THE END OF THE AGE
(On the Approaching Revolution)
“Was there ever so much to do? Our age is a revolutionary one in the best sense of the word – not of physical, but moral revolution. Higher ideas of the social state and of human perfection are at work.” – W. E. Channing
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Gospel language the end of the age does not signify the end and the beginning of a century, but the end of one view of life, of one faith, of one method of social interaction between men and the commencement of another view of life, another faith, another method of social interaction. In the Gospel it is said that during such transitions from one age to another all kinds of calamities shall take place: treacheries, frauds, cruelties, and wars, and that owing to lawlessness love will slacken. I understand these words not as a supernatural prophecy, but as an indication that when one faith, the form of life in which men have lived, is being replaced by another, when that which is outlived and old is falling off and being replaced by the new, then great disturbances, cruelties, frauds, treacheries, and every kind of lawlessness must unavoidably take place. And in consequence of this lawlessness love, the most important and necessary quality for the social life of men, must slacken. This is what is now taking place, not only in Russia, but also in the entire Christian world. In Russia it has only manifested itself more vividly and openly, but in all Christendom the same is going on in a concealed or latent state. I think that at present – at this very time – the life of the Christian nations is near to the limit dividing the old epoch that is ending from the new which is beginning. I think that now, at this very time, that great revolution has begun which for almost 2000 years has been preparing in all Christendom. It is a revolution consisting in the replacing of false Christianity, and the consequent power of one portion of mankind and the slavery of another, by true Christianity, and the consequent recognition of that equality and true liberty which are natural to all rational beings. I see the external symptoms of this in the strenuous struggle between classes in all nations; in the cold cruelty of the wealthy; in the exasperation and despair of the poor; in the insane, senseless, ever increasing armaments of all states against each other; in the spread of the unrealizable teaching of socialism, dreadful in its despotism and wonderful in its superficiality; in the futility and stupidity of the idle discussions and examinations upheld as the most important mental activity, called science; in the morbid depravation and emptiness of art in all its manifestations; and above all, not only in the absence of any religion in the leading spheres of society, but also in the deliberate negation of all religion and its replacement with the legality of the oppression of the weak by the strong, resulting in the complete absence of any rational guiding principles in life. Such are the general symptoms of the approaching revolution, or rather of that preparedness for revolution which the Christian nations have attained. The temporary historical symptom, or the final push that must begin the revolution, is the Russo-Japanese War just terminated, and along with that the revolutionary movement which has now burst out, and never before existed, among the Russian people.
The cause of the defeat of the Russian army and fleet by the Japanese is attributed to unfortunate accidental circumstances and to the abuses of Russian statesmen. The cause of the revolutionary movement in Russia is attributed to the bad government and to the increased activity of the revolutionaries. And the result of these events appears in the eyes of Russian as well as foreign politicians to consist in the weakening of Russia, in a displacement of the center of gravity in international relations, and in the alteration of the form of government of the Russian state. But I think that these events have a much more important significance. The rout of the Russian army, fleet, and state organization is not merely the rout of the army, the fleet, and the Russian state, but the symptom of the beginning of the destruction of the Russian state. The destruction of the Russian state in its turn is, in my opinion, a sign of the beginning of the destruction of the entire false Christian civilization. It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new age.
That which has brought Christian nations to the position in which they now are began long ago. It began from the time when Christianity was recognized as a state religion.
We have a state founded upon coercion, demanding for its existence complete obedience to its laws in preference to religious law; a state unable to exist without executions, armies, and wars; a state attributing almost divine authority to its rulers; a state extolling wealth and power. And such an institution, in the persons of its rulers and subjects, professes to accept the Christian religion, which proclaims complete equality and freedom among men and recognizes one law of God as higher than all other laws. This religion not only repudiates all coercion, all retribution, all executions, and all wars, but also enjoins love to one’s enemies, and extols, not power and wealth, but meekness and poverty. The heathen rulers of states have not accepted such an institution of this Christian religion in its true sense, but in that distorted form according to which the pagan organization of life continues to be possible. Both the rulers and their counselors, in most cases, completely fail to understand the essence of true Christianity, are quite sincerely revolted against those who profess and preach Christianity in its true meaning, and, with a quiet conscience, execute and banish them and forbid them to preach Christianity in its true sense. The priesthood forbids the reading of the Gospels, and arrogates to itself alone the right of explaining Holy Writ. It invents complicated sophisms justifying the impossible union of the state and Christianity, and institutes solemn rites for the hypnotization of the people.
For ages most men have lived regarding themselves as Christians without even suspecting a hundredth part of the meaning of true Christianity. Yet, however great was the prestige of the state, however long was the duration of its triumph, however cruelly Christianity was suppressed, it was impossible to stifle that truth once expressed which disclosed to man his soul, and which constitutes the essence of Christianity. The longer such a position continued, the clearer became the contradiction between true Christianity, teaching of meekness and love, and the state, an institution of pride and coercion. The greatest dam in the world cannot retain a source of living water. The water will inevitably find a way, either by going through the dam, washing it away, or circumventing it. It is only a question of time. So it has been with true Christianity, hidden by state power. For a long time the state kept back the living water, but the time has now come and Christianity is destroying the dam that restrained it, and is carrying its wreckage away with it. At the present moment, I see the external symptoms of the approach of this time in the easy victory that the Japanese, almost without effort, have secured over Russia, and in those disturbances which, simultaneously with this war, have spread in all classes of the Russian people.
As always has been the case in regard to all defeats, so also now people attempt to explain the defeat of the Russians by the bad organization of the Russian military department, by the abuses and blunders of the commanders, and so forth. But this is not the chief point. The reason behind the successes of the Japanese is not so much in the bad government of Russia, or in the bad organization of the Russian army, but in the great positive superiority of the Japanese in the military arts. Japan has conquered, not because the Russians are weak, but because Japan is at the present time perhaps the most powerful state in the world, both on land and on sea. This is so, firstly, because all the technical scientific improvements that once gave predominance in strife to Christian nations over un-Christian nations have been assimilated by the Japanese, owing to their practical capacities and the importance they attach to military arts, much more successfully than by the Christian nations. Secondly, this is so because the Japanese are by nature braver and more indifferent to death than the Christian nations are at present. Thirdly, this is so because warlike patriotism, which is utterly incompatible with Christianity, and which has been with so much effort inculcated by Christian governments among their peoples, is yet extant in all its untouched power among the Japanese. Fourthly, this is so because slavishly submitting to the despotic authority of the deified Mikado, the strength of the Japanese is more concentrated and unified than the strength of those nations who have outlived their servile submission. In a word, the Japanese have had and have got an enormous advantage in that they are not Christians.
However distorted may be Christianity among Christian nations, it yet, however vaguely, lives in their consciousness. At all events, the best among them cannot devote all their mental powers to the invention and preparation of weapons of murder, cannot fail to regard martial patriotism more or less indifferently, cannot (like the Japanese) cut open their stomachs merely so that they may avoid surrendering themselves as prisoners to the foe, and cannot blow themselves up into the air together with the enemy as was previously the case. Christians no longer value military virtues and heroism as much as formerly, they respect less and less the military class, they can no longer slavishly submit to authority without consciousness of insult to human dignity, and above all they, or most of them, can no longer commit murder with indifference.
In all times, even in peaceful activities inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, Christian nations could not compete with non-Christian nations. So it was, and continues to be, in the monetary strife with non-Christians. However badly and fallaciously Christianity may be interpreted, the Christian recognizes (and the more so the more he is a Christian) that wealth is not the highest good and, therefore, he cannot devote all his powers to it, as does he who has no ideals higher than wealth, or who regards wealth as a divine blessing. The same is true in the sphere of non-Christian science and art. In these spheres, both of positive experimental science and of art, which places pleasure as its aim, the precedence has belonged, does, and always must belong to the least Christian individuals and nations. What we see in the manifestation of peaceful activities was bound to exist all the more in the activity of war, which is directly repudiated by true Christianity. It is this inevitable advantage in the military art of non-Christian over Christian nations which, given equal means of military science, has been so unmistakably demonstrated in the brilliant victory of the Japanese over the Russians. And it is in this inevitable and necessary superiority of non-Christian nations that the enormous significance of the Japanese victory lies.
The significance of the Japanese victory is that this victory has shown in the most obvious way, not only to vanquished Russia, but also to the whole Christian world, all the futility of the external culture of which Christian nations were so proud. It has proven that this external culture, which appeared to them to be some kind of an especially important result of the age of long efforts of Christendom, is something very unimportant and insignificant. The Japanese nation was distinguished by no especially superior spiritual qualities. But when it needed this culture, it could in a few decades assimilate all the scientific wisdom of the Christian nations, inclusive of bacteria and explosives, and could so well adapt this wisdom to practical purposes that, in its adaptation to the military art and in the military art itself (so highly valued by Christian nations), it could surpass all these nations.
For ages the Christian nations, under the pretext of self-defense, have competed in inventing the most effectual methods of destroying each other (methods immediately adopted by all their opponents), and have made use of these methods both for the intimidation of each other and for the acquirement of every kind of advantage over uncivilized nations in Africa and Asia. And lo! Among the non-Christian nations, there appears one warlike, adroit, and imitative nation that, having seen the danger threatening it together with other non-Christian nations, assimilated with extraordinary facility and speed all that military superiority had given Christian nations. It became stronger than them, having understood the simple truth that, if you are beaten with a stout and strong club, you have to take a still thicker and stronger club and use it to strike the one who strikes you. The Japanese very quickly and easily assimilated this wisdom and military science, and possessing besides all the advantages of religious despotism and patriotism, they have manifested military power that has proven stronger than the most powerful military state. The victory of the Japanese over the Russians has shown all the military states that military power is no longer in their hands, but has passed, or is soon bound to pass, into other un-Christian hands. It is not difficult for other non-Christian nations in Asia and Africa, being oppressed by Christians, to follow the example of Japan, and having assimilated the military techniques of which we are so proud, not only to free themselves, but to wipe all of the Christian states from the face of the earth.
