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Chapter 11


The Condition and Organization of our Society are Terrible, but
they Rest only on Public Opinion, and can be Destroyed by it--
Already Violence is Regarded from a Different Point of View; the
Number of those who are Ready to Serve the Government is
Diminishing; and even the Servants of Government are Ashamed of
their Position, and so often Do Not Perform their Duties--These
Facts are all Signs of the Rise of a Public Opinion, which
Continually Growing will Lead to No One being Willing to Enter
Government Service--Moreover, it Becomes More and More Evident
that those Offices are of No Practical Use--Men already Begin to
Understand the Futility of all Institutions Based on Violence, and
if a Few already Understand it, All will One Day Understand it--
The Day of Deliverance is Unknown, but it Depends on Men
Themselves, on how far Each Man Lives According to the Light that
is in Him.

The position of Christian humanity with its prisons, galleys,
gibbets, its factories and accumulation of capital, its taxes,
churches, gin-palaces, licensed brothels, its ever-increasing
armament and its millions of brutalized men, ready, like chained
dogs, to attack anyone against whom their master incites them,
would be terrible indeed if it were the product of violence, but
it is pre-eminently the product of public opinion. And what has
been established by public opinion can be destroyed by public
opinion--and, indeed, is being destroyed by public opinion.

Money lavished by hundreds of millions, tens of millions of
disciplined troops, weapons of astounding destructive power, all
organizations carried to the highest point of perfection, a whole
army of men charged with the task of deluding and hypnotizing the
people, and all this, by means of electricity which annihilates
distance, under the direct control of men who regard such an
organization of society not only as necessary for profit, but even
for self-preservation, and therefore exert every effort of their
ingenuity to preserve it--what an invincible power it would seem!
And yet we need only imagine for a moment what will really
inevitably come to pass, that is, the Christian social standard
replacing the heathen social standard and established with the
same power and universality, and the majority of men as much
ashamed of taking any part in violence or in profiting by it, as
they are to-day of thieving, swindling, begging, and cowardice;
and at once we see the whole of this complex, and seemingly
powerful organization of society falls into ruins of itself
without a struggle.

And to bring this to pass, nothing new need be brought before
men's minds. Only let the mist, which veils from men's eyes the
true meaning of certain acts of violence, pass away, and the
Christian public opinion which is springing up would overpower the
extinct public opinion which permitted and justified acts of
violence. People need only come to be as much ashamed to do deeds
of violence, to assist in them or to profit by them, as they now
are of being, or being reputed a swindler, a thief, a coward, or a
beggar. And already this change is beginning to take place. We
do not notice it just as we do not notice the movement of the
earth, because we are moved together with everything around us.

It is true that the organization of society remains in its
principal features just as much an organization based on violence
as it was one thousand years ago, and even in some respects,
especially in the preparation for war and in war itself, it
appears still more brutal. But the rising Christian ideal, which
must at a certain stage of development replace the heathen ideal
of life, already makes its influence felt. A dead tree stands
apparently as firmly as ever--it may even seem firmer because it
is harder--but it is rotten at the core, and soon must fall. It
is just so with the present order of society, based on force. The
external aspect is unchanged. There is the same division of
oppressors and oppressed, but their view of the significance and
dignity of their respective positions is no longer what it once

The oppressors, that is, those who take part in government, and
those who profit by oppression, that is, the rich, no longer
imagine, as they once did, that they are the elect of the world,
and that they constitute the ideal of human happiness and
greatness, to attain which was once the highest aim of the

Very often now it is not the oppressed who strive to attain the
position of the oppressors, and try to imitate them, but on the
contrary the oppressors who voluntarily abandon the advantages of
their position, prefer the condition of the oppressed, and try to
resemble them in the simplicity of their life.

Not to speak of the duties and occupations now openly despised,
such as that of spy, agent of secret police, moneylender, and
publican, there are a great number of professions formerly
regarded as honorable, such as those of police officials,
courtiers, judges, and administrative functionaries, clergymen,
military officers, speculators, and bankers, which are no longer
considered desirable positions by everyone, and are even despised
by a special circle of the most respected people. There are
already men who voluntarily abandon these professions which were
once reckoned irreproachable, and prefer less lucrative callings
which are in no way connected with the use of force.
And there are even rich men who, not through religious sentiment,
but simply through special sensitiveness to the social standard
that is springing up, relinquish their inherited property,
believing that a man can only justly consume what he has gained by
his own labor.

