15th September 2011
Keynes was not technically a Fabian, but was Fabian socialist nevertheless
My good economist friend who has objected to my calling Keynes a Fabian insists that Keynes was never a Fabian. "To prove that he was just get hold of the Fabians’ membership lists at the British Museum/Library", he writes to me.
Indeed, I agree that Keynes was NOT technically a Fabian (not being a formal member of the society).
However, the Fabians did not want him in that role. He was more useful as an infiltrator into the liberal ranks. Keynes was very clever, and very political. He found it convenient to deceive. Despite the pretense of supporting the market (at times), he remained a strong socialist, and his philosophy not only arose FROM Fabian socialist philosophy, but was used as key reading by the Fabians. Apart from being on the closest terms (possible) with many key Fabians, he also lectured regularly at the Fabian Society.
I'm citing a few extracts from the book Keynes at Harvard
below. Most of these have formal citations which you can verify from the book. I've also added a few other references, to strengthen the argument.
In sum, while Keynes was "technically" not a Fabian, he was through-and-through a Fabian in his ideas, approach, and legacy. He did more than anyone else to make Fabian socialist methods mainstream in the West. His achievements are many, including the Western welfare state, the "mixed' economy and government intervention in business. Some of these ideas did well for a while, but these were not sustainable, and his ideas are now bringing great grief to the West.
On the political spectrum of ideas, Keynes is PRECISELY a Fabian socialist. Technical membership of the society is, in my view, irrelevant, in arriving at this conclusion.
I therefore propose to continue to treat him as a Fabian unless I find evidence to prove otherwise.
EXTRACTS (not in the order cited in the book; non-book extracts are indented in quotation blocks)
Extraordinary efforts have been made to deny Keynes’ connections with Fabian socialism. There has been an almost hysterical chant insisting that Keynes was anti-socialist and anti-bolshevik.
Keynes himself was a Fabian socialist as is later proven by Keynes’ own record.
At Cambridge Keynes joined the Bloomsbury group
comprising, mainly: Leonard Woolf, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Desmond MacCarthy, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry. Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, J. McT. E. McTaggart, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster. Most of these were Fabian socialists
. [See details here
The chronology of John Maynard Keynes’ association and activity with Fabian socialism is unbroken from 1904 until his death. In 1912 Keynes was reported as a member of “an astonishingly brilliant batch” of Cambridge Fabians.
At the age of 20 (1903) Keynes became a member of a Fabian group at Cambridge which was headed by G.L. Dickinson, a prominent Fabian Socialist.
At the age of 21 Keynes was taken in hand by G. Lowes Dickinson, the effete Fabian socialist at Cambridge University. There he was joined by Leonard Woolf, a life long Fabian and G.E. Moore the philosopher of the Fabian Society of socialists. John Maynard Keynes reported his activities dutifully to his father, who was a lecturer in moral science at the University. The role of steering his son into the respectable facade of Fabian socialism has not been properly aired in biographical sketches of the elder Keynes. It is generally overlooked that John Neville Keynes was general overseer of his sons activities and associations at Cambridge.
The elder Keynes book was required reading among Fabian socialists a
nd was listed for sale in the official organ of the American Fabian Society under the listing, “Recommended books on Socialism and Social Reform.” [Sanjeev: Neville did not necessarily support the socialists
It is reported that in 1905, “A wave of Fabian socialism was soon sweeping over the new undergraduates, and politics, not psychological literature, became the principal topic of conversation among the intelligentsia. This new tide caught up many of Lytton’s friends—including James, Maynard Keynes, and Brooke himself.” (Lytton and James Strachey and Rupert Brooke. –ed.)(8) James Strachey was a life long member of the Fabian Society and Rupert Brooke, an intimate of Keynes, became the president of the Cambridge Fabian Society.(9) The teachings of Sydney and Beatrice Webb, as Fabian leaders, became the guide line for this group. In fact, every basic theme brought out by Keynes in later life can be traced to the economic and political principles taught by the Webbs many years before.
In 1908 Keynes became a Cambridge lecturer, being supported in part by an annual stipend from Alfred Marshall, who “was largely in sympathy with the aims of the Fabians.”(citataion: History of Economic Analysis, J.A. Schumpeter, p. 833n.)
In spite of his public record as a socialist, Keynes was appointed as an aid to Prime Minister David Lloyd George during the Paris peace talks with Germany in 1919. During this period he was asked by the Fabian socialists to head their London School of Economics.
At the end of 1919, Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace of which a special edition was published bearing the imprint of the British Fabian Society.
The Fabian Society made private arrangements with Keynes to publish a special edition of his book [entitled The Economic Consequences of the Peace] for exclusive distribution among radicals throughout the British Empire. (citation: Fabian News, London, March 1920, p. 17).
