Read CROWDS AND HEROES - CHAPTER V of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on ReadCentral.com.

THE CROWD AND TOM MANN

I dropped into the London Opera House the other night to see Tom Mann (the English Bill Heywood), another hero or crowd spy-glass that people have taken up awhile-thousands of them-to see through to what they really want.  I wanted to hear him speak, and see, if I could, why the crowd had taken him up, and what it was they were seeing through him.

I am apt to take a dead set at liking a man I do not agree with, if I can.  It gives one a better start in understanding him and in not agreeing with him to some purpose.

But it was not necessary to try to like Tom Mann or to make arrangements for being fair to him.  He came up on the platform (it was at Mr. Hyndmann’s Socialist rally) in that fine manly glow of his of having just come out of jail (and a jail, whatever else may be said about it, is certainly a fine taking place to come out of-to blossom up out of, like a night-blooming cereus before a vast, lighted-up, uproarious audience).  It is wonderful how becoming a jail is to some people!  Had I not seen Mrs. Pethick Lawrence with the flush of Old Bailey on her cheek only a little while before in Albert Hall?

If Tom Mann had had, like Elisha, that night, a fiery chariot at his disposal, and had come down, landed plump out of heaven on his audience, he could not have done half as well with it as he did with that little gray, modest, demure Salford Jail the kind Home Secretary gave him.

He tucked the jail under his arm, stood there silently before us in a blaze of light.  Everybody clapped for five minutes.

Then he waved the air into silence and began to speak.  I found I had come to hear a simple-minded, thoughtless, whole-hearted, noisy, self-deceived, hopelessly sincere person.  He was a mere huge pulse or muscle of a man.  All we could do was to watch him up there on the platform (it was all so simple!) taking up the world before everybody in his big hands and whacking on it with a great rapping and sounding before us all, as if it were Tommy’s own little drum mother gave him.  He stood there for some fifteen minutes, I should think, making it-making the whole world rat-a-tat-tat to his music, to Tommy’s own music, as if it were the music of the spheres.

Mr. Mann’s gospel of hope for mankind seemed to be to have all the workers of the world all at once refuse to work.  Have the workers starve and silence a planet, and take over and confiscate the properties and plants of capital, dismiss the employers of all nations and run the earth themselves.

I sat in silence.  The audience about me broke out into wild, happy appreciation.

It acted as if it had been in the presence of a vision.  It was as if, while they sat there before Tom Mann, they had seen being made, being hammered out before them, a new world.

I rubbed my eyes.

It seemed to me precisely like the old one.  And all the trouble for nothing.  All the disaster, the proposed starvation, and panic for nothing.

There was one single possible difference in it.

We had had before, Pierpont Morgan, the Tom Mann of the banks, riding astride the planet, riding it out with us-with all the rest of us helpless on it, holding on for dear life, riding out into the Blackness.

And now we were having instead, Tom Mann, the Pierpont Morgan of the Trades Unions, riding astride the planet, riding it out with us, with all the rest of us helpless on it, holding on for dear life, riding out into the Blackness.

Of course Pierpont Morgan and Tom Mann are both very useful as crowd spy-glasses for us all to see what we want through.

But is this what we want?

Is it worth while to us, to the crowd, to all classes of us, to have our world turned upside down so that we can be bullied on it by one set of men instead of being bullied on it by another?

This is the thing that the Crowd, as it takes up one hero after the other, and looks at the world through him, is seeing next.

Some of us have seen sooner than the others.  But we are nearly all of us seeing to-day.  We have stood by now these many years through strikes and rumours of strikes, and we have watched the railway hold-ups, the Lawrence Mill strike, and the great English coal strike.  We have seen, in a kind of dumb, hopeful astonishment, everybody about us piling into the fray, some fighting for the rights of labour and some for the rights of capital, and we have kept wondering if possibly a little something could not be done before long, possibly next year, in behalf of the huge, battered, helpless Public, that dear amorphous old ladylike Person doddering along the Main Street of the World, now being knocked down by one side and now by the other.  It has almost looked, some days, as if both sides in the quarrel-Capital and Labour, really thought that the Public ought not to expect to be allowed to be out in the streets at all.  Both sides in the contest are so sure they are right, and feel so noble and Christian, that we know they will take care of themselves; but the poor old Lady!-some of us wonder, in the turmoil of Civilization and the scuffle of Christianity, what is to become of Her.

Is it not about time that somebody appeared very soon now who will make a stand once and for all in behalf of this Dear Old Lady-Like Person?

Is it really true that no one has noticed Her and is really going to stand up for Her-for the old gentle-hearted Planet as a Whole?

