8. Mutual aid amongst ourselves

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Labour-unions grown after the destruction of the guilds by the
State. -- Their struggles. -- Mutual Aid in strikes. --
Co-operation. -- Free associations for various purposes. --
Self-sacrifice. -- Countless societies for combined action under
all possible aspects. -- Mutual Aid in slum-life. -- Personal

When we examine the every-day life of the rural populations

of Europe, we find that, notwithstanding all that has been done

in modern States for the destruction of the village community,

the life of the peasants remains honeycombed with habits and

customs of mutual aid and support; that important vestiges of the

communal possession of the soil are still retained; and that, as

soon as the legal obstacles to rural association were lately

removed, a network of free unions for all sorts of economical

purposes rapidly spread among the peasants -- the tendency of

this young movement being to reconstitute some sort of union

similar to the village community of old. Such being the

conclusions arrived at in the preceding chapter, we have now to

consider, what institutions for mutual support can be found at

the present time amongst the industrial populations.

For the last three hundred years, the conditions for the

growth of such institutions have been as unfavourable in the

towns as they have been in the villages. It is well known,

indeed, that when the medieval cities were subdued in the

sixteenth century by growing military States, all institutions

which kept the artisans, the masters, and the merchants together

in the guilds and the cities were violently destroyed. The

self-government and the self-jurisdiction of both, the guild and

the city were abolished; the oath of allegiance between

guild-brothers became an act of felony towards the State; the

properties of the guilds were confiscated in the same way as the

lands of the village communities; and the inner and technical

organization of each trade was taken in hand by the State. Laws,

gradually growing in severity, were passed to prevent artisans

from combining in any way. For a time, some shadows of the old

guilds were tolerated: merchants' guilds were allowed to exist

under the condition of freely granting subsidies to the kings,

and some artisan guilds were kept in existence as organs of

administration. Some of them still drag on their meaningless

existence. But what formerly was the vital force of medieval life

and industry has long since disappeared under the crushing weight

of the centralized State.

In Great Britain, which may be taken as the best illustration

of the industrial policy of the modern States, we see the

Parliament beginning the destruction of the guilds as early as

the fifteenth century; but it was especially in the next century

that decisive measures were taken. Henry the Eighth not only

ruined the organization of the guilds, but also confiscated their

properties, with even less excuse and manners, as Toulmin Smith

wrote, than he had produced for confiscating the estates of the

monasteries.1 Edward the Sixth completed his work,2 and

already in the second part of the sixteenth century we find the

Parliament settling all the disputes between craftsmen and

merchants, which formerly were settled in each city separately.

The Parliament and the king not only legislated in all such

contests, but, keeping in view the interests of the Crown in the

exports, they soon began to determine the number of apprentices

in each trade and minutely to regulate the very technics of each

fabrication -- the weights of the stuffs, the number of threads

in the yard of cloth, and the like. With little success, it must

be said; because contests and technical difficulties which were

arranged for centuries in succession by agreement between

closely-interdependent guilds and federated cities lay entirely

beyond the powers of the centralized State. The continual

interference of its officials paralyzed the trades; bringing most

of them to a complete decay; and the last century economists,

when they rose against the State regulation of industries, only

ventilated a widely-felt discontent. The abolition of that

interference by the French Revolution was greeted as an act of

liberation, and the example of France was soon followed


With the regulation of wages the State had no better success.

In the medieval cities, when the distinction between masters and

apprentices or journeymen became more and more apparent in the

fifteenth century, unions of apprentices (Gesellenverb?nde),

occasionally assuming an international character, were opposed to

the unions of masters and merchants. Now it was the State which

undertook to settle their griefs, and under the Elizabethan

Statute of 1563 the Justices of Peace had to settle the wages, so

as to guarantee a "convenient" livelihood to journeymen and

apprentices. The Justices, however, proved helpless to conciliate

the conflicting interests, and still less to compel the masters

to obey their decisions. The law gradually became a dead letter,

and was repealed by the end of the eighteenth century. But while

the State thus abandoned the function of regulating wages, it

continued severely to prohibit all combinations which were

entered upon by journeymen and workers in order to raise their

wages, or to keep them at a certain level. All through the

eighteenth century it legislated against the workers' unions, and

in 1799 it finally prohibited all sorts of combinations, under

the menace of severe punishments. In fact, the British Parliament

only followed in this case the example of the French

Revolutionary Convention, which had issued a draconic law against

coalitions of workers-coalitions between a number of citizens

being considered as attempts against the sovereignty of the

State, which was supposed equally to protect all its subjects.

The work of destruction of the medieval unions was thus

completed. Both in the town and in the village the State reigned

over loose aggregations of individuals, and was ready to prevent

by the most stringent measures the reconstitution of any sort of

separate unions among them. These were, then, the conditions

under which the mutual-aid tendency had to make its way in the

nineteenth century.

