7. Mutual aid amongst ourselves

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Popular revolts at the beginning of the State-period. -- Mutual
Aid institutions of the present time. -- The village community;
its struggles for resisting its abolition by the State. -- Habits
derived from the village-community life, retained in our modern
villages. -- Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia.

The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and

is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human

race, that it has been maintained by mankind up to the present

time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history. It was chiefly

evolved during periods of peace and prosperity; but when even the

greatest calamities befell men -- when whole countries were laid

waste by wars, and whole populations were decimated by misery, or

groaned under the yoke of tyranny -- the same tendency continued

to live in the villages and among the poorer classes in the

towns; it still kept them together, and in the long run it

reacted even upon those ruling, fighting, and devastating

minorities which dismissed it as sentimental nonsense. And

whenever mankind had to work out a new social organization,

adapted to a new phasis of development, its constructive genius

always drew the elements and the inspiration for the new

departure from that same ever-living tendency. New economical and

social institutions, in so far as they were a creation of the

masses, new ethical systems, and new religions, all have

originated from the same source, and the ethical progress of our

race, viewed in its broad lines, appears as a gradual extension

of the mutual-aid principles from the tribe to always larger and

larger agglomerations, so as to finally embrace one day the whole

of mankind, without respect to its divers creeds, languages, and


After having passed through the savage tribe, and next

through the village community, the Europeans came to work out in

medieval times a new form of Organization, which had the

advantage of allowing great latitude for individual initiative,

while it largely responded at the same time to man's need of

mutual support. A federation of village communities, covered by a

network of guilds and fraternities, was called into existence in

the medieval cities. The immense results achieved under this new

form of union -- in well-being for all, in industries, art,

science, and commerce -- were discussed at some length in two

preceding chapters, and an attempt was also made to show why,

towards the end of the fifteenth century, the medieval republics

-- surrounded by domains of hostile feudal lords, unable to free

the peasants from servitude, and gradually corrupted by ideas of

Roman Caesarism -- were doomed to become a prey to the growing

military States.

However, before submitting for three centuries to come, to

the all-absorbing authority of the State, the masses of the

people made a formidable attempt at reconstructing society on the

old basis of mutual aid and support. It is well known by this

time that the great movement of the reform was not a mere revolt

against the abuses of the Catholic Church. It had its

constructive ideal as well, and that ideal was life in free,

brotherly communities. Those of the early writings and sermons of

the period which found most response with the masses were imbued

with ideas of the economical and social brotherhood of mankind.

The "Twelve Articles" and similar professions of faith, which

were circulated among the German and Swiss peasants and artisans,

maintained not only every one's right to interpret the Bible

according to his own understanding, but also included the demand

of communal lands being restored to the village communities and

feudal servitudes being abolished, and they always alluded to the

"true" faith -- a faith of brotherhood. At the same time scores

of thousands of men and women joined the communist fraternities

of Moravia, giving them all their fortune and living in numerous

and prosperous settlements constructed upon the principles of

communism.1 Only wholesale massacres by the thousand could put

a stop to this widely-spread popular movement, and it was by the

sword, the fire, and the rack that the young States secured their

first and decisive victory over the masses of the people.2

For the next three centuries the States, both on the

Continent and in these islands, systematically weeded out all

institutions in which the mutual-aid tendency had formerly found

its expression. The village communities were bereft of their

folkmotes, their courts and independent administration; their

lands were confiscated. The guilds were spoliated of their

possessions and liberties, and placed under the control, the

fancy, and the bribery of the State's official. The cities were

divested of their sovereignty, and the very springs of their

inner life -- the folkmote, the elected justices and

administration, the sovereign parish and the sovereign guild --

were annihilated; the State's functionary took possession of

every link of what formerly was an organic whole. Under that

fatal policy and the wars it engendered, whole regions, once

populous and wealthy, were laid bare; rich cities became

insignificant boroughs; the very roads which connected them with

other cities became impracticable. Industry, art, and knowledge

fell into decay. Political education, science, and law were

rendered subservient to the idea of State centralization. It was

taught in the Universities and from the pulpit that the

institutions in which men formerly used to embody their needs of

mutual support could not be tolerated in a properly organized

State; that the State alone could represent the bonds of union

between its subjects; that federalism and "particularism" were

the enemies of progress, and the State was the only proper

initiator of further development. By the end of the last century

the kings on the Continent, the Parliament in these isles, and

the revolutionary Convention in France, although they were at war

with each other, agreed in asserting that no separate unions

between citizens must exist within the State; that hard labour

and death were the only suitable punishments to workers who dared

to enter into "coalitions." "No state within the State!" The

State alone, and the State's Church, must take care of matters of

general interest, while the subjects must represent loose

aggregations of individuals, connected by no particular bonds,

bound to appeal to the Government each time that they feel a

common need. Up to the middle of this century this was the theory

and practice in Europe. Even commercial and industrial societies

were looked at with suspicion. As to the workers, their unions

were treated as unlawful almost within our own lifetime in this

country and within the last twenty years on the Continent. The

whole system of our State education was such that up to the

present time, even in this country, a notable portion of society

would treat as a revolutionary measure the concession of such

rights as every one, freeman or serf, exercised five hundred

years ago in the village folkmote, the guild, the parish, and the


The absorption of all social functions by the State

necessarily favoured the development of an unbridled,

narrow-minded individualism. In proportion as the obligations

towards the State grew in numbers the citizens were evidently

relieved from their obligations towards each other. In the guild

-- and in medieval times every man belonged to some guild or

fraternity two "brothers" were bound to watch in turns a brother

who had fallen ill; it would be sufficient now to give one's

neighbour the address of the next paupers' hospital. In barbarian

society, to assist at a fight between two men, arisen from a

quarrel, and not to prevent it from taking a fatal issue, meant

to be oneself treated as a murderer; but under the theory of the

all-protecting State the bystander need not intrude: it is the

policeman's business to interfere, or not. And while in a savage

land, among the Hottentots, it would be scandalous to eat without

having loudly called out thrice whether there is not somebody

wanting to share the food, all that a respectable citizen has to

do now is to pay the poor tax and to let the starving starve. The

result is, that the theory which maintains that men can, and

must, seek their own happiness in a disregard of other people's

wants is now triumphant all round in law, in science, in

religion. It is the religion of the day, and to doubt of its

efficacy is to be a dangerous Utopian. Science loudly proclaims

that the struggle of each against all is the leading principle of

nature, and of human societies as well. To that struggle Biology

ascribes the progressive evolution of the animal world. History

takes the same line of argument; and political economists, in

their naive ignorance, trace all progress of modern industry and

machinery to the "wonderful" effects of the same principle. The

very religion of the pulpit is a religion of individualism,

slightly mitigated by more or less charitable relations to one's

neighbours, chiefly on Sundays. "Practical" men and theorists,

men of science and religious preachers, lawyers and politicians,

all agree upon one thing -- that individualism may be more or

less softened in its harshest effects by charity, but that it is

the only secure basis for the maintenance of society and its

ulterior progress.

