OPEN LETTER TO HITLER, THE ROAD TO SERFDOM, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY MOTOR COMPANY, THE NEW UTOPIA, THE GRAND INQUISITOR
“Open Letter to Hitler” (1932)
By Ingbert Naab
The “Open Letter to Hitler” appears in an appendix in Therese Neumann: Mystic and Stigmatist (1898-1962), written by Adalbert Albert Vogl and published by TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, IL, 1987.
A Catholic priest, Ingbert Naab, wrote an “Open Letter to Hitler” that was published March 20, 1932, in the weekly newspaper The Straight Path, which circulated 20 million copies. In 1933, Naab had to flee Germany to save his life and sought asylum at a monastery in France. The newspaper’s publisher, Dr. Fritz Gerlich, was arrested and imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp in 1933, where he was subsequently murdered 16 months later during the Night of the Long Knives.
The letter has been edited for brevity.
“Dear Mr. Hitler:
“It is not my profession to make politics and I do not have political intentions in writing this letter. But your political activities have one side that is deeply intruding into the conscience, into responsibility before God….
“You are surrounded by flattery wherever you go and the frenzy of enthusiasm surrounding you at your gatherings prevents you from having any thought about whether your work will pass muster before God; because you are of the opinion: Germany is on my side.
Your newspapers idolize you to a sickening degree. You are dubbed the ‘Great Redeemer from Want.; You are yourself convinced of this, ascribing to your one and only personality all the attributes necessary to rebuild Germany. In the future you will need nothing at all by which to set your course.
Your will is meant to be the only maxim for Germany and your command the only signpost. Has your conscience at any time reminded you of what a degree of self-assessment this conviction represents? Who among your followers dares to destroy this belief?….Your whole entourage is one conscience-narcotic for you….
“You and your press are stating: ‘The Future Germany,’ ‘The Elite of the Nation.’ There are indeed quite a number of idealists within your ranks who earnestly hope for everything good from you. These idealists do not know the true National Socialism, do not know what you are planning nor what you personally, or your agents, have negotiated.
Could you risk showing your cards?….does the mass of your adherers really know about your true program?…. You have instilled such blind trust in your personality into the idealists that they see you as a God-given prophet to whose mission one has to submit. Seldom has a human being demanded so much servility of spirit as yourself, the ‘Herald of German Freedom.’….
“Who has voted for you?…Mr. Hitler, speaking between ourselves: what do you think of the Catholics who voted for you? Blind herd or voters, what?….
“Who has voted for you? Those economically foundering. They hope for deliverance through you. The farmer facing PublicSale, the businessman seeing no way out. ‘It can’t get any worse,’ they say, ‘for 7 years now Hindenburg has been at the helm and achieved nothing. Now we’ll give Hitler a chance, and if he is no good either we’ll get rid of him.’ The psychology of those facing ruin is like that, Mr. Hitler. Your election is for many the least desperate measure, but not the last! There remains Bolshevism….
“Who has voted for you? Those people who due to suggestion believed in the inevitability of you becoming President….
“Who has voted for you? The cowards who didn’t want to lose their positions. Many people had already accommodated themselves to your rule, especially among those in state employment….
“Who has voted for you? Position hunters and future party-book civil servants….
“Who has voted for you? People trying to escape their financial responsibilities….
There were people who defied their creditors with the message: ‘I don’ pay anymore. Hitler is coming now and then I don’t have to pay anything’….But have you also considered the decline of morals passed on to the masses by these dubious speculations in a ‘Third Reich’?
“Who has voted for you? A mass of unripe young people…now you know nothing more important than to get just these unripe youngsters into harness….“I do not remonstrate on the political aspects…I am appealing solely to your conscience.
What do you say to the fact that your party promises all things to all men, even the most contradictory things. And why? What else but the lust for power….‘lying lips are an abomination to the Lord’ [Prov. 12:22] in the service of politics, too. And ‘lies are shortlived.’ even when spoken by eloquent men.
Why don’t you come out into the open? Isn’t your reticence in religious questions one great deception of the masses?….
“Mr. Hitler, the tearing apart of Germany, that is your fault, your conscience has to bear it. You want to unite people….
“A possible civil war: that is your fault, your conscience has to bear it. You know you cannot grasp the helm legally in the near future. But your phalanges have been driven into such delusions that you are no longer able to keep them in a quiet mood….
“Despoilment of the youth: that is your fault, your conscience has to bear it….And how radical will this youth indoctrinated by your ideas become when they find themselves betrayed? You know it yourself: from your ranks to Bolshevism is but a step. For many the mental attitude is already the same….
“The confusion of moral principles: that is your fault, your conscience has to bear it….
“….We are preaching not the gospel of hate but of love, towards you too. Love contains above all our duty to tell you the truth, however bitter. We do not hold with lies, and refute them just as sharply when used against you as when damaging someone else….
“Mr. Hitler, do not forget your conscience!”
Fr. Ingbert Naab, O.F.M. Cap.
THE ROAD TO SERFDOM
by F.A. Hayek
THE AUTHOR has spent about half his adult life in his native Austria, in close touch with German thought, and the other half in the United States and England. In the latter period he has become increasingly convinced that some of the forces which destroyed freedom in Germany are also at work her. The very magnitude of the outrages committed by the National Socialists has strengthened the assurance that a totalitarian system cannot happen here. But let us remember that 15 years ago the possibility of such a thing happening in Germany would have appeared just as fantastic not only to nine tenths of the Germans themselves but also to the most hostile foreign observer.
There are many features which were then regarded as “typically German” which are now equally familiar in America and England, and many symptoms that point to a further development in the same direction: the increasing veneration for the state, the fatalistic acceptance of “inevitable trends,” the enthusiasm for “organization” of everything (we now call it “planning”).
The character of the danger is, if possible, even less understood here than it was in Germany. The supreme tragedy is still not seen that in Germany it was largely people of good will, who, by their socialist policies, prepared the way for the forces which stand for everything they detest. Few recognize that the rise of fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period but a necessary outcome of those tendencies. Yet it is significant that many of the leaders of these movements, from Mussolini down (and including Laval and Quisling) began as socialists and ended as fascists or Nazis. In the democracies at present, many who sincerely hate all of Nazism’s manifestations are working for ideals whose realization would lead straight to the abhorred tyranny. Most of the people whose views influence developments are in some measure socialists. They believe that our economic life should be “consciously directed,” that we should substitute “economic planning” for the competitive system. Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?
Planning and Power
IN ORDER to achieve their ends, the planners must create power—power over men wielded by other men—of a magnitude never before known. Their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve such power. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires. Hence arises the clash between planning- and democracy.
Many socialists have the tragic illusion that by depriving private individuals of the power they possess in an individualist system, and transferring this power to society, they thereby extinguish power. What they overlook is that, by concentrating power so that it can be used in the service of a single plan, it is not merely transformed but infinitely heightened. By uniting in the hands of some single body power formerly exercised independently by many, an amount of power is created infinitely greater than any that existed before, so much more far-reaching as almost to be different in kind. It is entirely fallacious to argue that the great power exercised by a central planning board would be “no greater than the power collectively exercised by private boards of directors.” There is, in a competitive society, nobody who can exercise even a fraction of the power which a socialist planning board would possess. To decentralize power is to reduce the absolute amount of power, and the competitive system is the only system designed to minimize the power exercised by man over man. Who can seriously doubt that the power which a millionaire, who may be my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest bureaucrat possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends how I am allowed to live and work?
In every real sense a badly paid unskilled workman in this country has more freedom to shape his life than many an employer in Germany or a much better paid engineer or manager in Russia. If he wants to change his job or the place where he lives, if he wants to profess certain views or spend his leisure in a particular way, he faces no absolute impediments. There are no dangers to bodily security and freedom that confine him by brute force to the task and environment to which a superior has assigned him. Our generation has forgotten that the system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us. In the hands of private individuals, what is called economic power can be an instrument of coercion, but it is never control over the whole life of a person. But when economic power is centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery. It has been well said that, in a country where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation.
Background to Danger
INDIVIDUALISM, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect of Christianity for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents. This philosophy, first fully developed during the Renaissance, grew and spread into what we know as Western civilization. The general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which bound him in feudal society.
Perhaps the greatest result of this unchaining of individual energies was the marvelous growth of science. Only since industrial freedom opened the path to the free use of new knowledge, only since everything could be tried – if somebody could be found to back it at his own risk — has science made the great strides which in the last 150 years have changed the face of the world. The result of this growth surpassed all expectations. Wherever the barriers to the Gee exercise of human ingenuity were removed, man became rapidly able to satisfy ever-widening ranges of desire. By the, beginning of the 20th century the workingman in the Western World had reached a degree of material comfort, security and personal independence which 100 years before had hardly seemed possible. The effect of this success was to create among men a new sense of power over their own fate, the belief in the unbounded possibilities of improving their own lot. What had been achieved came to be regarded as a secure and imperishable possession, acquired once and for all; and the rate of progress began to seem too slow. Moreover, the principles which had made this progress possible came to be regarded as obstacles to speedier progress, impatiently to be brushed away. It might be said that the very success of liberalism became the cause of its decline.
No sensible person should have doubted that the economic principles of the 19th century-were only a beginning — that there were immense possibilities of advancement on the lines on which we had moved. But according to the views now dominant, the question is no longer how we can make the best use of the spontaneous forces found in a free society. We have in effect undertaken to dispense with these forces and to replace them by collective and “conscious” direction. It is significant that this abandonment of liberalism, whether expressed as socialism in its more radical form or merely as “organization” or “planning,” was perfected in Germany. During the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th, Germany moved far ahead in both the theory and the practice of socialism, so that even today Russian discussion largely carries on where the Germans left off. The Germans, long before the Nazis, were attacking liberalism and democracy, capitalism and individualism.
Long before the Nazis, too, the German and Italian socialists were using techniques of which the Nazis and Fascists later made effective use. The idea of a political party which embraces all activities of the individual from the cradle to the grave, which claims to guide his views on everything, was first put into practice by the socialists. It was not the Fascists but the socialists who began to collect children at the tenderest age into political organizations to direct their thinking. It was not the Fascists but the socialists who first thought of organizing sports and games, football and hiking, in party clubs where the members would not be infected by other views. It was the socialists who first insisted that the party member should distinguish himself from others by the modes of greeting and the forms of address. It was they who, by their organization of “cells” and devices for the permanent supervision of private life, created the prototype of the totalitarian party. By the time Hitler came to power, liberalism was dead in Germany. And it was socialism that had killed it. To many who have watched the transition from socialism to fascism at close quarters the connection between the two systems has become increasingly obvious, but in the democracies the majority of people still believe that socialism and freedom can be combined. They do not realize that democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable but that to strive for it produces something utterly different – the very destruction of freedom itself. As has been aptly said: “What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.” Friedrich Hoelderlin
It is disquieting to see in England and the United States today the same drawing together of forces and nearly the same contempt of all that is liberal in the old sense. “Conservative socialism” was the slogan under which a large number of writers prepared the atmosphere in which National Socialism succeeded. It is “conservative socialism” which is the dominant trend among- us now.