Need it be said that no such measures could destroy that

tendency? Throughout the eighteenth century, the workers' unions

were continually reconstituted.3 Nor were they stopped by the

cruel prosecutions which took place under the laws of 1797 and

1799. Every flaw in supervision, every delay of the masters in

denouncing the unions was taken advantage of. Under the cover of

friendly societies, burial clubs, or secret brotherhoods, the

unions spread in the textile industries, among the Sheffield

cutlers, the miners, and vigorous federal organizations were

formed to support the branches during strikes and

prosecutions.4 The repeal of the Combination Laws in 1825 gave

a new impulse to the movement. Unions and national federations

were formed in all trades.5 and when Robert Owen started his

Grand National Consolidated Trades' Union, it mustered half a

million members in a few months. True that this period of

relative liberty did not last long. Prosecution began anew in the

thirties, and the well-known ferocious condemnations of 1832-1844

followed. The Grand National Union was disbanded, and all over

the country, both the private employers and the Government in its

own workshops began to compel the workers to resign all

connection with unions, and to sign "the Document" to that

effect. Unionists were prosecuted wholesale under the Master and

Servant Act -- workers being summarily arrested and condemned

upon a mere complaint of misbehaviour lodged by the master.6

Strikes were suppressed in an autocratic way, and the most

astounding condemnations took place for merely having announced a

strike or acted as a delegate in it -- to say nothing of the

military suppression of strike riots, nor of the condemnations

which followed the frequent outbursts of acts of violence. To

practise mutual support under such circumstances was anything but

an easy task. And yet, notwithstanding all obstacles, of which

our own generation hardly can have an idea, the revival of the

unions began again in 1841, and the amalgamation of the workers

has been steadily continued since. After a long fight, which

lasted for over a hundred years, the right of combining together

was conquered, and at the present time nearly one-fourth part of

the regularly-employed workers, i.e. about 1,500,000, belong to

trade unions.7

As to the other European States, sufficient to say that up to

a very recent date, all sorts of unions were prosecuted as

conspiracies; and that nevertheless they exist everywhere, even

though they must often take the form of secret societies; while

the extension and the force of labour organizations, and

especially of the Knights of Labour, in the United States and in

Belgium, have been sufficiently illustrated by strikes in the

nineties. It must, however, be borne in mind that, prosecution

apart, the mere fact of belonging to a labour union implies

considerable sacrifices in money, in time, and in unpaid work,

and continually implies the risk of losing employment for the

mere fact of being a unionist.8 There is, moreover, the

strike, which a unionist has continually to face; and the grim

reality of a strike is, that the limited credit of a worker's

family at the baker's and the pawnbroker's is soon exhausted, the

strike-pay goes not far even for food, and hunger is soon written

on the children's faces. For one who lives in close contact with

workers, a protracted strike is the most heartrending sight;

while what a strike meant forty years ago in this country, and

still means in all but the wealthiest parts of the continent, can

easily be conceived. Continually, even now, strikes will end with

the total ruin and the forced emigration of whole populations,

while the shooting down of strikers on the slightest provocation,

or even without any provocation,9 is quite habitual still on

the continent.

And yet, every year there are thousands of strikes and

lock-outs in Europe and America -- the most severe and protracted

contests being, as a rule, the so-called "sympathy strikes,"

which are entered upon to support locked-out comrades or to

maintain the rights of the unions. And while a portion of the

Press is prone to explain strikes by "intimidation," those who

have lived among strikers speak with admiration of the mutual aid

and support which are constantly practised by them. Every one has

heard of the colossal amount of work which was done by volunteer

workers for organizing relief during the London dock-labourers'

strike; of the miners who, after having themselves been idle for

many weeks, paid a levy of four shillings a week to the strike

fund when they resumed work; of the miner widow who, during the

Yorkshire labour war of 1894, brought her husband's life-savings

to the strike-fund; of the last loaf of bread being always shared

with neighbours; of the Radstock miners, favoured with larger

kitchen-gardens, who invited four hundred Bristol miners to take

their share of cabbage and potatoes, and so on. All newspaper

correspondents, during the great strike of miners in Yorkshire in

1894, knew heaps of such facts, although not all of them could

report such "irrelevant" matters to their respective papers.10

Unionism is not, however, the only form in which the worker's

need of mutual support finds its expression. There are, besides,

the political associations, whose activity many workers consider

as more conducive to general welfare than the trade-unions,

limited as they are now in their purposes. Of course the mere

fact of belonging to a political body cannot be taken as a

manifestation of the mutual-aid tendency. We all know that

politics are the field in which the purely egotistic elements of

society enter into the most entangled combinations with

altruistic aspirations. But every experienced politician knows

that all great political movements were fought upon large and

often distant issues, and that those of them were the strongest

which provoked most disinterested enthusiasm. All great

historical movements have had this character, and for our own

generation Socialism stands in that case. "Paid agitators" is, no

doubt, the favourite refrain of those who know nothing about it.

The truth, however, is that -- to speak only of what I know

personally -- if I had kept a diary for the last twenty-four

years and inscribed in it all the devotion and self-sacrifice

which I came across in the Socialist movement, the reader of such

a diary would have had the word "heroism" constantly on his lips.

But the men I would have spoken of were not heroes; they were

average men, inspired by a grand idea. Every Socialist newspaper

-- and there are hundreds of them in Europe alone -- has the same

history of years of sacrifice without any hope of reward, and, in

the overwhelming majority of cases, even without any personal

ambition. I have seen families living without knowing what would

be their food to-morrow, the husband boycotted all round in his

little town for his part in the paper, and the wife supporting

the family by sewing, and such a situation lasting for years,

until the family would retire, without a word of reproach, simply

saying: "Continue; we can hold on no more!" I have seen men,

dying from consumption, and knowing it, and yet knocking about in

snow and fog to prepare meetings, speaking at meetings within a

few weeks from death, and only then retiring to the hospital with

the words: "Now, friends, I am done; the doctors say I have but a

few weeks to live. Tell the comrades that I shall be happy if

they come to see me." I have seen facts which would be described

as "idealization" if I told them in this place; and the very

names of these men, hardly known outside a narrow circle of

friends, will soon be forgotten when the friends, too, have

passed away. In fact, I don't know myself which most to admire,

the unbounded devotion of these few, or the sum total of petty

acts of devotion of the great number. Every quire of a penny

paper sold, every meeting, every hundred votes which are won at a

Socialist election, represent an amount of energy and sacrifices

of which no outsider has the faintest idea. And what is now done

by Socialists has been done in every popular and advanced party,

political and religious, in the past. All past progress has been

promoted by like men and by a like devotion.

