“For in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they knew not until the flood came and took them all away” – JESUS CHRIST (Matthew 24:38-39).
The establishment of the Fabian Society was the first step in taking over English society. The Organization provided the Socialist movement with a framework and a general staff made up of men with great intelligence – all of them possessing a deeply rooted and flaming zeal for their Collectivist causes. Action followed shortly thereafter.
The first direct move had come in a small way in 1893 when Keir Hardie, a member of the Fabian Society, formed the Independent Labour Party; it comprised only of a handful of labor delegates. This was the initial step toward progress to annex the labor unions and its operations. The chief organizers in this party were all Socialists, but they rejected the idea of calling themselves a Socialist Party. It was decided early on that it would be easier to draw in members of the labor unions if the word “socialism” were kept out by using the name Labour Party [i]. Later the Independent Labour Party name was abandoned and the final struggle carried on by its successor, the British Labour Party.
The first policy pursuit was to push England in the direction of a Welfare State. G.D.H. Cole said from the outset the new Party was “Socialist in its aims.” It went forth as its chief emphasis welfare “reforms.” The general population thought of the entire plan as a noble effort, being, as it were, the Party had “the common people” in mind. The Party promoted popular policies and legislation: the eight-hour day, abolition of overtime and piece work, public provision out of taxes for the sick, aged, widows and orphans., free nonsectarian education through the university level, properly remunerated work for the unemployed. These measures, it was believed, would bring the labor unions to their side. The Fabians felt that if they could garner support from the leaders and the working cogs of the unions, the membership would naturally fall behind them. These welfare measures made a powerful appeal to the trade unionists hoping that the collaboration would cause the rest of working class would speedily follow. The goal of course was to have the Socialist tail wag the trade union dog.
Getting the union vote was one thing; getting the members to take steps that strengthen the Fabians’ control on English society was another. The British labor unions were looked upon in their early days as purely instruments for collective bargaining between employer and employee. They were not interested in altering the structure of English society and they kept scrupulously away from politics. The Fabians were determined to drag them into the mainstream affairs of state.
The Fabians could hardly believe their luck. A turn of events triggered a perfect opportunity to mobilize the unions sooner than they had expected. The first issue which aided their plan was the famous Taff-Vale decision which said that a union could be held responsible for damages caused by a strike. The Fabians convinced the labor unions that a reversal could only be done by overturning a Parliament favorable to labor. The membership, they said, must be called into political action. The British unions thus galvanized themselves into political life and process from then on.
To be continued …
[i] BRITISH WORKING CLASS POLITICS, 1832-1914 by G.D.H. Cole. Routlede, London © 1941