Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "It has been my experience that one cannot, in any shape or form, depend on human relations for lasting reward. It is only work that truly satisfies."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 7

    • Rate it:
    • 5 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 8
    Previous Chapter

    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
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 8
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Leo Tolstoy essay and need some advice, post your Leo Tolstoy essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?