The State: Its Historic Role.
is practised in these unions. To refuse to help a member of your sof9
even at the risk of losing all your belongings and your life, is an act
of treason to the fraternity and exposes the traitor to be treated as the
murderer of a " brother."
What we find to-day among Kabyles, Mongols, Malays, etc., was the
very essence of life of so-called barbarians in Europe from the fifth to
the twelfth, even till the fifteenth century. Under the name of guilds,
friendships, universitates, etc., unions swarmed for mutual defence and
for solidarily avenging offences against each member of the union : for
substituting compensation instead of the vengeance of an "eye for an eye,"
followed by the reception of the aggressor into the fraternity ; for the
exercise of crafts, for helping in case of illness, for the defence of
territory, for resisting the encroachments of nascent authority, for commerce, for the practice of "good neighbourship;" for propaganda, for
everything, in a word, that the European, educated by the Rome of
the Caesars and the Popes, asks of the State to-day. It is even very
doubtful that there existed at that time one single man, free or serf
(save those who were outlawed by their own fraternities), who did not
belong to some fraternity or guild, besides his commune.
Scandinavian Sagas sing their exploits. The devotion of sworn
brothers is the theme of the most beautiful of these epical songs; whereaa
the Church and the rising kings, representatives of Byzantine or Roman
law which reappears, hurl against them their anathemas and decrees,
which happily remain a dead letter.
The whole history of that period loses its significance, and becomes
absolutely incomprehensible, if we do not take the fraternities into account—these unions of brothers and sisters that spring up everywhere
to satisfy the multiple needs of both economic and emotional life of man.
Nevertheless, black spots accumulate on the horizon. Other unions
—those of ruling minorities—are also formed; and they endeavour, little
by little, to transform these free men into serfs, into subjects. Rome
is dead, but its tradition revives; and the Christian Church, haunted
by Oriental theocratic visions, gives its powerful support to the new
powers that are seeking to constitute themselves.
Far from being the sanguinary beast that he is represented to be, in
order to prove the necessity of ruling over him, man has always loved
tranquility and peace. He fights rather by necessity than by ferocity,
and prefers his cattle and his land to the profession of arms. Therefore, hardly had the great migration of barbarians begun to abate,
hardly had hordes and tribes more or less cantoned themselves on their
respective lands than we see the care of the defence of territory against
new waves of immigrants confided to a man who engages a small band