Leo Tolstoy.

What to Do? online

. (page 13 of 19)
Online LibraryLeo TolstoyWhat to Do? → online text (page 13 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


his neighbor comes to him, and asks him to mend his also, and promises
him in return either work or money. A third comes, and a fourth; and in
the community formed by these men, there arises the following division of
labor, - a blacksmith is created. Another man has instructed his children
well; his neighbor brings his children to him, and requests him to teach
them also, and a teacher is created. But both blacksmith and teacher
have been created, and continue to be such, merely because they have been
asked; and they remain such as long as they are requested to be
blacksmith and teacher. If it should come to pass that many blacksmiths
and teachers should set themselves up, or that their work is not
requited, they will immediately, as common-sense demands and as always
happens when there is no occasion for disturbing the regular course of
division of labor, - they will immediately abandon their trade, and betake
themselves once more to agriculture.

Men who behave thus are guided by their sense, their conscience; and
hence we, the men endowed with sense and conscience, all assert that such
a division of labor is right. But if it should chance that the
blacksmiths were able to compel other people to work for them, and should
continue to make horse-shoes when they were not wanted, and if the
teachers should go on teaching when there was no one to teach, then it is
obvious to every sane man, as a man, i.e., as a being endowed with reason
and conscience, that this would not be division, but appropriation, of
labor. And yet precisely that sort of activity is what is called
division of labor by scientific science. People do that which others do
not think of requiring, and demand that they shall be supported for so
doing, and say that this is just because it is division of labor.

That which constitutes the cause of the economical poverty of our age is
what the English call over-production (which means that a mass of things
are made which are of no use to anybody, and with which nothing can be
done).

It would be odd to see a shoemaker, who should consider that people were
bound to feed him because he incessantly made boots which had been of no
use to any one for a long time; but what shall we say of those men who
make nothing, - who not only produce nothing that is visible, but nothing
that is of use for people at large, - for whose wares there are no
customers, and who yet demand, with the same boldness, on the ground of
division of labor, that they shall be supplied with fine food and drink,
and that they shall be dressed well? There may be, and there are,
sorcerers for whose services a demand makes itself felt, and for this
purpose there are brought to them pancakes and flasks; but it is
difficult to imagine the existence of sorcerers whose spells are useless
to every one, and who boldly demand that they shall be luxuriously
supported because they exercise sorcery. And it is the same in our
world. And all this comes about on the basis of that false conception of
the division of labor, which is defined not by reason and conscience, but
by observation, which men of science avow with such unanimity.

Division of labor has, in reality, always existed, and still exists; but
it is right only when man decides with his reason and his conscience that
it should be so, and not when he merely investigates it. And reason and
conscience decide the question for all men very simply, unanimously, and
in a manner not to be doubted. They always decide it thus: that division
of labor is right only when a special branch of man's activity is so
needful to men, that they, entreating him to serve them, voluntarily
propose to support him in requital for that which he shall do for them.
But, when a man can live from infancy to the age of thirty years on the
necks of others, promising to do, when he shall have been taught,
something extremely useful, for which no one asks him; and when, from the
age of thirty until his death, he can live in the same manner, still
merely on the promise to do something, for which there has been no
request, this will not be division of labor (and, as a matter of fact,
there is no such thing in our society), but it will be what it already
is, - merely the appropriation, by force, of the toil of others; that same
appropriation by force of the toil of others which the philosophers
formerly designated by various names, - for instance, as indispensable
forms of life, - but which scientific science now calls the organic
division of labor.

The whole significance of scientific science lies in this alone. It has
now become a distributer of diplomas for idleness; for it alone, in its
sanctuaries, selects and determines what is parasitical, and what is
organic activity, in the social organism. Just as though every man could
not find this out for himself much more accurately and more speedily, by
taking counsel of his reason and his conscience. It seems to men of
scientific science, that there can be no doubt of this, and that their
activity is also indubitably organic; they, the scientific and artistic
workers, are the brain cells, and the most precious cells in the whole
organism.

Ever since men - reasoning beings - have existed, they have distinguished
good from evil, and have profited by the fact that men have made this
distinction before them; they have warred against evil, and have sought
the good, and have slowly but uninterruptedly advanced in that path. And
divers delusions have always stood before men, hemming in this path, and
having for their object to demonstrate to them, that it was not necessary
to do this, and that it was not necessary to live as they were living.
With fearful conflict and difficulty, men have freed themselves from many
delusions. And behold, a new and a still more evil delusion has sprung
up in the path of mankind, - the scientific delusion.

This new delusion is precisely the same in nature as the old ones; its
gist lies in secretly leading astray the activity of our reason and
conscience, and of those who have lived before us, by something external.
In scientific science, this external thing is - investigation.