The Liberal Way of Planning
“PLANNING” owes its popularity largely to the fact that everybody desires, of course, that we should handle our common problems with as much foresight as possible. The dispute between the modern planners and the liberals is not on whether we ought to employ systematic thinking in planning our affairs. It is a dispute about what is the best way of so doing. The question is whether we should create conditions under which the knowledge and initiative of individuals are given the best scope so that they can plan most successfully; or whether we should direct and organize all economic activities according to a “blue-print,” that is, “consciously direct the resources of society to conform to the planners’ particular views of who should have what.”
It is important not to confuse opposition against the latter kind of planning with a dogmatic laissez faire attitude. The liberal argument does not advocate leaving things just as they are; it favors making the best possible use of the forces of competition as a means of coordinating human efforts. It is based on the conviction that, where effective competition can be created, it is a better way of guiding individual efforts than any other. It emphasizes that in order to make competition work beneficially a carefully thought-out legal framework is required, and that neither the past nor the existing legal rules are free from grave defects. Liberalism is opposed, however, to supplanting competition by inferior methods of guiding economic activity. And it regards competition as superior not only because in most circumstances it is the most efficient method known but because it is the only method which does not require the coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority. It dispenses with the need for “conscious social control” and gives individuals a chance to decide whether the prospects of a particular occupation are sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages connected with it. The successful use of competition does not preclude some types of government interference. For instance, to limit working hours, to require certain sanitary arrangements, to provide an extensive system of social services is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. There are, too, certain fields where the system of competition is impracticable. For example, the harmful effects of deforestation or of the smoke of factories cannot be confined to the owner of the property in question. But the fact that we have to resort to direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function. To create conditions in which competition will be as effective as possible, to prevent fraud and deception, to break up monopolies— these tasks provide a wide and unquestioned field for state activity. This does not mean that it is possible to find some “middle way” between competition and central direction, though nothing seems at first more plausible, or is more likely to appeal to reasonable people. Mere common sense proves a treacherous guide in this field. Although competition can bear some admixture of regulation, it cannot be combined with planning to any extent we like without ceasing to operate as an effective guide to production. Both competition and central direction become poor and inefficient tools if they are incomplete, and a mixture of the two – means that neither will work. Planning and competition can be combined only by planning for competition, not by planning against competition. The planning against which all our criticism is directed is solely the planning against competition.
The Great Utopia
THERE CAN BE no doubt that most of those in the democracies who demand a central direction of all economic activity still believe that socialism and individual freedom can be combined. Yet socialism was early recognized by many thinkers as the gravest threat to freedom.
It is rarely remembered now that socialism in its beginnings was frankly authoritarian. It began quite openly as a reaction against the liberalism of the French Revolution. The French writers who laid its foundation had no doubt that their ideas could be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial government. The first of modern planners, Saint-Simon, predicted that those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be “treated as cattle.”
Nobody saw more clearly than the great political thinker de Tocqueville that democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,” he said. “Democracy attaches all possible value to each man,” he said in 1848, “while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives—the craving for freedom — socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom.” Socialism was to bring “economic freedom,” without which political freedom was “not worth having.”
To make this argument sound plausible, the word “freedom” was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion, from the arbitrary power of other men. Now it was made to mean freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of the circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us. Freedom in this sense is, of course, merely another name for power or wealth. The demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for a redistribution of wealth.
The claim that a planned economy would produce a substantially larger output than the competitive system is being progressively abandoned by most students of the problem. Yet it is this false hope as much as anything which drives us along the road to planning.
Although our modern socialists’ promise of greater freedom is genuine and sincere, in recent years observer after observer has been impressed by the unforeseen consequences of socialism, the extraordinary similarity in many respects of the conditions under “communism” and “fascism.” As the writer Peter Drucker expressed it in 1939, “the complete collapse of the belief in the attainability of freedom and equality through Marxism has forced Russia to travel the same road toward a totalitarian society of un-freedom and inequality which Germany has been following. Not that communism and fascism are essentially the same. Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion, and it has proved as much an illusion in Russia as in pre-Hitler Germany.”
No less significant is the intellectual outlook of the rank and file in the communist and fascist movements in Germany before 1933. The relative ease with which a young communist could be converted into a Nazi or vice versa was well known, best of all to the propagandists of the two parties. The communists and Nazis clashed more frequently with each other than with other parties simply because they competed for the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. Their practice showed how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the man with whom they had nothing in common, was the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the communist and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are potential recruits made of the right timber, they both know that there can be no compromise between them and those who really believe in individual freedom.
What is promised to us as the Road to Freedom is in fact the Highroad to Servitude. For it is not difficult to see what must be the consequences when democracy embarks upon a course of planning. The goal of the planning will be described by some such vague term as “the general welfare.” There will be no real agreement as to the ends to be attained, and the effect of the people’s agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go: with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.
Democratic assemblies cannot function as planning agencies. They cannot produce agreement on everything — the whole direction of the resources of the nation-for the number of possible courses of action will be legion. Even if a congress could, by proceeding step by step and compromising at each point, agree on some scheme, it would certainly in the end satisfy nobody.
To draw up an economic plan in this fashion is even less possible than, for instance, successfully to plan a military campaign by democratic procedure. As in strategy it would become inevitable to delegate the task to experts. And even if, by this expedient, a democracy should succeed in planning every sector of economic activity, it would still have to face the problem of integrating these separate plans into a unitary whole. There will be a stronger and stronger demand that some board or some single individual should be given power to act on their own responsibility. The cry for an economic dictator is a characteristic stage in the movement toward planning. Thus the legislative body will be reduced to choosing the persons who are to have practically absolute power. The whole system will tend toward that kind of dictatorship in which the head of the government is position by popular vote, but where he has all the powers at his command to make certain that the vote will go in the direction he desires. Planning leads to dictatorship because dictatorship is the most effective instrument of coercion and, as such, essential if central planning on a large scale is to be possible. There is no justification for the widespread belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; it is not the source of power which prevents it from being arbitrary; to be free from dictatorial qualities, the power must also be limited. A true “dictatorship of the proletariat,” even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.
Individual freedom cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole of society is permanently subordinated. To a limited extent we ourselves experience this fact in wartime, when subordination of almost everything to the immediate and pressing need is the price at which we preserve our freedom in the long run. The fashionable phrases about doing for the purposes of peace what we have learned.to do for the purposes of war are completely misleading, for it is sensible temporarily to sacrifice freedom in order to make it more secure in the future, but it is quite a different thing to sacrifice liberty permanently in the interests of a planned economy.
To those who have watched the transition from socialism to fascism at close quarters, the connection between the two systems is obvious. The realization of the socialist program means the destruction of freedom. Democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is simply not achievable.
Why the Worst Get on Top
NO DOUBT an American or English “fascist” system would greatly differ from the Italian or German models; no doubt, if the transition were effected without violence, we might expect to get a better type of leader. Yet this does not mean that our fascist system would in the end prove very different or much less intolerable than its prototypes. There are strong reasons for believing that the worst features of the totalitarian systems are phenomena which totalitarianism is certain sooner or later to produce.
Just as the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian leader would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism. Who does not see this has not yet grasped the full width of the gulf which separates totalitarianism from the essentially individualist Western civilization.
The totalitarian leader must collect around him a group which is prepared voluntarily to submit to that discipline which they are to impose by force upon the rest of the people. That socialism can be put info practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove is, of course, a lesson learned by many social reformers in the past. The old socialist parties were inhibited by their democratic ideals; they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen task. It is characteristic that both in Germany and in Italy the success of fascism was preceded by the refusal of the socialist parties to take over the responsibilities of government. They were unwilling wholeheartedly to employ the methods to which they had pointed the way. They still hoped for the miracle of a majority’s agreeing on a particular plan for the organization of the whole of society. Others had already learned the lesson that in a planned society the question can no longer be on what do a majority of the people agree but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to make unified direction of all affairs possible.
There are three main reasons why such a numerous group, with fairly similar views, is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. First, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their tastes and views are differentiated. If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity in outlook, we have to descend to the regions of your moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive instincts prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards.
Second, since this group is not large enough to give sufficient weight to the leader’s endeavors, he will have to increase their numbers by converting more to the same simple creed. He must gain the support of the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are ready to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.
Third, to weld together a closely coherent body of supporters, the leader must appeal to a common human weakness. It seems to be easier for people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off – than on any positive task. The contrast between the “we” and the “they” is consequently always employed by those who seek the allegiance of huge masses. The enemy may be internal, like the “Jew” in Germany or the “kulak” in Russia, or he may be external. In any case, this technique has the great advantage of leaving the leader greater freedom of action than would almost any positive program.
Advancement within a totalitarian group or party depends largely on a willingness to do immoral things. The principle that the end justifies the means, which in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals, in collectivist ethics becomes necessarily the supreme rule. There is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves “the good of the whole,” because that is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. Once you admit that the individual is merely a means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society or the nation, most of those features of totalitarianism which horrify us follow of necessity. From the collectivist standpoint intolerance and brutal suppression of dissent, deception and spying, the complete disregard of the life and happiness of the individual are essential and unavoidable Acts which revolt all our feelings, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, are treated as mere matters of expediency; the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousands becomes an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims. To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, therefore, a man must be prepared to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. In the totalitarian machine there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous. Neither the Gestapo nor the administration of a concentration camp, neither the Ministry of Propaganda nor the SA or SS (or their Russian counterparts) are suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet it is through such positions that the road to the highest positions in the totalitarian state leads. A distinguished American economist, Professor Frank H. Knight, correctly notes that the authorities of a collectivist state “would have to do these things whether they wanted to or not: and the probability of the people in power being individuals who would dislike the possession and exercise of power is on a level with the probability that an extremely tenderhearted person would get the job of whipping master in a slave plantation.”
A further point should be made here: Collectivism means the end of truth. To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the ends selected by those in control; it is essential that the people should come to regard these ends as their own. This is brought about by propaganda and by complete control of all sources of information.
The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those they have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognized before. And the most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as this complete perversion of language.
The worst sufferer in this respect is the word “liberty.” It is a word used as freely in totalitarian states as elsewhere. Indeed, it could almost be said that wherever liberty as we know it has been destroyed, this has been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people. Even among us we have planners who promise us a “collective freedom,” which is as misleading as anything said by totalitarian politicians. “Collective freedom” is not the freedom of the members of society but the unlimited freedom of the planner to do with society that which he pleases. This is the confusion of freedom with power carried to the extreme. It is not difficult to deprive the seat majority of independent thought. But the minority who will retain an inclination to criticize must also be silenced. Public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken support of the regime. As Sidney and Beatrice Webb report of the position in every Russian enterprise: “Whilst the work is in progress, any public expression of doubt that the plan will be successful is an act of disloyalty and even of treachery because of its possible effect on the will and efforts of the rest of the staff.”
Control extends even to subjects which seem to have no political significance. The theory of relativity, for instance, has been opposed as a “Semitic attack on the foundation of Christian and Nordic physics” and because it is “in conflict with dialectical materialism and Marxist dogma.” Every activity must derive its justification from conscious social purpose. There must be no spontaneous, unguided activity, because it might produce results which cannot be foreseen and for which the plan does not provide.