It seems, therefore, hopeless to look for mutual-aid

institutions and practices in modern society. What could remain

of them? And yet, as soon as we try to ascertain how the millions

of human beings live, and begin to study their everyday

relations, we are struck with the immense part which the

mutual-aid and mutual-support principles play even now-a-days in

human life. Although the destruction of mutual-aid institutions

has been going on in practice and theory, for full three or four

hundred years, hundreds of millions of men continue to live under

such institutions; they piously maintain them and endeavour to

reconstitute them where they have ceased to exist. In our mutual

relations every one of us has his moments of revolt against the

fashionable individualistic creed of the day, and actions in

which men are guided by their mutual aid inclinations constitute

so great a part of our daily intercourse that if a stop to such

actions could be put all further ethical progress would be

stopped at once. Human society itself could not be maintained for

even so much as the lifetime of one single generation. These

facts, mostly neglected by sociologists and yet of the first

importance for the life and further elevation of mankind, we are

now going to analyze, beginning with the standing institutions of

mutual support, and passing next to those acts of mutual aid

which have their origin in personal or social sympathies.

When we cast a broad glance on the present constitution of

European society we are struck at once with the fact that,

although so much has been done to get rid of the village

community, this form of union continues to exist to the extent we

shall presently see, and that many attempts are now made either

to reconstitute it in some shape or another or to find some

substitute for it. The current theory as regards the village

community is, that in Western Europe it has died out by a natural

death, because the communal possession of the soil was found

inconsistent with the modern requirements of agriculture. But the

truth is that nowhere did the village community disappear of its

own accord; everywhere, on the contrary, it took the ruling

classes several centuries of persistent but not always successful

efforts to abolish it and to confiscate the communal lands.

In France, the village communities began to be deprived of

their independence, and their lands began to be plundered, as

early as the sixteenth century. However, it was only in the next

century, when the mass of the peasants was brought, by exactions

and wars, to the state of subjection and misery which is vividly

depicted by all historians, that the plundering of their lands

became easy and attained scandalous proportions. "Every one has

taken of them according to his powers... imaginary debts have

been claimed, in order to seize upon their lands; "so we read in

an edict promulgated by Louis the Fourteenth in 1667.3 Of

course the State's remedy for such evils was to render the

communes still more subservient to the State, and to plunder them

itself. in fact, two years later all money revenue of the

communes was confiscated by the King. As to the appropriation of

communal lands, it grew worse and worse, and in the next century

the nobles and the clergy had already taken possession of immense

tracts of land -- one-half of the cultivated area, according to

certain estimates -- mostly to let it go out of culture.4 But

the peasants still maintained their communal institutions, and

until the year 1787 the village folkmotes, composed of all

householders, used to come together in the shadow of the

bell-tower or a tree, to allot and re-allot what they had

retained of their fields, to assess the taxes, and to elect their

executive, just as the Russian mir does at the present time. This

is what Babeau's researches have proved to demonstration.5

The Government found, however, the folkmotes "too noisy," too

disobedient, and in 1787, elected councils, composed of a mayor

and three to six syndics, chosen from among the wealthier

peasants, were introduced instead. Two years later the

Revolutionary Assembl?e Constituante, which was on this point at

one with the old r?gime, fully confirmed this law (on the 14th of

December, 1789), and the bourgeois du village had now their turn

for the plunder of communal lands, which continued all through

the Revolutionary period. Only on the 16th of August, 1792, the

Convention, under the pressure of the peasants' insurrections,

decided to return the enclosed lands to the communes;6 but it

ordered at the same time that they should be divided in equal

parts among the wealthier peasants only -- a measure which

provoked new insurrections and was abrogated next year, in 1793,

when the order came to divide the communal lands among. all

commoners, rich and poor alike, "active" and "inactive."

These two laws, however, ran so much against the conceptions

of the peasants that they were not obeyed, and wherever the

peasants had retaken possession of part of their lands they kept

them undivided. But then came the long years of wars, and the

communal lands were simply confiscated by the State (in 1794) as

a mortgage for State loans, put up for sale, and plundered as

such; then returned again to the communes and confiscated again

(in 1813); and only in 1816 what remained of them, i.e. about

15,000,000 acres of the least productive land, was restored to

the village communities.7 Still this was not yet the end of

the troubles of the communes. Every new r?gime saw in the

communal lands a means for gratifying its supporters, and three

laws (the first in 1837 and the last under Napoleon the Third)

were passed to induce the village communities to divide their

estates. Three times these laws had to be repealed, in

consequence of the opposition they met with in the villages; but

something was snapped up each time, and Napoleon the Third, under

the pretext of encouraging perfected methods of agriculture,

granted large estates out of the communal lands to some of his


As to the autonomy of the village communities, what could be

retained of it after so many blows? The mayor and the syndics

were simply looked upon as unpaid functionaries of the State

machinery. Even now, under the Third Republic, very little can be

done in a village community without the huge State machinery, up

to the pr?fet and the ministries, being set in motion. It is

hardly credible, and yet it is true, that when, for instance, a

peasant intends to pay in money his share in the repair of a

communal road, instead of himself breaking the necessary amount

of stones, no fewer than twelve different functionaries of the

State must give their approval, and an aggregate of fifty-two

different acts must be performed by them, and exchanged between

them, before the peasant is permitted to pay that money to the

communal council. All the remainder bears the same character.8

What took place in France took place everywhere in Western

and Middle Europe. Even the chief dates of the great assaults

upon the peasant lands are the same. For England the only

difference is that the spoliation was accomplished by separate

acts rather than by general sweeping measures -- with less haste

but more thoroughly than in France. The seizure of the communal

lands by the lords also began in the fifteenth century, after the

defeat of the peasant insurrection of 1380 -- as seen from

Rossus's Historia and from a statute of Henry the Seventh, in

which these seizures are spoken of under the heading of

"enormitees and myschefes as be hurtfull... to the common

wele."9 Later on the Great Inquest, under Henry the Eighth,

was begun, as is known, in order to put a stop to the enclosure

of communal lands, but it ended in a sanction of what had been

done.10 The communal lands continued to be preyed upon, and

the peasants were driven from the land. But it was especially

since the middle of the eighteenth century that, in England as

everywhere else, it became part of a systematic policy to simply

weed out all traces of communal ownership; and the wonder is not

that it has disappeared, but that it could be maintained, even in

England, so as to be "generally prevalent so late as the

grandfathers of this generation."11 The very object of the

Enclosure Acts, as shown by Mr. Seebohm, was to remove this

system,12 and it was so well removed by the nearly four

thousand Acts passed between 1760 and 1844 that only faint traces

of it remain now. The land of the village communities was taken

by the lords, and the appropriation was sanctioned by Parliament

in each separate case.

