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Chapter 7


Universal Compulsory Service is not a Political Accident, but the
Furthest Limit of the Contradiction Inherent in the Social
Conception of Life--Origin of Authority in Society--Basis of
Authority is Physical Violence--To be Able to Perform its Acts
of Violence Authority Needs a Special Organization--The Army--
Authority, that is, Violence, is the Principle which is
Destroying the Social Conception of Life--Attitude of Authority
to the Masses, that is, Attitude of Government to Working
Oppressed Classes--Governments Try to Foster in Working Classes
the Idea that State Force is Necessary to Defend Them from
External Enemies--But the Army is Principally Needed to Preserve
Government from its own Subjects--The Working Classes--Speech of
M. de Caprivi--All Privileges of Ruling Classes Based on
Violence--The Increase of Armies up to Point of Universal
Service--Universal Compulsory Service Destroys all the
Advantages of Social Life, which Government is Intended to
Preserve--Compulsory Service is the Furthest Limit of
Submission, since in Name of the State it Requires Sacrifice of
all that can be Precious to a Man--Is Government Necessary?--The
Sacrifices Demanded by Government in Compulsory Service have No
Longer any Reasonable Basis--And there is More Advantage to be
Gained by not Submitting to the Demands of the State than by
Submitting to Them.

Educated people of the upper classes are trying to stifle the
ever-growing sense of the necessity of transforming the existing
social order. But life, which goes on growing more complex, and
developing in the same direction, and increases the
inconsistencies and the sufferings of men, brings them to the
limit beyond which they cannot go. This furthest limit of
inconsistency is universal compulsory military service.

It is usually supposed that universal military service and the
increased armaments connected with it, as well as the resulting
increase of taxes and national debts, are a passing phenomenon,
produced by the particular political situation of Europe, and that
it may be removed by certain political combinations without any
modification of the inner order of life.

This is absolutely incorrect. Universal military service is only
the internal inconsistency inherent in the social conception of
life, carried to its furthest limits, and becoming evident when a
certain stage of material development is reached.

The social conception of life, we have seen, consists in the
transfer of the aim of life from the individual to groups and
their maintenance--to the tribe, family, race, or state.

In the social conception of life it is supposed that since the aim
of life is found in groups of individuals, individuals will
voluntarily sacrifice their own interests for the interests of the
group. And so it has been, and still is, in fact, in certain
groups, the distinction being that they are the most primitive
forms of association in the family or tribe or race, or even in
the patriarchal state. Through tradition handed down by education
and supported by religious sentiment, individuals without
compulsion merged their interests in the interest of the group and
sacrificed their own good for the general welfare.

But the more complex and the larger societies become, and
especially the more often conquest becomes the cause of the
amalgamation of people into a state, the more often individuals
strive to attain their own aims at the public expense, and the
more often it becomes necessary to restrain these insubordinate
individuals by recourse to authority, that is, to violence. The
champions of the social conception of life usually try to connect
the idea of authority, that is, of violence, with the idea of
moral influence, but this connection is quite impossible.

The effect of moral influence on a man is to change his desires
and to bend them in the direction of the duty required of him.
The man who is controlled by moral influence acts in accordance
with his own desires. Authority, in the sense in which the word
is ordinarily understood, is a means of forcing a man to act in
opposition to his desires. The man who submits to authority does
not do as he chooses but as he is obliged by authority. Nothing
can oblige a man to do what he does not choose except physical
force, or the threat of it, that is--deprivation of freedom,
blows, imprisonment, or threats--easily carried out--of such
punishments. This is what authority consists of and always has
consisted of.

In spite of the unceasing efforts of those who happen to be in
authority to conceal this and attribute some other significance to
it, authority has always meant for man the cord, the chain with
which he is bound and fettered, or the knout with which he is to
be flogged, or the ax with which he is to have hands, ears, nose,
or head cut off, or at the very least, the threat of these
terrors. So it was under Nero and Ghenghis Khan, and so it is
to-day, even under the most liberal government in the Republics of
the United States or of France. If men submit to authority, it is
only because they are liable to these punishments in case of non-
submission. All state obligations, payment of taxes, fulfillment
of state duties, and submission to punishments, exile, fines,
etc., to which people appear to submit voluntarily, are always
based on bodily violence or the threat of it.