Co-operation, especially in Britain, is often described as

"joint-stock individualism"; and such as it is now, it

undoubtedly tends to breed a co-operative egotism, not only

towards the community at large, but also among the co-operators

themselves. It is, nevertheless, certain that at its origin the

movement had an essentially mutual-aid character. Even now, its

most ardent promoters are persuaded that co-operation leads

mankind to a higher harmonic stage of economical relations, and

it is not possible to stay in some of the strongholds of

co-operation in the North without realizing that the great number

of the rank and file hold the same opinion. Most of them would

lose interest in the movement if that faith were gone; and it

must be owned that within the last few years broader ideals of

general welfare and of the producers' solidarity have begun to be

current among the co-operators. There is undoubtedly now a

tendency towards establishing better relations between the owners

of the co-operative workshops and the workers.

The importance of co-operation in this country, in Holland

and in Denmark is well known; while in Germany, and especially on

the Rhine, the co-operative societies are already an important

factor of industrial life.11 It is, however, Russia which

offers perhaps the best field for the study of cooperation under

an infinite variety of aspects. In Russia, it is a natural

growth, an inheritance from the middle ages; and while a formally

established co-operative society would have to cope with many

legal difficulties and official suspicion, the informal

co-operation -- the art?l -- makes the very substance of Russian

peasant life. The history of "the making of Russia," and of the

colonization of Siberia, is a history of the hunting and trading

art?ls or guilds, followed by village communities, and at the

present time we find the art?l everywhere; among each group of

ten to fifty peasants who come from the same village to work at a

factory, in all the building trades, among fishermen and hunters,

among convicts on their way to and in Siberia, among railway

porters, Exchange messengers, Customs House labourers, everywhere

in the village industries, which give occupation to 7,000,000 men

-- from top to bottom of the working world, permanent and

temporary, for production and consumption under all possible

aspects. Until now, many of the fishing-grounds on the

tributaries of the Caspian Sea are held by immense art?ls, the

Ural river belonging to the whole of the Ural Cossacks, who allot

and re-allot the fishing-grounds -- perhaps the richest in the

world -- among the villages, without any interference of the

authorities. Fishing is always made by art?ls in the Ural, the

Volga, and all the lakes of Northern Russia. Besides these

permanent organizations, there are the simply countless temporary

art?ls, constituted for each special purpose. When ten or twenty

peasants come from some locality to a big town, to work as

weavers, carpenters, masons, boat-builders, and so on, they

always constitute an art?l. They hire rooms, hire a cook (very

often the wife of one of them acts in this capacity), elect an

elder, and take their meals in common, each one paying his share

for food and lodging to the art?l. A party of convicts on its way

to Siberia always does the same, and its elected elder is the

officially-recognized intermediary between the convicts and the

military chief of the party. In the hard-labour prisons they have

the same organization. The railway porters, the messengers at the

Exchange, the workers at the Custom House, the town messengers in

the capitals, who are collectively responsible for each member,

enjoy such a reputation that any amount of money or bank-notes is

trusted to the art?l-member by the merchants. In the building

trades, art?ls of from 10 to 200 members are formed; and the

serious builders and railway contractors always prefer to deal

with an art?l than with separately-hired workers. The last

attempts of the Ministry of War to deal directly with productive

art?ls, formed ad hoc in the domestic trades, and to give them

orders for boots and all sorts of brass and iron goods, are

described as most satisfactory; while the renting of a Crown iron

work, (Votkinsk) to an art?l of workers, which took place seven

or eight years ago, has been a decided success.

We can thus see in Russia how the old medieval institution,

having not been interfered with by the State (in its informal

manifestations), has fully survived until now, and takes the

greatest variety of forms in accordance with the requirements of

modern industry and commerce. As to the Balkan peninsula, the

Turkish Empire and Caucasia, the old guilds are maintained there

in full. The esnafs of Servia have fully preserved their medieval

character; they include both masters and journeymen, regulate the

trades, and are institutions for mutual support in labour and

sickness;12 while the amkari of Caucasia, and especially at

Tiflis, add to these functions a considerable influence in

municipal life.13

In connection with co-operation, I ought perhaps to mention

also the friendly societies, the unities of oddfellows, the

village and town clubs organized for meeting the doctors' bills,

the dress and burial clubs, the small clubs very common among

factory girls, to which they contribute a few pence every week,

and afterwards draw by lot the sum of one pound, which can at

least be used for some substantial purchase, and many others. A

not inconsiderable amount of sociable or jovial spirit is alive

in all such societies and clubs, even though the "credit and

debit" of each member are closely watched over. But there are so

many associations based on the readiness to sacrifice time,

health, and life if required, that we can produce numbers of

illustrations of the best forms of mutual support.

The Lifeboat Association in this country, and similar

institutions on the Continent, must be mentioned in the first

place. The former has now over three hundred boats along the

coasts of these isles, and it would have twice as many were it

not for the poverty of the fisher men, who cannot afford to buy

lifeboats. The crews consist, however, of volunteers, whose

readiness to sacrifice their lives for the rescue of absolute

strangers to them is put every year to a severe test; every

winter the loss of several of the bravest among them stands on

record. And if we ask these men what moves them to risk their

lives, even when there is no reasonable chance of success, their

answer is something on the following lines. A fearful snowstorm,

blowing across the Channel, raged on the flat, sandy coast of a

tiny village in Kent, and a small smack, laden with oranges,

stranded on the sands near by. In these shallow waters only a

flat-bottomed lifeboat of a simplified type can be kept, and to

launch it during such a storm was to face an almost certain

disaster. And yet the men went out, fought for hours against the

wind, and the boat capsized twice. One man was drowned, the

others were cast ashore. One of these last, a refined coastguard,

was found next morning, badly bruised and half frozen in the

snow. I asked him, how they came to make that desperate attempt?"

