social planning (was 'revolution and proletariat')

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Aug 2 13:31:53 PDT 1999

Max Sawicky wrote:

>Fabian Society meeting Thurs. night

Hayek is withering on the nationalism of socialists, including the Fabian sort. He's got a point here, if he's representing Webb & Shaw accurately.



from Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, pp. 142-143

The definitely antagonistic attitude which most planners take toward internationalism is further explained by the fact that in the existing world all outside contacts of a group are obstacles to their effectively planning the sphere in which they can attempt it. It is therefore no accident that, as the editor of one of the most comprehensive collective studies on planning has discovered to his chagrin, "most 'planners' are militant nationalists."4

The nationalist and imperialist propensities of socialist planners, much more common than is generally recognized, are not always as flagrant as, for example, in the case of the Webbs and some of the other early Fabians, with whom enthusiasm for planning was characteristically combined with the veneration for the large and powerful political units and a contempt for the small state. The historian Élie Halévy, speaking of the Webbs when he first knew them forty years ago, records that their socialism was profoundly antiliberal. "They did not hate the Tories, indeed they were extraordinarily lenient to them, but they had no mercy for Gladstonian Liberalism. It was the time of the Boer War and both the advanced liberals and the men who were beginning to form the Labour Party had generously sided with the Boers against British Imperialism, in the name of freedom and humanity. But the two Webbs and their friend, Bernard Shaw, stood apart. They were ostentatiously imperialistic. The independence of small nations might mean something to the liberal individualist. It meant nothing to collectivists like themselves. I can still hear Sidney Webb explaining to me that the future belonged to the great administrative nations, where the officials govern and the police keep order." And elsewhere Halévy quotes George Bernard Shaw, arguing, about the same time, that "the world is to the big and powerful states by necessity; and the little ones must come within their border or be crushed out of existence."5

4 Findlay Mackenzie (ed.), Planned Society, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: A Symposium (1937), p. xx.

5 Élie Halévy, L'Ere des tyrannies (Paris, 1938), p. 217, and History of the English People, Epilogue, 1, 105-6.

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