A PICTURE OF CIVILIZATION AT THE CLOSE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
JOHN HENRY MACKAY
THE metropolis on the Thames, the "greatest wart of the earth," was again having its annual show: the gloomy spectacle of those crowds whom only excess of misery --- the spectre of starvation --- could drive forth from their dens, into the heart of the city, to that spot of world-wide fame which is dedicated to the memory of past days of "glory and greatness," there to consider the question: "What must we do to live tomorrow? How pass this long winter without work and without bread?" . . .
For these unfortunate creatures who had long ago learned that there are no rights for them on earth, either to a foot of its soil, or to the least of its goods, had now lost even their last "right"; the right of slaving for others, --- and were standing face to face with that terrible spectre which is the most faithful companion of poverty throughout their whole life, --- hunger.
It was despair that drove these people, whose modesty and contentment were so great as to cease to he comprehensible, out into public view.
The damp, cheerless October was approaching its end. The days were growing shorter and the wild hours of night-life longer.
The broad, cold area of Trafalgar Square was beginning to fill with the forms of misery already in the early morning hours.
From all parts of the city they came: happy he whom misery had not yet forced to give up his own home, the filthy hole in the cellar or in the fifth story, or the corner of a room; happy he, too, who by the aid of a lucky chance had been able to scrape enough together on this day, to find shelter in one of the lodging-houses; but in most of these sickly, pale, and tired faces was but too plainly to be read that they had "rested" through the cold night on one of the benches along the Thames Embankment, or in a gateway, or passage-way of Covent Garden.
The "unemployed!" Yes; they were again causing a great deal of talk in this year of grace! For thirty-five years already had they thus, year after year, at the beginning of winter, stepped into the presence of wealth. And every year their numbers increased, every year their assurance became more confident, every year their demands more definite! The February riots of 1886, which had not passed without attacks upon property, were still in everybody's memory. They had nothing in common with any party; they had no avowed leaders in Parliament House who "championed" their rights: hunger was their leader and driver; no organization bound them, but misery welded them together. Whence in the days of political and social convulsions come suddenly the unknown helpers, like rats from their holes? Ah! they are the recruits of the great army of silence who were never counted and who yet so often turned the scales. . . . They are the members of that great mass which is called the people: the disfranchised, the outlawed, the nameless ones, those who never were and suddenly are; a secret disclosed and a shadow turning into substance, the apparently dead coming to life, an ever-disregarded child unexpectedly grown to manhood, --- that is the people!
It was never taken into calculation, as it had no rights; now it calculates on its own account, and its numbers are crushing. . . .
You liars who became great in its name, who committed the crimes of your power behind its cloak, how you have suddenly been swept away! You deceived, betrayed, and sold it; it was a word, a phantom, a nothing, which you manipulated at your own will and pleasure; and now it suddenly rises before you! Bodily before you! . . .
As ever before, so in this year the bourgeoisie and its government met the unemployed with indifference, ignorance, and hard-heartedness. When the sight of them daily began to become uncomfortable, it called its police to drive them from the Square. They went to Hyde Park; they were permitted to return to the Square, to be again brutally dispersed.
They drove them mad that they might arrest them; and when they appeared before the judge, he declared their processions as "theatrical," and no hand was lifted to strike this villain in the face; they addressed themselves to the State with the humble petition for work, and the State answered that it could not help them, --- but their sight was not keen enough to enable them to see that it was the State itself that ruined them; only more tired, more hungry, more embittered, they returned from their fruitless petitioning of the magistrates --- for work; and when the early morning dawned, crowds of them were standing hungry and terribly excited before the gratings of the docks, where daily a not inconsiderable number of strong arms were in demand for the loading and unloading of steamers. Whoever by long waiting and a more reckless use of his fists and elbows succeeded in forcing his way to the front and securing a job, was helped for one day. But comparatively --- how few were these! Most of them, despair in their hearts and a curse upon their lips for this wretched life, returned to their comrades in misery, to hear what they would propose; they had "nothing to do." . . .
For weeks already they had been coming together, and for weeks the London daily papers, delighted at having new matter with which to fill their endless columns, were publishing long editorials on the question of the "unemployed": much wise precept --- and not a trace of understanding of the real causes of this misery; many fine words --- and not a single way out for the unfortunate ones. Each had another remedy for the evil, and proposed it with the ridiculous air of infallibility; but all agreed that it was a disgrace for our "orderly commonwealth" that this degraded rabble should undertake to parade its misery in public. What of it that they were starving by day and freezing by night, silently in their remote corners and holes, where no one either saw or heard; but so to hurt the aesthetic, tender feelings of good society by the daily exhibition of all this misery and filth, what insolence!