I don't know myself," was his reply." There was the wreck; all

the people from the village stood on the beach, and all said it

would be foolish to go out; we never should work through the

surf. We saw five or six men clinging to the mast, making

desperate signals. We all felt that something must be done, but

what could we do? One hour passed, two hours, and we all stood

there. We all felt most uncomfortable. Then, all of a sudden,

through the storm, it seemed to us as if we heard their cries --

they had a boy with them. We could not stand that any longer. All

at once we said, "We must go!" The women said so too; they would

have treated us as cowards if we had not gone, although next day

they said we had been fools to go. As one man, we rushed to the

boat, and went. The boat capsized, but we took hold of it. The

worst was to see poor drowning by the side of the boat, and we

could do nothing to save him. Then came a fearful wave, the boat

capsized again, and we were cast ashore. The men were still

rescued by the D. boat, ours was caught miles away. I was found

next morning in the snow."

The same feeling moved also the miners of the Rhonda Valley,

when they worked for the rescue of their comrades from the

inundated mine. They had pierced through thirty-two yards of coal

in order to reach their entombed comrades; but when only three

yards more remained to be pierced, fire-damp enveloped them. The

lamps went out, and the rescue-men retired. To work in such

conditions was to risk being blown up at every moment. But the

raps of the entombed miners were still heard, the men were still

alive and appealed for help, and several miners volunteered to

work at any risk; and as they went down the mine, their wives had

only silent tears to follow them -- not one word to stop them.

There is the gist of human psychology. Unless men are

maddened in the battlefield, they "cannot stand it" to hear

appeals for help, and not to respond to them. The hero goes; and

what the hero does, all feel that they ought to have done as

well. The sophisms of the brain cannot resist the mutual-aid

feeling, because this feeling has been nurtured by thousands of

years of human social life and hundreds of thousands of years of

pre-human life in societies.

"But what about those men who were drowned in the Serpentine

in the presence of a crowd, out of which no one moved for their

rescue?" it may be asked. "What about the child which fell into

the Regent's Park Canal -- also in the presence of a holiday

crowd -- and was only saved through the presence of mind of a

maid who let out a Newfoundland dog to the rescue?" The answer is

plain enough. Man is a result of both his inherited instincts and

his education. Among the miners and the seamen, their common

occupations and their every-day contact with one another create a

feeling of solidarity, while the surrounding dangers maintain

courage and pluck. In the cities, on the contrary, the absence of

common interest nurtures indifference, while courage and pluck,

which seldom find their opportunities, disappear, or take another

direction. Moreover, the tradition of the hero of the mine and

the sea lives in the miners' and fishermen's villages, adorned

with a poetical halo. But what are the traditions of a motley

London crowd? The only tradition they might have in common ought

to be created by literature, but a literature which would

correspond to the village epics hardly exists. The clergy are so

anxious to prove that all that comes from human nature is sin,

and that all good in man has a supernatural origin, that they

mostly ignore the facts which cannot be produced as an example of

higher inspiration or grace, coming from above. And as to the

lay-writers, their attention is chiefly directed towards one sort

of heroism, the heroism which promotes the idea of the State.

Therefore, they admire the Roman hero, or the soldier in the

battle, while they pass by the fisherman's heroism, hardly paying

attention to it. The poet and the painter might, of course, be

taken by the beauty of the human heart in itself; but both seldom

know the life of the poorer classes, and while they can sing or

paint the Roman or the military hero in conventional

surroundings, they can neither sing nor paint impressively the

hero who acts in those modest surroundings which they ignore. If

they venture to do so, they produce a mere piece of


The countless societies, clubs, and alliances, for the

enjoyment of life, for study and research, for education, and so

on, which have lately grown up in such numbers that it would

require many years to simply tabulate them, are another

manifestation of the same everworking tendency for association

and mutual support. Some of them, like the broods of young birds

of different species which come together in the autumn, are

entirely given to share in common the joys of life. Every village

in this country, in Switzerland, Germany, and so on, has its

cricket, football, tennis, nine-pins, pigeon, musical or singing

clubs. Other societies are much more numerous, and some of them,

like the Cyclists' Alliance, have suddenly taken a formidable

development. Although the members of this alliance have nothing

in common but the love of cycling, there is already among them a

sort of freemasonry for mutual help, especially in the remote

nooks and corners which are not flooded by cyclists; they look

upon the "C.A.C." -- the Cyclists' Alliance Club -- in a village

as a sort of home; and at the yearly Cyclists' Camp many a

standing friendship has been established. The Kegelbr?der, the

Brothers of the Nine Pins, in Germany, are a similar association;

so also the Gymnasts' Societies (300,000 members in Germany), the

informal brotherhood of paddlers in France, the yacht clubs, and

so on. Such associations certainly do not alter the economical

stratification of society, but, especially in the small towns,

they contribute to smooth social distinctions, and as they all

tend to join in large national and international federations,

they certainly aid the growth of personal friendly intercourse

between all sorts of men scattered in different parts of the


The Alpine Clubs, the Jagdschutzverein in Germany, which has

over 100,000 members -- hunters, educated foresters, zoologists,

and simple lovers of Nature -- and the International

Ornithological Society, which includes zoologists, breeders, and

simple peasants in Germany, have the same character. Not only

have they done in a few years a large amount of very useful work,

which large associations alone could do properly (maps, refuge

huts, mountain roads; studies of animal life, of noxious insects,

of migrations of birds, and so on), but they create new bonds

between men. Two Alpinists of different nationalities who meet in

a refuge hut in the Caucasus, or the professor and the peasant

ornithologist who stay in the same house, are no more strangers

to each other; while the Uncle Toby's Society at Newcastle, which

has already induced over 260,000 boys and girls never to destroy

birds' nests and to be kind to all animals, has certainly done

more for the development of human feelings and of taste in

natural science than lots of moralists and most of our schools.

