What Shall We Do? : Chapter 40

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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.)
• "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....)
• "There are people (we ourselves are such) who realize that our Government is very bad, and who struggle against it." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "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 40


As it is said in the Bible, there is a law given unto man and woman,—to man, the law of labor; to woman, the law of child-bearing. Although with our science, “nous avons changé tout ça,” the law of man as well as of woman remains as immutable as the liver in its place; and the breach of it is inevitably punished by death. The only difference is, that for man, the breach of law is punished by death in such a near future that it can almost be called present; but for woman, the breach of law is punished in a more distant future.

A general breach, by all men, of the law, destroys men immediately: the breach by women destroys the men of the following generation. The evasion of the law by a few men and women does not destroy the human race, but deprives the offender of rational human nature.

The breach of this law by men began years ago in the classes which could use violence with others; and, spreading on its way, it has reached our day, and has now attained madness, the ideal contained in a breach of the law, the ideal expressed by Prince Blokhin, and shared by Renan and the whole educated world: work will be done by machines, and men will be bundles of nerves enjoying themselves.

There has been scarcely any breach of the law by women. It has only manifested itself in prostitution, and in private cases of crime destroying progeny. Women of the wealthy classes have fulfilled their law, while men did not fulfill theirs; and therefore women have grown stronger, and have continued to govern, and will govern, men, who have deviated from their law, and who, consequently, have lost their reason. It is generally said that women (the women of Paris, especially those who are childless) have become so bewitching, using all the means of civilization, that they have mastered man by their charms.

This is not only wrong, but it is just the reverse of the truth. It is not the childless woman who has mastered man, it is the mother, the one who has fulfilled her duty, while man has not fulfilled his.

As to the woman who artificially remains childless, and bewitches man by her shoulders and curls, she is not a woman, mastering man, but a woman corrupted by him, reduced to the level of the corrupted man, who, as well as he, has deviated from her duty, who, as well as he, has lost every reasonable sense of life.

This mistake also produces the astounding nonsense which is called “woman's rights.” The formula of these rights is as follows:—

“You men,” says woman, “have deviated from your law of true labor, and want us to carry the load of ours. No: if so, we also, as well as you, will make a pretense of labor, as you do in banks, ministries, universities, and academies; we wish, as well as you, by the pretense of division of work, to profit by other people's work, and to live, only to satisfy our lust.” They say so, and in deed show that they can make that pretense of labor not at all worse, but even better, than men do it.

The so-called question of women's rights arose, and could only arise, among men who had deviated from the law of real labor. One has only to return to it, and that question must cease to exist. A woman who has her own particular, inevitable labor will never claim the right of sharing man's labor,—in mines, or in plowing fields. She claims her share only in the sham labor of the wealthy classes.

The woman of our class was stronger than man, and is now still stronger, not through her charms, not through her skill in performing the same pharisaic similitude of work as man, but because she has not stepped outside of the law; because she has borne that true labor with danger of life, with uttermost effort; true labor, from which the man of the wealthy classes has freed himself.

But within my memory has begun also the deviation from the law by woman,—that is to say, her fall; and within my memory, it has proceeded farther and farther. A woman who has lost the law, believes that her power consists in the charms of her witchery, or in her skill at a pharisaic pretense of intellectual labor. Children hinder the one and the other. Therefore, with the help of science (science is always helpful to everything wicked) within my memory it has come to pass that among the wealthy classes, scores of means of destroying progeny have appeared, and these means become a common attribute of the toilet. And behold,—women, mothers, some of them of the wealthy classes, who held their power in their hands, let it slip away, and place themselves on a level with women of the street. The evil has spread far, and spreads farther every day, and will soon grasp all the women of the wealthy classes; and then they will be on a level with the men, and together with them will lose every reasonable sense of life. There will be no return for this class then. But there is yet time. For there still remain more women than men who accomplish the law of their life, therefore there are still reasonable beings among them,—and thus some of the women of our class hold in their hands the possibility of salvation.