It was on a Sunday --- the one before the last of this cheerless and gloomy month --- that Trupp determined to devote his free afternoon to an attempt to get a more correct picture of the extent and the significance of these gatherings than he was able to form from the accounts of his comrades and fellow-workmen in the shop. At about noon he had been at Clerkenwell Green, the old-time meeting-place of so many parties and years, and had there listened with indignation to the latter portion of the speeches, and was now going with an exceptionally large procession of unemployed, headed by a red flag, down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square. He had not yet met an acquaintance, but entered into conversation with a man marching beside him, who, on seeing that he was smoking, asked him for a little tobacco, "not to feel the hunger so"; and the conversation, notwithstanding the fact that Trupp could not readily express himself in English, and hardly understood one-half of what was said to him, while he had to guess at the other, soon took a lively turn after he had bought a few sandwiches in the nearest of Lockhart's cocoa-shops, with his last pennies, for the sickly and sleepy-looking man. He still had work --- for how long, of course, he did not know. It was a long, daily repeated story of suffering which the other was telling him: miserably paid work the whole summer through; its sudden suspension; piece after piece of the scant furniture carried to the pawnbroker's; soon the want of even the most necessary means of support; his little child dead for the want of food; the wife in the workhouse --- and he himself: "I will hang myself before I'll go there too," he concluded.
Trupp looked at him; he was an intelligent-looking, rather elderly man; then he asked him: ---
"How many unemployed, do you think, are there in London?"
"Very many!" said the other. "Very many! Certainly more than a hundred thousand, and if you count the women and children, still more! Half a million! The people who meet on Trafalgar Square form only a small part, and of those a fifth consists of professional beggars and tramps, of pickpockets and idlers, and has nothing to do with the unemployed, who only want honest work. But they don't give us any, and let us starve. Yesterday again we called on the Board of Works."
"What's that?" interrupted Trupp, who knew little of the ramified institutions of the city.
"They are the authorities who have in charge the erection of the great city buildings, --- their office is quite near the Square, --- and there was one of the speakers who explained that they might make a beginning with the works on the Thames, of which so much has already been said, and give employment to a good many people; and another one, he spoke of the building of sewers, and the founding of villages for the poor in the vicinity of London --- but they don't want to, they don't want to."
Trupp listened attentively.
"And at the same time two and a half millions pounds sterling are yearly raised in London for poor-rates; two millions alone by voluntary contributions. Where the money goes, I should like to know!"
"Yes," said Trupp; "those are your servants, the servants of the people and the trustees of its affairs."
"And we also called at police headquarters, and got the answer that any one who was found without work and shelterless, and who refused to go to the workhouse, would be punished with imprisonment at hard labor."
"What are you?"
"Oh, I have done many things when I was hungry and couldn't get my work. The last time, till two months ago, I worked in a canning factory, made tin boxes --- every day twelve hours, never less, but often fourteen."
"And how much?"
"Well, when things went well, eight shillings, mostly seven shillings, often only six shillings per week."
For some time Trupp had been living at the East End. He knew the wages of the English workingmen. He knew families of eight persons who together did not earn more than twelve shillings a week, of which they had to pay four for their hole of a room. . . . He knew that among the women and girls who make match-boxes and bags a perpetual famine was raging.
Famine in the richest city of the world! He clenched his fists.
He himself earned more. He was a very well-informed and competent mechanic, whose work required good judgment. From childhood he had grown to manhood in this immense misery, the sight of which had never forsaken him in any country, in any city. But what he saw in London of mad luxury on the one side, and hopeless misery on the other, surpassed everything.
He drew from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper, which he suddenly remembered, and hastily scanned it while walking on. It was the "Jubilee Manifesto" of the Social Democratic Federation.
He scanned the following figures: ---
Four millions of people in Great Britain dependent on charity . . . the workingmen not in a position to get more than one-fourth of what they produce . . . thirty per cent. of the children of the Board Schools half starved . . . fifty-four persons died in one year of famine in London . . . eighty thousand women --- ten in a hundred --- prostitutes. . . .
Pictures from the "Fifty Years of Progress!"
"You are yourselves to blame," he said to his companion, while they were passing through Fleet Street, the street of the great newspapers whose names were calling down from all the roofs and all the walls; "you are yourselves to blame," and the roar of the ever-swelling procession, which was seriously and threateningly moving towards the Strand, seemed to emphasize the force of his words --- "you are yourselves to blame if the earth which belongs to you is not yours. Your own thoughtlessness and cowardice, --- these are your worst enemies. Not the handful of miserable moneybags and idlers," he said, contemptuously.
"Ah, are you a Socialist?" said the other, smiling.
Trupp shrugged his shoulders.
"Look," he exclaimed aloud, in his bad and faulty English, "those stores which you have filled with bread and which you pass by hungry; those magazines which you have filled to bursting with clothes, to whom do they belong if not to you and to your shivering children?"
There was none among those who, in the irresistible tide of the procession, had heard and understood these simple words who had not assented to them; but, silently, worn out, and infirm of will, they all bore their gnawing hunger past the exhibitions of superfluity. None of these hands which had always toiled for others only, which had always filled the pockets of others only, and which, themselves empty, were forever to remain empty, was now stretched out to take back a small, an insignificantly small, part of what was being withheld from them.
