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  • The Crisis in Russia
    to maintain it to establish one s relation to men on the basis of the eternal law of doing to another what one wishes would be done to oneself to overcome in ourselves those evil passions which subjugate us to the power of others not to be anyone s master nor anyone s slave not to dissemble not to lie and not to swerve either from fear or for advantage from the demands of the higher law of one s conscience all this requires effort But to imagine that the establishment of certain forms will in some mystical way bring all men to all justice and virtue to repeat without any effort of the mind that which all members of a certain party say to fidget to argue to lie to dissemble to abuse each other and to fight all this takes place of itself and requires no effort People are so desirous that it should be so that they assure themselves that it is so Thus there appears a theory according to which it is proven that people can without effort attain the fruits of effort It is a theory exactly similar to that according to which prayer for one s perfection or faith in the redemption of sins by the blood of Christ or in grace transmitted by the sacraments may replace personal effort On this same psychological illusion is founded that astounding theory about the improvement of social life through the alteration of external forms which has produced and is producing such dreadful calamities and which arrests more than anything else the true progress of mankind Men recognize that something is wrong in their lives and that something needs improving Man is able to improve only that one thing which is in his power himself But in order to improve oneself one must first of all recognize one s own deficiencies and this one does not desire to do Consequently all our attention is directed not to that which is always in our power ourselves but to those external conditions which are not in our power and the alteration of which can improve the condition of men as little as the shaking up of wine and the pouring of it into another vessel can alter its quality Thus there follows first the idle and secondly the pernicious vain we correct other people evil one may kill those who hinder the general welfare and depraving activity We will reconstruct the social forms and society will prosper It would be well were human welfare so easily attainable Unfortunately or rather fortunately this is not so for if some people could arrange the lives of others these others would be the unhappiest of men Human life changes not from the alteration of external forms but only from the internal work of each man upon himself All effort to influence external forms or other people while failing to alter the position of others only depraves and belittles the life of him who like all political agitators kings ministers presidents members of parliament all kinds of revolutionaries and liberals surrenders himself to this pernicious error Light minded people judging superficially especially those who have been upset by the fratricidal butchery which has lately taken place in St Petersburg and by all the events accompanying this outrage think that the chief cause of these events lies in the despotism of the Russian government and that if the autocratic monarchical form of the Russian government were replaced by a constitutional or republican one then such events could not be repeated But the chief calamity if one considers its full meaning from which the Russian people are now suffering is not the St Petersburg events but the reckless disgraceful and cruel war that has been instigated by a score of immoral individuals This war has already destroyed and mutilated hundreds of thousands of Russians and threatens to destroy and mutilate as many more It has ruined and is ruining not only the men of our time but moreover it imposes in the form of debts an enormous tax upon the labor of future generations and destroys the souls of men depraving them That which took place at St Petersburg on January 9 22 is nothing in comparison with what is taking place there There at the war are killed and mutilated a number a hundred times greater than that which perished on January 9 22 at St Petersburg And the destruction of these men there not only fails to disgust society as does the slaughter in St Petersburg but most of society looks with indifference and a part even with approval upon the fact that more and more thousands of men are being driven there for the same senseless and purposeless destruction This calamity is dreadful Therefore if one does speak of the calamities of the Russian people the principal one is the war The St Petersburg events are only an incidental occurrence accompanying the great calamity and if one is to seek for the means of liberation from calamities one should find such as would remove both But the alteration of the despotic form of government into a constitutional or republican form will not deliver Russia from either of these calamities All constitutional states equally with the Russian are incessantly and senselessly arming themselves and as with the Russian these states send their nations to commit fratricide when it suggests itself to a few individuals in power The Abyssinian Boer Spanish Cuban Philippine Chinese Tibetan and various African wars all these are wars conducted by constitutional and republican governments And in just the same way these governments crush any uprisings and manifestations of the will of the people with armed force when they find it necessary They regard such uprisings as transgressions of the law i e of that which these governments at a given moment regard as the law When in a state whatever may be its constitution there exists an organized coercive

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  • THE END OF THE AGE - Introduction
    TOLSTOY Was there ever so much to do Our age is a revolutionary one in the best sense of the word not of physical but moral revolution Higher ideas of the social state and of human perfection are at work W E Channing You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free John 8 32 Transcribed and edited by WWW NONRESISTANCE ORG OBERLIN OHIO 2010 This transcription

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  • THE END OF THE AGE
    people have always regarded power not as a good thing toward which it is natural for every man to strive as the most European nations regard power and unfortunately as some corrupt people of the Russian nation are already regarding it but as an evil that man should avoid Most Russians have therefore always preferred to bear all kinds of physical misery proceeding from violence rather than accept the spiritual responsibility of participating in it Thus most Russians have submitted to power and are submitting to it not because they cannot overthrow it as the revolutionaries wish to teach them to do and not because they cannot attain such participation as the liberals wish to teach them to attain but because most Russians have always preferred and do prefer submission to violence rather than strife with it or participation in it Despotic government was established and has maintained itself in Russia through the simple violence of the strong and pugnacious over those who are weak and not desirous of struggling The legion of the call of the Variags 3 obviously composed after the Variags had already conquered the Slavonians fully expresses the relation of the Russian people toward power even before Christianity We ourselves do not wish to participate in the sins of power If you do not regard it as a sin come and govern us The submission of the Russian people to the most cruel and insane autocrats from Ivan IV down to Nicholas II often even not Russian can be explained by this same attitude toward power Thus in older times did the Russian people regard power and their relation toward it Even now most look upon it in the same way It is true that as in other states the same deceits by which Christian people have been unconsciously compelled not only to submit but even to obey in deeds contrary to Christianity have been perpetrated also in relation to the Russian people But these deceits reached only the upper corrupt layers of the people whereas most have retained that view of power by which man regards it as better to bear suffering from violence than to participate in the violence The cause of such an attitude of the Russian people toward power consists I think in that the Russian nation more than other nations has preserved true Christianity as a teaching of brotherhood equality humility and love a Christianity that sees a radical difference between submitting to violence and obeying it A true Christian may submit he even cannot do anything but submit without strife to every violence but he cannot obey it i e recognize its lawfulness However much governments in general and the Russian government in particular have striven and are striving to replace this truly Christian attitude toward power by the orthodox Christian teaching the Christian spirit and distinction between submission to power and obedience continues to live in the great majority of the Russian working people The incompatibility between governmental coercion and Christianity has never ceased to be felt by the majority of the Russian people and this contradiction has been especially keenly and distinctly felt by the more sensitive Christians who did not embrace the distorted teaching of orthodoxy by the so called sectarians These Christians of various denominations did not recognize the lawfulness of governmental power From fear the majority submitted to government demands which they regarded as unlawful while some of the minority circumvented the demands by various devices or else fled from them Many Orthodox Russian people began to understand the incompatibility of Christianity with power when state coercion threw as it were a challenge to all true Christians by introducing universal conscription demanding from every man readiness to kill At the same time non Orthodox Christians of various denominations began to categorically refuse to become soldiers And although there were not many such refusals hardly one in a thousand conscripts still their significance was great These refusals which called forth cruel executions and persecutions on the part of the government no longer opened the eyes of sectarians only but of all Russian people to the un Christian demands of the government An enormous majority of people who previously had not thought about the contradiction between the divine and human law saw this contradiction and among the majority of the Russian nation there began the invisible persistent incalculable work of the liberation of consciousness Such was the position of the Russian nation when the utterly unjustifiable Japanese war broke out It is this war coupled with the development of reading and writing with universal dissatisfaction and above all with the necessity of calling out for the first time hundreds of thousands of middle aged men the reservists dispersed over all Russia torn from their families and rational labor for a glaringly insane and cruel purpose it is this war which has served as the final impetus that has transformed the invisible and persistent inner development into a clear consciousness of the unlawfulness and sinfulness of obedience to a government requiring such actions This consciousness has expressed itself and is now expressing itself in the most varied and momentous events in the conscious refusals of reservists to enter the army in desertions from the army in equally conscious refusals to shoot and fight in refusals to shoot at one s comrades during the suppression of revolts and in the continually increasing number of cases of refusal to take the oath and enter the military service Such are the conscious manifestations of the unlawfulness and needlessness of obeying the government and unconscious manifestations of the same are to be found in all that which is now being accomplished both by the revolutionaries and by their enemies Such are the sailors revolts in the Black Sea and in Cronstadt the military revolts in Kiev and other places sabotages self constituted violence and peasants riots The prestige of the authorities is destroyed and before the enormous majority of the Russian people of our time there has arisen in all its great significance the question as to whether one should and whether it is one s duty to obey the government In this question arisen among the Russian nation consists one of the causes of the great revolution that is approaching and perhaps has already begun CHAPTER 7 The second external cause of the approaching revolution is that the working people are deprived of their natural and lawful right to use the land and this deprivation has brought the nations of the Christian world to the continually increasing misery of the working people and their increasing exasperation against those who exploit their labor This cause is especially perceptible in Russia because it is only in Russia that the majority of the working people still live an agricultural life The Russian people owing to the increase of the population and the insufficiency of land are only now placed under the necessity either of abandoning their accustomed agricultural life in which alone they see the possibility of the realization of the Christian commonwealth or else of ceasing to obey the government which keeps the land taken from the people in the hands of the landowners It is generally thought that the cruelest slavery is personal slavery in which one man can do anything he likes with another including torture mutilation and murder But that which we do not even call slavery depriving a man of the possibility of using the land is thought of as merely a certain somewhat unjust economic institution But this view is quite false That which Joseph