During the early twentieth century the issue of poverty had become a debated affair. Following the 1833 Poor Law Commission, conditions for the working classes were oppressive and bleak. Workhouses were the only option for the starving pauper and were, in fact, the only form of state aid provided.
By 1905 the current Conservative government set up the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. This was an investigation into how the poor law system could be improved. The commission included members of the local government, the poor law guardians, charity organisations, trade unions and social researchers; Beatrice Webb and Charles Booth. By 1909 extensive amounts of documentary evidence had been collected. The result of this was two conflicting reports, the Majority Report and the Minority Report.
The article given is from the Minority Report written by Beatrice Webb. It highlights the dark reality of life within the workhouse and brings to light social issues, such as, the elderly being unable to work and the lack of opportunities provided for the working classes. She was very critical of the current system feeling that it did not relieve poverty. Her diary titles include ‘Glitter Around and Darkness Within’ and ‘The Power to Alter Things’, from this it is not surprising that Beatrice Webb and her husband Sidney Webb were Fabian Socialists, both having strong opinions regarding the states response to poverty and the commons man’s power to change it.
Fabian Socialists believe that social reforms and the changing of social policy will slowly, over time, amend the issues within society. This idea of slow change has been dubbed, gradualism, meaning less of an abrupt approach to tackling poverty. Indeed, in the case of poverty a slow gradual change seems more ideal. Fabian Socialists worked very much in the favour of the working class, however, they were critical of Marx’s theory. Their ideal was that working class people should be able to help themselves. This quote by...