The basis of authority is bodily violence. The possibility of
applying bodily violence to people is provided above all by an
organization of armed men, trained to act in unison in submission
to one will. These bands of armed men, submissive to a single
will, are what constitute the army. The army has always been and
still is the basis of power. Power is always in the hands of
those who control the army, and all men in power--from the Roman
Caesars to the Russian and German Emperors--take more interest in
their army than in anything, and court popularity in the army,
knowing that if that is on their side their power is secure.

The formation and aggrandizement of the army, indispensable to the
maintenance of authority, is what has introduced into the social
conception of life the principle that is destroying it.

The object of authority and the justification for its existence
lie in the restraint of those who aim at attaining their personal
interests to the detriment of the interests of society.

But however power has been gained, those who possess it are in no
way different from other men, and therefore no more disposed than
others to subordinate their own interests to those of the society.
On the contrary, having the power to do so at their disposal, they
are more disposed than others to subordinate the public interests
to their own. Whatever means men have devised for preventing
those in authority from over-riding public interests for their own
benefit, or for intrusting power only to the most faultless
people, they have not so far succeeded in either of those aims.

All the methods of appointing authorities that have been tried,
divine right, and election, and heredity, and balloting, and
assemblies and parliaments and senate--have all proved
ineffectual. Everyone knows that not one of these methods attains
the aim either of intrusting power only to the incorruptible, or
of preventing power from being abused. Everyone knows on the
contrary that men in authority--be they emperors, ministers,
governors, or police officers--are always, simply from the
possession of power, more liable to be demoralized, that is, to
subordinate public interests to their personal aims than those who
have not the power to do so. Indeed, it could not be otherwise.

The state conception of life could be justified only so long as
all men voluntarily sacrificed their personal interests to the
public welfare. But so soon as there were individuals who would
not voluntarily sacrifice their own interests, and authority, that
is, violence, was needed to restrain them, then the disintegrating
principle of the coercion of one set of people by another set
entered into the social conception of the organization based on

For the authority of one set of men over another to attain its
object of restraining those who override public interests for
their personal ends, power ought only to be put into the hands of
the impeccable, as it is supposed to be among the Chinese, and as
it was supposed to be in the Middle Ages, and is even now supposed
to be by those who believe in the consecration by anointing. Only
under those conditions could the social organization be justified.

But since this is not the case, and on the contrary men in power
are always far from being saints, through the very fact of their
possession of power, the social organization based on power has no

Even if there was once a time when, owing to the low standard of
morals, and the disposition of men to violence, the existence of
an authority to restrain such violence was an advantage, because
the violence of government was less than the violence of
individuals, one cannot but see that this advantage could not be
lasting. As the disposition of individuals to violence
diminished, and as the habits of the people became more civilized,
and as power grew more social organization demoralized through
lack of restraint, this advantage disappeared.

The whole history of the last two thousand years is nothing but
the history of this gradual change of relation between the moral
development of the masses on the one hand and the demoralization
of governments on the other.

This, put simply, is how it has come to pass.

Men lived in families, tribes, and races, at feud with one
another, plundering, outraging, and killing one another. These
violent hostilities were carried on on a large and on a small
scale: man against man, family against family, tribe against
tribe, race against race, and people against people. The larger
and stronger groups conquered and absorbed the weaker, and the
larger and stronger they became, the more internal feuds
disappeared and the more the continuity of the group seemed

The members of a family or tribe, united into one community, are
less hostile among themselves, and families and tribes do not die
like one man, but have a continuity of existence. Between the
members of one state, subject to a single authority, the strife
between individuals seems still less and the life of the state
seems even more secure.

Their association into larger and larger groups was not the result
of the conscious recognition of the benefits of such associations,
as it is said to be in the story of the Varyagi. It was produced,
on one hand, by the natural growth of population, and, on the
other, by struggle and conquest.

