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Fabian Society. Established in 1884 to ‘permeate’, first the Liberal Party, then the Labour Party, with ideas on the need for state capitalism. Among the early Fabians were George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Fabians called themselves ‘socialist’ (although their political outlook was largely derived from Utilitarianism) and believed that ‘socialism’ (i.e. state capitalism) could be brought about only after a long process of social reform -- a belief that Sidney Webb termed ‘the inevitability of gradualness.’ The Society played a minor part in the formation of the Labour Party, but in 1918 the Labour Party adopted a constitution that was mostly written by Sidney Webb. Today the Society is little more than a ‘think-tank’ for the Labour Party.

According to George Lichtheim, the title ‘Fabian Society’ appears to have been suggested by Frank Podmore, a founder member:

It was a reference to the elderly Roman commander Fabius Cunctator, famous for his extreme caution in conducting military operations, especially when matched against Hannibal. Some of the earliest tracts of the Society bore a motto (composed by Podmore) which ran in part:

For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain and fruitless.”

Closer acquaintance with Roman history might perhaps have induced Podmore to inquire where and when Fabius “struck hard”: there is no record of such an occurrence. Malicious critics of Fabianism have been known to hint that there may have been something prophetic, or at least symbolic, in this misreading of history and that anyone who expects Fabians to “strike hard” for socialism or anything else is quite likely to have to wait until Doomsday.’

(See also GRADUALISM; LABOUR PARTY; WEBB S&B.)

Reading

George Lichtheim, A Short History of Socialism, 1983

Fabian Society: http://fabians.org.uk/

 

Fascism. The term fascismo was coined by the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile. It is derived from the Italian word fascio, which means ‘bundle’ or ‘union’. Fascism was an authoritarian, nationalistic and anti-socialist political ideology that preaches the need for a strong state ruled by a single political party led by a charismatic leader. Later the word was used in relation to a similar extreme nationalist movement in Germany even though this described itself as ‘national-socialist’ (Nazi) rather than fascist. Both these movements won control of political power more or less constitutionally, in Italy in 1922 and in Germany in 1933, and proceeded to establish a one-party dictatorship with mass organisations to win over the population and preaching that all members of the ‘nation’ had a common interest. Fascism/Nazism was implacably opposed to Marxism for its internationalism and its advocacy of the class struggle within nations. (See also DICTATORSHIP; RACISM.)

Reading

Roger Eatwell, Fascism: A History, 1996

Giovanni Gentile & Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism, 1932

(online at www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Germany/mussolini.htm)

 

Feminism. Feminist theories of women's oppression and inequality have been developed largely within the liberal tradition of political philosophy. Demands have usually been formulated on the basis of moral arguments relating to legal rights and justice, and ignoring the economic conditions that render such claims meaningless within the context of capitalism. ‘Socialist’ feminists, while recognising the importance of class, have become bogged down in reformism; in effect their demand is to be wage slaves equally with men. ‘Radical’ feminists attack patriarchy, not class, as the source of women’s oppression.

While it is undeniable that most women experience certain forms of oppression and discrimination as a result of their gender, to suffer from sexism at all it is usually necessary to be a member of the working class; it is not normally a problem for female members of the capitalist class. The socialist movement, being based on a class analysis of capitalism, provides a motivation for women’s liberation since socialism can only be achieved with the majority support of women and of men. (See also REFORMISM; SEXISM.)

Reading

Vincent, A., Modern Political Ideologies, 1992

The Feminist eZine: www.feministezine.com/feminist/index.html

 

Fetishism. In capitalist society fetishism arises because the relations based on the exchange value of commodities control workers and their products. Exchange value is a direct relation between products, and indirectly, through them, between the workers. To the workers, therefore, the relations between them appear not as direct social relations but as what they really are - material relations between people and social relations between things.

In capitalist society commodities are produced primarily for exchange, for their exchange value. Therefore it is exchange value that will determine production and distribution, and the workers own products confront them as alien objects ruling over them.

In socialist society this mystical veil over social production will be lifted and in its place there will be direct social relations between people and their products. (See also ALIENATION.)

Reading

Marx on The Fetishism of Commodities:

www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4

 

Feudal society. In his Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Marx designated the feudal as one of the epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. As a system of society, feudalism flourished in Europe in the Middle Ages, though it existed elsewhere and at different periods. The feudal mode of production was based on the effective possession (but not necessarily legal ownership) of some of the means of production by the peasantry. Within this manorial organisation of production the lords appropriated the surplus labour of the peasants as feudal rent (in the form of rent in kind, money, labour or taxes) using political force and religious ideology as the means of control.

Reading

Rodney Hilton, The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, 1985

 

Forces of production. What can be broadly understood as technology, the forces of production include materials, machinery, techniques and the work performed by human beings in the production of wealth. (See also HISTORY; RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION.)

 

Freedom. According to classical liberal political philosophy, freedom is the absence of direct physical constraint; freedom being essentially negative, it is always freedom from something. This point of view ignores poverty, unemployment and wage labour as examples of constraints and lack of freedom.

Under capitalism, however, the working class are unfree. Although individual workers may have some ‘freedom’ of action (to change jobs, for example), as a member of the working class we are coerced into selling our labour power, or taking on any of the roles involved in the reproduction of labour power, such as student, housewife or pensioner. Because the capitalist class own the means of life, workers cannot escape from their class position in society: we are wage slaves.

For socialists, freedom is self-determination. On the new basis of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for self-determined needs, socialism will be a society in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. (See also CAPITALISM; SOCIALISM.)

Reading

Allen Wood, Karl Marx, 2004