We cannot omit, even in this rapid review, the thousands of

scientific, literary, artistic, and educational societies. Up

till now, the scientific bodies, closely controlled and often

subsidized by the State, have generally moved in a very narrow

circle, and they often came to be looked upon as mere openings

for getting State appointments, while the very narrowness of

their circles undoubtedly bred petty jealousies. Still it is a

fact that the distinctions of birth, political parties and creeds

are smoothed to some extent by such associations; while in the

smaller and remote towns the scientific, geographical, or musical

societies, especially those of them which appeal to a larger

circle of amateurs, become small centres of intellectual life, a

sort of link between the little spot and the wide world, and a

place where men of very different conditions meet on a footing of

equality. To fully appreciate the value of such centres, one

ought to know them, say, in Siberia. As to the countless

educational societies which only now begin to break down the

State's and the Church's monopoly in education, they are sure to

become before long the leading power in that branch. To the

"Froebel Unions" we already owe the Kindergarten system; and to a

number of formal and informal educational associations we owe the

high standard of women's education in Russia, although all the

time these societies and groups had to act in strong opposition

to a powerful government.15 As to the various pedagogical

societies in Germany, it is well known that they have done the

best part in the working out of the modern methods of teaching

science in popular schools. In such associations the teacher

finds also his best support. How miserable the overworked and

under-paid village teacher would have been without their


All these associations, societies, brotherhoods, alliances,

institutes, and so on, which must now be counted by the ten

thousand in Europe alone, and each of which represents an immense

amount of voluntary, unambitious, and unpaid or underpaid work --

what are they but so many manifestations, under an infinite

variety of aspects, of the same ever-living tendency of man

towards mutual aid and support? For nearly three centuries men

were prevented from joining hands even for literary, artistic,

and educational purposes. Societies could only be formed under

the protection of the State, or the Church, or as secret

brotherhoods, like free-masonry. But now that the resistance has

been broken, they swarm in all directions, they extend over all

multifarious branches of human activity, they become

international, and they undoubtedly contribute, to an extent

which cannot yet be fully appreciated, to break down the screens

erected by States between different nationalities.

Notwithstanding the jealousies which are bred by commercial

competition, and the provocations to hatred which are sounded by

the ghosts of a decaying past, there is a conscience of

international solidarity which is growing both among the leading

spirits of the world and the masses of the workers, since they

also have conquered the right of international intercourse; and

in the preventing of a European war during the last quarter of a

century, this spirit has undoubtedly had its share.

The religious charitable associations, which again represent

a whole world, certainly must be mentioned in this place. There

is not the slightest doubt that the great bulk of their members

are moved by the same mutual-aid feelings which are common to all

mankind. Unhappily the religious teachers of men prefer to

ascribe to such feelings a supernatural origin. Many of them

pretend that man does not consciously obey the mutual-aid

inspiration so long as he has not been enlightened by the

teachings of the special religion which they represent, and, with

St. Augustin, most of them do not recognize such feelings in the

"pagan savage." Moreover, while early Christianity, like all

other religions, was an appeal to the broadly human feelings of

mutual aid and sympathy, the Christian Church has aided the State

in wrecking all standing institutions of mutual aid and support

which were anterior to it, or developed outside of it; and,

instead of the mutual aid which every savage considers as due to

his kinsman, it has preached charity which bears a character of

inspiration from above, and, accordingly, implies a certain

superiority of the giver upon the receiver. With this limitation,

and without any intention to give offence to those who consider

themselves as a body elect when they accomplish acts simply

humane, we certainly may consider the immense numbers of

religious charitable associations as an outcome of the same

mutual-aid tendency.

All these facts show that a reckless prosecution of personal

interests, with no regard to other people's needs, is not the

only characteristic of modern life. By the side of this current

which so proudly claims leadership in human affairs, we perceive

a hard struggle sustained by both the rural and industrial

populations in order to reintroduce standing institutions of

mutual aid and support; and we discover, in all classes of

society, a widely-spread movement towards the establishment of an

infinite variety of more or less permanent institutions for the

same purpose. But when we pass from public life to the private

life of the modern individual, we discover another extremely wide

world of mutual aid and support, which only passes unnoticed by

most sociologists because it is limited to the narrow circle of

the family and personal friendship.17

Under the present social system, all bonds of union among the

inhabitants of the same street or neighbourhood have been

dissolved. In the richer parts of the large towns, people live

without knowing who are their next-door neighbours. But in the

crowded lanes people know each other perfectly, and are

continually brought into mutual contact. Of course, petty

quarrels go their course, in the lanes as elsewhere; but

groupings in accordance with personal affinities grow up, and

within their circle mutual aid is practised to an extent of which

the richer classes have no idea. If we take, for instance, the

children of a poor neighbourhood who play in a street or a

churchyard, or on a green, we notice at once that a close union

exists among them, notwithstanding the temporary fights, and that

that union protects them from all sorts of misfortunes. As soon

as a mite bends inquisitively over the opening of a drain --

"Don't stop there," another mite shouts out, "fever sits in the

hole!" "Don't climb over that wall, the train will kill you if

you tumble down! Don't come near to the ditch! Don't eat those

berries -- poison! you will die." Such are the first teachings

imparted to the urchin when he joins his mates out-doors. How

many of the children whose play-grounds are the pavements around

"model workers' dwellings," or the quays and bridges of the

canals, would be crushed to death by the carts or drowned in the

muddy waters, were it not for that sort of mutual support. And

when a fair Jack has made a slip into the unprotected ditch at

the back of the milkman's yard, or a cherry-cheeked Lizzie has,

after all, tumbled down into the canal, the young brood raises

such cries that all the neighbourhood is on the alert and rushes

to the rescue.

