Reynolds News (10 June, 1956), in the course of publishing condensed extracts from “Beatrice Webb’s Diaries 1924-1932,” had the following about Beatrice’s disapproval of Bernard Shaw for his admiration of Mussolini:—
“October 21st 1927. G. B. S. has created something of sensation; be has gone out of his way to certify to the excellence of Mussolini’s dictatorship—to its superiority over political democracy as experienced in Britain and other countries. . . . G. B. S. fortified in his admiration of Mussolini by spending eight weeks and £600 in a luxurious hotel at Stresa; in continuous and flattering interviews with Fascist officials of charming personality and considerable attainments . . .”
“From the published correspondence in the English Press and still more from a private correspondence with Adler, it appears that G. B. S. puts forward the Mussolini regime as the New Model which all other countries ought to follow!”
Of course later on, in the second world war, Shaw hedged about his admiration for the Italian dictator, but in the meantime the Webbs had made the pilgrimage to Moscow, fallen for the same blandishments and published their massively misguided book “Soviet Communism—a new Civilisation.” One of its unintentionally humorous chapters is that on “Is Stalin a Dictator?” “Sometimes it is asserted,” they wrote (second edition, 1937, page 431), “ that, whereas the form may be otherwise, the fact is that, whilst the Communist Party controls the whole administration, the Party itself, and thus indirectly the whole State, is governed by the will of a single person, Josef Stalin.”
They hastened to point out (doubtless remembering their earlier disapproval of Shaw and Mussolini) that Stalin, unlike Mussolini and Hitler, was “not invested by law with any authority over his fellow-citizens. . . . He is, in fact, only the General Secretary of the Party… .”
In their solemn-silly way they concluded that there wasn’t any truth in the stories about Stalin!
“We have given particular attention to this point, collecting all the available evidence, and noting artfully the inferences to be drawn from the experience of the past eight years (1926-1934). We do not think that the Party is governed by the will of a single person; or that Stalin is the sort of person to claim or desire such a position. He has himself very explicitly denied any such personal dictatorship in terms which, whether or not he is credited with sincerity certainly accord with our own impression of the facts.”
How Stalin must have laughed up his sleeve at such simplicity; and how his “reformed” successors must laugh at the simplicity of the Webb’s successors.
Of course the biggest deception of the Webbs’ book—a deception still being practised by Stalin’s heirs—was that Russian dictatorship-ridden State capitalism was a “new civilisation.” It deserves that title as much as did Mussolini’s Italy deserve Shaw’s belief in h as a New Model.