After conquest the power of the emperor puts an end to internal
dissensions, and so the state conception of life justifies itself.
But this justification is never more than temporary. Internal
dissensions disappear only in proportion to the degree of
oppression exerted by the authority over the dissentient
individuals. The violence of internal feud crushed by authority
reappears in authority itself, which falls into the hands of men
who, like the rest, are frequently or always ready to sacrifice
the public welfare to their personal interest, with the difference
that their subjects cannot resist them, and thus they are exposed
to all the demoralizing influence of authority. And thus the evil
of violence, when it passes into the hands of authority, is always
growing and growing, and in time becomes greater than the evil it
is supposed to suppress, while, at the same time, the tendency to
violence in the members of the society becomes weaker and weaker,
so that the violence of authority is less and less needed.

Government authority, even if it does suppress private violence,
always introduces into the life of men fresh forms of violence,
which tend to become greater and greater in proportion to the
duration and strength of the government.

So that though the violence of power is less noticeable in
government than when it is employed by members of society against
one another, because it finds expression in submission, and not in
strife, it nevertheless exists, and often to a greater degree than
in former days.

And it could not, be otherwise, since, apart from the demoralizing
influence of power, the policy or even the unconscious tendency of
those in power will always be to reduce their subjects to the
extreme of weakness, for the weaker the oppressed, the less effort
need be made to keep him in subjection.

And therefore the oppression of the oppressed always goes on
growing up to the furthest limit, beyond which it cannot go
without killing the goose with the golden eggs. And if the goose
lays no more eggs, like the American Indians, negroes, and
Fijians, then it is killed in spite of the sincere protests of

The most convincing example of this is to be found in the
condition of the working classes of our epoch, who are in reality
no better than the slaves of ancient times subdued by conquest.

In spite of the pretended efforts of the higher classes to
ameliorate the position of the workers, all the working classes of
the present day are kept down by the inflexible iron law by which
they only get just what is barely necessary, so that they are
forced to work without ceasing while still retaining strength
enough to labor for their employers, who are really those who have
conquered and enslaved them.

So it has always been. In ratio to the duration and increasing
strength of authority its advantages for its subjects disappear
and its disadvantages increase.

And this has been so, independently of the forms of government
under which nations have lived. The only difference is that under
a despotic form of government the authority is concentrated in a
small number of oppressors and violence takes a cruder form; under
constitutional monarchies and republics as in France and America
authority is divided among a great number of oppressors and the
forms assumed by violence is less crude, but its effect of making
the disadvantages of authority greater than its advantages, and of
enfeebling the oppressed to the furthest extreme to which they can
be reduced with advantage to the oppressors, remains always the

Such has been and still is the condition of all the oppressed, but
hitherto they have not recognized the fact. In the majority of
instances they have believed in all simplicity that governments
exist for their benefit; that they would be lost without a
government; that the very idea of living without a government is a
blasphemy which one hardly dare put into words; that this is the--
for some reason terrible--doctrine of anarchism, with which a
mental picture of all kinds of horrors is associated.

People have believed, as though it were something fully proved,
and so needing no proof, that since all nations have hitherto
developed in the form of states, that form of organization is an
indispensable condition of the development of humanity.

And in that way it has lasted for hundreds and thousands of years,
and governments--those who happened to be in power--have tried it,
and are now trying more zealously than ever to keep their subjects
in this error.

So it was under the Roman emperors and so it is now. In spite of
the fact that the sense of the uselessness and even injurious
effects of state violence is more and more penetrating into men's
consciousness, things might have gone on in the same way forever
if governments were not under the necessity of constantly
increasing their armies in order to maintain their power.

It is generally supposed that governments strengthen their forces
only to defend the state from other states, in oblivion of the
fact that armies are necessary, before all things, for the defense
of governments from their own oppressed and enslaved subjects.

