Front cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. 5

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Preface and acknowledgements

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pp. 6-8

While the study which follows can stand on in its own as a reappraisal of the Webbs, it also forms the second instalment of a three-part study collectively entitled Bolshevism and the British Left. The first volume, Labour Legends and Russian Gold, is published simultaneously with this one. ...

Abbreviations used in text and notes

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pp. 9-10

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Chapter 1 The Webbs as metaphor

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pp. 11-22

‘On any showing, I think, Soviet Communism is a great book.’ That, at least, was the considered verdict of Harold Laski in 1947.1 The book thus canonised was Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s Soviet Communism: a new civilisation?, originally published in 1935 and famously divested of its question mark for a second edition two years later.2 ...

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Chapter 2 Victor and Altiora Bailey

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pp. 23-45

The Edwardian Webbs, if we can use that for shorthand, are not an attractive pairing. H.G. Wells, smarting from his own failed bid to ‘make the Fabian Society into an order of the Samurai’, cruelly satirised them in his 1911 novel The New Machiavelli.1 For anyone acquainted with the couple, his fictional contrivance of Victor and Altiora Bailey provided not even the thinnest of disguises. ...

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Chapter 3 ‘In a motherly sort of way’: Fabians and guild socialists 1912-21

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pp. 46-60

In that age of eminent couplings, the Woolfs, dining with the Coles, could not help but think of the Webbs. As Virginia Woolf noted in her diary in May 1920: ‘The Coles are Webbs in embryo – with differences of course’.1 The differences, at the time of writing, were a matter of notoriety. ...

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Chapter 4 Science, state and society: the social theory of the Webbs

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pp. 61-90

‘Like the respectable section of the movement, they were very strong upon function.’ So William Mellor wrote looking back on the guild socialists in 1922. ‘Every organisation was to be judged according to the function it performed, and quite arbitrarily they divided the two main functions of man into eating and working – ...

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Chapter 5 Fabians and the control of industry: socialist debates before the closure

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pp. 91-124

Industrial Democracy is often regarded as the Webbs’ greatest literary monument, generalising from their empirical researches and providing, in Eric Hobsbawm’s words, ‘an entire theory of democracy, the state and the transition to socialism’.1 The translation of the work by Lenin and Krupskaya and its perceived influence upon Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? ...

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Chapter 6 Cobwebs and decay: the Webbs in the 1920s

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pp. 125-149

No phrase better encapsulates the Webbs’ image in the 1920s than ‘the inevitability of gradualness’. Coined by Sidney in his address to the 1923 Labour Party conference, it perfectly captures the post-war recovery of Fabian certainties and their ready identification with the advance of parliamentary socialism. ...

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Chapter 7 Roads to Russia (1) workers’ dictatorship

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pp. 150-164

Soviet Russia between the wars provided a political terminus or resting place for countless British socialists. Easily mistaken as a single destination, its discovery at different times and by different routes suggests both commonalities and complications eluding straightforward tabulation. ...

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Chapter 8 Roads to Russia (2) planning

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pp. 165-182

Although tentatively prefigured in the 1920s, the Webbs’ trip to Russia in 1932 belongs inextricably with the new wave of pilgrims and sightseers prompted by the deepening crisis of western capitalism and sheer audacity of the Five Year Plans. Even the delay of a year or two, while Sidney sat in MacDonald’s cabinet, made for significant adjustments of both expectations and perceptions. ...

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Chapter 9 Roads to Russia (3) co-operation

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pp. 183-207

For the well-disposed co-operator, Soviet Russia was not so much an experiment as a fulfilment. For some, even amidst the chaos of its founding civil war, the framework of a society based on co-operation could already be discerned. Predating the planners’ route by as much as a decade, the co-operator’s discovery of Russia thus had a starting point and topography that were rather different in character. ...

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Chapter 10 ‘A big gamble of the intellect’

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pp. 208-241

When the Webbs, as Beatrice put it, ‘hobbled over’ to the new civilisation, they were already committed to reaching a favourable verdict upon it. Perhaps they were not quite so eager as that other veteran of progressive causes, Charlotte Despard, who recorded having ‘come at last into a true democracy’ – ‘no class, no separation of interests, no superiorities’ – the day her Russian boat left London.1 ...

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Postscript – The temple of death

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pp. 242-244

If Soviet communism was the new civilisation, the rival dictatorship of the Nazis represented its antithesis. Like a ‘recession to the barbaric tribes of ancient times’, the disaster which had befallen Germany preoccupied Beatrice even despite her absorption in Russia, and as she worked on Soviet Communism she described herself as ‘devour[ing]’ whatever she could find to read on the subject.1 ...

Bibliography

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pp. 245-256

Index

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pp. 257-263