Leo Tolstoy.

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Into the delusion that I could help others I was led by the fact that I
fancied that my money was of the same sort as Semyon's. But this was not
the case.

A general idea prevails, that money represents wealth; but wealth is the
product of labor; and, therefore, money represents labor. But this idea
is as just as that every governmental regulation is the result of a
compact (_contrat social_).

Every one likes to think that money is only a medium of exchange for
labor. I have made shoes, you have raised grain, he has reared sheep:
here, in order that we may the more readily effect an exchange, we will
institute money, which represents a corresponding quantity of labor, and,
by means of it, we will barter our shoes for a breast of lamb and ten
pounds of flour. We will exchange our products through the medium of
money, and the money of each one of us represents our labor.

This is perfectly true, but true only so long as, in the community where
this exchange is effected, the violence of one man over the rest has not
made its appearance; not only violence over the labors of others, as
happens in wars and slavery, but where he exercises no violence for the
protection of the products of their labor from others. This will be true
only in a community whose members fully carry out the Christian law, in a
community where men give to him who asks, and where he who takes is not
asked to make restitution. But just so soon as any violence whatever is
used in the community, the significance of money for its possessor loses
its significance as a representative of labor, and acquires the
significance of a right founded, not on labor, but on violence.

As soon as there is war, and one man has taken any thing from any other
man, money can no longer be always the representative of labor; money
received by a warrior for the spoils of war, which he sells, even if he
is the commander of the warriors, is in no way a product of labor, and
possesses an entirely different meaning from money received for work on
shoes. As soon as there are slave-owners and slaves, as there always
have been throughout the whole world, it is utterly impossible to say
that money represents labor.

Women have woven linen, sold it, and received money; serfs have woven for
their master, and the master has sold them and received the money. The
money is identical in both cases; but in the one case it is the product
of labor, in the other the product of violence. In exactly the same way,
a stranger or my own father has given me money; and my father, when he
gave me that money, knew, and I know, and everybody knows, that no one
can take this money away from me; but if it should occur to any one to
take it away from me, or even not to hand it over at the date when it was
promised, the law would intervene on my behalf, and would compel the
delivery to me of the money; and, again, it is evident that this money
can in no wise be called the equivalent of labor, on a level with the
money received by Semyon for chopping wood. So that in any community
where there is any thing that in any manner whatever controls the labor
of others, or where violence hedges in, by means of money, its
possessions from others, there money is no longer invariably the
representative of labor. In such a community, it is sometimes the
representative of labor, and sometimes of violence.

Thus it would be where only one act of violence from one man against
others, in the midst of perfectly free relations, should have made its
appearance; but now, when centuries of the most varied deeds of violence
have passed for accumulations of money, when these deeds of violence are
incessant, and merely alter their forms; when, as every one admits, money
accumulated itself represents violence; when money, as a representative
of direct labor, forms but a very small portion of the money which is
derived from every sort of violence, - to say nowadays that money
represents the labor of the person who possesses it, is a self-evident
error or a deliberate lie.

It may be said, that thus it should be; it may be said, that this is
desirable; but by no means can it be said, that thus it is.

Money represents labor. Yes. Money does represent labor; but whose? In
our society only in the very rarest, rarest of instances, does money
represent the labor of its possessor, but it nearly always represents the
labor of other people, the past or future labor of men; it is a
representative of the obligation of others to labor, which has been
established by force.

Money, in its most accurate and at the same the simple application, is
the conventional stamp which confers a right, or, more correctly, a
possibility, of taking advantage of the labors of other people. In its
ideal significance, money should confer this right, or this possibility,
only when it serves as the equivalent of labor, and such money might be
in a community in which no violence existed. But just as soon as
violence, that is to say, the possibility of profiting by the labors of
others without toil of one's own, exists in a community, then that
profiting by the labors of other men is also expressed by money, without
any distinction of the persons on whom that violence is exercised.

The landed proprietor has imposed upon his serfs natural debts, a certain
quantity of linen, grain, and cattle, or a corresponding amount of money.
One household has procured the cattle, but has paid money in lieu of
linen. The proprietor takes the money to a certain amount only, because
he knows that for that money they will make him the same quantity of
linen, (generally he takes a little more, in order to be sure that they
will make it for the same amount); and this money, evidently, represents
for the proprietor the obligation of other people to toil.

The peasant gives the money as an obligation, to he knows not whom, but
to people, and there are many of them, who undertake for this money to
make so much linen. But the people who undertake to make the linen, do
so because they have not succeeded in raising sheep, and in place of the
sheep, they must pay money; but the peasant who takes money for his sheep
takes it because he must pay for grain which did not bear well this year.
The same thing goes on throughout this realm, and throughout the whole

A man sells the product of his labor, past, present or to come, sometimes
his food, and generally not because money constitutes for him a
convenient means of exchange. He could have effected the barter without
money, but he does so because money is exacted from him by violence as a
lien on his labor.