The cunning of this science consists in this, - that, after pointing out
to men the coarsest false interpretations of the activity of the reason
and conscience of man, it destroys in them faith in their own reason and
conscience, and assures them that every thing which their reason and
conscience say to them, that all that these have said to the loftiest
representatives of man heretofore, ever since the world has existed, - that
all this is conventional and subjective. "All this must be abandoned,"
they say; "it is impossible to understand the truth by the reason, for we
may be mistaken. But there exists another unerring and almost mechanical
path: it is necessary to investigate facts."

But facts must be investigated on the foundation of scientific science,
i.e., of the two hypotheses of positivism and evolution, which are not
borne out by any thing, and which give themselves out as undoubted
truths. And the reigning science announces, with delusive solemnity,
that the solution of all problems of life is possible only through the
study of facts, of nature, and, in particular, of organisms. The
credulous mass of young people, overwhelmed by the novelty of this
authority, which has not yet been overthrown or even touched by
criticism, flings itself into the study of natural sciences, into that
sole path, which, according to the assertion of the reigning science, can
lead to the elucidation of the problems of life.

But the farther the disciples proceed in this study, the farther and
farther does not only the possibility, but even the very idea, of the
solution of the problems of life withdraw from them, and the more and
more do they become accustomed, not so much to investigate, as to believe
in the assertions of other investigators (to believe in cells, in
protoplasm, in the fourth condition of bodies, and so forth); the more
and more does the form veil the contents from them; the more and more do
they lose the consciousness of good and evil, and the capacity of
understanding those expressions and definitions of good and evil which
have been elaborated through the whole foregoing life of mankind; and the
more and more do they appropriate to themselves the special scientific
jargon of conventional expressions, which possesses no universally human
significance; and the deeper and deeper do they plunge into the _debris_
of utterly unilluminated investigations; the more and more do they lose
the power, not only of independent thought, but even of understanding the
fresh human thought of others, which lies beyond the bounds of their
Talmud. But the principal thing is, that they pass their best years in
getting disused to life; they grow accustomed to consider their position
as justifiable; and they convert themselves physically into utterly
useless parasites, and mentally they dislocate their brains and become
mental eunuchs. And in precisely the same manner, according to the
measure of their folly, do they acquire self-conceit, which deprives them
forever of all possibility of return to a simple life of toil, to a
simple, clear, and universally human train of reasoning.

Division of labor always has existed in human communities, and will
probably always exist; but the question for us lies not in the fact that
it has existed, and that it will exist, but in this, - how are we to
govern ourselves so that this division shall be right? But if we take
investigation as our rule of action, we by this very act repudiate all
rule; then in that case we shall regard as right every division of labor
which we shall descry among men, and which appears to us to be right - to
which conclusion the prevailing scientific science also leads.

Division of labor!

Some are busied in mental or moral, others in muscular or physical,
labor. With what confidence people enunciate this! They wish to think
so, and it seems to them that, in point of fact, a perfectly regular
exchange of services does take place.

But we, in our blindness, have so completely lost sight of the
responsibility which we have assumed, that we have even forgotten in
whose name our labor is prosecuted; and the very people whom we have
undertaken to serve have become the objects of our scientific and
artistic activity. We study and depict them for our amusement and
diversion. We have totally forgotten that what we need to do is not to
study and depict them, but to serve them. To such a degree have we lost
sight of this duty which we have taken upon us, that we have not even
noticed that what we have undertaken to perform in the realm of science
and art has been accomplished not by us, but by others, and that our
place has turned out to be occupied.

It proves that while we have been disputing, one about the spontaneous
origin of organisms, another as to what else there is in protoplasm, and
so on, the common people have been in need of spiritual food; and the
unsuccessful and rejected of art and science, in obedience to the mandate
of adventurers who have in view the sole aim of profit, have begun to
furnish the people with this spiritual food, and still so furnish them.
For the last forty years in Europe, and for the last ten years with us
here in Russia, millions of books and pictures and song-books have been
distributed, and stalls have been opened, and the people gaze and sing
and receive spiritual nourishment, but not from us who have undertaken to
provide it; while we, justifying our idleness by that spiritual food
which we are supposed to furnish, sit by and wink at it.

But it is impossible for us to wink at it, for our last justification is
slipping from beneath our feet. We have become specialized. We have our
particular functional activity. We are the brains of the people. They
support us, and we have undertaken to teach them. It is only under this
pretence that we have excused ourselves from work. But what have we
taught them, and what are we now teaching them? They have waited for
years - for tens, for hundreds of years. And we keep on diverting our
minds with chatter, and we instruct each other, and we console ourselves,
and we have utterly forgotten them. We have so entirely forgotten them,
that others have undertaken to instruct them, and we have not even
perceived it. We have spoken of the division of labor with such lack of
seriousness, that it is obvious that what we have said about the benefits
which we have conferred on the people was simply a shameless evasion.