did with the Egyptians which all conquerors have done with vanquished nations and which is now being done by depriving men of the possibility of using the land is the most dreadful and cruel slavery The personal slave is the slave of one but the man deprived of the right to use the land is the slave of all Even this is not the principal calamity of the land slave However cruel might have been the owner of the personal slave he did not force him to work incessantly torture him or starve him because the owner would lose his own advantage if he lost his slave But the man deprived of the land is always obliged to work beyond his strength to suffer and to starve and can never for one minute be completely provided for He cannot be set free from the arbitrary will of men and principally from the arbitrariness of evil and avaricious men Yet even this is not the chief calamity of the land slave His chief calamity is that he cannot live a moral life Not living by labor on the land not struggling with nature he is inevitably obliged to struggle with men to endeavor to take from them by force or cunning that which they have acquired from the land and from the labor of others Land slavery is not as is thought even by those who recognize deprivation of land as slavery one of the remaining forms of slavery but is the radical and fundamental slavery from which has grown every form of slavery and which is incomparably more painful than personal slavery Personal slavery is merely one of the particular cases of exploitation by land slavery The emancipation of men from personal slavery without their emancipation from land slavery is not emancipation but merely the cessation of only one form of exploitation by slavery In many cases as it was in Russia when the serfs were emancipated with only a small portion of land it is a deceit that can only for a time conceal from the slaves their true position The Russian people always understood this during serfdom saying We are yours but the land is ours During the emancipation they unceasingly and unanimously demanded and expected the emancipation of the land During the emancipation from serfdom the people were cajoled by a little land being given them and for a time they were pacified but with the increase of population the question of the insufficiency of land again arose before them and that in the clearest and most definite form While the people were serfs they used the land as much as was necessary for their existence The government and the landowners had the care of distributing the increasing population on the land and so the people did not see the essential injustice of the seizure of the land by private individuals But as soon as serfdom was abolished the care of the government and landowners concerning the people s economic agricultural possibility of existence I shall not say welfare was also abolished The quantity of land that the peasants might possess was once and for all determined without the possibility of increasing it while the population increased and the people saw more and more clearly that it was impossible to live thus They waited for the government to rescind the laws that deprived them of the land They waited ten twenty thirty and forty years but the land has been seized ever more and more by private landowners A choice was placed before the people starve stop multiplying or altogether abandon rural life and form generations of unskilled laborers weavers or locksmiths Half a century passed and their position kept becoming worse and worse It reached such a state that their order of life which they regarded as necessary for Christian living began to fall to pieces The government not only did not give them land but gave it to its minions and securing it for the latter intimated to the people that they need never hope for the emancipation of the land while it organized for them an industrial life on the European model with labor inspection which the people regarded as bad and sinful The deprivation of the people of their legitimate right to the land is the principal cause of the calamitous position of the Russian people The same cause lies at the basis of the misery and discontent of the working people of Europe and America with their position The only difference is that the seizure of the land from the European peoples by recognition of the lawfulness of landed property took place long ago So many new relations have covered up this injustice that the men of Europe and America do not see the true cause of their position but search for it everywhere in the absence of markets in tariffs in unfair taxation in capitalism and in everything except in the deprivation of the people of their right to the land To the Russian people the radical injustice is clearly seen because it has not yet been completely perpetrated upon them The Russian people living on the land clearly see what people wish to do with them and they cannot reconcile themselves with it Senseless and ruinous armaments and wars and the deprivation of the people of their common right to the land these in my opinion are the causes of the revolution impending over the whole of Christendom And this revolution is beginning in no other place but in Russia because nowhere except among the Russia people has the Christian view of life been preserved in such strength and purity Nowhere except in Russia has the agricultural condition of the majority of the people been so far preserved CHAPTER 8 The Russian people before other nations of the Christian world and owing to their special qualities and conditions of life have been brought to the consciousness of the disasters proceeding from obedience to coercive state power And in this consciousness and in aspiration to free themselves from the coercion of their rulers lies in my opinion the essence of the revolution which is approaching not only for the Russian people but also for all nations of the Christian world But to people living in states founded upon violence it seems that the abolition of the power of governments will necessarily involve the greatest of disasters But the assertion that the degree of safety and welfare which men enjoy is ensured by state power is altogether an arbitrary one We know those disasters and such welfare if it exists among people living under state organization but we do not know the position in which people would be were they to get clear of the state But if one takes into consideration the life of those small communities that happen to have lived and outside great states such communities while profiting by all the advantages of social organization yet being free from state coercion do not experience one hundredth part of the disasters that are undergone by people who obey state authority The people of the ruling classes for whom the state organization is advantageous speak most about the impossibility of living without state organization But ask those who bear only the weight of the state power ask the agricultural laborers the 100 000 000 peasants in Russia and you will find they feel only its burden and far from regarding themselves as safer for state power they could altogether dispense with it In many of my writings I have repeatedly endeavored to show that what frightens men that without governmental power the worst men would triumph while the best would be oppressed is precisely what has long ago happened and is still happening in all states since everywhere the power is in the hands of the worst men Indeed it cannot be otherwise because only the worst men could do all those crafty dastardly and cruel acts which are necessary for participation in power Many times have I endeavored to explain that all the chief calamities from which men suffer such as the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands of some people the deep poverty of the majority the seizure of the land by those who do not work on it the unceasing armaments and wars and the deprivation of men flow only from the recognition of the lawfulness of governmental coercion I have endeavored to show that before answering the question whether the position of men would be worse or better without governments one should solve the problem as to who the government consists of Are those who constitute the government better or worse than the average level of men If these individuals are better than the average man then the government will be beneficial but if they are worse it will be pernicious And history proves that these men men such as Ivan IV Henry VIII Marat Napoleon Arakcheyef Metternich and Talleyrand and Nicolas are worse than the average man In every human society these are always ambitious unscrupulous cruel men who I have already endeavored to show are ever ready to perpetrate any kind of violence robbery and murder for their own advantage These men would be robbers in a society without government restrained in their actions partly by strife with those injured by them self instituted justice lynching but partly and chiefly by the most powerful weapon of influence upon men public opinion Whereas in a society ruled by coercive authority these same men are those who will seize authority and will make use of it not only without the restraint of public opinion but on the contrary supported praised and extolled by a bribed and artificially maintained public opinion It is said How can people live without governments i e coercion On the contrary one should say How can people rational beings live recognizing violence as the inner connecting link of their lives and not rational agreement It must be either one or the other men are either rational or irrational beings If they are not rational beings then all matters between them can and should be decided by violence and there is no reason for some to have and others not to have this right of violence But if men are rational beings then their relations should be founded not on violence but on reason One would think that this consideration should be conclusive to men recognizing themselves as rational beings But those who defend state power do not think of man his qualities or his rational nature They speak of a certain combination of men to which they apply a kind of supernatural or mystical significance What will happen to Russia France Britain or Germany they say if people cease to obey governments What will happen to Russia Russia What is Russia Where is its beginning or its end Poland The Baltic Provinces The Caucasus with all its nationalities The Kazan Tartars Ferghana Province All these are not only not Russia but all of these are also foreign nationalities desirous of being freed from the combination that is called Russia The circumstance that these nationalities are regarded as parts of Russia is an accidental and temporary one conditioned in the past by a whole series of historical events principally acts of violence injustice and cruelty while in the present this combination is maintained only by the power that spreads over these nationalities In our memory Nice was Italy and suddenly became France Alsace was France and became Prussia The Trans Amur Province was China and became Russia Saghalin was Russia and became Japan At present the power of Austria spreads over Hungary Bohemia and Galicia and that of the British government over Ireland Canada Australia Egypt and India That of the Russian government covers Poland Guria and others But tomorrow this power may cease The only force uniting all these Russias Austrias Britains and Frances is coercive power And coercive power is the creation of men who contrary to their rational nature and the law of freedom as revealed by Jesus obey those who demand of them evil works of violence Men need only become conscious of their freedom natural to rational beings and cease to commit acts contrary to their conscience and the law Then these artificial combinations of Russia Britain Germany and France which appear so splendid will no longer exist That cause in the name of which people sacrifice not only their life but also the liberty proper to rational beings will disappear People need simply cease to obey power in the name of the idols existing only in their imagination of Russia France Britain and the United States and immediately these dreadful idols which now ruin the physical and mental welfare of men will of themselves disappear It is usual to say that the formation of great states out of small ones which continually struggle with each other by substituting a great external frontier for small boundaries thereby diminishes strife and bloodshed and their attendant evils But this assertion also is quite arbitrary as no one has weighed the quality of evil in the one and the other positions And it is difficult to believe that all the wars of the confederate period in Russia Burgundy Flanders Normandy and France cost as many victims as the wars of Napoleon of Alexander or of the Japanese war lately ended The only justification for the expansion of the state is the formation of a universal monarchy the existence of which would remove all possibility of war But all attempts at forming such a monarchy by Alexander of Macedon by the Roman Empire or by Napoleon never attained this object of pacification but on the contrary were the cause of the greatest calamities for the nations Therefore the pacification of men cannot possibly be attained by the increase and strengthening of states This can be attained only by the opposite means the abolition of states with their coercive power There have existed cruel and pernicious superstitions human sacrifices burnings for witchcraft religious wars and tortures but men have freed themselves from these superstitions But the superstition of the state as something sacred continues its hold upon men and to this superstition are offered perhaps more cruel and ruinous sacrifices than to all the others The essence of this superstition is that men of different localities habits and interests are persuaded that