The Meaning of the Russian Revolution
" We live in glorious times. . . 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. I shall not live to see the harvest, but to sow in faith is no mean privilege or happiness." — W. E. Channing.
" For the worshippers of utility there is no morality except the morality of profit, 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 to-day 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 the 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.', —Matt, ix, 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 firmly as possible what we must do in these immensely important, terrible, and dangerous times in which we live.
Every Revolution is a change of a people's relation towards Power. Such a change is now taking place in Russia, and we, the whole Russian people, are accomplishing it. Therefore to know how we can and should change our relation towards Power, we must understand the nature of Power : what it consists of, how it arose, and how best to treat it.
Always and among all nations the same thing has occurred. Among people occupied with the necessary work natural to all men, of providing food for themselves and their families, by the chase (hunting animals), or as herdsmen (nomads), or by agriculture, there appeared men of their own or another nation, who forcibly seized the fruit of the workers' toil - first robbing, then enslaving them, and exacting from them either labour or tribute, This used to happen in old times, and still happens in Africa and Asia. And always and everywhere the workers (occupied with their accustomed, unavoidably necessary, and unremitting task (their struggle with nature to feed themselves and rear their children) though by far more numerous and always more moral than their conquerors, submitted to them and fulfilled their demands.
They submitted because it is natural to all men (and especially to those engaged in a serious struggle with nature to support themselves and their families) to dislike strife with other men ; and feeling this aversion, they preferred to endure the consequences of the violence put upon them, rather than to give up their necessary, customary, and beloved labour.
There were, certainly, none of those contracts whereby Hugo Grotius and Rousseau explain the relations between the subdued and their subduers. Neither was there, nor could there be, any agreement as to the best way of arranging social life, such as Herbert Spencer imagines in his " Principles of Sociology " ; but it happened in the most natural way, that when one set of men did violence to another set, the latter preferred to endure not merely many hardships, but often even great distress, rather than face the cares and efforts necessary to withstand their oppressors ; more especially as the conquerors took on themselves the duty of protecting the conquered people against internal and external disturbers of the peace. And so the majority of men, occupied with the business necessary to all men and to all animals (that of feeding themselves and their families) not only endured the unavoidable inconveniences and hardships, and even the cruelty, of their oppressors, without fighting, but submitted to them and accepted it as a duty to fulfil all their demands.
When speaking about the formation of primitive communities the fact is always forgotten, that not only the most numerous and most needed, but also the most moral, members of society were always those who by their labour keep all the rest alive ; and that to such people it is always more natural to submit to violence and to bear all the hardships it involves, than to give up the necessaiy work of supporting themselves and their families In order to fight against oppression. It is so now, when we see the people of Burmah, the Fellahs of Egypt, and the Boers, surrender- ing to the English, and the Bedouins to the French ; and in olden times it was even more so.
Latterly, in the curious and widely diffused teaching called the Science of Sociology, it has been asserted that the relations between the members of human society have been, and are, dependent on economic conditions, But to assert this is merely to substitute for the clear and evident cause of a phenomenon one of its effects. The cause of this or that economic condition always was (and could not but be) the oppression of some men by others. Economic conditions are a result of violence, and cannot therefore be the cause of human relations. Evil men — the Cains — who loved idleness and were covetous, always attacked good men — the Abels — the tillers of the soil, and by killing them or threatening to kill them, profited by their toil. The good, gentle, and industrious people, instead of fighting their oppressors, considered it best to submit : partly because they did not wish to fight, and partly because they could not do so without interrupting their work of feeding themselves and their neighbours. On this oppression of the good by the evil, and not on any economic conditions, all existing human societies have been, and still are, based and built.
From the most ancient times, and among all the nations of the earth, the relations of the rulers to the ruled have been based on violence. But this relation, like everything else in the world, was and is continually changing. It changes from two causes. First because the more secure their power becomes and the longer it lasts, the more do those in power (the leisured classes who have power) grow depraved, unreasonable and cruel, and the more injurious to their subjects do their demands become. Secondly, because as those in power grow more depraved, their subjects see more and more clearly the harm and folly of submitting to such depraved power.
And those in power always become depraved : firstly, because such people, immoral by nature, and preferring idleness and violence to work, having grasped power and used it to satisfy their lusts and passions, give themselves up more and more to these passions and vices; and secondly, because lusts and passions, which in the case of ordinary men cannot be gratified without meeting with obstacles, not only do not meet such obstacles and do not arouse any condemnation in the case of those who rule, but on the contrary are applauded by all who surround them. The latter generally benefit by the madness of their masters ; and besides, it pleases them to imagine that the virtues and wisdom to which alone 'it is natural for reasonable men to submit are to be found in the men to whom they submit ; and therefore, the vices of those in power are lauded as if they were virtues, and grow to terrible proportions.
Consequently the folly and vice of the crowned and uncrowned rulers of the nations have reached such appalling dimensions as were reached by the Neros, Charleses, Henrys, Louis, Johns, Peters, Catherines, and Marats.
Nor is this all. If the rulers were satisfied with their personal debauchery and vices they would not do so much harm ; but idle, satiated, and depraved men, such as rulers were and are, must have something to live for — must have some aims and try to attain them. And such men can have no aim except to get more and more fame. All other passions soon reach the limits of satiety. Only ambition has no limits, and therefore almost all potentates always strove and strive after fame, especially military fame, the only kind attainable by depraved men unacquainted with, and incapable of, real work. For the wars devised by the potentates, money, armies and, above all, the slaughter of men, are necessary ; and in consequence of this the condition of the ruled becomes harder and harder, and at last the oppression reaches a point at which the ruled can no longer continue to submit to the ruling power, but must try to alter their relation towards it.
Such is one reason of alteration in the relations between the rulers and the ruled. Another still more important reason of this change is that the ruled — believing in the rights of the power above them and accustomed to submit to it — as knowledge spreads and their moral consciousness becomes enlightened, begin to see and feel not only the ever increasing material harmfulness of this rule, but also that to submit to such power is becoming immoral.
It was possible five hundred or a thousand years ago for people, in obedience to their rulers, to slaughter whole nations for the sake of conquest, or for dynastic or religio-fantastic aims to behead, torture, quarter, encage, destroy and enslave whole nations. But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, subjugated people, en- lightened by Christianity or by the humanitarian teachings which have grown up out of it, can no longer without pangs of conscience submit to the powers which demand that they should participate in the slaughter of men defending their freedom (as was done in the Chinese, Boer, and Philippine wars) and can no longer with quiet consciences, as formerly, know themselves to be participators in the deeds of violence and the executions which are being committed by the Governments of their countries.
So that force-using power destroys itself in two ways.
It destroys itself through the ever-growing depravity of those in authority, and the consequent continually-increasing burden borne by the ruled ; and through its ever-increasing deviation from the ever developing moral perception of the ruled. Therefore, where force-using power exists, a moment must inevitably come when the relation of the people towards that power must change. This moment may come sooner or later according to the degree and the rapidity of the corruption of the rulers, to the amount of their cunning, to the quieter or more restless temperament of the people, and even from their geographical position helping or hindering the intercourse of the people among themselves ; but sooner or later that moment must inevitably come to all nations.
