On the Significance of Science and Art : Chapter 7

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "Only by recognizing the land as just such an article of common possession as the sun and air will you be able, without bias and justly, to establish the ownership of land among all men, according to any of the existing projects or according to some new project composed or chosen by you in common." (From : "To the Working People," by Leo Tolstoy, Yasnaya P....)
• "...for no social system can be durable or stable, under which the majority does not enjoy equal rights but is kept in a servile position, and is bound by exceptional laws. Only when the laboring majority have the same rights as other citizens, and are freed from shameful disabilities, is a firm order of society possible." (From : "To the Czar and His Assistants," by Leo Tolstoy, ....)
• "You are surprised that soldiers are taught that it is right to kill people in certain cases and in war, while in the books admitted to be holy by those who so teach, there is nothing like such a permission..." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)


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Chapter 7


Then, what is to be done?  What are we to do?

This question, which includes within itself both an admission that our life is evil and wrong, and in connection with this,—as though it were an exercise for it,—that it is impossible, nevertheless, to change it, this question I have heard, and I continue to hear, on all sides.  I have described my own sufferings, my own gropings, and my own solution of this question.  I am the same kind of a man as everybody else; and if I am in any wise distinguished from the average man of our circle, it is chiefly in this respect, that I, more than the average man, have served and winked at the false doctrine of our world; I have received more approbation from men professing the prevailing doctrine: and therefore, more than others, have I become depraved, and wandered from the path.  And therefore I think that the solution of the problem, which I have found in my own case, will be applicable to all sincere people who are propounding the same question to themselves.

First of all, in answer to the question, “What is to be done?” I told myself: “I must lie neither to other people nor to myself.  I must not fear the truth, whithersoever it may lead me.”

We all know what it means to lie to other people, but we are not afraid to lie to ourselves; yet the very worst downright lie, to other people, is not to be compared in its consequences with the lie to ourselves, upon which we base our whole life.

This is the lie of which we must not be guilty if we are to be in a position to answer the question: “What is to be done?”  And, in fact, how am I to answer the question, “What is to be done?” when every thing that I do, when my whole life, is founded on a lie, and when I carefully parade this lie as the truth before others and before myself?  Not to lie, in this sense, means not to fear the truth, not to devise subterfuges, and not to accept the subterfuges devised by others for the purpose of hiding from myself the deductions of my reason and my conscience; not to fear to part company with all those who surround me, and to remain alone in company with reason and conscience; not to fear that position to which the truth shall lead me, being firmly convinced that that position to which truth and conscience shall conduct me, however singular it may be, cannot be worse than the one which is founded on a lie.  Not to lie, in our position of privileged persons of mental labor, means, not to be afraid to reckon one’s self up wrongly.  It is possible that you are already so deeply indebted that you cannot take stock of yourself; but to whatever extent this may be the case, however long may be the account, however far you have strayed from the path, it is still better than to continue therein.  A lie to other people is not alone unprofitable; every matter is settled more directly and more speedily by the truth than by a lie.  A lie to others only entangles matters, and delays the settlement; but a lie to one’s self, set forth as the truth, ruins a man’s whole life.  If a man, having entered on the wrong path, assumes that it is the true one, then every step that he takes on that path removes him farther from his goal.  If a man who has long been traveling on this false path divines for himself, or is informed by some one, that his course is a mistaken one, but grows alarmed at the idea that he has wandered very far astray and tries to convince himself that he may, possibly, still strike into the right road, then he never will get into it.  If a man quails before the truth, and, on perceiving it, does not accept it, but does accept a lie for the truth, then he never will learn what he ought to do.  We, the not only wealthy, but privileged and so-called cultivated persons, have advanced so far on the wrong road, that a great deal of determination, or a very great deal of suffering on the wrong road, is required, in order to bring us to our senses and to the acknowledgment of the lie in which we are living.  I have perceived the lie of our lives, thanks to the sufferings which the false path entailed upon me, and, having recognized the falseness of this path on which I stood, I have had the boldness to go at first in thought only—whither reason and conscience led me, without reflecting where they would bring me out.  And I have been rewarded for this boldness.

All the complicated, broken, tangled, and incoherent phenomena of life surrounding me, have suddenly become clear; and my position in the midst of these phenomena, which was formerly strange and burdensome, has become, all at once, natural, and easy to bear.

In this new position, my activity was defined with perfect accuracy; not at all as it had previously presented itself to me, but as a new and much more peaceful, loving, and joyous activity.  The very thing which had formerly terrified me, now began to attract me.  Hence I think, that the man who will honestly put to himself the question, “What is to be done?” and, replying to this query, will not lie to himself, but will go whither his reason leads, has already solved the problem.

There is only one thing that can hinder him in his search for an issue,—an erroneously lofty idea of himself and of his position.  This was the case with me; and then another, arising from the first answer to the question: “What is to be done?” consisted for me in this, that it was necessary for me to repent, in the full sense of that word,—i.e., to entirely alter my conception of my position and my activity; to confess the hurtfulness and emptiness of my activity, instead of its utility and gravity; to confess my own ignorance instead of culture; to confess my immorality and harshness in the place of my kindness and morality; instead of my elevation, to acknowledge my lowliness.  I say, that in addition to not lying to myself, I had to repent, because, although the one flows from the other, a false conception of my lofty importance had so grown up with me, that, until I sincerely repented and cut myself free from that false estimate which I had formed of myself, I did not perceive the greater part of the lie of which I had been guilty to myself.  Only when I had repented, that is to say, when I had ceased to look upon myself as a regular man, and had begun to regard myself as a man exactly like every one else,—only then did my path become clear before me.  Before that time I had not been able to answer the question: “What is to be done?” because I had stated the question itself wrongly.

As long as I did not repent, I put the question thus: “What sphere of activity should I choose, I, the man who has received the education and the talents which have fallen to my shame?  How, in this fashion, make recompense with that education and those talents, for what I have taken, and for what I still take, from the people?”  This question was wrong, because it contained a false representation, to the effect that I was not a man just like them, but a peculiar man called to serve the people with those talents and with that education which I had won by the efforts of forty years.

I propounded the query to myself; but, in reality, I had answered it in advance, in that I had in advance defined the sort of activity which was agreeable to me, and by which I was called upon to serve the people.  I had, in fact, asked myself: “In what manner could I, so very fine a writer, who had acquired so much learning and talents, make use of them for the benefit of the people?”

But the question should have been put as it would have stood for a learned rabbi who had gone through the course of the Talmud, and had learned by heart the number of letters in all the holy books, and all the fine points of his art.  The question for me, as for the rabbi, should stand thus: “What am I, who have spent, owing to the misfortune of my surroundings, the year’s best fitted for study in the acquisition of grammar, geography, judicial science, poetry, novels and romances, the French language, pianoforte playing, philosophical theories, and military exercises, instead of inuring myself to labor; what am I, who have passed the best years of my life in idle occupations which are corrupting to the soul,—what am I to do in defiance of these unfortunate conditions of the past, in order that I may requite those people who during the whole time have fed and clothed, yes, and who even now continue to feed and clothe me?”  Had the question then stood as it stands before me now, after I have repented,—“What am I, so corrupt a man, to do?” the answer would have been easy: “To strive, first of all, to support myself honestly; that is, to learn not to live upon others; and while I am learning, and when I have learned this, to render aid on all possible occasions to the people, with my hands, and my feet, and my brain, and my heart, and with every thing to which the people should present a claim.”

And therefore I say, that for the man of our circle, in addition to not lying to himself or to others, repentance is also necessary, and that he should scrape from himself that pride which has sprung up in us, in our culture, in our refinements, in our talents; and that he should confess that he is not a benefactor of the people and a distinguished man, who does not refuse to share with the people his useful acquirements, but that he should confess himself to be a thoroughly guilty, corrupt, and good-for-nothing man, who desires to reform himself and not to behave benevolently towards the people, but simply to cease wounding and insulting them.