they all belong to one whole unit because one and the same violence is applied to all of them and these men believe this and are proud of belonging to this combination This superstition has existed for so long and is so strenuously maintained that those who profit by it kings ministers generals the military and officials are certain that the existence confirmation and expansion of these artificial units serve the welfare of those who are caught in these combinations Not only that but even these victims become so accustomed to this superstition that they are proud of belonging to Russia France Britain or Germany although this is not at all necessary to them and brings them nothing but evil Therefore if these artificial combinations into great states were to be abolished by people because of their meekly and peacefully submitting to every kind of violence and ceasing to obey the government then such an abolition would only lead to there being among such men less coercion less suffering and less evil It would lead to its becoming easier for such men to live according to the higher law of mutual service which for 2500 years has been revealed to men and which gradually enters more and more into the consciousness of mankind For the Russian people in general both the town and the country population it is above all important in such a critical time as the present not to live by the experience of others not by others thoughts ideas or words and not by various social democracies constitutions expropriations bureaus delegates candidatures or mandates Instead it is important to think with one s own mind and to live one s own life constructing new forms of life proper to and out of one s own past and spiritual foundations CHAPTER 9 The revolution now impending over mankind consists in its liberation from the deceit of obedience to human power As the essence of this revolution is quite different from the essence of all former revolutions in the Christian world therefore also the activity of those participating in this revolution must be quite different from the activity of participants in former revolutions The activity of the participants in former revolutions consisted in the violent overthrow of power and in its re seizure The activity of the participants of the present revolution should and can consist in the cessation of that obedience to any violent power whatever which has now lost its meaning and in the ordering of one s life independently of government Besides the activity of the participants in the coming revolution being different from that of the participants in former revolutions the principal participants of this revolution are themselves also quite different as is the locality where it must take place and the number of the participants The participants in former revolutions were principally people of the higher professions free from physical labor and the town workingmen led by these professionals But the participants in the coming revolution must and will be chiefly the agricultural masses The localities where former revolutions began were towns the locality of the present revolution must chiefly be the country The number of participants in former revolutions was 10 or 20 percent of the whole nation the number of participants in the revolution now taking place in Russia must be 80 or 90 percent The agitated town population of Russia imitates Europe by combining into unions preparing strikes demonstrations and revolts and inventing new forms of government They are unfortunate brutalized men who commit manslaughter thinking thereby to serve the dawning revolution The activity of all these men far from being in harmony with the impending revolution arrests its progress much more effectually than governments do Without knowing it themselves they are the truest assistants of the government and are falsely directing and impeding the revolution The danger now threatening the Russian nation is not that the existing coercive government may not be violently overthrown and that another also coercive government however democratic or even socialistic may not be established in its place It is that this struggle with the government may draw the nation itself into an activity of violence The Russian people are called by peculiar circumstances in which they are placed to point out a peaceful and certain way of liberation The danger is that instead of this they may be attracted into a servile imitation of former revolutions by those who do not understand all the significance of the revolution taking place and that they may advance along the false way by which other nations of Christendom are advancing to their certain ruin by abandoning the way of salvation on which they are now standing In order to avoid this danger the Russian people should first of all be themselves They should not seek to ascertain from European nations American constitutions or socialistic programs how they should act and what they should do But they should inquire and seek advice only from their own consciences The Russian people in order that they may fulfill the great work now before them should not only refrain from concerning themselves with the political government of Russia and with the securing of freedom to the citizens of the Russian state They should also first of all free themselves from the very idea of a Russian state and consequently also from all concern in the rights of the citizens of such a state At the present moment the Russian people so that they may obtain freedom should not only refrain from taking this or that action but should refrain from all undertakings from those into which the government is alluring them as well as from those into which the revolutionaries and liberals desire to draw them The peasants the majority of the Russian people should continue to live as they have always lived in their agricultural communal life enduring all violence both governmental and non governmental without struggle but not obeying demands to participate in any kind of governmental coercion They should not willingly pay taxes or serve in the police the administration the customs the army the navy or any coercive organization whatever Likewise and still more strictly the peasants should refrain from the violence to which they are being incited by the revolutionaries All violence of the peasants toward the landowners will call forth strife with retaliatory violence and will end in any case with the establishment of a government of this or that kind but unavoidably coercive And with any coercive government as happens in the freest countries of Europe and America the same senseless and cruel wars will be proclaimed and carried on and in the same way the land will continue to be the property of the wealthy It is only the non participation of the people in any violence whatever that can abolish all coercion from which they suffer prevent all possibility of endless armaments and wars and abolish private property in land Thus should the agricultural peasants act so that the revolution now taking place may produce good results As to the urban classes the nobles merchants doctors scientists writers and mechanics who are now occupied with the revolution they should first of all understand their numerical insignificance They are only one to a hundred in comparison with the agricultural people They should understand that the object of the revolution now taking place cannot and should not consist in the foundation of a new political coercive order with whatever universal suffrage whatever improved socialistic institutions The object of the revolution can and should consist in the liberation of the whole people and especially of the majority the 100 000 000 agricultural workers It should consist of liberation from every kind of coercion military coercion in the form of soldiery fiscal coercion in the form of taxes and tariffs and agrarian coercion in the form of the seizure of the land by the landowners That fretful unreasonable and unkind activity with which Russian liberals and revolutionaries are now occupied is not at all necessary for this purpose These men should understand that revolutions cannot be made to order by saying Let us organize a revolution and that revolution cannot be produced by imitating the ready made patterns of what has taken place a hundred years ago under utterly different conditions Above all these men should understand that a revolution can improve the condition of a people only when they having recognized the unreasonableness and calamity of former foundations of life strive to arrange a life on new foundations capable of giving them true welfare and when the people possess ideals of a new better life But those who are now endeavoring to produce a political revolution in Russia according to the model of European revolutions possess neither any new foundations nor any new ideals whatever They strive merely to substitute for one old form of coercion another new one also to be realized by coercion and carrying with it the same calamities as those which the Russian people now suffer from We see this happening in Europe and America which are groaning under the same militarism the same taxation and the same seizure of the land The majority of revolutionaries put forward a socialistic organization as their ideal which could be obtained only by the cruelest coercion If it ever were attained it would deprive men of the last remnants of liberty This demonstrates only that such people possess no new ideals The ideal of our time cannot be the alteration of the forms of coercion but only its complete abolition attainable by disobedience to human rule In order to free themselves from all the evils that now oppress them the workingmen should without strife or coercion cease to obey the authorities The same submissive suffering of violence and disobedience to the authorities is also necessary for the fulfillment of that law which Christian nations profess A Christian as a Christian cannot obey or participate in an authority that is entirely based on violence maintained by violence and unceasingly committing acts of violence the most contrary to the Christian law soldiery wars prisons executions and depriving the people of the use of the land Thus both the bodily and spiritual welfare of man can only be attained in one way by suffering all violence without struggle of while at the same time abstaining from participation in it by disobedience to the authorities Therefore if people of the urban classes really desire to serve the great revolution that is taking place the first thing they should do is to desist from the cruel revolutionary unnatural artificial activity with which they are now occupied They should settle down in the country and share the people s labor learning from the people their patience their indifference and contempt toward the exercise of power and above all their habits of industry They should endeavor not only to refrain from inciting people to violence as they now do but on the contrary to restrain them from all participation in acts of violence and from any obedience to coercive power of whatever kind to serve them with their scientific knowledge and to elucidate those questions which will inevitably arise with the abolition of government CHAPTER 10 But how and in what forms can men of the Christian world live if they will not live in the form of states obeying government rule The answer to this question lies in those very qualities of the Russian people owing to which I think that the impending revolution must begin and must happen in Russia rather than in other countries The absence of government power in Russia has never prevented the social organization of agricultural communes On the contrary the intervention of government power has always hindered this inner organization natural to the Russian people The Russian people like the majority of agricultural nations naturally combine like bees in a hive into definite social relations fully satisfying the demands of the common life of men Wherever Russian people settle down without the intervention of government they have always established a mutual non coercive order founded upon mutual agreement and with communal possession of land which has completely satisfied the demands of peaceful social life Such communes have populated all the eastern boundaries of Russia without the aid of the government Such communes like the Nekrassovisi have emigrated to Turkey retained their Christian communal organization and lived quietly there under the power of the Turkish Sultan Such communes have without knowing it passed into Chinese territory and Central Asia and have lived there for a long time without needing any government beyond their own inner organization And in precisely the same way the Russian agricultural people most of Russia s population live without needing the government but merely suffering it The government has never been a necessity but always a burden to the Russian people The absence of government that same government which uses force to keep the right of using the land in the hand of the non laboring landowners can only contribute to that communal agricultural life which the Russian people regard as a necessary condition of good life It will contribute to it in that the power of maintaining property in land being abolished the land will be freed and all will have equal right to it Therefore the Russian people when abolishing government need not invent any new forms of combined life with which to replace the former Such forms of combined life already exist among the Russian people have always been natural to them and have satisfied their social demands These forms are a communal organization with the equality of all the members of the Mir a co operative system in industrial undertakings and a common possession of the land The revolution that is impending

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  • What's to be Done?