In Germany, in Austria, in Belgium the village community was

also destroyed by the State. Instances of commoners themselves

dividing their lands were rare,13 while everywhere the States

coerced them to enforce the division, or simply favoured the

private appropriation of their lands. The last blow to communal

ownership in Middle Europe also dates from the middle of the

eighteenth century. In Austria sheer force was used by the

Government, in 1768, to compel the communes to divide their lands

-- a special commission being nominated two years later for that

purpose. In Prussia Frederick the Second, in several of his

ordinances (in 1752, 1763, 1765, and 1769), recommended to the

Justizcollegien to enforce the division. In Silesia a special

resolution was issued to serve that aim in 1771. The same took

place in Belgium, and, as the communes did not obey, a law was

issued in 1847 empowering the Government to buy communal meadows

in order to sell them in retail, and to make a forced sale of the

communal land when there was a would-be buyer for it.14

In short, to speak of the natural death of the village

communities in virtue of economical laws is as grim a joke as to

speak of the natural death of soldiers slaughtered on a

battlefield. The fact was simply this: The village communities

had lived for over a thousand years; and where and when the

peasants were not ruined by wars and exactions they steadily

improved their methods of culture. But as the value of land was

increasing, in consequence of the growth of industries, and the

nobility had acquired, under the State organization, a power

which it never had had under the feudal system, it took

possession of the best parts of the communal lands, and did its

best to destroy the communal institutions.

However, the village-community institutions so well respond

to the needs and conceptions of the tillers of the soil that, in

spite of all, Europe is up to this date covered with living

survivals of the village communities, and European country life

is permeated with customs and habits dating from the community

period. Even in England, notwithstanding all the drastic measures

taken against the old order of things, it prevailed as late as

the beginning of the nineteenth century. Mr. Gomme -- one of the

very few English scholars who have paid attention to the subject

-- shows in his work that many traces of the communal possession

of the soil are found in Scotland, "runrig" tenancy having been

maintained in Forfarshire up to 1813, while in certain villages

of Inverness the custom was, up to 1801, to plough the land for

the whole community, without leaving any boundaries, and to allot

it after the ploughing was done. In Kilmorie the allotment and

re-allotment of the fields was in full vigour "till the last

twenty-five years," and the Crofters' Commission found it still

in vigour in certain islands.15 In Ireland the system

prevailed up to the great famine; and as to England, Marshall's

works, which passed unnoticed until Nasse and Sir Henry Maine

drew attention to them, leave no doubt as to the

village-community system having been widely spread, in nearly all

English counties, at the beginning of the nineteenth

century.16 No more than twenty years ago Sir Henry Maine was

"greatly surprised at the number of instances of abnormal

property rights, necessarily implying the former existence of

collective ownership and joint cultivation," which a

comparatively brief inquiry brought under his notice.17 And,

communal institutions having persisted so late as that, a great

number of mutual-aid habits and customs would undoubtedly be

discovered in English villages if the writers of this country

only paid attention to village life.18

As to the Continent, we find the communal institutions fully

alive in many parts of France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the

Scandinavian lands, and Spain, to say nothing of Eastern Europe;

the village life in these countries is permeated with communal

habits and customs; and almost every year the Continental

literature is enriched by serious works dealing with this and

connected subjects. I must, therefore, limit my illustrations to

the most typical instances. Switzerland is undoubtedly one of

them. Not only the five republics of Uri, Schwytz, Appenzell,

Glarus, and Unterwalden hold their lands as undivided estates,

and are governed by their popular folkmotes, but in all other

cantons too the village communities remain in possession of a

wide self-government, and own large parts of the Federal

territory.19 Two-thirds of all the Alpine meadows and

two-thirds of all the forests of Switzerland are until now

communal land; and a considerable number of fields, orchards,

vineyards, peat bogs, quarries, and so on, are owned in common.

In the Vaud, where all the householders continue to take part in

the deliberations of their elected communal councils, the

communal spirit is especially alive. Towards the end of the

winter all the young men of each village go to stay a few days in

the woods, to fell timber and to bring it down the steep slopes

tobogganing way, the timber and the fuel wood being divided among

all households or sold for their benefit. These excursions are

real f?tes of manly labour. On the banks of Lake Leman part of

the work required to keep up the terraces of the vineyards is

still done in common; and in the spring, when the thermometer

threatens to fall below zero before sunrise, the watchman wakes

up all householders, who light fires of straw and dung and

protect their vine-trees from the frost by an artificial cloud.

In nearly all cantons the village communities possess so-called.

B?rgernutzen -- that is, they hold in common a number of cows, in

order to supply each family with butter; or they keep communal

fields or vineyards, of which the produce is divided between the

burghers,. or they rent their land for the benefit of the


It may be taken as a rule that where the communes have

retained a wide sphere of functions, so as to be living parts of

the national organism, and where they have not been reduced to

sheer misery, they never fail to take good care of their lands.

Accordingly the communal estates in Switzerland strikingly

contrast with the miserable state of "commons" in this country.

The communal forests in the Vaud and the Valais are admirably

managed, in conformity with the rules of modern forestry.

Elsewhere the "strips" of communal fields, which change owners

under the system of re-allotment, are very well manured,

especially as there is no lack of meadows and cattle. The high

level meadows are well kept as a rule, and the rural roads are

excellent.21 And when we admire the Swiss ch?let, the mountain

road, the peasants' cattle, the terraces of vineyards, or the

school-house in Switzer land, we must keep in mind that without

the timber for the ch?let being taken from the communal woods and

the stone from the communal quarries, without the cows being kept

on the communal meadows, and the roads being made and the

school-houses built by communal work, there would be little to


It hardly need be said that a great number of mutual-aid

habits and customs continue to persist in the Swiss villages. The

evening gatherings for shelling walnuts, which take place in

turns in each household; the evening parties for sewing the dowry

of the girl who is going to marry; the calling of "aids" for

building the houses and taking in the crops, as well as for all

sorts of work which may be required by one of the commoners; the

custom of exchanging children from one canton to the other, in

order to make them learn two languages, French and German; and so

on -- all these are quite habitual;22 while, on the other

side, divers modern requirements are met in the same spirit. Thus

in Glarus most of the Alpine meadows have been sold during a time

of calamity; but the communes still continue to buy field land,

and after the newly-bought fields have been left in the

possession of separate commoners for ten, twenty, or thirty

years, as the case might be, they return to the common stock,

which is re-allotted according to the needs of all. A great

number of small associations are formed to produce some of the

necessaries for life -- bread, cheese, and wine -- by common

work, be it only on a limited scale; and agricultural

co-operation altogether spreads in Switzerland with the greatest

ease. Associations formed between ten to thirty peasants, who buy

meadows and fields in common, and cultivate them as co-owners,

are of common occurrence; while dairy associations for the sale

of milk, butter, and cheese are organized everywhere. In fact,

Switzerland was the birthplace of that form of co-operation. It

offers, moreover, an immense field for the study of all sorts of

small and large societies, formed for the satisfaction of all

sorts of modern wants. In certain parts of Switzerland one finds

in almost every village a number of associations -- for

protection from fire, for boating, for maintaining the quays on

the shores of a lake, for the supply of water, and so on; and the

country is covered with societies of archers, sharpshooters,

topographers, footpath explorers, and the like, originated from

modern militarism.

Switzerland is, however, by no means an exception in Europe,

because the same institutions and habits are found in the

villages of France, of Italy, of Germany, of Denmark, and so on.

We have just seen what has been done by the rulers of France in

order to destroy the village community and to get hold of its

lands; but notwithstanding all that one-tenth part of the whole

territory available for culture, i.e. 13,500,000 acres, including

one-half of all the natural meadows and nearly a fifth part of

all the forests of the country, remain in communal possession.