A definitive book on Fabian socialism states, “The great influence on the young Oxford and Cambridge Fabians of those days [1902-1930]—and they were an astonishingly brilliant batch—was that of G.E. Moore.” Among those listed were J.M. Keynes, Lytton Strachey, G. Lowes Dickinson, Harold Laski and Leonard Woolf. In a paper by Keynes, published in 1949, he admits that for years, “I was writing under the joint influence of Moore’s Principia Ethica and Russell’s Principia Mathematica.” [Sanjeev: Note that Moore was a philosopher of the Fabian Society and Russell its active member]
In 1923 Keynes had acquired financial control of the British publication The Nation, This magazine had been the leading voice of Fabian ideas within the Liberal Party.
Keynes’ tie-in with Fabian socialism is so extensive that it is difficult to compress the record within the confines of a few pages. Even a thousand page book would not exhaust Keynes’ Fabian trail. A few high points will serve to dramatize the depth and extent of Keynes Fabian immersion. In 1925 in an article entitled “The Future” Keynes declared rapturously, “What a debt every intelligent being owes to Bernard Shaw!
” [Sanjeev – click the previous link to find more about Shaw
] This statement was repeated by Keynes in 1932.(22) Shaw along with the Webbs was the high priest of Fabianism in both Britain and the United States. About that time Shaw had just completed his Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism laying down the rules for future socialism wherein all dissidents would be killed mercifully. Keynes retained political intimacy covering the entire period when Shaw became in turn an advocate of Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s nazism and Stalin’s bloody rule.
Shaw was a chief patron and sponsor of Keynes in Fabian socialist circles in England and the United States. Keynes gave Shaw a full report of the progress he made in writing books over a period of seventeen years.
By 1929 Keynes’ teachings had became hardened into a full Fabian Socialist doctrine. He had supplanted his old mentor, Alfred Marshall, as the official economist of Fabian Socialism. Since the British Labour Party was an instrument of Fabian socialism the Keynesian theories formed the backbone of the Labour Party’s economic platform.
For many years editions of the Fabian News bore announcements of Keynes’ lectures at Fabian socialist functions. Although Keynes found permanent sanctuary within the British Liberal Party his real influence was within the Fabian dominated Labour Party. A prominent Fabian leader admitted that, “J.M. Keynes’ theories were far more powerful inside it (Labour Party) than elsewhere.”(31) And John Strachey, veteran Fabian within the Labour Party, in commenting about the second Labour Government of 1929 admitted, “We young people in the Labour Movement were in touch with him (Keynes) and we were convinced that whether he was right or wrong, an attempt to combat unemployment with some sort of Keynesian lines was the one hope for the Government.”(32)
When Ramsay MacDonald (a Fabian Socialist of longstanding) became Labour Prime Minister in 1929, Fabians swarmed into control of key government positions. Philip Snowden became Chancellor of the Exchequer and appointed Keynes to the key Committee of Enquiry into Finance and Industry. This was the body which was to draw up plans for steering British economy from private ownership into Socialism. In January 1930 Prime Minister MacDonald appointed Keynes to the Economic Advisory Council.
In 1931 Keynes negotiated a merger of The Nation with the New Statesman. The New Statesman had been founded by Bernard Shaw and Beatrice and Sidney Webb in 1913 to expound Fabian Socialist views openly. It had been a conspicious outlet for Socialist and Communist propaganda. The new amalgamation was called the New Statesman and Nation. Keynes became a member of the Board of the new entity “and he was delighted to welcome Mr. Kingsley Martin as its editor.”(41) Kingsley Martin was a well-known Fabian Socialist leader.
In his attack upon the principle of savings Keynes merely echoed an old revolutionary stratagem of Fabian Socialists. At the Labour Party Conference in 1923 the Fabians “rejected the concept that private savings increase community national assets.”(17) Even earlier (1916) the Fabians declared “large savings by a wealthy class have an inherent evil; they increase and perpetuate a functionless, tribute-levying class of rentiers, which is already a dangerous element in the State.”(18)
the rise of a distinct public "sector," and a spread of Fabian socialist ideas, paved the way for Keynes's proposed use of government intervention as a control variable in a manner hardly available to Marx [Robert L. Heilbroner: Economics and Political Economy: Marx, Keynes, and Schumpeter, Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sep., 1984)]
Keynes’ General Theory tied the elements of Fabian Socialism in Britain and the United States into one ideological package. As pointed out previously, Keynesian theories had already been the backbone of British and American Fabian Socialist thinking for many years.
At that time Keynes visited them and complained that his General Theory wasn’t selling well. Soon the Fabian juggernaut began to pass the word through in Britain and the United States. The intercession on the part of his fellow Fabians worked like magic for Keynes.
Keynes was admittedly an associate member of the influential New Fabian Research Bureau which was wildly pro-Soviet.(33)
During the early 1950’s the Home Research Secretary of the Fabian Society openly admitted that J.M. Keynes was a Fabian.(34)
Sister McCarran in her book Fabianism in Britain writes that Mr. J.L. Jolley, Home Research Secretary of the Fabian Society, “stated that J.M. Keynes was a Fabian.”
Pigou, although posturing as a classic economist, has also been identified as a Fabian Socialist. (citation: Fabianism in the Political Life of Britain, p. 61.)