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h.g. wells and other fabians

a socialist with a rather better mind


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h.g. wells and other fabians - a socialist with a rather better mind is one of a number of documents analysing dysfunctional social, or group, behaviour in modern society. Here, abelard looks at both a literary great and the origins of Socialist ambitions and policies.
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Index
introductory words
that nasty untidy real world - down with freedom, socialism 1910
100+ years ago, and still socialists do not learn!
george bernard shaw (g.b.s)
bibliography

introductory words

Collectivism is a salve for the ego of inferior men. It allows inferior men to dream up grand schemes, it allows them to justify their use of force to make others conform to those ego driven schemes.

H. G. Wells believes that the collective is more important than the individual, so at least his mind is less conflicted. He was also more of a realist than his Socialist compatriots.

The more I read into George Orwell, the less I thought of his intelligence. So far, the more I read into Wells, the more impressed I am; not by his atheistic Socialist religion, but by his realism as he watches the world, and his consistency as he tries to work out his ideas.

So few people appear to be able to deal with the messy world without a set of 'principles' embodied in a religion, with its attendant social clubs. Wells was never able to free himself entirely from Fabianism.

that nasty untidy real world - down with freedom, socialism 1910

I'm having a bit of a binge reading up on the early development of socialism in the UK, often under the heading of Fabianism. The Fabian Society started from 1884. Prominent in the movement were Beatrice and Sidney Webb (later 1st Baron Passfield), George Bernard Shaw, Hugh and Edith Bland (née Nesbitt, the writer of children's fairy tales), and H.G. Wells. They were heavily enamoured with Communism, National Socialism and the like, as well as eugenics and other forms of tidying up the poor.

Almost all the leading members of the Labour Party are subscribers to the Fabian Society. The London School of Economics has strong ties to the cult.

A woman of passion by Julia Briggs is a detailed biography of E. Nesbitt. The new Machiavelli [1910] is a semi-satire and biography of the Fabian set written by H.G. Wells. Wells was still promoting Liberal Fascism well into the 1930s. (See also red ed wants socialist/fascist ‘new’ labour to return to its fabian roots.)

"...we were socialists because individualism for us meant muddle, meant a crowd of separated, undisciplined people all obstinately and ignorantly doing things, each in his own way..."
[Wells, The new Machiavelli, p. 140]

Like the typical Victorian novel (they did not have television in those days), The new Machiavelli goes on for about 500 pages, with the main characters not being introduced until about p.200 for Webb and p.250 for his girl friend Amber/Rosamund.

The book is "awfully interesting", as D.H. Lawrence had said. Upton Sinclair, who considered The new Machiavelli to be Wells's masterpiece, was a dedicated Socialist like H.G. Wells. There are certainly some impressive and thought-provoking passages in among the 500 pages of racing and tumbling verbiage. Wells is a complex and intelligent writer, who managed to get himself on Hitler's death lists for when Britain was conquered, despite being enamoured of Fascism. Amongst other commentators, Joseph Conrad called it a "master-work". Other critics regarded The new Machiavelli as "the beginning of the retreat of Wells the story-teller . . . It was the first ominous eruption of those magnificent moments of self-assertion which were to disintegrate the novelist in him."

Shades of hippiedom, 1960s, all of them bed-hopping like billy-o; but as they didn't have such good birth control, they had to cover their tracks by marriages of convenience.

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100+ years ago, and still socialists do not learn!

And now a longer excerpt from The new Machiavelli. Remington is Wells, and he is talking with Margaret, his wife. He is an M.P. considering going over to the Tories from the Liberals in order to reform them

Remington and his wife are Socialists in the early days of the party and he stood as a Liberal - shades of the 'the Social Democrats'

(P.S. Wells never went for parliament, his metier was writing, where he developed ideas of the new world that 'scientific' Socialism would herald. He came into conflict with the Fabians because he didn't  much like their theoretical, rather soft, approach).

pp.361-364, The new Machiavelli

[Remington] "But aren't these people real?"

"They're so superficial, so extravagant!"

I said I was not shocked by their unreality. They seemed the least affected people I had ever met. "And are they really so extravagant?" I asked, and put it to her that her dresses cost quite as much as any other woman's in the house.

"It's not only their dresses," Margaret parried. "It's the scale and spirit of things."

I questioned that. "They're cynical," said Margaret, staring before her out of the window.

I challenged her, and she quoted the Brabants, about whom there had been an ancient scandal. She'd heard of it from Altiora, and it was also Altiora who'd given her a horror of Lord Carnaby, who was also with us. "You know his reputation," said Margaret. "That Normandy girl. Every one knows about it. I shiver when I look at him. He seems - oh! like something not of our civilisation. He will come and say little things to me."

