What Shall We Do? : Chapter 31

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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.)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)
• "...the dissemination of the truth in a society based on coercion was always hindered in one and the same manner, namely, those in power, feeling that the recognition of this truth would undermine their position, consciously or sometimes unconsciously perverted it by explanations and additions quite foreign to it, and also opposed it by open violence." (From : "A Letter to a Hindu: The Subjection of India- Its....)
• "...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, ....)


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Chapter 31


Division of Labor” is the law pervading everything that exists, therefore it must exist in human societies too. That may be so; but the question still remains, whether the existing division of labor in human society is the division which ought to exist. And when men consider a certain division of labor unreasonable and unjust, no science whatever can prove to men that what they consider unreasonable and unjust ought to continue.

The theological theory demonstrated that “Power is of God”; and it very well may be so. But the question still remains, To whom is the power given, to Catherine the Empress, or to the rebel Pugatchof? And no theological subtleties whatever can solve this difficulty. Moral philosophy demonstrates that “A State is merely a form of the social development of the individual”; but the question still remains,—Can the state of a Nero or that of a Gengis Khan be considered a form of such development? And no transcendentalism whatever can solve that difficulty.

It is the same with Scientific Science also. Division of Labor is the condition of the life of organisms and of human societies; but what have we to consider in these human societies as an organic division of labor? However much science studies the division of labor in the molecules of a tape-worm, all the observations cannot compel men to acknowledge as correct a division of labor which is repudiated by their reason and conscience. However convincing the proofs of the division of labor in the cells of investigated organisms may be, a man who has not yet lost his reason will say it is wrong that some should only weave cloth all their long life, and that this is not division of labor, but oppression of human beings.

Herbert Spencer and others affirm that as there is a whole population of weavers, the weaver's activity is in organic division of labor. In saying this they use a similar line of reasoning to the theologians: There is a power, therefore it is of God, whatever it may be: there are weavers, therefore they exist as a result of the law of division of labor. There might be some sense in this if the power and the position of weavers were created by themselves; but we know that they are not but that it is we who create them. Well, then, we ought to ascertain whether we have established this power according to the will of God or of ourselves, and whether we have called these weavers into being by virtue of some organic law or from some other cause.

Here are men earning their living by agriculture, as it is proper for all men to do: one man has set up a smith's forge and mended his plow; his neighbor comes to him and asks him to mend his plow, too, and promises to give labor or money in return. A second comes with a similar request; others follow; and in the society of these men a form of division of labor arises. Thus, one man becomes a smith.

Another man has taught his children well; his neighbor brings him his children and asks him to teach them, and thus a teacher is formed: but the smith as well as the teacher become, and continue to be, a smith and a teacher, only because they were asked, and they remain a smith and a teacher only as long as people require their trades. If it happens that too many smiths and teachers appear, or if their labor is no longer wanted, they at once, according to common sense, throw aside their trade and become laborers again, as it everywhere and always happens where there is no cause for the violation of a right division of labor.

Men who behave in such a way are directed both by their reason and their conscience; and therefore we who are endowed with reason and conscience, all agree that such a division of labor is a right one. But if it were to happen that smiths, having the possibility of compelling other men to labor for them, were to continue to make horseshoes when there was no longer a demand for them, and teachers were to wish to continue to teach when there was nobody to be taught, then, to every impartial man endowed with reason and conscience, it would be obvious that this is not real division of labor but a usurpation of other men's labor; because such a division could no longer be tested satisfactorily by the sole standard by which we may know whether it is right or not,—the demand of such labor by other men, and a voluntary compensation offered for it by them. But exactly such a surplus, however, is what Scientific Science terms “a division of labor.”

Men do what is not required, and they ask to be fed for it, and say it is just, because it is division of labor. The chief social evil of a people,—not with us alone,—is the countless horde of State officials. The chief cause of the economical misery of our days, is what is called in England “over-production” (that is, the production of an enormous quantity of articles, wanted by nobody, and which no one knows how to get rid of). All this comes simply from the strange idea about the “division of labor?”

It would be very strange to see a boot-maker who considered that men were bound to feed him because, forsooth, he continued to produce boots wanted by no one; but what shall we say about those men in government, church, science, and art, who not only do not produce any thing tangibly useful for the people but whose produce is wanted by nobody, yet who as boldly require to be well fed and clothed on account of “The division of labor.”

There may be magicians for whose activity there is a demand and to whom men give casks and spirits; but we cannot even imagine the existence of magicians who, while their magic is not wanted by anybody, require to be fed simply because they wish to practice their art. Yet in our world this is the very position of the men in church and state, of the men of science and art. And it all proceeds from that false conception of the division of labor, defined, not by reason and conscience, but by deductions to which these scientists so unanimously resort.