The position of a government official or of a rich man is no
longer, as it once was, and still is among non-Christian peoples,
regarded as necessarily honorable and deserving of respect, and
under the special blessing of God. The most delicate and moral
people (they are generally also the most cultivated) avoid such
positions and prefer more humble callings that are not dependent
on the use of force.

The best of our young people, at the age when they are still
uncorrupted by life and are choosing a career, prefer the calling
of doctor, engineer, teacher, artist, writer, or even that of
simple farmer living on his own labor, to legal, administrative,
clerical, and military positions in the pay of government, or to
an idle existence living on their incomes.

Monuments and memorials in these days are mostly not erected in
honor of government dignitaries, or generals, or still less of
rich men, but rather of artists, men of science, and inventors,
persons who have nothing in common with the government, and often
have even been in conflict with it. They are the men whose
praises are celebrated in poetry, who are honored by sculpture and
received with triumphant jubilations.

The best men of our day are all striving for such places of honor.
Consequently the class from which the wealthy and the government
officials are drawn grows less in number and lower in intelligence
and education, and still more in moral qualities. So that
nowadays the wealthy class and men at the head of government do
not constitute, as they did in former days, the ╔LITE of society;
on the contrary, they are inferior to the middle class.

In Russia and Turkey as in America and France, however often the
government change its officials, the majority of them are self-
seeking and corrupt, of so low a moral standard that they do not
even come up the elementary requirements of common honesty
expected by the government. One may often nowadays hear from
persons in authority the na´ve complaint that the best people are
always, by some strange--as it seems to them--fatality, to be
found in the camp of the opposition. As though men were to
complain that those who accepted the office of hangman were--by
some strange fatality--all persons of very little refinement or
beauty of character.

The most cultivated and refined people of our society are not
nowadays to be found among the very rich, as used formerly to be
the rule. The rich are mostly coarse money grubbers, absorbed
only, in increasing their hoard, generally by dishonest means, or
else the degenerate heirs of such money grubbers, who, far from
playing any prominent part in society, are mostly treated with
general contempt.

And besides the fact that the class from which the servants of
government and the wealthy are drawn grows less in number and
lower in caliber, they no longer themselves attach the same
importance to their positions as they once did; often they are
ashamed of the ignominy of their calling and do not perform the
duties they are bound to perform in their position. Kings and
emperors scarcely govern at all; they scarcely ever decide upon an
internal reform or a new departure in foreign politics. They
mostly leave the decision of such questions to government
institutions or to public opinion. All their duties are reduced
to representing the unity and majesty of government. And even
this duty they perform less and less successfully. The majority
of them do not keep up their old unapproachable majesty, but
become more and more democratized and even vulgarized, casting
aside the external prestige that remained to them, and thereby
destroying the very thing it was their function to maintain.

It is just the same with the army. Military officers of the
highest rank, instead of encouraging in their soldiers the
brutality and ferocity necessary for their work, diffuse education
among the soldiers, inculcate humanity, and often even themselves
share the socialistic ideas of the masses and denounce war. In
the last plots against the Russian Government many of the
conspirators were in the army. And the number of the disaffected
in the army is always increasing. And it often happens (there was
a case, indeed, within the last few days) that when called upon to
quell disturbances they refuse to fire upon the people. Military
exploits are openly reprobated by the military themselves, and are
often the subject of jests among them.

It is the same with judges and public prosecutors. The judges,
whose duty it is to judge and condemn criminals, conduct the
proceedings so as to whitewash them as far as possible. So that
the Russian Government, to procure the condemnation of those whom
they want to punish, never intrust them to the ordinary tribunals,
but have them tried before a court martial, which, is only a
parody of justice. The prosecutors Themselves often refuse to
proceed, and even when they do proceed, often in spite of the law,
really defend those they ought to be accusing. The learned
jurists whose business it is to justify the violence of authority,
are more and more disposed to deny the right of punishment and to
replace it by theories of irresponsibility and even of moral
insanity, proposing to deal with those they call criminals by
medical treatment only.