I often hear the questions of good young men who sympathize with the renunciatory part of my writings, and who ask, “Well, and what then shall I do?  What am I to do, now that I have finished my course in the university, or in some other institution, in order that I may be of use?”  Young men ask this, and in the depths of their soul it is already decided that the education which they have received constitutes their privilege and that they desire to serve the people precisely by means of thus superiority.  And hence, one thing which they will in no wise do, is to bear themselves honestly and critically towards that which they call their culture, and ask themselves, are those qualities which they call their culture good or bad?  If they will do this, they will infallibly be led to see the necessity of renouncing their culture, and the necessity of beginning to learn all over again; and this is the one indispensable thing.  They can in no wise solve the problem, “What to do?” because this question does not stand before them as it should stand.  The question must stand thus: “In what manner am I, a helpless, useless man, who, owing to the misfortune of my conditions, have wasted my best years of study in conning the scientific Talmud which corrupts soul and body, to correct this mistake, and learn to serve the people?”  But it presents itself to them thus: “How am I, a man who has acquired so much very fine learning, to turn this very fine learning to the use of the people?”  And such a man will never answer the question, “What is to be done?” until he repents.  And repentance is not terrible, just as truth is not terrible, and it is equally joyful and fruitful.  It is only necessary to accept the truth wholly, and to repent wholly, in order to understand that no one possesses any rights, privileges, or peculiarities in the matter of this life of ours, but that there are no ends or bounds to obligation, and that a man’s first and most indubitable duty is to take part in the struggle with nature for his own life and for the lives of others.

And this confession of a man’s obligation constitutes the gist of the third answer to the question, “What is to be done?”

I tried not to lie to myself: I tried to cast out from myself the remains of my false conceptions of the importance of my education and talents, and to repent; but on the way to a decision of the question, “What to do?” a fresh difficulty arose.  There are so many different occupations, that an indication was necessary as to the precise one which was to be adopted.  And the answer to this question was furnished me by sincere repentance for the evil in which I had lived.

“What to do?  Precisely what to do?” all ask, and that is what I also asked so long as, under the influence of my exalted idea of any own importance, I did not perceive that my first and unquestionable duty was to feed myself, to clothe myself, to furnish my own fuel, to do my own building, and, by so doing, to serve others, because, ever since the would has existed, the first and indubitable duty of every man has consisted and does consist in this.

In fact, no matter what a man may have assumed to be his vocation,—whether it be to govern people, to defend his fellow-countrymen, to divine service, to instruct others, to invent means to heighten the pleasures of life, to discover the laws of the world, to incorporate eternal truths in artistic representations,—the duty of a reasonable man is to take part in the struggle with nature, for the sustenance of his own life and of that of others.  This obligation is the first of all, because what people need most of all is their life; and therefore, in order to defend and instruct the people, and render their lives more agreeable, it is requisite to preserve that life itself, while my refusal to share in the struggle, my monopoly of the labors of others, is equivalent to annihilation of the lives of others.  And, therefore, it is not rational to serve the lives of men by annihilating the lives of men; and it is impossible to say that I am serving men, when, by my life, I am obviously injuring them.

A man’s obligation to struggle with nature for the acquisition of the means of livelihood will always be the first and most unquestionable of all obligations, because this obligation is a law of life, departure from which entails the inevitable punishment of either bodily or mental annihilation of the life of man.  If a man living alone excuses himself from the obligation of struggling with nature, he is immediately punished, in that his body perishes.  But if a man excuses himself from this obligation by making other people fulfill it for him, then also he is immediately punished by the annihilation of his mental life; that is to say, of the life which possesses rational thought.

In this one act, man receives—if the two things are to be separated—full satisfaction of the bodily and spiritual demands of his nature.  The feeding, clothing, and taking care of himself and his family, constitute the satisfaction of the bodily demands and requirements; and doing the same for other people, constitutes the satisfaction of his spiritual requirements.  Every other employment of man is only legal when it is directed to the satisfaction of this very first duty of man; for the fulfillment of this duty constitutes the whole life of man.

I had been so turned about by my previous life, this first and indubitable law of God or of nature is so concealed in our sphere of society, that the fulfillment of this law seemed to me strange, terrible, even shameful; as though the fulfillment of an eternal, unquestionable law, and not the departure from it, can be terrible, strange, and shameful.

At first it seemed to me that the fulfillment of this matter required some preparation, arrangement or community of men, holding similar views,—the consent of one’s family, life in the country; it seemed to me disgraceful to make a show of myself before people, to undertake a thing so improper in our conditions of existence, as bodily toil, and I did not know how to set about it.  But it was only necessary for me to understand that this is no exclusive occupation which requires to be invented and arranged for, but that this employment was merely a return from the false position in which I found myself, to a natural one; was only a rectification of that lie in which I was living.  I had only to recognize this fact, and all these difficulties vanished.  It was not in the least necessary to make preparations and arrangements, and to await the consent of others, for, no matter in what position I had found myself, there had always been people who had fed, clothed and warmed me, in addition to themselves; and everywhere, under all conditions, I could do the same for myself and for them, if I had the time and the strength.  Neither could I experience false shame in an unwonted occupation, no matter how surprising it might be to people, because, through not doing it, I had already experienced not false but real shame.

And when I had reached this confession and the practical deduction from it, I was fully rewarded for not having quailed before the deductions of reason, and for following whither they led me.  On arriving at this practical deduction, I was amazed at the ease and simplicity with which all the problems which had previously seemed to me so difficult and so complicated, were solved.

To the question, “What is it necessary to do?” the most indubitable answer presented itself: first of all, that which it was necessary for me to do was, to attend to my own samovar, my own stove, my own water, my own clothing; to every thing that I could do for myself.  To the question, “Will it not seem strange to people if you do this?” it appeared that this strangeness lasted only a week, and after the lapse of that week, it would have seemed strange had I returned to my former conditions of life.  With regard to the question, “Is it necessary to organize this physical labor, to institute an association in the country, on my land?” it appeared that nothing of the sort was necessary; that labor, if it does not aim at the acquisition of all possible leisure, and the enjoyment of the labor of others,—like the labor of people bent on accumulating money,—but if it have for its object the satisfaction of requirements, will itself be drawn from the city to the country, to the land, where this labor is the most fruitful and cheerful.  But it is not requisite to institute any association, because the man who labors, naturally and of himself, attaches himself to the existing association of laboring men.

To the question, whether this labor would not monopolize all my time, and deprive me of those intellectual pursuits which I love, to which I am accustomed, and which, in my moments of self-conceit, I regard as not useless to others? I received a most unexpected reply.  The energy of my intellectual activity increased, and increased in exact proportion with bodily application, while freeing itself from every thing superfluous.  It appeared that by dedicating to physical toil eight hours, that half of the day which I had formerly passed in the oppressive state of a struggle with ennui, eight hours remained to me, of which only five of intellectual activity, according to my terms, were necessary to me.  For it appeared, that if I, a very voluminous writer, who had done nothing for nearly forty years except write, and who had written three hundred printed sheets;—if I had worked during all those forty years at ordinary labor with the working-people, then, not reckoning winter evenings and leisure days, if I had read and studied for five hours every day, and had written a couple of pages only on holidays (and I have been in the habit of writing at the rate of one printed sheet a day), then I should have written those three hundred sheets in fourteen years.  The fact seemed startling: yet it is the most simple arithmetical calculation, which can be made by a seven-year-old boy, but which I had not been able to make up to this time.  There are twenty-four hours in the day; if we take away eight hours, sixteen remain.  If any man engaged in intellectual occupations devote five hours every day to his occupation, he will accomplish a fearful amount.  And what is to be done with the remaining eleven hours?

It proved that physical labor not only does not exclude the possibility of mental activity, but that it improves its quality, and encourages it.

In answer to the question, whether this physical toil does not deprive me of many innocent pleasures peculiar to man, such as the enjoyment of the arts, the acquisition of learning, intercourse with people, and the delights of life in general, it turned out exactly the reverse: the more intense the labor, the more nearly it approached what is considered the coarsest agricultural toil, the more enjoyment and knowledge did I gain, and the more did I come into close and loving communion with men, and the more happiness did I derive from life.