The woods supply the communers with fuel, and the timber wood is

cut, mostly by communal work, with all desirable regularity; the

grazing lands are free for the commoners' cattle; and what

remains of communal fields is allotted and re-allotted in certain

parts Ardennes -- in the usual of France -- namely, in the


These additional sources of supply, which aid the poorer

peasants to pass through a year of bad crops without parting with

their small plots of land and without running into irredeemable

debts, have certainly their importance for both the agricultural

labourers and the nearly three millions of small peasant

proprietors. It is even doubtful whether small peasant

proprietorship could be maintained without these additional

resources. But the ethical importance of the communal

possessions, small as they are, is still greater than their

economical value. They maintain in village life a nucleus of

customs and habits of mutual aid which undoubtedly acts as a

mighty check upon the development of reckless individualism and

greediness, which small land-ownership is only too prone to

develop. Mutual aid in all possible circumstances of village life

is part of the routine life in all parts of the country.

Everywhere we meet, under different names, with the charroi, i.e.

the free aid of the neighbours for taking in a crop, for vintage,

or for building a house; everywhere we find the same evening

gatherings as have just been mentioned in Switzerland; and

everywhere the commoners associate for all sorts of work. Such

habits are mentioned by nearly all those who have written upon

French village life. But it will perhaps be better to give in

this place some abstracts from letters which I have just received

from a friend of mine whom I have asked to communicate to me his

observations on this subject. They come from an aged man who for

years has been the mayor of his commune in South France (in

Ari?ge); the facts he mentions are known to him from long years

of personal observation, and they have the advantage of coming

from one neighbourhood instead of being skimmed from a large

area. Some of them may seem trifling, but as a whole they depict

quite a little world of village life.

"In several communes in our neighbourhood," my friend writes,

"the old custom of l'emprount is in vigour. When many hands are

required in a m?tairie for rapidly making some work -- dig out

potatoes or mow the grass -- the youth of the neighbourhood is

convoked; young men and girls come in numbers, make it gaily and

for nothing. and in the evening, after a gay meal, they dance.

"In the same communes, when a girl is going to marry, the

girls of the neighbourhood come to aid in sewing the dowry. In

several communes the women still continue to spin a good deal.

When the winding off has to be done in a family it is done in one

evening -- all friends being convoked for that work. In many

communes of the Ari?ge and other parts of the south-west the

shelling of the Indian corn-sheaves is also done by all the

neighbours. They are treated with chestnuts and wine, and the

young people dance after the work has been done. The same custom

is practised for making nut oil and crushing hemp. In the commune

of L. the same is done for bringing in the corn crops. These days

of hard work become f?te days, as the owner stakes his honour on

serving a good meal. No remuneration is given; all do it for each


"In the commune of S. the common grazing-land is every year

increased, so that nearly the whole of the land of the commune is

now kept in common. The shepherds are elected by all owners of

the cattle, including women. The bulls are communal.

"In the commune of M. the forty to fifty small sheep flocks

of the commoners are brought together and divided into three or

four flocks before being sent to the higher meadows. Each owner

goes for a week to serve as shepherd.

"In the hamlet of C. a threshing machine has been bought in

common by several households; the fifteen to twenty persons

required to serve the machine being supplied by all the families.

Three other threshing machines have been bought and are rented

out by their owners, but the work is performed by outside

helpers, invited in the usual way.

"In our commune of R. we had to raise the wall of the

cemetery. Half of the money which was required for buying lime

and for the wages of the skilled workers was supplied by the

county council, and the other half by subscription. As to the

work of carrying sand and water, making mortar, and serving the

masons, it was done entirely by volunteers [just as in the Kabyle

djemm?a]. The rural roads were repaired in the same way, by

volunteer days of work given by the commoners. Other communes

have built in the same way their fountains. The wine-press and

other smaller appliances are frequently kept by the commune."

Two residents of the same neighbourhood, questioned by my

friend, add the following: --

"At O. a few years ago there was no mill. The commune has

built one, levying a tax upon the commoners. As to the miller,

they decided, in order to avoid frauds and partiality, that he

should be paid two francs for each bread-eater, and the corn be

ground free.

"At St. G. few peasants are insured against fire. When a

conflagration has taken place -- so it was lately -- all give

something to the family which has suffered from it -- a chaldron,

a bed-cloth, a chair, and so on -- and a modest household is thus

reconstituted. All the neighbours aid to build the house, and in

the meantime the family is lodged free by the neighbours."

Such habits of mutual support -- of which many more examples

could be given -- undoubtedly account for the easiness with which

the French peasants associate for using, in turn, the plough with

its team of horses, the wine-press, and the threshing machine,

when they are kept in the village by one of them only, as well as

for the performance of all sorts of rural work in common. Canals

were maintained, forests were cleared, trees were planted, and

marshes were drained by the village communities from time

immemorial; and the same continues still. Quite lately, in La

Borne of Loz?re barren hills were turned into rich gardens by

communal work. "The soil was brought on men's backs; terraces

were made and planted with chestnut trees, peach trees, and

orchards, and water was brought for irrigation in canals two or

three miles long." Just now they have dug a new canal, eleven

miles in length.25

To the same spirit is also due the remarkable success lately

obtained by the syndicats agricoles, or peasants' and farmers'

associations. It was not until 1884 that associations of more

than nineteen persons were permitted in France, and I need not

say that when this "dangerous experiment" was ventured upon -- so

it was styled in the Chambers -- all due "precautions" which

functionaries can invent were taken. Notwithstanding all that,

France begins to be covered with syndicates. At the outset they

were only formed for buying manures and seeds, falsification

having attained colossal proportions in these two branches;26

but gradually they extended their functions in various

directions, including the sale of agricultural produce and

permanent improvements of the land. In South France the ravages

of the phylloxera have called into existence a great number of

wine-growers' associations. Ten to thirty growers form a

syndicate, buy a steam-engine for pumping water, and make the

necessary arrangements for inundating their vineyards in

turn.27 New associations for protecting the land from

inundations, for irrigation purposes, and for maintaining canals

are continually formed, and the unanimity of all peasants of a

neighbourhood, which is required by law, is no obstacle.

Elsewhere we have the fruiti?res, or dairy associations, in some

of which all butter and cheese is divided in equal parts,

irrespective of the yield of each cow. In the Ari?ge we find an

association of eight separate communes for the common culture of

their lands, which they have put together; syndicates for free

medical aid have been formed in 172 communes out of 337 in the

same department; associations of consumers arise in connection

with the syndicates; and so on.28 "Quite a revolution is going

on in our villages," Alfred Baudrillart writes, "through these

associations, which take in each region their own special


"Very much the same must be said of Germany. Wherever the

peasants could resist the plunder of their lands, they have

retained them in communal ownership, which largely prevails in

W?rttemberg, Baden, Hohenzollern, and in the Hessian province of

Starkenberg.29 The communal forests are kept, as a rule, in an

excellent state, and in thousands of communes timber and fuel

wood are divided every year among all inhabitants; even the old

custom of the Lesholztag is widely spread: at the ringing of the

village bell all go to the forest to take as much fuel wood as

they can carry.30 In Westphalia one finds communes in which

all the land is cultivated as one common estate, in accordance

with all requirements of modern agronomy. As to the old communal

customs and habits, they are in vigour in most parts of Germany.

