The Law of Violence and the Law of Love

By Leo Tolstoy (1908)

Revolt Library Anarchism The Law of Violence and the Law of Love

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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....)
• "The Government and all those of the upper classes near the Government who live by other people's work, need some means of dominating the workers, and find this means in the control of the army. Defense against foreign enemies is only an excuse. The German Government frightens its subjects about the Russians and the French; the French Government, frightens its people about the Germans; the Russian Government frightens its people about the French and the Germans; and that is the way with all Governments. But neither Germans nor Russians nor Frenchmen desire to fight their neighbors or other people; but, living in peace, they dread war more than anything else in the world." (From: "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From: "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)


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‘And fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body.’ (Matt., X, 28) Because of the perversion of the Christianity, the life of the Christian people has become worse than of the pagans. The reform of evil that exists in life must begin with a denunciation of the religious lie and the establishing of religious truth within each individual person. The sufferings involved in an irrational life lead to an awareness of the necessity of rational life. None of the wretchedness of either humanity or the individual is useless, for it always leads humanity, albeit in a roundabout way, to the only activity for which man is destined: self-perfection. (Source: Translated from Russian by EarthlyFireFlies and Wikisource.)... (From :

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‘And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.’ (John, III, 19–21) ‘There is no greater unhappiness than when a person starts to fear the truth lest it denounce him.’ (Pascal) The glory of the good lies in their consciences and not in the mouths of other people. I write what I am writing simply because, knowing the only thing that can free the people of the Christian world from the terrible physical sufferings, and more importantly, from the spiritual corruption into which they are submerging themselves ever deeper, I, as I stand on the edge of the grave, cannot be silent. It must be apparent to all thinking pe... (From :

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One of the most obtuse superstitions is the superstition of educated people is that a human can exist without faith. True religion is the establishment of a relationship between man and the infinite life that surrounds him, and which binds his life to this infinity and guides his actions. If you feel that you have no faith, you must understand that you are in the most dangerous position in the world, in which only man can find himself. People can, and do, live the rational and harmonious life natural to man only when they are united by their understanding of the meaning of life; in other words by a shared understanding of the meaning of life that satisfies the majority of people equally, and in the guidance for conduct that follows from it. But when the inevitable happens (which must happen since the explanation of the meaning of life and the resulting guidance for conduct is never finalized but becomes continually clearer) – when it happens that the u... (From :

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‘Man possesses a certain tendency to believe that he is not seen when he sees nothing, like children who close their eyes in order not to be seen.’ (Lichtenberg) People of our times believe that the absurdity and cruelty of our lives, with the insane wealth of few and the embittered poverty of the majority, and the arms and wars, is seen by no one and that nothing prevents us from continuing such a life. Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it. People of the Christian world, having accepted under the guise of Christian teaching a perversion of it compiled by the Church, which replaced paganism and at first partially satisfied people by its new forms, have ceased with time to believe in this perverted Church Christianity, and have finally reached the point where they are left without any kind of religious understanding of life, or guidance for conduct resulting from it. And since, without this understanding of life and be... (From :

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‘Those who think that there is no other way of governing people than by force, disregarding their reason, do to people what is done to horses by blinding them in order to make them walk around the circle more submissively. Why does man have reason if he can only be influenced by violence? The right for violence is not a right, but a simple fact which can only be a right when it does not meet with protest and opposition. It is like the cold, darkness and weight, which people had to put up with until recently when warmth, illumination and leverage were discovered. All human industry is liberation from the power of raw nature; progress in justice is nothing other than a series of limitations to which the tyranny of the mighty must be subjected. Just as the purpose of a medicine is in victory over a sickness, the essence of goodness is in victory over the blind brutality and the unbridled lust of man-beast. In the same way, I always see one and the same law, i.e. (From :

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‘When among one hundred men, one rules over ninety-nine, it is unjust, it is a despotism; when ten rule over ninety, it is equally unjust, it is an oligarchy; but when fifty-one rule over forty-nine (and this is only theoretical, for in reality it is always ten or eleven of these fifty-one), it is entirely just, it is freedom! Could there be anything funnier, in its manifest absurdity, than such reasoning? And yet it is this very reasoning that serves as the basis for all reformers of the political structure.’ ‘The nations of the earth are trembling and shaking. Everywhere one feels some kind of active force that seems to be preparing for an earthquake. Never before has man held so great a responsibility. At each moment he undertakes more and more important tasks. There is a feeling that something great is about to happen. Before Christ’s appearance the world was awaiting a great event, but nevertheless failed to accept Him when He arrived. L... (From :

