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Bill Shorten – Labor and the Fabian Society

Bill Shorten - Fabian Society Rite-ON!

The origins of the Fabian Society

 1884 The Fabian Society originated in Britain as a socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of  democratic socialism in Great Britain via gradualist and reformist effort in democracies, rather than by revolutionary overthrow [1] [2]

  What is Socialism? [3]

 Socialism is a populist economic and political system based on the public ownership (also known as collective or common ownership) of the means of production.

Those means include the machinery, tools and factories used to produce goods that aim to directly satisfy human needs. 

Communism and socialism are umbrella terms referring to two left-wing schools of economic thought; both oppose capitalism, but socialism predates the “Communist Manifesto,” an 1848 pamphlet by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, by a few decades. [4]

 Fabian Society Rite-ON!

 The Fabian name [1]

The Fabian Society derives its name from the Roman general Quintus Fabius, known as Cunctator from his strategy of delaying his attacks on the invading Carthaginians until the right moment. The name Fabian Society was explained in the first Fabian pamphlet which carried the note. [1]

The Fabian Society Coat of Arms [1]

The logo of the Fabian Society, a tortoise, represented the group’s predilection for a slow, imperceptible transition to socialism.

Their motto:

 When I strike, I strike hard. 



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The original  coat of arms, a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, represented its preferred methodology for achieving its goal.[1]

The wolf in sheep’s clothing symbolism was later abandoned, due to its obvious negative connotations.

 1900 saw the foundation of the British Labor party as a result of the early Fabians’ commitment to non-violent political change which was underlined by the role the Fabian Society played in the party formation.

The society is the only original founder of the British Labour party that remains affiliated to the present day in unchanged form.

1923, over twenty Labor Fabians were elected to parliament, with five Fabians in Ramsay MacDonald’s cabinet. Future prime minister and Fabian, Clement Attlee received his first ministerial post at this time.

Australian Fabians Rite-ON!


1945 many of the pioneering reforms of the Labor government had been first developed in Fabian essays or pamphlets.


The Australian Fabian Society [5]

1947 The Australian Fabian Society Inc, not-for-profit, membership organisation was established, and incorporated in Victoria, and is Australia’s oldest, continuous political think tank.

Members are dedicated to Fabianism, the focus being on the advancement of socialist ideas through gradual influence and patiently promoting socialist ideals to intellectual circles and groups with power.


 The Australian Fabians have historically had close ties with the Australian Labor Party (ALP). This is evidenced by the number of past ALP prime ministers, federal ministers and state premiers who were active members of the Australian Fabians while in office. [5]

 Arthur Caldwell was a proud Fabian, a tradition which has been carried on through subsequent Labor leaders including Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Julia Gillard, Bob Carr, Neville Wran, Bill Hayden, John Cain, Don Dunstan, and John Bannon.

Labor Party and Fabians


 Over the years, the Australian Fabians have looked up to the Australian Labor Party as a party through which social democratic principles and values can be achieved.

“Our relationship with Australian Labor governments is that of critical friend…..  Some of what we do may be congruent with government thinking some not”.

 The role of patron of the Australian Fabians is currently filled by media and social commentator and progressive thinker, Eva Cox, [6] [7] but was previously filled by former Australian prime minister, the late Gough Whitlam.

 2004 following the Mark Latham Labor loss of the Federal election to John Howard, Bill Shorten presented an essay to a Fabian Society meeting outlining his views as to why Labor had lost this election.

Shorten felt Labor had lurched too far to the progressive left, and had vacated the centre, leaving Howard free to frolic with his various culture wars, some of which resonated with Labor’s base.

Shorten thought Labor needed to understand that elections were being fought in an era of conservative populism.

“The big-L left appeals meant that federal Labor vacated the centre ground for Howard to exploit,” Shorten wrote in 2004. “In this era of conservative populism, the traditional understanding of left-right political discourse is an over-simplification of the Australian electorate. There is also a top-down divide, between highly educated, urban intelligentsia (who despite party differences share similar liberal social values and an economically rationalist acceptance of globalisation) and so-called ‘ordinary Australians’ in the suburbs and regions (who are risk-averse to economic restructuring and suspicious of liberal social values).” [8] [9]

The Shorten essay reflected not only the vaulting ambitions of the still young author but also the atmospherics and prevailing political wisdom of its time.

The current Bill Shorten is a more openly progressive character than the Shorten of 2004. 


  • John Howard inserted a discriminatory provision in the Marriage Act and this was considered a political masterstroke;
  • Labor had yet to ride the full cycle of the climate wars;
  • Australia’s economic policy debate was conducted in a strict neoliberal rubric;
  • The global financial crisis, and its uncertain aftermath, was not yet in sight;
  • The International Monetary Fund was yet to sound an alarm that sluggish post-GFC growth and pervasive income inequality was making democratic societies unstable and politics dysfunctional. 

What is Labor’s objective?

The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields. [10]

In 1921 the Australian Labor Party adopted its so-called ‘socialist objective.’ This objective has remained in its constitution to this day. There has been considerable debate as to whether the socialist objective should remain or whether the objective should reflect a different purpose for Labor.

A quick google search will unearth a wealth of information on the web relating to the Fabian Society and their connections to the Australian Labor party and Labor politicians, unfortunately all information comes with a legal disclaimer.

It begs the question if this information is in public space why is it not publicly available?

 Fabian Society copyright Rite-ON!

 It would be interesting to know if these Labor MP’s have connections to the Fabian Society?

 Fabian Society Rite-ON!

2015 Fabian Society and Climate change

Paper written by Don Aitkin – a former member

 Why does the Fabian Society assume that ‘climate change’ is real, caused by human activity and dangerous to humanity and other life forms? There is much better evidence the other way. [11]

2019 Opposition Leader Bill Shorten ruled out changing the date of Australia Day, as Greens MPs threaten to bypass a government ruling by running their own citizenship ceremonies outside the public holiday. “It will remain on the 26th of January,” Mr Shorten said on Wednesday. “Having a national day is a good idea.” [12]

The Australian Fabian Society express a different point of view

Australia Day Fabian Society

If you live in a Labor electorate do you know if your local MP is a Fabian?

If not perhaps ask the question

Part 3 : Coming next – Bill Shorten the politician


  3. socialism
  7. Eva Cox current patron

Acknowledgement of Nation

We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have lived here since the Dreamtime.

We acknowledge the explorers and pioneers and their descendants who planted the British flag and Christian values on this continent, creating the Australian nation.

We acknowledge the Federal Commonwealth of Australia, created by the nation, under the Crown, to guard the liberty of ALL our citizens.

And we acknowledge those ‘New Australians’, who came here for a better future, and made this nation strong and prosperous.

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