    excuse for entering into conversation I asked him where he came from He was a peasant from a distant village some of the men of which had lately been imprisoned and whose wives had been to see me It was a village I knew well and in which it had fallen to my lot to administer the Charter of Liberation 2 and I had always admired its particularly bold and handsome peasants Especially talented pupils used to come to my school from that village I asked him about the peasants who had been sent to prison and he told me that though they had done no wrong they had been seized beaten and imprisoned He said this with the same assurance and absence of doubt that I had recently encountered in everyone and with the same full confidence that the government alone is to blame Only with great difficulty could I get him to explain what they were accused of It turned out that they were orators and held meetings at which they spoke of the necessity of expropriating the land I said that the establishment of an equal right for all to the use of the land cannot be established by violence He did not agree Why not he asked We only need to organize How will you organize I asked That will be seen when the time comes Do you mean another armed rising It has become a painful necessity I said what I always say in such cases that evil cannot be conquered by evil but only by refraining from evil But it has become impossible to live like that We have no work and no land What s to become of us he asked looking at me from under his brows I am old enough to be your grandfather I replied and I won t argue with you But I will say one thing to you as to a young man beginning life If what the government is doing is bad what you are doing or preparing to do is equally bad As a young man whose habits are just forming you should do one thing live rightly not sinning or resisting the will of God He shook his head with dissatisfaction and said Every man has his own God Millions of men millions of Gods All the same I said I advise you to cease taking part in the revolution But what s to be done he replied We can t go on enduring and enduring What s to be done I felt that no good would come of our talk and was about to ride away but he stopped me Won t you help me to subscribe for a newspaper he asked I refused and rode away from him feeling sad He was not one of those unemployed factory hands of whom thousands are now roaming about Russia He was a peasant farmer living in a village and there are not hundreds or thousands but millions of such peasants And the infection of such a mood as his is spreading more and more On returning home I found my family in the saddest frame of mind They had just read the newspaper that had come it was October 6th old style Twenty two more executions today said my daughter It s horrible Not only horrible but senseless said I But what s to be done They can t be allowed to rob and kill and go unpunished said one of those present Those words What s to be done were the very words the two vagabonds from the estate and today s peasant revolutionary had used It is impossible to endure these insensate horrors committed by a corrupt government which is ruining both the country and the people We hate the means we have to employ but what s to be done say the revolutionaries on the one side One cannot allow some self appointed pretenders to seize power and rule Russia as they like perverting and ruining it Of course the temporary measures now employed are lamentable but what s to be done say the others the conservatives I thought of people near to me both revolutionaries and conservatives I thought of today s peasant of those unfortunate revolutionaries who import and prepare bombs murder and rob and of the equally pitiable lost men who decree and organize the courts martial take part in them and execute the guilty They all alike assure themselves that they are doing what is necessary and all alike repeat the same words What s to be done What s to be done they all ask but they do not put it as the question What ought I to do They put it as an assertion that it will be much worse for everyone if we cease to do what we are doing Everyone is so accustomed to these words which hide an explanation and justification of the most horrible and immoral actions that it enters no one s head to ask Who are you who ask What s to be done Who are you that you consider yourselves called on to decide other people s fates by actions which all men even you yourselves know to be odious and wicked How do you know that what you wish to alter should be altered in the way that seems to you to be good Do you not know that there are many men such as you who consider bad and harmful what you consider good and useful And how do you know that what you are doing will produce the results you expect for you cannot but be aware that the results attained are generally contrary to those aimed at especially in affairs relating to the life of a whole nation And above all what right have you to do what is contrary to the law of God if you acknowledge a God or to the most generally

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  • THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION - Introduction
    and no religion but the religion of material welfare They found the body of man crippled and exhausted by want and in their ill considered zeal they said Let us cure this body and when it is strong plump and well nourished its soul will return to it But I say that that body can only be cured when its soul has been cured In it lies the root of the disease and the bodily ailments are but the outward signs of that disease Humanity today is dying for lack of a common faith a common idea uniting earth to heaven the universe to God From the absence of this spiritual religion of which but empty forms and lifeless formularies remain and from a total lack of a sense of duty and a capacity for self sacrifice man like a savage has fallen prostrate in the dust and has set up on an empty altar an idol utility Despots and the princes of this world have become his high priests and from them has come the revolting formulary Each for his own alone each for himself alone Mazzini When He saw the multitude He was moved with compassion for them because they were distressed and scattered as sheep not having a shepherd Matthew 9 36 A Revolution is taking place in Russia and all the world is following it with eager attention guessing and trying to foresee whither it is tending and to what it will bring the Russian people To guess at and to foresee this may be interesting and important to outside spectators watching the Russian Revolution but for us Russians who are living in this Revolution and making it the chief interest lies not in guessing what is going to happen but in defining as clearly and

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  • THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
    Western nations who have spread power and its accompanying depravity among the masses of the people not only to great misfortunes but also to an unavoidable collision between the East and the West This now threatens them both with still greater calamities The Western nations besides their distress at home and the corruption of the greater part of their population by participation in power have been led to the necessity of seizing the fruits of the labor of the Eastern nations by force or fraud for their own consumption They accomplish this by certain methods they have devised called civilization and they succeeded in doing this until the Eastern nations learned the same methods The Eastern nations or most of them still continue to obey their rulers and lagging behind the Western nations in devising things needed for war are forced to submit to them But some of them are already beginning to acquire the depravity or civilization that the Europeans are teaching them The Japanese have shown that they can easily assimilate all the shallow cunning methods of an immoral and cruel civilization and are preparing to withstand their oppressors by the same means that are employed against them And now the Russian nation standing between the two having partially acquired Western methods yet until now continuing to submit to its government is placed by fate itself in a position in which it must stop and think It sees on one side the miseries to which like the Eastern nations it has been brought by submission to despotic power On the other hand it sees that among the Western nations the limitation of power and its diffusion among the people has not remedied the miseries of the people but has only depraved them and put them in a position in which they have to live by deceiving and robbing other nations Thus the Russian people must naturally alter its attitude towards power but not as the Western nations have done The Russian nation now stands like the hero of the fairy tale at the parting of two roads both leading to destruction It is impossible for the Russian nation to continue to submit to its government It is impossible because having freed itself from the prestige which has hitherto enveloped the Russian government and having once understood that most of the miseries suffered by the people are caused by the government the Russian people cannot cease to be aware of the cause of the calamities they suffer or cease to desire to free themselves from it Besides the Russian people cannot continue to submit to the government because now a true government a Government that gives security and tranquility to a nation no longer exists in reality There are two envenomed and contending parties but no government to which it is possible to quietly submit For Russians now to continue to submit to their government would mean to continue not only to bear the ever increasing calamities that they have suffered and are suffering lack of land famine heavy taxes and cruel useless and devastating wars but also and chiefly it would mean taking part in the crimes this government is now perpetrating in its evidently useless attempts at self defense Still less reasonable would it be for the Russian people to enter on the path of the Western nations since the deadliness of that path is already plainly demonstrated It would be evidently irrational for the Russian nation to do this for though it was possible for the Western nations to choose a path now seen to be false before they knew where it would lead them the Russian people cannot help seeing and knowing its danger Moreover when they entered on that path most of the Western people were already living by trade exchange and commerce or by direct negro or indirect slave owning as is now the case in Europe s colonies while the Russian nation is chiefly agricultural For the Russian people to enter on the path along which the Westerners went would mean consciously to commit the same acts of violence that the government demands of it only not for the Government but against it to rob burn blow up murder and carry on civil war and to commit all these crimes knowing that it does so no longer in obedience to another s will but at its own They would at last attain only what has been attained by the Western nations after centuries of struggle and they would go on suffering the same chief ills that they now suffer from lack of land heavy and ever increasing taxes national debts growing armaments and cruel stupid wars More than that they would be deprived like the Western nations of their chief blessing their accustomed beloved agricultural life and would drift into hopeless dependence on foreign labor And Russia would do this under the most disadvantageous conditions carrying on an industrial and commercial struggle with the Western nations with the certainty of being vanquished Destruction awaits them on this path and on that CHAPTER 9 What then is the Russian nation to do The natural and simple answer the direct outcome of the facts of the case is to follow neither this path nor that neither to submit neither to the Government which has brought it to its present wretched state nor imitating the West to set up a representative force using government such as those which have led those nations to a still worse condition This simplest and most natural answer is peculiarly suited to the Russian people at all times and especially at the present crisis Indeed it is a thing of wonder that peasant husbandmen of Túla Sarátof Vólogda or Khárkof Province should until now have submitted to and even aided their own enslavement They pay taxes without knowing or asking how they would be spent and give their sons to be soldiers knowing still less for what the sufferings and deaths of these so painfully reared and to them so necessary workers were wanted It is without any profit to themselves and contrary to the demands of their