Silently and without confidence they were moving on, down the long thoroughfares of wealth, --- they who had been robbed of everything, and left with nothing; left with not a foot of soil, with not one of the boasted rights of man, with not even the most necessary means of support, as a terrible arraignment of all the institutions of an earthly justice, as an unavoidable, unanswerable denial of the existence of a divine justice, --- and they, they were described as a disgrace of their age, they who were only the victims of the disgrace of their age. Such was the impenetrable confusion of ideas at the close of the nineteenth century, and the guilty believed to escape their guilt by sophistically confounding cause and effect of the prevailing conditions. These were Trupp's thoughts as he silently marched down the endless street in the silent procession. The throng seemed to grow greater and greater the nearer it came to Trafalgar Square. Trupp and the workingman with whom he had been talking were still marching side by side. But they no longer talked. Each was occupied with his own thoughts. The words of the former had been heard, and he noticed how they were being discussed.
"Those damned Germans," exclaimed a young man, "are to blame for everything. They force our wages down." And he looked round at Trupp threateningly.
The latter knew at once what the other meant.
He had already too often heard of the "bloody Germans," not to understand this old grievance which came in such fine stead for the exploiters to divert the attention of workingmen from the real causes of their misery.
His strong figure, his gloomy, bearded face, his whole attitude, seemed, however, too little encouraging for the young man to strike up a quarrel with him; and Trupp left him and the others in their belief in the baseness of the German workingmen who "come to England only to steal the bread from the English."
But it did not lessen his pain and his bitterness when he recalled who it really was that came from Germany to England. He knew those multitudes whom not only the hope of better wages, but also the hope of a freer and truer life, compelled to leave their country; for how was it possible for them to live under the constant pressure of a mad law --- the disgraceful law, as popular opinion named it --- which presumed to murder thought, to stifle speech, and to keep watch over every movement? . . .
When the procession reached the Square, Trupp was surprised to see the great crowds already assembled there. The large, broad space of the interior was almost filled by a surging mass, and in all the surrounding streets the traffic of wagons and people seemed to be as great as on week days.
The approaching procession was received with stormy shouts. Trupp left it, and remained standing near Morley's Hotel. He saw the files of men entering the Square, saw the man who was carrying the red flag, with several others mounting the pedestal of the Nelson Column, and a hundred-headed crowd gathering round the next moment, attentively listening to the words of a speaker.
He had secured a standing-place a little above the crowd, on the street leading to St. Martin's Church. So he could see the pedestal of the column, which was densely crowded. He saw the violent gesticulations of the speakers, the waving of the red flag, and the black helmets of the police, who in large numbers had taken their position directly below the speakers.
Sometimes he was shut off from the view by a passing cab or a closely packed omnibus.
Suddenly he saw a tremendous commotion arising in the crowd that occupied the Square; a cry of terror and of indignation from a thousand throats at once broke into the air, and like a mighty, dark billow, the crowd surged back, far overflowing the steps on the north side and the streets. . . . The police, with their whole force, had suddenly and without warning made an attack on the quietly listening meeting, and were now recklessly driving the screaming crowd before their closed ranks.
Trupp felt a frightful rage rising within him. This cold and deliberate brutality made his blood boil. He crossed the street and stood by the stone enclosure of the place; beneath him lay the Square already half emptied. With blows and kicks the police were driving the defenceless ones before them. Whoever made the least show of resistance was pulled down and led away.
A young man had escaped from their hands. In mad haste he sought to gain the exit of the place. But those stationed there pulled him instantly down, while the scattered crowd outside accompanied this act of repulsive brutality with exclamations of contempt and rage.
As Trupp saw this, he jumped with one leap over the wall which was still several yards high at this place --- it slopes gradually from the north to the south. He hurried to the pedestal of the column, on which several of the speakers were still standing.
The flag-bearer had placed himself against the column and held the flag with both hands. He was evidently determined to yield only to the most extreme force.
Now the police again slowly drew back to the column and again took up their position there; and the crowd followed them from all sides and all the entrances of the Square. In a few minutes the entire area was again covered by a dark sea of humanity, whose indignation had increased, whose calls for the continuation of the speech had grown more impatient, whose excitement had become more intense.
Again the pedestal of the column was occupied: people mutually lifted and pulled each other up. Before the flag stood a young man of about thirty years. He was one of the best speakers and very well known among the unemployed. He was deathly pale with excitement, and looked with an expression of implacable hatred down upon the forms of the policemen at his feet.
One of the constables shouted up to the speakers that on the first incendiary word he should arrest each one of them on the spot.
With an indescribable expression of contempt the young man looked down upon him.
Trupp was standing just before the line of policemen, so near that he was almost forced by the thronging multitude to touch them. But notwithstanding this, he raised his arm in the air, and called loudly to the men on the pedestal: "Go on!" This at once became the sign for loud applause among those standing round and for countless similar exclamations.
It seemed at first as if the police intended to make a fresh attack in consequence of this outbreak of the feelings of the multitude. But they refrained, and the speaker began. He spoke on the right of free speech in England, and on its attempted suppression, which had so far remained unsuccessful. He saw before him a throng such as Trafalgar Square had not held that year. Here, before the eyes of the entire world, they had placed themselves with their demand: "Bread or Labor." And here, in the face of this prodigal riches and wealth which they themselves had created, they would continue to assemble until their demand should be fulfilled. They had not broken a window, and had not taken a piece of bread to appease their hunger; whoever said so was a liar. "It would have been very agreeable to them if we had done it; in that case the police would have a convenient excuse for having disturbed our peaceable meetings, and for having most brutally incited us to excess."