Therefore, as a result of this war, Christian governments are in the most obvious way brought to the necessity of still further strengthening those military preparations whose cost has already crushed their people. And while doubling their armaments, they still foresee that in time the pagan nations oppressed by them will, like the Japanese, acquire their military art, throw off their yoke, and avenge themselves, no longer by words but by bitter experience. The war has confirmed not only for Russians, but also for all Christian nations, the simple truth that coercion can lead to nothing but the increase of calamities and suffering.
This victory has shown that, occupying themselves with the increase of their military power, Christian nations have been doing not only an evil and immoral work, but also a work opposed to the Christian spirit that lives in them – a work in which they, as Christian nations, must always be excelled and beaten by non-Christian nations. This victory has shown the Christian nations that all to which their governments directed their activity has been ruinous to them, an unnecessary exhaustion of their strength, and, above all, the raising up for themselves of more powerful foes among non-Christian nations. This war has proven in the most obvious way that the power of Christian nations can in no way lie in military power, which is contrary to the Christian spirit, and that, if the Christian nations wish to remain Christian, their efforts should be directed not at all to military power, but to something different: to such an organization of life which, flowing from the Christian teaching, will give to men the greatest welfare, not by means of rude violence, but by means of rational cooperation and love.
In this lies the great significance of the victory of the Japanese for the Christian world.
The Japanese victory has shown all Christendom the fallacy of the way along which Christian nations were, and are, advancing. Moreover, with its dreadful, senseless suffering and squandering of labor and life, this war has shown to the Russian people, besides the contradiction common to all Christian nations between Christianity and coercive state organization, the dreadful danger in which they arc continually placed by obeying their governments.
Without any necessity, but for some or other dark personal purposes and through some or other insignificant individuals finding themselves at the head of the state, the Russian government has thrown the nation into a senseless war, which in any case could have but evil consequences for the Russian people. Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost, the products of the people’s labor are lost, and the glory of Russia is lost (for those who were proud of it). Worst of all, those responsible for these atrocities, far from feeling their guilt, reproach others for all that has happened, and still remaining in their old positions, may tomorrow cast the Russian people into yet worse calamities.
Every revolution begins when society has outgrown the view of life on which the existing forms of social life were founded, when the contradiction between life such as it is and life such as it should and might be becomes so evident to the majority that they feel the impossibility of continuing existence under their former conditions. The revolution begins in that nation wherein the greater numbers of men are conscious of this contradiction. As to the revolutionary methods, these depend on the object toward which the revolution tends.
In 1793, the consciousness of the contradiction between the idea of the equality of men and the despotic power of kings, priesthood, nobility, and bureaucracy was felt not only by the nations suffering from oppression, but also by the best men of the ruling classes in all Christendom. But nowhere were these classes so sensitive to this inequality, and nowhere was the consciousness of the people so little stultified by servitude as in France, and therefore the revolution of 1793 began precisely in France. And the most adequate means of realizing equality naturally seemed to be to forcibly take back that which the authorities possessed, and therefore the participants of that revolution realized their aims by violence.
Governments arbitrarily deprive people of the product of their labor for lands that can have no end, and are capable at any moment of compelling nations to participate in senseless and cruel manslaughter. At the present date, 1905, there is a contradiction between the consciousness of the possibility and lawfulness of free life on the one hand, and of the unreason and disaster of obedience to such coercive authority on the other. This contradiction is felt not only by the masses suffering from this coercion, but also by the best men of the ruling classes, and nowhere is this contradiction felt so strongly as among the Russian people. This contradiction is felt especially strongly in the Russian nation, owing both to the insane and humiliating war into which they have been drawn by the government and to the agricultural life yet retained by the Russian people, but above all owing to the particularly vital Christian consciousness of this people. This is why I think that the revolution of 1905, having for its object the liberation of men from coercion, must begin and has already begun in Russia.
The means of realizing the objects of a revolution for the freedom of men obviously must be other than that violence by which men have hitherto attempted to realize equality. The men of the great French revolution, wishing to attain equality, might make the mistake of thinking that equality is attainable by coercion, although it would seem evident that equality cannot be secured by coercion, as coercion is in itself the keenest manifestation of inequality. The freedom constituting the chief aim of the present revolution cannot in any case be attained by violence. Yet at present, the people who are producing the revolution in Russia think that, by overthrowing the existing government and instituting a constitutional monarchy or even a socialistic republic, they will attain the object at which the revolution aimed. They are repeating all that has taken place in European revolutions with their solemn funeral processions, destruction of prisons, brilliant speeches, “Allez dire a votre maitre,” constitutional assemblies, and so forth.
But history does not repeat itself. Violent revolution has outlived its time. It has already given men all it can, but at the same time it has shown what it cannot attain. The revolution now beginning in Russia among a population of 100,000,000, standing in quite a peculiar mental attitude and taking place not in 1793 but in 1905, cannot possibly have the same objects and be realized by the same methods as the revolutions of sixty, eighty, or a hundred years ago among German and Latin nations quite differently constituted.
The Russian agricultural nation of 100,000,000 (which, as a matter of fact, means the whole nation) requires not a duma, not the grant of a certain kind of rights (the enumeration of which more than anything clearly demonstrates the absence of simple true freedom), and not the substitution of one form of coercive power for another, but a true and complete freedom from all coercive power.
The significance of the revolution beginning in Russia and hanging over all the world does not consist in the establishment of an income tax or other taxes, in the separation of church from state, in the acquisition of social institutions by the state, in the organization of elections and the imaginary participation of the people in the ruling power, or in the founding of the most democratic or socialistic republic with universal suffrage. It consists only in actual freedom.
Freedom, not imaginary, but actual, is attained not by barricades or murders, not by any kind of new coercively introduced institution, but only by the cessation of obedience to any human authority whatever.
The fundamental cause of the impending revolution, as of all past and future revolutions, is a religious one. By the word religion is usually understood either certain mystical definitions of the unseen world, certain rites, a cult supporting, consoling, and inspiring men in life, the explanation of the origin of the universe, or moral rules of life sanctioned by divine command. But true religion is, before all else, the disclosure of that supreme law common to all men which at any given time affords them the greatest welfare.
Among various nations, even before the Christian teaching, there was expressed and proclaimed a supreme religious law, common to all mankind and consisting in this: that men, for their welfare, should live not each for himself, but each for the good of all, for mutual service. This law was proclaimed by Buddha, Isaiah, Confucius, Lao-Tze, the Stoics, and others, and those who knew it could not but see all its truth and beneficence. But the customary life, founded not upon mutual service but on violence, had penetrated to such an extent into all institutions and habits that, while people recognized the beneficence of the law of mutual service, they continued to live according to the laws of violence, justifying this by the necessity of threats and retribution. It seemed to them that without threats, and without returning evil for evil, social life was impossible. Certain people took upon themselves the duty of applying laws, i.e. violence, for the establishment of order and the correction of men, and while they commanded, others obeyed. But the rulers were inevitably depraved by the power they used. Then, being themselves depraved, they transmitted to others their own depravity instead of correcting them. Meanwhile, those who obeyed were depraved by participation in the coercive actions of the rulers by their servile submission and imitation of the rulers. One thousand nine hundred years ago, Christianity appeared and confirmed the law of mutual service with new force, and further explained the reasons why this law had not been fulfilled.
The Christian teaching showed with extraordinary clarity that this reason was the false idea about the lawfulness and necessity of coercion for retribution. Having demonstrated from various sides the unlawfulness and harmfulness of retribution, it showed that the greatest calamities of men proceeded from acts of violence, which are committed by some men upon others under the excuse of retribution. The Christian teaching demonstrated not only the injustice but also the harmfulness of vengeance; it showed that the only means of deliverance from violence is the submissive and peaceful endurance of it.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)
This teaching pointed out that, if the man who uses force is the judge of when force is admissible, then there will be no limit to violence, and therefore that, if violence is to be abolished, then it is necessary that no one should use violence under any pretext whatever, especially under the most usual pretext of retribution. This teaching confirmed the simple self-evident truth that evil cannot be abolished by evil, and that the only means of diminishing the evil of violence is abstinence from violence.
This teaching was clearly expressed and established. But the false idea of the justice of retribution as a necessary condition of human life had become so deeply rooted, and so many people did not know the Christian teaching, or knew it only in a distorted form, that those who had accepted the law of Jesus yet continued to live according to the law of violence. The leaders of the Christian world thought that it was possible to accept the teaching of mutual service without that teaching of non-resistance which constitutes the keystone of the whole teaching of the mutual life of mankind. To accept the law of mutual service without accepting the commandment of non-resistance was the same as to build an arch without securing it where it meets.
Christian people, imagining that they could arrange a life better than the pagan without having accepted the commandment of non-resistance, continued to do not only what non-Christian nations did, but even things much worse, and increasingly departed from the Christian life. The essence of Christianity, owing to its incomplete acceptance, became more and more concealed, and Christian nations at last attained the position in which they now are: the transformation of Christian nations into inimical camps giving all their powers to arming themselves against each other, and ready at any moment to devour each other. They have reached the position that they not only arm themselves against each other, but have also armed and are arming against the non-Christian nations, who hate them and have risen against them. Above all, they have reached the complete repudiation, not only of Christianity, but also of any higher law in life whatever.
