A Century of Fabianism 1884-1984

Anthony Wright looks at the impact on socialism and society in the last 100 years of Fabianism.

The Fabian Society is celebrating its centenary. The event is being marked by a major historical exhibition that provides, through Fabian eyes, a panoramic view of the British socialist tradition since its modern revival in the 1880s.

Centenaries invite retrospection and reflection. In the Fabian case, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this centenary is that it is taking place at all. Alone of the groups thrown up by the sodalist revival of the 1880s, like the Social Democratic Federation and the Socialist League, the Fabian Society has survived. There was little reason at the outset to expect such longevity, rather the reverse. When, in early 1884, one handful of people parted company with another handful (in the Fellowship of the New Life), preferring social reconstruction to moral reform, and endowed themselves with the name of a Roman general and a Latin-sounding motto about the need to wait 'for the right moment' and then 'strike hard', nothing more significant than a minor historical footnote seemed to have been born.

The infant Fabian Society was 'a silly business' in the memory of one of its number:

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