CHAPTER IV.


Science and art have arrogated to themselves the right of idleness, and
of the enjoyment of the labor of others, and have betrayed their calling.
And their errors have arisen merely because their servants, having set
forth a falsely conceived principle of the division of labor, have
recognized their own right to make use of the labor of others, and have
lost the significance of their vocation; having taken for their aim, not
the profit of the people, but the mysterious profit of science and art,
and delivered themselves over to idleness and vice - not so much of the
senses as of the mind.

They say, "Science and art have bestowed a great deal on mankind."

Science and art have bestowed a great deal on mankind, not because the
men of art and science, under the pretext of a division of labor, live on
other people, but in spite of this.

The Roman Republic was powerful, not because her citizens had the power
to live a vicious life, but because among their number there were heroic
citizens. It is the same with art and science. Art and science have
bestowed much on mankind, but not because their followers formerly
possessed on rare occasions (and now possess on every occasion) the
possibility of getting rid of labor; but because there have been men of
genius, who, without making use of these rights, have led mankind
forward.

The class of learned men and artists, which has advanced, on the
fictitious basis of a division of labor, its demands to the right of
using the labors of others, cannot co-operate in the success of true
science and true art, because a lie cannot bring forth the truth.

We have become so accustomed to these, our tenderly reared or weakened
representatives of mental labor, that it seems to us horrible that a man
of science or an artist should plough or cart manure. It seems to us
that every thing would go to destruction, and that all his wisdom would
be rattled out of him in the cart, and that all those grand picturesque
images which he bears about in his breast would be soiled in the manure;
but we have become so inured to this, that it does not strike us as
strange that our servitor of science - that is to say, the servant and
teacher of the truth - by making other people do for him that which he
might do for himself, passes half his time in dainty eating, in smoking,
in talking, in free and easy gossip, in reading the newspapers and
romances, and in visiting the theatres. It is not strange to us to see
our philosopher in the tavern, in the theatre, and at the ball. It is
not strange in our eyes to learn that those artists who sweeten and
ennoble our souls have passed their lives in drunkenness, cards, and
women, if not in something worse.

Art and science are very beautiful things; but just because they are so
beautiful they should not be spoiled by the compulsory combination with
them of vice: that is to say, a man should not get rid of his obligation
to serve his own life and that of other people by his own labor. Art and
science have caused mankind to progress. Yes; but not because men of art
and science, under the guise of division of labor, have rid themselves of
the very first and most indisputable of human obligations, - to labor with
their hands in the universal struggle of mankind with nature.

"But only the division of labor, the freedom of men of science and of art
from the necessity of earning them living, has rendered possible that
remarkable success of science which we behold in our day," is the answer
to this. "If all were forced to till the soil, those _vast_ results
would not have been attained which have been attained in our day; there
would have been none of those _striking_ successes which have so greatly
augmented man's power over nature, were it not for these astronomical
discoveries _which are so astounding to the mind of man_, and which have
added to the security of navigation; there would be no steamers, no
railways, none of those _wonderful_ bridges, tunnels, steam-engines and
telegraphs, photography, telephones, sewing-machines, phonographs,
electricity, telescopes, spectroscopes, microscopes, chloroform, Lister's
bandages, and carbolic acid."

I will not enumerate every thing on which our age thus prides itself.
This enumeration and pride of enthusiasm over ourselves and our exploits
can be found in almost any newspaper and popular pamphlet. This
enthusiasm over ourselves is often repeated to such a degree that none of
us can sufficiently rejoice over ourselves, that we are seriously
convinced that art and science have never made such progress as in our
own time. And, as we are indebted for all this marvellous progress to
the division of labor, why not acknowledge it?

Let us admit that the progress made in our day is noteworthy, marvellous,
unusual; let us admit that we are fortunate mortals to live in such a
remarkable epoch: but let us endeavor to appraise this progress, not on
the basis of our self-satisfaction, but of that principle which defends
itself with this progress, - the division of labor. All this progress is
very amazing; but by a peculiarly unlucky chance, admitted even by the
men of science, this progress has not so far improved, but it has rather
rendered worse, the position of the majority, that is to say, of the
workingman.

If the workingman can travel on the railway, instead of walking, still
that same railway has burned down his forest, has carried off his grain
under his very nose, and has brought his condition very near to
slavery - to the capitalist. If, thanks to steam-engines and machines,
the workingman can purchase inferior calico at a cheap rate, on the other
hand these engines and machines have deprived him of work at home, and
have brought him into a state of abject slavery to the manufacturer. If
there are telephones and telescopes, poems, romances, theatres, ballets,
symphonies, operas, picture-galleries, and so forth, on the other hand
the life of the workingman has not been bettered by all this; for all of
them, by the same unlucky chance, are inaccessible to him.