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‘From the moment when the first members of the Church Councils said: “We believe in the Holy Spirit”, that is to say, placed external authority above internal, and considered the pitiful deliberations of Councils to be more important and holier than that which is truly sacred to man: his reason and conscience – from that moment commenced the lie which lulls man’s body and soul, and which has murdered millions of human beings and continues its dreadful deeds to this day.’ ‘In 1682 in England, Doctor Leighton, an honorable gentleman who wrote a book against the Episcopate, was condemned and sentenced to the following punishment. He was cruelly flogged, his ear was then sliced off, one half of his nose split and then the initials for Disseminator of Trouble were branded on his cheek with a hot iron. Seven days later he was flogged again, although the scars had not yet healed, the other side of his nose was split, the other ear sliced o... (From :

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‘The Church’s perversion of Christianity has distanced us from the realization of the Kingdom of God; but, Christian truth, like fire on dry wood, has consumed its outer layer and burst forth. Everyone can see the significance of Christianity, and its influence is already stronger than the deceit which conceals it.’ ‘I can see a new religion, based on trust in man, appealing to untouched depths within us, believing that we can love good without any recompense, and that the divine principle exists in man.’ (Solter) ‘What we need, what the people need and the age demands, in order to find a way out of the murk of egoism, doubt and negation in which it is immersed, is a faith in which our souls can cease to wander in pursuit of personal ends and can move forwards in unison, recognizing one source, one law, one end. Any strong belief that springs up from the ruins of the old, worn-out religions will modify the existing order, since al... (From :

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‘The main reason for our poor social structure is false belief.’ ‘We must pay the greatest attention to our public affairs; we should be prepared to change our minds, to renounce our old views and adopt new ones. We should cast prejudices aside and argue with a completely open mind. A sailor who raises the same sail regardless of changes in the direction of the wind will never reach his port.’ (Henry George) We should understand Christ’s teaching, openly and simply, and the horrible deceit in which each and every one of us lives will become clear. It is becoming more and more evident in our age that the true significance of the Christian doctrine is that the essence of human life is the evergrowing manifestation of the source of everything, indicated in us through love; and, therefore, that the essence of human life and the highest law governing it is love. The fact that love is a necessary and happy aspect of human life... (From :

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‘The wretchedness of war and military preparation not only fail to comply with the reasons presented in their justification, but for the most part these reasons are so insignificant that they are unworthy of consideration and are quite unknown to those who die in war.’ ‘People are so accustomed to maintaining the external order of life by violence that they cannot conceive of life being possible without violence. Moreover, if men employ violence to establish an outwardly just life, then the people who establish this sort of life must know what justice is and be just themselves. If some people can know what justice is and are able to be just, why cannot everyone know it and be just?’ ‘If people were completely virtuous they would never digress from the truth. The truth is only dangerous to those who commit evil. Those who do good love the truth.’ ‘Reason is often the slave of sin; it strives to justify... (From :

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‘The savage instinct of military murder has been so carefully cultivated and encouraged over the course of a thousand years that it has dug deep roots in the human brain. One must hope, however, that a humanity better than ours will manage to free itself from this dreadful crime. But what will this superior humanity think of the so-called refined civilization which we are so proud of? Almost the same as we think of the tribes of ancient Mexico with their cannibalism, who are at once war-like, pious, and bestial.’ (Letourneau) ‘War will only be annihilated when people cease to have any share in violence, and are prepared to suffer all the persecutions they will bring upon themselves for doing so. This is the only way to annihilate war.’ (Anatole France) ‘Ask the majority of Christians what they consider the greatest evil from which Christ freed humanity and they will say: from Hell, from eternal fire, from punishment in the next world. A... (From :

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‘The Christian revelation was the teaching stating the equality of men, that God is the Father and that all men are brothers. It struck to the core of the monstrous tyranny which suffocated the civilized world; it shattered the slaves’ chains and annihilated the enormous injustice whereby a small group of people could live in luxury at the expense of the masses, and ill-treat the so-called working classes. This is why the first Christians were persecuted and why, once it became clear that they could not be suppressed, the privileged classes adopted it and perverted it. It ceased to be the celebration of the true Christianity of the first centuries and to a significant extent became the tool of the privileged classes.’ (Henry George) ‘The Church’s perversion of Christianity has distanced us from the realization of the Kingdom of God; but Christian truth, like fire on dry wood, has consumed its outer layer and burst forth. Everyone can see the si... (From :