In answer to the question (which I have so often heard from persons not thoroughly sincere), as to what result could flow from so insignificant a drop in the sea of sympathy as my individual physical labor in the sea of labor ingulfing me, I received also the most satisfactory and unexpected of answers.  It appeared that all I had to do was to make physical labor the habitual condition of my life, and the majority of my false, but precious, habits and my demands, when physically idle, fell away from me at once of their own accord, without the slightest exertion on my part.  Not to mention the habit of turning day into night and vise versa, my habits connected with my bed, with my clothing, with conventional cleanliness,—which are downright impossible and oppressive with physical labor,—and my demands as to the quality of my food, were entirely changed.  In place of the dainty, rich, refined, complicated, highly-spiced food, to which I had formerly inclined, the most simple viands became needful and most pleasing of all to me,—cabbage-soup, porridge, black bread, and tea v prikusku. [238]  So that, not to mention the influence upon me of the example of the simple working-people, who are content with little, with whom I came in contact in the course of my bodily toil, my very requirements underwent a change in consequence of my toilsome life; so that my drop of physical labor in the sea of universal labor became larger and larger, in proportion as I accustomed myself to, and appropriated, the habits of the laboring classes; in proportion, also, to the success of my labor, my demands for labor from others grew less and less, and my life naturally, without exertion or privations, approached that simple existence of which I could not even dream without fulfilling the law of labor.

It proved that my dearest demands from life, namely, my demands for vanity, and diversion from ennui, arose directly from my idle life.  There was no place for vanity, in connection with physical labor; and no diversions were needed, since my time was pleasantly occupied, and, after my fatigue, simple rest at tea over a book, or in conversation with my fellows, was incomparably more agreeable than theaters, cards, conceits, or a large company,—all which things are needed in physical idleness, and which cost a great deal.

In answer to the question, Would not this unaccustomed toil ruin that health which is indispensable in order to render service to the people possible? it appeared, in spite of the positive assertions of noted physicians, that physical exertion, especially at my age, might have the most injurious consequences (but that Swedish gymnastics, the massage treatment, and so on, and other expedients intended to take the place of the natural conditions of man’s life, were better), that the more intense the toil, the stronger, more alert, more cheerful, and more kindly did I feel.  Thus it undoubtedly appeared, that, just as all those cunning devices of the human mind, newspapers, theaters, concerts, visits, balls, cards, journals, romances, are nothing else than expedients for maintaining the spiritual life of man outside his natural conditions of labor for others,—just so all the hygienic and medical devices of the human mind for the preparation of food, drink, lodging, ventilation, heating, clothing, medicine, water, massage, gymnastics, electric, and other means of healing,—all these clever devices are merely an expedient to sustain the bodily life of man removed from its natural conditions of labor.  It turned out that all these devices of the human mind for the agreeable arrangement of the physical existence of idle persons are precisely analogous to those artful contrivances which people might invent for the production in vessels hermetically sealed, by means of mechanical arrangements, of evaporation, and plants, of the air best fitted for breathing, when all that is needed is to open the window.  All the inventions of medicine and hygiene for persons of our sphere are much the same as though a mechanic should hit upon the idea of heating a steam-boiler which was not working, and should shut all the valves so that the boiler should not burst.  Only one thing is needed, instead of all these extremely complicated devices for pleasure, for comfort, and for medical and hygienic preparations, intended to save people from their spiritual and bodily ailments, which swallow up so much labor,—to fulfill the law of life; to do that which is proper not only to man, but to the animal; to fire off the charge of energy taken win in the shape of food, by muscular exertion; to speak in plain language, to earn one’s bread.  Those who do not work should not eat, or they should earn as much as they have eaten.

And when I clearly comprehended all this, it struck me as ridiculous.  Through a whole series of doubts and searchings, I had arrived, by a long course of thought, at this remarkable truth: if a man has eyes, it is that he may see with them; if he has ears, that he may hear; and feet, that he may walk; and hands and back, that he may labor; and that if a man will not employ those members for that purpose for which they are intended, it will be the worse for him.

I came to this conclusion, that, with us privileged people, the same thing has happened which happened with the horses of a friend of mine.  His steward, who was not a lover of horses, nor well versed in them, on receiving his master’s orders to place the best horses in the stable, selected them from the stud, placed them in stalls, and fed and watered them; but fearing for the valuable steeds, he could not bring himself to trust them to any one, and he neither rode nor drove them, nor did he even take them out.  The horses stood there until they were good for nothing.  The same thing has happened with us, but with this difference: that it was impossible to deceive the horses in any way, and they were kept in bonds to prevent their getting out; but we are kept in an unnatural position that is equally injurious to us, by deceits which have entangled us, and which hold us like chains.

We have arranged for ourselves a life that is repugnant both to the moral and the physical nature of man, and all the powers of our intelligence we concentrate upon assuring man that this is the most natural life possible.  Every thing which we call culture,—our sciences, art, and the perfection of the pleasant thing’s of life,—all these are attempts to deceive the moral requirements of man; every thing that is called hygiene and medicine, is an attempt to deceive the natural physical demands of human nature.  But these deceits have their bounds, and we advance to them.  “If such be the real human life, then it is better not to live at all,” says the reigning and extremely fashionable philosophy of Schopenhauer and Hartmann.  If such is life, ’tis better for the coming generation not to live,” say corrupt medical science and its newly devised means to that end.

In the Bible, it is laid down as the law of man: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, and in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;” but “nous avons changé tout ca,” as Molière’s character says, when expressing himself with regard to medicine, and asserting that the liver was on the left side.  We have changed all that.  Men need not work in order to eat, and women need not bear children.

A ragged peasant roams the Krapivensky district.  During the war he was an agent for the purchase of grain, under an official of the commissary department.  On being brought in contact with the official, and seeing his luxurious life, the peasant lost his mind, and thought that he might get along without work, like gentlemen, and receive proper support from the Emperor.  This peasant now calls himself “the Most Serene Warrior, Prince Blokhin, purveyor of war supplies of all descriptions.”  He says of himself that he has “passed through all the ranks,” and that when he shall have served out his term in the army, he is to receive from the Emperor an unlimited bank account, clothes, uniforms, horses, equipages, tea, pease and servants, and all sorts of luxuries.  This man is ridiculous in the eyes of many, but to me the significance of his madness is terrible.  To the question, whether he does not wish to work, he always replies proudly: “I am much obliged.  The peasants will attend to all that.”  When you tell him that the peasants do not wish to work, either, he answers: “It is not difficult for the peasant.”

He generally talks in a high-flown style, and is fond of verbal substantives.  “Now there is an invention of machinery for the alleviation of the peasants,” he says; “there is no difficulty for them in that.”  When he is asked what he lives for, he replies, “To pass the time.”  I always look on this man as on a mirror.  I behold in him myself and all my class.  To pass through all the ranks (tchini) in order to live for the purpose of passing the time, and to receive an unlimited bank account, while the peasants, for whom this is not difficult, because of the invention of machinery, do the whole business,—this is the complete formula of the idiotic creed of the people of our sphere in society.

When we inquire precisely what we are to do, surely, we ask nothing, but merely assert—only not in such good faith as the Most Serene Prince Blokhin, who has been promoted through all ranks, and lost his mind—that we do not wish to do any thing.

He who will reflect for a moment cannot ask thus, because, on the one hand, every thing that he uses has been made, and is made, by the hands of men; and, on the other side, as soon as a healthy man has awakened and eaten, the necessity of working with feet and hands and brain makes itself felt.  In order to find work and to work, he need only not hold back: only a person who thinks work disgraceful—like the lady who requests her guest not to take the trouble to open the door, but to wait until she can call a man for this purpose—can put to himself the question, what he is to do.

