The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism by Bernard Shaw

This lengthy Fabian analysis of politics retains the capacity to inform and entertain. The text is of interest in relation to the General Strike, the Labour Party, the Soviet Union, and fascism. However, short sections of the book do read like ranting and historical accuracy is sometimes sacrificed along the way.

It is in part the ambivalence which Shaw had to Marx which leads him into contradictory positions. His scepticism about portions of Marxist economics may have been justified, but his antipathy to Marx and Engels gets him into a futile argument with facts.

Theoretical debates can be selective with their facts. However, the assertions of Shaw stretch this principle beyond its breaking point. It can only be assumed that Shaw never appreciated The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels. If Shaw was properly acquainted with the text then he could never have alleged:

“Under Marx and Engels, Morris and Hyndman, Socialism was a middle-class movement caused by the revolt of educated and humane men and women against the injustice and cruelty of capitalism, and also (this was a very important factor with Morris) against its brutal disregard of beauty and the daily human happiness of doing fine work for its own sake. Now the strongest and noblest feelings of this kind were quite compatible with the most complete detachment from and ignorance of proletarian life and history in the class that worked for weekly wages.”

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