This article will help you to differentiate between Fabian socialism and Marxian socialism.
“Fabians’ fundamental assumption was that socialism would be introduced not through class conflict, but by way of democratic welfare legislation administered by civil service.”
Here is the fundamental difference between Fabian socialism and Marxian socialism.
Though both Fabians and Marx believed that capitalist system of economy was the chief cause of the common people’s misery, the latter insisted upon class struggle and also its intensification which would ultimately lead to the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of dictatorship of the proletariat. This, according to Marx, is the only way of emancipating the oppressed people.
A good number of Fabians thought of the collapse of capitalism but they were lackadaisical in their approach to this and many members of the Society did not subscribe to it. The Fabians did not envisage any class conflict or class struggle.
Even, they did not imagine of any revolution on which Marx pinned too much hope. Reforms, parliamentary initiative, governmental legislation, the active role of the political and social institutions based on democratic values and principles and, above all, people’s consciousness were, according to Fabians, the most effective weapons to reach socialist goals.
Hence there is a fundamental difference as regards the methods of these two types of socialism. We can put it in other words one is evolutionary and the other is revolutionary.
In the middle of the eighties of the nineteenth century some socialist-minded people called Fabian socialists set up an organisation and started movement to free the common people from economic hardship and sufferings.
So far as organisational aspect of Marxian socialism is concerned Marx and Engles did not pay any attention to set up an organisation for the intensification of the movement. Their primary concern was academic.
They interpreted history by applying dialectical materialism which is also called materialist interpretation of history.
In this interpretation they have shown how the production relations in different periods of history have changed and how society assumes different shapes in different periods such as primitive communist society, slave society, feudal society and industrial society.
Nobody brings about any particular type of society by deliberate efforts. Historical determinism operates. Analysing development of society and facts recorded in history Marx has come to the conclusion that socialism is inevitable. It is not to be brought, it will come. Marx calls his socialism ‘scientific’ because both Marx and Engels have analysed everything scientifically.
The Fabians had no interest in social development nor had they any intention to interpret history materialistically. They were top-ranking intellectuals and they had heartfelt sympathy for the toiling people. They wanted immediate relief for them.
That is why they did not rely on the inevitability of socialism. They urged upon the government, the people, and the parliament to rise to the occasion.
The Fabians believed that socialism could not be achieved overnight. There was no Aladdin’s lamp at their disposal. They believed so. Slow and steady process would ultimately ensure the advent of socialism. That was the firm belief of the Fabians. Revolution and struggle they disliked from the core of their heart.
To Marx and Engels communism and not socialism was the ultimate goal. In the critique of the Gotha Programme Marx has stated it in clear language. In socialism the importance of the state will decline, but it will not wither away.
The socialist state will be quite different from bourgeois state. It will no longer be an instrument of exploitation or symbol of class rule. The communist society will be a classless society and the state as an instrument of class rule and exploitation will prove its futility and, finally, it will wither away.
The Fabians have argued that in socialism (not in the Marxian sense) the importance of state will gradually decline but it will not wither away. But what appears from their arguments is that the state, in ultimate position, will be able to keep its status intact.
The socialist state envisaged by the Fabians will be stronger than the liberal state. The Fabians never dreamt of its withering away. Nor did they, like anarchists, think of abolishing the state. The Fabian state was an instrument to achieve socialism. In Scientific Socialism, party and proletariat play the predominant role.
The application of Fabian Socialism in practice appears to us not very encouraging. The acceptance of Fabian Socialism by the Labour Party was its only success. In fact, there was a time when majority of the Labour Party M. P.s were intimately related with the Fabian Society and were believers of Fabian Socialism. In the General Election of 1945, 229 of the 394 Labour M.P.s were members of the Society. It has been observed by many that even the members of the bureaucracy were sympathisers of Fabian Socialism.
On the contrary, after two decades of Engels’s death (1895) Marxism was applied in Russia under the dynamic leadership of Lenin. After the Second World War, in 1949, China went to communism.
Today Soviet communism has collapsed and the Soviet Union has disintegrated. China, North Korea, and Cuba yet hold the torch of Marxism-Leninism.
The interesting point is that Marxian socialism is a complete ideology based on scientific principles. It is claimed by its adherents that is a living ideology. We may agree or may not agree with its practical application, but we must agree with its principles.
On the contrary, compared with Marxian Socialism, Fabian Socialism is not a complete ideology.