If only women would understand their worth, their power, and would use these for the work of salvation of their husbands, brothers, and children,—the salvation of all men!

Women, mothers of the wealthy classes, in your hands is the salvation of men of our world from the evils from which it suffers.

Not those women who are occupied by their figures, bustles, head-dresses, and their charms for men, and who, against their will, by accident and in despair, bear children, and then give them over to wet-nurses; nor yet those who go to different lectures, and talk of psychometrical centers of differentiation, and who also try to free themselves from bearing children not to hinder their folly, which they call development,—but those women and mothers who, having the power of freeing themselves from child-bearing, hold strictly and consciously to that eternal, immutable law, knowing that the weight and labor of that submission is the aim of their life. These women and mothers of our wealthy classes are those in whose hands, more than in any others, lies the salvation of the men of our sphere in life, from the calamities which oppress them.

You women and mothers who submit consciously to the law of God, you are the only ones who,—in our miserable, mutilated circle, which has lost all semblance of humanity,—know the whole true meaning of life according to the law of God; and you are the only ones who, by your example, can show men the happiness of that submission to God's law, of which they rob themselves.

You are the only ones who know the joy and happiness which takes possession of one's whole being,—the bliss which is the share of every man who does not deviate from God's law. You know the joy of love to your husband,—a joy never ending, never destroyed, like all other joys, but forming the beginning of another new joy—love to your child. You are the only ones, when you are simple and submissive to God's law, who know, not the farcical pretense of labor, which men of your world call labor, but that true labor which is imposed by God upon men, and you know the rewards for it,—the bliss which it gives.

You know it, when after the joys of love, you expect with emotion, fear, and hope, the torturing state of pregnancy, which makes you ill for nine months, and brings you to the brink of death and to unbearable sufferings and pains: you know the conditions of true labor, when with joy you expect the approach and increase of the most dreadful sufferings, after which comes the bliss, known to you only.

You know it when, directly after those sufferings, without rest, without interruption, you undertake another series of labors and sufferings,—those of nursing; for the sake of which you subjugate to your feeling, and renounce, the strongest human necessity,—that of sleep, which, according to the saying, is sweeter than father and mother. For months and years you do not sleep two nights running, and often you do not sleep whole nights; walking alone to and fro, rocking in your wearied arms an ailing baby, whose sufferings tear your heart. When you do all this, unapproved and unseen by anybody, not expecting any praise or reward for it; when you do this, not as a great deed, but as the laborer of the gospel parable, who came from the field, considering that you are only doing your duty,—you know then what is false, fictitious labor,—for human fame; and what is true labor,—the fulfillment of God's will, the indication of which you feel in your heart. You know, if you are a true mother, that not only has nobody seen and praised your labor, considering that it is only what ought to be, but even those for whom you toiled are not only ungrateful to you, but often torment and reproach you. With the next child you do the same,—again you suffer, again you bear unseen, terrible toil, and again you do not expect any reward from anybody, and feel the same satisfaction.

If you are such, in your hands must lie the power over men, and in your hands lies the salvation. Your number is decreasing every day: some busy with practicing their charms over men, become prostitutes; others are engaged in competition with men in their artificial, ludicrous occupations; the third, who have not yet renounced their vocation, begin to repudiate it in their minds: they perform all the deeds of women and mothers, but accidentally, with grumblings and envy of the free women, not bearing children,—and so deprive themselves of the only reward for them—the inner consciousness of the fulfillment of God's will—and instead of being satisfied they suffer from what is really their happiness.

We are so confused by our false life, we, men of our circle, have all of us so utterly lost the sense of life, that we do not differ from one another. Having loaded others with all the burdens and dangers of life, we dare not call ourselves by the true names deserved by those who force others to perish in providing life for them—scoundrels, cowards.

But among women a distinction still exists. There are women,—human beings, women,—presenting the highest manifestation of a human being; and there are women—prostitutes. This discrimination will be made by succeeding generations, and we, too, cannot help making it.

