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


All the virtues are hungers.  A vice is the failure of desire.  A vice is a man’s failure to have enough big hungers at hand, sternly within reach, to control his little ones.

A man who is doing wrong is essentially bored.  He has let himself drop into doing rows of half-things, or things which he can only half do.  He forgets, for the moment, what it really is that he wants, or possibly that he wants anything.  Then it is that the one little, mean Lonely Hunger-a glass of liquor, a second piece of pie, another man’s wife, or a million dollars, runs away with him.

When a man sins it is because his appetites fail him.  Self-control lies in maintaining checks and balances of desire, centripetals, and centrifugals of desire.  The worst thing that could happen to the world would be to have it placed in the hands of men who only have a gift of hungering for certain sorts of things, or hungering for certain classes of people, or hungering for themselves.

We do not want the man who is merely hungering for himself to rule the world-not because we feel superior to him, but because a man who is merely hungering for himself cannot be taken seriously as an authority on worlds.  People can take him seriously as an authority on his own hunger.  But what he thinks about everything beyond that point cannot be taken seriously.  What he thinks about how the world should be run, about what other people want, what labour and capital want, cannot be taken seriously.

I will not yield place to any one in my sympathy with the dockers.

I like to think that I too, given the same grandfathers, the same sleeping rooms and neighbours, the same milk, the same tincture of religion, would dare to do what they have done.

But I cannot be content, as I take my stand by the dockers, with sympathizing in general.  I want to sympathize to the point.

And on the practical side of what to do next in behalf of the dockers, or of what to let them do, I find myself facing two facts: 

First, the dockers are desperate.  I take their desperation as conclusive and imperative.  It must be obeyed.

Second, I do not care what they think.

What they think must not be obeyed.  Men who are in the act of being scared or hateful, whether it be for five minutes, jive months, or sixty years, who have given up their courage for others, or for their enemies, are not practical.  What a man who despairs of everybody except himself thinks, does not work and cannot be made to work.  The fact that the dockers have no courage about their employers may be largely the employers’ fault.  It is largely the fault of society, of the churches, the schools, the daily press.  But the fact remains, and whichever side in the contest has, or is able to have, first, the most courage for the other side, whichever side wants the most for the other side, will be the side that will get the most control.

If Labour, in the form of syndicalism, wants to grasp the raw materials, machinery, and management of modern industry out of the hands of the capitalists and run the world, the one shrewd, invincible way for Labour to do it is going to be to want more things for more people than capitalists can want.

The only people, to-day, who are going to be competent to run a world, or who can get hold of even one end of it to try to run it, are going to be the people who want a world, who have a habit, who may be said to be almost in a rut, of wanting things all day, every day, for a world-men who cannot keep narrowed down very long at a time to wanting things for themselves.

There will be little need of our all falling into a panic, or all being obliged to rely on policemen, or to call out troops to stave off an uprising of the labour classes as long as the labour classes are merely wanting things for themselves.  It is the men who have the bigger hungers who are getting the bigger sorts of things-things like worlds into their hands.  The me-man and the class-man, under our modern conditions, are being more and more kept back and held under in the smaller places, the me-places and class-places, by the men who want more things than they can want, who lap over into wanting things for others.

The me-man often may see what he wants clearly and may say what he wants.

But he does not get it.  It is the class-man who gets it for him.

The class-man may see what he wants for his class clearly and may say what he wants.

But he does not get it.  It is the crowd-man who gets it for him.

It is a little startling, the grim, brilliant, beautiful way that God has worked it out!

It is one of His usual paradoxes.

The thing in a man that makes it possible for him to get things more than other people can get them is his margin of unselfishness.

He gets things by seeing with the thing that he wants all that lies around it.  With equal clearness he is seeing all the time the people and the things that are in the way of what he wants; how the people look or try to look, how they feel or try to make him think they feel, what they believe and do not believe or can be made to believe; he sees what he wants in a vast setting of what he cannot get with people, and of what he can-in a huge moving picture of the interests of others.

The man who, in fulfilling and making the most of himself, can get outside of himself into his class, who, in being a good class-man, can overflow into being a man of the world, is the man who gets what he wants.

I am hopeful about Labour and Capital to-day because in the industrial world, as at present constituted in our cooeperative age, the men who can get what they want, who get results out of other people, are the men who have the largest, most sensitive outfits for wanting things for other people.

If there is one thing rather than another that fills one with courage for the outlook of labouring men to-day it is the colossal failure Ben Tillett makes in leading them in prayer.

Even the dockers, perhaps the most casually employed, the most spent and desperate class of Labour of all, only prayed Ben Tillet’s prayer a minute and they were sorry the day after.

And it was Ben Tillett’s prayer in the end that lost them their cause-a prayer that filled all England on the next day with the rage of Labour-that a man like Ben Tillett, with such a mean, scared, narrow little prayer, should dare to represent Labour.

In the same way, after the shooting in the Lawrence strike, when all those men (Syndicalists) had streamed through the streets, showing off before everybody their fine, brave-looking thoughtless, superficial, guillotine feelings and their furious little banner, “No God and no Master”-it did one good, only a day or so later, to see a vast crowd of Lawrence workers, thirty thousand strong, tramping through the streets, singing, with bands of music, and with banners, “In God we trust” and “One is our Master, even Christ”-thousands of men who had never been inside a church, thousands of men who could never have looked up a verse in the Bible, still found themselves marching in a procession, snatching up these old and pious mottoes and joining in hymns they did not know, all to contradict, and to contradict thirty thousand strong, the idea that the blood and froth, the fear and unbelief, of the Industrial Workers of the World represented or could ever be supposed to represent for one moment the manhood and the courage, the faithfulness and (even in the hour of their extremity) the quiet-heartedness, the human loyalty and self-forgetfulness, the moral dignity of the American workingman.