The calling in of aids, which are real f?tes of labour, is known

to be quite habitual in Westphalia, Hesse, and Nassau. In

well-timbered regions the timber for a new house is usually taken

from the communal forest, and all the neighbours join in building

the house. Even in the suburbs of Frankfort it is a regular

custom among the gardeners that in case of one of them being ill

all come on Sunday to cultivate his garden.31

In Germany, as in France, as soon as the rulers of the people

repealed their laws against the peasant associations -- that was

only in 1884-1888 -- these unions began to develop with a

wonderful rapidity, notwithstanding all legal obstacles which

were put in their way32 "It is a fact," Buchenberger says,

"that in thousands of village communities, in which no sort of

chemical manure or rational fodder was ever known, both have

become of everyday use, to a quite unforeseen extent, owing to

these associations" (vol. ii. p. 507). All sorts of labour-saving

implements and agricultural machinery, and better breeds of

cattle, are bought through the associations, and various

arrangements for improving the quality of the produce begin to be

introduced. Unions for the sale of agricultural produce are also

formed, as well as for permanent improvements of the land.33

From the point of view of social economics all these efforts

of the peasants certainly are of little importance. They cannot

substantially, and still less permanently, alleviate the misery

to which the tillers of the soil are doomed all over Europe. But

from the ethical point of view, which we are now considering,

their importance cannot be overrated. They prove that even under

the system of reckless individualism which now prevails the

agricultural masses piously maintain their mutual-support

inheritance; and as soon as the States relax the iron laws by

means of which they have broken all bonds between men, these

bonds are at once reconstituted, notwithstanding the

difficulties, political, economical, and social, which are many,

and in such forms as best answer to the modern requirements of

production. They indicate in which direction and in which form

further progress must be expected.

I might easily multiply such illustrations, taking them from

Italy, Spain, Denmark, and so on, and pointing out some

interesting features which are proper to each of these

countries.34 The Slavonian populations of Austria and the

Balkan peninsula, among whom the "compound family," or "undivided

household," is found in existence, ought also to be

mentioned.35 But I hasten to pass on to Russia, where the same

mutual-support tendency takes certain new and unforeseen forms.

Moreover, in dealing with the village community in Russia we have

the advantage: of possessing an immense mass of materials,

collected during the colossal house-to-house inquest which was

lately made by several zemstvos (county councils), and which

embraces a population of nearly 20,000,000 peasants in different

parts of the country.36

Two important conclusions may be drawn from the bulk of

evidence collected by the Russian inquests. In Middle Russia,

where fully one-third of the peasants have been brought to utter

ruin (by heavy taxation, small allotments of unproductive land,

rack rents, and very severe tax-collecting after total failures

of crops), there was, during the first five-and-twenty years

after the emancipation of the serfs, a decided tendency towards

the constitution of individual property in land within the

village communities. Many impoverished "horseless" peasants

abandoned their allotments, and this land often became the

property of those richer peasants, who borrow additional incomes

from trade, or of outside traders, who buy land chiefly for

exacting rack rents from the peasants. It must also be added that

a flaw in the land redemption law of 1861 offered great

facilities for buying peasants' lands at a very small

expense,37 and that the State officials mostly used their

weighty influence in favour of individual as against communal

ownership. However, for the last twenty years a strong wind of

opposition to the individual appropriation of the land blows

again through the Middle Russian villages, and strenuous efforts

are being made by the bulk of those peasants who stand between

the rich and the very poor to uphold the village community. As to

the fertile steppes of the South, which are now the most populous

and the richest part of European Russia, they were mostly

colonized, during the present century, under the system of

individual ownership or occupation, sanctioned in that form by

the State. But since improved methods of agriculture with the aid

of machinery have been introduced in the region, the peasant

owners have gradually begun themselves to transform their

individual ownership into communal possession, and one finds now,

in that granary of Russia, a very great number of spontaneously

formed village communities of recent origin.38

The Crimea and the part of the mainland which lies to the

north of it (the province of Taurida), for which we have detailed

data, offer an excellent illustration of that movement. This

territory began to be colonized, after its annexation in 1783, by

Great, Little, and White Russians -- Cossacks, freemen, and

runaway serfs -- who came individually or in small groups from

all corners of Russia. They took first to cattle-breeding, and

when they began later on to till the soil, each one tilled as

much as he could afford to. But when -- immigration continuing,

and perfected ploughs being introduced -- land stood in great

demand, bitter disputes arose among the settlers. They lasted for

years, until these men, previously tied by no mutual bonds,

gradually came to the idea that an end must be put to disputes by

introducing village-community ownership. They passed decisions to

the effect that the land which they owned individually should

henceforward be their common property, and they began to allot

and to re-allot it in accordance with the usual village-community

rules. The movement gradually took a great extension, and on a

small territory, the Taurida statisticians found 161 villages in

which communal ownership had been introduced by the peasant

proprietors themselves, chiefly in the years 1855-1885, in lieu

of individual ownership. Quite a variety of village-community

types has been freely worked out in this way by the

settlers.39 What adds to the interest of this transformation

is that it took place, not only among the Great Russians, who are

used to village-community life, but also among Little Russians,

who have long since forgotten it under Polish rule, among Greeks

and Bulgarians, and even among Germans, who have long since

worked out in their prosperous and half-industrial Volga colonies

their own type of village community.40 It is evident that the

Mussulman Tartars of Taurida hold their land under the Mussulman

customary law, which is limited personal occupation; but even

with them the European village community has been introduced in a

few cases. As to other nationalities in Taurida, individual

ownership has been abolished in six Esthonian, two Greek, two

Bulgarian, one Czech, and one German village. This movement is

characteristic for the whole of the fertile steppe region of the

south. But separate instances of it are also found in Little

Russia. Thus in a number of villages of the province of Chernigov

the peasants were formerly individual owners of their plots; they

had separate legal documents for their plots and used to rent and

to sell their land at will. But in the fifties of the nineteenth

century a movement began among them in favour of communal

possession, the chief argument being the growing number of pauper

families. The initiative of the reform was taken in one village,

and the others followed suit, the last case on record dating from

1882. Of course there were struggles between the poor, who

usually claim for communal possession, and the rich, who usually

prefer individual ownership; and the struggles often lasted for

years. In certain places the unanimity required then by the law

being impossible to obtain, the village divided into two

villages, one under individual ownership and the other under

communal possession; and so they remained until the two coalesced

into one community, or else they remained divided still As to

Middle Russia, its a fact that in many villages which were

drifting towards individual ownership there began since 1880 a

mass movement in favour of re-establishing the village community.

Even peasant proprietors who had lived for years under the

individualist system returned en masse to the communal

institutions. Thus, there is a considerable number of ex-serfs

who have received one-fourth part only of the regulation

allotments, but they have received them free of redemption and in

individual ownership. There was in 1890 a wide-spread movement

among them (in Kursk, Ryazan, Tambov, Orel, etc.) towards putting

their allotments together and introducing the village community.