own consciences that they suffer all sorts of misery as a result of their submission to government It would be just as strange or even stranger if such agricultural peasants were to replace the old force using power by a new force using power by employing violence similar to that from which they suffer instead of simply ceasing to submit to it These peasants live their peaceful independent life without any need of a government and wish to be rid of the burdens they endure at the hands of a violent and to them unnecessary power But this is what the French and English peasants did in their time Why The Russian agricultural population need only cease to obey any kind of force using government and refuse to participate in it and immediately taxes military service all official oppression private property in land and the misery of the working classes that results from it would cease of themselves All these misfortunes would cease because there would be no one to inflict them The historic economic and religious conditions of the Russian nation place it in exceptionally favorable circumstances for acting in this manner In the first place it has reached the point at which a change of its old relations towards the existing power has become inevitable after the wrongfulness of the path travelled by the Western nations with whom it has long been in closest connection has become fully apparent Power in the West has completed its circle The Western peoples like all others accepted a force using power at first in order themselves to escape from the struggles cares and sins of power When that power became corrupt and burdensome they tried to lighten its weight by limiting it that is by participating in it This participation spreading out more and more widely caused more and more people to share in power Finally most of the people who at first submitted to power to avoid strife and to escape from participation in power have had to take part both in strife and in power and have suffered the inevitable accompaniment of power corruption It has become quite clear that the pretended limitation of power only means changing those in power increasing their number and thereby increasing the amount of depravity irritation and anger among men The power remains as it was the power of a minority of the worst men over a majority of the better It has also become plain that an increase in number of those in power has drawn people from labor on the land which is natural to all men to factory labor for the production and over production of unnecessary and harmful things and has obliged most of Western nations to base their lives on the deception and enslavement of other nations The fact that in our days all this has become quite obvious in the lives of the Western nations is the first condition favorable to the Russian people who have now reached the moment when they must change their relation towards power For the Russian people to follow the path the Western nations have trodden would be as though a traveler followed a path on which those who went before him had lost their way and from which the most far sighted of them were already returning Secondly while all the Western nations have more or less abandoned agriculture and are living chiefly by manufacture and commerce the Russian people have arrived at the necessity of changing their relation towards power while the immense majority of them are still living an agricultural life which they love and prize so much that most Russians when torn from it are always ready to return to it at the first opportunity This condition is of special value for Russians when freeing themselves from the evils of power for men have the least need of government while leading an agricultural life Or rather an agricultural life less than any other gives a government opportunities of interfering with the life of the people I know some village communes that emigrated to the Far East and settled in places where the frontier between China and Russia was not clearly defined and lived there in prosperity disregarding all governments until they were discovered by Russian officials Townsmen generally regard agriculture as one of the lowest occupations to which man can devote himself Yet the enormous majority of the population of the whole world is engaged in agriculture and on it the possibility of existence for all the rest of the human race depends In reality the human race is made up of husbandmen All the rest ministers locksmiths professors carpenters artists tailors scientists physicians generals and soldiers are but the servants or parasites of the agriculturist Thus agriculture besides being the most moral healthy joyful and necessary occupation is also the highest of human activities and alone gives men true independence Most Russians are still living this most natural moral and independent agricultural life This is the second most important circumstance which makes it possible and natural for the Russian people now that they are faced by the necessity of changing their relations towards power to change them in no other way than by freeing themselves from the evil of all power and simply ceasing to submit to any kind of government These are the first two conditions both of which are external The third condition an inner one is the religious feeling that according to the evidence of history the observation of foreigners who have studied the Russian people and especially the inner consciousness of every Russian was and is a special characteristic of the Russian people In Western Europe there is no doubt that the essence of Christianity not only among Roman Catholics but also among Lutherans and even more in the Anglican Church has long ceased to be a faith directing people s lives and has been replaced by external forms or among the higher classes by indifference and the rejection of all religion This is because the Gospels printed in Latin were inaccessible to the people until the time of the Reformation and have remained until now inaccessible to the whole Roman Catholic world or because of the refined methods which the Papacy employs to hide true Christianity from the people or in consequence of the specially practical character of those nations For the vast majority of Russians however Christian teaching in its practical application has never ceased to be and still continues to be the chief guide of life This is perhaps because the Gospels became accessible to them as early as the tenth century or because of the coarse stupidity of the Russo Greek Church which tried clumsily and therefore vainly to hide the true meaning of the Christian teaching or because of some peculiar trait in the Russian character or because of their agricultural life From the earliest times until now the Christian understanding of life has manifested and still manifests itself among the Russian people in most various traits peculiar to them alone It shows itself in their acknowledgment of the brotherhood and equality of all men of whatever race or nationality in their complete religious toleration in their not condemning criminals but regarding them as unfortunate in the custom of begging one another s forgiveness on certain days in the habitual use of a form of the word forgive when taking leave of anybody in the habit not merely of charity towards but even of respect for beggars which is common among the people and in the perfect readiness sometimes coarsely shown for self sacrifice for anything believed to be religious truth which was shown and still is shown by those who burn themselves to death or castrate themselves and even as in a recent case by those who bury themselves alive The same Christian outlook always appeared in the relation of the Russian people towards those in power The people always preferred to submit to power rather than to share in it They considered and still consider the position of rulers to be sinful and not at all desirable This Christian relation of the Russian people towards life generally and especially towards those in power is the third and most important condition which makes it most simple and natural for them at the present juncture to go on living their customary agricultural Christian life without taking any part either in the old power or in the struggle between the old and the new Such are the three conditions different from those of the Western nations in which the Russian people find themselves placed at the present important time These conditions it would seem ought to induce them to choose the simplest way out of the difficulty by not accepting and not submitting to any kind of force using power Yet the Russian people at this difficult and important crisis do not choose the natural way but wavering between governmental and revolutionary violence begin in the persons of their worst representatives to take part in the violence and seem to be preparing to follow the road to destruction along which the Western nations have travelled Why is this so CHAPTER 10 What has caused and still causes this surprising phenomenon that people suffering from the abuse of power which they themselves tolerate and support do not free themselves in the most simple and easy way from all the disasters brought about by power that is to say do not simply cease obeying it And not only do they not act thus but they go on doing the very things that deprive them of physical and mental well being They either continue to obey the existing power or establish another similar force using power and obey that Why is this so People feel that their unhappy position is the result of violence and are dimly aware that they need freedom to get rid of their misery But strange to say to get rid of violence and gain freedom they seek invent and use all sorts of measures mutiny change of rulers alterations of government all kinds of constitutions new arrangements between different states colonial policies enrolment of the unemployed trusts and social organizations They employ everything but the one thing that would most simply easily and surely free them from all their distresses the refusal to submit to power One might think that it must be quite clear to people not deprived of reason that violence breeds violence and that the only means of deliverance from violence lies in not taking part in it This method one would think is quite obvious It is evident that a great majority of men can be enslaved by a small minority only if the enslaved themselves take part in their own enslavement If people are enslaved it is only because they either fight violence with violence or participate in violence for their own personal profit Those who neither struggle against violence nor take part in it can no more be enslaved than water can be cut They can be robbed prevented from moving about wounded or killed but they cannot be enslaved that is made to act against their own reasonable will This is true both of individuals and of nations If the 200 000 000 Hindus did not submit to the power which demands their participation in deeds of violence always connected with the taking of human life if they did not enlist paid no taxes to be used for violence were not tempted by rewards offered by the conquerors rewards originally taken from themselves and did not submit to the English laws introduced among them then neither 50 000 Englishmen nor all the English in the world could enslave India even if instead of 200 000 000 there were but 1 000 Hindus So it is in the cases of Poles Czechs Irish Bedouins and all the conquered races And it is the same in the case of the workmen enslaved by the capitalists Not all the capitalists in the world could enslave the workers if the workmen themselves did not help and did not take part in their own enslavement All this is so evident that one is ashamed to mention it And yet people who discuss all other conditions of life reasonably not only do not see and do not act as reason dictates in this matter but act quite contrary to reason and to their own advantage Each one says I can t be the first to do what nobody else does Let others begin and then I too will cease to submit to power And so says a second a third and everybody All under the pretence that no one can begin instead of acting in a manner unquestionably advantageous to all continue to do what is disadvantageous to everybody and is also irrational and contrary to human nature No one likes to cease submitting to power lest he should be persecuted by power Yet he well knows that obeying power means being subject to all sorts of the gravest calamities in foreign or civil wars What is the cause of this The cause of it is that people do not reason when yielding to power but act under the influence of something that has always been one of the most widespread motives of human action and has lately been most