They say that the easiest way to hide something is in open sight; with a hat tip to Samuel Rosenberg’s 1974 Sherlockian showcase (okay, you find a better one), “naked is the best disguise.” In other words, be so obvious about what you’re doing that nobody will believe you really mean it . . like the Fabian Society adopting the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” as their emblem, telling people they were going to make everybody socialist, but just call it something else. . . .
In the previous posting on this subject, we saw how — at least personally — the 1886 New York City mayoral campaign was a kind of last hurrah for Henry George and his pet Catholic priest, Father Edward McGlynn . . . or for Father Edward McGlynn and his pet socialist, Henry George — whichever way you want to look at it.
Both Pope Saint Pius X and Pope Benedict XV continued papal efforts to counter socialism and modernism. Pius X, for example, instituted the Oath Against Modernism, the first article of which affirms the primacy of the intellect (Sacrorum Antistitum, Motu Proprio of September 1, 1910), and issued Lamentabili Sane (1907) and Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907). Benedict XV believed that the new things caused the First World War (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, § 12), but reminded people that change is not evil per se; we must be prepared to do “[o]ld things, but in a new way.” (Ibid., § 25.)
Henry George and Father McGlynn were more or less neutralized, but not georgism or the reinterpretation of Catholic social teaching as moderate socialism. Ironically, McGlynn’s and George’s fall had less to do with Rerum Novarum than with their own egotistical arrogance. Had McGlynn simply obeyed the original summons to Rome as his friends advised before George talked him out of it, and had George not insulted William O’Brien, they would have remained in more or less good standing with the public. Instead, they degenerated into obscure cult figures, remembered today only by the cognoscenti.
Not so their influence, which continued long after both men had died. Many people today are astounded when they realize that much of what they believe to be incontrovertible truth in politics and religion is actually warmed-over and expanded georgism.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Fabian Society, an offshoot of the Fellowship of the New Life founded in 1883 to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth, i.e., “the cultivation of a perfect character in each and all” in this life through pacifism, vegetarianism, and simple living. (Colin Spencer, The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. London: Fourth Estate Classic Publisher, 1996, 283.) Soon, members of the group wanted to use the power of the State to transform Christianity and bring society around to their views; “Christianity and Socialism are said to be convertible terms.” (Edward R. Pease, A History of the Fabian Society. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1916, 25; M. Kaufmann, M.A., Christian Socialism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, 1888, xii, 14n, 22n, 33, 190n.)
|Henry George, New Christian Prophet|
Inspired by the enthusiasm of its founders for the theories of Henry George (Ibid., 28.), members of the Fellowship founded the Fabian Society as their political arm on January 4, 1884 (Ibid., 28-33.). As one of the organizers acknowledged, “To George belongs the extraordinary merit of recognising the right way of social salvation. . . . From Henry George I think it may be taken that the early Fabians learned to associate the new gospel with the old political method.” (Ibid., 20-21.)
George shared with the Fabians “a desire to explore the possibilities, within existing economic theory, of using legislation to regulate the economy for the general good.” (George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, Third Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961, 693; Harold G. Moulton, The New Philosophy of Public Debt. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1943, 71-89.) As George Holland Sabine commented, “Fabian economics was for the most part not Marxian but an extension of the theory of economic rent to the accumulation of capital, on lines already suggested by Henry George. Fabian policy was based on the justice and the desirability of recapturing unearned [i.e., non-labor] increment for social purposes.” (Sabine, A History of Political Theory, op. cit., 740.)
|George Bernard Shaw|
Consistent with their emblem of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Fabian Society worked slowly, avoiding open action until success was within their grasp. According to George Bernard Shaw, their goal was to infiltrate organizations and turn them socialist without (if possible) using the term socialism or letting people realize that what they had been led to accept and even champion is socialist. (“The Fading Fabians,” The Boston Evening Transcript, November 27, 1908, 10.)
Many of the Fabians had a misplaced devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi, whom they regarded as a proto socialist oppressed by a tyrannical Church. (See G.B. Shaw, ed., Fabian Essays in Socialism. London: The Fabian Society, 1889, sexologist Havelock Ellis’s essay “St. Francis and Others,” collected in Affirmations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1926, and Shaw’s Preface to Back to Methuselah.) An offshoot of the Franciscans, the Spirituals or Fraticelli (Technically, the Fraticelli were an offshoot of the Spirituals, although the terms are often used interchangeably), were also venerated as the only real Christians of the Middle Ages. This was due to their belief that the Church established by Christ had become corrupt and worldly through ownership. (Knox, Enthusiasm, op. cit., 110-111.)
|Fabian Society Emblem|
According to the Fraticelli, Christ’s Church had been revived by St. Francis, the Paraclete foretold by Jesus. Il Poverello had ushered in the New Age of the Holy Spirit ( A concept derived from the condemned writings of Blessed Joachim of Flora) characterized by direct rule by God and the abolition of private property, marriage and family, organized religion and political authority. This, to Chesterton, was the invention of a new religion under the name of Christianity (G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi, London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1923, 174-175.) — a prefiguring of socialism as the New Christianity of the New Age of the Holy Spirit.
Fabian influence has been enormous. Some authorities believe that John Maynard Keynes, the economic architect of the modern world, was a member of the Society, although this has not been proved.
|E.F. Schumacher, New Age Guru|
Keynes’s protégé, Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher, was certainly a Fabian. He was the author of Export Policy and Full Employment, Fabian Research Series No. 77. London: Fabian Publications, 1943, a publication of the New Fabian Research Bureau, a privilege permitted only to members of the Fabian “inner circle.” (Pease, History of the Fabian Society, op. cit., 182-184.) He was also a member of the British post-World War II British government, controlled by the Fabians.
Despite that, many Catholics have accepted as compatible with Catholic social doctrine Schumacher’s “New Age Guide to Economics,” Small is Beautiful (1973), and A Guide for the Perplexed (1979) that posits truth changes at different levels of consciousness. Small is Beautiful was even cited in the 1986 U.S. Bishop’s pastoral on the economy, Economic Justice for All.
Nor was that all, as we will see in the next posting on this subject.