What Shall We Do? : Chapter 32

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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.)
• "People who take part in Government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle (the Government) know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "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 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....)


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Chapter 32


The division of labor has always existed in human society, and I daresay always will exist; but the question for us is, not if it has been and will still continue, but, what should guide us in providing that this division may be a right one.

If we take the facts of observation for our standard, we refuse to have any standard at all: for every division of labor which we see among men, and which may seem to us to be right, we shall consider right; and this is what the ruling Scientific Science is leading us to.

Division of labor!

“Some are occupied with mental and spiritual, others with muscular and physical, labor.”

With what an assurance men express this! They wish to think it, and so that which is transparently the ancient violence, seems to them in reality a fair exchange of services.

“Thou,” or rather, “you” (because it is always the many who have to feed the one),—“you feed me, dress me, do for me all this rough labor which I require of you, and to which you are accustomed from your infancy, and I will do for you that mental work to which I have already become accustomed. Give me bodily food, and in return I will give you the spiritual.”

The statement seems fair; and it would really be so if such exchange of services were free; if those who supply the bodily food were not obliged to supply it before they get the spiritual. The producer of the spiritual food says, “In order that I may be able to give you this food, you must feed me, clothe me, and remove all filth from my house.”

But the producer of bodily food must do his work without making any claims of his own, and he has to give the bodily food whether he receive spiritual food or not. If the exchange were a free one the conditions on both sides would be equal. We agree that spiritual food is as necessary to man as bodily. But the learned man, the artist, says, “Before we can begin to serve men by giving them spiritual food, we want men to provide us with bodily food.”

But why should not the producers of this say, “Before we begin to serve you with bodily food, we want spiritual food; and until we receive it, we cannot labor?”

You say, “I require the labor of a plowman, a smith, a book-maker, a carpenter, masons, and others, in order that I may prepare the spiritual food I have to offer.”

Every workman might say, too, “Before I go to work to prepare bodily food for you, I want the fruits of the spirit. In order to have strength for laboring, I require a religious teaching, the social order of common life, application of knowledge to labor, and the joys and comforts which art gives. I have no time to work out for myself a teaching concerning the meaning of life,—give it to me. I have no time to think out statutes of common life which would prevent the violation of justice,—give me this too. I have no time to study mechanics, natural philosophy, chemistry, technology; give me books with information as to how I am to improve my tools, my ways of working, my dwelling, its heating and lighting. I have no time to occupy myself with poetry, with plastic art, or music. Give me the excitements and comforts necessary for life; give me the productions of the arts.”

You say it would be impossible for you to do your important and necessary business if you were deprived of the labor that working-people do for you; and I say, a workman may declare, “It is impossible for me to do my important and necessary business, not less important than yours,—to plow, to cart away refuse, and to clean your houses,—if I am deprived of a religious guidance corresponding to the wants of my intellect and my conscience, of a reasonable government which will secure my labor, of information for easing my labor, and the enjoyment of art to ennoble it. All you have hitherto offered me in the shape of spiritual food is not only of no use to me whatever, I cannot even understand to whom it could be of any use. And until I receive this nourishment, proper for me as for every man, I cannot produce bodily food to feed you with.”

What if the working-people should speak thus? And if they did, it would be no jest but the simplest justice. If a workman said this, he would be far more in the right than a man of intellectual labor; because the labor produced by the workman is more urgent and more necessary than that of the intellectual worker, and because a man of intellect is hindered by nothing from giving that spiritual food which he promised to give, while the workingman is hindered in giving the bodily food by the fact that he himself is short of it.

What, then, should we intellectual laborers answer, if such simple and lawful claims were made upon us? How should we satisfy these claims? Should we satisfy the religious wants of the people by the catechism of Philaret, by sacred histories of Sokolof, by the literature sent out by monasteries and cathedrals? Should we satisfy their demand for order by the “Code of Laws,” and cassation verdicts of different departments, or by reports of committees and commissions? And should we satisfy their want of knowledge by giving them spectrum analysis, a survey of the Milky Way, speculative geometry, microscopic investigations, controversies concerning spiritualism and mediumism, the activity of academies of science? How should we satisfy their artistic wants? By Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Turgenief, L. Tolstoy? By pictures of French salons, and of those of our artists who represent naked women, satin, velvet, and landscapes, and pictures of domestic life; by the music of Wagner, and that of our own musicians?

All this is of no use and cannot be of use because we, with our right to utilize the labor of the people and absence of all duties in preparation of their spiritual food, have quite lost from sight the single destination our activity should have.

We do not even know what is required by the workman; we have even forgotten his mode of life, his views of things, his language; we have even lost sight of the very working-people themselves, and we study them like some ethnographical rarity or newly-discovered continent. Demanding for ourselves bodily food, we have taken upon ourselves to provide the spiritual; but in consequence of the imaginary division of labor, according to which we may not only first take our dinner and afterwards do our work, but may during many generations dine luxuriously and do no work,—we, in the way of compensation for our food, have prepared something which is of use, as it seems to us, for ourselves and for science and art, but of no use whatever for those very people whose labor we consume under the pretext of providing them in return with intellectual food; not only is of no use, but is quite unintelligible and distasteful to them.

In our blindness, we have to such a degree left out of sight the duty we took upon us, that we have even forgotten for what our labor is being done; and the very people whom we undertook to serve we have made an object of our scientific and artistic activities. We study them and represent them for our own pleasure and amusement: but we have quite forgotten that it is our duty, not to study and depict, but to serve them.

We have to such a degree left out of sight the duty we assumed that we have not even noticed that other people do what we undertook in the departments of science and art, and that our place turns out to be occupied.

It appears that while we have been in controversy,—now about the immaculate conception, and now about spontaneous generation; now about spiritualism, and now about the forms of atoms; now about pangenesis, now about protoplasms, and so on,—all this while the people none the less required spiritual food, and the abortive outcasts of science and art began to provide for the people this spiritual food to the order of various speculators, who had in view exclusively their own profit and gain.

Now, for some forty years in Europe, and ten years in Russia, millions of books and pictures and songs have been circulating; shows have been opened: and the people gaze and sing, and receive intellectual food, though not from those who promised to provide it for them; and we, who justify our idleness by the need for that intellectual food which we pretend to provide for the people, are sitting still, and taking no notice.

But we cannot do so, because our final justification has vanished from under our feet. We have taken upon ourselves a peculiar department: we have a peculiar functional activity of our own. We are the brain of the people. They feed us, and we have undertaken to teach them. Only for the sake of this have we freed ourselves from labor. What, then, have we been teaching them? They have waited years, tens of years, hundreds of years. And we are still conversing among ourselves, and teaching each other, and amusing ourselves, and have quite forgotten them; we have so totally forgotten them, that others have taken upon themselves to teach and amuse them, and we have not even become aware of this in our flippant talk about division of labor: and it is very obvious that all our talk about the utility we offer to the people was only a shameful excuse.

From : Gutenberg.org


November 30, 1903 :
Chapter 32 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 16:24:14 :
Chapter 32 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:35:52 :
Chapter 32 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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