We have our Tom Mann for the workers, and we have the Daily Newspaper-the Tom Mann of Capital, but where is our Tom Mann for Everybody?  Where is the man who shall come boldly out to Her, into the great crowded highway, where the bullies of wealth have tripped up her feet, and the bullies of poverty have thrown mud in her face, where all the little mean herds or classes one after the other hold Her up-the scorners, and haters, and cowards, and fearers for themselves, fighting as cowards always have to fight, in herds ... where is the man who is going to climb up alone before the bullies of wealth and the bullies of poverty, take his stand against them all-against both sides, and dare them to touch the dear helpless old Lady again?

When this man arises-this Tom Mann for Everybody-whether he slips up into immortality out of the crowd at his feet, and stands up against them in overalls or in a silk hat, he will take his stand in history as a man beside whom Napoleon and Alexander the Great will look as toys in the childhood of the world.

We are living in a day when not only all competent-minded students of affairs, but the crowd itself, the very passers-by in the streets, have come to see that the very essence of the labour problem is the problem of getting the classes to work together.  And when the crowd watches the labour leader and sees that he is not thinking correctly and cannot think correctly of the other classes, of the consumers and the employers, it drops him.  Unless a leader has a class consciousness that is capable of thinking of the other classes-the consumers and employers, so shrewdly and so close to the facts that the other classes, the consumers and the employers, will be compelled to take him seriously, tolerate him, welcome him, and cooeperate with him, the crowd has come at last to recognize promptly that he is only of temporary importance as a leader.  He is the by-product of one of the illusions of labour.  When the illusion goes he goes.

Capital has been for some time developing its class consciousness.  Labour has lately been developing in a large degree a class consciousness.

The most striking aspect of the present moment is that at last, in the history of the world, the Public is developing a class consciousness.

The Crowd thinks.

And as from day to day the Crowd thinks-holds up its little class heroes, its Tom Manns and Pierpont Morgans, and sees its world through them-it comes more and more to see implacably what it wants.

It has been watching the Tom Mann, or Bill Heywood type of Labour leader, for some time.

There are certain general principles with regard to labour leaders that the crowd has come to see by holding up its heroes and looking through them, at what it wants.  The first great principle is that no man needs to be taken very seriously, as a competent leader of a great labour movement who is merely thinking of the interest of his own class.

The second general principle the Crowd has come to see, and to insist upon-when it is appealed to (as it always is, in the long run) is that no labour leader needs to be taken very seriously or regarded as very dangerous or very useful-who believes in force.

A labour leader who has such a poor idea that a hold-up is the only way he can express it-the Crowd suspects.  The only labour leaders that the Crowd, or people as a whole, take seriously are those that get things by thinking and by making other people think.

The Crowd wants to think.

The Crowd wants to decide.

And It has decided to decide by being made to think and not by being knocked down.

It is not precisely because the Crowd is not willing to be knocked down, and has not shown itself to be over and over again, when it thought its being knocked down might possibly help in a just cause.

But it has not been through coal strikes, Industrial Workers of the World, and syndicalist outbreaks for nothing.

It is not the knocking down indulged in by labour and by capital that the Crowd fears.

It is the not-thinking.

The Crowd has noticed that the knocking-down disposition and the not-thinking disposition go together.

The Crowd has watched Force and Force-people, and has seen what always happens after a time.

It has come to see that people who have to get things by force and not by thinking will not be able to think of anything to do with the things when they get them.

So the Crowd does not want them to get them.

The Crowd has learned all this even from the present owners of things.  It does not want to learn them all over again from new ones.  The present owners of things have got them half by force, and that is why they only half understand how to run them.

But they do half understand because they only half believe in force.  The crowd has seen them get their supremacy by the use of the employment-hold-up, or by starving or threatening to starve the workers.  And now it sees the Syndicalist workers proposing to get control by starving or threatening to starve everybody.  Of the two, those who propose to starve all the people to get their own way, and those who threaten to starve part of the people, it has seemed to the Crowd, naturally, that those who only half believe in starving, and who only starve a part of us, would be likely to be more intelligent as world-runners.

In other words (accepting for the sake of argument the worst possible interpretation of the capitalist class), they have spent several years in learning, and have already half learned that force in industry is inefficient and cannot be made to work.

Now when the Crowd sees the Syndicalists swinging their hats in a hundred nations, with one big hoarse hurrah around a world, with five minutes’ experience, come rushing in, and propose to take up the world-the whole world in two minutes more and run it in the same old bygone way-the way that the capitalists are just giving up-by force-it knows what it thinks.