Every woman, however she dresses, however she calls herself, however refined she may be, if being married she abstains from bearing children, is a prostitute.

However low a lost woman may be, if she consciously devotes herself to bearing children, she does the best and highest work of life in fulfilling the will of God, and she has no superior.

If you are such, you will not say, after two or after twenty children, that you have borne children enough; as a fifty-year old workman will not say that he has worked enough, while he still eats and sleeps, and his muscles demand work. If you are such, you will not cast the trouble of nursing and care on a strange mother,—any more than a workman will give the work which he has begun, and nearly finished, to another man,—because in that work you put your life, and because, the more you have of that work, the fuller and happier is your life.

But when you are like this,—and, happily for men, there are yet such women,—the same law of fulfillment of God's will, by which you guide your own life, you will also apply to the life of your husband, of your children, and of men near to you. If you are such, and if you know by experience that only self-denied, unseen, unrewarded labor with danger of life, and uttermost effort for the life of others, is the mission of man which gives satisfaction, you will claim the same from others, you will encourage your husband to do the same labor, you will value and appreciate the worth of men by this same labor, and for it you will prepare your children.

Only that mother who looks on child-bearing as a disagreeable accident, and upon the pleasures of love, comfort, education, sociability, as the meaning of life, will bring up her children so that they shall have as many pleasures, and enjoy them as much as possible; will feed them luxuriously, dress them smartly, will artificially divert them, and will teach them, not that which will make them capable of self-sacrificing man's and woman's labor with danger of life and uttermost effort, but that which will deliver them from that labor,—which will give them diplomas and idleness. Only such a woman, who has lost the significance of her life, will sympathize with that false, sham man's labor, by means of which her husband, freeing himself from man's duty, may profit, together with her, by the labor of others. Only such a woman will choose a similar husband for her daughter, and will value men, not for what they are in themselves, but for what is attached to them,—position, money, the art of profiting by the labor of others.

A true mother, who really knows God's law, will prepare her children for the fulfillment of it. For such a mother it will be suffering to see her child overfed, pampered, overdressed, because all this, she knows, will hinder it in the fulfillment of God's law, experienced by herself. Such a woman will not teach that which will give her son or daughter the possibility of delivering themselves from labor, but that which will help them to bear the labor of life.

She will not want to ask what to teach her children, or for what to prepare them, knowing what it is and in what consists the mission of men, and consequently knowing what to teach her children, and for what to prepare them. Such a woman will not only discourage her husband from false, sham labor, the only aim of which is to profit by other people's work, but will view with disgust and dread an activity that will serve as a double temptation for her children. Such a woman will not choose her daughter's husband according to the whiteness of his hands, and the refinement of his manners, but, knowing thoroughly what is labor and what deceit, will always and everywhere, beginning with her husband, respect and appreciate men, in claiming from them true labor with waste and danger of life, and will scorn that false, sham labor which has for its aim the delivering of one's self from true labor.

And let not those women say,—who, while renouncing the vocation of women, desire to profit by its rights,—that such a view of life is impossible for a mother, that a mother is too intimately connected by love to her children to deprive them of sweets, smart dresses, or entertainments, or not to fear their being unprovided for, if the husband has no fortune or secure position, or not to be afraid for the future of the marrying daughters and sons, who have not got an “education.”

All this is a lie, a burning lie!

A true mother will never say this: “You cannot keep yourself from the desire to give them sweets, toys, to take them to the circus?”

But surely you don't give them poisonous berries to eat, you do not let them go out alone in a boat, you do not take them to a café chantant? Why then can you restrain yourselves in this case and not in that? Because you do not tell the truth. You say that you love the children so much that you fear for their life, you are so afraid of hunger, and cold, and that is why you appreciate so much the security, which your husband's position provides for you, though you consider it unlawful.

You are so afraid of future eventualities, calamities for your children which are very distant and doubtful,—and you therefore encourage your husband to do things unjustifiable in your opinion; but what are you doing now to secure your children in their present conditions of life from the unfortunate eventualities of the present life?

