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50 Years Ago: G.B. Shaw - A few notes

The death of Bernard Shaw has been the instance of eulogies galore in all of which he is acclaimed as one of the great, if not of the greatest, intellectual giants of all time.

What we are concerned with here is the claim so often made that Shaw was a socialist who made an outstanding contribution to the socialist movement. This claim has been unceasingly made by the unblushing principal and his adherents during the past sixty odd years; on the part of the latter with an occasional tolerant and amused chuckle at his "crankiness." The basis of the claim is his tilting at social abuses and at smug "respectability." This tilting was really only the spearhead of his own smug worship of "men of ability," in the front rank of whom he modestly placed himself.

In fact Shaw was not a socialist, never was one, and did not understand what Socialism implied. All his life he confused Socialism with State Capitalism and with a "business-like government." He envisaged a state ruled by a self-elected few who, at the best, would exercise a kind of benevolent despotism over the ignorant mass in a system based upon property with the buying and selling of goods.

Whatever Shaw may have been as a dramatist and artist, as a writer on Socialism he was ignorant, incompetent and blown-up with the petty conceit of the self-styled intellectual. If we were asked what his outstanding contribution in this field was we would unhesitatingly reply that he was given considerable aid to that movement which has built up labour parties that have confused and beguiled multitudes of workers into a path leading to the blank alley of despair. In this field he will be remembered as a clever and witty decoy who helped to head off the march to revolutionary change.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, December 1950)