The "free agriculturists" (volnyie khlebopashtsy), who were

liberated from serfdom under the law of 1803, and had bought

their allotments -- each family separately -- are now nearly all

under the village-community system, which they have introduced

themselves. All these movements are of recent origin, and

non-Russians too join them. Thus the Bulgares in the district of

Tiraspol, after having remained for sixty years under the

personal-property system, introduced the village community in the

years 1876-1882. The German Mennonites of Berdyansk fought in

1890 for introducing the village community, and the small peasant

proprietors (Kleinwirthschaftliche) among the German Baptists

were agitating in their villages in the same direction. One

instance more: In the province of Samara the Russian government

created in the forties, by way of experiment, 1O3 villages on the

system of individual ownership. Each household received a

splendid property of 105 acres. In 1890, out of the 103 villages

the peasants in 72 had already notified the desire of introducing

the village community. I take all these facts from the excellent

work of V.V., who simply gives, in a classified form, the facts

recorded in the above-mentioned house-to-house inquest.

This movement in favour of communal possession runs badly

against the current economical theories, according to which

intensive culture is incompatible with the village community. But

the most charitable thing that can be said of these theories is

that they have never been submitted to the test of experiment:

they belong to the domain of political metaphysics. The facts

which we have before us show, on the contrary, that wherever the

Russian peasants, owing to a concurrence of favourable

circumstances, are less miserable than they are on the average,

and wherever they find men of knowledge and initiative among

their neighbours, the village community becomes the very means

for introducing various improvements in agriculture and village

life altogether. Here, as elsewhere, mutual aid is a better

leader to progress than the war of each against all, as may be

seen from the following facts.

Under Nicholas the First's rule many Crown officials and

serf-owners used to compel the peasants to introduce the communal

culture of small plots of the village lands, in order to refill

the communal storehouses after loans of grain had been granted to

the poorest commoners. Such cultures, connected in the peasants'

minds with the worst reminiscences of serfdom, were abandoned as

soon as serfdom was abolished but now the peasants begin to

reintroduce them on their own account. In one district

(Ostrogozhsk, in Kursk) the initiative of one person was

sufficient to call them to life in four-fifths of all the

villages. The same is met with in several other localities. On a

given day the commoners come out, the richer ones with a plough

or a cart and the poorer ones single-handed, and no attempt is

made to discriminate one's share in the work. The crop is

afterwards used for loans to the poorer commoners, mostly free

grants, or for the orphans and widows, or for the village church,

or for the school, or for repaying a communal debt.41

That all sorts of work which enters, so to say, in the

routine of village life (repair of roads and bridges, dams,

drainage, supply of water for irrigation, cutting of wood,

planting of trees, etc.) are made by whole communes, and that

land is rented and meadows are mown by whole communes -- the work

being accomplished by old and young, men and women, in the way

described by Tolstoi -- is only what one may expect from people

living under the village-community system.42 They are of

everyday occurrence all over the country. But the village

community is also by no means averse to modern agricultural

improvements, when it can stand the expense, and when knowledge,

hitherto kept for the rich only, finds its way into the peasant's


It has just been said that perfected ploughs rapidly spread

in South Russia, and in many cases the village communities were

instrumental in spreading their use. A plough was bought by the

community, experimented upon on a portion of the communal land,

and the necessary improvements were indicated to the makers, whom

the communes often aided in starting the manufacture of cheap

ploughs as a village industry. In the district of Moscow, where

1,560 ploughs were lately bought by the peasants during five

years, the impulse came from those communes which rented lands as

a body for the special purpose of improved culture.

In the north-east (Vyatka) small associations of peasants,

who travel with their winnowing machines (manufactured as a

village industry in one of the iron districts), have spread the

use of such machines in the neighbouring governments. The very

wide spread of threshing machines in Samara, Saratov, and Kherson

is due to the peasant associations, which can afford to buy a

costly engine, while the individual peasant cannot. And while we

read in nearly all economical treatises that the village

community was doomed to disappear when the three-fields system

had to be substituted by the rotation of crops system, we see in

Russia many village communities taking the initiative of

introducing the rotation of crops. Before accepting it the

peasants usually set apart a portion of the communal fields for

an experiment in artificial meadows, and the commune buys the

seeds.43 If the experiment proves successful they find no

difficulty whatever in re-dividing their fields, so as to suit

the five or six fields system.

This system is now in use in hundreds of villages of Moscow,

Tver, Smolensk, Vyatka, and Pskov.44 And where land can be

spared the communities give also a portion of their domain to

allotments for fruit-growing. Finally, the sudden extension

lately taken in Russia by the little model farms, orchards,

kitchen gardens, and silkworm-culture grounds -- which are

started at the village school-houses, under the conduct of the

school-master, or of a village volunteer -- is also due to the

support they found with the village communities.

Moreover, such permanent improvements as drainage and

irrigation are of frequent occurrence. For instance, in three

districts of the province of Moscow -- industrial to a great

extent -- drainage works have been accomplished within the last

ten years on a large scale in no less than 180 to 200 different

villages -- the commoners working themselves with the spade. At

another extremity of Russia, in the dry Steppes of Novouzen, over

a thousand dams for ponds were built and several hundreds of deep

wells were sunk by the communes; while in a wealthy German colony

of the south-east the commoners worked, men and women alike, for

five weeks in succession, to erect a dam, two miles long, for

irrigation purposes. What could isolated men do in that struggle

against the dry climate? What could they obtain through

individual effort when South Russia was struck with the marmot

plague, and all people living on the land, rich and poor,

commoners and individualists, had to work with their hands in

order to conjure the plague? To call in the policeman would have

been of no use; to associate was the only possible remedy.

And now, after having said so much about mutual aid and

support which are practised by the tillers of the soil in

"civilized" countries, I see that I might fill an octavo volume

with illustrations taken from the life of the hundreds of

millions of men who also live under the tutorship of more or less

centralized States, but are out of touch with modern civilization

and modern ideas. I might describe the inner life of a Turkish

village and its network of admirable mutual-aid customs and

habits. On turning over my leaflets covered with illustrations

from peasant life in Caucasia, I come across touching facts of

mutual support. I trace the same customs in the Arab djemm?a and

the Afghan purra, in the villages of Persia, India, and Java, in

the undivided family of the Chinese, in the encampments of the

semi-nomads of Central Asia and the nomads of the far North. On

consulting notes taken at random in the literature of Africa, I

find them replete with similar facts -- of aids convoked to take

in the crops, of houses built by all inhabitants of the village

-- sometimes to repair the havoc done by civilized filibusters --

of people aiding each other in case of accident, protecting the

traveller, and so on. And when I peruse such works as Post's

compendium of African customary law I understand why,

notwithstanding all tyranny, oppression, robberies and raids,

tribal wars, glutton kings, deceiving witches and priests,

slave-hunters, and the like, these populations have not gone

astray in the woods; why they have maintained a certain

civilization, and have remained men, instead of dropping to the

level of straggling families of decaying orang-outans. The fact

is, that the slave-hunters, the ivory robbers, the fighting

kings, the Matabele and the Madagascar "heroes" pass away,

leaving their traces marked with blood and fire; but the nucleus

of mutual-aid institutions, habits, and customs, grown up in the

tribe and the village community, remains; and it keeps men united

in societies, open to the progress of civilization, and ready to

receive it when the day comes that they shall receive

civilization instead of bullets.