The point does not lie in inventing work,—you can never get through all the work that is to be done for yourself and for others,—but the point lies in weaning one’s self from that criminal view of life in accordance with which I eat and sleep for my own pleasure; and in appropriating to myself that just and simple view with which the laboring man grows up and lives,—that man is, first of all, a machine, which loads itself with food in order to sustain itself, and that it is therefore disgraceful, wrong, and impossible to eat and not to work; that to eat and not to work is the most impious, unnatural, and, therefore, dangerous position, in the nature of the sin of Sodom.  Only let this acknowledgment be made, and there will be work; and work will always be joyous and satisfying to both spiritual and bodily requirements.

The matter presented itself to me thus: The day is divided for every man, by food itself, into four parts, or four stints, as the peasants call it: (1) before breakfast; (2) from breakfast until dinner; (3) from dinner until four o’clock; (4) from four o’clock until evening.

A man’s employment, whatever it may be that he feels a need for in his own person, is also divided into four categories: (1) the muscular employment of power, labor of the hands, feet, shoulders, back,—hard labor, from which you sweat; (2) the employment of the fingers and wrists, the employment of artisan skill; (3) the employment of the mind and imagination; (4) the employment of intercourse with others.

The benefits which man enjoys are also divided into four categories.  Every man enjoys, in the first place, the product of hard labor,—grain, cattle, buildings, wells, ponds, and so forth; in the second place, the results of artisan toil,—clothes, boots, utensils, and so forth; in the third place, the products of mental activity,—science, art; and, in the forth place, established intercourse between people.

And it struck me, that the best thing of all would be to arrange the occupations of the day in such a manner as to exercise all four of man’s capacities, and myself produce all these four sorts of benefits which men make use of, so that one portion of the day, the first, should be dedicated to hard labor; the second, to intellectual labor; the third, to artisan labor; and the forth, to intercourse with people.  It struck me, that only then would that false division of labor, which exists in our society, be abrogated, and that just division of labor established, which does not destroy man’s happiness.

I, for example, have busied myself all my life with intellectual labor.  I said to myself, that I had so divided labor, that writing, that is to say, intellectual labor, is my special employment, and the other matters which were necessary to me I had left free (or relegated, rather) to others.  But this, which would appear to have been the most advantageous arrangement for intellectual toil, was precisely the most disadvantageous to mental labor, not to mention its injustice.

All my life long, I have regulated my whole life, food, sleep, diversion, in view of these hours of special labor, and I have done nothing except this work.  The result of this has been, in the first place, that I have contracted my sphere of observations and knowledge, and have frequently had no means for the study even of problems which often presented themselves in describing the life of the people (for the life of the common people is the everyday problem of intellectual activity).  I was conscious of my ignorance, and was obliged to obtain instruction, to ask about things which are known by every man not engaged in special labor.  In the second place, the result was, that I had been in the habit of sitting down to write when I had no inward impulse to write, and when no one demanded from me writing, as writing, that is to say, my thoughts, but when my name was merely wanted for journalistic speculation.  I tried to squeeze out of myself what I could.  Sometimes I could extract nothing; sometimes it was very wretched stuff, and I was dissatisfied and grieved.  But now that I have learned the indispensability of physical labor, both hard and artisan labor, the result is entirely different.  My time has been occupied, however modestly, at least usefully and cheerfully, and in a manner instructive to me.  And therefore I have torn myself from that indubitably useful and cheerful occupation for my special duties only when I felt an inward impulse, and when I saw a demand made upon me directly for my literary work.

And these demands called into play only good nature, and therefore the usefulness and the joy of my special labor.  Thus it turned out, that employment in those physical labors which are indispensable to me, as they are to every man, not only did not interfere with my special activity, but was an indispensable condition of the usefulness, worth, and cheerfulness of that activity.

The bird is so constructed, that it is indispensable that it should fly, walk, peek, combine; and when it does all this, it is satisfied and happy,—then it is a bird.  Just so man, when he walks, turns, raises, drags, works with his fingers, with his eyes, with his ears, with his tongue, with his brain,—only then is he satisfied, only then is he a man.

A man who acknowledges his appointment to labor will naturally strive towards that rotation of labor which is peculiar to him, for the satisfaction of his inward requirements; and he can alter this labor in no other way than when he feels within himself an irresistible summons to some exclusive form of labor, and when the demands of other men for that labor are expressed.

The character of labor is such, that the satisfaction of all a man’s requirements demands that same succession of the sorts of work which renders work not a burden but a joy.  Only a false creed, δοξα, to the effect that labor is a curse, could have led men to rid themselves of certain kinds of work; i.e., to the appropriation of the work of others, demanding the forced occupation with special labor of other people, which they call division of labor.

We have only grown used to our false comprehension of the regulation of labor, because it seems to us that the shoemaker, the machinist, the writer, or the musician will be better off if he gets rid of the labor peculiar to man.  Where there is no force exercised over the labor of others, or any false belief in the joy of idleness, not a single man will get rid of physical labor, necessary for the satisfaction of his requirements, for the sake of special work; because special work is not a privilege, but a sacrifice which man offers to inward pressure and to his brethren.

The shoemaker in the country, who abandons his wonted labor in the field, which is so grateful to him, and betakes himself to his trade, in order to repair or make boots for his neighbors, always deprives himself of the pleasant toil of the field, simply because he likes to make boots, because he knows that no one else can do it so well as he, and that people will be grateful to him for it; but the desire cannot occur to him, to deprive himself, for the whole period of his life, of the cheering rotation of labor.

It is the same with the starosta [village elder], the machinist, the writer, the learned man.  To us, with our corrupt conception of things, it seems, that if a steward has been relegated to the position of a peasant by his master, or if a minister has been sent to the colonies, he has been chastised, he has been ill-treated.  But in reality a benefit has been conferred on him; that is to say, his special, hard labor has been changed into a cheerful rotation of labor.  In a naturally constituted society, this is quite otherwise.  I know of one community where the people supported themselves.  One of the members of this society was better educated than the rest; and they called upon him to read, so that he was obliged to prepare himself during the day, in order that he might read in the evening.  This he did gladly, feeling that he was useful to others, and that he was performing a good deed.  But he grew weary of exclusively intellectual work, and his health suffered from it.  The members of the community took pity on him, and requested him to go to work in the fields.

For men who regard labor as the substance and the joy of life, the basis, the foundation of life will always be the struggle with nature,—labor both agricultural and mechanical, and intellectual, and the establishment of communion between men.  Departure from one or from many of these varieties of labor, and the adoption of special labor, will then only occur when the man possessed of a special branch, and loving this work, and knowing that he can perform it better than others, sacrifices his own profit for the satisfaction of the direct demands made upon him.  Only on condition of such a view of labor, and of the natural division of labor arising from it, is that curse which is laid upon our idea of labor abrogated, and does every sort of work becomes always a joy; because a man will either perform that labor which is undoubtedly useful and joyous, and not dull, or he will possess the consciousness of self-abnegation in the fulfillment of more difficult and restricted toil, which he exercises for the good of others.

But the division of labor is more profitable.  More profitable for whom?  It is more profitable in making the greatest possible quantity of calico, and boots in the shortest possible time.  But who will make these boots and this calico?  There are people who, for whole generations, make only the heads of pins.  Then how can this be more profitable for men?  If the point lies in manufacturing as much calico and as many pins as possible, then this is so.  But the point concerns men and their welfare.  And the welfare of men lies in life.  And life is work.  How, then, can the necessity for burdensome, oppressive toil be more profitable for people?  For all men, that one thing is more profitable which I desire for myself,—the utmost well-being, and the gratification of all those requirements, both bodily and spiritual, of the conscience and of the reason, which are imposed upon me.  And in my own case I have found, that for my own welfare, and for the satisfaction of these needs of mine, all that I require is to cure myself of that folly in which I had been living, in company with the Krapivensky madman, and which consisted in presupposing that some people need not work, and that certain other people should direct all this, and that I should therefore do only that which is natural to man, i.e., labor for the satisfaction of their requirements; and, having discovered this, I convinced myself that labor for the satisfaction of one’s own needs falls of itself into various kinds of labor, each one of which possesses its own charm, and which not only do not constitute a burden, but which serve as a respite to one another.  I have made a rough division of this labor (not insisting on the justice of this arrangement), in accordance with my own needs in life, into four parts, corresponding to the four stints of labor of which the day is composed; and I seek in this manner to satisfy my requirements.

