We are in the 7th decade of a slo-mo socialist revolution in America, but there are signs it will be followed by a successful Second American Revolution.
One of my favorite books is Daddy-Long-Legs, an epistolary novel that Jean Webster wrote in 1912. The letter writer is Judy Abbott, a young woman who was raised in an orphanage but who ends up at a college much like Vassar (Webster’s own alma mater) thanks to an anonymous benefactor. The benefactor has only one request for Judy in exchange for her four years at an elite women’s college: She must send him letters describing her college experience. It’s a sweet book and stands the test of time very well.
Jean Webster herself was a very Progressive woman in the Woodrow Wilson mode. Indeed, true to the whole Wilson/Margaret Sanger political and social ethos in which she lived, her sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs, another epistolary novel called Dear Enemy, Webster argues strongly in favor of eugenics. The book never mentions abortion, but it makes a vigorous case that “defectives” — alcoholics and people with family histories of insanity or just not being very bright — should not be allowed to breed. Poor Webster might have done better herself had she chosen not to breed, for she died in 1916 from childbirth fever.
But back to Daddy Long Legs…. At one point in the novel, Webster has her heroine announce that she is a revolutionary, but not the nasty violent kind. Instead, she is a nice revolutionary:
Hooray! I’m a Fabian.
That’s a Socialist who’s willing to wait. We don’t want the social revolution to come to-morrow morning; it would be too upsetting. We want it to come very gradually in the distant future, when we shall all be prepared and able to sustain the shock. In the meantime we must be getting ready, by instituting industrial, educational and orphan asylum reforms.
Webster’s was a pithy and accurate definition of Fabian socialism.
Thinking about it, a Fabian revolution is precisely what we’ve seen taking place in America since the years after World War II. Other countries’ revolutions — or even America’s own 18th century revolution — have been violent, abrupt upheavals. Societal institutions resisted the revolutionary ideas until guns and blood effected a change.
In America, the middle class sought freedom from overweening government power and corruption. In France, the intellectual class sought to switch to itself the power that the monarch had long held. The same was true with the Russian revolution. In China, rather unusually, it was the workers and the students who overthrew, not just the corrupt government, but the intellectual class as well, a model Pol Pot followed in Cambodia. You can mentally page through other revolutions around the world and see that they’re bloody affairs. [Read more…]