The principle extends even to games and amusements. I leave it to the reader to guess where it was that chess players were officially exhorted that “we must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess. We must condemn once and for all the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess.’ ”
Perhaps the most alarming fact is that contempt for intellectual liberty is not a thing which arises only once the totalitarian system is established but can be found everywhere among those who have embraced a collectivist faith. The worst oppression is condoned if it is committed in the name of socialism. Intolerance of opposing ideas is openly extolled; The tragedy of collectivist thought is that, while it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason. There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem in Britain and America are precisely those on which Anglo-Saxons justly prided themselves and in which they were generally recognized to excel. These virtues were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority. Almost all the traditions and institutions which have molded the national character and the whole moral climate of England and America are those which the progress of collectivism and its centralistic tendencies are progressively destroying.
Planning vs. the Rule of Law
NOTHING distinguishes more clearly a free country from a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law. Stripped of technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand
Two Kinds of Security
LIKE the spurious “economic freedom,” and with more justice, economic security is often represented as an indispensable condition of real liberty. In a sense this is both true and important. Independence of mind or strength of character is rarely found among those who cannot be confident that they will make their way by their own effort.
But there are two kinds of security: the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all and the security of a given standard of life, of the relative position which one person or group enjoys compared with others. There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision. It is planning for security of the second kind which has such an insidious effect on liberty. It is planning designed to protect individuals or groups against diminutions of their incomes.
Limitation of output so that prices will secure an “adequate” return, is the only way in which in a market economy producers can be guaranteed a certain income. If, as has become increasingly true, in each trade in which conditions improve, the members are allowed to exclude others in order to secure to themselves the full gain in the form of higher wages or profits, those in the trades where demand has fallen have nowhere to go, and every change becomes the cause of large unemployment. There can be little doubt that it is largely a consequence of the striving for security by these means in the last decades that unemployment and thus insecurity have so much increased. The utter hopelessness of the position of those who, in a society which has thus grown rigid, are left outside the range of sheltered occupation, can be appreciated only by those who have experienced it. There has never been a more cruel exploitation of one class by another than that of the less fortunate members of a group of producers by the well-established. This has been made possible by the “regulation” of competition. Few catch-words have done so much harm as the ideal of a “stabilization” of particular prices or wages, which, while securing the income of some, makes the position of the rest more and more precarious. In England and America special privileges, especially in the form of the “regulation” of competition, the “stabilization” of particular prices and wages, have assumed increasing importance. With every grant of such security to one group the insecurity of the rest necessarily increases. If you guarantee to some a fixed part of a variable cake, the share left to the rest is bound to fluctuate proportionally more than the size of the whole. And the essential element of security which the competitive system offers, the great variety of opportunities, is more and more reduced.
The general endeavor to achieve security by restrictive measures, supported by the state, has in the course of time produced a progressive transformation of society – a transformation in which, as in so many other ways, Germany has led and the other countries have followed. This development has been hastened by another effect of socialist teaching, the deliberate disparagement of all activities involving economic risk and the moral opprobrium cast on the gains which make risks worth taking but which only few can win.
We cannot blame our young men when they prefer the safe, salaried position to the risk of enterprise after they have heard from their earliest youth the former described as the superior, more unselfish and disinterested occupation. The younger generation of today has grown up in a world in which, in school and press, the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as disreputable and the making of profit as immoral, where to employ 100 people is represented as exploitation but to command the same number as honorable. Older people may regard this as an exaggeration, but the daily experience of the university teacher leaves little doubt that, as a result of anticapitalist propaganda, values have already altered far in advance of the change in institutions which has so far taken place. The question is whether, by changing our institutions to satisfy the new demands, we shall not unwittingly destroy values which we still rate higher.
The conflict with which we have to deal is a fundamental one between two irreconcilable types of social organization, which have often been described as the commercial and the military. In either both choice and risk rest with the individual or he is relieved or both. In the army, work and worker alike are allotted by authority, and this is the only system in which the individual can be conceded full economic security. This security is, however, inseparable from the restrictions on liberty and the hierarchical order of military life – it is the security of the barracks.
In a society used to freedom it is unlikely that many people would be ready deliberately to purchase security ar this price. But the policies which are followed now are nevertheless rapidly creating conditions in which the striving for security tends to become stronger than the love of freedom.
If we are not to destroy individual freedom, competition must be left to function unobstructed. Let a uniform minimum be secured to everybody by all means; but let us admit at the same time that all claims for a privileged security of particular classes must lapse, that all excuses disappear for allowing particular groups to exclude newcomers from sharing their relative prosperity in order to maintain a special standard of their own.
There can be no question that adequate security against severe privation will have to be one of our main goals of policy. But nothing is more fatal than the present fashion of intellectual leaders of extolling security at the expense of freedom. It is essential that we should relearn frankly to face the fact that freedom can be had only at a price and that as individuals we must be prepared to make severe material sacrifices to preserve it.
We must regain the conviction on which liberty in the Anglo-Saxon countries has been based and which Benjamin Franklin expressed in a phrase applicable to us as individuals no less than as nations: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Toward a Better World
TO BUILD a better world, we must have the courage to make a new start. We must clear away the obstacles with which human folly has recently encumbered our path and release the creative energy of individuals; We must create conditions favorable to progress rather than “planning progress. ” It is not those who cry for more “planning” who show the necessary courage, nor those who preach a “New Order,” which is no more than a continuation of the tendencies of the past 40 years; and who can think of nothing better than to imitate Hitler. It is, indeed, those who cry loudest for a planned economy who are most completely under the sway of the ideas which have created this war and most of the evils from which we suffer. The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.
In the excerpt below from Atlas Shrugged (Part 2, Chapter 10, “The Sign of the Dollar”), Ayn Rand makes a compelling condemnation of socialism. Her protagonist, Dagny Taggart, listens to hobo who once worked for the Twentieth Century Motor Company tell his story about what happened to the car company and how it failed.
The hobo’s story is important because it demonstrates the inevitable consequences of socialism in practice. The primary question for any socialist system is how to best determine individual needs, when there is no way to achieve objectivity. For example, does a man need a car or merely desire it? Does a woman require her house to be painted, or is a new coat of paint desirable but nonessential? Does a man need books or musical recordings that add so much meaning and pleasure to his life? Are Governments suited to answer such questions, and if so, by what standard do they judge?
On paper socialism holds such great potential and promise, but as soon as it is put into practice, its promises are unmasked for the evil it renders. Socialism is evil because it turns man’s productive ability into a curse, and condemns him to work to satisfy the endless desires of others. In forcing the most productive achievers to support those who cannot match their achievements, a socialist system penalizes the most productive for their ingenuity and hard work and rewards the least productive for their lack of accomplishment.
When politicians tell you that it’s only fair that the Government takes your money and gives it to others because it has determined that you make too much while others make too little, it’s time to consider the pertinence of the hobo’s question, “…how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination – when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached.”
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY MOTOR COMPANY
Excerpt from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
“Well, there was something that happened at that plant where I worked for twenty years. It was when the old man died and his heirs took over. There were three of them, two sons and a daughter, and they brought a new plan to run the factory. They let us vote on it, too, and everybody – almost everybody – voted for it. We didn’t know. We thought it was good. No, that’s not true, either. We thought that we were supposed to think it was good. The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need.
“We voted for that plan at a big meeting, with all of us present, six thousand of us, everybody that worked in the factory. The Starnes heirs made long speeches about it, and it wasn’t too clear, but nobody asked any questions. None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it. And if anybody had doubts, he felt guilty and kept his mouth shut – because they made it sound like anyone who’d oppose the plan was a child-killer at heart and less than a human being. They told us that this plan would achieve a noble ideal. Well, how were we to know otherwise? Hadn’t we heard it all our lives – from our parents and our schoolteachers and our ministers, and in every newspaper we ever read and every movie and every public speech? Hadn’t we always been told that this was righteous and just? Well, maybe there’s some excuse for what we did at that meeting. Still, we voted for the plan – and what we got, we had it coming to us. You know, ma’am, we are marked men, in a way, those of us who lived through the four years of that plan in the Twentieth Century factory. What is it that hell is supposed to be? Evil – plain, naked, smirking evil, isn’t it? Well, that’s what we saw and helped to make – and I think we’re damned, every one of us, and maybe we’ll never be forgiven …
“Do you know how it worked, that plan, and what it did to people? Try pouring water into a tank where there’s a pipe at the bottom draining it out faster than you pour it, and each bucket you bring breaks that pipe an inch wider, and the harder you work the more is demanded of you, and you stand slinging buckets forty hours a week, then forthy-eight, then fifty-six – for your neighbor’s supper – for his wife’s operation – for his child’s measles – for his mother’s wheel chair – for his uncle’s shirt – for his nephew’s schooling – for the baby next door – for the baby to be born – for anyone anywhere around you – it’s theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures – and yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end … From each according to his ability, to each according to his need …
“We’re all one big family, they told us, we’re all in this together. But you don’t all stand working an acetylene torch ten hours a day – together, and you don’t all get a bellyache – together. What’s whose ability and which of whose needs comes first? When it’s all one pot, you can’t let any man decide what his own needs are, can you? If you did, he might claim that he needs a yacht – and if his feelings are all you have to go by, he might prove it, too. Why not? If it’s not right for me to own a car until I’ve worked myself into a hospital ward, earning a car for every loafer and every naked savage on earth – why can’t he demand a yacht from me, too, if I still have the ability not to have collapsed? No? He can’t? Then why can he demand that I go without cream for my coffee until he’s replastered his living room? … Oh well … Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. Yes, ma’am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done? Do you care to think what would happen at such a meeting? It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars – rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family’, and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’ – so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife’s head colds, hoping that ‘the family’ would throw him the alms. He had to claim miseries, because it’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm – so it turned into a contest between six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s. How else could it be done? Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot?
“But that wasn’t all. There was something else that we discovered at the same meeting. The factory’s production had fallen by forty percent, in that first half year, so it was decided that somebody hadn’t delivered ‘according to his ability.’ Who? How would you tell it? ‘The family’ voted on that, too. We voted which men were the best, and these men were sentenced to work overtime each night for the next six months. Overtime without pay – because you weren’t paid by time and you weren’t paid by work, only by need.
“Do I have to tell you what happened after that – and into what sort of creatures we all started turning, we who had once been humans? We began to hide whatever ability we had, to slow down and watch like hawks that we never worked any faster or better than the next fellow. What else could we do, when we knew that if we did our best for ‘the family,’ it’s not thanks or rewards that we’d get, but punishment? We knew that for every stinker who’d ruin a batch of motors and cost the company money – either through his sloppiness, because he didn’t have to care, or through plain incompetence – it’s we who’d have to pay with our nights and our Sundays. So we did our best to be no good.
“There was one young boy who started out, full of fire for the noble ideal, a bright kid without any schooling, but with a wonderful head on his shoulders. The first year, he figured out a work process that saved us thousands of man-hours. He gave it to ‘the family,’ didn’t ask anything for it, either, couldn’t ask, but that was all right with him. It was for the ideal, he said. But when he found himself voted as one of our ablest and sentenced to night work, because we hadn’t gotten enough from him, he shut his mouth and his brain. You can bet he didn’t come up with any ideas, the second year.