The fundamental religious cause of the impending revolution lies in the distortion of the higher law of mutual service and of the commandment of non-resistance given by Christian teaching, which renders this law possible.
Not only did Christian teaching show that vengeance, and the return of evil for evil, is disadvantageous and unreasonable since it increases the evil; it showed, moreover, that non-resistance to evil by violence, the bearing of every kind of violence without violently striving against it, is the only means for the attainment of that true freedom which is natural to man. The teaching showed that the moment a man enters into strife against violence, he thereby deprives himself of freedom, for by admitting violence on his part toward others, he thereby also admits violence against himself, and therefore can be conquered by the violence against which he has striven. And even if he remains the victor, yet by entering into the sphere of external strife he is always in danger of being conquered by a yet stronger violence in the future.
This teaching showed that only that man can be free who sets as his aim the fulfillment of the higher law, common to all mankind, and for which there can be no obstacle. The teaching showed that the one means, both for the diminution of violence in the world and for the attainment of complete freedom, is the submissive peaceful endurance of all violence whatsoever.
Christian teaching proclaimed the law of the complete freedom of man, but under the necessary condition of submitting to this higher law in all its significance. “And fear not those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Those who accepted this teaching in all its significance, obeying the higher law, were free from any other obedience. They submissively bore violence from men, but they did not obey men in things incompatible with the higher law.
Thus acted the first Christians when they were a small number among pagan nations. They refused to obey governments in matters incompatible with the higher law, which they called the law of God. They were persecuted and executed for this, but they did not obey man and were free. But when whole nations living in established state organizations supported by violence were recognized as Christians by means of the external rite of baptism, the relation of the Christians to the authorities completely changed. Governments, by the help of a servile priesthood, taught their subjects that violence and murder might be perpetrated when they were resorted to for just retribution and in defense of the oppressed and weak. Besides this, by forcing men to swear allegiance to the authorities, vowing before God that they would unreservedly fulfill all that might be commanded by the authorities, the governments reduced their subjects to such a state that people regarding themselves as Christians ceased to look upon violence and murder as forbidden. Committing violence and murder themselves, they naturally submitted to the same when perpetrated upon them. And it came to be that Christian men, instead of the freedom proclaimed by Jesus, and instead of regarding the endurance of every violence as a duty while obeying no one except God as they did formerly, began to understand their duties in a directly opposite sense. They began to regard peaceful endurance as humiliating, and to regard obedience to the authority of governments as their most sacred duty. Thus, they became slaves of government. Educated in these traditions, they were not only unashamed of their slavery, but were also proud of the power of their governments, just as slaves are always proud of the greatness of their masters.
From this distortion of Christianity there has lately developed yet a new deceit, which has secured the Christian nations in their oppression. This deceit consists in convincing the people of a given nation that, by becoming participants in governmental power, they are only obeying themselves when obeying the government, and so are presumably free. This is accomplished by means of a complicated organization of suffrage and representation in governmental institutions, by electing the one who will then with others elect this or that score of candidates unknown to them, or by directly electing their representatives. This deceit, it would seem, ought to have been obvious both theoretically and practically, since people cannot express their will with even the most democratic organization and universal suffrage. They cannot express it, first, because there does not and cannot exist such a universal will of a nation of many millions. Secondly, even if such a universal will of the whole people did exist, a majority of votes could never express it, and they do not themselves know, nor can know, what they require.
The elected representatives who participate in the government do not institute laws and rule the people with a view to their welfare, but in most cases are guided only by the object of retaining their position and power. The deceit corrupts the nation by every kind of fraud, stultification, and bribery, and is especially pernicious in the voluntary slavery to which it reduces men who fall under its influence. Those fallen under the influence of this deceit imagine that in obeying the government they obey themselves, and never make up their minds to disobey the ordinances of human authority, even though the latter may be contrary, not only to their personal tastes, interests, and desires, but also to the higher law and to their consciences. Yet the actions and measures of the governments of such pseudo self-governing nations, which are determined by the complex strife of parties, intrigues, ambition, and greed, depend as little upon the will and desire of the whole nation as the action and measures of the most despotic governments. These men are like prisoners imagining that they are free if they have the right to vote in the election of the jailers, or for the internal administrative measures in the prison.
A subject of the most despotic Dahomeyan government can be completely free, even though he may be subjected to cruel violence on the part of a government he has not established, but a member of a constitutional state is always a slave because, imagining that he has participated or may participate in his government, he recognizes the legality of all of the violence perpetrated upon him. He obeys all the orders of the authorities. Thus, people in constitutional states, imagining that they are free and owing to this very imagination, lose the idea itself of what true freedom is. Such people, imagining that they are freeing themselves, more and more surrender themselves into increasing slavery to their governments. Nothing demonstrates so clearly the increasing enslavement of nations as the growth, spread, and success of socialistic theories, i.e. the tendency toward greater and greater slavery.
The Russian people in this respect are placed in more advantageous conditions, since hitherto they have never participated in power, and so have not yet been depraved by such participation. Still, the Russian people, like other nations, have been subjected to all the deceits of the glorification of authority, of oaths, of the prestige and greatness of the state, and of the fatherland. And they also regard it as their duty to obey the government in everything. Lately, too, shortsighted men of Russian society have endeavored to reduce the Russian people to that constitutional slavery in which the other European nations find themselves.
Thus, the chief consequence of the non-acceptance of the law of non-resistance, besides the calamity of universal armament and war, has been the greater and greater loss of freedom for those who profess the distorted law of Jesus.
The distortion of the teaching of Jesus by the non-acceptance of the commandment of non-resistance has brought Christian nations to mutual enmity, its consequent calamities, and continually increasing slavery, and people of the Christian world are beginning to feel the weight of this slavery. This is the fundamental general cause of the approaching revolution. The particular and temporary causes, owing to which this revolution is beginning at this very time, consist first in the insanity of growing militarism in the Christian world as it stands revealed in the Japanese war, and secondly in the increasing state of calamity and dissatisfaction of the working people proceeding from their being deprived of their legitimate and natural right to use the land.
These two causes are common to all Christian nations, but owing to special historical conditions of the life of the Russian nation, they are felt by it more acutely than by other nations and at this particular time. The misery of its position, flowing from obedience to the government, has become especially evident to the Russian people, not, I think, only through the dreadful insane war into which their government has drawn them, but also because the attitude of Russian people to the ruling powers has been always different from that of European nations. The Russian people have never struggled with their rulers, and, above all, having never participated in power, have not been depraved by such participation.
The Russian people have always regarded power, not as a good thing toward which it is natural for every man to strive, as the most European nations regard power (and unfortunately as some corrupt people of the Russian nation are already regarding it), but as an evil that man should avoid. Most Russians have therefore always preferred to bear all kinds of physical misery proceeding from violence rather than accept the spiritual responsibility of participating in it. Thus, most Russians have submitted to power, and are submitting to it, not because they cannot overthrow it as the revolutionaries wish to teach them to do, and not because they cannot attain such participation as the liberals wish to teach them to attain, but because most Russians have always preferred, and do prefer, submission to violence rather than strife with it or participation in it. Despotic government was established and has maintained itself in Russia through the simple violence of the strong and pugnacious over those who are weak and not desirous of struggling.
The legion of the call of the Variags, obviously composed after the Variags had already conquered the Slavonians, fully expresses the relation of the Russian people toward power even before Christianity. “We ourselves do not wish to participate in the sins of power. If you do not regard it as a sin, come and govern us.” The submission of the Russian people to the most cruel and insane autocrats, from Ivan IV down to Nicholas II, often even not Russian, can be explained by this same attitude toward power.
Thus in older times did the Russian people regard power and their relation toward it. Even now, most look upon it in the same way. It is true that, as in other states, the same deceits, by which Christian people have been unconsciously compelled not only to submit but even to obey in deeds contrary to Christianity, have been perpetrated also in relation to the Russian people. But these deceits reached only the upper, corrupt layers of the people, whereas most have retained that view of power by which man regards it as better to bear suffering from violence than to participate in the violence.
The cause of such an attitude of the Russian people toward power consists, I think, in that the Russian nation more than other nations has preserved true Christianity as a teaching of brotherhood, equality, humility, and love – a Christianity that sees a radical difference between submitting to violence and obeying it. A true Christian may submit; he even cannot do anything but submit without strife to every violence; but he cannot obey it, i.e. recognize its lawfulness. However much governments in general, and the Russian government in particular, have striven and are striving to replace this truly Christian attitude toward power by the orthodox “Christian” teaching, the Christian spirit and distinction between “submission” to power and “obedience”continues to live in the great majority of the Russian working people.
The incompatibility between governmental coercion and Christianity has never ceased to be felt by the majority of the Russian people, and this contradiction has been especially keenly and distinctly felt by the more sensitive Christians, who did not embrace the distorted teaching of orthodoxy by the so-called sectarians. These Christians of various denominations did not recognize the lawfulness of governmental power. From fear, the majority submitted to government demands, which they regarded as unlawful, while some of the minority circumvented the demands by various devices, or else fled from them. Many Orthodox Russian people began to understand the incompatibility of Christianity with power when state coercion threw, as it were, a challenge to all true Christians, by introducing universal conscription, demanding from every man readiness to kill. At the same, time non-Orthodox Christians of various denominations began to categorically refuse to become soldiers. And although there were not many such refusals (hardly one in a thousand conscripts), still their significance was great. These refusals, which called forth cruel executions and persecutions on the part of the government, no longer opened the eyes of sectarians only but of all Russian people to the un-Christian demands of the government. An enormous majority of people who previously had not thought about the contradiction between the divine and human law saw this contradiction, and among the majority of the Russian nation there began the invisible, persistent, incalculable work of the liberation of consciousness. Such was the position of the Russian nation when the utterly unjustifiable Japanese war broke out. It is this war, coupled with the development of reading and writing, with universal dissatisfaction, and above all with the necessity of calling out for the first time hundreds of thousands of middle-aged men (the reservists) dispersed over all Russia, torn from their families and rational labor for a glaringly insane and cruel purpose; it is this war which has served as the final impetus that has transformed the invisible and persistent inner development into a clear consciousness of the unlawfulness and sinfulness of obedience to a government requiring such actions.
