What Shall We Do? : Chapter 20

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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.)
• "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....)
• "If, in former times, Governments were necessary to defend their people from other people's attacks, now, on the contrary, Governments artificially disturb the peace that exists between the nations, and provoke enmity among them." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)


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Chapter 20


All slavery is based solely on the fact that one man can deprive another of his life, and by threatening to do so can compel him to do his will. We may see for certain that whenever one man is enslaved by another, when, against his own will and by the will of another, he does certain actions contrary to his inclination, the cause, if traced to its source, is nothing more nor less than a result of this threat. If a man gives to others all his labor, has not enough to eat, has to send his little children from home to work hard, leaves the land, and devotes all his life to a hated and unnecessary task, which happens before our own eyes in the world (which we term civilized because we ourselves live in it), then we may certainly say that he does so only because not to do so would be equivalent to loss of life.

Therefore in our civilized world, where the majority of the people, amid terrible privations, perform hated labors unnecessary to themselves, the greater number of men are in a slavery based on the threat of being deprived of their existence. Of what, then, does this slavery consist? Wherein lies this power of threat?

In olden times the means of subjugation and the threat to kill were plain and obvious to all: the primitive means of enslaving men then consisted in a direct threat to kill with the sword.

An armed man said to an unarmed, “I can kill thee, as thou hast seen I have done to thy brother, but I do not want to do it: I will spare thee,—first, because it is not agreeable for me to kill thee; secondly, because, as well for me as for thee, it will be more convenient that thou shouldst labor for me than that I should kill thee. Therefore do all I order thee to do, but know that, if thou refusest, I will take thy life.”

So the unarmed man submitted to the armed one and did everything he was ordered to do. The unarmed man labored, the armed threatened. This was that personal slavery which appeared first among all nations, and which still exists among primitive races.

This means of enslaving always begins the work; but when life becomes more complicated it undergoes a change. With the complication of life such a method presents great inconveniences to the oppressor. Before he can appropriate the labor of the weaker he must feed and clothe them and keep them at work, and so their number remains small; and, besides, this compels the slave-holder to remain continually with the slaves, driving them to work by the threat of murdering them. And thus another means of subjugation is developed.

Five thousand years ago (according to the Bible) this novel, convenient, and clever means of oppression was discovered by Joseph the Beautiful.

It is similar to that employed now in the menageries for taming restive horses and wild beasts.

It is hunger!

This contrivance is thus described in the Bible (Genesis xli., 48–57):—

And he (Joseph) gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.

And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.

And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt, there was bread.

And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he said to you, do.

And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; even because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

Joseph, making use of the primitive means of enslaving men by the threat of the sword, gathered corn during the years of plenty in expectation of years of famine which generally follow years of plenty,—men know all this without the dreams of Pharaoh,—and then by the pangs of hunger he made all the Egyptians and the inhabitants of the surrounding countries slaves to Pharaoh more securely and conveniently. And when the people began to be famished, he arranged matters so as to keep them in his power forever.

(Genesis xlvii., 13–26.) And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.

And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.

And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my Lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land be not desolate. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

Only the lands of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.

And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.

Formerly, in order to appropriate labor, Pharaoh had to use violence towards them; but now, when the stores and the land belonged to Pharaoh, he had only to keep these stores by force, and hunger compelled the men to labor for him.

All the land now belonged to Pharaoh, and he had all the stores (which were taken away from the people); and therefore, instead of driving them to work individually by the sword, he had only to keep food from them and they were enslaved, not by the sword, but by hunger.

In a year of scarcity, all men may be starved to death at Pharaoh's will; and in a year of plenty, all may be killed who, from casual misfortunes, have no stores of corn.

Thus comes into operation the second means of enslaving, not directly with the sword,—that is, by the strong man driving the weak one to labor under threat of killing him,—but by the strong one having taken away from the weak the stores of corn which, keeping by the sword, he compels the weak to work for.