Jailers and overseers of galleys generally become the champions of
those whom they ought to torture. Police officers and detectives
are continually assisting the escape of those they ought to
arrest. The clergy preach tolerance, and even sometimes condemn
the use of force, and the more educated among them try in their
sermons to avoid the very deception which is the basis of their
position and which it is their duty to support. Executioners
refuse to perform their functions, so that in Russia the death
penalty cannot be carried out for want of executioners. And in
spite of all the advantages bestowed on these men, who are
selected from convicts, there is a constantly diminishing number
of volunteers for the post. Governors, police officials, tax
collectors often have compassion on the people and try to find
pretexts for not collecting the tax from them. The rich are not
at ease in spending their wealth only on themselves, and lavish
it on works of public utility. Landowners build schools and
hospitals on their property, and some even give up the ownership
of their land and transfer it to the cultivators, or establish
communities upon it. Millowners and manufacturers build
hospitals, schools, savings banks, asylums, and dwellings for
their workpeople. Some of them form co-operative associations in
which they have shares on the same terms as the others.
Capitalists expend a part of their capital on educational,
artistic, philanthropic, and other public institutions. And many,
who are not equal to parting with their wealth in their lifetime,
leave it in their wills to public institutions.

All these phenomena might seem to be mere exceptions, except that
they can all be referred to one common cause. Just as one might
fancy the first leaves on the budding trees in April were
exceptional if we did not know that they all have a common cause,
the spring, and that if we see the branches on some trees shooting
and turning green, it is certain that it will soon be so with all.

So it is with the manifestation of the Christian standard of
opinion on force and all that is based on force. If this standard
already influences some, the most impressionable, and impels each
in his own sphere to abandon advantages based on the use of force,
then its influence will extend further and further till it
transforms the whole order of men's actions and puts it into
accord with the Christian ideal which is already a living force in
the vanguard of humanity.

And if there are now rulers, who do not decide on any step on
their own authority, who try to be as unlike monarchs, and as like
plain mortals as possible, who state their readiness to give up
their prerogatives and become simply the first citizens of a
republic; if there are already soldiers who realize all the sin
and harm of war, and are not willing to fire on men either of
their own or a foreign country; judges and prosecutors who do not
like to try and to condemn criminals; priests, who abjure
deception; tax-gatherers who try to perform as little as they can
of their duties, and rich men renouncing their wealth--then the
same thing will inevitably happen to other rulers, other soldiers,
other judges, priests, tax-gatherers, and rich men. And when
there are no longer men willing to fill these offices, these
offices themselves will disappear too.

But this is not the only way in which public opinion is leading
men to the abolition of the prevailing order and the substitution
of a new order. As the positions based on the rule of force
become less attractive and fewer men are found willing to fill
them, the more will their uselessness be apparent.

Everywhere throughout the Christian world the same rulers, and the
same governments, the same armies, the same law courts, the same
tax-gatherers, the same priests, the same rich men, landowners,
manufacturers, and capitalists, as ever, but the attitude of the
world to them, and their attitude to themselves is altogether

The same sovereigns have still the same audiences and interviews,
hunts and banquets, and balls and uniforms; there are the same
diplomats and the same deliberations on alliances and wars; there
are still the same parliaments, with the same debates on the
Eastern question and Africa, on treaties and violations of
treaties, and Home Rule and the eight-hour day; and one set of
ministers replacing another in the same way, and the same speeches
and the same incidents. But for men who observe how one newspaper
article has more effect on the position of affairs than dozens of
royal audiences or parliamentary sessions, it becomes more and
more evident that these audiences and interviews and debates in
parliaments do not direct the course of affairs, but something
independent of all that, which cannot be concentrated in one

The same generals and officers and soldiers, and cannons and
fortresses, and reviews and maneuvers, but no war breaks out. One
year, ten, twenty years pass by. And it becomes less and less
possible to rely on the army for the pacification of riots, and
more and more evident, consequently, that generals, and officers,
and soldiers are only figures in solemn processions--objects of
amusement for governments--a sort of immense--and far too
expensive--CORPS DE BALLET.