When the sovereign of Egypt exacted labor from his slaves, the slaves
gave all their labor, but only their past and present labor, their future
labor they could not give. But with the dissemination of money tokens,
and the credit which had its rise in them, it became possible to sell
one's future toil for money. Money, with co-existent violence in the
community, only represents the possibility of a new form of impersonal
slavery, which has taken the place of personal slavery. The slave-owner
has a right to the labor of Piotr, Ivan, and Sidor. But the owner of
money, in a place where money is demanded from all, has a right to the
toil of all those nameless people who are in need of money. Money has
set aside all the oppressive features of slavery, under which an owner
knows his right to Ivan, and with them it has set aside all humane
relations between the owner and the slave, which mitigated the burden of
personal thraldom.

I will not allude to the fact, that such a condition of things is,
possibly, necessary for the development of mankind, for progress, and so
forth, - that I do not contest. I have merely tried to elucidate to
myself the idea of money, and that universal error into which I fell when
I accepted money as the representative of labor. I became convinced,
after experience, that money is not the representative of labor, but, in
the majority of cases, the representative of violence, or of especially
complicated sharp practices founded on violence.

Money, in our day, has completely lost that significance which it is very
desirable that it should possess, as the representative of one's own
labor; such a significance it has only as an exception, but, as a general
rule, it has been converted into a right or a possibility of profiting by
the toil of others.

The dissemination of money, of credit, and of all sorts of money tokens,
confirms this significance of money ever more and more. Money is a new
form of slavery, which differs from the old form of slavery only in its
impersonality, its annihilation of all humane relations with the slave.

Money - money, is a value which is always equal to itself, and is always
considered legal and righteous, and whose use is regarded as not immoral,
just as the right of slavery was regarded.

In my young days, the game of loto was introduced into the clubs.
Everybody rushed to play it, and, as it was said, many ruined themselves,
rendered their families miserable, lost other people's money, and
government funds, and committed suicide; and the game was prohibited, and
it remains prohibited to this day.

I remember to have seen old and unsentimental gamblers, who told me that
this game was particularly pleasing because you did not see from whom you
were winning, as is the case in other games; a lackey brought, not money,
but chips; each man lost a little stake, and his disappointment was not
visible . . . It is the same with roulette, which is everywhere
prohibited, and not without reason.

It is the same with money. I possess a magic, inexhaustible ruble; I cut
off my coupons, and have retired from all the business of the world. Whom
do I injure, - I, the most inoffensive and kindest of men? But this is
nothing more than playing at loto or roulette, where I do not see the man
who shoots himself, because of his losses, after procuring for me those
coupons which I cut off from the bonds so accurately with a strictly
right-angled corner.

I have done nothing, I do nothing, and I shall do nothing, except cut off
those coupons; and I firmly believe that money is the representative of
labor! Surely, this is amazing! And people talk of madmen, after that!
Why, what degree of lunacy can be more frightful than this? A sensible,
educated, in all other respects sane man lives in a senseless manner, and
soothes himself for not uttering the word which it is indispensably
necessary that he should utter, with the idea that there is some sense in
his conclusions, and he considers himself a just man. Coupons - the
representatives of toil! Toil! Yes, but of whose toil? Evidently not
of the man who owns them, but of him who labors.

Slavery is far from being suppressed. It has been suppressed in Rome and
in America, and among us: but only certain laws have been abrogated; only
the word, not the thing, has been put down. Slavery is the freeing of
ourselves alone from the toil which is necessary for the satisfaction of
our demands, by the transfer of this toil to others; and wherever there
exists a man who does not work, not because others work lovingly for him,
but where he possesses the power of not working, and forces others to
work for him, there slavery exists. There too, where, as in all European
societies, there are people who make use of the labor of thousands of
men, and regard this as their right, - there slavery exists in its
broadest measure.

And money is the same thing as slavery. Its object and its consequences
are the same. Its object is - that one may rid one's self of the first
born of all laws, as a profoundly thoughtful writer from the ranks of the
people has expressed it; from the natural law of life, as we have called
it; from the law of personal labor for the satisfaction of our own wants.
And the results of money are the same as the results of slavery, for the
proprietor; the creation, the invention of new and ever new and never-
ending demands, which can never be satisfied; the enervation of poverty,
vice, and for the slaves, the persecution of man and their degradation to
the level of the beasts.

Money is a new and terrible form of slavery, and equally demoralizing
with the ancient form of slavery for both slave and slave-owner; only
much worse, because it frees the slave and the slave-owner from their
personal, humane relations.]