Then comes in the alliance of the mothers. "You could not

imagine" (a lady-doctor who lives in a poor neighbourhood told me

lately) "how much they help each other. If a woman has prepared

nothing, or could prepare nothing, for the baby which she

expected -- and how often that happens! -- all the neighbours

bring something for the new-comer. One of the neighbours always

takes care of the children, and some other always drops in to

take care of the household, so long as the mother is in bed."

This habit is general. It is mentioned by all those who have

lived among the poor. In a thousand small ways the mothers

support each other and bestow their care upon children that are

not their own. Some training -- good or bad, let them decide it

for themselves -- is required in a lady of the richer classes to

render her able to pass by a shivering and hungry child in the

street without noticing it. But the mothers of the poorer classes

have not that training. They cannot stand the sight of a hungry

child; they must feed it, and so they do. "When the school

children beg bread, they seldom or rather never meet with a

refusal" -- a lady-friend, who has worked several years in

Whitechapel in connection with a workers' club, writes to me. But

I may, perhaps, as well transcribe a few more passages from her

letter: --

"Nursing neighbours, in cases of illness, without any shade

of remuneration, is quite general among the workers. Also, when a

woman has little children, and goes out for work, another mother

always takes care of them.

"If, in the working classes, they would not help each other,

they could not exist. I know families which continually help each

other -- with money, with food, with fuel, for bringing up the

little children, in cases of illness, in cases of death.

"'The mine' and 'thine' is much less sharply observed among

the poor than among the rich. Shoes, dress, hats, and so on, --

what may be wanted on the spot -- are continually borrowed from

each other, also all sorts of household things.

"Last winter the members of the United Radical Club had

brought together some little money, and began after Christmas to

distribute free soup and bread to the children going to school.

Gradually they had 1,800 children to attend to. The money came

from outsiders, but all the work was done by the members of the

club. Some of them, who were out of work, came at four in the

morning to wash and to peel the vegetables; five women came at

nine or ten (after having done their own household work) for

cooking, and stayed till six or seven to wash the dishes. And at

meal time, between twelve and half-past one, twenty to thirty

workers came in to aid in serving the soup, each one staying what

he could spare of his meal time. This lasted for two months. No

one was paid."

My friend also mentions various individual cases, of which

the following are typical: --

"Annie W. was given by her mother to be boarded by an old

person in Wilmot Street. When her mother died, the old woman, who

herself was very poor, kept the child without being paid a penny

for that. When the old lady died too, the child, who was five

years old, was of course neglected during her illness, and was

ragged; but she was taken at once by Mrs. S., the wife of a

shoemaker, who herself has six children. Lately, when the husband

was ill, they had not much to eat, all of them.

"The other day, Mrs. M., mother of six children, attended

Mrs. M--g throughout her illness, and took to her own rooms the

elder child.... But do you need such facts? They are quite

general.... I know also Mrs. D. (Oval, Hackney Road), who has a

sewing machine and continually sews for others, without ever

accepting any remuneration, although she has herself five

children and her husband to look after.... And so on."

For every one who has any idea of the life of the labouring

classes it is evident that without mutual aid being practised

among them on a large scale they never could pull through all

their difficulties. It is only by chance that a worker's family

can live its lifetime without having to face such circumstances

as the crisis described by the ribbon weaver, Joseph Gutteridge,

in his autobiography.18 And if all do not go to the ground in

such cases, they owe it to mutual help. In Gutteridge's case it

was an old nurse, miserably poor herself, who turned up at the

moment when the family was slipping towards a final catastrophe,

and brought in some bread, coal, and bedding, which she had

obtained on credit. In other cases, it will be some one else, or

the neighbours will take steps to save the family. But without

some aid from other poor, how many more would be brought every

year to irreparable ruin!19

Mr. Plimsoll, after he had lived for some time among the

poor, on 7s. 6d. a week, was compelled to recognize that the

kindly feelings he took with him when he began this life "changed

into hearty respect and admiration" when he saw how the relations

between the poor are permeated with mutual aid and support, and

learned the simple ways in which that support is given. After a

many years' experience, his conclusion was that" when you come to

think of it, such as these men were, so were the vast majority of

the working classes."20 As to bringing up orphans, even by the

poorest families, it is so widely-spread a habit, that it may be

described as a general rule; thus among the miners it was found,

after the two explosions at Warren Vale and at Lund Hill, that

"nearly one-third of the men killed, as the respective committees

can testify, were thus supporting relations other than wife and

child." "Have you reflected," Mr. Plimsoll added, "what this is?

Rich men, even comfortably-to-do men do this, I don't doubt. But

consider the difference." Consider what a sum of one shilling,

subscribed by each worker to help a comrade's widow, or 6d. to

help a fellow-worker to defray the extra expense of a funeral,

means for one who earns 16s. a week and has a wife, and in some

cases five or six children to support.21 But such

subscriptions are a general practice among the workers all over

the world, even in much more ordinary cases than a death in the

family, while aid in work is the commonest thing in their lives.