These, then, are the answers which I have found for myself to the question, “What is to be done?”

First, Not to lie to myself, however far removed my path in life may be from the true path which my reason discloses to me.

Second, To renounce my consciousness of my own righteousness, my superiority especially over other people; and to acknowledge my guilt.

Third, To comply with that eternal and indubitable law of humanity,—the labor of my whole being, feeling no shame at any sort of work; to contend with nature for the maintenance of my own life and the lives of others.


I concluded, after having said every thing that concerned myself; but I cannot refrain, from a desire to say something more which concerns everybody, from verifying the deductions which I have drawn, by comparisons.  I wish to say why it seems to me that a very large number of our social class ought to come to the same thing to which I have come; and also to state what will be the result if a number of people should come to the same conclusion.

I think that many will come to the point which I have attained: because if the people of our sphere, of our caste, will only take a serious look at themselves, then young persons, who are in search of personnel happiness, will stand aghast at the ever-increasing wretchedness of their life, which is plainly leading them to destruction; conscientious people will be shocked at the cruelty and the illegality of their life; and timid people will be terrified by the danger of their mode of life.

The Wretchedness of our Life:—However much we rich people may reform, however much we may bolster up this delusive life of ours with the aid of our science and art, this life will become, with every year, both weaker and more diseased; with every year the number of suicides, and the refusals to bear children, will increase; with every year we shall feel the growing sadness of our life; with every generation, the new generations of people of this sphere of society will become more puny.

It is obvious that in this path of the augmentation of the comforts and the pleasures of life, in the path of every sort of cure, and of artificial preparations for the improvements of the sight, the hearing, the appetite, false teeth, false hair, respiration, massage, and so on, there can be no salvation.  That people who do not make use of these perfected preparations are stronger and healthier, has become such a truism, that advertisements are printed in the newspapers of stomach-powders for the wealthy, under the heading, “Blessings for the poor,” [252] in which it is stated that only the poor are possessed of proper digestive powers, and that the rich require assistance, and, among other various sorts of assistance, these powders.  It is impossible to set the matter right by any diversions, comforts, and powders, whatever; only a change of life can rectify it.

The Inconsistency of our Life with our Conscience:—however we may seek to justify our betrayal of humanity to ourselves, all our justifications will crumble into dust in the presence of the evidence.  All around us, people are dying of excessive labor and of privation; we ruin the labor of others, the food and clothing which are indispensable to them, merely with the object of procuring diversion and variety for our wearisome lives.  And, therefore, the conscience of a man of our circle, if even a spark of it be left in him, cannot be lulled to sleep, and it poisons all these comforts and those pleasures of life which our brethren, suffering and perishing in their toil, procure for us.  But not only does every conscientious man feel this himself,—he would be glad to forget it, but this he cannot do.

The new, ephemeral justifications of science for science, of art for art, do not exclude the light of a simple, healthy judgment.  The conscience of man cannot be quieted by fresh devices; and it can only be calmed by a change of life, for which and in which no justification will be required.

Two causes prove to the people of the wealthy classes the necessity for a change of life: the requirements of their individual welfare, and of the welfare of those most nearly connected with them, which cannot be satisfied in the path in which they now stand; and the necessity of satisfying the voice of conscience, the impossibility of accomplishing which is obvious in their present course.  These causes, taken together, should lead people of the wealthy classes to alter their mode of life, to such a change as shall satisfy their well-being and their conscience.

And there is only one such change possible: they must cease to deceive, they must repent, they must acknowledge that labor is not a curse, but the glad business of life.  “But what will be the result if I do toil for ten, or eight, or five hours at physical work, which thousands of peasants will gladly perform for the money which I possess?” people say to this.

The first, simplest, and indubitable result will be, that you will become a more cheerful, a healthier, a more alert, and a better man, and that you will learn to know the real life, from which you have hidden yourself, or which has been hidden from you.

The second result will be, that, if you possess a conscience, it will not only cease to suffer as it now suffers when it gazes upon the toil of others, the significance of which we, through ignorance, either always exaggerate or depreciate, but you will constantly experience a glad consciousness that, with every day, you are doing more and more to satisfy the demands of your conscience, and you will escape from that fearful position of such an accumulation of evil heaped upon your life that there exists no possibility of doing good to people; you will experience the joy of living in freedom, with the possibility of good; you will break a window,—an opening into the domain of the moral world which has been closed to you.

“But this is absurd,” people usually say to you, for people of our sphere, with profound problems standing before us,—problems philosophical, scientific, artistic, ecclesiastical and social.  It would be absurd for us ministers, senators, academicians professors, artists, a quarter of an hour of whose time is so prized by people, to waste our time on any thing of that sort, would it not?—on the cleaning of our boots, the washing of our shirts, in hoeing, in planting potatoes, or in feeding our chickens and our cows, and so on; in those things which are gladly done for us, not only by our porter or our cook, but by thousands of people who value our time?

But why should we dress ourselves, wash and comb our hair? why should we hand chairs to ladies, to guests? why should we open and shut doors, hand ladies, into carriages, and do a hundred other things which serfs formerly did for us?  Because we think that it is necessary so to do; that human dignity demands it; that it is the duty, the obligation, of man.

And the same is the case with physical labor.  The dignity of man, his sacred duty and obligation, consists in using the hands and feet which have been given to him, for that for which they were given to him, and that which consumes food on the labor which produces that food; and that they should be used, not on that which shall cause them to pine away, not as objects to wash and clean, and merely for the purpose of stuffing into one’s mouth food, drink, and cigarettes.  This is the significance that physical labor possesses for man in every community; but in our community, where the avoidance of this law of labor has occasioned the unhappiness of a whole class of people, employment in physical labor acquires still another significance,—the significance of a sermon, and of an occupation which removes a terrible misfortune that is threatening mankind.

To say that physical labor is an insignificant occupation for a man of education, is equivalent to saying, in connection with the erection of a temple: “What does it matter whether one stone is laid accurately in its place?”  Surely, it is precisely under conditions of modesty, simplicity, and imperceptibleness, that every magnificent thing is accomplished; it is impossible to plow, to build, to pasture cattle, or even to think, amid glare, thunder, and illumination.  Grand and genuine deeds are always simple and modest.  And such is the grandest of all deeds which we have to deal with,—the reconciliation of those fearful contradictions amid which we are living.  And the deeds which will reconcile these contradictions are those modest, imperceptible, apparently ridiculous ones, the serving one’s self, physical labor for one’s self, and, if possible, for others also, which we rich people must do, if we understand the wretchedness, the unscrupulousness, and the danger of the position into which we have drifted.

What will be the result if I, or some other man, or a handful of men, do not despise physical labor, but regard it as indispensable to our happiness and to the appeasement of our conscience?  This will be the result, that there will be one man, two men, or a handful of men, who, coming into conflict with no one, without governmental or revolutionary violence, will decide for ourselves the terrible question which stands before all the world, and which sets people at variance, and that we shall settle it in such wise that life will be better to them, that their conscience will be more at peace, and that they will have nothing to fear; the result will be, that other people will see that the happiness which they are seeking everywhere, lies there around them; that the apparently unreconcilable contradictions of conscience and of the constitution of this world will be reconciled in the easiest and most joyful manner; and that, instead of fearing the people who surround us, it will become necessary for us to draw near to them and to love them.

The apparently insoluble economical and social problem is merely the problem of Kriloff’s casket. [256]  The casket will simply open.  And it will not open, so long as people do not do simply that first and simple thing—open it.