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‘Among people living evil lives, every step in the direction of goodness invokes persecution rather than love.’ ‘True bravery in battle is natural for him who knows that God is his ally.’ ‘In the world you shall have tribulation: but cheer up: I have overcome the world.’ (John, XVI, 33) ‘Do not await the fulfillment of the divine cause you serve; but know that none of your efforts are fruitless, for they all advance the cause.’ ‘The most important and necessary human deeds, for both doer and recipient, are those of which he does not see the results.’ In the year 1818 a governor-in-chief of the Caucasus, Moraviev, noted in his diary that five serfs had been sent from the Tambov region to the Caucasus because when they were conscripted they refused to serve. They were flogged several times with a knout and chased down the gantlet, but they would not give in and kept saying: ‘All... (From :

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‘When you can say in all truth and with your whole heart: “My Lord, my God, do with me as you will”, only then will you free yourself from slavery and become completely free. A free man is only master of what he can master without impediment. And the only thing we are entirely free to master without impediment is ourselves. Therefore, if you see a person wishing to control not himself but others, you know that he is not free: he has become a slave of his desire to dominate people.’ (Epictetus) But what can the hundreds, thousands, let us say hundreds of thousands of insignificant, powerless, isolated people do against the vast number of men who are bound to the State and equipped with all the powerful weapons of violence? The struggle seems not only unequal but impossible, and yet the outcome of this struggle is as little in doubt as the outcome between the struggle between the darkness of night and the light of dawn. One of those you... (From :

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The social conditions of life can only be improved by people exercising self-restraint. It is said that one swallow does not make a summer, but can it be that because one swallow does not make a summer another swallow, sensing and anticipating summer, must not fly? If every blade of grass waited similarly summer would never occur. And it is the same with establishing the Kingdom of God: we must not think about whether we are the first or the thousandth swallow. Live your life fulfilling God’s will and you will know for sure that it is only by following this path that you most fruitfully enhance the overall improvement of life. The crushing heaviness of evil is weighing down on men. The people standing beneath this weight are becoming more and more crushed by it, and are searching for a means of freeing themselves from it. They know they can lift the weight and throw it off through joint effort; but they cannot agree to do it all together. Every... (From :

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The human soul is Christian by nature. Christianity is always perceived by people as something forgotten and suddenly remembered… Christianity raises man to a height revealing a world of happiness, governed by the law of reason. The feeling on discovering the truth of Christianity is similar to that experienced by a man who has been locked in a dark, stuffy tower and then climbs to the highest platform on the battlements, from where he can see a beautiful world he has never seen before. The realization of submitting to human law is enslaving; the realization of submitting to God’s law is liberating. One of the certain conditions of man’s undertaking is the fact that the further away the goal of our strivings, and the less we desire to see the fruits of our labor ourselves, the greater and wider the extent of our success will be. (John Ruskin) The most important and necessary work both for the man performing it and for others is that of whi... (From :

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It is far more natural to conceive of a society of people governed by reasonable, advantageous laws, that are recognized by everyone, than of the society in which people live today, obeying only violence. The man who has not yet awoken to the truth sees political power as various sacred institutions, like the organs of a living body forming the essential conditions of life. For the man who has awakened to the truth, these people appear very mistaken, for they have attributed to themselves some kind of fantastic significance without any rational justification for it, and they fulfill their desires through violence. The awoken person also regards the lost and for the most part bribed people doing violence to other people just as highway robbers, who grab people on the road and violate them. The antiquity, scale and organization of violence cannot alter the nature of the deed. The man awakened does not believe in the thing called the State and sees no justification for all the... (From :

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‘We live in an age of discipline, culture and civilization, but it is still far from being a moral age. Under the present conditions people can say that the happiness of the State grows alongside the misery of the people. And there remains the question of whether we might not be happier living in a primitive condition where we would have none of our present culture. For how can one make people happy without making them moral and good?’ (Kant) Try to live in such a way that you have no need of violence. We are very accustomed to arguing about how we might organize the lives of others, of humanity as a whole. And we find nothing strange in such deliberations. Whereas these sort of arguments could never exist between religious, and thereby free people. These arguments are the very results of despotism or the domination of one, or a few, over many. This is how both despots and those perverted by them reason. This mistake is harmful, n... (From :

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‘Man need only divert his attention from searching for the solution to outer questions and pose the one, true inner question of how he should lead his life, and all the outer questions will be resolved in the best possible way. We do not and cannot know what is the essence of common well-being, but we know very well that it can only be achieved through fulfilling the law of goodness that has been revealed to each person.’ ‘If only instead of wishing to save the world people wished to save themselves, to liberate themselves rather than humanity, they would be doing so much more for the salvation of the world and the freedom of humanity.’ (Herzen) In both personal and public life there is only one law: if you wish to improve life, be prepared to sacrifice it. Go about the business of your life fulfilling God’s will and you can be certain of enhancing the overall improvement of life in the most fruitful way. ‘... (From :