I am always surprised by the oft-repeated words: "Yes, this is so in
theory, but how is it in practice?" Just as though theory were fine
words, requisite for conversation, but not for the purpose of having all
practice, that is, all activity, indispensably founded on them. There
must be a fearful number of stupid theories current in the world, that
such an extraordinary idea should have become prevalent. Theory is what
a man thinks on a subject, but its practice is what he does. How can a
man think it necessary to do so and so, and then do the contrary? If the
theory of baking bread is, that it must first be mixed, and then set to
rise, no one except a lunatic, knowing this theory, would do the reverse.
But it has become the fashion with us to say, that "this is so in theory,
but how about the practice?"

In the matter which interests me now, that has been confirmed which I
have always thought, - that practice infallibly flows from theory, and not
that it justifies it, but it cannot possibly be otherwise, for if I have
understood the thing of which I have been thinking, then I cannot carry
out this thing otherwise than as I have understood it.

I wanted to help the unfortunate only because I had money, and I shared
the general belief that money was the representative of labor, or, on the
whole, something legal and good. But, having begun to give away this
money, I saw, when I gave the bills which I had accumulated from poor
people, that I was doing precisely that which was done by some landed
proprietors who made some of their serfs wait on others. I saw that
every use of money, whether for making purchases, or for giving away
without an equivalent to another, is handing over a note for extortion
from the poor, or its transfer to another man for extortion from the
poor. I saw that money in itself was not only not good, but evidently
evil, and that it deprives us of our highest good, - labor, and thereby of
the enjoyment of our labor, and that that blessing I was not in a
position to confer on any one, because I was myself deprived of it: I do
not work, and I take no pleasure in making use of the labor of others.

It would appear that there is something peculiar in this abstract
argument as to the nature of money. But this argument which I have made
not for the sake of argument, but for the solution of the problem of my
life, of my sufferings, was for me an answer to my question: What is to
be done?

As soon as I grasped the meaning of riches, and of money, it not only
became clear and indisputable to me, what I ought to do, but also clear
and indisputable what others ought to do, because they would infallibly
do it. I had only actually come to understand what I had known for a
long time previously, the theory which was given to men from the very
earliest times, both by Buddha, and Isaiah, and Lao-Tze, and Socrates,
and in a peculiarly clear and indisputable manner by Jesus Christ and his
forerunner, John the Baptist. John the Baptist, in answer to the
question of the people, - What were they to do? replied simply, briefly,
and clearly: "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath
none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise" (Luke iii. 10, 11). In
a similar manner, but with even greater clearness, and on many occasions,
Christ spoke. He said: "Blessed are the poor, and woe to the rich." He
said that it is impossible to serve God and mammon. He forbade his
disciples to take not only money, but also two garments. He said to the
rich young man, that he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven
because he was rich, and that it was easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He
said that he who should not leave every thing, houses and children and
lands, and follow him, could not be his disciple. He told the parable of
the rich man who did nothing bad, like our own rich men, but who only
arrayed himself in costly garments, and ate and drank daintily, and who
lost his soul thereby; and of poor Lazarus, who had done nothing good,
but who was saved merely because he was poor.

This theory was sufficiently familiar to me, but the false teachings of
the world had so obscured it that it had become for me a theory in the
sense which people are fond of attributing to that term, that is to say,
empty words. But as soon as I had succeeded in destroying in my
consciousness the sophisms of worldly teaching, theory conformed to
practice, and the truth with regard to my life and to the life of the
people about me became its conclusion.

I understood that man, besides life for his own personal good, is
unavoidably bound to serve the good of others also; that, if we take an
illustration from the animal kingdom, - as some people are fond of doing,
defending violence and conflict by the conflict for existence in the
animal kingdom, - the illustration must be taken from gregarious animals,
like bees; that consequently man, not to mention the love to his neighbor
incumbent on him, is called upon, both by reason and by his nature, to
serve other people and the common good of humanity. I comprehended that
the natural law of man is that according to which only he can fulfil
destiny, and therefore be happy. I understood that this law has been and
is broken hereby, - that people get rid of labor by force (like the robber
bees), make use of the toil of others, directing this toil, not to the
common weal, but to the private satisfaction of swift-growing desires;
and, precisely as in the case of the robber bees, they perish in
consequence. [I understood that the original form of this disinclination
for the law is the brutal violence against weaker individuals, against
women, wars and imprisonments, whose sequel is slavery, and also the
present reign of money. I understood that money is the impersonal and
concealed enslavement of the poor. And, once having perceived the
significance of money as slavery, I could not but hate it, nor refrain
from doing all in my power to free myself from it.] {135}

When I was a slave-owner, and comprehended the immorality of my position,
I tried to escape from it. My escape consisted in this, that I,
regarding it as immoral, tried to exercise my rights as slave-owner as
little as possible, but to live, and to allow other people to live, as
though that right did not exist. And I cannot refrain from doing the
same thing now in reference to the present form of slavery, - exercising
my right to the labor of others as little as possible, i.e., hiring and
purchasing as little as possible.