The same lawyers and judges, and the same assizes, but it becomes
more and more evident that the civil courts decide cases on the
most diverse grounds, but regardless of justice, and that criminal
trials are quite senseless, because the punishments do not attain
the objects aimed at by the judges themselves. These institutions
therefore serve no other purpose than to provide a means of
livelihood for men who are not capable of doing anything more

The same priests and archbishops and churches and synods, but it
becomes more and more evident that they have long ago ceased to
believe in what they preach, and therefore they can convince no
one of the necessity of believing what they don't believe

The same tax collectors, but they are less and less capable of
taking men's property from them by force, and it becomes more and
more evident that people can collect all that is necessary by
voluntary subscription without their aid.

The same rich men, but it becomes more and more evident that they
can only be of use by ceasing to administer their property in
person and giving up to society the whole or at least a part of
their wealth.

And when all this has become absolutely evident to everyone, it
will be natural for men to ask themselves: "But why should we keep
and maintain all these kings, emperors, presidents, and members of
all sorts of senates and ministries, since nothing comes of all
their debates and audiences? Wouldn't it be better, as some
humorist suggested, to make a queen of india-rubber?"

And what good to us are these armies with their generals and bands
and horses and drums? And what need is there of them when there
is no war, and no one wants to make war? and if there were a war,
other nations would not let us gain any advantage from it; while
the soldiers refuse to fire on their fellow-countrymen.

And what is the use of these lawyers and judges who don't decide
civil cases with justice and recognize themselves the uselessness
of punishments in criminal cases?

And what is the use of tax collectors who collect the taxes
unwillingly, when it is easy to raise all that is wanted without

What is the use of the clergy, who don't believe in what they

And what is the use of capital in the hands of private persons,
when it can only be of use as the property of all?

And when once people have asked themselves these questions they
cannot help coming to some decision and ceasing to support all
these institutions which are no longer of use.

But even before those who support these institutions decide to
abolish them, the men who occupy these positions will be reduced
to the necessity of throwing them up.

Public opinion more and more condemns the use of force, and
therefore men are less and less willing to fill positions which
rest on the use of force, and if they do occupy them, are less and
less able to make use of force in them. And hence they must become
more and more superfluous.

I once took part in Moscow in a religious meeting which used to
take place generally in the week after Easter near the church in
the Ohotny Row. A little knot of some twenty men were collected
together on the pavement, engaged in serious religious discussion.
At the same time there was a kind of concert going on in the
buildings of the Court Club in the same street, and a police
officer noticing the little group collected near the church sent a
mounted policeman to disperse it. It was absolutely unnecessary
for the officer to disperse it. A group of twenty men was no
obstruction to anyone, but he had been standing there the whole
morning, and he wanted to do something. The policeman, a young
fellow, with a resolute flourish of his right arm and a clink of
his saber, came up to us and commanded us severely: "Move on!
what's this meeting about?" Everyone looked at the policeman, and
one of the speakers, a quiet man in a peasant's dress, answered
with a calm and gracious air, "We are speaking of serious matters,
and there is no need for us to move on; you would do better, young
man, to get off your horse and listen. It might do you good";
and turning round he continued his discourse. The policeman
turned his horse and went off without a word.

That is just what should be done in all cases of violence.

The officer was bored, he had nothing to do. He had been put,
poor fellow, in a position in which he had no choice but to give
orders. He was shut off from all human existence; he could do
nothing but superintend and give orders, and give orders and
superintend, though his superintendence and his orders served no
useful purpose whatever. And this is the position in which all
these unlucky rulers, ministers, members of parliament, governors,
generals, officers, archbishops, priests, and even rich men find
themselves to some extent already, and will find themselves
altogether as time goes on. They can do nothing but give orders,
and they give orders and send their messengers, as the officer
sent the policeman, to interfere with people. And because the
people they hinder turn to them and request them not to interfere,
they fancy they are very useful indeed.

But the time will come and is coming when it will be perfectly
evident to everyone that they are not of any use at all, and only
a hindrance, and those whom they interfere with will say gently
and quietly to them, like my friend in the street meeting, "Pray
don't interfere with us." And all the messengers and those who
send them too will be obliged to follow this good advice, that is
to say, will leave off galloping about, with their arms akimbo,
interfering with people, and getting off their horses and removing
their spurs, will listen to what is being said, and mixing with
others, will take their place with them in some real human work.