So that, on the whole (and even men of science admit this), up to the
present time, all these remarkable discoveries and products of science
and art have certainly not ameliorated the condition of the workingman,
if, indeed, they have not made it worse. So that, if we set against the
question as to the reality of the progress attained by the arts and
sciences, not our own rapture, but that standard upon the basis of which
the division of labor is defended, - the good of the laboring man, - we
shall see that we have no firm foundations for that self-satisfaction in
which we are so fond of indulging.

The peasant travels on the railway, the woman buys calico, in the _isba_
(cottage) there will be a lamp instead of a pine-knot, and the peasant
will light his pipe with a match, - this is convenient; but what right
have I to say that the railway and the factory have proved advantageous
to the people?

If the peasant rides on the railway, and buys calico, a lamp, and
matches, it is only because it is impossible to forbid the peasant's
buying them; but surely we are all aware that the construction of
railways and factories has never been carried out for the benefit of the
lower classes: so why should a casual convenience which the workingman
enjoys lead to a proof of the utility of all these institutions for the
people?

There is something useful in every injurious thing. After a
conflagration, one can warm one's self, and light one's pipe with a
firebrand; but why declare that the conflagration is beneficial?

Men of art and science might say that their pursuits are beneficial to
the people, only when men of art and science have assigned to themselves
the object of serving the people, as they now assign themselves the
object of serving the authorities and the capitalists. We might say this
if men of art and science had taken as their aim the needs of the people;
but there are none such. All scientists are busy with their priestly
avocations, out of which proceed investigations into protoplasm, the
spectral analyses of stars, and so on. But science has never once
thought of what axe or what hatchet is the most profitable to chop with,
what saw is the most handy, what is the best way to mix bread, from what
flour, how to set it, how to build and heat an oven, what food and drink,
and what utensils, are the most convenient and advantageous under certain
conditions, what mushrooms may be eaten, how to propagate them, and how
to prepare them in the most suitable manner. And yet all this is the
province of science.

I am aware, that, according to its own definition, science ought to be
useless, i.e., science for the sake of science; but surely this is an
obvious evasion. The province of science is to serve the people. We
have invented telegraphs, telephones, phonographs; but what advances have
we effected in the life, in the labor, of the people? We have reckoned
up two millions of beetles! And we have not tamed a single animal since
biblical times, when all our animals were already domesticated; but the
reindeer, the stag, the partridge, the heath-cock, all remain wild.

Our botanists have discovered the cell, and in the cell protoplasm, and
in that protoplasm still something more, and in that atom yet another
thing. It is evident that these occupations will not end for a long time
to come, because it is obvious that there can be no end to them, and
therefore the scientist has no time to devote to those things which are
necessary to the people. And therefore, again, from the time of Egyptian
and Hebrew antiquity, when wheat and lentils had already been cultivated,
down to our own times, not a single plant has been added to the food of
the people, with the exception of the potato, and that was not obtained
by science.

Torpedoes have been invented, and apparatus for taxation, and so forth.
But the spinning-whined, the woman's weaving-loom, the plough, the
hatchet, the chain, the rake, the bucket, the well-sweep, are exactly the
same as they were in the days of Rurik; and if there has been any change,
then that change has not been effected by scientific people.

And it is the same with the arts. We have elevated a lot of people to
the rank of great writers; we have picked these writers to pieces, and
have written mountains of criticism, and criticism on the critics, and
criticism on the critics of the critics. And we have collected picture-
galleries, and have studied different schools of art in detail; and we
have so many symphonies and orchestras and operas, that it is becoming
difficult even for us to listen to them. But what have we added to the
popular _bylini_ [the epic songs], legends, tales, songs? What music,
what pictures, have we given to the people?

On the Nikolskaya books are manufactured for the people, and harmonicas
in Tula; and in neither have we taken any part. The falsity of the whole
direction of our arts and sciences is more striking and more apparent in
precisely those very branches, which, it would seem, should, from their
very nature, be of use to the people, and which, in consequence of their
false attitude, seem rather injurious than useful. The technologist, the
physician, the teacher, the artist, the author, should, in virtue of
their very callings, it would seem, serve the people. And, what then?
Under the present _regime_, they can do nothing but harm to the people.

The technologist or the mechanic has to work with capital. Without
capital he is good for nothing. All his acquirements are such that for
their display he requires capital, and the exploitation of the laboring-
man on the largest scale; and - not to mention that he is trained to live,
at the lowest, on from fifteen hundred to two thousand a year, and that,
therefore, he cannot go to the country, where no one can give him such
wages, - he is, by virtue of his very occupation, unfitted for serving the


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryLeo TolstoyWhat to Do? → online text (page 13 of 19)