Division of labor, indeed, has always existed; but it is correct only when man decides it by his reason and conscience, and not by his making observations on it. And the conscience and the reason of all men solve this question in the simplest and surest way. They always decide the question by recognizing the division of labor to be right only when the special activity of a man is so necessary to others, that they freely offer to feed him in compensation for what they ask him to do for them. But when a man from his infancy up to his thirtieth year lives on the shoulders of other men, promising to do, when he finishes his studies, something very useful, which nobody has ever asked him for, and then for the rest of his life lives in the same way, promising only to do presently something which nobody asks him to do, this would not be a true division of labor, but, as it really is, only the violation by a strong man of the labor of others; the same appropriation of other men's labor by a strong man, which formerly Theology called Divine predestination; Philosophy, Inevitable Conditions of Life; and now Scientific Science, the Organic Division of Labor.

The entire importance of the ruling science consists in this alone. This science is now the dispenser of diplomas for idleness, because in her temples she alone analyzes and determines what activity in the social organism is parasitic and what organic. As if each man could not decide much better and more quickly, too, by consulting his own reason and conscience.

As formerly, both for clergy and for statesmen, there could have been no doubt as to who were most necessary to other people, so now for the believers in Positive Science it seems that there can be no doubt about this, that their own activity is undoubtedly an organic one: they, the factors of science and art, are the cells of the brain, the most precious cells of all the human organism.

Let us leave them to reign, eat, drink, and be feasted, as priests and sophists of old have before them, so long as they do not deprave men!

Since men are reasonable creatures they have discriminated good from evil, making use of what has been done in this direction before them by others, have struggled with evil, seeking a true and better way, and slowly but unceasingly have advanced in this way. But always across the road different deceptions stood before them, trying to assure them that this struggle was not at all necessary, and that they should submit to the tide of life. First the awful deceptions of the old Church; little by little with dreadful struggle and effort men got rid of them: but scarcely had they done so when in their place arose new ones—state and philosophical deceptions.

Men freed themselves from these too, and now a new deceit, a still worse one, has sprung up in their path,—the scientific deception.

This new deception is exactly what the old ones were: its essence consists in the substitution of an externality for reason and conscience, and this externality is observation, as in theology it was revelation.

The snare of this science consists in this, that having exposed some bare-faced perversions of the activity of reason and conscience, it destroys men's confidence in both reason and conscience. Hiding their lie clothed in a scientific theory, scientists assure men that by studying external phenomena they study undeniable facts which will reveal to them the law of man's life. Things which are the property of conscience and reason are now to be discovered by observation alone. These men lose the conception of good and evil and thus become unable to understand those expressions and definitions of good and evil which have been worked out during the entire former existence of mankind.

All that reason and conscience say to them, all that they have said to the highest representatives of men since the world has existed, all this, in their slang, is “conditional and subjective.” All this must be left behind.

It is said that by reason one cannot apprehend the truth, because reason is liable to error: there is another way, unmistakable and almost mechanical,—one must study facts on the ground of science; that is, on two groundless suppositions, Positivism and Evolution, which are offered as the most undoubted truths. With mock solemnity the ruling science asserts that the solution of all the questions of life is only possible through studying the facts of nature, and especially those of organisms.

The credulous crowd of youth, overwhelmed by the novelty of this authority,—not only not destroyed, not yet even touched by critics,—rush to the study of these facts of natural sciences, to that “only way” which, according to the assertion of the ruling doctrine, alone can lead to the elucidation of all questions of life. But the farther the students proceed in this study, the farther do they remove not only the possibility of solving the questions of life, but even the very thought of this solution. The more they grow accustomed, not so much to observe themselves, as to believe other men's observations on their word (to believe in cells, in protoplasm, in the fourth dimension of matter, and so on), the more the form hides from them the contents. The more they lose the consciousness of good and evil and the capacity of understanding those expressions and definitions of good and evil which have been worked out in all the former career of mankind, the more they appropriate to themselves that special scientific slang of “conditional” expressions which have no common human meaning in them. The farther and farther they get into the thick forest of observations lighted by anything, the more they lose the capacity, not only of independent thought, but even of understanding other men's fresh human ideas which are not included in their Talmud. But chiefly they pass their best years in losing the habit of life, that is, of labor, and accustom themselves to consider their own position justified, and thus become, physically, good-for-nothing parasites, and, mentally, dislocate their brains and lose all power of thought-production.

So, their capacities more and more blunted, they acquire by degrees self-assurance which deprives them forever of the possibility of returning to a simple, laborious life, and to any plain, clear, common, human manner of thinking.

From : Gutenberg.org


November 30, 1903 :
Chapter 31 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 16:23:52 :
Chapter 31 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:35:52 :
Chapter 31 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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