A man sets up what he imagines to be his own peculiar library, his own private picture-gallery, his own apartments and clothing, he accumulates his own money in order therewith to purchase every thing that he needs; and the end of it all is, that engaged with this fancied property of his, as though it were real, he utterly loses his sense of that which actually constitutes his property, on which he can really labor, which can really serve him, and which will always remain in his power, and of that which is not and cannot be his own property, whatever he may call it, and which cannot serve as the object of his occupation.

Words always possess a clear significance until we deliberately attribute to them a false sense.

What does property signify?

Property signifies that which has been given to me, which belongs to me exclusively; that with which I can always do any thing I like; that which no one can take away from me; that which will remain mine to the end of my life, and precisely that which I am bound to use, increase, and improve.  Now, there exists but one such piece of property for any man,—himself.

Hence it results that half a score of men may till the soil, hew wood, and make shoes, not from necessity, but in consequence of an acknowledgment of the fact that man should work, and that the more he works the better it will be for him.  It results, that half a score of men,—or even one man, may demonstrate to people, both by his confession and by his actions, that the terrible evil from which they are suffering is not a law of fate, the will of God, or any historical necessity; but that it is merely a superstition, which is not in the least powerful or terrible, but weak and insignificant, in which we must simply cease to believe, as in idols, in order to rid ourselves of it, and in order to rend it like a paltry spider’s web.  Men who will labor to fulfill the glad law of their existence, that is to say, those who work in order to fulfill the law of toil, will rid themselves of that frightful superstition of property for themselves.

If the life of a man is filled with toil, and if he knows the delights of rest, he requires no chambers, furniture, and rich and varied clothing; he requires less costly food; he needs no means of locomotion, or of diversion.  But the principal thing is, that the man who regards labor as the business and the joy of his life will not seek that relief from his labor which the labors of others might afford him.  The man who regards life as a matter of labor will propose to himself as his object, in proportion as he acquires understanding, skill, and endurance, greater and greater toil, which shall constantly fill his life to a greater and greater degree.  For such a man, who sees the meaning of his life in work itself, and not in its results, for the acquisition of property, there can be no question as to the implements of labor.  Although such a man will always select the most suitable implements, that man will receive the same satisfaction from work and rest, when he employs the most unsuitable implements.  If there be a steam-plow, he will use it; if there is none, he will till the soil with a horse-plow, and, if there is none, with a primitive curved bit of wood shod with iron, or he will use a rake; and, under all conditions, he will equally attain his object.  He will pass his life in work that is useful to men, and he will therefore win complete satisfaction.

And the position of such a man, both in his external and internal conditions, will be more happy than that of the man who devotes his life to the acquisition of property.  Such a man will never suffer need in his outward circumstances, because people, perceiving his desire to work, will always try to provide him with the most productive work, as they proportion a mill to the water-power.  And they will render his material existence free from care, which they will not do for people who are striving to acquire property.  And freedom from anxiety in his material conditions is all that a man needs.  Such a man will always be happier in his internal conditions, than the one who seeks wealth, because the first will never gain that which he is striving for, while the latter always will, in proportion to his powers.  The feeble, the aged, the dying, according to the proverb, “With the written absolution in his hands,” will receive full satisfaction, and the love and sympathy of men.

What, then, will be the outcome of a few eccentric individuals, or madmen, tilling the soil, making shoes, and so on, instead of smoking cigarettes, playing whist, and roaming about everywhere to relieve their tedium, during the space of the ten leisure hours a day which every intellectual worker enjoys?  This will be the outcome: that these madmen will show in action, that that imaginary property for which men suffer, and for which they torment themselves and others, is not necessary for happiness; that it is oppressive, and that it is mere superstition; that property, true property, consists only in one’s own head and hands; and that, in order to actually exploit this real property with profit and pleasure, it is necessary to reject the false conception of property outside one’s own body, upon which we expend the best efforts of our lives.  The outcome us, that these men will show, that only when a man ceases to believe in imaginary property, only when he brings into play his real property, his capacities, his body, so that they will yield him fruit a hundred-fold, and happiness of which we have no idea,—only then will he be so strong, useful, and good a man, that, wherever you may fling him, he will always land on his feet; that he will everywhere and always be a brother to everybody; that he will be intelligible to everybody, and necessary, and good.  And men looking on one, on ten such madmen, will understand what they must all do in order to loose that terrible knot in which the superstition regarding property has entangled them, in order to free themselves from the unfortunate position in which they are all now groaning with one voice, not knowing whence to find an issue from it.

But what can one man do amid a throng which does not agree with him?  There is no argument which could more clearly demonstrate the terror of those who make use of it than this.  The burlaki [260] drag their bark against the current.  There cannot be found a burlak so stupid that he will refuse to pull away at his towing-rope because he alone is not able to drag the bark against the current.  He who, in addition to his rights to an animal life, to eat and sleep, recognizes any sort of human obligation, knows very well in what that human obligation lies, just as the boatman knows it when the tow-rope is attached to him.  The boatman knows very well that all he has to do is to pull at the rope, and proceed in the given direction.  He will seek what he is to do, and how he is to do it, only when the tow-rope is removed from him.  And as it is with these boatmen and with all people who perform ordinary work, so it is with the affairs of all humanity.  All that each man needs is not to remove the tow-rope, but to pull away on it in the direction which his master orders.  And, for this purpose, one sort of reason is bestowed on all men, in order that the direction may be always the same.  And this direction has obviously been so plainly indicated, that both in the life of all the people about us, and in the conscience of each individual man, only he who does not wish to work can say that he does not see it.  Then, what is the outcome of this?

This: that one, perhaps two men, will pull; a third will look on, and will join them; and in this manner the best people will unite until the affair begins to start, and make progress, as though itself inspiring and bidding thereto even those who do not understand what is being done, and why it is being done.  First, to the contingent of men who are consciously laboring in order to comply with the law of God, there will be added the people who only half understand and who only half confess the faith; then a still greater number of people who admit the same doctrine will join them, merely on the faith of the originators; and finally the majority of mankind will recognize this, and then it will come to pass, that men will cease to ruin themselves, and will find happiness.

This will happen,—and it will be very speedily,—when people of our set, and after them a vast majority, shall cease to think it disgraceful to pay visits in untanned boots, and not disgraceful to walk in overshoes past people who have no shoes at all; that it is disgraceful not to understand French, and not disgraceful to eat bread and not to know how to set it; that it is disgraceful not to have a starched shirt and clean clothes, and not disgraceful to go about in clean garments thereby showing one’s idleness; that it is disgraceful to have dirty hands, and not disgraceful not to have hands with callouses.

All this will come to pass when the sense of the community shall demand it.  But the sense of the community will demand this when those delusions in the imagination of men, which have concealed the truth from them, shall have been abolished.  Within my own recollection, great changes have taken place in this respect.  And these changes have taken place only because the general opinion has undergone an alteration.  Within my memory, it has come to pass, that whereas it used to be disgraceful for wealthy people not to drive out with four horses and two footmen, and not to keep a valet or a maid to dress them, wash them, put on their shoes, and so forth; it has now suddenly become discreditable for one not to put on one’s own clothes and shoes for one’s self, and to drive with footmen.  Public opinion has effected all these changes.  Are not the changes which public opinion is now preparing clear?

All that was necessary five and twenty years ago was to abolish the delusion which justified the right of serfdom, and public opinion as to what was praiseworthy and what was discreditable changed, and life changed also.  All that is now requisite is to annihilate the delusion which justifies the power of money over men, and public opinion will undergo a change as to what is creditable and what is disgraceful, and life will be changed also; and the annihilation of the delusion, of the justification of the moneyed power, and the change in public opinion in this respect, will be promptly accomplished.  This delusion is already flickering, and the truth will very shortly be disclosed.  All that is required is to gaze steadfastly, in order to perceive clearly that change in public opinion which has already taken place, and which is simply not recognized, not fitted with a word.  The educated man of our day has but to reflect ever so little on what will be the outcome of those views of the world which he professes, in order to convince himself that the estimate of good and bad, by which, by virtue of his inertia, he is guided in life, directly contradict his views of the world.