Nor do the same practices of mutual aid and support fail

among the richer classes. Of course, when one thinks of the

harshness which is often shown by the richer employers towards

their employees, one feels inclined to take the most pessimist

view of human nature. Many must remember the indignation which

was aroused during the great Yorkshire strike of 1894, when old

miners who had picked coal from an abandoned pit were prosecuted

by the colliery owners. And, even if we leave aside the horrors

of the periods of struggle and social war, such as the

extermination of thousands of workers' prisoners after the fall

of the Paris Commune -- who can read, for instance, revelations

of the labour inquest which was made here in the forties, or what

Lord Shaftesbury wrote about "the frightful waste of human life

in the factories, to which the children taken from the

workhouses, or simply purchased all over this country to be sold

as factory slaves, were consigned"22 -- who can read that

without being vividly impressed by the baseness which is possible

in man when his greediness is at stake? But it must also be said

that all fault for such treatment must not be thrown entirely

upon the criminality of human nature. Were not the teachings of

men of science, and even of a notable portion of the clergy, up

to a quite recent time, teachings of distrust, despite and almost

hatred towards the poorer classes? Did not science teach that

since serfdom has been abolished, no one need be poor unless for

his own vices? And how few in the Church had the courage to blame

the children-killers, while the great numbers taught that the

sufferings of the poor, and even the slavery of the negroes, were

part of the Divine Plan! Was not Nonconformism itself largely a

popular protest against the harsh treatment of the poor at the

hand of the established Church?

With such spiritual leaders, the feelings of the richer

classes necessarily became, as Mr. Pimsoll remarked, not so much

blunted as "stratified." They seldom went downwards towards the

poor, from whom the well-to-do-people are separated by their

manner of life, and whom they do not know under their best

aspects, in their every-day life. But among themselves --

allowance being made for the effects of the wealth-accumulating

passions and the futile expenses imposed by wealth itself --

among themselves, in the circle of family and friends, the rich

practise the same mutual aid and support as the poor. Dr. Ihering

and L. Dargun are perfectly right in saying that if a statistical

record could be taken of all the money which passes from hand to

hand in the shape of friendly loans and aid, the sum total would

be enormous, even in comparison with the commercial transactions

of the world's trade. And if we could add to it, as we certainly

ought to, what is spent in hospitality, petty mutual services,

the management of other people's affairs, gifts and charities, we

certainly should be struck by the importance of such transfers in

national economy. Even in the world which is ruled by commercial

egotism, the current expression, "We have been harshly treated by

that firm," shows that there is also the friendly treatment, as

opposed to the harsh, i.e. the legal treatment; while every

commercial man knows how many firms are saved every year from

failure by the friendly support of other firms.

As to the charities and the amounts of work for general

well-being which are voluntarily done by so many well-to-do

persons, as well as by workers, and especially by professional

men, every one knows the part which is played by these two

categories of benevolence in modern life. If the desire of

acquiring notoriety, political power, or social distinction often

spoils the true character of that sort of benevolence, there is

no doubt possible as to the impulse coming in the majority of

cases from the same mutual-aid feelings. Men who have acquired

wealth very often do not find in it the expected satisfaction.

Others begin to feel that, whatever economists may say about

wealth being the reward of capacity, their own reward is

exaggerated. The conscience of human solidarity begins to tell;

and, although society life is so arranged as to stifle that

feeling by thousands of artful means, it often gets the upper

hand; and then they try to find an outcome for that deeply human

need by giving their fortune, or their forces, to something

which, in their opinion, will promote general welfare.

In short, neither the crushing powers of the centralized

State nor the teachings of mutual hatred and pitiless struggle

which came, adorned with the attributes of science, from obliging

philosophers and sociologists, could weed out the feeling of

human solidarity, deeply lodged in men's understanding and heart,

because it has been nurtured by all our preceding evolution. What

was the outcome of evolution since its earliest stages cannot be

overpowered by one of the aspects of that same evolution. And the

need of mutual aid and support which had lately taken refuge in

the narrow circle of the family, or the slum neighbours, in the

village, or the secret union of workers, re-asserts itself again,

even in our modern society, and claims its rights to be, as it

always has been, the chief leader towards further progress. Such

are the conclusions which we are necessarily brought to when we

carefully ponder over each of the groups of facts briefly

enumerated in the last two chapters.