“What was it they’d always told us about the vicious competition of the profit system, where men had to compete for who’d do a better job than his fellows? Vicious, wasn’t it? Well, they should have seen what it was like when we all had to compete with one another for who’d do the worst job possible. There’s no surer way to destroy a man than to force him into a spot where he has to aim at not doing his best, where he has to struggle to do a bad job, day after day. That will finish him quicker than drink or idleness or pulling stick-ups for a living. But there was nothing else for us to do except to fake unfitness. The one accusation we feared was to be suspected of ability. Ability was like a mortgage on you that you could never pay off. And what was there to work for? You knew that your basic pittance would be given to you anyway, whether you worked or not – your ‘housing and feeding allowance,’ it was called – and above that pittance, you had no chance to get anything, no matter how hard you tried. You couldn’t count on buying a new suit of clothes next year – they might give you a ‘clothing allowance’ or they might not, according to whether nobody broke a leg, needed an operation or gave birth to more babies. And if there wasn’t enough money for new suits for everybody, then you couldn’t get yours, either.
“There was one man who’d worked hard all his life, because he’d always wanted to send his son through college. Well, the boy graduated from high school in the second year of the plan – but ‘the family’ wouldn’t give the father any ‘allowance’ for the college. They said his son couldn’t go to college, until we had enough to send everybody’s sons to college – and that we first had to send everybody’s children through high school, and we didn’t even have enough for that. The father died the following year, in a knife fight with somebody in a saloon, a fight over nothing in particular – such fights were beginning to happen among us all the time.
“Then there was an old guy, a widower with no family, who had one hobby: phonograph records. I guess that was all he ever got out of life. In the old days, he used to skip lunch just to buy himself some new recording of classical music. Well, they didn’t give him any ‘allowance’ for records – ‘personal luxury’ they called it. But at the same meeting, Millie Bush, somebody’s daughter, a mean, ugly little eight year old, was voted a pair of gold braces for her buck teeth – this was ‘medical need’ because the staff psychologist had said that the poor girl would get an inferiority complex if her teeth weren’t straightened out. The old guy who loved music, turned to drink, instead. He got so you never saw him fully conscious any more. But it seems like there was one thing he couldn’t forget. One night, he came staggering down the street, saw Millie Bush, swung his fist and knocked all her teeth out. Every one of them.
“Drink, of course, was what we all turned to, some more, some less. Don’t ask how we got the money for it. When all the decent pleasures are forbidden, there’s always ways to get the rotten ones. You don’t break into grocery stores after dark and you don’t pick your fellow’s pockets to buy classical symphonies or fishing tackle, but if it’s to get stinking drunk and forget – you do. Fishing tackle? Hunting guns? Snapshot cameras? Hobbies? There wasn’t any ‘amusement allowance’ for anybody. ‘Amusement’ was the first thing they dropped. Aren’t you supposed to be ashamed to object when anybody asks you to give up anything, if it’s something that gave you pleasure? Even our ‘tobacco allowance’ was cut to where we got two packs of cigarettes a month – and this, they told us, was because the money had to go into the babies’ milk fund. Babies was the only item of production that didn’t fall, but rose and kept on rising – because people had nothing else to do, I guess, and because they didn’t have to care, the baby wasn’t their burden, it was ‘the family’s.’ In fact, the best chance you had of getting a raise and breathing easier for a while was a ‘baby allowance.’ Either that or a major disease.
“It didn’t take us long to see how it all worked out. Any man who tried to play straight, had to refuse himself everything. He lost his taste for any pleasure, he hated to smoke a nickel’s worth of tobacco or chew a stick of gum, worrying whether somebody had more need for that nickel. He felt ashamed of every mouthful of food he swallowed, wondering whose weary nights of overtime had paid for it, knowing that his food was not his by right, miserably wishing to be cheated rather than to cheat, to be a sucker, but not a blood-sucker. He wouldn’t marry, he wouldn’t help his folks back home, he wouldn’t put an extra burden on ‘the family.’ Besides, if he still had some sort of sense of responsibility, he couldn’t marry or bring children into the world, when he could plan nothing, promise nothing, count on nothing. But the shiftless and irresponsible had a field day of it. The bred babies, they got girls into trouble, they dragged in every worthless relative they had from all over the country, every unmarried pregnant sister, for an extra ‘disability allowance,’ they got more sicknesses than any doctor could disprove, they ruined their clothing, their furniture, their homes – what the hell, ‘the family’ was paying for it! They found more ways of getting in ‘need’ than the rest of us could ever imagine – they developed a special skill for it, which was the only ability they showed.
“God help us, ma’am! Do you see what we saw? We saw that we’d been given a law to live by, a moral law, they called it, which punished those who observed it – for observing it. The more you tried to live up to it, the more you suffered; the more you cheated it, the bigger reward you got. Your honesty was like a tool left at the mercy of the next man’s dishonesty. The honest ones paid, the dishonest collected. The honest lost, the dishonest won. How long could men stay good under this sort of a law of goodness? We were a pretty decent bunch of fellows when we started. There weren’t many chiselers among us. We knew our jobs and we were proud of it and we worked for the best factory in the country, where old man Starnes hired nothing but the pick of the country’s labor. Within one year under the new plan, there wasn’t an honest man left among us. That was the evil, the sort of hell-horror evil that preachers used to scare you with, but you never thought to see alive. Not that the plan encouraged a few bastards, but that it turned decent people into bastards, and there was nothing else that it could do – and it was called a moral ideal!
“What was it we were supposed to work for? For the love of our brothers? What brothers? For the bums, the loafers, the moochers we saw all around us? And whether they were cheating or plain incompetent, whether they were unwilling or unable – what difference did that make to us? If we were tied for life to the level of their unfitness, faked or real, how long could we care to go on? We had no way of knowing their ability, we had no way of controlling their needs – all we knew was that we were beasts of burden struggling blindly in some sort of place that was half-hospital, half-stockyards – a place geared to nothing but disability, disaster, disease – beasts put there for the relief of whatever whoever chose to say was whichever’s need.
“Love of our brothers? That’s when we learned to hate our brothers for the first time in our lives. We began to hate them for every meal they swallowed, for every small pleasure they enjoyed, for one man’s new shirt, for another’s wife’s hat, for an outing with their family, for a paint job on their house – it was taken from us, it was paid for by our privations, our denials, our hunger. We began to spy on one another, each hoping to catch the others lying about their needs, so as to cut their ‘allowance’ at the next meeting. We began to have stool pigeons who informed on people, who reported that somebody had bootlegged a turkey to his family on some Sunday – which he’d paid for by gambling, most likely. We began to meddle into one another’s lives. We provoked family quarrels, to get somebody’s relatives thrown out. Any time we saw a man starting to go steady with a girl, we made life miserable for him. We broke up many engagements. We didn’t want anyone to marry, we didn’t want any more dependents to feed.
“In the old days, we used to celebrate if somebody had a baby, we used to chip in and help him out with the hospital bills, if he happened to be hard-pressed for the moment. Now, if a baby was born, we didn’t speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts were to farmers. In the old days, we used to help a man out if he had a bad illness in the family. Now – well, I’ll tell you about just one case. It was the mother of a man who had been with us for fifteen years. She was a kindly old lady, cheerful and wise, she knew us all by our first names and we all liked her – we used to like her. One day, she slipped on the cellar stairs and fell and broke her hip. We knew what that meant at her age. The staff doctor said that she’d have to be sent to a hospital in town, for expensive treatments that would take a long time. The old lady died the night before she was to leave for town. They never established the cause of death. No, I don’t know whether she was murdered. Nobody said that. Nobody would talk about it at all. All I know is that I – and that’s what I can’t forget! – I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die. This – may God forgive us! – was the brotherhood, the security, the abundance that the plan was supposed to achieve for us!
“Was there any reason why this sort of horror would ever be preached by anybody? Was there anybody who got any profit from it? There was. The Starnes heirs. I hope you’re not going to remind me that they’d sacrificed a fortune and turned the factory over to us as a gift. We were fooled by that one, too. Yes, they gave up the factory. But profit, ma’am, depends on what it is that you’re after. And what the Starnes heirs were after, no money on earth could buy. Money is too clean and innocent for that.
“Eric Starnes, the youngest – he was a jellyfish that didn’t have the guts to be after anything in particular. He got himself voted as the Director of our Public Relations Department, which didn’t do anything, except that he had a staff for the not doing of anything, so he didn’t have to bother sticking around the office. The pay he got – well, I shouldn’t call it ‘pay,’ none of us was ‘paid’ – the alms voted to him was fairly modest, about ten times what I got, but that wasn’t riches, Eric didn’t care for money – he wouldn’t have known what to do with it. He spent his time hanging around among us, showing how chummy he was and democratic. He wanted to be loved, it seems. The way he went about it was to keep reminding us that he had given us the factory. We couldn’t stand him.
“Gerald Starnes was our Director of Production. We never learned just what the size of his rake-off – his alms – had been. It would have taken a staff of accountants to figure that out, and a staff of engineers to trace the way it was piped, directly or indirectly, into his office. None of it was supposed to be for him – it was all for company expenses. Gerald had three cars, four secretaries, five telephones, and he used to throw champagne and caviar parties that no tax-paying tycoon in the country could have afforded. He spent more money in one year than his father had earned in profits in the last two years of his life. We saw a hundred pound stack – a hundred pounds, we weighed them – of magazines in Gerald’s office, full of stories about our factory and our noble plan, with big pictures of Gerald Starnes, calling him a great social crusader. Gerald liked to come into the shops at night, dressed in his formal clothes, flashing diamond cuff links the size of a nickel and shaking cigar ashes all over. Any cheap show-off who’s got nothing to parade but his cash, is bad enough – except that he makes no bones about the cash being his, and you’re free to gape at him or not, as you wish, and mostly you don’t. But when a bastard like Gerald Starnes puts on an act and keeps spouting that he doesn’t care for material wealth, that he’s only serving ‘the family,’ that all the lushness is not for himself, but for our sake and for the common good, because it’s necessary to keep up the prestige of the company and of the noble plan in the eyes of the public – then that’s when you learn to hate the creature as you’ve never hated anything human.
“But his sister Ivy was worse. She really did not care for material wealth. The alms she got was no bigger than ours, and she went about in scuffed, flat-heeled shoes and shirtwaists – just to show how selfless she was. She was our Director of Distribution. She was the lady in charge of our needs. She was the one who held us by the throat. Of course, distribution was supposed to be decided by voting – by the voice of the people. But when the people are six thousand howling voices, trying to decide without yardstick, rhyme or reason, when there are no rules to the game and each can demand anything, but has a right to nothing, when everybody holds power over everybody’s life except his own – then it turns out, as it did, that the voice of the people is Ivy Starnes. By the end of the second year, we dropped the pretense of the ‘family meetings’ – in the name of ‘production efficiency and time economy,’ one meeting used to take ten days – and all the petitions of need were simply sent to Miss Starnes’ office. No, not sent. They had to be recited to her in person by every petitioner. Then she made up a distribution list, which she read to us for our vote of approval at a meeting that lasted three-quarters of an hour. We voted approval. There was a ten-minute period on the agenda for discussion and objections. We made no objections. We knew better by that time. Nobody can divide a factory’s income among thousands of people, without some sort of a gauge to measure people’s value. Her gauge was bootlicking. Selfless? In her father’s time, all of his money wouldn’t have given him a chance to speak to his lousiest wiper and get away with it, as she spoke to our best skilled workers and their wives. She had pale eyes that looked fishy, cold and dead. And if you ever want to see pure evil, you should have seen the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who’d talked back to her once and who’d just heard his name on the list of those getting nothing above basic pittance. And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who’s ever preached the slogan: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’
“This was the whole secret of it. At first, I kept wondering how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination – when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached. Now I know they didn’t do it by any kind of mistake.