Beside Trupp was standing the reporter of a newspaper, who was laboriously jotting down cipher notes. He could have torn the paper out of the indifferent man's hands. Disgusted, he tried to force his way through the crowd surrounding him. He could proceed only step by step. The assembly no longer consisted exclusively of the unemployed: mixed up with them was the riffraff of London that gathers on all occasions in incredibly large numbers, many curious ones who wished to see what would happen, and a number of really interested persons. Women with their children on their arms, tired and hungry, stood close by the tawdry dress dolls of the West End, of whom a few had ventured on the Square after they had been assured that it was "not yet dangerous"; and in the throng Trupp saw one face that made him indignant: the brazen, scornfully smiling face of a gentleman in a tall hat who was standing near the column, and who now interrupted the words of the speaker with: "Nonsense!" Clearly a prominent official who --- relying as much on the patience and forbearance of the people as on the clubs and revolvers of the police --- permitted himself this bit of insolence. An indignant muttering rose, while he looked over the surrounding crowd with his impudent smile.
"Just wait, fellow," Trupp was thinking to himself; "some day you won't feel like smiling"; but almost at the same time he joined in the laughter that broke forth when a powerful blow from behind drove the stove-pipe hat of the tall gentleman down over his eyes and ears. The crowd scattered, and an empty space quickly rose round the chastised offender, who already felt no longer like smiling. The police came forward, although they had not seen anything of the incident. Trupp had been carried away with the crowd; he was now standing on the east side of the Square.
Meantime the other three sides of the column had also become covered with people, and the meeting was being addressed by some of their numbers. Some things that were said had no bearing on the purpose of the meeting, and the voice of many a speaker was more expressive of his self-complacency and of the childish pleasure he took in his own words than of the indignation over the conditions which he was to criticise, and of the endeavor to arouse this same indignation in the hearts of his hearers and to fan it into a flame.
With an angry smile Trupp was watching one of those violently gesticulating professional popular speakers, who, with tiresome verbosity, was telling the starving Londoners of their starving comrades in India, and recounting the atrocities committed by the English government in that unhappy land, instead of revealing to them the equally arbitrary acts of the same government by which they were condemned to suffer and slowly to die.
Loud laughter and jeers, however, suddenly caused him to transfer his attention from the speaker to one of those pitiable fanatics who believe they have a mission at all such gatherings to lead the misguided people back into the lap of the infallible Church; to sustain the poor in their trials and troubles, and the rich in their pleasures. Trupp looked at the black-coated man curiously. The closely shaved sallow face, the cowardly look of the eyes, and the honeyed tone of the drawling voice would have been repulsive to him, even if the man had not stood in the service of what he hated, because he saw in it the chief agency for keeping the people in ignorance and mental slavery.
But the words of the missionary were received only with scorn and laughter. From all sides his voice was drowned by loud cries. Threats were heard: "Go away!" Then orange peel and nut shells were flying at him. But he let everything pass over him and drawled out his carefully committed phrases, to which nobody paid heed, as calmly and monotonously as if the whole affair did not concern him at all. He was pushed from the spot where he was standing. Hardly had he gained a foothold again when he continued with his speech. The conduct of this new Christ was at once ridiculous and pitiable. Suddenly an admirably well-aimed egg was hurled at the speaker --- a rotten, pasty mass closed his mouth with a clapping sound. That was too much for even this martyr. He no longer held his ground. Soiled from top to toe, spitting and rapidly ducking his head, he slipped through the crowd standing round, followed by the coarse laughter of the excited and screaming people.
Trupp shrugged his shoulders. He wished the mouth of every corrupter of the people and falsifier of truth might be closed in an equally drastic manner.
He turned away and allowed the swarm to carry him past the fountains, whose dirty water-basins were strewn with refuse of every kind, back again to the north side. There also, holding themselves by the lantern posts of the broad railing, a number of speakers were shouting their excited, jumbled, and exciting phrases down to the crowd far beneath them in the Square.
One of them seemed familiar to Trupp. He remembered having seen him in the meetings of the Social Democratic Federation. He was a party Socialist. Trupp listened. Again he did not understand everything, but from disjointed catchwords he could infer that he was speaking of the rapid development of capitalistic exploitation, of the ever more threatening bread riots incident to it, of the uselessness of the means employed for their suppression, and that he was attacking that old superstition which, first put forth by a prejudiced mind, has since taken such deep root, --- that it is the insufficiency of the means of subsistence which necessitates the misery of certain classes. Then he passed to the familiar theories --- holding the balance between Social Democratic and Communistic ideas --- of the distribution of goods of which there is a superabundance: all in sentences whose separate words, by the repetitions of many years, seemed as if cast in brass and to have turned into mere phrases.
The effect, however, was small. There were but few who followed every word or who were even able to follow. The majority allowed themselves to be driven from one place to another by the incessant commotion which swayed them to and fro as the wind sways the grass of the field. The voices of the speakers tried in vain, for the most part, to struggle against the roar.