That has always been necessary, and has become more and more
necessary with the increased diffusion of education among the
masses, with the improved communication between people of the same
and of different nationalities. It has become particularly
indispensable now in the face of communism, socialism, anarchism,
and the labor movement generally. Governments feel that it is so,
and strengthen the force of their disciplined armies. [See

[Footnote: The fact that in America the abuses of
authority exist in spite of the small number of their
troops not only fails to disprove this position,
but positively confirms it. In America there are
fewer soldiers than in other states. That is why
there is nowhere else so little oppression of the
working classes, and no country where the end of the
abuses of government and of government itself seems
so near. Of late as the combinations of laborers
gain in strength, one hears more and more frequently
the cry raised for the increase of the army, though
the United States are not threatened with any attack
from without. The upper classes know that an army of
fifty thousand will soon be insufficient, and no longer
relying on Pinkerton's men, they feel that the security
of their position depends on the increased strength of
the army.

In the German Reichstag not long ago, in reply to a question why
funds were needed for raising the salaries of the under-officers,
the German Chancellor openly declared that trustworthy under-
officers were necessary to contend against socialism. Caprivi
only said aloud what every statesman knows and assiduously
conceals from the people. The reason to which he gave expression
is essentially the same as that which made the French kings and
the popes engage Swiss and Scotch guards, and makes the Russian
authorities of to-day so carefully distribute the recruits, so
that the regiments from the frontiers are stationed in central
districts, and the regiments from the center are stationed on the
frontiers. The meaning of Caprivi's speech, put into plain
language, is that funds are needed, not to resist foreign foes,
but to BUY UNDER-OFFICERS to be ready to act against the enslaved
toiling masses.

Caprivi incautiously gave utterance to what everyone knows
perfectly well, or at least feels vaguely if he does not recognize
it, that is, that the existing order of life is as it is, not, as
would be natural and right, because the people wish it to be so,
but because it is so maintained by state violence, by the army
with its BOUGHT UNDER-OFFICERS and generals.

If the laborer has no land, if he cannot use the natural right of
every man to derive subsistence for himself and his family out of
the land, that is not because the people wish it to be so, but
because a certain set of men, the land-owners, have appropriated
the right of giving or refusing admittance to the land to the
laborers. And this abnormal order of things is maintained by the
army. If the immense wealth produced by the labor of the working
classes is not regarded as the property of all, but as the
property of a few exceptional persons; if labor is taxed by
authority and the taxes spent by a few on what they think fit; if
strikes on the part of laborers are repressesd, while on the part
of capitalists they are encouraged; if certain persons appropriate
the right of choosing the form of the education, religious and
secular, of children, and certain persons monopolize the right of
making the laws all must obey, and so dispose of the lives and
properties of other people--all this is not done because the
people wish it and because it is what is natural and right, but
because the government and ruling classes wish this to be so for
their own benefit, and insist on its being so even by physical

Everyone, if he does not recognize this now, will know that it is
so at the first attempt at insubordination or at a revolution of
the existing order.

Armies, then, are needed by governments and by the ruling classes
above all to support the present order, which, far from being the
result of the people's needs, is often in direct antagonism to
them, and is only beneficial to the government and ruling classes.

To keep their subjects in oppression and to be able to enjoy the
fruits of their labor the government must have armed forces.

But there is not only one government. There are other
governments, exploiting their subjects by violence in the same
way, and always ready to pounce down on any other government and
carry off the fruits of the toil of its enslaved subjects. And so
every government needs an army also to protect its booty from its
neighbor brigands. Every government is thus involuntarily reduced
to the necessity of emulating one another in the increase of their
armies. This increase is contagious, as Montesquieu pointed out
150 years ago.

Every increase in the army of one state, with the aim of
self-defense against its subjects, becomes a source of danger for
neighboring states and calls for a similar increase in their

The armed forces have reached their present number of millions not
only through the menace of danger from neighboring states, but
principally through the necessity of subduing every effort at
revolt on the part of the subjects.

Both causes, mutually dependent, contribute to the same result at
once; troops are required against internal forces and also to keep
up a position with other states. One is the result of the other.
The despotism of a government always increases with the strength
of the army and its external successes, and the aggressiveness of
a government increases with its internal despotism.