Mistakes of this size are never made innocently. If men fall for some vicious piece of insanity, when they have no way to make it work and no possible reason to explain their choice – it’s because they have a reason that they do not wish to tell. And we weren’t so innocent, either, when we voted for that plan at the end of the first meeting. We didn’t do it just because we believed that the drippy, old guff they spewed was good. We had another reason, but the guff helped us to hide it from our neighbors and from ourselves. The guff gave us a chance to pass off as virtue something that we’d be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. There wasn’t a man rich and smart enough but that he didn’t think that somebody was richer and smarter, and this plan would give him a share of his better’s wealth and brain. But while he was thinking that he’d get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who’d get unearned benefits, too. He forgot about all his inferiors who’d rush to drain him just as he hoped to drain his superiors. The worker who liked the idea that his need entitled him to a limousine like his boss’s, forgot that every bum and beggar on earth would come howling that their need entitled them to an icebox like his own. That was our real motive when we voted – that was the truth of it – but we didn’t like to think it, so the less we liked it, the louder we yelled about our love for the common good.
“Well, we got what we asked for. By the time we saw what it was that we’d asked for, it was too late. We were trapped, with no place to go. The best men among us left the factory in the first week of the plan. We lost our best engineers, superintendents, foremen and highest-skilled workers. A man of self-respect doesn’t turn into a milch cow for anybody. Some able fellows tried to stick it out, but they couldn’t take it for long. We kept losing our men, they kept escaping from the factory like from a pesthole – till we had nothing left except the men of need, but none of the men of ability.
“And the few of us who were still any good, but stayed on, were only those who had been there too long. In the old days, nobody ever quit the Twentieth Century – and, somehow, we couldn’t make ourselves believe it was gone. After a while, we couldn’t quit, because no other employer would have us – for which I can’t blame him. Nobody would deal with us in any way, no respectable person or firm. All the small shops, where we traded, started moving out of Starnesville fast – till we had nothing left but saloons, gambling joints and crooks who sold us trash at gouging prices. The alms we got kept falling, but the cost of our living went up. The list of the factory’s needy kept stretching, but the list of its customers shrank.
There was less and less income to divide among more and more people. In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motor trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. I don’t know what it was that the Starnes heirs thought, if they thought at all, but I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father. Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn’t have something wrong with it – the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn’t take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century. And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills. But Gerald Starnes, doped by his own publicity, got huffy and went around, with an air of moral superiority, demanding that businessmen place orders with us, not because our motors were good, but because we needed the orders so badly.
“By that time a village half-wit could see what generations of professors had pretended not to notice. What good would our need do to a power plant when its generators stopped because of our defective engines? What good would it do to a man caught on an operating table when the electric light went out? What good would it do to the passengers of a plane when its motor failed in mid-air? And if they bought our product, not because of its merit, but because of our need, would that be the good, the right, the moral thing to do for the owner of that power plant, the surgeon in that hospital, the maker of that plane?
“Yet this was the moral law that the professors and leaders and thinkers had wanted to establish all over the earth. If this is what it did in a single small town where we all knew one another, do you care to think what it would do on a world scale? Do you care to imagine what it would be like, if you had to live and to work, when you’re tied to all the disasters and all the malingering of the globe? to work – and whenever any men failed anywhere, it’s you who would have to make up for it. To work – with no chance to rise, with your meals and your clothes and your home and your pleasure depending on any swindle, any famine, any pestilence anywhere on earth. To work – with no chance for an extra ration, till the Cambodians have been fed and the Patagonians have been sent through college. To work – on a blank check held by every creature born, by men whom you’ll never see, whose needs you’ll never know, whose ability or laziness or sloppiness or fraud you have no way to learn and no right to question – just to work and work and work – and leave it up to the Ivys and the Geralds of the world to decide whose stomach will consume the effort, the dreams and the days of your life. And this is the moral law to accept? This – a moral ideal?
“Well, we tried it – and we learned. Our agony took four years, from our first meeting to our last, and it ended the only way it could end: in bankruptcy. At our last meeting, Ivy Starnes was the one who tried to brazen it out. She made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan had failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world – and that the plan was a noble ideal, but human nature was not good enough for it. A young boy – the one who had been punished for giving us a useful idea in our first year – got up, as we all sat silent, and walked straight to Ivy Starnes on the platform. He said nothing. He spat in her face. That was the end of the noble plan and of the Twentieth Century.
THE NEW UTOPIA
Jerome K. Jerome
I had spent an extremely interesting evening. I had dined with some very “advanced” friends of mine at the “National Socialist Club”. We had had an excellent dinner: the pheasant, stuffed with truffles, was a poem; and when I say that the ’49 Chateau Lafitte was worth the price we had to pay for it, I do not see what more I can add in its favour.
After dinner, and over the cigars (I must say they do know how to stock good cigars at the National Socialist Club), we had a very instructive discussion about the coming equality of man and the nationalization of capital.
I was not able to take much part in the argument myself, because, having been left when a boy in a position which rendered it necessary for me to earn my own living, I have never enjoyed the time and opportunity to study these questions.
But I listened very attentively while my friends explained how, for the thousands of centuries during which it had existed before they came, the world had been going on all wrong, and how, in the course of the next few years or so, they meant to put it right.
Equality of all mankind was their watchword — perfect equality in all things — equality in possessions, and equality in position and influence, and equality in duties, resulting in equality in happiness and contentment.
The world belonged to all alike, and must be equally divided. Each man’s labour was the property, not of himself, but of the State which fed and clothed him, and must be applied, not to his own aggrandizement, but to the enrichment of the race.
Individual wealth — the social chain with which the few had bound the many, the bandit’s pistol by which a small gang of robbers had thieved — must be taken from the hands that too long had held it.
Social distinctions — the barriers by which the rising tide of humanity had hitherto been fretted and restrained — must be for ever swept aside. The human race must press onward to its destiny (whatever that might be), not as at present, a scattered horde, scrambling, each man for himself, over the broken ground of unequal birth and fortune — the soft sward reserved for the feet of the pampered, the cruel stones reserved for the feet of the cursed, — but an ordered army, marching side by side over the level plain of equity and equality.
The great bosom of our Mother Earth should nourish all her children, like and like; none should be hungry, none should have too much The strong man should not grasp more than the weak; the clever should not scheme to seize more than the simple. The earth was man’s, and the fullness thereof; and among all mankind it should be portioned out in even shares. All men were equal by the laws of man.
With inequality comes misery, crime, sin, selfishness, arrogance, hypocrisy. In a world in which all men were equal, there would exist no temptation to evil, and our natural nobility would assert itself.
When all men were equal, the world would be Heaven — freed from the degrading despotism of God.
We raised our glasses and drank to EQUALITY, sacred EQUALITY; and then ordered the waiter to bring us Green Chartreuse and more cigars.
I went home very thoughtful. I did not go to sleep for a long while; I lay awake; thinking over this vision of a new world that had been presented to me. How delightful life would be, if only the scheme of my socialistic friends could be carried out. There would be no more of this struggling and striving against each other, no more jealousy, no more disappointment, no more fear of poverty! The State would take charge of us from the hour we were born until we died, and provide for all our wants from the cradle to the coffin, both inclusive, and we should need to give no thought even to the matter. There would be no more hard work (three hours’ labour a day would be the limit, according to our calculations, that the State would require from each adult citizen, and nobody would be allowed to do more — I should not be allowed to do more) — no poor to pity, no rich to envy — no one to look down upon us, no one for us to look down upon (not quite so pleasant this latter reflection) — all our life ordered and arranged for us — nothing to think about except the glorious destiny (whatever that might be) of Humanity!
Then thought crept away to sport in chaos, and I slept.
When I awoke, I found myself lying under a glass case, in a high, cheerless room. There was a label over my head; I turned and read it. It ran as follows:
THIS MAN WAS FOUND ASLEEP IN A HOUSE IN LONDON, AFTER THE GREAT SOCIAL REVOLUTION OF 1899. FROM THE ACCOUNT GIVEN BY THE LANDLADY OF THE HOUSE, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT HE HAD ALREADY, WHEN DISCOVERED, BEEN ASLEEP FOR OVER TEN YEARS (SHE HAVING FORGOTTEN TO CALL HIM). IT WAS DECIDED, FOR SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES, NOT TO AWAKE HIM, BUT JUST TO SEE HOW LONG HE WOULD SLEEP ON, AND HE WAS ACCORDINGLY BROUGHT AND DEPOSITED IN THE ‘MUSEUM OF CURIOSITIES’, ON FEBRUARY 11TH, 1900.
Visitors are requested not to squirt water through the air-holes.
An intelligent-looking old gentleman, who had been arranging some stuffed lizards in an adjoining case, came over and took the cover off me.
“What’s the matter?” he asked; “anything disturbed you?”
“No,” I said; “I always wake up like this, when I feel I’ve had enough sleep. What century is this?”
“This,” he said, “is the twenty-ninth century. You have been asleep for just one thousand years.”
“Ah! well, I feel all the better for it,” I replied, getting down off the table. “There’s nothing like having one’s sleep out.”
“I take it you are going to do the usual thing.” said the old gentleman to me, as I proceeded to put on my clothes, which had been lying beside me in the case. “You’ll want me to walk round the city with you, and explain all the changes to you, while you ask questions and make silly remarks?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I suppose that’s what I ought to do.”
“I suppose so,” he muttered. “Come on, and let’s get it over,” and he led the way from the room.
As we went downstairs, I said: “Well, is it all right, now?”
“Is what all right?” he replied.
“Why, the world,” I replied. “A few friends of mine were arranging, just before I went to bed, to take it to pieces and fix it up again properly. Have they got it all right by this time? Is everybody equal now, and sin and sorrow and all that sort of thing done away with?”
“Oh, yes,” replied my guide; “you’ll find everything all right now. We’ve been working away pretty hard at things while you’ve been asleep. We’ve just got this earth about perfect now, I should say. Nobody is allowed to do anything wrong or silly; and as for equality, tadpoles ain’t in it with us.”
(He talked in rather a vulgar manner, I thought; but I did not like to reprove him.) We walked out into the city. It was every clean and very quiet.
The streets, which were designated by numbers, ran out from each other at right angles, and all presented exactly the same appearance. There were no horses or carriages about; all the traffic was conducted by electric cars. All the people that we met wore a quiet grave expression, and were so much like each other as to give one the idea that they were all members of the same family. Everyone was dressed, as was also my guide, in a pair of grey trousers, and a grey tunic, buttoning tight round the neck and fastened round the waist by a belt. Each man was clean shaven, and each man had black hair.
I said: “Are all men twins?”
“Twins! Good gracious, no!” answered my guide. “Whatever made you fancy that?”
“Why, they all look so much alike,” I replied; “and they’ve all got black hair!”
“Oh; that’s the regulation colour for hair,” explained my companion: “we’ve all got black hair. If a man’s hair is not black naturally, he has to have it dyed black.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Why!” retorted the old gentleman, somewhat irritably. “Why, I thought you understood that all men were now equal. What would become of our equality if one man or woman were allowed to
swagger about in golden hair, while another had to put up with carrots? Men have not only got to be equal in these happy days, but to look it, as far as can be. By causing all men to be clean
shaven, and all men and women to have black hair cut the same length, we obviate, to a certain extent, the errors of Nature.”