To the Western nations, which arose on the ruins of the Roman Empire, that moment came long ago. The struggle of people against Government began even in Rome ; continued in all the States that succeeded Rome, and still goes on. To the Eastern nations : Turkey, Persia, India, China, that moment has not yet arrived. For the Russian people, it has now come.
The Russian people are to-day confronted by the dreadful choice of either, like the Eastern nations, continuing to submit to their unreasonable and depraved Government in spite of all the misery it has inflicted upon them ; or, as all the Western nations have done, realising the evil of the existing Government, upsetting it by force, and establishing a new one.
Such a choice seems quite natural to the non-labouring classes of Russia, who are in touch with the upper and prosperous classes of the Western nations and consider the military might, the industrial, commercial and technical improvements, and that external glitter to which the Western nations have attained under their altered Governments, to be a great good.
The majority of the Russian non-labouring classes are quite convinced that the Russian people at this crisis can do nothing better than follow the path the Western nations have trodden and are still treading : that is to say, fight the power, limit it, and place it more and more in the hands of the whole people.
Is this opinion right, and is such action good ?
Have the Western nations, travelling for centuries along that path, attained what they strove for ? Have they freed themselves from the evils they wished to be rid of?
The Western nations, like all others, began by submitting to the power which demanded their submission : choosing to submit rather than to fight. But that power, in the persons of the Charleses (the Great and the Fifth) the Philips, Louis, and Henry the Eighths, becoming more and more depraved, reached such a condition that the Western nations could no longer endure it. The Western nations, at different times, revolted against their rulers and fought them. This struggle took place in different forms, at different periods, but always found expression in the same ways : in civil wars, robberies, murders, executions, and finished with the fall of the old power and the accession of a new one. And when the new power became as oppressive to the people as that which had been overthrown, it too was upset, and another new one was put in its place, which by the same unalterable nature of power, became in due course as harmful as its predecessors. Thus, for instance, in France there were eleven changes of power within eighty years : the Bourbons, the Convention, the Directory, Bonaparte, the Empire, again the Bourbons, a Republic, Louis Philippe, again a Republic, again a Bonaparte, and again a Republic. The substitution of new powers for old ones took place among other nations too, though not so rapidly as in France. These changes in most cases did not improve the condition of the people, and therefore those who made these changes could not help coming to the conclusion that the misery they suffered did not so much depend on the nature of the persons in power as on the fact that a few persons exercised power over many. And therefore the people tried to render the power harmless by limiting it. And such limitation was introduced in several countries in the form of elected Chambers of Representatives.
But the men who limited the arbitrariness of the rulers and found the Assemblies, becoming themselves possessors of power, naturally succumbed to the depraving influence which accompanies power, and to which the autocratic rulers had suc- cumbed. These men, becoming sharers in power even though not singly, perpetrated, jointly or separately, the same kind of evil, and became as great a burden on the people as the autocratic rulers had been. Then, to limit the arbitrariness of power still more, monarchical power was abolished altogether in some countries, and a Government was established chosen by the whole people. In this way Republics were instituted in France, America and Switzerland ; and the Referendum and the Initiative were intro- duced, giving every member of the community the possibility of interfering and participating in legislation.
But the only effect of all these measures was that the citizens of these States, participating more and more in power, and being more and more diverted from serious occupations, grew more and more depraved. The calamities from which the people suffered remain, however, exactly the same under Constitutional, Monarchical, or Republican Governments, with or without Referendums.
Nor could it be otherwise, for the idea of limiting power by the participation in power of all who are subject to it is unsound at its very core, and self-contradictory.
If one man with the aid of his helpers rules over all, it is unjust, and in all likelihood such rule will be harmful to the people.
The same will be the case when the minority rules over the majority. But the power of the majority over the minority also fails to secure a just rule ; for we have no reason to believe that the majority participating in government is wiser than the minority that avoids participation.
To extend the participation in government to all, as might be done by still greater extension of the Referendum and the Initiative, would only mean that everybody would be fighting everybody else.
That man should have over his fellows a power founded on violence, is evil at its source ; and no kind of arrangement that maintains the right of man to do violence to man, can cause evil to cease to be evil.
Therefore, among all nations, however they are ruled, whether by the most despotic or most democratic Governments, the chief and fundamental calamities from which the people suffer, remain the same : the same ever-increasing, enormous budgets, the same animosity towards their neighbours, necessitating military preparations and armies ; the same taxes ; the same State and private monopolies ; the same depriving the people of the right to use the land (which is given to private owners) ; the same enslaving of subject races ; the same constant threatenings of war ; and the same wars, destroying the lives of men and undermining their morality.
It is true that the Representative Governments of Western Europe and America — Constitutional Monarchies as well as Republics — have uprooted some of the external abuses practised by the representatives of power, and have made it impossible that the holders of power should be such monsters as were the different Louis, Charleses, Henrys and Johns. (Although in representative Government not only is it possible that power will be seized by cunning, immoral and artful mediocrities, such as various Prime Ministers and Presidents have been, but the construction of those Governments is such, that only that kind of people can obtain power.) It is true that representative Governments have abolished such abuses as the lettres de cachet, have removed restrictions on the press, have stopped religious persecutions and oppressions, have submitted the taxation of the people to discussion by their representatives, have made the actions of the Government public and subject to criticism, and have facilitated the rapid development in those countries of all sorts of technical improvements giving great comfort to the life of rich citizens and great military power to the State. So that the nations which have representative government have doubtless become more powerful industrially, commercially and in military matters, than despotically governed nations, and the lives of their leisured classes have certainly become more secure, comfortable, agreeable and aesthetic than they used to be. But is the life of the majority of the people in those countries more secure, freer, or, above all, more reasonable and moral ?
I think not.
Under the despotic power of one man, the number of persons who come under the corrupting influence of power and live on the labour of others, is limited, and consists of the despot's close friends, assistants, servants and flatterers, and of their helpers. The infection of depravity is focussed in the Court of the despot, whence it radiates in all directions.
Where power is limited, i.e. where many persons take part in it, the number of centres of infection is augmented, for everyone who shares power has his friends, helpers, servants, flatterers and relations.
Where there is universal suffrage, these centres of infection are still more diffused. Every voter becomes the object of flattery and bribery. The character of the power itself is also changed. Instead of power founded on direct violence, we get a monetary power, also founded on violence, not directly, but through a complicated transmission.
So that under representative Governments, instead of one or a few centres of depravity, we get a large number of such centres — - that is to say, there springs up a large class of people living idly on others' labour, the class called the " bourgeois," i.e. people who, being protected by violence, arrange for themselves easy and comfortable lives, free from hard work.
But as, when arranging an easy and pleasant life not only for a Monarch and his Court, but for thousands of little kinglets, many things are needed to embellish and to amuse this idle life, it results that whenever power passes from a despotic to a representative Government, inventions appear, facilitating the supply of objects that add to the pleasure and safety of the lives of the wealthy classes.
To produce all these objects, an ever-increasing number of working men are drawn away from agriculture, and have their capacities directed to the production of pleasing trifles used by the rich, or even to some extent by the workers themselves. So there springs up a class of town workers so situated as to be in complete dependence on the wealthy classes. The number of these people grows and grows the longer the power of representative Government endures, and their condition becomes worse and worse. In the United States, out of a population of seventy millions, ten millions are proletarians, and the relation between the well-to-do and the proletariat classes is the same in England, Belgium and France. The number of men exchanging the labour of producing objects of primary necessity for the labour of producing objects of luxury is ever increasing in those countries. It clearly follows that the result of such a trend of affairs must be the ever greater overburdening of that diminishing number which has to support the luxurious lives of the ever increasing number of idle people. Evidently, such a way of life cannot continue.
