This is the second book in Kevin Morgan’s series Bolshevism and the British Left. It explores how the veteran Fabian socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb came to regard Stalin’s Russia as a ‘new civilisation’ and the hope of the world.
Through a meticulous reconstruction of the Webbs’ thinking, Morgan offers a challenging reassessment of accepted stereotypes. Drawing on their diaries, papers and published writings, he assesses the couple’s complex political evolution over some four decades, and shows how much more significant were their individual responses than the cliche of ‘two typewriters beating as one’ would suggest. While Sidney upheld the statist and technocratic perspectives synonymous with ‘Webbism’, Beatrice also contributed concerns with associationism and the search for a higher social morality.
Their love affair with Soviet communism, which seemed to represent both synthesis and transcendence of these different strands of their thought, was far less idiosyncratic than is sometimes thought. Here it is discussed in a broader context, and the paradox that emerges is that across the European left it was often precisely those who had previously been most suspicious of state socialism who subsequently proved most susceptible to its Soviet apotheosis.
Kevin Morgan is Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Harry Pollitt (Manchester University Press, 1993) and co-author of Communists in British Society 1920-1991 (Rivers Oram Press, 2005)
The Webbs and Soviet Communism is the Part 2 in a three-volume series, Bolshevism and the British Left, which examines attitudes to Soviet Russia as a way of opening up broader questions about the character of the British left between the 1890s and the 1940s.
Previous ISBN: 1905007264