carefully studied and explained It is called suggestion or hypnotism This hypnotism prevents people from acting in accordance with their reasonable nature and their own interest and forces them to do what is unreasonable and disadvantageous It causes them to believe that the violence perpetrated by people calling themselves the government is not simply the immoral conduct of immoral men but is the action of some mysterious sacred being called the state without which men have never existed which is quite untrue and can never exist But how can reasonable beings men submit to such a surprising suggestion contrary to reason feeling and to their own interest The answer to this question is that not only do children the mentally diseased and idiots succumb to hypnotic influence and suggestion but all persons to the extent to which their religious consciousness is weakened their consciousness of their relation to the supreme cause on which their existence depends Most of the people of our times more and more lack this consciousness The reason that most people of our time lack this consciousness is that having once committed the sin of submitting to human power and not acknowledging this sin to be a sin but trying to hide it from themselves or to justify it they have exalted the power to which they submit to such an extent that it has replaced God s law for them When human law replaced divine law men lost religious consciousness and fell under governmental hypnotism which suggests to them the illusion that those who enslave them are not simply lost vicious men but are representatives of that mystic being the state without which it is supposed that men are unable to exist The vicious circle has been completed Submission to power has weakened and partly destroyed the religious feeling in men and the weakening and cessation of religious consciousness has subjected them to human power The sin of Power began with the oppressors saying to the oppressed Fulfill what we demand of you If you disobey we will kill you But if you submit to us we will introduce order and will protect you from other oppressors And the oppressed in order to live their accustomed lives and not to have to fight these and other oppressors seem to have answered Very well we will submit to you Introduce whatever order you choose and we will uphold it Only let us live quietly supporting ourselves and our families The oppressors did not recognize their sin being carried away by the attractions and advantages of power The oppressed thought it no sin to submit to the oppressors for it seemed better to submit than to fight But there was sin in this submission and as great a sin as that of those who used violence Had the oppressed endured all the hardships taxations and cruelties without acknowledging the authority of the oppressors to be lawful and without promising to obey it they would not have sinned But in the promise to submit to power lay a sin μαρτ α error sin equal to that of the wielders of power In promising to submit to a force using power and in recognizing it as lawful there lay a double sin First in trying to free themselves from the sin of fighting those who submitted condoned that sin in those to whom they submitted Secondly they renounced their true freedom i e submission to the will of God by promising always to obey the power Such a promise to obey the power of man including as it does the admission of the possibility of disobedience to God in case the demands of established power should clash with the laws of God was a rejection of the will of God The force using power of the state demanding from those who submit to it participation in killing men in wars in executions and in laws sanctioning preparations for wars and executions is based on a direct contradiction to God s will Therefore those who submit to power thereby renounce their submission to the law of God One cannot yield a little on one point and on another maintain the law of God It is evident that if God s law can be replaced by human law in one thing then God s law is no longer the highest law incumbent on men at all times And if it is not that it is nothing Deprived of the guidance given by divine law that is the highest capacity of human nature men inevitably sink to that lowest grade of human existence where the only motives of their actions are their personal passions and the hypnotism to which they are subject All the nations that live in the unions called states lie under such a hypnotic suggestion of the necessity of obedience to government and the Russian people are in the same condition This is the cause of that apparently strange phenomenon in which a hundred million Russian cultivators of the soil do not choose the most natural and best way out of their present condition by simply ceasing to submit to any force using power They need no kind of government and constitute so large a majority that they may be called the whole Russian nation but yet they continue to take part in the old government and enslave themselves more and more Or fighting against the old government they prepare for themselves a new one which like the old one will employ violence CHAPTER 11 We often read and hear discussions as to the causes of the present excited restless condition of all the Christian nations threatened by all sorts of dangers and of the terrible position in which the demented and in part brutalized Russian people find themselves at present The most varied explanations are brought forward yet all the reasons can be reduced to one Men have forgotten God that is to say they have forgotten their relations to the infinite Source of Life forgotten the meaning of life which is the outcome of those relations and which consists first of all in fulfilling for one s own soul s sake the law given by this Divine Source They have forgotten this because some of them have assumed a right to rule over men by means of threats of murder and others have consented to submit to these people and to participate in their rule By the very act of submitting these men have denied God and exchanged His law for human law Forgetting their relation to the Infinite most men have descended in spite of all the subtlety of their mental achievements to the lowest level of consciousness where they are guided only by animal passions and by the hypnotism of the herd That is the cause of all their calamities Therefore there is but one escape from the miseries with which people torment themselves It lies in re establishing a consciousness in themselves of their dependence on God and thereby regaining a reasonable and free relation towards themselves and towards their fellows Thus it is just this conscious submission to God and the consequent abandonment of the sin of power and of submission to it that now stands before all nations that suffer from the consequence of this sin The possibility and necessity of ceasing to submit to human power and of returning to the laws of God is dimly felt by all men and especially vividly by the Russian people just now And in this dim consciousness of the possibility and necessity of re establishing their obedience to the law of God and ceasing to obey human power lies the essence of the movement now taking place In Russia What is happening in Russia is not as many people suppose a rebellion of the people against their government in order to replace one government by another but a much greater and more important event What now moves the Russian people is a dim recognition of the wrongness and unreasonableness of all violence and of the possibility and necessity of basing one s life not on coercive power as has been the case hitherto among all nations but on reasonable and free agreement The Russian nation may accomplish the great task now before it the task of liberating men from human power substituted for the will of God or it may follow the path of the Western nations lose its opportunity and leave the leadership of the great work that lies before humanity to some other happier Eastern race But there is no doubt that at the present day all nations are becoming more and more conscious of the possibility of changing this violent insane and wicked life for one that shall be free rational and good And what already exists in men s consciousness will inevitably accomplish itself in real life for the will of God must be and cannot fail to be realized CHAPTER 12 But is social life possible without power Without power men would be continually robbing and killing one another say those who believe only in human law People of this sort are sincerely convinced that men refrain from crime and live orderly lives only because of laws courts of justice police officials and armies and that social life would become impossible without governmental power Men depraved by power fancy that since the government punishes some of the crimes committed in the state it is this punishment that prevents men from committing other possible crimes But the fact that government punishes some crimes does not at all prove that the existence of law courts police armies prisons and death penalties holds men back from all the crimes they might commit That the amount of crime committed in a society does not at all depend on the punitive action of governments is quite clearly proved by the fact that when society is in a certain mood no increase of punitive measures by government is able to prevent the perpetration of most daring and cruel crimes imperiling the safety of the community as has been the case in every revolution and as is now the case in Russia to a most striking degree The cause of this is that men the majority of men all the laboring folk abstain from crimes and live good lives not because there are police armies and executions but because there is a moral perception common to the bulk of mankind established by their common religious understanding and by the education customs and public opinion founded on that understanding This moral consciousness alone expressed in public opinion keeps men from crimes both in town centers and more especially in villages where the majority of the population dwell I repeat that I know many examples of Russian agricultural communities emigrating to the Far East and prospering there for several decades These communes governed themselves being unknown to the government and outside its control and when they were discovered by government agents the only result was that they experienced calamities unknown to them before and received a new tendency towards the commission of crime Not only does the action of governments not deter men from crimes on the contrary it increases crime by always disturbing and lowering the moral standard of society Nor can this be otherwise since always and everywhere a government by its very nature must put in the place of the highest eternal religious law not written in books but in the hearts of men and binding on everyone its own unjust man made laws the object of which is neither justice nor the common good of all but various considerations of home and foreign expediency Such are all the existing evidently unjust fundamental laws of every government laws maintaining the exclusive right of a minority to the land which is the common possession of all laws giving some men a right over the labor of others laws compelling men to pay money for purposes of murder or to become soldiers themselves and go to war laws establishing monopolies in the sale of stupefying intoxicants or forbidding the free exchange of produce across a certain line called a frontier and laws regarding the execution of men for actions which are not so much immoral as simply disadvantageous to those in power All these laws and the exaction of their fulfillment by threats of violence the public executions inflicted for the non fulfillment of these laws and above all the forcing of men to take part in wars the habitual exaltation of military murders and the preparation for them all this inevitably lowers the moral social consciousness and its expression in public opinion Thus governmental activity not only does not support morality but on the contrary it would be hard to devise a more depraving action than that which governments have had and still have on the nations It could never enter the head of any ordinary scoundrel to commit all those horrors the stake the Inquisition torture raids quarterings hangings solitary confinements murders in war and the plundering of nations which have been and still are being committed and committed ostentatiously by all governments All the horrors of Sténka Rázin Pougatchéf 2 and other rebels were but results and feeble imitations of the horrors perpetrated by the Johns Peters and Birons 3 which have been and are being perpetrated by all governments If the action of government does deter some