Around the benches on the north side of the Square a boisterous lot of children had gathered: street Arabs who at every hour of the day flood the principal streets of London by hundreds --- cast out by their parents, if they still have any, and pushed on by the dreaded fist of the policeman. Children who never have a youth; who in their life have never seen anything of nature except the dust of Hyde Park, where on a summer's evening they bathed in the Serpentine with hundreds of their comrades; who have never in their life eaten their fill, and who never have anything but dirty rags on their bodies; who have never been spoiled, as they have never been unspoiled.
Laughing and screaming, they were standing and jumping about the dirty and battered benches. One little fellow held himself for a minute on the back of one of them: with comical gravity he imitated the movements of the speaker, and screamed senseless words to the throng. His dirty, prematurely old face was radiant with pleasure. Then he was pulled down by his exulting comrades.
Trupp smiled again, but bitterly. This little scene seemed like the most cutting satire on the most serious business. He looked at the dirty, vicious faces of those standing round him; wherever he looked: misery, hunger, and depravity. And they were his brothers. He felt as if he belonged to them all; inseparably bound together with them by a common fate.
Above Trafalgar Square lay a monotonous gray, heavy, sunless sky. This cold dome seemed farther away than usual.
Again a great commotion surged through the masses from the foot of the Nelson Column. Evidently it was being deserted. Over the dark sea of heads the red flag could be seen turning in the direction of Westminster. And without a word having been said, thousands followed it of their own accord. The separate individuals formed and condensed themselves into one immense serpent. So it moved down Whitehall, past the seats of so many magistrates, past the historical memorials whose bloody traces had been washed away by time from the stones of this famous street, past the two sentinels of the Horse Guards, who in their ostentatious uniforms and on their well-fed horses were keeping watch over the entrances of that low structure; and up through the crowds of spectators on both sides, who followed the strange procession as soon as it had gone by. . . .
In the midst of the ranks walked Trupp. His pulses beat somewhat faster as he felt himself drawn away and down by the currents of this day.
The towers of Parliament House rose ever more distinctly and impressively out of the fine mist. Then suddenly Westminster Abbey lay before the countless multitude that was irresistibly pouring itself upon its doors. Trupp made an attempt to get a view of the head of the procession beyond the black hats that surrounded him. If it would only come to a crisis! --- was his glowing wish.
But quietly he saw the red flag turn away from the main entrance and pass around the corner: the procession followed it in closed rank and file.
All kinds of exclamations were heard about him. He did not know what it all meant. And suddenly he found himself --- the procession had to gain admission through the eastern entrance --- in the great silence of those vast walls which were filled with the dust of ages and consecrated, with the glory of centuries. . . .
He stood in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, jammed in the throng that found no room in the narrow pews. He saw the busts and read the names which he did not know. What were they? And what were they to him? He knew only one English poet, and his name he did not find, --- Percy Bysshe Shelley. He had loved liberty. Therefore he loved him and read him, even where he did not understand him. He did not know that English narrow-mindedness and illiberality had distinguished him, like Byron, by obstinately denying him the honor of a place in this half-lighted corner among so much genuine genius and so much false greatness.
Divine service was being held. From the middle of the space, as from a great distance, came the gloomy, monotonous, half-singing voice of a clergyman, who continued his sermon after an imperceptible interruption in consequence of the unexpected intrusion, thus again quieting the congregation, his frightened audience. . . . Trupp did not understand a word. The crowd around him exhaled a pungent odor of sweat and dust. They became more excited after the great feeling which had overpowered them on their entrance had again disappeared. Some had kept their hats on; a few others, who had removed theirs, now put them on again. Some climbed on the pews and looked over the rest. Only a few low words fell upon the grand sublimity of this silence. Trupp sat down. In spite of himself he was seized by a strange, inexplicable feeling, such as he had not experienced in a long --- in an indefinitely long --- time. . . . The more we are hedged in by space, the more we suffer when the wings of our thoughts beat against its walls until they bleed; the farther it circles around us, the more we forget it and all its limits. Trupp looked down, and for half an hour forgot entirely where he was.
His whole life rose before him again. But the embrace of this memory was not gentle and consoling as that of a mother to whom her son returns, but violent, relentless, crushing, as must be the fatal kiss of a vampire!
His whole life! He was now a man of thirty-five, in the zenith of his life, in the full possession of his strength.
He sees his childhood again, --- the starved, joyless years of his childhood, as the son of a day-laborer in a dirty village on the flats of Saxony; the father a numbskull; the mother a quarrelsome woman, forever dissatisfied, from whom he inherited his iron energy and uncontrollable passion; with whom he was in continual conflict, until one day, after a frightful scene in which his ripening sense of justice had rebelled against her groundless accusations and complaints, he ran away from her --- the father never being considered. . . .