The rivalry of the European states in constantly increasing their
forces has reduced them to the necessity of having recourse to
universal military service, since by that means the greatest
possible number of soldiers is obtained at the least possible
expense. Germany first hit on this device. And directly one
state adopted it the others were obliged to do the same. And by
this means all citizens are under arms to support the iniquities
practiced upon them; all citizens have become their own

Universal military service was an inevitable logical necessity, to
which we were bound to come. But it is also the last expression
of the inconsistency inherent in the social conception of life,
when violence is needed to maintain it. This inconsistency has
become obvious in universal military service. In fact, the whole
significance of the social conception of life consists in man's
recognition of the barbarity of strife between individuals, and
the transitoriness of personal life itself, and the transference
of the aim of life to groups of persons. But with universal
military service it comes to pass that men, after making every
sacrifice to get rid of the cruelty of strife and the insecurity
of existence, are called upon to face all the perils they had
meant to avoid. And in addition to this the state, for whose sake
individuals renounced their personal advantages, is exposed again
to the same risks of insecurity and lack of permanence as the
individual himself was in previous times.

Governments were to give men freedom from the cruelty of personal
strife and security in the permanence of the state order of
existence. But instead of doing that they expose the individuals
to the same necessity of strife, substituting strife with
individuals of other states for strife with neighbors. And the
danger of destruction for the individual, and the state too, they
leave just as it was.

Universal military service may be compared to the efforts of a man
to prop up his falling house who so surrounds it and fills it with
props and buttresses and planks and scaffolding that he manages to
keep the house standing only by making it impossible to live in

In the same way universal military service destroys all the
benefits of the social order of life which it is employed to

The advantages of social organization are security of property and
labor and associated action for the improvement of existence--
universal military service destroys all this.

The taxes raised from the people for war preparations absorb the
greater part of the produce of labor which the army ought to

The withdrawing of all men from the ordinary course of life
destroys the possibility of labor itself. The danger of war, ever
ready to break out, renders all reforms of life social life vain
and fruitless.

In former days if a man were told that if he did not acknowledge
the authority of the state, he would be exposed to attack from
enemies domestic and foreign, that he would have to resist them
alone, and would be liable to be killed, and that therefore it
would be to his advantage to put up with some hardships to secure
himself from these calamities, he might well believe it, seeing
that the sacrifices he made to the state were only partial and
gave him the hope of a tranquil existence in a permanent state.
But now, when the sacrifices have been increased tenfold and
the promised advantages are disappearing, it would be a natural
reflection that submission to authority is absolutely useless.

But the fatal significance of universal military service, as the
manifestation of the contradiction inherent in the social
conception of life, is not only apparent in that. The greatest
manifestation of this contradiction consists in the fact that
every citizen in being made a soldier becomes a prop of the
government organization, and shares the responsibility of
everything the government does, even though he may not admit its

Governments assert that armies are needed above all for external
defense, but that is not true. They are needed principally
against their subjects, and every man, under universal military
service, becomes an accomplice in all the acts of violence of the
government against the citizens without any choice of his own.

To convince oneself of this one need only remember what things are
done in every state, in the name of order and the public welfare,
of which the execution always falls to the army. All civil
outbreaks for dynastic or other party reasons, all the executions
that follow on such disturbances, all repression of insurrections,
and military intervention to break up meetings and to suppress
strikes, all forced extortion of taxes, all the iniquitous
distributions of land, all the restrictions on labor--are either
carried out directly by the military or by the police with the
army at their back. Anyone who serves his time in the army shares
the responsibility of all these things, about which he is, in some
cases, dubious, while very often they are directly opposed to his
conscience. People are unwilling to be turned out of the land
they have cultivated for generations, or they are unwilling to
disperse when the government authority orders them, or they are
unwilling to pay the taxes required of them, or to recognize laws
as binding on them when they have had no hand in making them, or
to be deprived of their nationality--and I, in the fulfillment of
my military duty, must go and shoot them for it. How can I help
asking myself when I take part in such punishments, whether they
are just, and whether I ought to assist in carrying them out?