dozens of men from crime which is very doubtful hundreds of thousands of other crimes are committed only because men are educated in crime by governmental injustice and cruelty If men taking part in legislation in commerce in industries living in towns and in one way or other sharing the advantages of power can still believe in the beneficence of that power people living on the land cannot help knowing that government only causes them all kinds of suffering and deprivation was never needed by them and only corrupts those of them who come under its influence To try to prove to men that they cannot live without a Government and that the injury the thieves and robbers among them may do is greater than both the material and spiritual injury which government continually does by oppressing and corrupting them is as strange as it would have been to try to prove to slaves that it was more profitable for them to be slaves than to be free But just as in the days of slavery in spite of the obviously wretched condition the slaves were in the slave owners declared and created a belief that it was good for slaves to be slaves and that they would be worse off if they were free sometimes the slaves themselves became hypnotized and believed this so now the government and people who profit by it argue that governments which rob and deprave men are necessary for their well being and men yield to this suggestion Men believe in it all and must continue to do so because not believing in the law of God they must put their faith in human law Absence of human law for them means the absence of all law and life for men who recognize no law is terrible Therefore for those who do not acknowledge the law of God the absence of human law must seem terrible and they do not wish to be deprived of it This lack of belief in the law of God is the cause of the apparently curious phenomenon of all the theoretical anarchists clever and learned men from Bakoúnin and Prudhon to Reclus Max Stirner and Kropotkin who prove with indisputable correctness and justice the unreasonableness and harmfulness of power As soon as they begin to speak of the possibility of establishing a society without that human law which they reject they fall at once into indefiniteness verbosity rhetoric and quite unfounded and fantastic hypotheses This arises from the fact that none of these theoretic anarchists accept that law of God which is common to all men and which it is natural for all to obey Without the obedience of men to one and the same law human or divine human society cannot exist And deliverance from human law is only possible on the

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  • An Appeal to Russians
    Thus the moral responsibility for their cruel actions rests not on them alone but is shared by many people On the other hand you are people of all sorts of professions doctors teachers engineers students professors journalists railway men laborers lawyers merchants and landowners You have been occupied until now with special pursuits that have nothing to do with government You who are not appealed to or recognized by anyone but yourselves have suddenly become indubitably aware of the precise organization needed by Russia And in the name of this organization which is to be realized in the future and which each of you defines in his own way you take upon yourselves the whole responsibility for these very terrible acts you commit You throw bombs destroy murder and execute Thousands have been killed All Russians have been reduced to despair embittered and brutalized And what is it all for It is all because among a small group of people hardly one ten thousandth of the whole nation some have decided that what is needed for the very best organization of the Russian Empire is the continuation of the duma which lately sat Others say that what is needed is a duma chosen by universal secret and equal voting A third party says that what is needed is a republic Yet a fourth party declares that what is needed is not an ordinary republic but a socialist republic And for the sake of this you provoke a civil war You say you do it for the people s sake and that your chief aim is the welfare of the people But the hundred million for whom you do it do not ask it of you and do not want all these things which you by such evil means try to obtain Most people do not need you at all but always have regarded you still regard you and cannot but regard you as useless grubs who in one way or another consume the fruits of their labor and are a burden upon them Only clearly understand the life of this hundred million Russian agricultural peasants who strictly speaking alone constitute the body of the Russian nation Understand that you all professors factory hands doctors engineers journalists students landowners veterinary surgeons merchants lawyers and railway men the very people so concerned about its welfare are harmful parasites on that body sucking its sap rotting upon it and communicating to it your own corruption Only vividly imagine these millions ever patiently laboring and supporting your unnatural and artificial lives on their shoulders Imagine them possessed of all these reforms you are aiming at and hoping to obtain and you will see how foreign all that professedly is for their advantage is to this people They have other tasks and see more profoundly that you do the aim that is before them They express this consciousness of their destiny not in newspaper articles but by the whole life of a hundred million people But no you cannot understand this You are firmly convinced that these coarse folk have no roots of their own and that it will be a great blessing for them if you enlighten them with the latest article you have read and by so doing make them as pitiful helpless and perverted as yourselves You say you want a just organization of life but in fact you can exist only under an irregular unjust organization Should a really just organization be established with no place for those who live on the labor of others and all of you landlords merchants doctors professors lawyers factory hands manufacturers workshop owners engineers teachers and producers of cannons tobacco spirits looking glasses and velvet together with the members of the government would starve to death What you need is not a really just order of life for nothing would be more dangerous for you than an order in which everyone had to do work useful to all Only cease to deceive yourselves Consider well the place you hold among the Russian people and what you are doing and it will be clear to you that your struggle with the government is the struggle of two parasites on a healthy body and that both contending parties are equally harmful to the people Speak therefore of your own interests but do not speak for the people Do not lie about them but leave them in peace Fight the government if you cannot refrain but know that you are fighting for yourselves and not for the people There is not only nothing noble or good in this violent struggle in fact your struggle is very stupid and harmful and above all a very immoral affair Your activity aims you say at making the general condition of the people better But that the people s condition should be better it is necessary for people themselves to be better This is as much a truism as that to heat a vessel of water all the drops in it must be heated That people may become better it is necessary that they should turn their attention ever more and more to their inner life But external public activity and especially public strife always diverts men s minds from the inner life Therefore by perverting people strife always and inevitably lowers the level of general morality as has everywhere been the case and as we now see most strikingly exemplified in Russia This lowering of the level of general morality causes the most immoral part of society to come more and more to the top and an immoral public opinion is formed which not only permits but even approves crimes robberies debauchery and murder itself Thus a vicious circle is set up The evil elements of society evoked by the social struggle throw themselves hotly into public activity corresponding to the low level of their morality and this activity again attracts to itself yet worse elements of society Morality is lowered more and more and the most immoral of men the Dantons Marats Napoleons Talleyrands and Bismarcks become the heroes of the day Thus participation in public activity and strife is not only not an elevated useful and good thing as it is customarily supposed and said to be by those who are engaged in this struggle but on the contrary it is a most unquestionably stupid harmful and immoral affair Reflect on this especially you young people who are not yet immersed in the sticky mud of political activity Shake off from yourselves the terrible hypnotism you are under Free yourselves from the lie of this pseudo service of the people in the name of which you consider that everything is permitted to you Above all think of the highest qualities of your souls demanding of you neither equal and secret voting nor armed insurrections nor legislative assemblies nor any similar stupidities and cruelties but solely that you should live good and true lives What is necessary for your good and sincere life is first of all not to deceive yourselves by supposing that by yielding to your petty passions vanity ambition envy and bravado or by desiring to find an outlet for your spare energy or by improving your own positions you can serve the people No what is necessary is to examine yourselves and to endeavor to correct your own failings and become better men If you wish to think of public life think first of your sins against the people Try to consume as little of their labor as possible If you cannot help the peasantry try at least not to mislead and confuse them committing the terrible crime many of you now commit by deceiving provoking and inciting them to robberies and insurrections which always end in suffering and the yet greater enslavement for the people The intricate and difficult circumstances amid which we live in Russia demand of you especially at the present time neither newspaper articles nor speeches in assemblies nor demonstrations in the streets with revolvers nor the often dishonest incitement of the peasants while you evade responsibility yourselves Instead present circumstances demand a frank and strict relation to yourselves and to your own lives which alone are in your power and the improvement of which is the sole means by which you can improve the general condition of the people 3 To the People By the people I mean the whole Russian people but especially the working agricultural people who by their labor support the lives of all the rest You Russian working people chiefly agricultural peasants now find yourselves in a particularly difficult position However hard it was for you to live with little land large taxes customs duties and wars which the government devised you lived until quite recently believing in the Czar and believing that it was impossible to live without a Czar and without his authority And you humbly submitted to the government However badly the Czar s government ruled you you humbly submitted to it as long as there was only one government But now it has come about that a part of the people has rebelled has ceased to obey the Czar s government and has begun to fight against it In many places there are two governments instead of one each of them demanding obedience You can no longer humbly submit to the powers that be without considering whether the government rules you well or badly but have to choose which of the two you will submit to What are you to do Not those tens of thousands of workmen who bustle and are hustled about in the towns but you the great real hundred million agricultural people what are you to do The old government of the Czar says to you Do not listen to the rebels They promise much and will deceive you Remain true to me and I will satisfy all your wants The rebels say Do not believe the Czar s government which has always tormented you and will continue to do so Join us help us and we will arrange for you a government like that of the freest countries Then you will choose your own rulers govern yourselves and right all your wrongs What are you to do Should you support the old government As you know the old government has long promised to lighten your burdens but instead of lightening them it has only increased your greatest evils lack of land taxes and conscription Should you join the rebels They promise to arrange for you an elected government such as exists in the freest countries But wherever such elected governments exist in the countries that have most freedom in the French and American Republics