What is happening is as though there were a man whose body went on increasing in weight while the legs that supported it grew continually thinner and weaker. When the support had vanished the body would have to fall.
The Western nations, like all others, submitted to the power of their conquerors only to avoid the worry and sin of fighting. But when that power bore too heavily upon them, they began to fight it, though still continuing to submit to power, which they regarded as a necessity. At first only a small part of the nation shared in the fight ; then, when the struggle of that small part proved ineffectual, an ever greater and greater number entered into the conflict, and it ended by the majority of the people of those nations (instead of freeing themselves from the worry and sin of fighting) sharing in the wielding of power ; the very thing they wished to avoid when they first submitted to power. The inevitable result of this was the increase of the depraving influence that comes of power, an increase not affecting a small number of persons only, as had been the case under a single ruler, but affecting all the members of the community. (Steps are now being taken to subject women also to it.)
Representative Government and Universal Suffrage resulted in every possessor of a fraction of power being exposed to all the evil attached to power : bribery, flattery, vanity, self-conceit, idleness and, above all, immoral participation in deeds of violence. Every member of Parliament is exposed to all these temptations in a yet greater degree. Every Deputy always begins his career of power by befooling people, making promises he knows he will not keep ; and when sitting in the House he takes part in making laws that are enforced by violence. It is the same with all Senators and Presidents. Similar corruption prevails in the election of a President. In the United States the election of a President costs millions to those financiers who know that when elected he will maintain certain monopolies or import duties advantageous to them, on various articles, which will enable them to recoup the cost of the election a hundredfold.
And this corruption, with all its accompanying phenomena — the desire to avoid hard work and to benefit by comforts and pleasures provided by others ; interests and cares, inaccessible to a man engaged in work, concerning the general business of the State ; the spread of a lying and inflammatory press ; and, above all, animosity between nation and nation, class and class, man and man — has grown and grown, till it has reached such dimensions that the struggle of all men against their fellows has become so habitual a state of things, that Science (the Science that is engaged in condoning all the nastiness done by men) has decided that the struggle and enmity of all against all is a necessary, unavoidable and beneficent condition of human life.
That peace, which to the ancients who saluted each other with the words " Peace be unto you ! " seemed the greatest of blessings, has now quite disappeared from among the Western peoples ; and not only has it disappeared, but by the aid of science, men try to assure themselves that not in peace, but in the strife of all against all, lies man's highest destiny.
And really, among the Western nations, an unceasing industrial, commercial and military strife is continually waged j a strife of State against State, class against class, Labour against Capital, party against party, man against man.
Nor is this all. The chief result of this participation of all men in power is, that men being more and more drawn away from direct work on the land, and more and more involved in diverse ways of exploiting the labour of others, have lost their independence and are forced by the position they live in to lead immoral lives. Having neither the desire nor the habit of living by tilling their own land, the Western nations were forced to obtain their means of subsistence from other countries. They could do this only in two ways : by fraud, that is, by exchanging things for the most part unnecessary or depraving, such as alcohol, opium, weapons, for the foodstuffs indispensable to them ; or by violence, that is, robbing the people of Asia and Africa wherever they saw an opportunity of doing this with impunity,
Such is the position of Germany, Austria, Italy, France, the United States, and especially Great Britain, which is held up as an example for the imitation and envy of other nations. Almost all the people of these nations, having become conscious participators in deeds of violence, devote their strength and attention to the activities of Government, and to industry and to commerce, which aim chiefly at satisfying the demands of the rich for luxuries ; and they subjugate (partly by direct force, partly by money) the agricultural people both of their own and of foreign countries, who have to provide them with the necessaries of life.
Such people form a majority in some nations ; in others they are as yet only a minority ; but the percentage of men living on the labour of others grows uncontrollably and very rapidly, to the detriment of those who still do reasonable, agricultural work. So that a majority of the people of Western Europe are already in the condition (the United States are not so yet, but are being irresistibly drawn towards it) of not being able to subsist by their own labour on their own land. They are obliged in one way or another, by force or fraud, to take the necessaries of life from other people who still do their own labour. And they get these necessaries either by defrauding foreign nations, or by gross violence.
From this it necessarily results that trade, aiming chiefly at satisfying the demands of the rich, and of the richest of the rich (that is, the Government) directs its chief powers, not to improving the means of tilling the soil, but to making it possible by the aid of machines to somehow till large tracts of land (of which the people have been deprived), to manufacturing finery for women, building luxurious palaces, producing sweetmeats, toys, motor-cars tobacco, wines, delicacies, medicines, enormous quantities of printed matter, guns, rifles, powder, unnecessary railways, and so forth.
And as there is no end to the caprices of men when they are met not by their own labour but by that of others, industry is more and more diverted to the production of the most unnecessary, stupid, depraving products, and draws people more and more from reasonable work ; and no end can be foreseen to these inventions and preparations for the amusement of idle people, especially as the stupider and more depraving an invention is — such as the use of motors in place of animals or of one's own legs, railways to go up mountains, or armoured automobiles armed with quick-firing guns — the more pleased and proud of them are both their inventors and their possessors.
The longer representative Government lasted and the more it extended, the more did the Western nations abandon agriculture and devote their mental and physical powers to manufacturing and trading in order to supply luxuries to the wealthy classes, to enable the nations to fight one another, and to deprave the undepraved. Thus, in England, which has had representative Government longest, less than one-seventh of the adult male population are now employed in agriculture, in Germany 0.45 of the population, in France one-half, and a similar number in other States. So that at the present time the position of these States is such, that even if they could free them.selves from the calamity of proletarianism, they could not support themselves independently of other countries. All these nations are unable to subsist by their own toil ; and, just as the proletariat are dependent on the well-to-do classes, so are they completely dependent on countries that support themselves and are able to sell them their surplus : such as India, Russia or Australia. England supports from its own land less than a fifth of its population ; and Germany less than half, as is the case with France and with other countries ; and the condition of these nations becomes year by year more dependent on the food supplied from abroad.
In order to exist, these nations must have recourse to the deceptions and violence called in their language "acquiring markets " and " Colonial policy ; " and they act accordingly, striving to throw their nets of enslavement farther and farther to all ends of the earth, to catch those who are still leading rational lives. Vying with one another, they increase their armaments more and more, and more and more cunningly, under various pretexts, seize the land of those who still live rational lives, and force these people to feed them.
Till now they have been able to do this. But the limit to the acquirement of markets, to the deception of buyers, to the sale of unnecessary and injurious articles, and to the enslavement of distant nations, is already apparent. The peoples of distant lands are themselves becoming depraved : are learning to make for themselves all those articles which the Western nations supplied them with, and are, above all, learning the not very cunning science of arming themselves, and of being as cruel as their teachers.