This consciousness has expressed itself, and is now expressing itself, in the most varied and momentous events: in the conscious refusals of reservists to enter the army, in desertions from the army, in equally conscious refusals to shoot and fight, in refusals to shoot at one’s comrades during the suppression of revolts, and in the continually increasing number of cases of refusal to take the oath and enter the military service. Such are the conscious manifestations of the unlawfulness and needlessness of obeying the government, and unconscious manifestations of the same are to be found in all that which is now being accomplished both by the revolutionaries and by their enemies. Such are the sailors’ revolts in the Black Sea and in Cronstadt, the military revolts in Kiev and other places, sabotages, self-constituted violence, and peasants’ riots. The prestige of the authorities is destroyed, and before the enormous majority of the Russian people of our time there has arisen in all its great significance the question as to whether one should, and whether it is one’s duty to, obey the government.
In this question arisen among the Russian nation consists one of the causes of the great revolution that is approaching and perhaps has already begun.
The second external cause of the approaching revolution is that the working people are deprived of their natural and lawful right to use the land, and this deprivation has brought the nations of the Christian world to the continually increasing misery of the working people and their increasing exasperation against those who exploit their labor. This cause is especially perceptible in Russia because it is only in Russia that the majority of the working people still live an agricultural life. The Russian people, owing to the increase of the population and the insufficiency of land, are only now placed under the necessity either of abandoning their accustomed agricultural life, in which alone they see the possibility of the realization of the Christian commonwealth, or else of ceasing to obey the government, which keeps the land taken from the people in the hands of the landowners.
It is generally thought that the cruelest slavery is personal slavery, in which one man can do anything he likes with another, including torture, mutilation, and murder. But that which we do not even call slavery, depriving a man of the possibility of using the land, is thought of as merely a certain somewhat unjust economic institution. But this view is quite false.
That which Joseph did with the Egyptians, which all conquerors have done with vanquished nations, and which is now being done by depriving men of the possibility of using the land, is the most dreadful and cruel slavery. The personal slave is the slave of one, but the man deprived of the right to use the land is the slave of all. Even this is not the principal calamity of the land slave. However cruel might have been the owner of the personal slave, he did not force him to work incessantly, torture him, or starve him, because the owner would lose his own advantage if he lost his slave. But the man deprived of the land is always obliged to work beyond his strength, to suffer, and to starve, and can never for one minute be completely provided for. He cannot be set free from the arbitrary will of men, and principally from the arbitrariness of evil and avaricious men. Yet even this is not the chief calamity of the land slave. His chief calamity is that he cannot live a moral life. Not living by labor on the land, not struggling with nature, he is inevitably obliged to struggle with men to endeavor to take from them by force or cunning that which they have acquired from the land and from the labor of others.
Land slavery is not, as is thought even by those who recognize deprivation of land as slavery, one of the remaining forms of slavery, but is the radical and fundamental slavery, from which has grown every form of slavery, and which is incomparably more painful than personal slavery. Personal slavery is merely one of the particular cases of exploitation by land slavery. The emancipation of men from personal slavery without their emancipation from land slavery is not emancipation, but merely the cessation of only one form of exploitation by slavery. In many cases, as it was in Russia when the serfs were emancipated with only a small portion of land, it is a deceit that can only for a time conceal from the slaves their true position.
The Russian people always understood this during serfdom, saying, “We are yours, but the land is ours.” During the emancipation, they unceasingly and unanimously demanded and expected the emancipation of the land. During the emancipation from serfdom the people were cajoled by a little land being given them, and for a time they were pacified, but with the increase of population the question of the insufficiency of land again arose before them, and that in the clearest and most definite form.
While the people were serfs, they used the land as much as was necessary for their existence. The government and the landowners had the care of distributing the increasing population on the land, and so the people did not see the essential injustice of the seizure of the land by private individuals. But as soon as serfdom was abolished, the care of the government and landowners concerning the people’s economic agricultural possibility of existence (I shall not say welfare) was also abolished. The quantity of land that the peasants might possess was once and for all determined, without the possibility of increasing it while the population increased, and the people saw more and more clearly that it was impossible to live thus. They waited for the government to rescind the laws that deprived them of the land. They waited ten, twenty, thirty, and forty years, but the land has been seized ever more and more by private landowners. A choice was placed before the people: starve, stop multiplying, or altogether abandon rural life and form generations of unskilled laborers, weavers, or locksmiths. Half a century passed and their position kept becoming worse and worse. It reached such a state that their order of life, which they regarded as necessary for Christian living, began to fall to pieces. The government not only did not give them land, but gave it to its minions, and, securing it for the latter, intimated to the people that they need never hope for the emancipation of the land, while it organized for them an industrial life on the European model, with labor inspection, which the people regarded as bad and sinful.
The deprivation of the people of their legitimate right to the land is the principal cause of the calamitous position of the Russian people. The same cause lies at the basis of the misery and discontent of the working people of Europe and America with their position. The only difference is that the seizure of the land from the European peoples, by recognition of the lawfulness of landed property, took place long ago. So many new relations have covered up this injustice that the men of Europe and America do not see the true cause of their position, but search for it everywhere: in the absence of markets, in tariffs, in unfair taxation, in capitalism, and in everything except in the deprivation of the people of their right to the land.
To the Russian people, the radical injustice is clearly seen, because it has not yet been completely perpetrated upon them. The Russian people living on the land clearly see what people wish to do with them, and they cannot reconcile themselves with it.
Senseless and ruinous armaments and wars, and the deprivation of the people of their common right to the land – these, in my opinion, are the causes of the revolution impending over the whole of Christendom. And this revolution is beginning in no other place but in Russia, because nowhere except among the Russia people has the Christian view of life been preserved in such strength and purity. Nowhere except in Russia has the agricultural condition of the majority of the people been so far preserved.
The Russian people before other nations of the Christian world, and owing to their special qualities and conditions of life, have been brought to the consciousness of the disasters proceeding from obedience to coercive state power. And in this consciousness and in aspiration to free themselves from the coercion of their rulers lies, in my opinion, the essence of the revolution which is approaching, not only for the Russian people, but also for all nations of the Christian world. But to people living in states founded upon violence, it seems that the abolition of the power of governments will necessarily involve the greatest of disasters.
But the assertion that the degree of safety and welfare which men enjoy is ensured by state power is altogether an arbitrary one. We know those disasters and such welfare, if it exists among people living under state organization, but we do not know the position in which people would be were they to get clear of the state. But if one takes into consideration the life of those small communities that happen to have lived and outside great states, such communities, while profiting by all the advantages of social organization, yet being free from state coercion, do not experience one-hundredth part of the disasters that are undergone by people who obey state authority.
The people of the ruling classes, for whom the state organization is advantageous, speak most about the impossibility of living without state organization. But ask those who bear only the weight of the state power – ask the agricultural laborers, the 100,000,000 peasants in Russia – and you will find they feel only its burden, and, far from regarding themselves as safer for state power, they could altogether dispense with it. In many of my writings I have repeatedly endeavored to show that what frightens men – that without governmental power the worst men would triumph while the best would be oppressed – is precisely what has long ago happened, and is still happening, in all states, since everywhere the power is in the hands of the worst men. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise, because only the worst men could do all those crafty, dastardly, and cruel acts which are necessary for participation in power. Many times have I endeavored to explain that all the chief calamities from which men suffer, such as the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands of some people, the deep poverty of the majority, the seizure of the land by those who do not work on it, the unceasing armaments and wars, and the deprivation of men, flow only from the recognition of the lawfulness of governmental coercion. I have endeavored to show that, before answering the question whether the position of men would be worse or better without governments, one should solve the problem as to who the government consists of. Are those who constitute the government better or worse than the average level of men? If these individuals are better than the average man, then the government will be beneficial; but if they are worse, it will be pernicious. And history proves that these men – men such as Ivan IV, Henry VIII, Marat, Napoleon, Arakcheyef, Metternich, and Talleyrand, and Nicolas – are worse than the average man.
In every human society these are always ambitious, unscrupulous, cruel men, who, I have already endeavored to show, are ever ready to perpetrate any kind of violence, robbery, and murder for their own advantage. These men would be robbers in a society without government, restrained in their actions partly by strife with those injured by them (self-instituted justice, lynching), but partly and chiefly by the most powerful weapon of influence upon men: public opinion. Whereas in a society ruled by coercive authority, these same men are those who will seize authority and will make use of it, not only without the restraint of public opinion, but, on the contrary, supported, praised, and extolled by a bribed and artificially maintained public opinion
It is said, ‘How can people live without governments – i.e. coercion?” On the contrary, one should say, “How can people – rational beings – live recognizing violence as the inner connecting link of their lives, and not rational agreement?
It must be either one or the other; men are either rational or irrational beings. If they are not rational beings, then all matters between them can, and should be, decided by violence, and there is no reason for some to have and others not to have this right of violence. But if men are rational beings, then their relations should be founded, not on violence, but on reason. One would think that this consideration should be conclusive to men recognizing themselves as rational beings. But those who defend state power do not think of man, his qualities, or his rational nature. They speak of a certain combination of men to which they apply a kind of supernatural or mystical significance.
“What will happen to Russia, France, Britain, or Germany,” they say, “if people cease to obey governments?”
