I imagine that most people who read this blog have heard of the Fabian Society. Some though might have assumed that it had gone out of existence. It certainly would be an easy mistake to make. Given the historic failure of reformism it would entirely understandable if people assumed that the members of the Fabian Society had decided to call it a day and had all gone home.
But the Fabian Society is still around and, here in New Zealand, it has its own website and, among other things, runs lectures and seminars. These days though any references to socialism have been quietly dropped. It was all a sham anyway so at least they have come clean and admitted that they have no interest in transforming capitalism - just tinkering with it.
The Fabian Society was first established in England in 1894 and branches were quickly established in New Zealand in both Christchurch and Dunedin.
Interestingly it was one of the founders of the Fabian Society, Sidney Webb, who wrote the original clause 4 of the British Labour Party which talks about the 'the common ownership of the means of production.'
It was Tony Blair who pushed to have this explicitly socialist clause dropped in favour of the present clause which makes no mention of the socialisation of the means of production and instead talks about Blair's 'shared set of progressive values'.
The New Zealand Fabian Society, although is describes itself as 'independent' acts largely as a think tank for the Labour Party. The current president of the New Zealand branch of the Fabians is Mike Smith, a former general secretary of the Labour Party, He is a regular writer for the Labour-aligned blog The Standard and never a critical word about Labour ever features in his writings.
Historically Fabianism has favoured small incremental changes in the direction of 'socialism'. The New Zealand Fabian Society website has reworked this to mean 'gradual, reformist social democracy, applying progressive values to contemporary issues.' Whatever that means. Clearly though it was inspired by Tony Blair.
The fact that Mike Smith was a committed supporter and defender of the neoliberalism of the last Labour Government should alert the reader that the 'progressive politics' of the Fabian Society are dodgy to say the least.
Speaking about British Fabianism Leon Trotsky described it as an attempt to save capitalism from the working class. He wrote;
"..throughout the whole history of the British Labour movement there has been pressure by the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat through the agency of radicals, intellectuals, drawing-room and church socialists and Owenites who reject the class struggle and advocate the principle of social solidarity, preach collaboration with the bourgeoisie, bridle, enfeeble and politically debase the proletariat".
In a recent posting on Public Address Mike Smith make its clear that the Fabian Society's 'progressive values ' are just about different policies to run the capitalist economy. These policies will be implemented and administered by people like, well, Mike Smith.
There is no place at all for the working class in the Fabian scenario. We are simply pieces on a chess board to be pushed around by more 'enlightened' politicians and business people.
Mike Smith and the Fabian Society are holding a series of nationwide lectures and seminars this month to discuss ways to create a more 'resilient economy'. You can bet that they won't be discussing such things as bringing back into public ownership such utilities as Telecom or the entire electricity industry. You can bet they won't be talking about nationalising the banking and finance sector. They won't even be talking about progressive taxation.
None of the speakers that Fabian Society have got all lined up are socialist - in fact they come from the business sector which about sums up the state of play in the Fabian society.
One of the speakers is John Walley, the CEO of the Manufacturers and Exporters Federation.
Another speaker is Selwyn Pellett who is described as a 'hi tech entrepreneur'. Earlier this year he was praising Goff's views on taxation and monetary reform.
The Fabian Society might be determined to show it is business friendly but it is also demonstrating the same anti-working class attitudes that the last Labour Government displayed and acted upon.
There is nothing new on offer from the Fabian Society. All it wants is a reinvented neoliberalism.