NONMARXIAN   SOCIALISM  ANARCHISM
 

                                                                                    


   Lev Nicolaevich Tolstoy   


    
   
by Anna Karpovsky,
April 2000
 


 

 Lev Nicolaevich Tolstoy(1828-1910) is one of the world’s greatest writer, philosopher and religious leader.  His fictional novels ,War and Peace and Anna Karenina just to name few, are well known to most.  His less known but very important works include nonfiction writings such as A Confession, The Kingdom of God Is Within You, and I Cannot Be Silent.  These works often attacked some of specific governmental and social practices.  Tolstoy recognized the need of change in Russia, but he believed that the change does not require a violent revolution, but it  could come peacefully, without “a bloody revolution”.  In reality, we seem to observe the opposite.  It seems that violence is the way to be in power, not any type of  negotiation.  Tolstoy strongly believed in people’s inner goodness.  To him, to make things better is not just to make new social system, but for people to find the goodness, the love in themselves.  “Socialism”, said Tolstoy, “will never destroy poverty and injustice of inequality of capacities justice and equality in the good things of life will never be achieved by anything less than ...negate oneself and recognize the meaning of one’s life in service to other”[1].   This strong believe in human nature seems almost naive in the sense that it is hard to believe that this is all people need to do to have better lives.  There are good people who do altruistic things, but that does not necessarily imply on the good social and economic system.  It is not possible for everyone to find a meaning of life in doing things for other people.   It would be a nice place to live if that was the case and if everything could be resolved peacefully, but it just not the case in reality.

 

 


In November 1894 NicolasII became Czar.  People hoped that this Czar might give the county the constitution or at least introduce reforms that people waited so long for.  But Czar did not see the necessity to change.  So the tension in Russia built up.  Peasants were ready to revolt.  New parties grew stronger and Czar power was becoming weaker.  It seemed like violent revolution could burst anytime.  Tolstoy studied Marx and other philosophers who proposed revolutionary means for radical improvements.  But Tolstoy made a conclusion out of those statements that even if the predicted will happen, it will be just the totalitarian government passed on, and capitalists will be replaced by the directors of the working class.  He did realize that there are two ways to get out of the oppression that people were confronted with: one, which he find to be very disturbing and unnecessary, was a “bloody revolution”; the second, which he found to be realistic for himself, is for the government to recognize their obligation to the people and “understand the direction in which humanity is moving and to lead the people in that direction”[2].  But it was obvious that the government was not about to change unless it was overthrown. 

 

In 1905 there was a violent revolt which very clearly showed that those in control respond only to violent movements.  Nevertheless, Tolstoy kept his position and was viewed as “apostle of non-violence”[3].   He never failed to place his faith in moral development of the people as a final answer to what he regarded as “the universal oppression of the many by the few”[4].  The ideal human condition, thought Tolstoy, must eventually depend upon the growing moral perfection of each individual through the observance of the supreme law of love and the consequent rejection of every form of violence. Tolstoy not only fighted for non-violence.  He insist that economic conditions do not change individual consciousness but, rather, the life of humanity is progressively improved only by living according to religious principles.  He was a strong believer in religion, in God and thought that is what will safe people. If the person will not change inside, then there is nothing that could change him or the situation that built around him. Unless people are morally developed, they would not be even able to revolt effectively.

 

 “When the life of people is unmoral and their relations are not based on love, but on egotism, then all technical improvements, the increase of man’s power over nature, stream, electricity, the telegraph, every machine, gunpowder, and dynamite produce the impression of dangerous toys placed in the hands of children[5].Tolstoy wrote series of articles between 1906-1907 appealing to Russian people not only to renounce violence but to recognize that industrialization itself is a curse, pushing them it dedicate themselves to the simplicity and self-sufficiency of an agricultural life.  Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.  People were attracted by the notion of  “an easy life” mixed with the legitimate hatred for the rigid regime.  People’s choice was revolution and industrialization. 

 

Tolstoy also did not support the hope that a representative constitutional government for Russia would make matters much better.  He argued for the position that to abolish the economic bases for oppression and inequality the peasants must control the land they work on.  He was not successful in this either. Tolstoy had a lot of great ideas that would make anybody’s life better.  He dedicated his life to practicing, preaching, and writing about his newfound faith of Christian love and non-resistance to evil.  But maybe that inner goodness is not really a feature of human nature.  Evil does exist.  People are ready to serve others but only if they get something out of it as well.  All of this implies that theoretically it would be great if Tolstoy theory was true in practice, but it simply is not, at least not yet.

 

   WORKS CITED

 Philipson, Morris. (1967). A Life of Leo Tolstoy. New York: Pantheon Books.

Rowe, William W. (1986). Leo Tolstoy. Boston: Twayne Publishers.

Troyat, Henri. (1967). Tolstoy. New York: Harmony Books.

 

[1]Filipinos, Morris. A Life of Leo Tolstoy. p.129

[2]Tryout, Henry. Tolstoy.

[3]Owe, William W. Leo Tolstoy.

[4]Filipinos, Morris. A Life of Leo Tolstoy.

[5]Filipinos, Morris. A Life of Leo Tolstoy.

                                                    

 

 

 

 

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