for instance just as among ourselves the chief ills of the people are not remedied As among us or to an even greater degree the land is in the hands of the rich Just as among us the people are laden with taxes and customs duties without being asked As among us armies are maintained and wars are declared when those in power desire it without the people being consulted Moreover our new government is not yet established and we do not know what it will be like Not only is it not to your advantage to join either government but you cannot do it conscientiously before God To defend the old government means to do what was done recently in Odessa Sevastopol Kiev Riga the Caucasus and Moscow the capture killing hanging burning alive execution and shooting of children and women in the streets But to join the revolutionaries means to do the same to kill people throw bombs burn rob fight with soldiers execute and hang Therefore laboring Christian people now that the Czar s government calls on you to fight against your brothers and the revolutionaries call on you to do the same you evidently not for your own benefit alone but before God and your consciences must and should join neither the old nor the new government and take no part in the unchristian doings of either the one or the other Not to take part in the doings of the old government means not to serve as soldiers guards constables town police or country police and not to serve in any government institutions offices county councils zémstvos assemblies or dumas Not to take part in the doings of revolutionaries means not to hold meetings form unions or take part in strikes not to burn or wreck other people s houses and not to join any armed rebellion Two governments hostile to one another now rule you and they both summon you to take part in cruel unchristian deeds What can you do but reject all government People say that it is difficult and even impossible to live without a government but you Russian workmen especially agriculturists know that when you live a peaceful laborious country life in the villages cultivating the land on terms of equality and deciding your public affairs in the commune mir you have no need at all of a government The government needs you but you Russian agriculturists do not need a government And therefore in the present difficult circumstances when it is equally bad to join either government it is reasonable and beneficial for you agricultural Russians not to obey any government But if this is so for the agricultural folk what should the factory hands and foundry workers do of whom there are more in many lands than there are agriculturists and whose lives are quite in the power of the government They should do the same as the village workers not obey any Government and try to return to agricultural life with all their strength Only let the town workmen as well as the villagers cease to obey or serve government and with the abolition of its power the slavish conditions in which you live will vanish of themselves for they are maintained only by governmental violence And the violence the government employs is supplied by you yourselves It is that power alone which places customs duties on goods imported or exported It alone collects taxes on articles made in the country The power of the government makes the laws that maintain the monopolies owned by private people and the right of private property in land Only that power controlling the army that you yourselves supply holds you in continual subjection or submission to itself and to its abettors the rich When you town workers as well as villagers cease to obey the government it will no longer be necessary for you town workmen to accept whatever conditions the owners of the mills and factories dictate to you You yourselves will give them your conditions or will start your own co operative artél manufacture of things needed by the people Or having free land you will resume a natural agricultural life But if we Russian folk begin at once to live like that not obeying the government there will be no Russia say those to whom it seems that the existence of Russia that is to say the union of many different nations under one government is something important great and useful In reality this combination of many different nations called Russia is not only not important for you Russian working men but just this combination is a chief cause of your miseries They oppress you with taxes and duties as they oppressed your forefathers accumulating vast debts which you have to pay They take you as soldiers and send you to different ends of the earth to fight people with whom you have nothing to do and who have nothing to do with you All this is only done to maintain Russia i e to maintain a forcible combination of Poland the Caucasus Finland Central Asia Manchuria and other lands and peoples under one rule But besides the fact that all your ills come from this union called Russia this union involves a great sin in which you involuntarily participate when you obey Government In order for there to be a Russia such as the existing one the Poles Finns Letts Georgians Tartars Armenians and others have to be held in subjection To hold them in subjection it is necessary to forbid them to live as they wish to and if they disobey this order they have to be punished and killed Why should you take part in these evil deeds when you yourselves suffer from them Let those who have need of such a Russia dominating Poland Georgia Finland and other lands arrange it if they can But for you working people this is not at all necessary What you need is something quite else You only need enough land that no one should forcibly take your property that no one should oblige your sons to go as soldiers and above all that no one should compel you to do evil deeds These evils will cease if only you refuse to obey the demands of the government demands that ruin and destroy both your bodies and your souls But how without a government and when all live in separate communes are all large public affairs to be arranged How will the ways of communication railways telegraphs steamers the post the higher educational establishments the libraries and trade be managed without a government People are so accustomed to see the government control all public affairs that it seems to them that the work itself is done by government and that without government it is impossible to organize high schools ways of communication post offices libraries or commercial relations But this is not true The largest public affairs not only national but also international are arranged by private individuals without governmental assistance In this way all kinds of international postal learned commercial and industrial alliances are arranged Governments not only do not

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  • Letter to a Chinese
    such a teaching is merely a justification of power and as unsound as the teaching of Paul circulated among the European nations which affirms that the powers are of God The Chinese people cannot know whether their emperor is wise and virtuous just as the Christian nations cannot know whether power was granted by God to this ruler and not to that other one who fought against him These justifications of power could stand when the evil of power was not much felt by the people But now that most men feel all the disadvantages and injustice of power of the power of one or a few over many these justifications are not effective and nations have to alter their attitude to authority in one way or another The Western nations have long ago made this alteration and it is now the turn of the East I think that it is in such a position that Russia Persia Turkey and China now find themselves All these nations have reached the period when they can no longer remain in their former attitude towards their rulers It was correctly remarked by the Russian writer Gertzen that a Genghis Khan with telegraphs and electric motors is impossible If Genghis Khans or men similar to them still exist in the East it is clear that their hour has come and that they are the last They cannot continue to exist for two reasons First owing to telegraphs and all that is called civilization their power is becoming too oppressive And secondly owing to the same civilization the nations feel and recognize with special keenness that the existence or non existence of these Genghis Khans is for them not a matter of indifference as it used to be of old Instead they see that almost all the calamities from which they suffer are produced precisely by this power to which they submit without any advantage to themselves but merely by habit In Russia this is certainly the case I think that the same is true also of Turkey and Persia For China this is especially true owing to the peaceful disposition of its population and the bad organization of its army which gives the Europeans the possibility of robbing Chinese lands with impunity under the pretext of collisions and differences with the Chinese government The Chinese people cannot but feel the necessity of changing its relation to power 5 And now I gather from your book and other information that some light minded Chinese called the party of reform think that this alteration should consist in following the methods of the Western nations i e in substituting a representative government for a despotic one in organizing an army similar to that of Western nations and a similar organization of industry This solution which at first sight appears the simplest and most natural is not only a superficial one but very silly and according to all I know about China it is altogether alien to the wise Chinese people To organize such a constitution such an army such a conscription and such an industry as the Western nations have got would mean to renounce all that by which the Chinese people have lived and are living It would be to renounce their past and to renounce their rational peaceful agricultural life that life which constitutes the true and only way of Tao not only for China but for all mankind Let us admit that having introduced among themselves European institutions the Chinese could expel the Europeans and have a constitution a powerful standing army and an industrial development similar to the Europeans Japan has done this It has introduced a constitution extended its army and fleet and developed industry The result of all these inseparably interconnected measures is already obvious The condition of its people more and more approaches the position of the European nations and this position is extremely burdensome 6 The states of Western Europe externally very powerful may now crush the Chinese army but the position of the people living in these states not only cannot be compared with the position of the Chinese but on the contrary it is most calamitous Among all these nations there unceasingly proceeds a strife between the destitute exasperated working people and the government and the wealthy a strife that is restrained only by coercion on the part of deceived men who constitute the Army A similar strife is continually waging between the different states demanding endlessly increasing armaments a strife that is at any moment ready to plunge into the greatest catastrophes But however dreadful this state of things may be it does not constitute the essence of the calamity of the Western nations Their chief and fundamental calamity is that the whole life of these nations which are unable to furnish themselves with food is entirely based on the necessity of procuring means of sustenance by violence and cunning from other nations who like China India Russia and others still preserve a rational agricultural life And it is these parasitical nations and their activity that you are invited to imitate by the men of the Reform Party Constitutions protective tariffs and standing armies have rendered the Western nations what they are people who have abandoned agriculture and become unused to it occupied in towns and factories in the production of articles that are for the most part unnecessary people who with their armies are adapted only to every kind of violence and robbery However brilliant their position may appear at first sight it is a desperate one and they must inevitably perish if they do not change the whole structure of their life founded as it now is on deceit and the plunder and pillage of the agricultural nations To imitate Western nations being frightened by their insolence and power would be the same as if a rational undepraved industrious man were to imitate a spendthrift insolent ruffian who has lost the habit of work

    Original URL path: http://www.nonresistance.org/docs_htm/Tolstoy/Letter_to_Chinese.html (2016-04-28)
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