The Fabian university societies



The Fabian Society is a private organisation formed in 1884 for the advancement of Socialism (Shaw, 1885).


The chief instrument for achieving its objective has been control over the education system.


Already in 1885, the Fabians put the slogan “Educate, Agitate, Organise” in circulation.


By 1889, they had declared the aim of Fabian educational reform as entailing the creation of a Minister for Education, with “control over the whole educational system, from the elementary school to the University, and over all educational endowments” (Shaw, “Educational Reform,” 1889).


The Minister for Public Education was none other than Fabian Society leader Sidney Webb.


In 1895, Webb founded the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with money bequeathed to the Fabian Society for the express purpose of “furthering its propaganda, objects and Socialism” (Cole, 1949, p. 43).


As “Minister for Public Education,” Webb was also responsible in 1898 for the reorganisation of the University of London into a federation of teaching institutions – of which his LSE became a Faculty of Economics in 1900.


As observed by Fabian Society honorary secretary and chairman, Margaret Cole, the reform of public education provided “the most classical example of Fabian permeative tactics in successful operation” (Cole, 1961, p. 102).


At the same time, the Fabians set up a network of university Fabian societies through which they infiltrated key universities in Britain, America and elsewhere.


The most influential among university Fabian societies was the one in the University of Oxford, formed in 1895. According to the Fabian Society’s Annual Report, it consisted of men who within a few years would occupy posts of influence and importance across the country (Cole, 1961, p. 63).


One of its first presidents was Sidney Ball, a graduate of Oriel College, Fabian Society member from 1886 and known as the “Socialist Don” of St John’s College, Oxford.


The Cambridge University Fabian Society was established in 1906 and similar societies were set up in the Universities of Glasgow, Aberystwyth and others.


In 1912, Fabian and Fabian-Socialist university societies were federated into an organisation called University Socialist Federation (Cole, 1961, p. 116).


For good measure, in 1922, the Fabian-dominated LSE and London University founded the National Union of Students (NUS), which currently has a membership of seven million.


Across the Atlantic, too, the American Fabian League in 1905 founded the influential Intercollegiate Socialist Society (later League for Industrial Democracy) which, in Margaret Cole’s own words, was the London Fabians’ “provincial society” (Martin, p. 237).


From inception, Fabian institutions on both sides of the Atlantic were closely connected with left-wing industrial and banking interests.


For example, the Fabians’ London School of Economics was funded by the likes of Lord Rothschild and Sir Ernest Cassel, while the former served as its president (Webb, pp. 182, 214).


In America, Teachers College (Columbia University), Harvard and other Fabian-dominated educational institutions were bankrolled by Rockefeller and allied interests (Ford, Carnegie, etc.).


The close connections between left-wing corporate elites and the academic world have been carefully maintained to this day. For example, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild is a member of the advisory board of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment which is funded by the Grantham Foundation, whose founder Jeremy Grantham was an economist at Rothschild-controlled Royal Dutch Shell.


Similarly, David Rockefeller was on Harvard’s board of overseers in the 1950s and 60s and has been a good friend of Harvard presidents like Nathan M. Pusey. Rockefeller associates like Jack Meyer of the Rockefeller Foundation and Robert Rubin of Rockefeller-controlled Citigroup have been members of Harvard Management Company and Harvard Corporation, etc.


For further information see also the Records of the Oxford University Fabian Society, the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.




Cole, Margaret Isobel (ed), The Webbs and Their Work, London, 1949, quoted in Pugh, Patricia, Educate, Agitate, Organize: 100 Years of Fabian Socialism, London, 1984, p. 54.


Cole, Margaret, The Story of Fabian Socialism, London, 1961.


Martin, Rose, Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A., Chicago, IL, 1966.


Shaw, George Bernard, “To provident landlords and capitalists: a suggestion and a warning,” Fabian Tract No 3, London, June 1885.


Webb, Beatrice, Our Partnership, Drake, B. and Cole, M. eds., London, 1948.




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