Joseph said to the hungry men, “I could starve you to death, because I have the corn; but I will spare your lives, but only under the condition that you do all I order you for the food which I will give you.” For the first means of enslaving, the oppressor only needs soldiers to ride to and fro among the inhabitants, and make them fulfill the requirements of their master under threat of death. And thus the oppressor has only to pay his soldiers. But with the second means, besides the soldiers, the oppressor must have different assistants for keeping and protecting the land and stores from the starving people.

These are the Josephs and their stewards and distributors. And the oppressor has to reward them, and to give Joseph a dress of brocade, a gold ring, and servants, and corn and silver to his brothers and relatives. Besides this, from the very nature of the second means, not only the stewards and their relations, but all who have stores of corn become participators in this violence, just as by the first means, based upon immediate force, every one who has arms becomes a partner in tyranny, so by this means, based upon hunger, every one who has stores of provision shares in it, and has power over those who have no stores.

The advantage of this method over the former consists, first and chiefly, in the fact that the oppressor need no longer compel the workmen to do his will by force, for they themselves come to him and sell themselves to him; secondly, in the circumstance that fewer men escape from his violence. The drawback is, that he has to employ a greater number of men. For the oppressed the advantage of it consists in the fact that they are no longer exposed to rough violence but are left to themselves; and can always hope to pass from being the oppressed to becoming oppressors in their turn, which by fortunate circumstances they sometimes really do. The drawback for them is, that they can never escape from participating in the oppression of others.

This new means of enslaving generally comes into operation together with the old one; and the oppressor lessens the one and increases the other according to his desires. But this does not fully satisfy the man who wishes to take away as much as possible of the products of the labor of as many working-people as he can find, and to enthralled as many men as possible; and, therefore, a third means of oppression is evolved.

This is the slavery of taxation, and, like the second, it is based upon hunger; but to the means of subduing men by depriving them of bread is added the deprivation of other necessaries.

The oppressor requires from the slaves so much of the money he himself has coined, that, in order to obtain it, the slaves are compelled to sell not only stores of corn in greater quantity than the fifth part which was fixed by Joseph, but the first necessaries of life as well,—meat, skins, wool, clothes, firewood, even their buildings; and therefore the oppressor always keeps his slaves in his power, not only by hunger, but by thirst, cold and other privations.

And thus the third means of slavery comes into operation, a monetary, tributary one, consisting in the oppressor saying to the oppressed, “I can do with each of you just what I like; I can kill and destroy you by taking away the land by which you earn your living; I can, with this money which you must give me, buy all the corn upon which you feed, and sell it to strangers, and at any time annihilate you by starvation; I can take from you all that you have,—your cattle, your houses, your clothes; but it is neither convenient nor agreeable for me to do so, and therefore I let you alone, to work as you please; only give me so much of the money which I demand of you, either as a poll-tax, or according to your land or the quantity of your food and drink, or your clothes or your houses. Give me this money, and do what you like among yourselves, but know that I shall neither protect nor maintain widows nor orphans nor invalids nor old people, nor such as have been burned out: I shall only protect the regular circulation of this money. This right will always be mine, to protect only those who regularly give me the fixed number of these pieces of money: as to how or where you get it, I shall not in the least trouble myself.” And so the oppressor distributes these pieces of money as an acknowledgment that his demand has been complied with.

The second method of enslaving consisted in this, that, having taken away the fifth part of the harvest, and collected stores of corn, Pharaoh, besides the personal slavery by the sword, received, by his assistants, the possibility of dominion over the working-people during the time of famine, and over some of them during misfortunes which happen to them.

The third method consists in this: Pharaoh requires from the working-people more money than the value of the fifth part of corn which he took from them; he and his assistants get a new means of dominion over the working-class, not merely during the famine and their casual misfortunes, but permanently.

By the second method, men retain some stores of corn which help them to bear indifferent harvests and casual misfortunes without going into slavery; but by the third, when there are more demands, the stores, not of corn only but of all other necessaries of life are taken away from them, and at the first misfortune a workman, having neither stores of corn nor any other stores which he might exchange for corn, falls into slavery to those who have money.

