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The Marxism of George Bernard Shaw 1883-1889

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There remains a strange gap between Shaw's biographers who assert the importance of Marxism for Shaw during the 1880s and intellectual historians who deny the importance of Marxism for Shaw during the 1880s. My intention is to close this gap by placing Shaw's early beliefs in the context of contemporary Marxism, thereby showing that Shaw was a Marxist and even that his version of Fabianism retained features of his earlier Marxism. Further, I hope thereby to contribute to the debate on why there was no Marxism in Great Britain or, more accurately, why the Marxism there was did not give rise to a mass Marxist party. The intellectual development of Shaw provides an example of the way in which British Marxism became embroiled in a broader socialist, radical and working-class movement. The example of Shaw reminds us that Marxism is an intellectual tradition, not a political party, and that this tradition played an important part in both the socialist revival and the emergence of the Labour Party.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Publication date: February 1, 1992


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