The same applies to our civilized world. The natural and

social calamities pass away. Whole populations are periodically

reduced to misery or starvation; the very springs of life are

crushed out of millions of men, reduced to city pauperism; the

understanding and the feelings of the millions are vitiated by

teachings worked out in the interest of the few. All this is

certainly a part of our existence. But the nucleus of

mutual-support institutions, habits, and customs remains alive

with the millions; it keeps them together; and they prefer to

cling to their customs, beliefs, and traditions rather than to

accept the teachings of a war of each against all, which are

offered to them under the title of science, but are no science at


1 A bulky literature, dealing with this formerly much neglected
subject, is now growing in Germany. Keller's works, Ein Apostel
der Wiedert?ufer and Geschichte der Wiedert?ufer, Cornelius's
Geschichte des m?nsterischen Aufruhrs, and Janssen's Geschichte
des deutschen Volkes may be named as the leading sources. The
first attempt at familiarizing English readers with the results
of the wide researches made in Germany in this direction has been
made in an excellent little work by Richard Heath -- "Anabaptism
from its Rise at Zwickau to its Fall at M?nster, 1521-1536,"
London, 1895 (Baptist Manuals, vol. i.) -- where the leading
features of the movement are well indicated, and full
bibliographical information is given. Also K. Kautsky's Communism
in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation, London, 1897.
2 Few of our contemporaries realize both the extent of this
movement and the means by which it was suppressed. But those who
wrote immediately after the great peasant war estimated at from
100,000 to 150,000 men the number of peasants slaughtered after
their defeat in Germany. See Zimmermann's Allgemeine Geschichte
des grossen Bauernkrieges. For the measures taken to suppress the
movement in the Netherlands see Richard Heath's Anabaptism.
3 "Chacun s'en est accommod? selon sa biens?ance... on les a
partag?s.. pour d?pouiller les communes, on s'est servi de dettes
simul?es" (Edict of Louis the Fourteenth, of 1667, quoted by
several authors. Eight years before that date the communes had
been taken under State management).
4 "On a great landlord's estate, even if he has millions of
revenue, you are sure to find the land uncultivated" (Arthur
Young). "One-fourth part of the soil went out of culture;" "for
the last hundred years the land has returned to a savage state;"
"the formerly flourishing Sologne is now a big marsh;" and so on
(Th?ron de Montaug?, quoted by Taine in Origines de la France
Contemporaine, tome i. p. 441).
5 A. Babeau, Le Village sous l'Ancien R?gime, 3e ?dition. Paris,
6 In Eastern France the law only confirmed what the peasants had
already done themselves; in other parts of France it usually
remained a dead letter.
7 After the triumph of the middle-class reaction the communal
lands were declared (August 24, 1794) the States domains, and,
together with the lands confiscated from the nobility, were put
up for sale, and pilfered by the bandes noires of the small
bourgeoisie. True that a stop to this pilfering was put next year
(law of 2 Prairial, An V), and the preceding law was abrogated;
but then the village Communities were simply abolished, and
cantonal councils were introduced instead. Only seven years later
(9 Prairial, An XII), i.e. in 1801, the village communities were
reintroduced, but not until after having been deprived of all
their rights, the mayor and syndics being nominated by the
Government in the 36,000 communes of France! This system was
maintained till after the revolution of 1830, when elected
communal councils were reintroduced under the law of 1787. As to
the communal lands, they were again seized upon by the State in
1813, plundered as such, and only partly restored to the communes
in 1816. See the classical collection of French laws, by Dalloz,
R?pertoire de Jurisprudence; also the works of Doniol, Dareste,
Bonnem?re, Babeau, and many others.
8 This procedure is so absurd that one would not believe it
possible if the fifty-two different acts were not enumerated in
full by a quite authoritative writer in the Journal des
Economistes (1893, April, p. 94), and several similar examples
were not given by the same author.
9 Dr. Ochenkowski, Englands wirthschaftliche Entwickelung im
Ausgange des Mittelalters (Jena, 1879), pp. 35 seq., where the
whole question is discussed with full knowledge of the texts.
10 Nasse, Ueber die mittelalterliche Feldgemeinschaft und die
Einhegungen des XVI. Jahrhunderts in England (Bonn, 1869), pp. 4,
5; Vinogradov, Villainage in England (Oxford, 1892).
11 Seebohm, The English Village Community, 3rd edition, 1884,
pp. 13-15.
12 "An examination into the details of an Enclosure Act will
make clear the point that the system as above described [communal
ownership] is the system which it was the object of the Enclosure
Act to remove" (Seebohm, l.c. p. 13). And further on, "They were
generally drawn in the same form, commencing with the recital
that the open and common fields lie dispersed in small pieces,
intermixed with each other and inconveniently situated; that
divers persons own parts of them, and are entitled to rights of
common on them... and that it is desired that they may be divided
and enclosed, a specific share being let out and allowed to each
owner" (p. 14). Porter's list contained 3867 such Acts, of which
the greatest numbers fall upon the decades of 1770-1780 and
1800-1820, as in France.
13 In Switzerland we see a number of communes, ruined by wars,
which have sold part of their lands, and now endeavour to buy
them back.
14 A. Buchenberger, "Agrarwesen und Agrarpolitik," in A.
Wagner's Handbuch der politischen Oekonomie, 1892, Band i. pp.
280 seq.
15 G.L. Gomme, "The Village Community, with special reference to
its Origin and Forms of Survival in Great Britain" (Contemporary
Science Series), London, 1890, pp. 141-143; also his Primitive
Folkmoots (London, 1880), pp. 98 seq.
16 "In almost all parts of the country, in the Midland and
Eastern counties particularly, but also in the west -- in
Wiltshire, for example -- in the south, as in Surrey, in the
north, as in Yorkshire, -- there are extensive open and common
fields. Out of 316 parishes of Northamptonshire 89 are in this
condition; more than 100 in Oxfordshire; about 50,000 acres in
Warwickshire; in Berkshire half the county; more than half of
Wiltshire; in Huntingdonshire out of a total area of 240,000
acres 130,000 were commonable meadows, commons, and fields"
(Marshall, quoted in Sir Henry Maine's Village Communities in the
East and West, New York edition, 1876, pp. 88, 89).
17 Ibid. p. 88; also Fifth Lecture. The wide extension of
"commons" in Surrey, even now, is well known.
18 In quite a number of books dealing with English country life
which I have consulted I have found charming descriptions of
country scenery and the like, but almost nothing about the daily
life and customs of the labourers.
19 In Switzerland the peasants in the open land also fell under
the dominion of lords, and large parts of their estates were
appropriated by the lords in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. (See, for instance, Dr. A. Miaskowski, in Schmoller's
Forschungen, Bd. ii. 1879, Pp. 12 seq.) But the peasant war in
Switzerland did not end in such a crushing defeat of the peasants
as it did in other countries, and a great deal of the communal
rights and lands was retained. The self-government of the
communes is, in fact, the very foundation of the Swiss liberties.
20 Miaskowski, in SchmolLer's Forschungen, Bd. ii. 1879, p. 15.