Do you spend much of your time during the day with your children? You do well if you spend one-tenth of the day!

The remaining time they are under the care of strangers, hired people, often taken from the street, or they are in institutions, open to the dangers of moral and physical infection.

Your children eat, they are nourished. Who cooks their dinner and what from? Mostly you know nothing about it. Who instills moral principles into them? Neither do you know that!

Then do not say, that you are suffering evil for the good of your children—it is not true. You do evil because you like it.

A true mother, the one who in bearing and bringing up children sees her self-sacrificing vocation of life and the fulfillment of God's will—will not say it.

She will not say it, because she knows it is not her business to make of her children what she herself or current opinions require. She knows that children, i.e., the following generations,—are the greatest and most sacred thing which is given to men to behold in reality: and, to serve with all her being, this sacred cause is her life.

She knows herself,—being constantly between life and death and ever rearing the feebly flickering life,—that life and death are not her business, her business is to serve life, and she will not therefore search for distant paths of this service but will only endeavor not to avoid the near one.

Such a mother will bring forth and nurse her children herself, and, above all things else, will feed and provide for them, will work for them, wash and teach them, will sleep and talk with them, because she makes that her life-work. Only such a mother will not seek for her children external security through her husband's money, or her children's diplomas, but she will exercise in them the same capacity of self-sacrificing fulfillment of God's will which she knows in herself, the capacity for bearing labor with waste and danger of life, because she knows that only in that lie the security and welfare of life. Such a mother will not have to ask others what is her duty: she will know every thing, and will fear nothing, for she will always know that she has done what she was called to do.

If there can be doubts for a man or for a childless woman about the way to fulfill God's will, for a mother that way is firmly and clearly drawn; and if she fulfills it humbly, with a simple heart, standing on the highest point of good, which it is only given to a human being to attain, she becomes the guiding-star for all men, tending to the same good. Only a mother can before her death say to Him who sent her into this world, and to Him whom she has served by bearing and bringing up children, beloved by her more than herself,—only she can peacefully say, after having served Him in her appointed service,—

“‘Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’”

And this is that highest perfection, to which, as to the highest good, men aspire.

Such women who fulfill their mission, are those who reign over reigning men, and serve as a guiding-star to humanity,—those who prepare new generations of men and form public opinion: and therefore in the hands of these women lies the highest power of men's salvation from the existing and threatening evils of our time.

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


The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people. With this general proposition, I think all who are not immoral people will agree. The difference between men and women in the fulfillment of that vocation, is only in the means by which they attain it; that is to say, by which they serve men.

Man serves others by physical work,—procuring food; by intellectual work,—studying the laws of nature in order to master it; and by social work,—instituting forms of life, and establishing mutual relationships between people.

The means of serving others are various for men. The whole activity of mankind, with the exception of bearing children and rearing them, is open for his service to men. A woman, in addition to the possibility of serving men by all the means open to man is, by the construction of her body, called and inevitably attracted, to serve others by that which alone is excepted from the domain of the service of man.

The service of mankind is divided into two parts,—one, the augmentation of the welfare of mankind; the other, the continuation of the race. Men are called chiefly to the first, as they are deprived of the possibility of fulfilling the second. Women are called exclusively to the second, as they only are fitted for it. This difference one should not, one can not, forget or destroy; and it would be sinful to do so. From this difference proceed the duties of each,—duties not invented by men, but which are in the nature of things. From the same difference proceeds the estimation of virtue and vise for woman and man,—the estimation which has existed in every century, which exists now, and which will never cease to exist while reason exists in men.

It always has been the case, and it always will be, that a man who spends a great part of his life in the various physical and mental labors which are natural to him, and a woman who spends a great part of her life in the labor of bearing, nursing, and rearing children, which is her exclusive prerogative, will alike feel that they are doing their duty, and will alike rise in the esteem and love of other people, because they both fulfill what is appointed because such is the substance of the matter.

