found it convenient to form alliances withthe new plutocracy; and it was this combination which governed England during the eighteenth century, and which specially determined her foreign policy. That policy was directed toward the securing of foreign markets and the extension of English trade. Napoleon's sneer at the "nation of shopkeepers" was not undeserved. The conquest of Canada, the conquest of India under Clive and Warren Hastings—the latter an agent of a great capitalist body, who illustrated well in his Indian career the methods of his class—the Colonial policy, the base destruction of Irish manufactures in the interest of English capitalists, were all part of the same scheme. The policy was successfully consummated in the war waged by Pitt against the French Revolution. That Revolution was itself brought about mainly by poverty. Not only was the French peasantry beggared; but some of the new machinery which had been brought from England had thrown many persons out of work. It was mainly unemployed workmen who stormed and captured the Bastille. The chief counterblast to the Revolution was prepared by Pitt. What were his motives? The Austrian and Prussian monarchs, the emigrant nobles, the imbecile English King and the Tory English bishops may perhaps have seriously believed that England was fighting for altar and throne. But Pitt was under no such delusion. While he derived from his illustrious father a real pride in England, his divinities were rather the ledger and the cash-box. He was no bigot: even while an undergraduate at Cambridge he was a close student of Adam Smith; he started in public life as a reformer, and his refusal to bow to the ignorant prejudices of George III. cost him office in 1801. It has been abundantly proved that at firsthe felt no violent antipathy to the Revolution. A long period elapsed before he was brought to join the monarchical alliance. But he was essentially the great capitalist statesman, the political successor of Walpole, the political predecessor of Peel. He saw that French conquest might threaten seriously the English social fabric, and that if England's chief rival were struck down, the English commercial class might gain control of the world's commerce. To secure that end he skillfully welded together all the moneyed interests, the contractors, landlords, financiers, and shopkeepers; and he tried to persuade the simpler portion of the country that he was fighting for the sacred cause of religion and morality. Those who resisted him he flung into prison or transported beyond the seas. When the long war was brought to an end, the working-classes were in a wretched condition; although in those days also there were sophistical politicians who tried to prove that never had the people so much reason to be contented. When, in 1823, the Lancashire weavers petitioned Parliament to look into their grievances, an honorable member, who had presumably dined well if not wisely, had the audacity to declare that the weavers were better off than the capitalists—an observation not dissimilar to those we have heard in more recent times. As a matter of fact, the landlords, through protection and high rents—the capitalists, through enormous profits, were enriched "beyond the dreams of avarice." But the time had come for a conflict between these two classes: the conflict which is known as the Free Trade controversy. Protection was no longer needed by the manufacturers, who had supremacy in the world-market, unlimited access to raw material, and a long start of the rest of the world in the development of machinery and in industrial organization. The landlord class onthe other hand was absolutely dependent on Protection, because the economic isolation of England by means of import duties maintained the high prices of food which were the source of the high agricultural rents. Capitalist interests, on the contrary, were bound up with the interaction between England and the rest of the world; and the time had come when the barriers which had prevented that interaction must be pulled down. The triumph of Free Trade, therefore, signifies economically the decay of the old landlord class pure and simple, and the victory of capitalism. The capitalist class was originally no fonder of Free Trade than the landlords. It destroyed in its own interest the woolen manufacture in Ireland; and it would have throttled the trade of the Colonies had it not been for the successful resistance of Massachusetts and Virginia. It was Protectionist so long as it suited its purpose to be so. But when cheap raw material was needed for its looms, and cheap bread for its workers: when it feared no foreign competitor, and had established itself securely in India, in North America, in the Pacific; then it demanded Free Trade. "Nothing in the history of political imposture," says Mr. Lecky, "is more curious than the success with which, during the Anti-Corn Law agitation, the notion was disseminated that on questions of Protection and Free Trade the manufacturing classes have been peculiarly liberal and enlightened, and the landed classes peculiarly selfish and ignorant. It is indeed true that when in the present century the pressure of population on subsistence had made a change in the Corn Laws inevitable, the manufacturing classes placed themselves at the head of a Free Trade movement from which they must necessarily have derived the chief benefit, while the entire risk and sacrifice were thrown upon others. But it is no less true that there isscarcely a manufacture in England which has not been defended in the spirit of the narrowest and most jealous monopoly; and the growing ascendancy of the commercial classes after the Revolution is nowhere more apparent than in the multiplied restrictions of the English Commercial Code."
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