Faux Fabians

BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN

A recommendation to everyone – go attend a Momentum meeting or two. First, pop around to your local Cat Rescue Charity Shop and buy some cords, a cardigan and some t-shirt you’d rather not be seen dead in, then rock up to a Momentum meeting at one of the hundred or so branches of Jon Lansman’s cult, which are dotted around the UK. I went with a beard – the kind that one sports on one’s chin – and introduced myself as Clive (a useful and ignoble name, which acts as sound cover for Dominic when discussing property appropriation and post capitalism).

I’ll reveal all about my Momentum visits later, should an election come our way and the Corbynites still control Her Majesty’s Opposition when it does.

When I last attended a Momentum event, it was for a book talk. The talk was about economics and it was rot – if you want to listen to a Marxist who, despite their Marxism, knows a bit about economics, go to a talk by Tony Norfield, author of The City. However, there was a lady there who I got talking to, who we shall call Joan,  who made an interesting animadversion. She declared to me and my new pal Jack (¡No pasarán!, Jack) that “Corbyn is playing the Fabian game on his Brexit position”.

What is the “Fabian” game?

For those of you who do not indulge in Marxist stamp-collecting, a cautious, dilatory, waiting policy is known as fabian. Quintus Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator of Rome in 217 B.C. to lead the Romans in the war against Hannibal. Fabius, known as the Cunctator or Delayer, refused to engage in battle with Hannibal and instead he cut off Hannibal’s supplies and played the guerrilla game. The Fabian Society was named after Fabius’ strategy – seeking gradual victory against the superior conservative opposition (for Fabius the Carthaginians under Hannibal) through persistence, harassment, and wearing the enemy down by attrition rather than pitched, climactic battles. According to author Jon Perdue, “The logo of the Fabian Society, a tortoise, represented the group’s predilection for a slow, imperceptible transition to socialism, while its coat of arms, a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, represented its preferred methodology for achieving its goal.”

I disagree with Joan.

Shortly after Fabius had laid down his dictatorship, Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus were elected as consuls of Rome and it was they who raised a massive Roman army which went headlong into bloody defeat against Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Cannae is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.

You see, I think Corbyn and McDonnell are Varro and Paullus. I think they are headed for disaster at the polls. Momentum is the least Fabian-like organisation known to man. It’s as penetrated as a Swiss cheese, manned by wet-behind-the-ear loons and its key strategist, the multicoloured shirt wearing Jon Lansman, is a bloated fan of Sun Tzu not a man of patience at all – his bright-coloured, tie-dye shirts and daily oscillations between communism and property-developing capitalism are signs of a fellow who needs a big hug after the loss of a wife through cancer.

The Fabian Society, since its 1884 launch, has been a wart on the pulchritudinous face of Britain. Luckily, its strategists – like the fellow who came up with the wolf in sheep’s clothing for a coat of arms – have been below par. Under the current leadership of Kate Green the Fabians still lack teeth and their wait looks set to continue long into the future. Fabius replaced Varro and Paullus after Cannae – the Fabians may maintain some hope by that.

An explanatory note appearing on the title page of the Fabian Society’s first pamphlet declared:

“For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless.”

Indeed.

Or as once-Fabian HG Wells put it more wisely, ‘if anything, the Fabian Society should abandon rather than increase its present limited intervention in the direction of the Labour Party, and it should abstain from any share whatever in the development of any fresh political socialist organisation.’

Wells went on to support Winston Churchill in the April 1908 NorthWest Manchester by-election.

Perhaps the Fabian Society should support Boris?