I said: “Why black?”
He said he did not know, but that was the colour which had been decided upon.
“Who by?” I asked.
“By THE MAJORITY,” he replied, raising his hat and lowering his eyes, as if in prayer.
We walked further, and passed more men.
I said: “Are there no women in this city?”
“Women!” exclaimed my guide. “Of course there are. We’ve passed hundreds of them!”
“I thought I knew a woman when I saw one,” I observed; “but I can’t remember noticing any.”
“Why, there go two, now,” he said, drawing my attention to a couple of persons near to us, both dressed in the regulation grey trousers and tunics.
“How do you know they are women?” I asked.
“Why, you see the metal numbers that everybody wears on their collar?”
“Yes: I was just thinking what a number of policeman you had, and wondering where the other people were!”
“Well, the even numbers are women; the odd numbers are men.”
“How very simple,” I remarked. “I suppose after a little practice you can tell one sex from the other almost at a glance?”
“Oh yes,” he replied, “if you want to.”
We walked on in silence for a while. And then I said: “Why does everybody have a number?”
“To distinguish him by,” answered my companion.
“Don’t people have names, then?”
“Oh! there was so much inequality in names. Some people were called Montmorency, and they looked down on the Smiths; and the Smythes did not like mixing with the Joneses: so, to save further bother, it was decided to abolish names altogether, and to give everybody a number.”
“Did the Montmorencys and the Smythes object.”
“Yes: but the Smiths and Joneses were in THE MAJORITY.”
“And did no the Ones and Twos look down upon the Threes and Fours, and so on?”
“At first, yes. But, with the abolition of wealth, numbers lost their value, except for industrial purposes and for double acrostics, and now No. 100 does not consider himself in any way superior to No. 1,000,000.”
I had not washed when I got up, there being no conveniences for doing so in the Museum, and I was beginning to feel somewhat hot and dirty.
I said: “Can I wash myself anywhere?”
He said: “No; we are not allowed to wash ourselves. You must wait until half-past four, and then you will be washed for tea.”
“Be washed!” I cried. “Who by?”
He said that they had found they could not maintain their equality when people were allowed to wash themselves. Some people washed three or four times a day, while others never touched soap and water from one year’s end to the other, and in consequence there got to be two distinct classes, the Clean and the Dirty. All the old class prejudices began to be revived. The clean
despised the dirty, and the dirty hated the clean. So, to end dissension, the State decided to do the washing itself, and each citizen was now washed twice a day by government-appointed officials; and private washing was prohibited.
I noticed that we passed no houses as we went along, only block after block of huge, barrack-like buildings, all of the same size and shape. Occasionally, at a corner, we came across a smaller building, labeled “Museum”, “Hospital”, “Debating Hall”, “Bath”, “Gymnasium”, “Academy of Sciences”, “Exhibition of Industries”, “School of Talk”, etc., etc.; but never a house.
I said: “Doesn’t anybody live in this town?”
He said: “You do ask silly questions; upon my word, you do. Where do you think they live?”
I said: “That’s just what I’ve been trying to think. I don’t see any houses anywhere!”
He said: “We don’t need houses — not houses such as you are thinking of. We are socialistic now; we live together in fraternity and equality. We live in these blocks that you see. Each block accommodates one thousand citizens. It contains one thousand beds — one hundred in each room — and bath-rooms and dressing-rooms in proportion, a dining-hall and kitchens. At seven o’clock every morning a bell is rung, and ever one rises and tidies up his bed. At seven-thirty they go into the dressing-rooms, and are washed and shaved and have their hair done. At eight o’clock breakfast is served in the dining-hall. It comprises a pint of oatmeal porridge and half-a-pint of warm milk for each adult citizen. We are all strict vegetarians now. The vegetarian vote increased enormously during the last century, and their organisation being very perfect, they have been able to dictate every election for the past fifty years. At one o’clock another bell is rung, and the people return to dinner, which consists of beans and stewed fruits, with rolly-polly pudding twice a week, and plum-duff on Saturdays. At five o’clock there is tea, and at ten the lights are put out and everybody goes to bed. We are all equal, and we all live alike – clerk and scavenger, tinker and apothecary — all together in fraternity and liberty. The men live in blocks on this side of town, and the women are at the other end of the city.”
“Where are the married people kept?” I asked.
“Oh, there are no married couples,” he replied; “we abolished marriage two hundred years ago. You see, married life did not work at all well with our system. Domestic life, we found, was thoroughly anti-socialistic in its tendencies. Men thought more of their wives and families than they did of the State. They wished to labour for the benefit of their little circle of beloved ones rather than for the good of the community. They cared more for the future of their children than for the Destiny of Humanity. The ties of love and blood bound men together fast in little groups instead of in one great whole. Before considering the advancement of the human race, men considered the advancement of their kith and kin.
Before striving for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, men strove for the happiness of the few who were near and dear to them. In secret, men and women hoarded up and laboured and denied themselves, so as, in secret, to give some little extra gift of joy to their beloved. Love stirred the vice of ambition in men’s hearts. To win the smiles of the women they loved, to leave a name behind them that their children might be proud to bear, men sought to raise themselves above the general level, to do some deed that should make the world look up to them and honour them above their fellow-men, to press a deeper footprint than another’s upon the dusty high-way of the age. The fundamental principles of Socialism were being daily thwarted and contemned. Each house was a revolutionary centre for the propagation of individualism and personality.
From the warmth of each domestic hearth grew up the vipers, Comradeship and Independence, to sting the State and poison the minds of men.
“The doctrines of equality were openly disputed. Men, when they loved a woman, thought her superior to every other woman, and hardly took any pains to disguise their opinion. Loving wives believed their husbands to be wiser and braver and better than all other men. Mothers laughed at the idea of their children being in no way superior to other children. Children imbibed the hideous heresy that their father and mother were the best father and mother
in the world.
“From whatever point you looked at it, the Family stood forth as our foe. One man had a charming wife and two sweet-tempered children; his neighbor was married to a shrew, and was the father of eleven noisy, ill-dispositioned brats — where was the equality?
“Again, wherever the Family existed, there hovered, ever contending, the angels of Joy and Sorrow; and in a world where joy and sorrow are known, Equality cannot live. One man and woman, in the night, stand weeping beside a little cot. On the other side of the lath-and-plaster, a fair young couple, hand in hand, are laughing at the silly antics of a grace-faced, gurgling baby. What is poor Equality doing?
“Such things could not be allowed. Love, we saw, was our enemy at every turn. He made equality impossible. He brought joy and pain, and peace and suffering in his train. He disturbed
men’s beliefs, and imperiled the Destiny of Humanity; so we abolished him and all his works.
“Now there are no marriages, and, therefore, no domestic troubles; no wooing, therefore, no heart aching; no loving, therefore no sorrowing; no kisses and no tears.
“We all live together in equality free from the troubling of joy and pain.”
I said: “It must be very peaceful; but, tell me — I ask the question merely from a scientific standpoint — how do you keep up the supply of men and women?”
He said: “Oh, that’s simple enough. How did you, in your day, keep up the supply of horses and cows? In the spring, so many children, according as the State requires, are arranged for, and carefully bred, under medical supervision. When they are born, they are taken away from their mothers (who, else, might grow to love them), and brought up in the public nurseries and schools until they are fourteen. They are then examined by State-appointed inspectors, who decide what calling they shall be brought up to, and to such calling they are thereupon apprenticed. At twenty they take their rank of citizens, and are entitled to a vote. No difference whatever is made between men and women. Both sexes enjoy equal privileges.”
I said: “What are the privileges?”
He said: “Why, all that I’ve been telling you.”
We wandered on for a few more miles, but passed nothing but street after street of these huge blocks.
I said: “Are there no shops nor stores in this town?”
“No,” he replied. “What do we want with shops and stores? The State feeds us, clothes us, houses us, doctors us, washes and dresses us, cuts our corns, and buries us. What could we do with shops?”
I began to feel tired with our walk.
I said: “Can we go in anywhere and have a drink?”
He said: “A ‘drink’! What’s a ‘drink’? We have half-a-pint of cocoa with our dinner. Do you mean that?”
I did not feel equal to explaining the matter to him, and he evidently would not have understood me if I had; so I said: “Yes; I meant that.”
We passed a very fine-looking man a little further on, and I noticed that he had one arm. I had noticed two or three rather big-looking men with only one arm in the course of the morning, and it struck me as curious. I remarked about it to my guide.
He said: “Yes; when a man is much above the average size and strength, we cut one of his legs or arms off, so as to make things more equal; we lop him down a bit, as it were. Nature, you see, is somewhat behind the times; but we do what we can to put her straight.”
I said: “I suppose you can’t abolish her?”
“Well not altogether,” he replied. “We only wish we could. But,” he added afterwards, with pardonable pride, “we’ve done a good deal.”
I said: “How about an exceptionally clever man. What do you do with him?”
“Well, we are not much troubled in that way now,” he answered. “We have not come across anything dangerous in the shape of brain-power for some considerable time now. When we do, we perform a surgical operation upon the head, which softens the brain down to the average level.
“I have sometimes thought,” mused the old gentleman, “that it was a pity we could no level up sometimes, instead of always leveling down; but, of course, that is impossible.”
I said: “Do you think it right of you to cut these people up, and tone them down, in this manner?”
He said: “Of course, it is right.”
“You seem very cock-sure about the matter,” I retorted. “Why is it ‘of course’ right?”
“Because it was done by THE MAJORITY.”
“How does that make it right?” I asked.
“A MAJORITY can do no wrong,” he answered.
“Oh! is that what the people who are lopped off think?”
“They!” he replied, evidently astonished at the question. “Oh, they are in the minority, you know.”
“Yes; but even the minority has a right to its arms and legs and heads, hasn’t it?”
“A minority has NO rights,” he answered.
I said: “It’s just as well to belong to the Majority, if you’re thinking of living here, isn’t it?”
He said: “Yes; most of our people do. They seem to think it more convenient.”
I was finding the town somewhat uninteresting, and I asked if we could not go into the country for a change.
My guide said: “Oh, yes, certainly;” but did not think I should care much for it.
“Oh! but it used to be so beautiful in the country,“ I urged, “before I went to bed. There were great green trees, and grassy, wind-waved meadows, and little rose-decked cottages, and —”
“Oh, we’ve changed all that,” interrupted the old gentleman; “it is all one huge market-garden now, divided by roads and canals cut at right angles to each other. There is no beauty in the country now whatever. We have abolished beauty; it interfered with our equality. It was not fair that some people should live among lovely scenery, and other upon barren moors. So we have made it all pretty much alike everywhere now, and no place can lord it over another.”
“Can a man emigrate into any other country?” I asked; “it doesn’t matter what country — any other country would do.”
“Oh, yes, if he likes,” replies my companion; “but why should he? All lands are exactly the same. The whole world is all one people now – one language, one law, one life.”
“Is there no variety, no change anywhere,” I asked. “What do you do for pleasure, for recreation? Are there any theatres?”