The time will come and is inevitably coming when all institutions
based on force will disappear through their uselessness,
stupidity, and even inconvenience becoming obvious to all.

The time must come when the men of our modern world who fill
offices based upon violence will find themselves in the position
of the emperor in Andersen's tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes,"
when the child seeing the emperor undressed, cried in all
simplicity, "Look, he is naked!" And then all the rest, who had
seen him and said nothing, could not help recognizing it too.

The story is that there was once an emperor, very fond of new
clothes. And to him came two tailors, who promised to make him
some extraordinary clothes. The emperor engages them and they
begin to sew at them, but they explain that the clothes have the
extraordinary property of remaining invisible to anyone who is
unfit for his position. The courtiers come to look at the
tailors' work and see nothing, for the men are plying their
needles in empty space. But remembering the extraordinary
property of the clothes, they all declare they see them and are
loud in their admiration. The emperor does the same himself. The
day of the procession comes in which the emperor is to go out in
his new clothes. The emperor undresses and puts on his new
clothes, that is to say, remains naked, and naked he walks through
the town. But remembering the magic property of the clothes, no
one ventures to say that he has nothing on till a little child
cries out: "Look, he is naked!"

This will be exactly the situation of all who continue through
inertia to fill offices which have long become useless directly
someone who has no interest in concealing their uselessness
exclaims in all simplicity: "But these people have been of no use
to anyone for a long time past!"

The condition of Christian humanity with its fortresses, cannons,
dynamite, guns, torpedoes, prisons, gallows, churches, factories,
customs offices, and palaces is really terrible. But still
cannons and guns will not fire themselves, prisons will not shut
men up of themselves, gallows will not hang them, churches will
not delude them, nor customs offices hinder them, and palaces and
factories are not built nor kept up of themselves. All those
things are the work of men. If men come to understand that they
ought not to do these things, then they will cease to be. And
already they are beginning to understand it. Though all do not
understand it yet, the advanced guard understand and the rest will
follow them. And the advanced guard cannot cease to understand
what they have once understood; and what they understand the rest
not only can but must inevitably understand hereafter.

So that the prophecy that the time will come when men will be
taught of God, will learn war no more, will beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into reaping-hooks, which means,
translating it into our language, the fortresses, prisons,
barracks, palaces, and churches will remain empty, and all the
gibbets and guns and cannons will be left unused, is no longer a
dream, but the definite new form of life to which mankind is
approaching with ever-increasing rapidity.

But when will it be?

Eighteen hundred years ago to this question Christ answered
that the end of the world (that is, of the pagan organization of
life) shall come when the tribulation of men is greater than it
has ever been, and when the Gospel of the kingdom of God, that is,
the possibility of a new organization of life, shall be preached
in the world unto all nations. (Matt. xxiv. 3-28.) But of that
day and hour knoweth no man but the Father only (Matt. xxiv. 3-6),
said Christ. For it may come any time, in such an hour as
ye think not.

To the question when this hour cometh Christ answers that we
cannot know, but just because we cannot know when that hour is
coming we ought to be always ready to meet it, just as the master
ought to watch who guards his house from thieves, as the virgins
ought to watch with lamps alight for the bridegroom; and further,
we ought to work with all the powers given us to bring that hour
to pass, as the servants ought to work with the talents intrusted
to them. (Matt. xxiv. 43, and xxvi. 13, 14-30.) And there could
be no answer but this one. Men cannot know when the day and the
hour of the kingdom of God will come, because its coming depends
on themselves alone.

The answer is like that of the wise man who, when asked whether it
was far to the town, answered, "Walk!"

How can we tell whether it is far to the goal which humanity is
approaching, when we do not know how men are going toward it,
while it depends on them whether they go or do not go, stand
still, slacken their pace or hasten it? All we can know is what
we who make up mankind ought to do, and not to do, to bring about
the coming of the kingdom of God. And that we all know. And we
need only each begin to do what we ought to do, we need only each
live with all the light that is in us, to bring about at once the
promised kingdom of God to which every man's heart is yearning.

Leo Tolstoy

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