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


During the recent coal strike in England, as at all times in the world, heroes abounded.

The trouble with most of us during the coal strike was not in our not having heroes, but in our not being quite sure which they were.

Davy McEwen, a miner who stood out against the whole countryside, and went to his work every day in defiance of thousands of men on the hills about him trying to stop him, and hundreds of thousands of men all over England trying to scare him, was not a hero to Mr. Josiah Wedgewood.  Mr. Josiah Wedgewood one day in the height of the conflict, from his seat in the House of Commons, rose in his might-and before the face of the nation called Davy McEwen a traitor to his class.

Sir Arthur Markham, one of the largest of the mine-owners, in the height of the conflict between the mine-owners and the miners over wages, rose in the House and declared that, in his opinion as a mine-owner, the mine-owners were wrong and the miners were right, and that the mine-owners could afford to pay better wages, and should yield to the men.

He was called a traitor to his class.

At the last moment in the coal strike, when the Government had done its best, and when the labour leaders still proposed to hold up England and defy the Government until they got their way, Stephen Walsh, one of the leaders of the miners, stood up in the face of a million miners and said he would not go on with the others against the Government.  “It is now time for the trades union men to return to work.  We have done what we could.  Our citizenship should be higher than our trades unionship, and with me, as long as I am a trades union man, it will be.”

He was called a traitor to his class.

I am an unwilling and unfit person, as a sojourner and an American, to take any position on the merits of the question as to the disestablishment of the Church in Wales.  But when I saw Bishop Gore standing up and looking unblinkingly at facts or what he thought were facts which he would rather not have seen and which were not on his side, and when I saw him voting deliberately for the disestablishment of his own Church, I greeted with joy, as if I had seen a cathedral, another traitor to his class.  I almost believe that a Church that could produce and supply a man like this for a great nation looking through every city and county year by year for men to go with it ... a Church that could produce and keep producing Bishop Gores, would be entitled, from a great nation to anything it liked.

Men seem to be capable of three stages of courage.  Courage is graded to the man.

There is the man who is so tired, or mechanical-minded, that he can only think of himself.

There is the man who is so tired that he can only think of his class.

And there is the man that one has watched being moved over slowly from a Me-man into a Class-man, who has begun to show the first faint beginnings of being a Crowd-man.

One man has courage for himself because he knows what he wants for himself.  Another has courage for his class because he knows what he wants for his class.  Another has courage for God and for the world because there are things he sees that he wants for God and for the world, and he sees them so clearly that he sees ways to get them.

Lack of courage is a lack of vision or clear-headedness about what one wants.  I do not know, but I can only say that it has seemed to me that Bishop Gore has a vision or clear-headedness about what he wants for democracy, and that he uses his vision of what he wants for democracy to true his vision for his class.  Perhaps also he has a vision for his class for the church people that it is for the interest church people to be the class that is, out of all the world, supremely considerate, big, leisurely, unfretful in its dealings with others.  Perhaps also he has a vision for himself and is clear-headed for himself, and has seen that though the steeples fall about him, and though the altars go up in smoke, he will keep the spirit of God still within his reach.  The gentleness, the grim hope for the world and the patience that built the cathedrals, shall be in his heart day and night.

I hold no brief for Bishop Gore.

I know there must be others like him who voted on the other side.

I know there are hundreds of thousands of employers who in their hearts are like him.  I know there are hundreds of thousands of men in the trades unions who are like him.

I am not sure that Bishop Gore, on the merits of the case, was right.  I wish this day I knew that he was wrong.  I wish that I had spent the last six months in fighting him, in fighting against his vision, that I might be more free to-day to point to him with joy when I go up and down the streets with men and look at the churches with men-the rows of churches-and try to tell them what they are for.  I have seen that the cathedrals scattered about under the sky in England are but God’s little tools to make great cities on the earth, and to build softly out of the hearts of men and women men who shall be cathedrals too-men buttressed against the world, men who can stand alone.