“No,” responded my guide. “We had to abolish theatres. The histrionic temperament seemed utterly unable to accept the principles of equality. Each actor thought himself the best actor in the world, and superior, in fact, to most other people altogether, I don’t know whether it was the same in your day?”
“Exactly the same,” I answered, “but we did not take any notice of it.”
“Ah! we did,” he replied, “and, in consequence, shut the theatres up. Besides, our White Ribbon Vigilance Society said that all places of amusement were vicious and degrading; and being an energetic and stout-winded band, they soon won THE MAJORITY over to their views; and so all amusements are prohibited now.”
I said: “Are you allowed to read books?”
“Well,” he answered, “there are not many written. You see, owing to our all living such perfect lives, and there being no wrong, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or love, or grief in the world, and everything being so regular and proper, there is really nothing much to write about — except, of course, the Destiny of Humanity.”
“True!” I said, “I see that. But what of the old works, the classics? You had Shakespeare, and Scott, and Thackeray, and there were one or two little things of my own that were not half-bad.
What have you done with all those?”
“Oh, we have burned all those old works,” he said. “They were full of the old, wrong notions of the old wrong, wicked times, when men were merely slaves and beasts of burden.”
He said all the old paintings and sculptures had been likewise destroyed, partly for the same reason, and partly because they were considered improper by the White Ribbon Vigilance Society, which was a great power now; while all new art and literature were forbidden, as such things tended to undermine the principles of equality. They made men think, and the men that thought grew cleverer than those that did not want to think; and those that did not want to think naturally objected to this, and being in THE MAJORITY, objected to some purpose.
He said that, from like considerations, there were no sports or games permitted. Sports and games caused competition, and competition led to inequality.
I said: “How long do your citizens work each day?”
“Three hours,” he answered; “after that, all the remainder of the day belongs to ourselves.”
“Ah! that is just what I was coming to,” I remarked. “Now what do you do with yourselves during those other twenty-one hours?”
“Oh, we rest.”
“What! for the whole twenty-one hours?”
“Well, rest and think and talk.”
“What do you think and talk about?”
“Oh! Oh, about how wretched life must have been in the old times, and about how happy we are, and – and – oh, and the Destiny of Humanity!”
“Don’t you ever get sick of the Destiny of Humanity?”
“No, not much.”
“And what do you understand by it? What is the Destiny of Humanity, do you think?”
“Oh! — why to — to go on being like we are now, only more so — everybody more equal, and more things done by electricity, and everybody to have two votes instead of one, and —”
“Thank you. That will do. Is there anything else that you think of? Have you got a religion?”
“And you worship a God?”
“What do you call him?”
“One question more — You don’t mind my asking you all these questions, by-the-by, do you?”
“Oh, no. This is all part of my three hours’ labour for the State.”
“Oh, I’m glad of that. I should not like to feel that I was encroaching on your time for rest; but what I wanted to ask was, do many of the people here commit suicide?”
“No; such a thing never occurs to them.”
I looked at the faces of the men and women that were passing. There was a patient, almost pathetic, expression upon them all. I wondered where I had seen that look before; it seemed familiar to me.
All at once I remembered. It was just the quiet, troubled, wondering expression that I had always noticed upon the faces of the horses and oxen that we used to breed and keep in the old world.
Strange! how very dim and indistinct all the faces are around me! And where is my guide? and why am I sitting on the pavement? and — hark! surely that is the voice of Mrs. Biggles, my old landlady. Has she been asleep a thousand years, too? She says it is twelve o’clock — only twelve? and I’m not to be washed ’til half-past four; and I do feel so stuffy and hot, and my head is aching. Hullo a! why, I’m in bed! Has it all been a dream? And am I back in the nineteenth century?
Through the open window I hear the rush and roar of old life’s battle. Men are fighting, striving, carving out each man his own life with the sword of strength and will. Men are laughing, grieving, loving, doing wrong deeds, doing great deeds, — falling, struggling, helping one another — living!
And I have a good deal more than three hours’ work to do today, and I meant to be up at seven; and, oh dear! I do wish I had not smoked so many strong cigars last night.
The Grand Inquisitor selection is from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Book V: Pro and Contra, Chapter 5. Ivan explains to his brother Alyosha his fantasy poem of The Grand Inquisitor, which is really an unwritten prose story.
On one level, the story attacks the Roman Catholic Church and the Grand Inquisitors hierarchy. On another level, the story is a prophecy of the totalitarian state that intends to establish “universal happiness” through a form of positive Christianity to bring about a unanimous and harmonious world order. The Inquisitor makes his case that as long as man is free he will choose to satisfy his individula needs and not the collective needs of society, which means a stable, perfect social order with necessities for all mankind, is impossible. Only when men renounce their freedom and submit to the hierarchy’s plan for the universal happiness of man will they be free.
THE GRAND INQUISITOR
By Fyodor Dostoevsky
“EVEN this must have a preface—that is, a literary preface,” laughed Ivan, “and I am a poor hand at making one. You see, my action takes place in the sixteenth century, and at that time, as
you probably learnt at school, it was customary in poetry to bring down heavenly powers on earth. Not to speak of Dante, in France, clerks, as well as the monks in the monasteries, used to give regular performances in which the Madonna, the saints, the angels, Christ, and God Himself were brought on the stage.
In those days it was done in all simplicity. In Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris an edifying and gratuitous spectacle was provided for the people in the Hotel de Ville of Paris in the reign of Louis XI in honour of the birth of the dauphin. It was called Le bon jugement de la tres sainte et gracieuse Vierge Marie, and she appears herself on the stage and pronounces her bon jugement. Similar plays, chiefly from the Old Testament, were occasionally performed in Moscow too, up to the times of Peter the Great. But besides plays there were all sorts of legends and ballads scattered about the world, in which the saints and angels and all the powers of Heaven took part when required. In our monasteries the monks busied themselves in translating, copying, and even composing such poems–and even under the Tatars.
There is, for instance, one such poem (of course, from the Greek), The Wanderings of Our Lady through Hell, with descriptions as bold as Dante’s. Our Lady visits hell, and the Archangel Michael leads her through the torments. She sees the sinners and their punishment. There she sees among others one noteworthy set of sinners in a burning lake; some of them sink to the bottom of the lake so that they can’t swim out, and ‘these God forgets’–an expression of extraordinary depth and force.
And so Our Lady, shocked and weeping, falls before the throne of God and begs for mercy for all in hell–for all she has seen there, indiscriminately. Her conversation with God is immensely
interesting. She beseeches Him, she will not desist, and when God points to the hands and feet of her Son, nailed to the Cross, and asks, ‘How can I forgive His tormentors?’ she bids all the saints, all the martyrs, all the angels and archangels to fall down with her and pray for mercy on all without distinction. It ends by her winning from God a respite of suffering every year from Good Friday till Trinity Day, and the sinners at once raise a cry of thankfulness from hell, chanting, ‘Thou art just, O Lord, in this judgment.’
Well, my poem would have been of that kind if it had appeared at that time. He comes on the scene in my poem, but He says nothing, only appears and passes on. Fifteen centuries have passed since He promised to come in His glory, fifteen centuries since His prophet wrote, ‘Behold, I come quickly’; ‘Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father,’ as He Himself predicted on earth. But humanity awaits him with the same faith and with the same love. Oh, with greater faith, for it is fifteen centuries since man has ceased to see signs from heaven.
No signs from heaven come to-day
To add to what the heart doth say.
There was nothing left but faith in what the heart doth say. It is true there were many miracles in those days. There were saints who performed miraculous cures; some holy people, according to their biographies, were visited by the Queen of Heaven herself. But the devil did not slumber, and doubts were already arising among men of the truth of these miracles. And just then there appeared in the north of Germany a terrible new heresy. ‘A huge star like to a torch’ (that is, to a church) ‘fell on the sources of the waters and they became bitter.’ These heretics began blasphemously denying miracles.
But those who remained faithful were all the more ardent in their faith. The tears of humanity rose up to Him as before, awaited His coming, loved Him, hoped for Him, yearned to suffer and die for Him as before. And so many ages mankind had prayed with faith and fervour, ‘O Lord our God, hasten Thy coming’; so many ages called upon Him, that in His infinite mercy He deigned to come down to His servants.
Before that day He had come down, He had visited some holy men, martyrs, and hermits, as is written in their lives. Among us, Tyutchev, with absolute faith in the truth of his words, bore
Bearing the Cross, in slavish dress,
Weary and worn, the Heavenly King
Our mother, Russia, came to bless,
And through our land went wandering.
And that certainly was so, I assure you.
“And behold, He deigned to appear for a moment to the people, to the tortured, suffering people, sunk in iniquity, but loving Him like children. My story is laid in Spain, in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires were lighted every day to the glory of God, and ‘in the splendid auto da fe the wicked heretics were burnt.’ Oh, of course, this was not the coming in which He will appear, according to His promise, at the end of time in all His heavenly glory, and which will be sudden ‘as lightning flashing from east to west.’ No, He visited His children only for a moment, and there where the flames were crackling round the heretics.
In His infinite mercy He came once more among men in that human shape in which He walked among men for thirty-three years fifteen centuries ago. He came down to the ‘hot pavements’ of the southern town in which on the day before almost a hundred heretics had, ad majorem gloriam Dei, been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville.
“He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him. That might be one of the best passages in the poem. I mean, why they recognised Him. The people are irresistibly drawn to Him, they surround Him, they flock about Him, follow Him. He moves silently in their midst with a gentle smile of infinite compassion. The sun of love burns in His heart, and power shine from His eyes, and their radiance, shed on the people, stirs their hearts
with responsive love. He holds out His hands to them, blesses them, and a healing virtue comes from contact with Him, even with His garments.
An old man in the crowd, blind from childhood, cries out, ‘O Lord, heal me and I shall see Thee!’ and, as it were, scales fall from his eyes and the blind man sees Him. The crowd weeps and kisses the earth under His feet. Children throw flowers before Him, sing, and cry hosannah. ‘It is He–it is He!’ repeat. ‘It must be He, it can be no one but Him!’
He stops at the steps of the Seville cathedral at the moment when the weeping mourners are bringing in a little open white coffin. In it lies a child of seven, the only daughter of a prominent citizen. The dead child lies hidden in flowers. ‘He will raise your child,’ the crowd shouts to the weeping mother.
The priest, coming to meet the coffin, looks perplexed, and frowns, but the mother of the dead child throws herself at His feet with a wail. ‘If it is Thou, raise my child!’ she cries, holding out her hands to Him. The procession halts, the coffin is laid on the steps at His feet. He looks with compassion, and His lips once more softly pronounce, ‘Maiden, arise!’ and the maiden arises. The little girl sits up in the coffin and looks round, smiling with wide-open wondering eyes, holding a bunch of white roses they had put in her hand.
“There are cries, sobs, confusion among the people, and at that moment the cardinal himself, the Grand Inquisitor, passes by the cathedral. He is an old man, almost ninety, tall and erect, with a
withered face and sunken eyes, in which there is still a gleam of light. He is not dressed in his gorgeous cardinal’s robes, as he was the day before, when he was burning the enemies of the Roman Church-at this moment he is wearing his coarse, old, monk’s cassock.