It thinks it will fight Class Syndicalism.  It makes up its mind it will fight Class Syndicalism with Crowd Syndicalism.  It has decided that, in the interests of all of us, of a crowd civilization, of what we call the world or Crowd Syndicate, its industries should be controlled, not by the owners and not by the workers, but by those men, whoever they are, who can control them with the most skill and efficiency.

The Crowd has come to see that the present owners-judging from current events, and taking them as a whole, and speaking impersonally and historically-have proved themselves, on the whole, incompetent to control industries with skill and efficiency, because they have treated labour as the natural enemy of capital and have quarrelled with it.  It sees that the present workers, acting as syndicates or otherwise, are incompetent to own and control and manage industry because they propose to treat capital as the natural enemy of the workers.  There has been but one conclusion possible.  If Civilization or the Crowd Syndicate has a right to have its industries managed in the interests of all, and if the present owners have proved themselves to be mentally incompetent to control industry because they fight labour, and if the present labourers as a class have proved themselves to be mentally incompetent because they propose to fight capital, there is naturally but one question the crowd syndicate is asking to-day, namely, "Are there any mentally competent business firms at all in the world, any firms whose owners and labourers have thought out a way of not fighting?" From the point of view of the Crowd, the men who are competent, who know how to do their work, do not have to lay down their tools and find out all over again how to do their work.  They know it and keep doing it.

So the Crowd keeps coming back with the question, “Are there or are there not any competent business establishments in our modern life?  Which are they, and where are they?” We want to know about them.  We want to study them.  We want to focus the thought of the world on them and see how they do it.

The answering of this question is what the next Pierpont Morgan and the next Tom Mann are for.

What the next Pierpont Morgan is for is to find out for us who the competent employers are-the employers who can get twice as much work out of their labour as other employers do-recognize them, stand by them and put up money on them.  The next Pierpont Morgan will find out also who the incompetent employers are, recognize them, stand out against them, and unless they have brains enough or can get brains enough to cooeperate with their own workmen, refuse to lend money to them.

This would make a banker a statesman, would make banking a great and creative profession, shaping the destinies of civilizations, determining with coins back and forth over a counter the prayers and the songs, the very religions of nations, and swinging like a pendulum the fate of the world.

The first Pierpont Morgan has made himself, in a necessary transitional movement, a hero in the business world because of a certain moral energy there is in him.  He has insisted in expressing his own character in business.  He would not send money to capitalists fighting capitalists, and in a general way he has compelled capitalists to cooeperate.  The new hero of the business world is going to compel capital not merely to cooeperate with capital, but to cooeperate with labour and with the public.  And as Morgan compelled the railroads of the United States to cooeperate with one another by getting money for those that showed the most genius for cooeperation, and by not getting money for railroads that showed less genius for it, so the next Pierpont Morgan will throw the weight of his capital at critical times in favour of companies that show the largest genius for building the mutual interests of capitalists, employees, and the public inextricably into one body.  He is going to recognize as a banker that the most permanent, long-headed, practical, and competent employers are those whose business genius is essentially social genius, the genius for being human, for discovering the mutual interests of men, and for making human machinery work.

There is a great position ahead for this hero when he comes.  And I have seen in my mind to-day thousands of men, young and old in every business, in every country of the world, pressing forward to get the place.

It is what the next Tom Mann is for-to find out for the Trades Unions and for the public who the most competent workmen are in every line of business, the workmen who are the least mechanical-minded, who have shown the most brains in educating and being educated by their employers, the most power in touching the imaginations of their employers with their lives and with their work, and in cooeperating with them.

When the next Tom Mann has searched out and found the workmen in every line of business who are capable of working with their superiors, and of becoming more and more like them, he will make known to all other workmen and to all other Trades Unions who these workmen are, and how they have managed to do it.  He will see that all Trades Unions are informed, in night-schools and otherwise, how they have done it.  He will see that the principles, motives, and conditions that these men have employed in making themselves more like their superiors, in making themselves more and more fit to take the place of their superiors, in making their work a daily, creative, spirited part of a great business, are made so familiar to all Trades Unions that the policies of all our labour organizations everywhere shall change and shall be infected with a new spirit; and labouring men, instead of going to their shops the world over, to spend nine hours a day in fighting the business in which they are engaged, to spend nine hours a day in trying to get themselves nothing to do, nine hours a day in getting nobody to want to employ them, will work the way they would like to work, and the way they would all work to-morrow morning if they knew the things about capital and about labour that they have a right to know, and that only incompetent employers and incompetent labor leaders year by year have kept them from knowing.