Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What is the Fabian policy of Permeation?

During my transcription process of the book Fabian Freeway, I would sometimes go through the footnotes and see what I could verify, when one thing in particular caught my eye. (Chapter 17)
The fact that an old-line southern Democrat had been induced to sponsor the basic legislation so ardently desired by all spokesmen of gradual Socialism was an early and notable example of success for the Fabian technique known as permeation.

This concept is actually used extensively throughout the book, but for whatever reason, it caught my eye in the current context. The Fabians turned "Permeation" into a policy because it was so successful: (GB Shaw, Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, Page 186)

The Fabian Society succeeded because it addressed itself to its own class in order that it might set about doing the necessary brain work of planning Socialist organization for all classes, meanwhile accepting, instead of trying to supersede, the existing political organizations which it intended to permeate with the Socialist conception of human society.

In short, a single skilled propagandist can turn a non-Fabian organization into a sort of proxy. Another good source for this(too long to quote) is Fabian Tract 41. Especially page 19, the section titled "Permeating the Liberals", as well as Edward Pease's "The History of the Fabian Society". As to this being a "specific Fabian policy", yes. It indeed was. In "The Story of Fabian Socialism", Fabian Margaret Cole, wife of G. D. H. Cole, writes the following: (Page 85)

What Fabian permeation meant was primarily ‘honeycombing’, converting either to Socialism or to parts of the immediate Fabian Programme, as set out in the continuous stream of Tracts and lectures, key persons, or groups of persons, who were in a position either to take action themselves or to influencing others, not merely in getting a resolution passed, or (say) inducing a Town Council to accept one of the clauses of the Adoptive Acts, but in ‘following up’, in making sure that the resolution or whatever it was did not remain on paper but was put into effect. It was not necessary that these 'key persons' should be members of the Fabian Society; often it was as well they should not; what was essential was that they should at first or even second-hand be instructed and advised by Fabians.

That last part says it all. Because it's that last line that allows me to actually test this. Anybody can talk about Fabians and Progressives all they want, but can you actually test all of this in reality? Let's take a shot at it. An easy starting place is someone I've already written extensively about, which is fellow Fabian, Stuart Chase. The person who coined the term "New Deal" and a member of FDR's Brainstrust.

Margaret Cole said that 'key persons' must be advised at first or second hand. Who would have FDR's absolute and unquestioning faith and trust? Surely his key advisors would've been important, but how about his wife, Eleanor? I don't believe she was a Fabian herself, but that's the wrong question anyways.

Those of you who may be steeped in historical knowledge about the New Deal era will likely know this right off the bat to be true: Eleanor Roosevelt loved the book "Prohibiting Poverty", written by Prestonia Mann Martin. She would go out and publicly acknowledge Martin's work. Here is such an example.

Remember, permeation. It's preferred if Fabian policies are instituted by non-Fabians. Though, with Chase's inclusion into the Brains Trust, the result was inevitable. And before I get too far away from it, yes, the Martins were Fabians. They founded the "American Fabian", and Prestonia herself was one of it's contributing editors. I have actively written about the Fabian policy of permeation, before I knew it had an official name. Here, Friedrich Engels describes the process without calling it by name.

Now, the New Deal Era is not the only place I can test apply the concept of permeation in an American presidential government.

The Woodrow Wilson years are another example. Take Fabian Walter Lippmann, for example, a member of Wilson's administration. Lippmann helped draft Wilson's "Fourteen Points", an important part of the Wilson story. Certainly Lippmann would've had some influence, but not nearly as potent as Eleanor's effect upon FDR(or for that matter, Stuart Chase in the trust). Look to Wilson himself.

I made an offhanded comment once that I believed Richard T Ely to be probably the closest thing to a "Founding Father" of progressivism that there could be. Based on some of my readings of what went on at the American Economic Association, and further bolstered by reading about how the Fabians structured their groups, similarities in the use of regulation as a means of control, and other things, this AEA has really gotten my attention.(Though I have not mentioned it yet)

Woodrow Wilson was an alumnus of the AEA. Just that alone points to the importance of Ely's influence. R. J. Pestritto has a blurb about this. In the AEA's own minutes, we see that Woodrow Wilson sat upon the AEA's council.

Here's where it gets fun. What did the AEA read or discuss? Among many, many other things they discussed Fabian tracts. The Fabian Society Summer School. G. D. H. Cole. And Sidney Webb.(see below)

A rather interesting footnote is that the Fabians were reading from the AEA. See Sidney Webb's essay titled "Historic", footnote 3. As AEA were reading the work of Sidney Webb, Webb was reading them reading him! Rather ironic, two movements in favor of centralized planning, in development and not yet fully blossomed, both learning from each other and perfecting their concepts of subversion. Allow me to demonstrate:

Margaret Cole's book "The Story of Fabian Socialism" is a gem just like Fabian Freeway is, Here's from page 84/85:

'Permeation' is a peculiarly Fabian term, with a very long history. It is first found in print in Hubert Bland's Fabian Essay - curiously enough Bland was not there advocating but warning the Society against it; but the casual reference shows that it was already in common use. Occasionally it seems to mean no more than what the Americans have taught us to call 'pressure groups' - persons organised with the purpose of forcing a particular measure, a particular interest, or a particular point of view upon those in power.

She doesn't elaborate upon what specific groups she means, but surely good candidates would be the ACLU, the NAACP, and likely the AEA itself. Recall a recent article of mine about how the Fabians and Progressives had enjoyed quite a friendly relationship with each other. Margaret Sanger's body of work(Planned Parenthood) would certainly apply as a 'pressure group', and that group still exists to this day.

'Permeation' is the puppet string that makes a non-Fabian group do Fabian things. It's the reason why (as GBS wrote above) they were so successful, despite the fact that by numbers the Fabians are incredibly small.

It's the reason why associations matter.


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