"Offensive things?"

"No, politenesses and things. Of course his manners are - quite right. That only makes it worse, I think. It shows he might have helped - all that happened. I do all I can to make him see I don't like him. But none of the others make the slightest objection to him."

"Perhaps these people imagine something might be said for him."

"That's just it," said Margaret.

"Charity," I suggested.

"I don't like that sort of toleration."

I was oddly annoyed. "Like eating with publicans and sinners," I said. "No!..."

But scandals, and the contempt for rigid standards their condonation displayed, weren't more than the sharp edge of the trouble. "It's their whole position, their selfish predominance, their class conspiracy against the mass of people," said Margaret. "When I sit at dinner in that splendid room, with its glitter and white reflections and candlelight, and its flowers and its wonderful service and its candelabra of solid gold, I seem to feel the slums and the mines and the over-crowded cottages stuffed away under the table."

I reminded Margaret that she was not altogether innocent of unearned increment.

"But aren't we doing our best to give it back?" she said.

I was moved to question her. "Do you really think," I asked, "that the Tories and peers and rich people are to blame for social injustice as we have it to-day? Do you really see politics as a struggle of light on the Liberal side against darkness on the Tory?"

"They must know," said Margaret.

I found myself questioning that. I see now that to Margaret it must have seemed the perversest carping against manifest things, but at the time I was concentrated simply upon the elucidation of her view and my own; I wanted to get at her conception in the sharpest, hardest lines that were possible. It was perfectly clear that she saw Toryism as the diabolical element in affairs. The thing showed in its hopeless untruth all the clearer for the fine, clean emotion with which she gave it out to me. My sleeping peer in the library at Stamford Court and Evesham talking luminously behind the Hartstein flowers embodied the devil, and my replete citizen sucking at his cigar in the National Liberal Club, Willie Crampton discussing the care and management of the stomach over a specially hygienic lemonade, and Dr. Tumpany in his aggressive frock-coat pegging out a sort of copyright in Socialism, were the centre and wings of the angelic side. It was nonsense. But how was I to put the truth to her?

"I don't see things at all as you do," I said. "I don't see things in the same way."

"Think of the poor," said Margaret, going off at a tangent.

"Think of every one," I said. "We Liberals have done more mischief through well-intentioned benevolence than all the selfishness in the world could have done. We built up the liquor interest."

"We!" cried Margaret. "How can you say that? It's against us."

"Naturally. But we made it a monopoly in our clumsy efforts to prevent people drinking what they liked, because it interfered with industrial regularity -"

"Oh!" cried Margaret, stung; and I could see she thought I was talking mere wickedness.

"That's it," I said.

"But would you have people drink whatever they pleased?

"Certainly. What right have I to dictate to other men and women?"

"But think of the children!"

"Ah! there you have the folly of modern Liberalism, its half-cunning, half-silly way of getting at everything in a roundabout fashion. If neglecting children is an offence, and it is an offence, then deal with it as such, but don't go badgering and restricting people who sell something that may possibly in some cases lead to a neglect of children. If drunkenness is an offence, punish it, but don't punish a man for selling honest drink that perhaps after all won't make any one drunk at all. Don't intensify the viciousness of the public-house by assuming the place isn't fit for women and children. That's either spite or folly. Make the public-house fit for women and children. Make it a real public-house. If we Liberals go on as we are going, we shall presently want to stop the sale of ink and paper because those things tempt men to forgery. We do already threaten the privacy of the post because of betting tout's letters. The drift of all that kind of thing is narrow, unimaginative, mischievous, stupid..."

I stopped short and walked to the window and surveyed a pretty fountain, facsimile of one in Verona, amidst trim-cut borderings of yew. Beyond, and seen between the stems of ilex trees, was a great blaze of yellow flowers...

"But prevention," I heard Margaret behind me, "is the essence of our work."

On p.436, we come to one of Wells's grand schemes.
"And so it was the Endowment of Motherhood as a practical form of Eugenics got into English politics."

He means giving mothers money for breeding! Remember, this is in 1910 and you can see similar forms of meddling with medals for motherhood, common in the Socialist dictatorships. Of course, the real effect has been uneducated girls becoming pregnant in order to receive government hand-outs and privileges, so becoming independent of men while becoming dependant on the State.

On page 400,
"I confess myself altogether a feminist",
and,
"I want to change the respective values of the family group altogether, and make the home indeed the women's kingdom and the mother the owner and responsible guardian of her children."