21 See on this subject a series of works, summed up in one of
the excellent and suggestive chapters (not yet translated into
English) which K. B?cher has added to the German translation of
Laveleye's Primitive Ownership. Also Meitzen, "Das Agrar- und
Forst-Wesen, die Allmenden und die Landgemeinden der Deutschen
Schweiz," in Jahrbuch f?r Staatswissenschaft, 1880, iv. (analysis
of Miaskowsky's works); O'Brien, "Notes in a Swiss village," in
Macmillan's Magazine, October 1885.
22 The wedding gifts, which often substantially contribute in
this country to the comfort of the young households, are
evidently a remainder of the communal habits.
23 The communes own, 4,554,1O0 acres of woods out of 24,813,0O0
in the whole territory, and 6,936,300 acres of natural meadows
out of 11,394,000 acres in France. The remaining 2,000,000 acres
are fields, orchards, and so on.
24 In Caucasia they even do better among the Georgians. As the
meal costs, and a poor man cannot afford to give it, a sheep is
bought by those same neighbours who come to aid in the work.
25 Alfred Baudrillart, in H. Baudrillart's Les Populations
Rurales de la France, 3rd series (Paris, 1893), p. 479.
26 The Journal des Economistes (August 1892, May and August
1893) has lately given some of the results of analyses made at
the agricultural laboratories at Ghent and at Paris. The extent
of falsification is simply incredible; so also the devices of the
"honest traders." In certain seeds of grass there was 32 per
cent. of gains of sand, coloured so as to Receive even an
experienced eye; other samples contained from 52 to 22 per cent.
only of pure seed, the remainder being weeds. Seeds of vetch
contained 11 per cent. of a poisonous grass (nielle); a flour for
cattle-fattening contained 36 per cent. of sulphates; and so on
ad infinitum.
27 A. Baudrillart, l.c. p. 309. Originally one grower would
undertake to supply water, and several others would agee to make
use of it. "What especially characterises such associations," A.
Baudrillart remarks, "is that no sort of written agreement is
concluded. All is arranged in words. There was, however, not one
single case of difficulties having arisen between the parties."
28 A. Baudrillart, l.c. pp. 300, 341, etc. M. Terssac, president
of the St. Gironnais syndicate (Ari?ge), wrote to my friend in
substance as follows: -- "For the exhibition of Toulouse our
association has grouped the owners of cattle which seemed to us
worth exhibiting. The society undertook to pay one-half of the
travelling and exhibition expenses; one-fourth was paid by each
owner, and the remaining fourth by those exhibitors who had got
prizes. The result was that many took part in the exhibition who
never would have done it otherwise. Those who got the highest
awards (350 francs) have contributed 10 per cent. of their
prizes, while those who have got no prize have only spent 6 to 7
francs each."
29 In W?rttemberg 1,629 communes out of 1,910 have communal
property. They owned in 1863 over 1,000,000 acres of land. In
Baden 1,256 communes out of 1,582 have communal land; in
1884-1888 they held 121,500 acres of fields in communal culture,
and 675,000 acres of forests, i.e. 46 per cent. of the total area
under woods. In Saxony 39 per cent. of the total area is in
communal ownership (Schmoller's Jahrbuch, 1886, p. 359). In
Hohenzollern nearly two-thirds of all meadow land, and in
Hohenzollern-Hechingen 41 per cent. of all landed property, are
owned by the village communities (Buchenberger, Agrarwesen, vol.
i. p. 300).
30 See K. B?cher, who, in a special chapter added to Laveleye's
Ureigenthum, has collected all information relative to the
village community in Germany.
31 K. B?cher, ibid. pp. 89, 90.
32 For this legislation and the numerous obstacles which were
put in the way, in the shape of red-tapeism and supervision, see
Buchenberger's Agrarwesen und Agrarpolitik, Bd. ii. pp. 342-363,
and p. 506, note.
33 Buchenberger, l.c. Bd. ii. p. 510. The General Union of
Agricultural Co-operation comprises an aggregate of 1,679
societies. In Silesia an aggregate of 32,000 acres of land has
been lately drained by 73 associations; 454,800 acres in Prussia
by 516 associations; in Bavaria there are 1,715 drainage and
irrigation unions.
34 See Appendix XII.
35 For the Balkan peninsula see Laveleye's Propri?t? Primitive.
36 The facts concerning the village community, contained in
nearly a hundred volumes (out of 450) of these inquests, have
been classified and summed up in an excellent Russian work by
"V.V." The Peasant Community (Krestianskaya Obschina), St.
Petersburg, 1892, which, apart from its theoretical value, is a
rich compendium of data relative to this subject. The above
inquests have also given origin to an immense literature, in
which the modern village-community question for the first time
emerges from the domain of generalities and is put on the solid
basis of reliable and sufficiently detailed facts.
37 The redemption had to be paid by annuities for forty-nine
years. As years went, and the greatest part of it was paid, it
became easier and easier to redeem the smaller remaining part of
it, and, as each allotment could be redeemed individually,
advantage was taken of this disposition by traders, who bought
land for half its value from the ruined peasants. A law was
consequently passed to put a stop to such sales.
38 Mr. V.V., in his Peasant Community, has grouped together all
facts relative to this movement. About the rapid agricultural
development of South Russia and the spread of machinery English
readers will find information in the Consular Reports (Odessa,
39 In some instances they proceeded with great caution. In one
village they began by putting together all meadow land, but only
a small portion of the fields (about five acres per soul) was
rendered communal; the remainder continued to be owned
individually. Later on, in 1862-1864, the system was extended,
but only in 1884 was communal possession introduced in full. --
V.V.'s Peasant Community, pp. 1-14.
40 On the Mennonite village community see A. Klaus, Our Colonies
(Nashi Kolonii), St. Petersburg, 1869.
41 Such communal cultures are known to exist in 159 villages out
of 195 in the Ostrogozhsk district; in 150 out of 187 in
Slavyanoserbsk; in 107 village communities in Alexandrovsk, 93 in
Nikolayevsk, 35 in Elisabethgrad. In a German colony the communal
culture is made for repaying a communal debt. All join in the
work, although the debt was contracted by 94 householders out of
42 Lists of such works which came under the notice of the
zemstvo statisticians will be found in V.V.'s Peasant Community,
pp. 459-600.
43 In the government of Moscow the experiment was usually made
on the field which was reserved for the above-mentioned communal
44 Several instances of such and similar improvements were given
in the Official Messenger, 1894, Nos. 256-258. Associations
between "horseless" peasants begin to appear also in South
Russia. Another extremely interesting fact is the sudden
development in Southern West Siberia of very numerous
co-operative creameries for making butter. Hundreds of them
spread in Tobolsk and Tomsk, without any one knowing wherefrom
the initiative of the movement came. It came from the Danish
co-operators, who used to export their own butter of higher
quality, and to buy butter of a lower quality for their own use
in Siberia. After a several years' intercourse, they introduced
creameries there. Now, a great export trade has grown out of
their endeavours.



11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bidorbuy on June 26, 2012

There wouldn't have been any need of "mutual-aid" Institutions, if only we had received a good education, based on mutual tolerance and understanding.