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‘The Creator himself pre-ordained that the criterion of all human behavior was not profit but justice, and on the strength of this all efforts to define levels of profit are always useless. Not one person has ever known, or can know, what the final results of a certain action, or series of actions, will be, either for himself or for others. But each one of us can know which action is just and which is not. And likewise, we can all know that the consequences of justice will, at the end of the day, be as good for ourselves as for others, although it is beyond our power to say beforehand what this good will be and of what it will consist.’ (John Ruskin) ‘And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free’ (John, VIII, 32) ‘Man thinks therefore he is. It is clear that he must think rationally. A rationally thinking person thinks first of all about the purpose for which he must live; he thinks about his soul and about God. Just loo... (From :

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‘Some people seek well-being, or happiness, in power, others seek it in science or in sensuality. Those who are truly close to bliss realize that it cannot exist in something that only a few, rather than everyone, can possess. They realize that the genuine well-being of man is such that all people can possess it at once, without division and without jealousy; it is such that no one can lose it unless he wants to.’ (Pascal) We have one, and only one, infallible guide: the eternal spirit that penetrates each and every one of us in unity and fills us with the ambition to attain that which we ought; it is the same spirit that urges the tree to grow towards the sun, the flower to drop its seeds in autumn, and which urges us to strive after God, thereby uniting ourselves. The true faith attracts people to it, not by the promise of good to the believer, but by the indication of the only means of saving us from all evil, and from death itself. Salvation... (From :

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The most dangerous people have been hanged, or are serving sentences in penal battalions, fortresses and prisons; tens of thousands of others, less dangerous, have been driven out of the capital cities and big towns and are wandering around Russia, bedraggled and hungry; the ordinary police arrest, the secret police pursue; all books and newspapers dangerous to the government are withdrawn from circulation. In the Duma debates go on between various party spokesmen as to how to protect the welfare of the people: should or should not fleets be built? Should peasant land-ownership be organized in this way or that way? How and why a Council of Churches should, or should not, be held. There are leaders who dally in lobbies, there are quorums, blocs, premiers and everything else down to the last detail, exactly as in all civilized nations. It would seem that we need nothing more. And yet, the collapse of the existing structure is drawing closer and closer, precisely here and precisely no... (From :

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The Christian teaching in its true meaning, acknowledging the SUPREME LAW of human life to be the law of love which in no instance permits violence between men, is so close to the heart of man and gives such undoubted freedom, such independent happiness to both the individual and groups of people, as well as to the whole of humanity, that it would seem this need only be known for all men to accept it as the guiding principle of their behavior. And, in spite of all the efforts of the Church to conceal this law, people have really come to understand this more and more and striven to realize it. But the unhappy fact is that at the time when the true meaning of the Christian teaching started becoming clearer to people, a large section of the Christian world has already become accustomed to regarding the truth as existing in external religious forms. And these forms not only hide the true meaning of the Christian teaching but uphold a system of government that is in direct opposition to... (From :

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One need only recall Christ’s teaching forbidding violent resistance to evil, and people, from the privileged gentry as compared to the laboring classes, will, whether they are believers or nonbelievers, simply smile ironically at such a reference, as if the idea that nonviolent resistance to evil were possible is such blatant nonsense that serious-minded people would not even mention it. The majority of such people, considering themselves moral and educated, will talk seriously and argue about the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the redemption, the sacraments and so forth; or about which of two political parties would have the best chance of success, or which political unions are the most desirable, whose proposals are sounder, those of the social democrats or those of the Socialist revolutionaries; but they are all quite agreed that belief in nonviolent resistance to evil cannot be taken seriously. Why is this? Because people cannot but feel that ac... (From :

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But however much the blindness of those who believe in the necessity and inevitability of violence may strike me as strange, and however blatantly apparent the inevitability of nonresistance may be to me, it is not reasoned conclusions that convince me, or that can irrefutably convince other people, of the truth of nonresistance; it is only man’s awareness of his spirituality, the basic expression of which is love, that can convince. It is love, true love, which comprises the essence of man’s soul; that love which is revealed in Christ’s teaching, and excludes even the suggestion of any kind of violence. Whether the employment of violence or the endurance of evil will be useful or harmful I do not know, and no one knows. But I do know, as every person knows, that love is well-being; the love of others for me is a blessing and still more is my love for others. The supreme bliss is my love for others, and not only for those who love me, but as Christ said, f... (From :


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