So that the end of such immoral existence is already in sight. The people of the Western nations see this coming, and feeling unable to stop in their career, comfort themselves (as people half aware that they are ruining their lives always do) by self-deception and blind faith ; and such blind faith is spreading more and more widely among the majority of Western nations. This faith is a belief that those inventions and improvements for increasing the comforts of the wealthy classes and for fighting (that is, slaughtering men) which the enslaved masses for several generations have been forced to produce, are something very important atid almost holy, called, in the language of those who uphold such a mode of life, "culture," or even more grandly, "civilisation."
As every creed has a science of Its own, so this faith in "civilisation" has a science — Sociology, the one aim of which is to justify the false and desperate position in which the people of the Western world now find themselves. The object of this science is to prove that all these inventions: ironclads, telegraphs, nitro- glycerine bonibs, photographs, electric railways, and all sorts of similar foolish and nasty inventions that stupefy the people and are designed to increase the comforts of the idle classes and to protect them by force, not only represent something good, but even something sacred, predetermined by supreme unalterable laws; and that, therefore, the depravity they call " civilisation " is a necessary condition of human life, and must inevitably be adopted by all mankind.
And this faith is just as blind as any other faith, and just as unshakable and self-assured.
Any other position may be disputed and argued about ; but " civilisation " — meaning those inventions and those forms of life among which we are living, and all the follies and nastiness which we produce — is an indubitable blessing, beyond all discussion. Everything that disturbs faith in civilisation is a lie; everything that supports this faith is sacred truth.
This faith and its attendant science cause the Western nations not to wish to see or to acknowledge that the ruinous path they are following leads to inevitable destruction. The so-called " most advanced " among them, cheer themselves with the thought that without abandoning this path they can reach, not destruction, but the highest bliss. They assure themselves that, by again employing violence such as brought them to their present ruinous condition, somehow or other, from among people now striving to obtain the greatest material, animal welfare for themselves, men (influenced by Socialist doctrines) will suddenly appear, who will wield power without being depraved by it, and will establish an order of things in which people accustomed to a greedy, selfish struggle for their own profit, will suddenly grow self-sacrificing, and all work together for the common good, and share alike.
But this creed, having no reasonable foundation, has lately more and more lost credibility among thinking people ; and is held only by the labouring masses, whose eyes it diverts from the miseries of the present, giving them some sort of hope of a blissful future.
Such is the common faith of the majority of the Western nations, drawing them towards destruction. And this tendency is so strong that the voices of the wise among them, such as Rousseau, Lamennais, Carlyle, Ruskin, Channing, W. L. Garrison, Emerson, Herzen and Edward Carpenter, leave no trace in the consciousness of those who, though rushing towards destruction, do not wish to see and admit it.
And it is to travel this path of destruction that the Russian people are now invited by European politicians, who are delighted that one more nation should join them in their desperate plight. And frivolous Russians urge us to follow this path, considering it much easier and simpler, instead of thinking with their own heads, slavishly to imitate what the Western nations did centuries ago, before they knew whither it would lead.
Submission to violence brought both the Eastern nations (who continue to submit to their depraved oppressors) and the 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 Western and the Eastern nations ; which 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 by force or fraud the fruits of the labour of the Eastern nations for their own consumption ; and this by certain methods they have devised called " civilisation," they succeeded in doing until the Eastern nations learnt the same methods. The Eastern nations, or the majority of them, still continue to obey their rulers, and, lagging behind the Western nations in devising things needed for war, were forced to submit to them.
But some ot them are already beginning to acquire the depravity or " civilisation " which the Europeans are teaching them ; and, as the Japanese have shown, they can easily assimilate all the shallow, cunning methods of an immoral and cruel civilisation, and are preparing to withstand their oppressors by the same means that these employ against them.
And now the Russian nation, standing between the two — • having partially acquired Western methods, yet till now continuing to submit to its Government — is placed, by fate itself, in a position in which it must stop and think : seeing on one side the miseries to which, like the Eastern nations, it has been brought by submission to a despotic Power ; and on the other hand, seeing 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* And so 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 frorri 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 Government — such a Government as gives security and tranquillity to a nation — no longer exists in reality. There are two envenomed and contending parties, but no Government to which it is possible quietly to submit.
For Russians now to continue to submit to their Government, would mean to continue not only to bear the ever-increasing calamities which they have suffered and are suffering : land-hunger, famine, heavy taxes, cruel, useless and devastating wars ; but also and chiefly it would mean taking part in the crimes this Government, in its evidently useless attempts at self-defence, is now perpetrating.
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 act so ; for though it was possible for the Western nations, before they knew where it would lead them, to choose a path now seen to be false, 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. And they would at last attain only what has been attained by the Western nations after centuries of struggle; they would go on suffering the same chief ills that they now suffer from : land-hunger, 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 labour ; and 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.
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.
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-
For indeed, it is wonderful that a peasant husbandman of Tula, Saratof, Vologda, or Kharkof Province, without any profit to himself, and suffering all sorts of misery, such as taxation, law-courts, deprivation of land, conscription, etc., as a result of his submission to Government, should till now, contrary to the demands of his own conscience, have submitted, and should even have aided his own enslavement : paying taxes, without knowing or asking how they would be spent, giving his sons to be soldiers, knowing still less for what the sufferings and death of these so painfully reared and to him so necessary workers, were wanted.
It would be just as strange, or even stranger, if such agricultural peasants, living their peaceful, independent life without any need of a Government, and wishing to be rid of the burdens they endure at the hands of a violent and to them unnecessary power, instead of simply ceasing to submit to it, were, by employing violence similar to that from which they suffer, to replace the old force-using power by a new force-using power, as 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 oppressions, as well as 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 favourable 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 (that is, by participating in) it. This participation, spreading out more and more widely, caused more and more people to share in power ; and finally the majority 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 worse 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 the labour on the land natural to all men, to factory labour for the production (and over-production) of unnecessary and harmful things, and has obliged the majority of Western nations to base their lives on the deception and en- slavement 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 favourable 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 traveller followed a path on which those who went before him had lost their way, and from which the most far-seeing 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 ot special value for Russians when freeing themselves from the evils of power ; for while leading an agricultural life men have the least need of Government ; 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 which 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 are engaged in agriculture, and on it the possibility of existence for all the rest of the human race depends. So that, in reality, the human race is made up of husbandmen. All the rest— ministers, locksmiths, professors, carpenters, artists, tailors, scientists, physicians, generals, soldiers — are but the servants or parasites of the agriculturist. So that agriculture, besides being the most moral, healthy, joyful and necessary occupation, is also the highest of human activities, and alone gives men true independence.
The enormous majority of Russians are still living this most natural, moral and independent agricultural life ; and this is the second, most important, circumstance, which makes it possible and natural for the Russian people, now that it is faced by the necessity of changing its 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 which 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 — either because the Gospels printed in Latin were inaccessible to the people till the time of the Reformation, and have remained till 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 — 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. For the vast majority of Russians, however — 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, and because of their agricultural life— Christian teaching in its practical application has never ceased to be, and still continues to be, the chief guide of life.
From the earliest times till 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 ; and even 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; 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 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 to 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 ?
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 not act thus, but go on doing the very things that deprive them of physical and mental well-being; that is to say, 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 to get rid of their misery they need freedom ; 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, social organisations — 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 ; 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 Hindoos 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 Hindoos. 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 wars foreign or civil.
What is the cause of this ?