All that the man of our century has to do is to break away for a moment from the life which runs on by force of inertia, to survey it from the one side, and subject it to that same standard which arises from his whole view of the world, in order to be horrified at the definition of his whole life, which follows from his views of the world.  Let us take, for instance, a young man (the energy of life is greater in the young, and self-consciousness is more obscured).  Let us take, for instance, a young man belonging to the wealthy classes, whatever his tendencies may chance to be.

Every good young man considers it disgraceful not to help an old man, a child, or a woman; he thinks, in a general way, that it is a shame to subject the life or health of another person to danger, or to shun it himself.  Every one considers that shameful and brutal which Schuyler relates of the Kirghiz in times of tempest,—to send out the women and the aged females to hold fast the corners of the kibitka [tent] during the storm, while they themselves continue to sit within the tent, over their kumis [fermented mare’s-milk].  Every one thinks it shameful to make a week man work for one; that it is still more disgraceful in time of danger—on a burning ship, for example,—being strong, to be the first to seat one’s self in the lifeboat,—to thrust aside the weak and leave them in danger, and so on.

All men regard this as disgraceful, and would not do it upon any account, in certain exceptional circumstances; but in everyday life, the very same actions, and others still worse, are concealed from them by delusions, and they perpetrate them incessantly.  The establishment of this new view of life is the business of public opinion.  Public opinion, supporting such a view, will speedily be formed.

Women form public opinion, and women are especially powerful in our day.


As stated in the Bible, a law was given to the man and the woman,—to the man, the law of labor; to the woman, the law of bearing children.  Although we, with our science, avons changé tout ça, the law for the man, as for woman, remains as unalterable as the liver in its place, and departure from it is equally punished with inevitable death.  The only difference lies in this, that departure from the law, in the case of the man, is punished so immediately in the future, that it may be designated as present punishment; but departure from the law, in the case of the woman, receives its chastisement in a more distant future.

The general departure of all men from the law exterminates people immediately; the departure from it of all women annihilates it in the succeeding generation.  But the evasion by some men and some women does not exterminate the human race, and only deprives those who evade it of the rational nature of man. The departure of men from this law began long ago, among those classes who were in a position to subject others, and, constantly spreading, it has continued down to our own times; and in our own day it has reached folly, the ideal consisting in evasion of the law,—the ideal expressed by Prince Blokhin, and shared in by Renan and by the whole cultivated world: “Machines will work, and people will be bundles of nerves devoted to enjoyment.”

There was hardly any departure from the law in the part of women, it was expressed only in prostitution, and in the refusal to bear children—in private cases.  The women belonging to the wealthy classes fulfilled their law, while the men did not comply with theirs; and therefore the women became stronger, and continued to rule, and must rule, over men who have evaded the law, and who have, therefore, lost their senses.  It is generally stated that woman (the woman of Paris in particular is childless) has become so bewitching, through making use of all the means of civilization, that she has gained the upper hand over man by this fascination of hers.  This is not only unjust, but precisely the reverse of the truth.  It is not the childless woman who has conquered man, but the mother, that woman who has fulfilled her law, while the man has not fulfilled his.  That woman who deliberately remains childless, and who entrances man with her shoulders and her locks, is not the woman who rules over men, but the one who has been corrupted by man, who has descended to his level,—to the level of the vicious man,—who has evaded the law equally with himself, and who has lost, in company with him, every rational idea of life.

From this error springs that remarkable piece of stupidity which is called the rights of women.  The formula of these rights of women is as follows: “Here! you man,” says the woman, “you have departed from your law of real labor, and you want us to bear the burden of our real labor.  No, if this is to be so, we understand, as well as you do, how to perform those semblances of labor which you exercise in banks, ministries, universities, and academies; we desire, like yourselves, under the pretext of the division of labor, to make use of the labor of others, and to live for the gratification of our caprices alone.”  They say this, and prove by their action that they understand no worse, if not better, than men, how to exercise this semblance of labor.

This so-called woman question has come up, and could only come up, among men who have departed from the law of actual labor.  All that is required is, to return to that, and this question cannot exist.  Woman, having her own inevitable task, will never demand the right to share the toil of men in the mines and in the fields.  She could only demand to share in the fictitious labors of the men of the wealthy classes.

The woman of our circle has been, and still is, stronger than the man, not by virtue of her fascinations, not through her cleverness in performing the same pharisaical semblance of work as man, but because she has not stepped out from under the law that she should undergo that real labor, with danger to her life, with exertion to the last degree, from which the man of the wealthy classes has excused herself.

But, within my memory, a departure from this law on the part of woman, that is to say, her fall, has begun; and, within my memory, it has become more and more the case.  Woman, having lost the law, has acquired the belief that her strength lies in the witchery of her charms, or in her skill in pharisaical pretenses at intellectual work.  And both things are bad for the children.  And, within my memory, women of the wealthy classes have come to refuse to bear children.  And so mothers who hold the power in their hands let it escape them, in order to make way for the dissolute women, and to put themselves on a level with them.  The evil is already wide-spread, and is extending farther and farther every day; and soon it will lay hold on all the women of the wealthy classes, and then they will compare themselves with men: and in company with them, they will lose the rational meaning of life.  But there is still time.

If women would but comprehend their destiny, their power, and use it for the salvation of their husbands, brothers, and children,—for the salvation of all men!

Women of the wealthy classes who are mothers, the salvation of the men of our world from the evils from which they are suffering, lies in your hands.

Not those women who are occupied with their dainty figures, with their bustles, their hair-dressing, and their attraction for men, and who bear children against their will, with despair, and hand them over to nurses; nor those who attend various courses of lectures, and discourse of psychometric centers and differentiation, and who also endeavor to escape bearing children, in order that it may not interfere with their folly which they call culture: but those women and mothers, who, possessing the power to refuse to bear children, consciously and in a straightforward way submit to this eternal, unchangeable law, knowing that the burden and the difficulty of such submission is their appointed lot in life,—these are the women and mothers of our wealthy classes, in whose hands, more than in those of any one else, lies the salvation of the men of our sphere in society from the miseries that oppress them.

Ye women and mothers who deliberately submit yourselves to the law of God, you alone in our wretched, deformed circle, which has lost the semblance of humanity, you alone know the whole of the real meaning of life, according to the law of God; and you alone, by your example, can demonstrate to people that happiness in life, in submission to the will of God, of which they are depriving themselves.  You alone know those raptures and those joys which invade the whole being, that bliss which is appointed for the man who does not depart from the law of God.  You know the happiness of love for your husbands,—a happiness which does not come to an end, which does not break off short, like all other forms of happiness, and which constitutes the beginning of a new happiness,—of love for your child.  You alone, when you are simple and obedient to the will of God, know not that farcical pretense of labor which the men of our circle call work, and know that the labor imposed by God on men, and know its true rewards, the bliss which it confers.  You know this, when, after the raptures of love, you await with emotion, fear, and terror that torturing state of pregnancy which renders you ailing for nine months, which brings you to the verge of death, and to intolerable suffering and pain.  You know the conditions of true labor, when, with joy, you await the approach and the increase of the most terrible torture, after which to you alone comes the bliss which you well know.  You know this, when, immediately after this torture, without respite, without a break, you undertake another series of toils and sufferings,—nursing,—in which process you at one and the same time deny yourselves, and subdue to your feelings the very strongest human need, that of sleep, which, as the proverb says, is dearer than father or mother; and for months and years you never get a single sound, unbroken might’s rest, and sometimes, nay, often, you do not sleep at all for a period of several nights in succession, but with failing arms you walk alone, punishing the sick child who is breaking your heart.  And when you do all this, applauded by no one, and expecting no praises for it from any one, nor any reward,—when you do this, not as an heroic deed, but like the laborer in the Gospel when he came from the field, considering that you have done only that which was your duty, then you know what the false, pretentious labor of men performed for glory really is, and that true labor is fulfilling the will of God, whose command you feel in your heart.  You know that if you are a true mother it makes no difference that no one has seen your toil, that no one has praised you for it, but that it has only been looked upon as what must needs be so, and that even those for whom your have labored not only do not thank you, but often torture and reproach you.  And with the next child you do the same: again you suffer, again you undergo the fearful, invisible labor; and again you expect no reward from any one, and yet you feel the sane satisfaction.