Universal service is the extreme limit of violence necessary for
the support of the whole state organization, and it is the extreme
limit to which submission on the part of the subjects can go. It
is the keystone of the whole edifice, and its fall will bring it
all down.

The time has come when the ever-growing abuse of power by
governments and their struggles with one another has led to their
demanding such material and even moral sacrifices from their
subjects that everyone is forced to reflect and ask himself, "Can
I make these sacrifices? And for the sake of what am I making
them? I am expected for the sake of the state to make these
sacrifices, to renounce everything that can be precious to man--
peace, family, security, and human dignity." What is this state,
for whose sake such terrible sacrifices have to be made? And why
is it so indispensably necessary? "The state," they tell us, "is
indispensably needed, in the first place, because without it we
should not be protected against the attacks of evil-disposed
persons; and secondly, except for the state we should be savages
and should have neither religion, culture, education, nor
commerce, nor means of communication, nor other social
institutions; and thirdly, without the state to defend us we
should be liable to be conquered and enslaved by neighboring

"Except for the state," they say, "we should be exposed to the
attacks of evil-disposed persons in our own country."

But who are these evil-disposed persons in our midst from whose
attacks we are preserved by the state and its army? Even if,
three or four centuries ago, when men prided themselves on their
warlike prowess, when killing men was considered an heroic
achievement, there were such persons; we know very well that there
are no such persons now, that we do not nowadays carry or use
firearms, but everyone professes humane principles and feels
sympathy for his fellows, and wants nothing more than we all do--
that is, to be left in peace to enjoy his existence undisturbed.
So that nowadays there are no special malefactors from whom the
state could defend us. If by these evil disposed persons is meant
the men who are punished as criminals, we know very well that they
are not a different kind of being like wild beasts among sheep,
but are men just like ourselves, and no more naturally inclined to
crimes than those against whom they commit them. We know now that
threats and punishments cannot diminish their number; that that
can only be done by change of environment and moral influence. So
that the justification of state violence on the ground of the
protection it gives us from evil-disposed persons, even if it had
some foundation three or four centuries ago, has none whatever
now. At present one would rather say on the contrary that the
action of the state with its cruel methods of punishment, behind
the general moral standard of the age, such as prisons, galleys,
gibbets, and guillotines, tends rather to brutalize the people
than to civilize them, and consequently rather to increase than
diminish the number of malefactors.

"Except for the state," they tell us, "we should not have any
religion, education, culture, means of communication, and so on.
Without the state men would not have been able to form the social
institutions needed for doing any thing." This argument too was
well founded only some centuries ago.

If there was a time when people were so disunited, when they had
so little means of communication and interchange of ideas, that
they could not co-operate and agree together in any common action
in commerce, economics, or education without the state as a
center, this want of common action exists no longer. The great
extension of means of communication and interchange of ideas has
made men completely able to dispense with state aid in forming
societies, associations, corporations, and congresses for
scientific, economic, and political objects. Indeed government is
more often an obstacle than an assistance in attaining these aims.

From the end of last century there has hardly been a single
progressive movement of humanity which has not been retarded by
the government. So it has been with abolition of corporal
punishment, of trial by torture, and of slavery, as well as with
the establishment of the liberty of the press and the right of
public meeting. In our day governments not only fail to
encourage, but directly hinder every movement by which people try
to work out new forms of life for themselves. Every attempt at
the solution of the problems of labor, land, politics, and
religion meets with direct opposition on the part of government.

"Without governments nations would be enslaved by their
neighbors." It is scarcely necessary to refute this last
argument. It carries its refutation on the face of it. The
government, they tell us, with its army, is necessary to defend us
from neighboring states who might enslave us. But we know this is
what all governments say of one another, and yet we know that all
the European nations profess the same principles of liberty and
fraternity, and therefore stand in no need of protection against
one another. And if defense against barbarous nations is meant,
one-thousandth part of the troops now under arms would be amply
sufficient for that purpose. We see that it is really the very
opposite of what we have been told. The power of the state, far
from being a security against the attacks of our neighbors,
exposes us, on the contrary, to much greater danger of such
attacks. So that every man who is led, through his compulsory
service in the army, to reflect on the value of the state for
whose sake he is expected to be ready to sacrifice his peace,
security, and life, cannot fail to perceive that there is no kind
of justification in modern times for such a sacrifice.