The cause of it is, that people when yielding to power do not reason, 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, preventing people from acting in accordance with their reasonable nature and their own interest, and forcing them to do what is unreasonable and disadvantageous, causes them to believe that the violence perpe- trated 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 never have existed (which is quite untrue) and never can 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. And the majority of the people of our times more and m*ore 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 the governmental hypnotism, which suggests to them the illusion that those who enslave them are not simply lost, vicious men, but fire 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 like this : The oppressors said to the oppressed, "Fulfil what we demand of you; if you disobey, wc 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, we will uphold it ; only let us live quietly, supporting ourselves and our families."
The oppressors did not recognise 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 (a fiapr la, 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, that in trying to free them.selves from the sin of fighting, those who submitted condoned that sin in those to whom they submitted ; and secondly, that they renounced their true freedom (i.e., submission to the will of God) by promising always to obey the power. Such a promise (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), a promise to obey the power of man, was a rejection of the will of God ; for the force-using power of the State, demanding from those who submit to it participation in killing men, in wars, 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 in one thing God's law can be replaced by human law, then God's law is no longer the highest law incumbent at all times on men ; and if it is not that, i 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. Under such an hypnotic suggestion of the necessity of obedience to Government, lie all the nations that live in the unions called States ; and the Russian people are in the same condition.
This is the cause of that apparently strange phenomenon, that a hundred millions of Russian cultivators of the soil, needing no kind of government, and constituting so large a majority that they may be called the whole Russian nation, do not choose the most natural and best way out of their present condition (by simply ceasing to submit to any force-using power) but continue to take part in the old Government and enslave themselves more and more ; or, fighting against the old Government, prepare for themselves a new one which, like the old one, will employ violence.
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 brutalised, 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, the majority of men have descended, in spite of all the subtlety of their mental achievements, to the lowest grade 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 in themselves a consciousness of their dependence on God, and thereby regaining a reasonable and free relation towards themselves and towards their fellows.
And so 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.
Whether the Russian nation will accomplish the great task now before it (the task of liberating men from human power substituted for the will of God) or whether, following the path of the Western nations, it will lose its opportunity and leave to some other happier Eastern race the leadership in the great work that lies before humanity, 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, realised.
" 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 without governmental power social life would become impossible. Men depraved by power fancy that as some of the crimes committed in the State are punished by the Government, 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, imperilling 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 labouring 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 conciousness alone, expressed in public opinion, keeps men from crimes, both in town centres 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 every one) 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 — the common possession of all ; laws giving some men a right over the labour 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 fulfilment by threats of violence, the public executions inflicted for the non-fulfilment 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 conciousnesss and its expression, public opinion.
So that 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, the plundering of nations, etc., which have been and still are being committed, and committed ostentatiously, by all Governments. All the horrors of Sténka Rázin, Pougatchéf and other rebels, were but results, and feeble imitations, of the horrors perpetrated by the Johns, Peters, and Birons, and that have been and are being perpe- rated by all Governments. If (which is very doubtful) the action of, Government does deter some dozens of men from crime, 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.
So that 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 the injury both material and spiritual 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 hypnotised 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 ; for 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 recognise 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, that all the theoretical anarchists, clever and learned men — from Bakounin 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, 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 common to all men, which it is natural for all to obey ; and without the obedience of men to one and the same law — human or divine— human society cannot exist.
Deliverance from human law is only possible on condition that one acknowledges a divine law common to all men.
" But if a primitive agricultural society, like the Russian, cart live without government," will be said in reply, " what are those, millions to do who have given up agriculture and are living an industrial life in towns? We cannot all cultivate the land."
" The only thing every man can be, is an agriculturist," is the correct reply given by Henry George to this question.
"But if everybody now returned to an agricultural life," it will again be said, " the civilisation mankind has attained would be destroyed, and that would be a terrible misfortune ; and therefore a return to agriculture would be an evil and not a benefit for mankind."
A certain method exists whereby men justify their fallacies, and it is this : People, accepting the fallacy into which they have fallen as an unquestionable axiom, unite this fallacy and all its effects into one conception, and call it by one word, and then ascribe to this conception and word a special, indefinite and mystical meaning. Such conceptions and words are, the Churchy Science, Justice, tJie State, and Civilization, Thus, the Church becomes not what it really is, a number of men who have all fallen into the same error, but a "communion of those who believe rightly." Justice becomes not a collection of unjust laws framed by certain men, but the designation of those rightful conditions under which alone it is possible for men to live. Science becomes not what it really is : the chance dissertations which at a given time occupy the minds of idle men, but the only true knowledge. In the same way Civilisation becomes not what it really is : the outcome of the activity (falsely and harmfully misdirected by force- using Governments) of the Western nations, who have succumbed to the false idea of freeing themselves from violence by violence, but the unquestionably true way towards the future welfare of humanity. ** Even if it be true," say the supporters of civilization, that all these inventions, technical appliances and products of industry, are now only used by the rich and are inaccessible to working men, and cannot therefore as yet be considered a benefit to all mankind, this is so only because these mechanical appliances have not yet attained their full perfection and are not yet distributed as they should be. When mechanism is still further perfected, and the workmen are freed from the power of the Capitalists, and all the works and factories are in their hands, the machines will produce so much of everything and it will all be so well distributed, that everybody will have the use of everything. No one will lack anything, and all will be happy."
Not to mention the fact that we have no reason to believe that the working men who now struggle so fiercely with one another for existence, or even for more of the comforts, pleasures and luxuries of existence, will suddenly become so just and self- denying that they will be content to share equally the benefits the machines are going to give them — leaving that aside — the very supposition that all these works with their machines, which could not have been started or continued except under the power of Government and Capital, will remain as they are, when the power of Government and Capital have been destroyed, is a quite arbitrary supposition.
To expect it, is the same as it would have been to expect that after the emancipation of the serfs on one of the large, luxurious Russian estates, which had a p.irk, conservatories, arbours, private theatrical troupe, an orchestra, a picture gallery, stables, kennels and store-houses filled with different kinds of garments — all these, things would be in part distributed among the liberated peasants and in part kept for common use. One would think it was evident that on an estate of that kind, neither the houses, clothes, nor conservatories of the rich proprietor would be suitable for the liberated peasants, and they would not continue to keep them up. In the same way, when the working people are emancipated from the power of Government and capital, they will not continue to maintain the arrangements that have arisen under these powers, and will not go to work in factories and works which could only have come into existence owing to their enslavement, even if such factories could be profitable and pleasant for them.
It is true that when the workers are emancipated from slavery one will regret all this cunning machinery which weaves so much beautiful stuff so quickly, and makes such nice sweets, looking- glasses, etc., but, in the same way, after the emancipation of the serfs one regretted the beautiful race-horses, pictures, magnolias, musical instruments and private theatres that disappeared. But just as the liberated serfs bred animals suited to their way of life, and raised plants they required, and the race-horses and magnolias disappeared of themselves, so the workmen, freed from the power of Government and capital, will direct their labour to quite other work than at present.
" But it is much more profitable to bake all the bread in one oven than that everybody should heat his own, and to weave twenty times as quickly at a factory as on a handloom at home," say the supporters of civilization, speaking as if men were dumb cattle for whom food, clothing, dwellings, and more or less labour, were the only questions to solve.