The vocation of man is broader and more varied; the vocation of woman more uniform and narrower, but more profound: and therefore it has always been, and always will be, the case, that man, having hundreds of duties, will be neither a bad nor a pernicious man, even when he has been false to one or ten out of them, if he fulfills the greater part of his vocation; while woman, as she has a smaller number of duties, if she is false to one of them, instantly falls lower than a man, who has been false to ten out of his hundreds of duties. Such has always been the general opinion, and such it will always remain,—because such is the substance of the matter.

A man, in order to fulfill God's will, must serve him in the domain of physical work, thought and morality: in all these ways he can fulfill his vocation. Woman's service to God consists chiefly and almost exclusively in bearing children (because no one except herself can render it). Only by means of work, is man called to serve God and his fellow-men: only by means of her children, is a woman called to serve them.

Therefore, that love to her own children which is inborn in woman, that exclusive love against which it is quite vain to strive by reasoning, will always be, and ought to be, natural to a woman and a mother. That love to a child in its infancy is not egotism, it is the love of a workman for the work which he is doing while it is in his hands. Take away that love for the object of one's work, and the work becomes impossible. While I am making a boot, I love it above everything. If I did not love it, I could not work at it. If anybody spoils it for me, I am in despair; but I only love it thus while I am working at it. When it is completed, there remains an attachment, a preference, which is weak and illegitimate.

It is the same with a mother. A man is called to serve others by multifarious labors, and he loves those labors while he is accomplishing them. A woman is called to serve others by her children, and she cannot help loving those children of hers while she is rearing them to the age of three, seven, or ten years.

In the general vocation of serving God and others, man and woman are entirely equal, notwithstanding the difference of the form of that service. The equality consists in the equal importance of one service and of the other,—that the one is impossible without the other, that the one depends upon the other, and that for efficient service, as well for man as for woman, the knowledge of truth is equally necessary.

Without this knowledge, the activity of man and woman becomes not useful but pernicious for mankind. Man is called to fulfill his multifarious labor; but his labor is only useful, and his physical, mental, and social labor is only fruitful, when it is fulfilled in the name of truth and the welfare of others.

A man can occupy himself as zealously as he will to increase his pleasures by vain reasoning and with social activity for his own advantage: his labor will not be fruitful. It will be so only when it is directed towards lessening the suffering of others through want and ignorance and from false social organization.

The same with woman's vocation: her bearing, nursing, and bringing up children will only be useful to mankind when she gives birth to children not only for her own pleasure, but when she prepares future servants of mankind; when the education of those children is done in the name of truth and for the welfare of others,—that is to say, when she will educate her children in such a manner that they shall be the very best men possible, and the very best laborers for others.

The ideal woman, in my opinion, is the one who,—appropriating the highest view of life of the time in which she lives, yet gives herself to her feminine mission, which is irresistibly placed in her,—that of bringing forth, nursing and educating, the greatest possible number of children, fitted to work for people according to the view which she has of life.

In order to appropriate the highest view of life, I think there is no need of visiting lectures: all that she requires is to read the gospel, and not to shut her eyes, ears, and, most of all, her heart.

Well, and if you ask what those are to do who have no children, who are not married, or who are widows, I answer that those will do well to share man's multifarious labor. But one cannot help feeling sorry that such a precious tool as woman is, should be bereft of the possibility of fulfilling the great vocation which it is given to her alone to fulfill.

Especially as every woman, when she has finished bearing children, if she has strength left, will have time to occupy herself with help in man's labor. Woman's help in that labor is very precious; but it will always be a pity to see a young woman fit for child-bearing occupied by man's labor.

To see such a woman, is the same as to see precious vegetable soil covered with stones as a place of parade or as a walking-ground. Still more a pity, because the earth could only produce bread, and a woman could produce that for which there cannot be any equivalent, than which there is nothing higher,—man. And only she is able to do this.


From : Gutenberg.org


November 30, 1903 :
Chapter 40 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 16:58:06 :
Chapter 40 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:35:53 :
Chapter 40 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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