He sees himself again as a fifteen-year-old, neglected boy, without a penny, wandering from place to place for two days; he feels the ravenous hunger again which finally, after two days, gave him the courage to beg a piece of bread in a farmhouse; and again the dejected despair which finally drove him --- it was on the morning of the third day, a wet, cold, autumn morning (how well he remembered that morning!), when he rose shivering with cold and wholly exhausted from the ground --- to ask for work in the next village. It was in the vicinity of Chemnitz. He enters a blacksmith shop. The boss laughs and examines the muscles of his arm. He can stay, he may sit down to breakfast, a thick, tasteless soup, which the journeymen ate sullenly, but which he devours greedily. The others make fun of his hunger; but never had ridicule disturbed him less. Then, with mad zeal, with burning pleasure and love for all things, he works and studies.
Days, weeks, months, pass on. . . . Nobody concerns himself about him. The hours of the evening after his day's work seem longest to him. He does not know what to do. Once he gets hold of a book and then spells out sentence after sentence. It happens to be "The Workingmen's Programme," by Lassalle. He has found it in a corner of his garret. Somebody must have forgotten it there. He does not understand a word of it. But one day the boss sees him bent over the soiled leaves, and tears them out of his hands and boxes his ears. "Damned Social Democrats!" he cries; "do they want to ruin even the child!" The boy does not understand this, either. He cannot imagine what bad thing it is that he has done. But he has heard the word "Social Democracy" for the first time. That is twenty years ago. . . .
So he forms his first friendship. For from this hour one of the workmen, an orthodox follower of the prosperous General German Workingmen's Society, which at that time was still in irreconcilable opposition to the Eisenachian movement of the Workingmen's Party, took an interest in him, and instead of the heavy, scientific treatise of that gifted champion of German Socialism he slipped into his hands a sheet printed on thin, oily paper, which illustrated the social evils of the time by the light of daily events more successfully to the awakening spirit than even the most simple treatise on political economy could have done. There he read the descriptions, collected from all sources, of hostile antagonisms: the hate-filled accounts of insolent revelry, of brutal heartlessness, of shameful arrogance on the one side, the passionate portrayals of despairing poverty, of deceived labor, and of down-trodden weakness on the other, the radically opposite side; and his young heart bubbled over with pain and indignation. Hate and love divided it forever: hate of the former, and love for those who were suffering like him. Mankind soon resolved itself into bourgeoisie
and workingmen, and soon he saw in the former nothing but calculating rogues and lazy exploiters; in the latter, only victims, the nobler the more unfortunate they were. . . .
Years pass by. When at the age of nineteen he leaves the gloomy, cheerless city, he has advanced far enough by dint of hard work in the evening hours to read fluently and to write correctly, if not easily. He is a journeyman. His certificate is excellent.
Every fibre of his being urges him to travel. The great war has spent its rage. While in Paris, the fires and flames of insurrection paint the heavens as with a lurid glare until they are extinguished in streams of blood, he, cutting his way through the Thuringian forest, wanders towards Neurnberg and Munich, where for a year he finds a favorable opportunity in a large factory for perfecting himself in his calling.
As yet an enthusiastic follower of the "most advanced" party, an instinctive feeling of revolt is nevertheless already beginning to rise within him against its authoritative principles, which do not permit of even the least deviation from the sanctioned form. . . .
He is urged abroad, to foreign lands. He turns to Switzerland. After many delays he reaches Zurich, then Geneva. And there for the first time he hears the word "Anarchism." He had never heard it in Germany.
Nowhere as yet is it spoken aloud. Only here and there it is heard in a whisper. No one yet probably knows what it means. No one yet dares attempt to explain it. No one yet dreams of its significance for the future. . . .
At the age of twenty-two he is a revolutionist!
Hitherto he had been a reformer.
For the first time he came in contact with people of all nationalities, whom a strong fate had brought together there: emigrants, conspirators, sappers and miners, --- the men and the women of the European revolution, some still bleeding from fresh wounds, others already covered with scars: all filled by that feverish impatience, that trembling passion, that painful longing "to do something," but here growing more and more away from their former life.
They talk to him: the young of their hopes, the old of their disappointments and --- their hopes. Occasionally one of them disappears: he has a "mission" to fulfil. Another one comes. Their names are scarcely mentioned, never remembered.
These are strange times for Trupp.
In 1864 Marx had founded the "International," in London. Its great successes went hand in hand with ever-increasing dissensions among the members who defended private property here and denied it there; who championed Collectivism here and were already beginning to lose themselves more and more in the misty regions of Communism there. Their differences came to light at their congresses.
Then an iron hand is thrust into the breach and makes it deeper and wider. Bakounine, the Russian officer, the disciple of Hegel, the leader of the Dresden insurrection, for three days "King of Saxony," the Siberian exile, the tireless conspirator, the eternal revolutionist, the prophet and the dreamer, enters the lists against the iron tyrant, the gifted savant, the celebrated author of the Bible of Communism. The struggle of two lions mutually devouring each other!
In 1868 rises the "Alliance of Socialistic Democracy"; and hardly a year before Trupp had come to Switzerland, the Jurassian Confederation, the "cradle of Anarchy." Almost three years he remains in Switzerland; he learns French.
As he comes to Berne once more before leaving the country for years, the curtain is there slowly falling over the last act of that prodigious life. . . . Death had already opened its gates for Michael Bakounine. Although he has already been deserted by almost all, the dying giant is still making convulsive efforts of despair to gather new hosts round him and send them forth in the hopeless conflict. . . . It is past. Only fools still swear by a flag which the storm of decades has torn into shreds. . . . Never did he who had held it aloft achieve what he wished: to overthrow the world. But he did succeed in hurling the torch of dissension into the stronghold of the "International." . . .