What will happen to Russia? Russia? What is Russia? Where is its beginning or its end? Poland? The Baltic Provinces? The Caucasus, with all its nationalities? The Kazan Tartars? Ferghana Province? All these are not only not Russia, but all of these are also foreign nationalities desirous of being freed from the combination that is called Russia. The circumstance that these nationalities are regarded as parts of Russia is an accidental and temporary one, conditioned in the past by a whole series of historical events, principally acts of violence, injustice, and cruelty, while in the present this combination is maintained only by the power that spreads over these nationalities.
In our memory, Nice was Italy and suddenly became France. Alsace was France and became Prussia. The Trans-Amur Province was China and became Russia. Saghalin was Russia and became Japan. At present the power of Austria spreads over Hungary, Bohemia, and Galicia, and that of the British government over Ireland, Canada, Australia, Egypt, and India. That of the Russian government covers Poland, Guria, and others. But tomorrow this power may cease. The only force uniting all these Russias, Austrias, Britains, and Frances is coercive power. And coercive power is the creation of men who, contrary to their rational nature and the law of freedom as revealed by Jesus, obey those who demand of them evil works of violence. Men need only become conscious of their freedom, natural to rational beings, and cease to commit acts contrary to their conscience and the law. Then these artificial combinations of Russia, Britain, Germany, and France, which appear so splendid, will no longer exist. That cause, in the name of which people sacrifice not only their life but also the liberty proper to rational beings, will disappear. People need simply cease to obey power in the name of the idols existing only in their imagination – of Russia, France, Britain, and the United States – and immediately these dreadful idols, which now ruin the physical and mental welfare of men, will of themselves disappear.
It is usual to say that the formation of great states out of small ones, which continually struggle with each other, by substituting a great external frontier for small boundaries, thereby diminishes strife and bloodshed and their attendant evils. But this assertion also is quite arbitrary, as no one has weighed the quality of evil in the one and the other positions. And it is difficult to believe that all the wars of the confederate period in Russia, Burgundy, Flanders, Normandy, and France cost as many victims as the wars of Napoleon, of Alexander, or of the Japanese war lately ended.
The only justification for the expansion of the state is the formation of a universal monarchy, the existence of which would remove all possibility of war. But all attempts at forming such a monarchy by Alexander of Macedon, by the Roman Empire, or by Napoleon, never attained this object of pacification, but, on the contrary, were the cause of the greatest calamities for the nations. Therefore, the pacification of men cannot possibly be attained by the increase and strengthening of states. This can be attained only by the opposite means: the abolition of states with their coercive power.
There have existed cruel and pernicious superstitions, human sacrifices, burnings for witchcraft, “religious” wars, and tortures, but men have freed themselves from these superstitions. But the superstition of the state as something sacred continues its hold upon men, and to this superstition are offered perhaps more cruel and ruinous sacrifices than to all the others. The essence of this superstition is that men of different localities, habits, and interests are persuaded that they all belong to one whole unit because one and the same violence is applied to all of them, and these men believe this and are proud of belonging to this combination.
This superstition has existed for so long and is so strenuously maintained that those who profit by it – kings, ministers, generals, the military and officials – are certain that the existence, confirmation, and expansion of these artificial units serve the welfare of those who are caught in these combinations. Not only that, but even these victims become so accustomed to this superstition that they are proud of belonging to Russia, France, Britain, or Germany, although this is not at all necessary to them, and brings them nothing but evil.
Therefore, if these artificial combinations into great states were to be abolished by people because of their meekly and peacefully submitting to every kind of violence and ceasing to obey the government, then such an abolition would only lead to there being among such men less coercion, less suffering, and less evil. It would lead to its becoming easier for such men to live according to the higher law of mutual service, which for 2500 years has been revealed to men, and which gradually enters more and more into the consciousness of mankind.
For the Russian people in general, both the town and the country population, it is above all important in such a critical time as the present not to live by the experience of others, not by others’ thoughts, ideas, or words, and not by various social democracies, constitutions, expropriations, bureaus, delegates, candidatures, or mandates. Instead, it is important to think with one’s own mind and to live one’s own life, constructing new forms of life proper to and out of one’s own past and spiritual foundations.
The revolution now impending over mankind consists in its liberation from the deceit of obedience to human power. As the essence of this revolution is quite different from the essence of all former revolutions in the Christian world, therefore also the activity of those participating in this revolution must be quite different from the activity of participants in former revolutions. The activity of the participants in former revolutions consisted in the violent overthrow of power and in its re-seizure. The activity of the participants of the present revolution should, and can, consist in the cessation of that obedience to any violent power whatever, which has now lost its meaning, and in the ordering of one’s life independently of government.
Besides the activity of the participants in the coming revolution being different from that of the participants in former revolutions, the principal participants of this revolution are themselves also quite different, as is the locality where it must take place, and the number of the participants. The participants in former revolutions were principally people of the higher professions, free from physical labor, and the town workingmen led by these professionals. But the participants in the coming revolution must, and will, be chiefly the agricultural masses. The localities where former revolutions began were towns; the locality of the present revolution must chiefly be the country. The number of participants in former revolutions was 10 or 20 percent of the whole nation; the number of participants in the revolution now taking place in Russia must be 80 or 90 percent.
The agitated town population of Russia imitates Europe by combining into unions, preparing strikes, demonstrations, and revolts, and inventing new forms of government. They are unfortunate brutalized men who commit manslaughter, thinking thereby to serve the dawning revolution. The activity of all these men, far from being in harmony with the impending revolution, arrests its progress much more effectually than governments do. Without knowing it themselves, they are the truest assistants of the government, and are falsely directing and impeding the revolution.
The danger now threatening the Russian nation is not that the existing coercive government may not be violently overthrown and that another also coercive government, however democratic or even socialistic, may not be established in its place. It is that this struggle with the government may draw the nation itself into an activity of violence. The Russian people are called by peculiar circumstances in which they are placed to point out a peaceful and certain way of liberation. The danger is that, instead of this, they may be attracted into a servile imitation of former revolutions by those who do not understand all the significance of the revolution taking place, and that they may advance along the false way by which other nations of Christendom are advancing to their certain ruin by abandoning the way of salvation on which they are now standing.
In order to avoid this danger, the Russian people should first of all be themselves. They should not seek to ascertain from European nations, American constitutions, or socialistic programs how they should act and what they should do. But they should inquire and seek advice only from their own consciences. The Russian people, in order that they may fulfill the great work now before them, should not only refrain from concerning themselves with the political government of Russia and with the securing of freedom to the citizens of the Russian state. They should also first of all free themselves from the very idea of a Russian state, and consequently also from all concern in the rights of the citizens of such a state. At the present moment the Russian people, so that they may obtain freedom, should not only refrain from taking this or that action, but should refrain from all undertakings – from those into which the government is alluring them as well as from those into which the revolutionaries and liberals desire to draw them.
The peasants, the majority of the Russian people, should continue to live as they have always lived in their agricultural, communal life, enduring all violence, both governmental and non-governmental, without struggle, but not obeying demands to participate in any kind of governmental coercion. They should not willingly pay taxes or serve in the police, the administration, the customs, the army, the navy, or any coercive organization whatever. Likewise, and still more strictly, the peasants should refrain from the violence to which they are being incited by the revolutionaries. All violence of the peasants toward the landowners will call forth strife with retaliatory violence, and will end in any case with the establishment of a government of this or that kind, but unavoidably coercive. And with any coercive government, as happens in the freest countries of Europe and America, the same senseless and cruel wars will be proclaimed and carried on, and in the same way the land will continue to be the property of the wealthy. It is only the non-participation of the people in any violence whatever that can abolish all coercion from which they suffer, prevent all possibility of endless armaments and wars, and abolish private property in land. Thus should the agricultural peasants act so that the revolution now taking place may produce good results.
As to the urban classes – the nobles, merchants, doctors, scientists, writers, and mechanics, who are now occupied with the revolution – they should first of all understand their numerical insignificance. They are only one to a hundred in comparison with the agricultural people. They should understand that the object of the revolution now taking place cannot, and should not, consist in the foundation of a new political coercive order, with whatever universal suffrage, whatever improved socialistic institutions. The object of the revolution can, and should, consist in the liberation of the whole people, and especially of the majority, the 100,000,000 agricultural workers. It should consist of liberation from every kind of coercion: military coercion in the form of soldiery, fiscal coercion in the form of taxes and tariffs, and agrarian coercion in the form of the seizure of the land by the landowners. That fretful, unreasonable, and unkind activity with which Russian liberals and revolutionaries are now occupied is not at all necessary for this purpose. These men should understand that revolutions cannot be made to order by saying, “Let us organize a revolution,” and that revolution cannot be produced by imitating the ready-made patterns of what has taken place a hundred years ago under utterly different conditions. Above all, these men should understand that a revolution can improve the condition of a people only when they, having recognized the unreasonableness and calamity of former foundations of life, strive to arrange a life on new foundations capable of giving them true welfare, and when the people possess ideals of a new better life.
But those who are now endeavoring to produce a political revolution in Russia according to the model of European revolutions possess neither any new foundations nor any new ideals whatever. They strive merely to substitute for one old form of coercion another new one, also to be realized by coercion, and carrying with it the same calamities as those which the Russian people now suffer from. We see this happening in Europe and America, which are groaning under the same militarism, the same taxation, and the same seizure of the land.
The majority of revolutionaries put forward a socialistic organization as their ideal, which could be obtained only by the cruelest coercion. If it ever were attained, it would deprive men of the last remnants of liberty. This demonstrates only that such people possess no new ideals. The ideal of our time cannot be the alteration of the forms of coercion, but only its complete abolition, attainable by disobedience to human rule.