It cannot truly be said that the typical modern labouring man, whether in America or England, is a coward; that he has no desire, no courage, for any one except for himself and for his own class.  Mr. O’Connor of the Dockers’ Organization in the East of Scotland, said at the time of the strike of the dockers in London:  “This kind of business of the bureaucratic labour men in London, issuing orders for men to stop work all over the country, is against the spirit of the trades unions of England.  It is a thing we cannot possibly stand.  We have an agreement with the employers, and we have no intention of breaking it.”

It cannot be said that the typical modern labourer is listening seriously to the Syndicalist or to the Industrial Worker of the World when he tells him that Labour alone can save itself, and that Labour alone can save the world.  He knows that any scheme of social and industrial reform which leaves any class out, rich or poor, which does not see that everybody is to blame, which does not see that everybody is responsible, which does not arrange or begin to arrange opportunity and expectation for every man and every degree and kind of man, and does not do it just where that man is, and do it now, is superficial.

If we are going to have a society that is for all of us, it will take all of us, and all of us together, to make it.  Mutual expectation alone can make a great society.  Mutual expectation, or courage for others, persistently and patiently and flexibly applied-applied to details by small men, applied to wholes by bigger ones-is going to be the next big serious, unsentimental, practical industrial achievement.  And I do not believe that for sheer sentiment’s sake we are going to begin by rooting up millionaires and, with one glorious thoughtless sweep, saying, “We will have a new world,” without asking at least some of the owners of it to help, or at least letting them in on good behaviour.  Nor are we going to begin by rooting up trade unions and labour leaders.

The great organizations of Capital in the world to-day are daily engaged, through competition and experiment and observation, in educating one another and finding out what they really want and what they can really do; and it is equally true that the great organizations of labour, in the same way, are educating one another.

The real fight of modern industry to-day is an educational fight.  And the fight is being conducted, not between Labour and Capital, but between the labouring men who have courage for Capital and labouring men who have not, and between capitalists who have courage for Labour and those who have not.  To put it briefly, the real industrial fight to-day is between those who have courage and those who have not.

It is not hard to tell, in a fight between men who have courage and men who have not, which will win.

Probably, whatever else is the matter with them, the world will be the most safe in the hands of the men who have the most courage.

There are four items of courage I would like to see duly discussed in the meetings of the trades unions in America and England.

First, A discussion of trades unions.  Why is it that, when the leaders of trades unions come to know employers better than the other men do and begin to see the other side and to have some courage about employers and to become practicable and reasonable, the unions drop them?

Second, Why is it that, in a large degree, the big employers, when they succeed in getting skilled representatives or managers who come to know and to understand their labouring men better than they do, do not drop them?  Why is it that, day by day, on all sides in America and England, one sees the employing class advancing men who have a genius for being believed in, to at first questioned, and then to almost unquestioned, control of their business?  If this is true, does it not seem on the whole that industry is safer in the hands of employers who have courage for both sides and who see both sides than of employees who do not?  Does not the remedy for trades unions and employees, if they want to get control, seem to be, instead of fighting, to see if they cannot see both sides quicker, and see them better, than their employers do?

Third, A discussion of efficiency in a National Labour Party from the point of view of the trend of national efficiency in business.  Apparently the most efficient and shrewd business men in England and America are the men who are running what might be called lubricated industries-who are making their industries succeed on the principle of sympathetic, smooth-running, mutual interests.  If the successful modern business man who owns factories is not running each factory as a small civil war, is it not true that the only practical and successful Labour Party in England, the only party that can get things done for labour and that can hold power, is bound to be the party that succeeds in having the most courage for both sides, in seeing the most mutual interests, and in seeing how these interests can be put together, and in seeing it first and acting on it before any other merely one-sided party would be able to think it out?

Fourth, A discussion of the selection of the best labour leaders to place at the head of the unions.

Nearly every man who succeeds in business notably, succeeds in believing something about the people with whom he deals that the men around him have not believed before, or in believing something which, if they did believe it, they had not applied or acted as if they had believed before.  If, in order to succeed, a business man does not believe something that needs to be believed before other people believe it, he hires somebody who does believe it to believe it for him.

Perhaps Labour would find it profitable to act on this principle too, and to see to it that the leaders chosen to act for them are not the noisiest minded, but the most creative men, the men who can express original, shrewd faiths in the men with whom they have to deal-faiths that the men around them will be grateful (after a second thought) to have expressed next.

In the meantime, whether among the labourers or the capitalists, however long it may take, it is not hard to see, on every hand to-day, the world about us slowly, implacably getting into the hands of the men, poor or rich, who have the most keen, patient courage about other people, the men who are “good” (God save the word!), the men who have practical, working human sympathies and a sense of possibilities in those above them and beneath them with whom they work-the men who most clearly, eagerly, and doggedly want things for others, who have the most courage for others.

I have thought that if we could find out what this courage is, how it works, how it can be had, and where it comes from, it might be more worth our while to know than any other one thing in the world.

I would like to try to consider a few of the sources of this courage for others.