He seems to have got his way, but like most Socialist grand schemes, it is hardly bringing in the promised Utopia.

So many of these would-be revolutionaries were dismayed by the Puritanism of Victorian England. Thus, they wanted to remake everything in sight, all had to be thrown out of the window without the modernation of common sense - attacks on family, marriage, patriotism. This can be seen in the new religion of Socialism in Marx, Fabianism and all their fellow travellers, and continuing right into modern times.

related material
For Socialism and Peace: the Labour Party's Programme of Action, 1934
Fascism is Socialism

george bernard shaw (G.B.S)

Shaw was involved in writing many of the early Fabian tracts. I have read at least twenty of his plays, including his long prefaces and afterwords. he has a stereotyped mind that returns continually and boringly to his main dogmas This is alleviated only by his humour and his generosity in real life. Androcles and the Lion and Saint Joan I found very amusing. If you want to tackle his heavier expositions, then try Man and Superman and Back to Methuselah. But he is not complex enough to treat as a serious political writer.

bibliography

The new Machiavelli by H.G. Wells
First issued as a part-work in 1910, and published as a book in 1911.
The new Machiavelli by H.G. Wells

House of Stratus Ltd, hbk, 2001

ISBN-10: 0755104161
ISBN-13: 978-0755104161

amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

Kindle edition
Trajectory Classics, 2014

ASIN: B00PIIKLVC

$5.90 [amazon.com]

The new Machiavelli by H.G. Wells
The new Machiavelli by H.G. Wells

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, pbk, 2014

ISBN-10: 150040974X
ISBN-13: 978-1500409746

$9.99 [amazon.com]
£6.35 [amazon.co.uk]

Wildside Press, hbk, 2004

ISBN-10: 0809596407
ISBN-13: 978-0809596409

$31.06 [amazon.com]
£27.03 [amazon.co.uk]

The new Machiavelli by H.G. Wells

Characters in the New Machiavelli and their real-life originals:
Altiora Bailey : Beatrice Webb
Oscar Bailey : Sydney Webb
the Booles : Hugh and Edith (Nesbitt) Bland
Curmain (Edith's secretary) : Jimmy (Horace) Harsnell
Isabel : a meld of Rosamund "Bland" and Amber Reeves
Remington : Wells

The Blands appeared as the Booles in early editions, most likely in the part-work. But sometime, probably early in the history of the book, they were written/censored out and melded with the Webbs (Baileys).
The changes start at about p.448. "Bailey, I found was warning fathers of girls against me". In the original version, this reads "Boole, I found was warning fathers of girls against me" and thereafter there are several rather clumsy changes, for example, the description remains that of Hugh Bland, rather than Sydney Webb.

Julia Briggs believes that Wells was just being mean to people that annoyed him in satirising the Webbs and the Blands. However, my reading is that a far more convincing case can be made that Wells greatly regretted his own lack of courage by staying with his wife instead of running off with Amber Reeves, or even with Rosamund.


Maud and Amber by Ruth Fry
Maud and Amber by Ruth Fry

Canterbury University Press, New Zealand,
hbk, 1992

ISBN-10: 0908812108
ISBN-13: 978-0908812103

amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

Amber Reeves had a daughter by Wells - Anna-Jane, who lived to be 101 [1909-2011]. Amber and Wells met at the Oxford University Fabian Group. Amber was regarded as a star pupil at Oxford, in the early days of female education in the UK.

Wells wrote a fictionalised version of his relationship with Amber under the title of Ann Veronica.

Both Maud and Amber originated in New Zealand. From a political family, their father William became the New Zealand representative (Agent General) to the Empire.The family came to London in 1896, whence Maud and Amber were involved in Fabianism, the Suffragette Movement and so on [see The poor in London, 1909 - you never had it so good], before subsequently returning to New Zealand.

New Zealand is regarded as the first country in the world to have female franchise, in 1893. Britain had to wait until 1928, France 1944, Switzerland 1971, Portugal 1976.


A woman of passion by Julia Briggs
A woman of passion by Julia Briggs

Tempus, reprint, pbk, 2008

The History Press, reprint, 2007

ISBN-10: 0752442546
ISBN-13: 978-0752442549

$20.75 [amazon.com]
£11.17 [amazon.co.uk]

Kindle edition

Tempus, reprint, 2008

ISBN-10: 0752442546
ISBN-13: 978-0752442549

$17.48 [amazon.com]

A woman of passion by Julia Briggs
Related further reading
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