In order to free themselves from all the evils that now oppress them, the workingmen should, without strife or coercion, cease to obey the authorities. The same submissive suffering of violence and disobedience to the authorities is also necessary for the fulfillment of that law which Christian nations profess. A Christian, as a Christian, cannot obey or participate in an authority that is entirely based on violence, maintained by violence, and unceasingly committing acts of violence the most contrary to the Christian law: soldiery, wars, prisons, executions, and depriving the people of the use of the land. Thus, both the bodily and spiritual welfare of man can only be attained in one way: by suffering all violence without struggle of, while at the same time abstaining from participation in it by disobedience to the authorities.
Therefore, if people of the urban classes really desire to serve the great revolution that is taking place, the first thing they should do is to desist from the cruel, revolutionary, unnatural, artificial activity with which they are now occupied. They should settle down in the country and share the people’s labor, learning from the people their patience, their indifference and contempt toward the exercise of power, and, above all, their habits of industry. They should endeavor not only to refrain from inciting people to violence as they now do, but, on the contrary, to restrain them from all participation in acts of violence and from any obedience to coercive power of whatever kind, to serve them with their scientific knowledge, and to elucidate those questions which will inevitably arise with the abolition of government.
But how and in what forms can men of the Christian world live if they will not live in the form of states obeying government rule? The answer to this question lies in those very qualities of the Russian people, owing to which I think that the impending revolution must begin and must happen in Russia rather than in other countries.
The absence of government power in Russia has never prevented the social organization of agricultural communes. On the contrary, the intervention of government power has always hindered this inner organization natural to the Russian people. The Russian people, like the majority of agricultural nations, naturally combine like bees in a hive into definite social relations fully satisfying the demands of the common life of men. Wherever Russian people settle down without the intervention of government, they have always established a mutual non-coercive order, founded upon mutual agreement and with communal possession of land, which has completely satisfied the demands of peaceful social life. Such communes have populated all the eastern boundaries of Russia without the aid of the government. Such communes, like the Nekrassovisi, have emigrated to Turkey, retained their Christian communal organization, and lived quietly there under the power of the Turkish Sultan. Such communes have without knowing it passed into Chinese territory and Central Asia, and have lived there for a long time without needing any government beyond their own inner organization. And in precisely the same way the Russian agricultural people, most of Russia’s population, live without needing the government, but merely suffering it. The government has never been a necessity but always a burden to the Russian people.
The absence of government – that same government which uses force to keep the right of using the land in the hand of the non-laboring landowners – can only contribute to that communal agricultural life which the Russian people regard as a necessary condition of good life. It will contribute to it in that the power of maintaining property in land being abolished, the land will be freed and all will have equal right to it. Therefore the Russian people, when abolishing government, need not invent any new forms of combined life with which to replace the former. Such forms of combined life already exist among the Russian people, have always been natural to them, and have satisfied their social demands.
These forms are a communal organization with the equality of all the members of the Mir, a co-operative system in industrial undertakings, and a common possession of the land. The revolution that is impending in Christendom, and is now beginning among the Russian people, is distinguished from former revolutions precisely in that the latter destroyed without substituting anything for that which was destroyed by them, or else replaced one form of violence by another. But in the impending revolution nothing need be destroyed. It is only necessary to cease participating in violence; not uprooting the plant and putting something artificial and lifeless in its place, but merely to removing all that has hindered its growth. Hasty, bold-faced, and self-assured people blindly and thoughtlessly overthrow the existing violence in order to replace it by new violence, without understanding the cause of the evil with which they are violently striving, and without themselves realizing any form of life without violence. Such men will not contribute anything to the revolution now taking place. Those who will contribute to it are those who, without overthrowing or breaking anything, will organize their lives independently of the government, will peacefully endure any violence inflicted upon them, will not participate in the government, and will not obey it.
The Russian nation, the agricultural nation, the enormous majority, need only continue to live as it lives now: as an agricultural communal entity, with no participation in the works of the government and without obedience to it. The closer the Russian people will stick to the combined life that is natural to them, the less possible will be the interference of governmental coercive rule into their life, and the easier will this power be removed, finding fewer and fewer occasions for interference, and fewer and fewer assistants in the doing of its deeds of violence.
Therefore, to the question as to what consequences will follow the cessation of obedience to government, one can say for certain that the consequence will be the abolition of the coercion that has compelled men to fight with each other and deprived them of the right to use the land. Men liberated from violence, no longer preparing for war nor fighting with each other, but possessing access to the land, will naturally return to the most joyous, healthy, and moral agricultural labor proper to all men, in which man’s effort will be directed to a struggle with nature and not with men. They will return to a labor on which rests all other branches of labor, and which can be abandoned only by those who live by violence.
The cessation of obedience to governments must bring men to agricultural life, and agricultural life in its turn will bring them to the communal organization most natural under the conditions of life in small communities placed in similar agricultural conditions. It is very probable that these communities will not live in isolation, but owing to unity of economic, racial, or religious conditions, will enter into new free mutual combinations, completely different, however, from the former state combinations founded upon violence. The repudiation of coercion does not deprive men of the possibility of combination, but combination founded upon mutual agreement can be formed only when those founded upon violence are abolished.
So that one may build a new and durable house in the place of one falling into ruins, one must first take down the old wall, stone by stone, and build it anew. So it is with those combinations which may develop among men after the abolition of the combinations founded on violence.
But what is to become of all that which mankind has accomplished? What will become of civilization? “The return to monkeys,” said Voltaire’s letter to Rousseau about learning to walk on all fours.” The return to some kind of primitive, natural life,” say those who are so certain that the civilization they possess is so great a good that they cannot even admit the idea of the loss of anything attained by civilization.
“What? A coarse agricultural commune in rural solitude long ago outlived by mankind, instead of our cities with underground and elevated electric railways, with electric suns, museums, theatres, and monuments?” cry these people. And I say, “Yes, and with paupers’ quarters, with the slums of London, New York, and all large cities, with the houses of prostitution, usury, and explosive bombs used against external and internal foes, with prisons, gallows, and millions in the military.”
“Civilization, our civilization, is a great boon,” people say. But those who are so certain of this are the few people who not only live in this civilization, but also live by it. They live in complete contentment just because this civilization exists, almost idly in comparison with the labor of the working people. All these people – kings, emperors, presidents, princes, ministers, officials, soldiers, landowners, merchants, mechanics, doctors, scientists, artists, teachers, priests, and writers – they know for certain that their civilization is such a great boon that they cannot admit the idea not only of any possibility of its disappearance, but even of its alteration. But ask the enormous mass of the Slavonian, Chinese, Indian, and Russian agricultural people, nine-tenths of humanity, whether that civilization which appears so precious to the non-agricultural professions is indeed a boon or not.
It is strange to say it, but nine-tenths of humanity will answer quite differently. They know that they require land, manure, water, irrigation, sun, rain, woods, harvests, and certain simple implements of labor that can be manufactured without interrupting agricultural pursuits. But as to civilization, either they are not acquainted with it, or else they will say that it is not only unnecessary but also exceedingly harmful to them. That is because civilization appears to them in the form of town depravation, unjust courts, prisons, hard labor, taxes, unnecessary palaces, museums, and monuments, customs impeding the free exchange of products, guns, ironclads, and armies devastating whole countries.
Those who profit by the advantages of civilization say that it is a boon for the whole of mankind, but in this question they are not the judges, or the witnesses, but one of the litigants.
It is beyond doubt that we have advanced a long way on the road of technical progress, but who has advanced along this road? It is that small minority which lives on the shoulders of the working people, while the working people themselves, those who serve these other men who profit by civilization, continue in all Christendom to live even as they lived five or six centuries ago, profiting only at times and in rare cases from the refuse of civilization. If they do live better, then the difference separating their position from that of the wealthy classes is not less, but is rather greater, than the one that separated them from the wealthy six centuries ago. I do not say that, because civilization is not the absolute advantage that so many think it is, we should throw aside all that men have attained in their strife with nature. But I do say that, before we can know that what has been attained by men does indeed serve their welfare, it is necessary that all should profit by these advantages, and not a small number. It is necessary that people should not be forcibly deprived of their own welfare for other people’s benefit in the hope that the same advantages shall someday reach their descendants.
We look upon the Egyptian pyramids and are horrified by the cruelty and insanity of those who ordered their erection, as well as of those who fulfilled these orders. But how much more cruel and insane are those ten and thirty-six storey apartments that men of our time erect in cities and are proud of. Around lies the land with its grass, woods, pure water, pure air, sun, birds, and animals. But men with dreadful effort shut the sun from others and erect thirty-six storey apartments, rocked by the wind, where there is neither grass nor trees, where everything, both water and air, is contaminated, where all the food is adulterated and spoiled, and where life itself is tedious and unhealthy. Is not this a sign of manifest madness in a whole society of men, not only to accomplish such insanities but also to pride themselves upon doing so? This is not the only example. Look around you and you will see at every step what equals these thirty-six storey apartments and Egyptian pyramids.
The justifiers of civilization say, “We are ready to correct the evil, but only on the condition that all which mankind has attained should remain intact.” Why, this is what a dissipated man who has ruined his life, his position, and his health says to his doctor. He is ready to agree with all the doctor will prescribe, but only on condition that he may continue his depraved life. To such a man we say that, if he is to improve his state, then he must cease to live as he is living. It is time for Christian humanity to say and understand the same. The unconscious and sometimes conscious mistake that those who defend civilization make is that they regard civilization, which is only a means, as an end or a result, and deem it always an advantage. It might be an advantage if only the rulers of society were good. Explosives are very useful for opening means of communication by blasting rock, but they are pernicious in bombs. Iron is useful for ploughs but pernicious for shells and prison bars.
