Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Continuing Roman Conquest


All roads lead to Rome, the ancient proverb (first attributed to French poet Allain Devilles in 1175) tells us.  The road to the origins of Socialism, and its tactics, leads back to Rome.  Before there was Bill Ayers, or Saul Alinsky, or even George Bernard Shaw, one of the founding members of The Fabian Society (you’ve heard Glenn Beck talk about this 19th Century progressive group), there was Fabius Maximus.

Quintus Fabius Maxiums Verrucosus (referring to a wart on his lip), to be exact.  He was also known as Fabius Maximus Cunctator – “The Delayer”.

Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator in 217 B.C., following a military emergency during the Second Punic War.  The dictator Flaminius was killed.  Fabius opposed Flaminius’ aggressive military tactics, suggesting, instead, a more defensive, delaying strategy, giving him the name “The Cunctator, the Delayer.”  His tactic of wearing down Hannibal and the Phoenicians helped win the war.

The Fabian Society was founded on Jan. 4, 1884 in London.  Fabian socialists were in favour of reforming Britain imperialist foreign policy as a conduit for internationalist reform and a welfare state modeled on the Bismarckian German model of the 1880s (the world’s first welfare state, including national health care); they criticized Gladstonian liberalism both for its individualism at home and its internationalism abroad. They favored a national minimum wage in order to stop British industries compensating for their inefficiency by lowering wages instead of investing in capital equipment; slum clearances and a health service in order for “the breeding of even a moderately Imperial race” which would be more productive and better militarily than the “stunted, anemic, demoralized denizens...of our great cities”; and a national education system because “it is in the classrooms...that the future battles of the Empire for commercial prosperity are already being lost.”

The group was named after Fabius the Delayer at the suggestion of Frank Prodmore, a writer on spiritual matters.  His home was the group’s first headquarters.

In 1900, the Society produced Fabianism and the Empire, the first statement of its views on foreign affairs, drafted by Bernard Shaw and incorporating the suggestions of 150 Fabian members. It was directed against the liberal individualism of those such as John Morley and Sir William Harcourt.   It claimed that the classical liberal political economy was outdated, and that imperialism was the new stage of the international polity. The question was whether Britain would be the center of a world empire or whether it would lose its colonies and end up as just two islands in the North Atlantic.  It expressed support for Britain in the Boer War because small nations, such as the Boers, were anachronisms in the age of empires.  In order to hold onto the Empire, the British needed to fully exploit the trade opportunities secured by war; maintain the British armed forces in a high state of readiness to defend the Empire; the creation of a citizen army to replace the professional army; the Factory Acts would be amended to extend to 21 the age for half-time employment, so that the thirty hours gained would be used in “a combination of physical exercises, technical education, education in civil citizenship...and field training in the use of modern weapons.”

These were the progenitors of the “peace movement.”

The Fabians also favoured the nationalization of land rent, believing that rents collected by landowners were unearned, an idea which drew heavily from the work of American economist Henry George.  Many Fabians participated in the formation of the Labour Party in 1900 and the group's constitution, written by Sidney Webb, borrowed heavily from the founding documents of the Fabian Society. At the Labour Party Foundation Conference in 1900, the Fabian Society claimed 861 members and sent one delegate.

During the period between the two World Wars, many future leaders of the Third World were exposed to Fabian thought, most notably India’s Jawaharlal Nehur, who subsequently framed economic policy for India on Fabian socialism lines. After independence from Britain, Nehru’s Fabian ideas committed India to an economy in which the state owned, operated and controlled means of production, in particular key heavy industrial sectors such as steel, telecommunications, transportation, electricity generation, mining and real estate development. Private activity, property rights and entrepreneurship were discouraged or regulated through permits, nationalization of economic activity and high taxes were encouraged, rationing, control of individual choices and the Mahalanobis model considered by Nehru as a means to implement the Fabian Society version of socialism.

In the Middle East, the theories of Fabian Society intellectual movement of early-20th-century Britain inspired the Ba’athist  vision. The Middle East adaptation of Fabian socialism led the state to control big industry, transport, banks, internal and external trade. The state would direct the course of economic development, with the ultimate aim to provide a guaranteed minimum standard of living for all.  Michel Aflaq, widely considered as the founder of the Ba'athist movement, was a Fabian socialist. Aflaq's ideas, with those of Salah al-Din al-Bitar and Zaki al-Arsuzi, came to fruition in the Arab world in the form of dictatorial regimes in Iraq and Syria.  Salamah Musa of Egypt, another prominent champion of Arab Socialism, was also keen adherent of Fabian Society.

The Fabian Society was the offshoot of an earlier group, The Fellowship of the New Life, founded in 1883 by Scottish intellectual Thomas Davidson.  According to former UK Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald, who was briefly a member, the Fellowship's main influences were Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Leo Tolstoy. The Fellowship published a journal called Seed-Time.

Its objective was “The cultivation of a perfect character in each and all.”  They wanted to transform society by setting an example of clean simplified living for others to follow.  Many of the Fellowship's members advocated pacifism, vegetarianism and simple living.   But when some members also wanted to become politically involved to aid society's transformation, it was decided that a separate society, the Fabian Society, would also be set up. All members were free to attend both societies. The Fellowship of the New Life disbanded in 1898.

The Romans conquered all of Europe, only to be conquered themselves by the Huns and the Germanic tribes.  They simply picked up where the Romans (who had, by the time of their conquest, become corrupt and lazy, paying mercenaries to fight their battles) left off.  Germany was responsible for five major wars in Europe in the 19th Century.  They hated the English notion of free trade.  That same century produced Karl Marx.

The Fabians still exist (former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a member) and have their offshoots.  They’ve waged an on-going, sometimes violent, sometimes delaying (sometimes both) war against free society.  We can certainly see where Saul Alinsky got his ideas from.

Yesterday’s buy-cott of Chick-Fil-A proves that they can be countered.  Yesterday, all roads led to Chick-Fil-A.

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