And it is not only from the theoretical standpoint that every man
must see that the sacrifices demanded by the state have no
justification. Even looking at it practically, weighing, that is
to say, all the burdens laid on him by the state, no man can fail
to see that for him personally to comply with state demands and
serve in the army, would, in the majority of cases, be more
disadvantageous than to refuse to do so.

If the majority of men choose to submit rather than to refuse, it
is not the result of sober balancing of advantages and
disadvantages, but because they are induced by a kind of
hypnotizing process practiced upon them. In submitting they
simply yield to the suggestions given them as orders, without
thought or effort of will. To resist would need independent
thought and effort of which every man is not capable. Even apart
from the moral significance of compliance or non-compliance,
considering material advantage only, non-compliance will be more
advantageous in general.

Whoever I may be, whether I belong to the well-to-do class of the
oppressors, or the working class of the oppressed, in either case
the disadvantages of non-compliance are less and its advantages
greater than those of compliance. If I belong to the minority of
oppressors the disadvantages of non-compliance will consist in my
being brought to judgment for refusing to perform my duties to the
state, and if I am lucky, being acquitted or, as is done in the
case of the Mennonites in Russia, being set to work out my
military service at some civil occupation for the state; while if
I am unlucky, I may be condemned to exile or imprisonment for two
or three years (I judge by the cases that have occurred in
Russia), possibly to even longer imprisonment, or possibly to
death, though the probability of that latter is very remote.

So much for the disadvantages of non-compliance. The
disadvantages of compliance will be as follows: if I am lucky I
shall not be sent to murder my fellow-creatures, and shall not be
exposed to great danger of being maimed and killed, but shall only
be enrolled into military slavery. I shall be dressed up like a
clown, I shall be at the beck and call of every man of a higher
grade than my own from corporal to field-marshal, shall be put
through any bodily contortions at their pleasure, and after being
kept from one to five years I shall have for ten years afterward
to be in readiness to undertake all of it again at any minute. If
I am unlucky I may, in addition, be sent to war, where I shall be
forced to kill men of foreign nations who have done me no harm,
where I may be maimed or killed, or sent to certain destruction as
in the case of the garrison of Sevastopol, and other cases in
every war, or what would be most terrible of all, I may be sent
against my own compatriots and have to kill my own brothers for
some dynastic or other state interests which have absolutely
nothing to do with me. So much for the comparative disadvantages.

The comparative advantages of compliance and non-compliance are as

For the man who submits, the advantages will be that, after
exposing himself to all the humiliation and performing all the
barbarities required of him, he may, if he escapes being killed,
get a decoration of red or gold tinsel to stick on his clown's
dress; he may, if he is very lucky, be put in command of hundreds
of thousands of others as brutalized as himself; be called a
field-marshal, and get a lot of money.

The advantages of the man who refuses to obey will consist in
preserving his dignity as a man, gaining the approbation of good
men, and above all knowing that he is doing the work of God, and
so undoubtedly doing good to his fellow-men.

So much for the advantages and disadvantages of both lines of
conduct for a man of the wealthy classes, an oppressor. For a man
of the poor working class the advantages and disadvantages will be
the same, but with a great increase of disadvantages. The
disadvantages for the poor man who submits will be aggravated by
the fact that he will by taking part in it, and, as it were,
assenting to it strengthen the state of subjection in which he is
held himself.

But no considerations as to how far the state is useful or
beneficial to the men who help to support it by serving in the
army, nor of the advantages or disadvantages for the individual of
compliance or non-compliance with state demands, will decide the
question of the continued existence or the abolition of
government. This question will be finally decided beyond appeal
by the religious consciousness or conscience of every man who is
forced, whether he will or no, through universal conscription, to
face the question whether the state is to continue to exist or

Leo Tolstoy

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