The press may disseminate good feelings and wise thoughts, but that which is immoral and false with yet more success. The question as to whether civilization is useful or pernicious is solved by the consideration of whether good or evil prevails in a given society. In our society, where the minority crushes the majority, civilization is a great evil. It is merely an extra weapon for the oppression of the masses by the ruling minority.
It is time for those of the higher classes to understand that what they call civilization and culture are both the means and the result of the slavery in which the smaller non-working portion of the nation keeps the enormous majority of the workers. It is time for us to understand that our salvation lies, not in continuing along the road on which we have been moving, and not in the retention of what we have accomplished, but in the recognition that we have advanced along a false road and entered a bog out of which we must extricate ourselves. We should not be concerned about retaining that which we have, but, on the contrary, we should boldly throw aside all the most useless of that which we have been dragging upon ourselves, so that in some way (be it on all fours) we may scramble out upon a firm bank.
A rational and righteous life consists only in a man choosing the most rational and good from among the many actions or ways before him. Christian humanity in its present condition has before it a choice between two things: either continuation on the way of existing civilization, which will give the greatest welfare to the few and keep the many in want and servitude; or else at once, without postponement to some far future, abandonment of some or all those advantages which civilization has attained for the few, if such advantages hinder the liberation of the majority from want and servitude.
Men of our time talk about certain separate liberties: the freedom of speech, of the press, of conscience, the right of meeting, of this or that kind of elections, of associations, of labor, and of much else. This clearly demonstrates that such people, including our Russian revolutionaries at the present time, possess a very fallacious idea, or have no idea whatever of freedom in general. I am referring to that simple freedom, comprehensible to all, which consists in there being no power over man demanding from him actions contrary to his desires and advantages.
A great and most pernicious error lies in this non-comprehension of what constitutes freedom, and in the consequent idea that the permission of certain people given to other people to do certain actions constitutes freedom. Men of our time erroneously imagine that the servile subjection to violence in which they stand, in relation to the government, is a natural position, and that certain actions defined and authorized by governmental power define freedom. This is akin to slaves regarding permission to go to church on Sundays, or to bathe in hot weather, or to mend their clothes in their leisure time as freedom.
One need only for one minute reject established customs, habits, and superstitions, and examine the position of every man in Christendom, whether belonging to the most despotic or to the most democratic state, in order to be horrified at the slavery under which men are now living while imagining that they are free.
Over every man, wherever he may have been born, there exists a group of individuals completely unknown to him, who establish the law of his life, what he should do, and what he should not do. The more perfect is the state organization, the closer is the net of these laws. It is defined to whom and how he shall swear allegiance – i.e. promise to fulfill any laws that may be invented and proclaimed. It is defined how and when he should marry (he may marry only one woman, but he may make use of houses of prostitution). It is defined how he may divorce his wife, how he should maintain his children, which of them he should regard as legitimate, which as illegitimate, from whom and how he should inherit, and to whom he should transmit his property. It is defined for what transgressions of the law, how, by whom he shall be judged and punished. It is defined when he must himself appear in court in the capacity of juror or witness. The age at which he may make use of the labor of assistants and workmen is defined, and even the number of hours per day that his assistants may work and the food he must give them. It is defined when and how he should inoculate his children to prevent diseases. The methods are defined that he must undertake, and to which he must submit, in the case of this or that disease afflicting him, his family, or his cattle. The schools into which he must send his children are defined as well as the proportions and the stability of the house that he must build. It is defined how he should maintain his animals, horses, and dogs, how he must make use of water, and where he may walk without a road. The punishments are defined for the non-fulfillment of all these and many other laws. It is impossible to enumerate all the laws upon laws and rules upon rules to which he must submit, and the ignorance of which (although it is impossible to know them) cannot serve as an excuse for a man even in the most democratic state. He is, moreover, placed in such a position that in buying every article that he consumes – salt, beer, wine, cloth, iron, oil, tea, sugar, and the like – he must surrender a great portion of his labor for certain undertakings unknown to him, and for the paying of interest on debts contracted by someone else in the times of his grandfather and great-grandfathers. He must also surrender a part of his labor on the occasion of any moving from place to place, or of any inheritance he may come into, or of any transaction whatever with his neighbor. Further, for the portion of the land he occupies, either by his abode or by cultivation, a yet more considerable part of his labor is demanded from him. If he lives by his own labor and not by that of others, the greater part of his labor, instead of being used for the alleviation and improvement of his own position and that of his family, goes to pay these taxes, tariffs, and monopolies.
More than this! This man, as he comes of age in some states (most of them), is ordered to enter the military service for several years, which is the cruelest servitude, and to go and fight. In other countries, Britain and America, he must hire other people for this same purpose. Yet people placed in this position not only fail to see their own slavery, but are proud of it, regarding themselves as free citizens of the great states of Britain, France, or Germany. They are proud of this just as lackeys are proud of the importance of the masters they serve.
It would appear natural to a man with undepraved and unweakened spiritual powers, on finding himself in so dreadful and humiliating a position, to say to himself, “But why should I go through all this? I desire to live my life in the best way! I wish to decide for myself what it is pleasant, useful, and necessary for me to do. Leave me in peace with your Russia, France, and Britain. Let him who wishes all this take care of these Britains and Frances, but I do not require them. You can seize from me everything you like by force and kill me, but of my own accord I do not wish my own enslavement and shall not participate in it.” It would appear natural to act thus, yet no one does act in this manner.
The belief that to belong to some state is a necessary condition of human life has become so firmly rooted that men cannot make up their minds to act as their own reason, their own sense of right, or their direct advantage bids them. People maintaining their servitude in the name of their belief in the state are exactly like those birds which, notwithstanding that the door of their cage is open, continue to sit in their prison, partly by habit and partly because they do not realize they are free. But this error is more remarkable in those who themselves satisfy their own necessities, such as the agricultural populations of Germany, Austria, India, Canada, Australia, and especially of Russia. These have neither need nor advantage in the slavery to which they voluntarily submit.
One can understand why the townsfolk do not act thus, because their interests are so intertwined with the interests of the ruling classes that the enslavement in which they find themselves is advantageous to them. Mr. Rockefeller cannot desire to refuse to obey the laws of his country, because the laws of that country give him the possibility of gaining and conserving his billions to the detriment of the interests of the masses of the people. Neither can the directors of Mr. Rockefeller’s undertakings, those who serve these directors, and the servants of these servants desire to refuse obedience. So it is with the inhabitants of towns. Their position is similar to that of the Russian household retainers of old times toward the peasants: the enslavement of the peasants is advantageous to the former.
But why should agricultural nations, and especially the majority of the Russian people, submit to this power so unnecessary to them? There lives a family in Tula, in Posen, in Kansas, in Normandy, in Ireland, or in Canada. These people of Tula have no concern whatever in the Russian state, with its St. Petersburg, Caucasus, Baltic Provinces, Manchurian annexations, and diplomatic artfulness. So also a family lives in Posen and has no concern in Prussia, with its Berlin and its African colonies. Nor has the Irishman a concern in Britain, with its London and its Egyptian, Boer, and other interests. Nor has the man in Kansas an interest in the United States, with its New York and the Philippines. And yet these families are compelled to surrender a stipulated portion of their labor, and are obliged to participate in preparations for war, and in war itself, brought on not by themselves but by someone else. They are obliged to obey laws established not by themselves but by others. They are, it is true, assured that, while obeying certain unknown individuals in all these cases of the utmost importance for their lives, they obey not others but themselves, since they have elected one out of a thousand representatives unknown to them. But only he who wishes and is required to deceive himself and others can believe this.
A man cannot be free while belonging to a state. And the greater the state, the more violence is necessary, and the less true freedom is possible. Very much coercion is necessary to form one combination out of the most diverse nationalities and people – such as Britain, Russia, or Austria – and to retain them in this combination. Although less coercion is necessary for maintaining the unity of men in small states such as Sweden, Portugal, or Switzerland, yet, on the other hand, in these small states it is more difficult for the subjects to evade the demands of the authorities. Therefore, the degree of non-freedom and coercion in small states is the same as in large states.
A strong rope and a certain degree of its tension are necessary to bind and keep together a bundle of wood. So also, to keep a great collection of men together in one state, a certain degree of applied coercion is necessary. In the case of the wood, the difference may be only in its relative position, in some and not other pieces of wood being directly submitted to the pressure of the rope, but the power holding them together is one and the same in whatever position the pieces may be placed. It is the same with any coercive state of whatever kind – a despotism, a constitutional monarchy, an oligarchy, or a republic. If the union of men is maintained by coercion, i.e. by the establishment by some people of laws forcibly applied by others, then there will always exist coercion, equal in extent, of some people over others. In one place it will manifest itself in coarse violence; in another, in the power of money. The difference will only be that in one coercive state organization, the coercion will weigh more upon a certain section of people, while in another organization it will weigh more on another.
State coercion may be compared to a black thread upon which beads are loosely strung. The beads are men. The black thread is the state. So long as the beads are on the thread, they will not be able to move freely. They may all be gathered together on one side, and on this side the black thread will not be visible between them. But on the other side, a large portion of the thread will be bare (despotism). One may arrange the beads together in separate groups, leaving corresponding intervals of black thread between these groups (constitutional monarchy). One may leave a small portion of thread between each bead (republic). But so long as the beads are not taken off the thread, and so long as the thread is not severed, it will not be possible to conceal the black thread. So long as the state and the coercion necessary for its maintenance exist, in whatever form, there will not and cannot be freedom, true freedom, that which all men have always understood by that word.