To set the first in motion an oppressor need have only soldiers, and share the booty with them; for the second, besides the protectors of the land and the stores, he must have collectors and clerks for the distribution of the corn; for the third, besides the soldiers for keeping the land and his property, he must have collectors of taxes, assessors of direct taxation, supervisors, custom-house clerks, managers of money, and coiners of it.

The organization of the third method is much more complicated than that of the second. By the second, the getting in of corn may be leased out, as was done in olden times and is still the custom in Turkey; but by putting taxes on men there is need of a complicated administration, which has to ensure the right levying of the taxes. And therefore by the third method the oppressor has to share the plunder with a still greater number of men than by the second; besides, according to the very nature of the thing, all the men of the same or of the foreign country who possess money become sharers with the oppressed.

The advantage of the third method over the first and second consists chiefly in the following fact: that by it there is no need to wait for a year of scarcity, as in the time of Joseph, but years of famine are established forever, and (whilst by the second method the part of the labor which is taken away depends upon the harvest, and cannot be augmented ad libitum, because if there is no corn, there is nothing to take) by the new monetary method the requirement can be brought to any desired limit, for the demand for money can always be satisfied, because the debtor, to satisfy it, must sell his cattle, clothes, or houses. The chief advantage to the oppressor of this method is that he can take away the greatest quantity of labor in the most convenient way; for a money-tax, like a screw, may easily and conveniently be turned to the utmost limit, and golden eggs be obtained though the bird that lays them is all but dead.

Another of its advantages for the oppressor is that its violence reaches all those also who, by possessing no land, formerly escaped from it by giving only a part of their labor for corn; whereas now, besides that part which they give for corn, they must now give another part for taxes. A drawback for the oppressor is that he has to share the plunder with a still greater number of men, not only with his direct assistants, but also with all those men of his own country, and even of foreign countries, who may have the money which is demanded from the slaves.

Its advantage for the oppressed is only that he is allowed greater independence than under the second method; he may live where he chooses, do what he likes; he may sow or not sow; he has to give no account of his labor; and if he has money, he may consider himself entirely free, and constantly hope, though only for a time, to obtain not only an independent position, but even to become an oppressor himself, when he has money to spare.

The drawback for the oppressed is, that on a general average their situation becomes much worse, and they are deprived of the greater part of the products of their labor, because the number of those who utilize their labor has increased, and therefore the burden of keeping them falls upon a smaller number of men.

This third method of enslaving men is also very old, and comes into operation with the former two without entirely excluding them.

These three methods of enslaving men have always been in operation.

They may all be compared to screws which secure the board laid on the work-people which presses them down. The fundamental, or middle screw, without which the other screws could not hold, which is first screwed up, and which is never slackened, is the screw of personal slavery, the enslaving of some men by others under threat of slaughter; the second, which is screwed up after the first, is that of enslaving men by taking away the land and stores of provisions from them, such alienation being maintained by the threat to murder; and the third screw is slavery enforced by the requirement of certain money taxes; and this demand is also maintained under threat of murder.

These three screws are made fast, and it is only when one of them is tightened more that the others are slackened. For the complete enslavement of the workman, all three are necessary; and in our society, all three are in operation together. The first method of personal slavery under threat of murder by the sword has never been abolished, and never will be so long as there is any oppression, because every kind of oppression is based on this alone.

We are all quite sure that personal slavery is abolished in our civilized world; that the last remnant of it has been annihilated in America and in Russia, and that it is only among the barbarians that real slavery exists, and that with us it is no longer in being. We forget only one small circumstance,—those hundreds of millions of standing troops without which no state exists, and with the abolition of which all the economical organization of each state would inevitably fall to pieces. Yet what are these millions of soldiers but the personal slaves of those who rule them? Are not these men compelled to do the will of their commanders under the threat of torture and death,—a threat often carried out? the difference consisting only in the fact that the submission of these slaves is not called slavery, but discipline, and that slaves are slaves from their birth, but soldiers only during a more or less short period of their so-called “service.”

Personal slavery, therefore, is not only not abolished in our civilized world, but, under the system of conscription, it has of late years been confirmed; and it has remained as it has always existed, only slightly changed from its original form. And it cannot but exist, because, so long as there is the enslaving of one man by another there will be this personal slavery too, this slavery which, under the threat of the sword, maintains serfdom, land-ownership, and taxes.