1 Toulmin Smith, English Guilds, London, 1870, Introd. p. xliii.
2 The Act of Edward the Sixth -- the first of his reign --
ordered to hand over to the Crown "all fraternities,
brotherhoods, and guilds being within the realm of England and
Wales and other of the king's dominions; and all manors, lands,
tenements, and other hereditaments belonging to them or any of
them" (English Guilds, Introd. p. xliii). See also Ockenkowski's
Englands wirtschaftliche Entwickelung im Ausgange des
Mittelalters, Jena, 1879, chaps. ii-v.
3 See Sidney and Beatrice Webb, History of Trade-Unionism,
London, 1894, pp. 21-38.
4 See in Sidney Webb's work the associations which existed at
that time. The London artisans are supposed to have never been
better organized than in 181O-20.
5 The National Association for the Protection of Labour included
about 150 separate unions, which paid high levies, and had a
membership of about 100,000. The Builders' Union and the Miners'
Unions also were big organizations (Webb, l.c. p. 107).
6 I follow in this Mr. Webb's work, which is replete with
documents to confirm his statements.
7 Great changes have taken place since the forties in the
attitude of the richer classes towards the unions. However, even
in the sixties, the employers made a formidable concerted attempt
to crush them by locking out whole populations. Up to 1869 the
simple agreement to strike, and the announcement of a strike by
placards, to say nothing of picketing, were often punished as
intimidation. Only in 1875 the Master and Servant Act was
repealed, peaceful picketing was permitted, and "violence and
intimidation" during strikes fell into the domain of common law.
Yet, even during the dock-labourers' strike in 1887, relief money
had to be spent for fighting before the Courts for the right of
picketing, while the prosecutions of the last few years menace
once more to render the conquered rights illusory.
8 A weekly contribution of 6d. out of an 18s. wage, or of 1s.
out of 25s., means much more than 9l. out of a 300l. income: it
is mostly taken upon food; and the levy is soon doubled when a
strike is declared in a brother union. The graphic description of
trade-union life, by a skilled craftsman, published by Mr. and
Mrs. Webb (pp. 431 seq.), gives an excellent idea of the amount
of work required from a unionist.
9 See the debates upon the strikes of Falkenau in Austria before
the Austrian Reichstag on the 10th of May, 1894, in which debates
the fact is fully recognized by the Ministry and the owner of the
colliery. Also the English Press of that time.
10 Many such facts will be found in the Daily Chronicle and
partly the Daily News for October and November 1894.
11 The 31,473 productive and consumers' associations on the
Middle Rhine showed, about 1890, a yearly expenditure of
18,437,500l.; 3,675,000l. were granted during the year in loans.
12 British Consular Report, April 1889.
13 A capital research on this subject has been published in
Russian in the Zapiski (Memoirs) of the Caucasian Geographical
Society, vol. vi. 2, Tiflis, 1891, by C. Egiazaroff.
14 Escape from a French prison is extremely difficult;
nevertheless a prisoner escaped from one of the French prisons in
1884 or 1885. He even managed to conceal himself during the whole
day, although the alarm was given and the peasants in the
neighbourhood were on the look-out for him. Next morning found
him concealed in a ditch, close by a small village. Perhaps he
intended to steal some food, or some clothes in order to take off
his prison uniform. As he was lying in the ditch a fire broke out
in the village. He saw a woman running out of one of the burning
houses, and heard her desperate appeals to rescue a child in the
upper storey of the burning house. No one moved to do so. Then
the escaped prisoner dashed out of his retreat, made his way
through the fire, and, with a scalded face and burning clothes,
brought the child safe out of the fire, and handed it to its
mother. Of course he was arrested on the spot by the village
gendarme, who now made his appearance. He was taken back to the
prison. The fact was reported in all French papers, but none of
them bestirred itself to obtain his release. If he had shielded a
warder from a comrade's blow. he would have been made a hero of.
But his act was simply humane, it did not promote the State's
ideal; he himself did not attribute it to a sudden inspiration of
divine grace; and that was enough to let the man fall into
oblivion. Perhaps, six or twelve months were added to his
sentence for having stolen -- "the State's property" -- the
prison's dress.
15 The medical Academy for Women (which has given to Russia a
large portion of her 700 graduated lady doctors), the four
Ladies' Universities (about 1,000 pupils in 1887; closed that
year, and reopened in 1895), and the High Commercial School for
Women are entirely the work of such private societies. To the
same societies we owe the high standard which the girls' gymnasia
attained since they were opened in the sixties. The 100 gymnasia
now scattered over the Empire (over 70,000 pupils), correspond to
the High Schools for Girls in this country; all teachers are,
however, graduates of the universities.
16 The Verein f?r Verbreitung gemeinn?tslicher Kenntnisse,
although it has only 5,500 members, has already opened more than
1,000 public and school libraries, organized thousands of
lectures, and published most valuable books.
17 Very few writers in sociology have paid attention to it. Dr.
Ihering is one of them, and his case is very instructive. When
the great German writer on law began his philosophical work, Der
Zweck im Rechte ("Purpose in Law"), he intended to analyze "the
active forces which call forth the advance of society and
maintain it," and to thus give "the theory of the sociable man."
He analyzed, first, the egotistic forces at work, including the
present wage-system and coercion in its variety of political and
social laws; and in a carefully worked-out scheme of his work he
intended to give the last paragraph to the ethical forces -- the
sense of duty and mutual love -- which contribute to the same
aim. When he came, however, to discuss the social functions of
these two factors, he had to write a second volume, twice as big
as the first; and yet he treated only of the personal factors
which will take in the following pages only a few lines. L.
Dargun took up the same idea in Egoismus und Altruismus in der
National?konomie, Leipzig, 1885, adding some new facts. B?chner's
Love, and the several paraphrases of it published here and in
Germany, deal with the same subject.
18 Light and Shadows in the Life of an Artisan. Coventry, 1893.
19 Many rich people cannot understand how the very poor can help
each other, because they do not realize upon what infinitesimal
amounts of food or money often hangs the life of one of the
poorest cLasses. Lord Shaftesbury had understood this terribLe
truth when he started his Flowers and Watercress Girls' Fund, out
of which loans of one pound, and only occasionally two pounds,
were granted, to enable the girls to buy a basket and flowers
when the winter sets in and they are in dire distress. The loans
were given to girls who had "not a sixpence," but never failed to
find some other poor to go bail for them. "Of all the movements I
have ever been connected with," Lord Shaftesbury wrote, "I look
upon this Watercress Girls' movement as the most successful....
It was begun in 1872, and we have had out 800 to 1,000 loans, and
have not lost 50l. during the whole period.... What has been lost
-- and it has been very little, under the circumstances -- has
been by reason of death or sickness, not by fraud" (The Life and
Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, by Edwin Hodder, vol.
iii. p. 322. London, 1885-86). Several more facts in point in Ch.
Booth's Life and Labour in London, vol. i; in Miss Beatrice
Potter's "Pages from a Work Girl's Diary" (Nineteenth Century,
September 1888, p. 310); and so on.
20 Samuel Plimsoll, Our Seamen, cheap edition, London, 1870, p.
21 Our Seamen, u.s., p. 110. Mr. Plimsoll added: "I don't wish
to disparage the rich, but I think it may be reasonably doubted
whether these qualities are so fully developed in them; for,
notwithstanding that not a few of them are not unacquainted with
the claims, reasonable or unreasonable, of poor relatives, these
qualities are not in such constant exercise. Riches seem in so
many cases to smother the manliness of their possessors, and
their sympathies become, not so much narrowed as -- so to speak
-- stratified: they are reserved for the sufferings of their own
class, and also the woes of those above them. They seldom tend
downwards much, and they are far more likely to admire an act of
courage... than to admire the constantly exercised fortitude and
the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British
workman's life" -- and of the workmen all over the world as well.
22 Life of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, by Edwin Hodder,
vol. i. pp. 137-138.