“But how can men possibly live without the state?” is generally asked by those who have become so accustomed to every man belonging to a state. For them, it is not enough for one to be the son of his parents, the descendant of his ancestors, living by the labor he has chosen, and, above all, to simply be a man. One must also be a Frenchman, an Englishman, a German, an American, or a Russian, and belong to this or that coercive organization which is called France (with its Algeria, Annam, and Nisé), or Britain (with its alien populations of India, Egypt, Australia, and Canada), or Austria (with its nationalities not united internally in any way), or to such mixed and enormous states as the United States and Russia. These men have become so accustomed to this that it seems to them as impossible to live without belonging to these combinations, possessing no internal union, just as thousands of years ago it appeared impossible to people to live without offering sacrifices to gods, and without oracles directing the actions of men.
How can men live without belonging to any government? Why, exactly as they now live, only without doing those silly and objectionable things which they now do for the sake of this dreadful superstition. They will live as they now live, but without depriving their families of the products of their labors that would otherwise be devoted in the form of taxes and duties to the evil deeds of men unknown to them. They will live without participating either in coercion, or in law-courts, or in wars organized by these men. Yes, it is only this superstition, which in our time has no sense, which gives to some hundreds of men an insane and utterly unjustifiable power over millions, and deprives these millions of true freedom. A man living in Canada, Kansas, Bohemia, Little Russia, or Normandy cannot be free so long as he considers himself, and often with pride, a subject of Great Britain, the United states, Austria, Russia, or France. Nor can governments, whose vocation consists in maintaining the unity of such impossible and senseless combinations as Russia, Britain, Germany, or France, give their subjects real freedom and not its mere counterfeit, as is the case with all the artful constitutions – monarchical, republican, or democratic. The principal, if not the only, cause of the absence of freedom is the state superstition. People can indeed be deprived of liberty in the absence of the state. But while they belong to a state there cannot be liberty.
Those now participating in the Russian revolution do not understand this. They are striving for various liberties for the subjects of the Russian state, imagining that in this consists the purpose of the revolution now taking place. But its purpose and ultimate result are much more far-reaching than the revolutionaries see. This object is emancipation from state coercion. And that complex work of mistakes and evil-doings now taking place on the decaying surface of the enormous Russian population is leading toward this great revolution. This is occurring among a small portion of urban classes, the so-called intellectuals and factory workmen. All this complex activity, chiefly proceeding from the lowest impulses of vengeance, spite, or ambition, has for most of the Russian nation only one significance: it serves to show the nation what they should not do and what they can and should do. It must serve to demonstrate all the futility of the substitution of one form of government coercion and evil-doing for another form of government coercion and evil-doing, and to destroy the superstition and spell of statedom in their consciousness.
Most of the Russian people are observing present events and all the new forms of violence manifested in the cruel revolutionary activity of sabotages, devastations, strikes depriving whole populations of their livelihood, and above all, fratricidal strife. And they are beginning to understand the evil, not only of the former state coercion under which they have lived and from which they have already suffered so much, but also of that new thing, which is still state coercion. It is now being manifested by similar, but new, deceits and evil-doings. Neither the one nor the other is better or worse, but that both are bad, and therefore they should free themselves from all state coercion, and this is very easy and possible.
The great majority of the Russian agricultural people, who have lived and are living, have solved all their social questions through the village assembly without needing any government. When they contemplate present events, they will unavoidably come to understand that they require no government at all, whether the most despotic or the most democratic, just as a man does not require to be bound by any chains, whether of brass or iron, whether short or long. The nation requires no special separate freedom, but only one true, complete, simple freedom.
And as is always the case, the solution of apparently difficult problems is most simple. For the attainment, not of these or those forms of freedom, but of the one, true, complete freedom, it is not strife with governmental power that is necessary. Nor is there a need for the invention of any particular kind of representation, which could but conceal from men their state slavery. Only one thing is necessary: disobedience.
Let the people only cease to obey the government, and there will be neither taxes, nor seizure of land, nor prohibitions from the authorities, nor soldiery, nor wars. This is so simple and appears so easy. Why, then, have not men done before, and why are they not doing it now? It is because, if one is not to obey the government, one has to obey God – i.e. live a righteous and moral life. Only in that degree in which men live such a life, obeying God, can they cease to obey men and become free.
One cannot simply say to one’s self, “I will not obey men.” It is possible not to obey men only when one obeys the higher law of God, common to all. One cannot be free while transgressing the higher universal law of mutual service, as it is transgressed by the life of the wealthy and of the town classes who live by the labor of the workers, especially the agricultural people. A man can be free only in the degree in which he fulfills the higher law. The fulfillment of this law is not only difficult but also almost impossible in the town and factory organization of society, where man’s success is founded upon a contest with other men. It is only possible and easy under agricultural conditions of life, when all man’s efforts are directed to a struggle with nature. Therefore, the liberation of men from obedience to government, and from belief in the artificial combination of states and of the fatherland, must lead them to the natural, moral life of agricultural communities, which is joyous in the highest degree, subject only to their own regulations, realizable by all, and founded not on coercion but on mutual agreement.
In this lies the essence of the great revolution approaching for all Christian nations. It is not given to us to know how this revolution will take place and what steps it will go through, but we do know it is inevitable, for it is taking place and has already been partly realized in the consciousness of men.
The life of men consists only the passage of time further and further unfolding that which was concealed, and showing the correctness or incorrectness of the way along which they have advanced in the past. Life is the enlightenment of the consciousness concerning the falsity of former foundations, the establishment of new ones, and their realization. The life of mankind, as well as that of the individual man, is a growth out of a former state into a new one. This growth is inevitably accompanied by the recognition of one’s mistakes and liberation from them.
But there are periods in the life of the whole of mankind, as well as in that of the separate individual, when a mistake committed in the direction of past life is suddenly and clearly revealed and the activity that should correct this mistake is elucidated. These are periods of revolutions. And the Christian nations now find themselves in such a position.
Mankind previously lived according to the law of violence and knew no other. The time came when the progressive leaders of humanity proclaimed a new law of mutual service, common to all mankind. Men accepted this law, but not in its full meaning, and although they tried to apply it, they still continued to live according to the law of violence. Christianity appeared and confirmed the truth that there is only one law, common to all men, which gives them the greatest welfare – the law of mutual service – and indicated the reason why this law had not been realized in life. It was not realized because man regarded the use of violence as necessary and beneficial for good ends, and regarded the law of retribution as just. Christianity showed that violence is always pernicious, and that retribution cannot be applied by men. Although Christian humanity desired to live according to the law of mutual service common to all men, it did not accept this explanation of the law and involuntarily continued to live according to the pagan law of violence. Such a contradictory state of things kept increasing the criminality of life and the external comforts and luxury of the minority, at the same time increasing the slavery and misery of the majority among Christian nations.
In later times the criminality and luxury of the life of one portion, and the misery and slavery of the other portion of Christendom, have attained the highest degree, especially among those nations which have long ago abandoned the natural life of agriculture and fallen under the deceit of imaginary self-government. These nations, suffering from the misery of their position and the consciousness of the contradiction they are involved in, search for salvation everywhere – in imperialism, militarism, socialism, the seizure of other people’s lands, and every kind of strife. They search for it in tariffs, in technical improvements, in vice, and in anything except the one thing that can save them: the freeing of themselves from the superstition of the state – the fatherland – and the cessation of obedience to coercive state power of any kind whatever.
The Russian people have the advantages of their agricultural life, their absence of the deceit of self-government, their great numbers, and above all, their Christian attitude toward violence. They have been subjected to a cruel, unnecessary, and unfortunate war, into which their government had drawn them, and their demands that the land taken from them should be returned have been neglected. This people has understood sooner than others the principal causes of the calamities Christendom has experienced in our time, and therefore the great revolution impending over all mankind, which can alone save it from its unnecessary sufferings, must begin precisely among this nation.
Herein lies the significance of the revolution now beginning in Russia. This revolution has not yet begun among the nations of Europe and America, but the causes that have called it forth in Russia are the same for the entire Christian world. The same sort of war demonstrating to the whole world the inevitable advantage in military art of pagan over Christian nations, the same armaments of the great states reaching the utmost degree of strain and unable ever to cease, and the same calamitous position and universal dissatisfaction of the working people owing to their loss of their natural right to the land – these are to be found everywhere.
The majority of Russian people clearly see that the cause of all the calamities they suffer is obedience to power, and that they have before them the choice either of declining to be rational, free beings, or else of ceasing to obey the government. And if the people of Europe and America do not yet see this, owing to the bustle of their life and the deceit of self-government, they will very soon see it. Participation in the coercion of the governments of great states, which they call freedom, has brought and is bringing them to continually increasing slavery and to the calamities flowing from this slavery. These increasing calamities will, in their turn, bring them to the only means of deliverance from them: to the cessation of obedience to governments, and, as a consequence of this cessation of obedience, to the abolition of coercive combinations of states.
For this great revolution to take place, it is only necessary that men should understand that the state – the fatherland – is a fiction, and that life and true liberty are realities. Therefore, it is not life and liberty that should be sacrificed for the artificial combination called the state. Instead, – in the name of true life and liberty, men ought to free themselves from the superstition of the state and from its outcome: criminal obedience to men.
The end of the old age and the beginning of the new one are embodied in this alteration of men’s attitudes toward the state and the authorities.
 Transcriber’s note – Go tell your master.
 Transcriber’s note – France conquered Dahomey in 1894 and made it a part of colonial French West Africa.
 Translator’s note – Leaders of Scandinavian origin who are said to have been invited by the Slavonic tribes of Russia in 862 to rule over them.
 Transcriber’s note – 450 years earlier than Tolstoy, the Czech reformer Petr Chelčický wrote, “The man who obeys God needs no other authority over him.”