"My Fabians don't cause damage by being Fabians", said Byatt, they some did damage by appropriating their children's imaginations and by not having any sense that the Great War was around the corner. (A collection of reviews of the book can be found at the Complete Review).
This was Peter Hitchens on the Byatt book:
"I love the Fabians in a way. [laughter] I think this era is one of the most fascinating. And in fact to live within it for a week, as one does when one reads this very captivating book, is a pleasure as well as an enlightenment. But the problem of the Fabians is that they were a microcosm of the society we have now. They did things in private which we all now do in public. And I think they promoted that. And obviously the need for social reform and doing something about the horrible poverty at the time was blatantly necessary: there was no doubt that something had to be done about that.
But I think any Fabian resurrected now, looking seriously at the outcome of what they did and the social reforms which they pursued over the next seventy or eighty years - And they were I think the most effective political movement in human history must admit there were a huge number of unintended consequences which were very painful indeed, and which need to be reexamined. And the trouble is that their modern successors will not admit this"
Andrew Marr mentioned the next generation - the Bloomsbury Group - having an elite view that they could do what others should not to which AS Byatt responded:
This is where I come out in favour of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who did have an imagination of what it was like to be a working man with a broken back, and against the Bloomsburys, who I think were self-indulgent in exactly the way you describe, and begot children who they did not bother to tell them who their parents were in exactly that irresponsible way ... I don't people like the Webbs were indulged middle-class; their problem was other. They came out in favour of Stalin".
Hitchens went on to link this to his new book The Broken Compass about his view that Fabianism has become the dominant social ideology across all political parties:
They themselves set out to do so. It was their stated purpose to become the dominant ideology in all political parties, and in the civil service and the academy as they wanted to do. And to achieve the immense changes that they wanted to entirely by peaceful means, holding back and delaying when necessary, that is the reason for their success. And if you look at the political parties we have now, the ideas which are generally accepted are ones which would be entirely familair to Antonia Byatt's characters and indeed are prefigurued in everything that they do and the movements which they espoused - from Edward Carpenter's liberation of homosexuality to the social welfare programmes to the remoralisation of society into something wholly different: all these ideas are theirs, and I think they arose in part from the general collapse of Anglican Christianity among English intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century and even more before the first world war.
AS Byatt questioned the idea that the 1960s were the logical extension of the Fabian tradition, arguing they were the "anything goes" opposite which had destroyed the virtues of the Fabian tradition "to go along quietly, ameliorating slowly".
Another guests were David Akinsanya Richard Overy linked through the inter-war years, Bryan Appleyard wrote an interesting feature on Overy's new book 'The Morbid Age' in the Culture section of the Sunday Times.
The panel got onto the politics of sandals and much else.
You can listen again on the Start the Week website: the 11th May edition.