And it has seemed to me that Tom Mann and D.A.  Thomas are incompetent as leaders of industry because they do not see that Labour is full of men who can do things like this.  I am proud, over in my country across the sea, to be cousin to a nation that is still the headquarters-the international citadel-of individualism upon the earth.  The world knows if England does not, that this kind of individualism is the most characteristic, the most mighty and impregnable Dreadnought against that England has produced.

But England knows it too.

I have seen thousands of men in England in their dull brown clothes pass by me in the street who know and respond to the spirit that is in Bishop Gore, and who have the courage to show it themselves.  And the vision is in them, but it is not waked.  The moment it is waked we will have a new world.  It is because Tom Mann and D.A.  Thomas are not leaders of men who have this spirit that they are about to be dropped as typical leaders of Labour and Capital in modern times.  No man will be accepted by the Crowd to-day as a competent leader of his class who is afraid of the other classes.  No man will be said to be a true leader, to be competent to make things move in the world, who does not have three gears of courage:  courage for himself, courage for his own people, courage for other people; and who does not dare to deal with other people as if they really might be dealt with, after all, as fellow human beings capable of acting like fellow human beings, capable of finer and of truer things, of more manly and patient, more shrewdly generous, more far-sighted things, than might appear at first.

Was Mr. Josiah Wedgewood right when he called Davy McEwen a traitor to his class?

I do not want to judge Davy McEwen.  Such things are matters of personal interpretation, and of standing with a man face to face for a moment and looking him in the eyes.

Of course, if I had done this, I might have been tempted and despised him.

And I might now.  The thing that I would have tried to look down through to in him, if I had looked him in the eye, would have been something like this:  “Are you or are you not, Davy McEwen, standing out day after day against your class because you can see less than your class sees, because you are a mere me-man?  Do you go by here grimly day by day, past all these people lined up on the hills, sternly thinking of yourself?”

If I found that this was true, as it might well be, and often is, I would say that Davy McEwen was a traitor to his class.  But if I found Davy McEwen going past hills-ful of workmen because he had a larger, fairer vision of what his class is than they had, if it proved to be true that the crowd-man in him was keeping the class-man in place, and holding true his vision for his class, I would say that it was his class that was being a traitor to him; I would say that sooner or later his class would see in some quiet day that it had been a traitor to him and to the world, and a traitor to itself.

If socialism and individualism cannot work together, and if (like the masculine and feminine in spirit) each cannot make itself the means and the method of fulfilling the other, there is no reason why either of them should be fulfilled.

In the meantime, there is a kind of self-will that seems to me, as its shadow comes across my path, like God himself walking on the earth.  And I have seen it in the rich and I have seen it in the poor, and in people who were being wrong and in people who were being right.

It is like hearing great bells in the dark, singing in the solemn night to so much as hear of a man somewhere, I might go and see, who stands alone.

If we want to stand together, let us begin with these men who can stand alone.

There is a sense in which Christ died on the cross because He could find at the time no other way of saying this.  There is a sense in which the decline of individualism is what he died for.

Or we might call it the beginning of individualism.  He died for the principle of doing what he thought was right before anybody else did it, and whether anybody else did it or not.  The self-will of Jesus was half the New Testament.  He crucified himself, his mother, and a dozen disciples that His own vision for all might be fulfilled.  Socialism itself, what is good in it, would not exist to-day if Jesus, the Christ, had not practised socialism, in the best sense, by being an individualist.

If we are going to get to socialism by giving up individualism, by abolishing heroes, why get to it?

This more glorious self-will is not, of course, of a kind that all men can expect to have.  Most of us have not the vision that equips us, and that gives us the right, to have it.  But we can exact of our leaders that they shall have it-that they shall see more for us than we can see for ourselves, that they shall hold their vision up before us and let us see it, and let us have the use of it, that they shall be true to us, that they shall be the big brothers of the people.