If you are like this, you will not say after two children, or after twenty, that you have done enough, just as the laboring man fifty years of age will not say that he has worked enough, while he still continues to eat and to sleep, and while his muscles still demand work; if you are like this, your will not cast the task of nursing and care-taking upon some other mother, just as a laboring man will not give another man the work which he has begun, and almost completed, to finish: because into this work you will throw your life.  And therefore the more there is of this work, the fuller and the happier is your life.

And when you are like this, for the good fortune of men, you will apply that law of fulfilling God’s will, by which you guide your life, to the lives of your husband, of your children, and of those most nearly connected with you.  If your are like this, and know from your own experience, that only self-sacrificing, unseen, unrewarded labor, accompanied with danger to life and to the extreme bounds of endurance, for the lives of others, is the appointed lot of man, which affords him satisfaction, then you will announce these demands to others; you will urge your husband to the same toil; and you will measure and value the dignity of men acceding to this toil; and for this toil you will also prepare your children.

Only that mother who looks upon children as a disagreeable accident, and upon love, the comforts of life, costume, and society, as the object of life, will rear her children in such a manner that they shall have as much enjoyment as possible out of life, and that they shall make the greatest possible use of it; only she will feed them luxuriously, deck them out, amuse them artificially; only she will teach them, not that which will fit them for self-sacrificing masculine or feminine labor with danger of their lives, and to the last limits of endurance, but that which will deliver them from this labor.  Only such a woman, who has lost the meaning of her life, will sympathize with that delusive and false male labor, by means of which her husband, having rid himself of the obligations of a man, is enabled to enjoy, in her company, the work of others.  Only such a woman will choose a similar man for the husband of her daughter, and will estimate men, not by what they are personally, but by that which is connected with them,—position, money, or their ability to take advantage of the labor of others.

But the true mother, who actually knows the will of God, will fit her children to fulfill it also.  For such a mother, to see her child overfed, enervated, decked out, will mean suffering; for all this, as she well knows, will render difficult for him the fulfillment of the law of God in which she has instructed him.  Such a mother will teach, not that which will enable her son and her daughter to rid themselves of labor, but that which will help them to endure the toils of life.  She will have no need to inquire what she shall teach her children, for what she shall prepare them.  Such a woman will not only not encourage her husband to false and delusive labor, which has but one object, that of using the labors of others; but she will bear herself with disgust and horror towards such an employment, which serves as a double temptation to her children.  Such a woman will not choose a husband for her daughter on account of the whiteness of his hands and the refinement of manner; but, well aware that labor and deceit will exist always and everywhere, she will, beginning with her husband, respect and value in men, and will require from them, real labor, with expenditure and risk of life, and she will despise that deceptive labor which has for its object the ridding one’s self of all true toil.

Such a mother, who brings forth children and nurses them, and will herself, rather than any other, feed her offspring and prepare their food, and sew, and wash, and teach her children, and sleep and talk with them, because in this she grounds the business of her life,—only such a mother will not seek for her children external guaranties in the form of her husband’s money, and the children’s diplomas; but she will rear them to that same capacity for the self-sacrificing fulfillment of the will of God which she is conscious of herself possessing,—a capacity for enduring toil with expenditure and risk of life,—because she knows that in this lies the sole guarantee, and the only well-being in life.  Such a mother will not ask other people what she ought to do; she will know every thing, and will fear nothing.

If there can exist any doubt for the man and for the childless woman, as to the path in which the fulfillment of the will of God lies, this path is firmly and clearly defined for the woman who is a mother; and if she has complied with it in submissiveness and in simplicity of spirit, she, standing on that loftiest height of bliss which the human being is permitted to attain, will become a guiding-star for all men who are seeking good.  Only the mother can calmly say before her death, to Him who sent her into this world, and to Him whom she has served by bearing and rearing children more dear than herself,—only she can say calmly, having served Him who has imposed this service upon her: “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”  And this is the highest perfection, towards which, as towards the highest bliss, men are striving.

Such are the women, who, having fulfilled their destiny, reign over powerful men; such are the women who prepare the new generations of people, and fix public opinion: and, therefore, in the hands of these women lies the highest power of saving men from the prevailing and threatening evils of our times.

Yes, ye women and mothers, in your hands, more than in those of all others, lies the salvation of the world!


[21a]  The fine, tall members of a regiment, selected and placed together to form a showy squad.

[21b]  [] Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition printed in Russia, in the set of Count Tolstoï’s works.

[24a]  Réaumur.

[24b]  A drink made of water, honey, and laurel or salvia leaves, which is drunk as tea, especially by the poorer classes.

[28]  [] Omitted by the censor from the authorized edition published in Russia in the set of count Tolstoy’s works.  The omission is indicated thus . . .

[39]  Kalatch, a kind of roll: baranki, cracknels of fine flour.

[59]  An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

[60]  A myeshchanin, or citizen, who pays only poll-tax and not a guild tax.

[62]  Omitted in authorized edition.

[66]  Omitted by the censor in the authorized edition.

[94]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[96]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[99]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[108]  Omitted by the Censor from the authorized edition.

[111]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[113]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition

[116]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[122a]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[122b]  A very complicated sort of whist.

[124]  The whole of this chapter is omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition, and is there represented by the following sentence: “And I felt that in money, in money itself, in the possession of it, there was something immoral; and I asked myself, What is money?”

[135]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[138]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[139]  The above passage is omitted in the authorized edition, and the following is added: “I came to the simple and natural conclusion, that, if I pity the tortured horse upon which I am riding, the first thing for me to do is to alight, and to walk on my own feet.”

[140]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[142]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[152a]  “Into a worse state,” in the authorized edition.

[152b]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[154]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[155]  Réaumur.

[158]  In the Moscow edition (authorized by the Censor), the concluding paragraph is replaced by the following:—“They say: The action of a single man is but a drop in the sea.  A drop in the sea!

“There is an Indian legend relating how a man dropped a pearl into the sea, and in order to recover it he took a bucket, and began to bail out, and to pour the water on the shore.  Thus he toiled without intermission, and on the seventh day the spirit of the sea grew alarmed lest the man should dip the sea dry, and so he brought him his pearl.  If our social evil of persecuting man were the sea, then that pearl which we have lost is equivalent to devoting our lives to bailing out the sea of that evil.  The prince of this world will take fright, he will succumb more promptly than did the spirit of the sea; but this social evil is not the sea, but a foul cesspool, which we assiduously fill with our own uncleanness.  All that is required is for us to come to our senses, and to comprehend what we are doing; to fall out of love with our own uncleanness,—in order that that imaginary sea should dry away, and that we should come into possession of that priceless pearl,—fraternal, humane life.”

[161a]  An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

[161b]  The fast extends from the 5th to the 30th of June, O.S.  (June 27 to July 12, N.S.)

[165]  A pood is thirty-six pounds.

[167]  Robinson Crusoe.

[168]  Here something has been omitted by the Censor, which I am unable to supply.—Trans.

[169]  An omission by the censor, which I am unable to supply.  Trans.

[178]  We designate as organisms the elephant and the bacterian, only because we assume by analogy in those creatures the same conjunction of feeling and consciousness that we know to exist in ourselves.  But in human societies and in humanity, this actual sign is absent; and therefore, however many other signs we may discover in humanity and in organism, without this substantial token the recognition of humanity as an organism is incorrect.

[238]  v prikusku, when a lump of sugar is held in the teeth instead or being put into the tea.

[252]  In English in the text.

[256]  An excellent translation of Kriloff’s Fables, by Mr. W. R. S. Ralston, is published in London.

[260]  Burlak, pl. burlaki, is a boatman on the River Volga.


January 14, 2020 15:14:20 :
Chapter 7 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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