It may be that this slavery of troops is useful, as it is said, for the defense and the glory of the country; but this kind of utility is more than doubtful, because we see how often in the case of unsuccessful wars it serves only for the subjugation and shame of the country. But of the expediency of this slavery for maintaining that of the land and taxes there is no question.

If Irish or Russian peasants were to take possession of the land of the proprietors, troops would be sent to dispossess them. If you build a distillery or a brewery and do not pay excise, then soldiers will be sent to shut it up. Refuse to pay taxes, and the same thing will happen to you.

The second screw is the method of enslaving men by taking away from them their land and their stores of provisions. This method has also always been in existence wherever men are oppressed; and, whatever changes it may undergo, it is everywhere in operation.

Sometimes all the land belongs to the sovereign, as in Turkey, and there one-tenth is given to the state treasury. Sometimes a part of the land belongs to the sovereign, and taxes are raised on it. Sometimes all the land belongs to a few people and is let out for labor, as in England. Sometimes more or less large portions of land belong to the land-owners, as in Russia, Germany, and France. But wherever there is enslaving there exists also the appropriation of the land by the oppressor, and this screw is slackened or tightened only according to the condition of the other screws.

Thus, in Russia, when personal slavery was extended to the majority of the working-people there was no need of land-slavery; but the screw of personal slavery was slackened in Russia only when the screws of land and tax slavery were tightened. Only when the government had appropriated the land and divided it among private individuals, and had instituted money payments and taxation, did it give the peasants personal freedom.

In England, for instance, land-slavery is preeminently in operation, and the question about the nationalizing of the land consists only in the screw of taxation being tightened in order that the screw of land appropriation may be slackened.

The third method of enslaving men, by taxes, has also been in operation for ages; and in our days, with the extension of uniform standards of money and the strengthening of state powers it has become an especially powerful influence.

This method is so developed in our days that it tends to be a substitute for the second method of enslaving,—the land monopoly.

It is obvious from the state of the political economy of all Europe, that it is by the tightening of this screw that the screw of land slavery is slackened.

In our own lifetime we have witnessed in Russia two transformations of slavery. When the serfs were liberated, and their landlords retained the right to the greater part of the soil, the landlords were afraid they would lose their power; but experience has shown that having let go the whole chain of personal slavery, they had only to seize another,—that of the land. A peasant was short of corn; he had not enough to live on. The landlord had land and stores of corn: and therefore the peasant still remained the same slave.

Another transformation was caused by the government screw of taxation being pressed home. The majority of working-people, having no stores, were obliged to sell themselves to their landlords and to the factories. This new form of oppression held the people still tighter, so that nine-tenths of the Russian working-people are still working for their landlords and in the factories to pay these taxes. This is so obvious, that, if the government were to remit taxation for one year only, all labor would be stopped in the fields of the landlords, and in the factories. Nine-tenths of the Russian people hire themselves out during and before the collection of taxes.

All these three methods have never ceased to operate, and are still in operation, but people are inclined to ignore them or to invent new excuses for them. And, what is most remarkable of all is, that the very means on which everything is based, that screw which is screwed up tighter than all others, which holds everything at the moment in question, is not noticed so long as it holds. When in the ancient world the entire economical order was upheld by personal slavery, the greatest intellects did not notice it. To Plato, as well as to Xenophon, and Aristotle, and to the Romans, it seemed that it could not be otherwise, and that slavery was an unavoidable and natural result of wars, without which the existence of mankind was inconceivable. Similarly, in the Middle Ages, and till recently, people did not apprehend the meaning of land-ownership, on which depended the entire economical organization of their time.

So also, at present, no one sees or wants to see, that in our time the slavery of the majority of the people depends on taxes collected by the government from its own land slaves, taxes collected by administration and the troops,—by the very same troops which are maintained by these taxes.

From : Gutenberg.org


November 30, 1903 :
Chapter 20 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 16:19:49 :
Chapter 20 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:35:52 :
Chapter 20 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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