Otto Trupp is one of his last disciples.
At the age of twenty-four he is a terrorist. He has learned them by heart, those mad eleven principles "concerning the duties of the revolutionist to himself and to his fellow-revolutionists," which begin with the frightful words of the greatest illiberality: "The revolutionist is a self-immolated person. He has no common interests, feelings, or inclinations, no property, not even a name. Everything in him is devoured by a single, exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion, --- the revolution."
Filled by this single interest, this single thought, this single passion, the twenty-three-year-old Trupp returned to his native country. Wandering through it from south to north, his bitterness increased with the greatness of the misery which he saw wherever he went.
It was the year in which the two schools of Socialism joined their forces on that soil which was destined to bear one of the best organized, most active, and most compact parties: the one that will perhaps claim the immediate future. . . .
He journeys from city to city. Everywhere he tries to undermine the existing order of things. He invites the workingmen to leave the snail-paced course of reform; he points out to them the way of force as their saviour and liberator. And many a one who is incapable of curbing the impatient desires of his passionate heart with the reins of reason, follows him.
Now he calls himself an Anarchist!
Henceforth he battles under this sign. The word seems to him to indicate with sufficient clearness what he aspires after: he wants no authority, neither that of an individual, nor of a majority. While he ventures upon all possible sciences with an iron will, he erects for himself the shapeless structure of a general philosophy in whose dark chambers he would have gone astray had he not seen through the ill-formed roof, shimmering with promise, the blue sky of an ideal of brotherly love. . . .
He trusts only in the revolution henceforth. With one blow it will create the paradise of peaceable social life. Therefore every impulse of his longing is directed to it. For it he gathers recruits: for the great revolution of his class which will be the last.
So he journeys from city to city: under how many assumed names, with passports exchanged how often, he no longer knows. . . . He is forever a refugee: not a day passes on which he must not keep his eyes open, his lips closed, to escape pursuit. Often the prison claims him. But it always releases him again after short intervals; nothing can be proved against him.
Then in quick succession follow the shots at the Emperor in Berlin. He applauds the regicides, both of whom were fanatics; the one, moreover, an idiot, the other a lunatic. The reaction triumphs. Its terrible period of degradation begins: the lowest feelings venture abroad. The spirit of persecution, the lust of denunciation, hatred, fill all hearts.
When Trupp --- one of the first --- is arrested, he despairs of being ever again released from prison. The threads are being drawn together above him. A miraculous accident saves him. While still in search of the arch-traitor and conspirator, they sentenced him for insulting his Majesty, to half a year, not dreaming who it was whom they held in their hands. Every day during this half-year he saw the sword drawn over him, ready to descend. . . . But it does not descend. He is again free. Amidst great privations he reaches the boundary, reaches Paris. The other period of his life begins: that of the refugee abroad. He knows he cannot venture a step into Germany that would not prove fatal. . . .
The secret plotter and agitator who silently scatters his fermenting seed in every direction becomes the public propagandist, the debater in the clubs, the speaker on the street-corners, and in the meeting-halls.
The French Anarchists have founded the first Anarchistic Communistic organ: "Le Révolté!" The followers of the new creed, which is slowly but surely spreading, take the initiative in the Anarchistic organization of "free groups," for the first time building on the principle of decentralization. The workingmen's congress of Marseilles, 1879, is communistic; its significance is not yet to be estimated; the split between Communism and Collectivism --- externally hardly noticeable --- is internally already completed.
Trupp is everywhere. His thirsting heart never beat more restlessly than in these years of the great, awakening movement which carries everything before it. What he hears among the Frenchmen, he repeats to the small but already expanding circle of his German comrades.
Then he makes the acquaintance of Carrard Auban. He sees that pure, almost childlike enthusiasm on the brow of the young man of twenty-five, that reckless courage which delights him, and that self-denying devotion which seems to grow from day to day. But hardly has he made his acquaintance and won his friendship, when he loses him again for a long time: Auban is convicted. The ringing words of his great speech before the judges accompany Trupp through the two years during which they are separated. . . .
When in 1884 they meet again in London, --- both refugees, --- Auban has become another; Trupp remained the same. Only the memory of the great, glorious days of revolt still unites them.
Auban understands him now for the first time; but he can no longer understand Auban.
In Germany the creed has become deed. Suddenly there appeared upon the frightened world the face of horror: Vienna, Strassburg, Stuttgart, the Niederwald, and the assassination of Rumpff --- all these deeds have happened which have been infinitely harmful to the spread of the idea of liberty, which have placed many a new murderous weapon in the hands of the enemy, so that from now on --- for an indefinite time --- the word "Anarchist" has become synonymous with "murderer." Will it ever be cleared there? Is it not lost for Europe: abandoned to eternal misunderstanding, to insatiable persecution, to newly aroused hatred?