An Australian savage knows very well that it would be more profitable to build one hut for himself and his wife, yet he erects two, so that both he and his wife may enjoy privacy. The Russian peasant knows very decidedly that it is more profitable for him to live in one house with his father and brothers ; yet he Separates from them, builds his own cottage, and prefers to bear privations rather than obey his elders, or quarrel and have disagreement, " Better but a pot of broth, and to be one's own master. " I think the majority of reasonable people will prefer to clean their own clothes and boots, carry water, and trim their own lamps, than go to a factory and do obligatory labour for one hour a day to produce machines that would do all these things.
When coercion is no longer used, nothing of all these fine machines that polish boots and clean plates, nor even of those that bore tunnels and impress steel, etc., will probably remain. The liberated workmen will inevitably let everything that was founded on their enslavement perish, and will inevitably begin to construct quite other machines and appliances, with other aims, of other dimensions, and very differently distributed.
This is so plain and obvious, that men could not help seeing it if they were not under the influence of the superstition of civilization.
It is this wide-spread and firmly-fixed superstition that causes all indications of the falseness of the path the Western nations are travelling, and all attempts to bring the erring peoples back to a free and reasonable life, to be rejected, and even to be regarded as a kind of blasphemy or madness. This blind belief that the life we have arranged for ourselves is the best possible life, also causes all the chief agents of civilization — its Government officials scientists, artists, merchants, manufacturers, and authors— while making the workers support their idle lives — to overlook their own sins and to feel perfectly sure that their activity is, not an immoral and harmful activity (as it really is), but a very useful and important one, and that they are, therefore, very important people and of great use to humanity ; and that all the stupid, trifling, and nasty things produced under their direction, such as cannons, fortresses, cinematographs, cathedrals, motors, explosive bombs, phonographs, telegraphs, and steam printing-machines that turn out mountains of paper printed with nastiness, lies and absurdities, will remain just the same when the workers are free, and will always be a great boon to humanity.
Yet to people free from the superstition of civilization, it cannot but be perfectly obvious that all those conditions of life which among the Western nations are now called " civilization," are nothing but monstrous results of the vanity of the upper, governing classes, such as were the productions of the Egyptian, Babylonian and Roman despots : the pyramids, temples and seraglios; or such as were the productions of the Russian serf-owners : palaces, serf-orchestras, private theatrical troupes, artificial lakes, lace, hunting packs and parks, which the slaves arranged for their lords.
It is said that if men cease to obey Governments and return to an agricultural life, all the industrial progress they have attained will be lost, and that, therefore, to give up obeying Government and to return to an agricultural life would be a bad thing. But there is no reason to suppose that a return to agricultural life, free from Government, would destroy such industries and achievements as are really useful to mankind, and do not require the enslavement of men. And if it stopped the production of that endless number of unnecessary, stupid and harmful things, on which a considerable portion of humanity is now employed, and rendered impossible the existence of the idle people who invent all the unnecessary and harmful things by which they justify their immoral lives, that does not mean that all that mankind has, worked out for its welfare would be destroyed. On the contrary the destruction of everything that is kept up by coercion, would evoke and promote an intensified production of all those useful and necessary technical improvements which, without turning men into machines and spoiling their lives, may ease the labour of the agriculturists and render their lives more pleasant.
The difference will only be, that when men are liberated from power and return to agricultural labour, the objects produced by art and industry will no longer aim at amusing the rich, satisfying idle curiosity, preparing for human slaughter, preserving useless and harmful lives at the cost of useful ones, or producing machines by which a small number of workmen can somehow produce a great number of things or cultivate a large tract of land ; but they will aim at increasing the productiveness of the work of those labourers who cultivate their own allotments with their own hands, and help to better their lives without taking them away from the land or interfering with their freedom,
But will people be able to live without obeying some human power? How will they conduct their common business? What will become of the different States? What will happen to Ireland, Poland, Finland, Algeria, India, and to all the Colonies? How will the nations group themselves?
Such questions are put by men who are accustomed to think that the conditions of life of all human societies are decided by the will and direction of a few individuals, and who therefore imagine that the knowledge of how future life will shape itself is accessible to man. Such knowledge, however, never was, nor can be, accessible.
If the most learned and best educated Roman citizen, accustomed to think that the life of the world was guided by the decrees of the Roman Senate and Emperors, had been asked what would become of the Roman Empire in a few centuries : or if he had himself thought of writing such a book as Bellamy's, you may be sure that he never could have foretold even approximately, either the Barbarians, or Feudalism, or the Papacy, or the disintegration of the peoples and their reunion into large States. The same 13 true of those Utopias, with flying machines, X-rays, electric motors, and Socialist organizations of life in the twenty-first century, which are so daringly drawn by the Bellamys, Morrises, Anatole Frances, and others.
Men cannot know what form social life will take in the future and more than that, harm results from their thinking they can know it. For nothing so interferes with the straight current of their lives as this fancied knowledge of what the future life of humanity ought to be. The life of individuals as well as of communities consists only in this — that men and communities continually move towards the unknown ; changing not because certain men have formed brain-spun plans as to what these changes should be, but in consequence of a tendency inherent in all men to strive towards moral perfection, attainable by the infinitely varied activity of millions and millions of human lives. Therefore the relation in which men will stand towards one another, and the forms into which they shape society depend entirely on the inner characters of men, and not at all on forecasting this or that form of life which they desire to adopt. Yet those who do not believe in God's law, always imagine that they can know what the future state of society should be, and not only define this future state, but do all sorts of things they themselves admit to be evil, in order to mould human society to the shape they think it ought to take.
That others do not agree with them, and think that social life should be quite differently arranged, does not disturb them ; and having assured themselves that they can know what the future of society ought to be, they not only decide this theoretically, but act: fight, seize property, imprison and kill men, to establish the form in which, according to their ideas, mankind will be happy.
The old argument of Caiaphas, *' It is expedient that one man should die, and that the whole nation perish not," seems irrefutable to such people. Of course they must kill, not one man only, but hundreds and thousands of men, if they are fully assured that the death of these thousands will give welfare to millions. People who do not believe in God and His law, cannot but argue thus. Such people live in obedience only to their passions, to their reasonings, and to social hypnotism, and have never considered their destiny of life, nor wherein the real happiness of humanity consists or, if they have thought about it, they have decided that this cannot be known. And these people, who do not know wherein the welfare of a single man lies, imagine that they know, and know beyond all doubt, what is needed for the welfare of society as a whole : know it so certainly, that to attain that welfare, as they understand it, they commit deeds of violence, murders and executions, which they themselves admit to be evil.
At first it seems strange that men who do not know what they themselves need, can imagine that they know clearly and indubitably what the whole community needs ; and yet it is just because they do not know what they need, that they imagine they know what the whole community needs.
The dissatisfaction they (lacking all guidance for their lives) dimly feel, they attribute not to themselves, but to the badness of the existing forms of social life, which differ from the one they have invented. And in cares for the rearrangement of society they find a possibility of escaping from consciousness of the wrongness of their own lives. That is why those who do not know what to do with themselves are always particularly sure what ought be done with society as a whole. The less they know about themselves, the more sure they are about society. Such men for the most part are either very thoughtless youths, or are the most depraved of social leaders, such as the Marats, Napoleons and Bismarcks ; and that is why the history of the nations is full of most terrible evil- doings.