The root of every slavery is the use of the labor of others; and hence,
the compelling others to it is founded indifferently on my right to the
slave, or on my possession of money which is indispensable to him. If I
really do not approve, and if I regard as an evil, the employment of the
labor of others, then I shall use neither my right nor my money for that
purpose; I shall not compel others to toil for me, but I shall endeavor
to free them from the labor which they have performed for me, as far as
possible, either by doing without this labor or by performing it for

And this very simple and unavoidable deduction enters into all the
details of my life, effects a total change in it, and at one blow
releases me from those moral sufferings which I have undergone at the
sight of the sufferings and the vice of the people, and instantly
annihilates all three causes of my inability to aid the poor, which I had
encountered while seeking the cause of my lack of success.

The first cause was the herding of the people in towns, and the
absorption there of the wealth of the country. All that a man needs is
to understand how every hiring or purchase is a handle to extortion from
the poor, and that therefore he must abstain from them, and must try to
fulfil his own requirements; and not a single man will then quit the
country, where all wants can be satisfied without money, for the city,
where it is necessary to buy every thing: and in the country he will be
in a position to help the needy, as has been my own experience and the
experience of every one else.

The second cause is the estrangement of the rich from the poor. A man
needs but to refrain from buying, from hiring, and, disdaining no sort of
work, to satisfy his requirements himself, and the former estrangement
will immediately be annihilated, and the man, having rejected luxury and
the services of others, will amalgamate with the mass of the working
people, and, standing shoulder to shoulder with the working people, he
can help them.

The third cause was shame, founded on a consciousness of immorality in my
owning that money with which I desired to help people. All that is
required is: to understand the significance of money as impersonal
slavery, which it has acquired among us, in order to escape for the
future from falling into the error according to which money, though evil
in itself, can be an instrument of good, and in order to refrain from
acquiring money; and to rid one's self of it in order to be in a position
to do good to people, that is, to bestow on them one's labor, and not the
labor of another.


[I saw that money is the cause of suffering and vice among the people,
and that, if I desired to help people, the first thing that was required
of me was not to create those unfortunates whom I wished to assist.

I came to the conclusion that the man who does not love vice and the
suffering of the people should not make use of money, thus presenting an
inducement to extortion from the poor, by forcing them to work for him;
and that, in order not to make use of the toil of others, he must demand
as little from others as possible, and work as much as possible himself.]

By dint of a long course of reasoning, I came to this inevitable
conclusion, which was drawn thousands of years ago by the Chinese in the
saying, "If there is one idle man, there is another dying with hunger to
offset him.

[Then what are we to do? John the Baptist gave the answer to this very
question two thousand years ago. And when the people asked him, "What
are we to do?" he said, "Let him that hath two garments impart to him
that hath none, and let him that hath meat do the same." What is the
meaning of giving away one garment out of two, and half of one's food? It
means giving to others every superfluity, and thenceforth taking nothing
superfluous from people.

This expedient, which furnishes such perfect satisfaction to the moral
feelings, kept my eyes fast bound, and binds all our eyes; and we do not
see it, but gaze aside.

This is precisely like a personage on the stage, who had entered a long
time since, and all the spectators see him, and it is obvious that the
actors cannot help seeing him, but the point on the stage lies in the
acting characters pretending not to see him, and in suffering from his
absence.] {139}

Thus we, in our efforts to recover from our social diseases, search in
all quarters, governmental and anti-governmental, and in scientific and
in philanthropic superstitions; and we do not see what is perfectly
visible to every eye.

For the man who really suffers from the sufferings of the people who
surround us, there exists the very plainest, simplest, and easiest means;
the only possible one for the cure of the evil about us, and for the
acquisition of a consciousness of the legitimacy of his life; the one
given by John the Baptist, and confirmed by Christ: not to have more than
one garment, and not to have money. And not to have any money, means,
not to employ the labor of others, and hence, first of all, to do with
our own hands every thing that we can possibly do.

This is so clear and simple! But it is clear and simple when the
requirements are simple. I live in the country. I lie on the oven, and
I order my debtor, my neighbor, to chop wood and light my fire. It is
very clear that I am lazy, and that I tear my neighbor away from his
affairs, and I shall feel mortified, and I shall find it tiresome to lie
still all the time; and I shall go and split my wood for myself.

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