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Mutual Aid by P. Kropotkin

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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 fetes 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.
Burgernutzen--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 chalet, 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 chalet 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
Ariege); 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 metairie 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 Ariege 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 fete 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
djemmaa]. 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 Lozere 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 fruitieres, 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 Ariege 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
Wurttemberg, 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 fetes 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 way(32) "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. 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.(34) 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.(35)

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,(36) 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.(37)

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.(38) 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.(39) 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.(40)

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.(41) 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.(42) 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.(43) 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 djemmaa 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 Wiedertaufer and Geschichte der Wiedertaufer, Cornelius's
Geschichte des munsterischen 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 Munster, 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 accommode selon sa bienseance... on les a
partages.. pour depouiller les communes, on s'est servi de dettes
simulees" (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
(Theron de Montauge, quoted by Taine in Origines de la France
Contemporaine, tome i. p. 441).

5. A. Babeau, Le Village sous l'Ancien Regime, 3e edition. Paris,

6. In Eastern France the law only confirmed what the peasants had
already done themselves. See my work, The Great French Revolution,
chaps. xlvii and xlviii, London (Heinemann), 1909.

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,
Repertoire de Jurisprudence; also the works of Doniol, Dareste,
Bonnemere, 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. Fr. Seebohm, The English Village Community, 3rd ed., 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). See also Dr. G.
Slater's The English Peasantry and the Enclosure of Common Fields,
London, 1907.

17. Ibid. p. 88; also Fifth Lecture.

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. (cf. 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. (cf. K. Burtli, Der Ursprung der
Eidgenossenschaft aus der Markgenossenschaft, Zurich, 1891.)

20. Dr. Reichesberg, Handworterbuch des Schweiz. Volkswirthschaft,
Bern, 1903.

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. Bucher 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 fur 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, 4,554,100 acres of woods out of 24,813,000
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 (Ariege), 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 Wurttemberg 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. Bucher, who, in a special chapter added to Laveleye's
Ureigenthum, has collected all information relative to the
village community in Germany.

31. K. Bucher, 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. For the Balkan peninsula see Laveleye's Propriete Primitive.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. 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,

38. 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.

39. On the Mennonite village community see A. Klaus, Our Colonies
(Nashi Kolonii), St. Petersburg, 1869.

40. 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

41. 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.

42. In the government of Moscow the experiment was usually made
on the field which was reserved for the above-mentioned communal

43. 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, carried on by a
Union of the Creameries, has grown out of their endeavours and
more than a thousand co-operative shops have been opened in the



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 aid.

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 (Gesellenverbande),
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 artel--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
artels or guilds, followed by village communities, and at the
present time we find the artel 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 artels, 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 artels in the Ural, the
Volga, and all the lakes of Northern Russia. Besides these
permanent organizations, there are the simply countless temporary
artels, 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 artel. 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 artel. 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 artel-member by the merchants. In the building
trades, artels of from 10 to 200 members are formed; and the
serious builders and railway contractors always prefer to deal
with an artel than with separately-hired workers. The last
attempts of the Ministry of War to deal directly with productive
artels, 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 artel 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 Kegelbruder, 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

"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 1810-20.

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 1000 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 fur Verbreitung gemeinnutslicher Kenntnisse,
although it has only 5500 members, has already opened more than
1000 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
Nationalokonomie, Leipzig, 1885, adding some new facts. Buchner'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.


If we take now the teachings which can be borrowed from the
analysis of modern society, in connection with the body of
evidence relative to the importance of mutual aid in the
evolution of the animal world and of mankind, we may sum up our
inquiry as follows.

In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of
species live in societies, and that they find in association the
best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in
its wide Darwinian sense--not as a struggle for the sheer means
of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions
unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which
individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and
the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development,
are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the
most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is
obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and
of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development,
and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance
of the species, its extension, and its further progressive
evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to

Going next over to man, we found him living in clans and
tribes at the very dawn of the stone age; we saw a wide series of
social institutions developed already in the lower savage stage,
in the clan and the tribe; and we found that the earliest tribal
customs and habits gave to mankind the embryo of all the
institutions which made later on the leading aspects of further
progress. Out of the savage tribe grew up the barbarian village
community; and a new, still wider, circle of social customs,
habits, and institutions, numbers of which are still alive among
ourselves, was developed under the principles of common
possession of a given territory and common defence of it, under
the jurisdiction of the village folkmote, and in the federation
of villages belonging, or supposed to belong, to one stem. And
when new requirements induced men to make a new start, they made
it in the city, which represented a double network of territorial
units (village communities), connected with guilds these latter
arising out of the common prosecution of a given art or craft, or
for mutual support and defence.

And finally, in the last two chapters facts were produced to
show that although the growth of the State on the pattern of
Imperial Rome had put a violent end to all medieval institutions
for mutual support, this new aspect of civilization could not
last. The State, based upon loose aggregations of individuals and
undertaking to be their only bond of union, did not answer its
purpose. The mutual-aid tendency finally broke down its iron
rules; it reappeared and reasserted itself in an infinity of
associations which now tend to embrace all aspects of life and to
take possession of all that is required by man for life and for
reproducing the waste occasioned by life.

It will probably be remarked that mutual aid, even though it
may represent one of the factors of evolution, covers
nevertheless one aspect only of human relations; that by the side
of this current, powerful though it may be, there is, and always
has been, the other current--the self-assertion of the
individual, not only in its efforts to attain personal or caste
superiority, economical, political, and spiritual, but also in
its much more important although less evident function of
breaking through the bonds, always prone to become crystallized,
which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State
impose upon the individual. In other words, there is the
self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element.

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