The worst effect of this imaginary fore-knowledge of what society should be, and of this activity directed to the alteration of society, is that it is just this supposed knowledge and this activity which more than anything else hinders the movement of the community along the path natural to it for its true welfare.
Therefore to the question, " What will the lives of the nations be like which cease to obey power ? " we reply that we not only do not know, but ought not to suppose that anyone can know. We do not know in what circumstances these nations will be placed when they cease to obey power ; but we know indubitably what each one of us must do, that those conditions of national life should be the very best. We know, without the least doubt, that in order to make those conditions the very best, we must first of all abstain from acts of violence which the existing power demands of us, as well as from those to which men fighting against the existing power to establish a new one, invite us ; and we must therefore not obey any power. We must refuse to submit, not because we know how our life will shape itself in consequence of our ceasing to obey power, but because submission to a power that demands that we should break the law of God, is a sin. This we know beyond doubt, and we also know that as a consequence of not transgressing God's will and not sinning nothing but good can come to us or to the whole world.
People are prone to believe in the realization of the most improbable events under the sun. They believe in the possibility of flying and communicating with the planets, in the possibility of arranging Socialistic Communes, in spiritualistic communications, and in many other palpably impossible things ; but they do not wish to believe that the conception of life in which they and all who surround them live, can ever be altered.
And yet such changes, even the most extraordinary, are continually taking place in ourselves, and among those around us, and among whole communities and nations ; and it is these changes that constitute the essence of human life.
Not to mention changes that have happened in historic times in the social consciousness of nations, at present in Russia, before our very eyes, an apparently astonishing change is taking place with incredible rapidity in the consciousness of the whole Russian nation, of which we had no external indication two or three years ago.
The change only seems to us to have taken place suddenly, because the preparation for it, which went on in the spiritual region was not visible. A similar change is still going on in the spiritual region inaccessible to our observations. If the Russian people who two years ago thought it impossible to disobey or even to criticise the existing power, now not only criticise, but are even preparing to disobey it and to replace it by a new one, why should we not suppose that in the consciousness of the Russian people another change in their relation towards power — more natural to them — is now preparing, a change which will consist in their moral and religious emancipation from power ?
Why may not such a change be possible among any people, and why not at present among the Russians ? Why, instead of that irritated, egotistical mood of mutual strife, fear and hatred, which has now seized all nations, instead of all this preaching of lies, immorality, and violence now so strenuously circulated among all nations by newspapers, books, speeches, and actions — why should not a religious, humane, reasonable, loving mood seize the minds of all nations, and of the Russian nation in particular, after all the sins, sufferings and terrors they have lived through: a state of mind which would make them see all the horror of submitting to the power under which they live, and feel the joyful possibility of a reasonable, loving life without violence and without power ?
Why should not the consciousness of the possibility and necessity of emancipating themselves from the sin of power, and of establishing unity among men based on mutual agreement and on respect and love between man and man, be now ripening, just as the movement now manifesting itself in the Revolution prepared by decades of influence tending in one particular direction ?
Some ten or fifteen years ago the gifted French writer, Dumas fils, wrote a letter to Zola in which he, a talented and intelligent man chiefly occupied with aesthetic and social questions, when already old, uttered some strikingly prophetic words. Truly the spirit of God " bloweth where it listeth " ! This is what he wrote : —
"The soul, too, is incessantly at work, ever evolving toward light and truth. And so long as it has not reached full light and conquered the whole truth, it will continue to torment man.
"Well ! The soul never so harassed man, never so dominated him, as is dees to-day. It is as though it were in the air we all breathe. The few isolated souls that had separately desired the regeneration of society have, little by little, sought one another out, beckoned one another, drawn nearer, united comprehended one another, and formed a group, a centre of attraction, toward which others now fly from the four quarters of the globe, like larks toward a mirror. They have, as it were, formed one collective soul, so that men in future may realise together, consciously and irresistibly, the approaching union and steady progress of nations that were but recently hostile one to another. This new soul I find and recognise in events seemingly most calculated to deny it.
"These armaments of all nations, these threats their representatives address to one another, this recrudescence of race persecutions, these hostilities among compatriots, are all things of evil aspect, but not of evil augury. They are the last convulsions of that which is about to disappear. The social body is like the human body. Disease, in this case, is but a violent effort of the organism to throw off a morbid and harmful element.
" Those who have profited, and expect for long or or ever to continue to profit by the mistakes of the past, are uniting to prevent any modification of existing conditions. Hence these armaments and threats and persecutions ; but look carefully and you will see that all this is quite superficial. It is colossal, but hollow. There is no longer any soul in it — the soul has gone elsewhere ; these millions of armed men who are daily drilled to prepare for a general war of extermination, no longer hate the men they are expected to fight, and none of their leaders dares to proclaim this war. As for the appeals, and even the threatening claims, that rise from the suffering and the oppressed — a great and sincere pity, recognising their justice, begins at last to respond from above.
" Agreement is inevitable, and will come at an appointed time, nearer than is expected.
" I know not if it be because I shall soon leave this earth, and the rays that are already reaching me from below the horizon have disturbed my sight, but I believe our world is about to begin to realise the words, * Love one another' without, however, being concerned whether a man or a God uttered them.
" The spiritual movement one recognises on all sides, and which so many naive and ambitious men expect to be able to direct, will be absolutely humanitarian. Mankind, which does nothing moderately, is about to be seized with a frenzy, a madness, of love. This will not, of course, happen smoothly or all at once ; it will involve misunderstandings— even sanguinary ones perchance — so trained and so accustomed have we been to hatred, even by those, sometimes, whose mission it was to teach us to love one another. But it is evident that this great law of brotherhood must be accomplished some day, and I am convinced that the time is commencing when our desire for its accomplishment will become irresistible."
I believe that this thought, however strange the expression " seized with a frenzy of love " may seem, is perfectly true, and is felt more or less dimly by all men of our day. A time must come when love, which forms the fundamental essence of the soul; will take the place natural to it in the life of mankind, and will become the chief basis of the relations between man and man. That time is coming ; it is at hand.
We are living in the times predicted by Christ, wrote Lamennais. " From one end of the earth to the other, everything is tottering. In all institutions, whatever they may be, in all the different systems on which the social life of men is founded, nothing stands firm. Everyone feels that soon it must all fall to ruins, and that in this temple too, not one stone will be left on another. But as the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, from whence the living God had departed, foreboded and prepared the erection of a new city, and a new temple, whitlier the people of all races and of all nations would come together at their own free will — so on the ruins of the temples and towns of to-day, a new city and a new temple will be erected, predestined to become the universal temple and the common fatherland of the human race, disunited till now by teachings hostile to one another, that make brothers into strangers and sow godless hatred and revolting warfare among them. When that hour, known to God alone, arrives — the hour of union of the nations into one temple and one city — then indeed will the Kingdom of Christ come — the complete fulfilment of his divine mission. Did he not come with the one object of teaching men that they must be united by the law of love? "
Channing said the same:
" Mighty powers are at work in the world. Who can stay them ? God's word has gone forth, and ' it cannot return to him void. ' A new comprehension of the Christian spirit — a new reverence for humanity, a new feeling of brotherhood, and of all men's relation to the common Father — this is among the signs of our times. We see it ; do we not feel it ? Before this, all oppressions are to fall. Society, silently pervaded by this, is to change its aspect of universal warfare for peace. The power of selfishness, all-grasping and seemingly invincible, is to yield to this diviner energy... "On earth peace," will not always sound as fiction.