Trupp is in London --- in the exhausting and petty quarrels of the day his energies have been wasted until now ---
Suddenly Trupp awoke. He again came to himself. He fixed his hat. He looked round and up to the dizzy vaulted ceiling.
The drawling words of the clergyman were still dying away in plaintive tones scarcely audible in that immense space. In fine and rich tones rose the boy voices in response. Then once more the walls --- tremblingly blending the reverberating waves of sound into a deep beauty --- threw down the tones on the silent people below. . . .
Trupp found himself again wedged in the multitude whose clothes were ever more strongly emitting a vaporous odor which mingled with the mouldy dust to form an oppressive sultriness.
Now they had all become silent, the unemployed. Some were tired, others stupefied; almost all taken captive by the strangeness of the situation. Most of them had probably not been inside a church since their boyhood. Now in spite of themselves they were being held captive by memories which they had buried long ago.
Many were leaning against the backs of the pews, closely pressed together, in a restless half-slumber; others, in a suppressed voice, hardly breathing, were whispering questions to each other: they wanted to know who were those marble figures in the garb of past ages, the wonderful head-dress, with the serious expressions, in the challenging attitudes. . . . Were they those who had the power to make them happy, to destroy them?
The daring spirit of revolt with which not an hour ago they had started from Trafalgar Square had vanished. Wedged together, they were standing here --- how much longer were they to remain standing so? Why did they not go away? What were they doing here? Here no help was to come to them. Here was no other consolation than words. But they wanted work, work and bread.
Bitterness spread among the lingering ones. In Trupp it blazed forth like fire. From the chancel came, monotonous and uniformly slow like trickling drops, the words of the clergyman. He did not understand them. Perhaps no one understood them. They told of things that are not of this world. . . .
"Put all your trust in God!" said the plaintive voice.
"In God!" came back softly, in wonderful strains of hope and rejoicing, the youthful voices.
"He alone can save you!" the clergyman again.
Was there a suspicion in the minds of the starving ones of the unconscious mockery of this terrible faith which was a lie from beginning to end? A movement of unrest rose among them. All had become awake; all shook off the slumber of stupefaction.
Then a shrill laugh sounded from Trupp's lips, in which infidelity, hatred, and bitterness mingled. Cries answered him from different sides. Some also laughed. Then fitful laughter, here and there. Confused cries.
The reluctantly and mechanically uncovered heads were again covered. There was pushing and jostling.
The majority were crowding towards the door. Quickly the throng poured into the open air. The worshippers gave a sigh of relief. The Lord God, without whose will not a hair falls to the ground, had turned the danger away from his children. They were freed from the impious. They were again by themselves. The clergyman, who had stopped for a moment at the outbreak of the noise, went on, and those remaining again turned their eyes, full of confidence and serene calm, towards him, their shepherd.
Trupp was exasperated. He would have liked nothing better than a scandal in this place.
The dull light of the damp, cold October afternoon again enveloped the throng emerging from the twilight of Westminster Abbey, from its "sacred silence" into the noise of the day. The greater part of the unemployed had been obliged to wait out-doors. They had sullenly and doubtingly followed the pacifying words of a high dignitary of the Church, or listened with applause to the bitter truths of the disloyal Christian Socialist.
They again formed into a procession headed for the Square which they had left hardly an hour ago. They followed the waving of the red flag. They crowded together in closed ranks as if so to feel their hunger less, their power more.
Trupp was pushed on.
In regular steps their heavy feet struck the hard ground. They supported each other. An immense procession was filing through the narrow Parliament Street. . . .
And out of this procession rose as by premeditation a song. Low, sombre, sad, and defiant, it burst from a thousand throats to the sky like the cloud of smoke which presages the outbreak of the conflagration. . . .
They sang the old immortal song of "The Starving Poor of Old England": ---
Let them bray, until in the face they are black,
That over oceans they hold their sway,
Of the flag of Old England, the Union Jack,
About which I have something to say:
'Tis said that it floats o'er the free, but it waves
Over thousands of hard-worked, ill-paid British slaves,
Who are driven to pauper and suicide graves ---
The starving poor of Old England!
And in a mighty chorus the refrain in which every voice joined: ---
'Tis the poor, the poor, the taxes have to pay,
The poor who are starving every day,
Who starve and die on the Queen's highway ---
The starving poor of Old England!
Another stanza and still another: ---
'Tis dear to the rich, but too dear for the poor,
When hunger stalks in at every door ---
And closing with a terrible, daring menace, exulting in hope: ---
But not much longer these evils we'll endure,
We, the workingmen of Old England!
Trupp tore himself away from the ranks and turned into a side street.
Behind him Westminster Abbey sank away in the ever-deepening shadows. The sombre, sorrowful tones in which the hungry and starving expressed their sufferings grew fainter and fainter in his ear. . . .
'Tis the poor, the poor, the taxes have to pay,
The poor who are starving every day,
Who starve and die on the Queen's highway ---
The starving poor of Old England!
No judge, either in heaven or on earth, heard the terrible arraignment of these wretched ones who were still waiting for justice.
With bent head, his lips firmly pressed together, occasionally casting a sharp glance round to assure himself of his way, Trupp walked on, probably for an hour, towards the north of London.