Why should we suppose that people, who are entirely in the power of God, will always remain under the strange delusion that only human laws — changeable, accidental, unjust and local as they are —are important and binding, and not theone, eternal, just law of God, common to all men? Why should we think that the teachers of mankind will always preach, as they now do, that there is and can be, no such law, but that the only laws that exist are special laws of religious ritual for every nation and every sect ; or the so-called scientific laws of matter and the imaginary laws of sociology (which do not bind men to anything) or, finally, civil laws, which men themselves can institute and change? Such an error is possible for a time, but why should vve suppose that people to whom one and the same divine law written in their hearts has been revealed in the teaching of the Brahmins, Buddha, Lao-Tsze, Confucius and Christ, will not at last follow this one basis of all laws, affording as it does moral satisfaction and a joyful social life — but that they will always follow that wicked and pitiful tangle of Church, scientific, and Governmental teaching, which diverts their attention from the one thing needful, and directs it towards what can be of no use to them, as it does not show them how each separate man should live?
Why should we think that men will continue unceasingly and deliberately to torment themselves, some trying to rule over others, others with hatred and envy submitting to the rulers and seeking means themselves to become rulers? Why should we think that the progress men pride themselves on will always lie in the increase of population and the preservation of life, and never in the moral elevation of life? Will lie in miserable mechanical inventions by which men will produce ever more and more harmful, injurious and demoralising objects, and not lie in greater and greater unity one with another, and in that subjugation of their lusts which is necessary to make such unity possible? Why should we not suppose that men will rejoice and vie with one another, not in riches and luxuries, but in simplicity and frugality and in kindness one towards another? Why should we not suppose that men will see progress, not in seizing more and more for themselves, but in taking less and less from others, and in giving more and more to others ; not in increasing their power, not in fighting more and more successfully, but in growing more and more humble, and in coming into closer and closer union, man with man and nation with nation?
Instead of imagining men unrestrainedly yielding to their lusts, breeding like rabbits, and establishing factories in towns for the production of chemical foods to feed their increasing generation, and living in these towns without plants or animals — why should we not imagine chaste people, struggling against their lusts, living in loving communion with their neighbours amid fruitful fields, gardens and woods, with tame, well-fed animal friends ; only with this difference from their present condition, that they do not consider the land to be anyone's private property, do not themselves belong to any particular nation, do not pay taxes or duties, prepare for war, or fight anybody ; but on the contrary, have more and more of peaceful intercourse with every race?
To imagine the life of men like that, nothing need be invented or altered or added in one's imagination to the lives of the agricultural races we know in China, Russia, India, Canada, Algeria, Egypt and Australia.
To picture such life to ourselves, one need not imagine any kind of cunning or out-of-the-way arrangement, but need only imagine to oneself men acknowleding no other supreme law but the universal law expressed alike in the Brahmin, Buddhist' Confucian, Taoist and Christian religions — -the law of love to God and to one's neighbour.
To imagine such a life we need not imagine men as some new kind of being — -virtuous angels. They will be just as they now are, with all weaknesses and passions natural to them ; they will sin, will perhaps quarrel, and commit adultery, and take away other people's property, and even slay ; but all this will be the exception and not, as now, the rule. Their life will be quite different owing to the one fact that they will not consider organised violence a good thing and a necessary condition of life, and will not be trained amiss by hearing the evil deeds of Governments represented as good actions.
Their life will be quite different, because there will no longer be that impediment to preaching and teaching the spirit of goodness, love, and submission to the will of God, that exists as long as we admit as necessary and lawful, governmental violence demanding what is contrary to God's law, and involving the acceptance of what is criminal and bad, in place of what is lawful and good.
Why should we not imagine that, through suffering, men may be aroused from the suggestion, the hypnotism, under which they have suffered so long, and remember that they are all sons and servants of God, and therefore can and must submit only to Him and to their own consciences ? All this is not difficult to imagine; it is even difficult to imagine that it should not be accomplished.
" Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven," does not refer to individuals only, but also to human societies. As a man, having experienced all the miseries caused by the passions and temptations of life, consciously returns to a state of simplicity, kindness towards all, and readiness to accept what is good (the state in which children unconsciously live) and returns to it with the wealth of experience and the reason of a grown-up man, so human society also, having experienced all the miserable consequences of abandoning the law of God to obey human power, and of attempting to arrange life apart from agricultural labour, must now consciously return, with all the wealth of experience gained during the time of its aberration, from the snares of human power, and from the attempt to organise life on a basis of Industrial activity, and must submit to the highest, Divine law, and to the primary work of cultivating the soil, which it had temporarily abandoned.
Consciously to return from the snares of human power, and to obey the supreme law of God alone, is to admit as always and everywhere binding upon us, the eternal law of God, which is alike in all the teachings : Brahminist, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoian Christian, and to some extent in Mahommedan (Babiist) and is incompatible with subjection to human power.
Consciously to live an agricultural life, is to acknowledge it to be not an accidental and temporary condition, but the life which makes it easiest for man to fulfil the will of God, and which should therefore be preferred to any other.
For such a return to an agricultural life and to conscious disobedience to power, the Eastern nations (and among them the Russian nation) are most favourably situated.
The Western nations have already wandered so far on the false path of changing the organization of power, and exchanging agricultural for industrial work, that such a return is difficult and requires great efforts. But, sooner or later, the ever-increasing annoyance and instability of their position will force them to return to a reasonable and truly free life, supported by their own labour and not by the exploitation of other nations. However alluring the external success of manufacturing industry and the showy side of such a life may be, the most penetrating thinkers among the Western nations have long pointed out how disastrous is the path they are following, and how necessary it is to reconsider and change their way, and to return to that agricultural life which was the original form of life for all nations, and which is the ordained path making it possible for all men to live a reasonable and joyful life.
The majority of the Eastern peoples, including the Russian nation, will not have to alter their lives at ail. They need only stop their advance along the false path they have just entered, and become clearly conscious of the negative attitude towards power and the affectionate attitude towards husbandry which was always natural to them.
We of the Eastern nations should be thankful to fate for placing us in a position in which we can benefit by the example of the Western nations : benefit by it, not in the sense of imitating it, but in the sense of avoiding their mistakes, not doing what they have done, not travelling the disastrous path from which nations that have gone so far are already returning, or are preparing to return.
Just in this halt in the march along a false path, and in showing the possibility and inevitableness of indicating and making a different path, one easier, more joyful, and more natural than the one the Western nations have travelled, lies the chief and mighty meaning of the Revolution now taking place in Russia.
- Translator's note - The word "power" occurs very frequently in this article, and is, as it were, a pivot on which it turns. We have been tempted in different places to translate it (the Russian word is vlast) by "government," "authorities," "force" or "violence" according to the context. But the unity of the article is better maintained by letting a single English word represent the one Russian word, and we have followed this principle as far as possible.
- Translator’s note – Sténka Rázin and Pougatchéf were famous Russian rebels of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- Translator’s note – Biron, the favorite of the Empress Anne, ruled Russia for ten years (1730-1741).