“At a distance behind him come his gloomy assistants and slaves and the ‘holy guard.’ He stops at the sight of the crowd and watches it from a distance. He sees everything; he sees them set the coffin down at His feet, sees the child rise up, and his face darkens. He knits his thick grey brows and his eyes gleam with a sinister fire. He holds out his finger and bids the guards take Him. And such is his power, so completely are the people cowed into submission and trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately makes way for the guards, and in the midst of deathlike silence they lay hands on Him and lead him away.
The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on’ The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted
prison–in the ancient palace of the Holy, inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and
In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He
stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
“’Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that. But dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it,’ he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off the Prisoner.”
“I don’t quite understand, Ivan. What does it mean?” Alyosha, who had been listening in silence, said with a smile. “Is it simply a wild fantasy, or a mistake on the part of the old man—some
impossible quid pro quo?”
“Take it as the last,” said Ivan, laughing, “if you are so corrupted by modern realism and can’t stand anything fantastic. If you like it to be a case of mistaken identity, let it be so. It is true,” he went on, laughing, “the old man was ninety, and he might well be crazy over his set idea. He might have been struck by the appearance of the Prisoner. It might, in fact, be simply his ravings, the delusion of an old man of ninety, over-excited by the auto da fe of a hundred heretics the day before. But does it matter to us after all whether it was a mistake of identity or a wild fantasy? All that matters is that the old man should speak out, that he should speak openly of what he has thought in silence for ninety years.”
“And the Prisoner too is silent? Does He look at him and not say a word?”
“That’s inevitable in any case,” Ivan laughed again. “The old man has told Him He hasn’t the right to add anything to what He has said of old. One may say it is the most fundamental feature of Roman Catholicism, in my opinion at least. ‘All has been given by Thee to the Pope,’ they say, ‘and all, therefore, is still in the Pope’s hands, and there is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least.’ That’s how they speak and write too-the Jesuits, at any rate. I have read it myself in the works of their theologians. ‘Hast Thou the right to reveal to us one of the mysteries of that world from which Thou hast come?’ my old man asks Him, and answers the question for Him. ‘No, Thou hast not; that Thou mayest not add to what has been said of old, and mayest not take from men the freedom which Thou didst exalt when Thou wast on earth. Whatsoever Thou revealest anew will encroach on men’s freedom of faith; for it will be manifest as a miracle, and the freedom of their faith was dearer to Thee than anything in those days fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often say then, “I will make you free”? But now Thou hast seen these “free” men,’ the old man adds suddenly, with a pensive smile. ‘Yes, we’ve paid dearly for it,’ he goes on, looking sternly at Him, ‘but at last we have completed that work in Thy name. For fifteen centuries we have been wrestling with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good. Dost Thou not believe that it’s over for good? Thou lookest meekly at me and deignest not even to be wroth with me. But let me tell Thee that now, to-day, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing. Was this what Thou didst? Was this Thy freedom?’”
“I don’t understand again.” Alyosha broke in. “Is he ironical, is he jesting?”
“Not a bit of it! He claims it as a merit for himself and his Church that at last they have vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy. ‘For now’ (he is speaking of the Inquisition, of course) ‘for the first time it has become possible to think of the happiness of men. Man was created a rebel; and how can rebels be happy? Thou wast warned,’ he says to Him. ‘Thou hast had no lack of admonitions and warnings, but Thou didst not listen to those warnings; Thou didst reject the only way by which men might be made happy. But, fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou hast promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou hast given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?’”
“And what’s the meaning of ‘no lack of admonitions and warnings’?” asked Alyosha.
“Why, that’s the chief part of what the old man must say.
“’The wise and dread spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and non-existence,’ the old man goes on, great spirit talked with Thee in the wilderness, and we are told in the books that he “tempted” Thee. Is that so? And could anything truer be said than what he revealed to Thee in three questions and what Thou didst reject, and what in the books is called “the temptation”? And yet if there has ever been on earth a real stupendous miracle, it took place on that day, on the day of the three temptations. The statement of those three questions was itself the miracle. If it were possible to imagine simply for the sake of argument that those three questions of the dread spirit had perished utterly from the books, and that we had to restore them and to invent them anew, and to do so had gathered together all the wise men of the earth–rulers, chief priests, learned men, philosophers, poets–and had set them the task to invent three questions, such as would not only fit the occasion, but express in three words, three human phrases, the whole future history of the world and of humanity–dost Thou believe that all the wisdom of the earth united could have invented anything in depth and force equal to the three questions which were actually put to Thee then by the wise and mighty spirit in the wilderness? From those questions alone, from the miracle of their statement, we can see that we have here to do not with the fleeting human intelligence, but with the absolute and eternal. For in those three questions the whole subsequent history of mankind is, as it were, brought together into one whole, and foretold, and in them are united all the unsolved historical contradictions of human nature. At the time it could not be so clear, since the future was unknown; but now that fifteen hundred years have passed, we see that everything in those three questions was so justly divined and foretold, and has been so truly fulfilled, that nothing can be added to them or taken from them.
“Judge Thyself who was right–Thou or he who questioned Thee then? Remember the first question; its meaning, in other words, was this: “Thou wouldst go into the world, and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand, which they fear and dread–for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones in this
parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread.”
“But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives not by bread alone. But dost Thou know that for the sake of that earthly bread the spirit of the earth will rise up against Thee and will strive with Thee and overcome Thee, and all will follow him, crying, “Who can compare with this beast? He has given us fire from heaven!”
Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? “Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!” That’s what they’ll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple. Where Thy temple stood will rise a new building; the terrible tower of Babel will be built again, and though, like the one of old, it will not be finished, yet Thou mightest have prevented that new tower and have cut short the sufferings of men for a thousand years; for they will come back to us after a thousand years of agony with their tower. They will seek us again, hidden underground in the catacombs, for we shall be again persecuted and tortured. They will find us and cry to us, “Feed us, for those who have promised us fire from heaven haven’t given it!”
And then we shall finish building their tower, for he finishes the building who feeds them. And we alone shall feed them in Thy name, declaring falsely that it is in Thy name. Oh, never, never can they feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious.
Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man? And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly? Or dost Thou care only for the tens of thousands of the great and strong, while the millions, numerous as the sands of the sea, who are weak but love Thee, must exist only for the sake of the great and strong? No, we care for the weak too. They are sinful and rebellious, but in the end they too will become obedient. They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them-so awful it will seem to them to be free. But we shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name. We shall deceive them again, for we will not let Thee come to us again. That deception will be our suffering, for we shall be forced to lie.
“’This is the significance of the first question in the wilderness, and this is what Thou hast rejected for the sake of that freedom which Thou hast exalted above everything. Yet in this question lies hid the great secret of this world. Choosing “bread,” Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting craving of humanity–to find someone to worship. So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known, this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone–the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom.
In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience–Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened? Instead of taking men’s freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?
Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all-Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever. Thou didst desire man’s free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide. But didst Thou not know that he would at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice? They will cry aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems.
“’So that, in truth, Thou didst Thyself lay the foundation for the destruction of Thy kingdom, and no one is more to blame for it. Yet what was offered Thee? There are three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness those forces are miracle, mystery and authority. Thou hast rejected all three and hast set the example for doing so.
When the wise and dread spirit set Thee on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Thee, “If Thou wouldst know whether Thou art the Son of God then cast Thyself down, for it is written: the angels shall hold him up lest he fall and bruise himself, and Thou shalt know then whether Thou art the Son of God and shalt prove then how great is Thy faith in Thy Father.” But Thou didst refuse and wouldst not cast Thyself down. Oh, of course, Thou didst proudly and well, like God; but the weak, unruly race of men, are they gods? Oh, Thou didst know then that in taking one step, in making one movement to cast Thyself down, Thou wouldst be tempting God and have lost all Thy faith in Him, and wouldst have been dashed to pieces against that earth which Thou didst come to save. And the wise spirit that tempted Thee would have rejoiced. But I ask again, are there many like Thee? And couldst Thou believe for one moment that men, too, could face such a temptation? Is the nature of men such, that they can reject miracle, and at the great moments of their life, the moments of their deepest, most agonising spiritual difficulties, cling only to the free verdict of the heart?
Oh, Thou didst know that Thy deed would be recorded in books, would be handed down to remote times and the utmost ends of the earth, and Thou didst hope that man, following Thee, would cling to God and not ask for a miracle. But Thou didst not know that when man rejects miracle he rejects God too; for man seeks not so much God as the miraculous. And as man cannot bear to be without the miraculous, he will create new miracles of his own for himself, and will worship deeds of sorcery and witchcraft, though he might be a hundred times over a rebel, heretic and infidel. Thou didst not come down from the Cross when they shouted to Thee, mocking and reviling Thee, “Come down from the cross and we will believe that Thou art He.” Thou didst not come down, for again Thou wouldst not enslave man by a miracle, and didst crave faith given freely, not based on miracle. Thou didst crave for free love and not the base raptures of the slave before the might that has overawed him for ever.
But Thou didst think too highly of men therein, for they are slaves, of course, though rebellious by nature. Look round and judge; fifteen centuries have passed, look upon them. Whom hast Thou raised up to Thyself? I swear, man is weaker and baser by nature than Thou hast believed him! Can he, can he do what Thou didst? By showing him so much respect, Thou didst, as it were, cease to feel for him, for Thou didst ask far too much from him–Thou who hast loved him more than Thyself! Respecting him less, Thou wouldst have asked less of him. That would have been more like love, for his burden would have been lighter. He is weak and vile. What though he is everywhere now rebelling against our power, and proud of his rebellion? It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy. They are little children rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish delight will end; it will cost them dear.
Mankind as a whole has always striven to organise a universal state. There have been many great nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other people the craving for world-wide union. The great conquerors, Timours and Ghenghis-Khans, whirled like hurricanes over the face of the earth striving to subdue its people, and they too were but the unconscious expression of the same craving for universal unity. Hadst Thou taken the world and Caesar’s purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands? We have taken the sword of Caesar, and in taking it, of course, have rejected Thee and followed him.
Oh, ages are yet to come of the confusion of free thought, of their science and cannibalism. For having begun to build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with cannibalism. But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, “Mystery.” But then, and only then, the reign of peace and happiness will come for men. Thou art proud of Thine elect, but Thou hast only the elect, while we give rest to all. And besides, how many of those elect, those mighty ones who could become elect, have grown weary waiting for Thee, and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit and the warmth of their heart to the other camp, and end by raising their free banner against Thee. Thou didst Thyself lift up that banner. But with us all will be happy and will no more rebel nor destroy one another as under Thy freedom.
Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying? They will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and confusion to which Thy freedom brought them. Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: “Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!”
“’Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature.
Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song.
Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient–and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all.
And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death.
But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity. Though if there were anything in the other world, it certainly would not be for such as they. It is prophesied that Thou wilt come again in victory, Thou wilt come with Thy chosen, the proud and strong, but we will say that they have only saved themselves, but we have saved all. We are told that the harlot who sits upon the beast, and holds in her hands the mystery, shall be put to shame, that the weak will rise up again, and will rend her royal purple and will strip naked her loathsome body. But then I will stand up and point out to Thee the thousand millions of happy children who have known no sin. And we who have taken their sins upon us for their happiness will stand up before Thee and say: “Judge us if Thou canst and darest.” Know that I fear Thee not.
Know that I too have been in the wilderness, I too have lived on roots and locusts, I too prized the freedom with which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among Thy elect, among the strong and powerful, thirsting “to make up the number.” But I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work. I left the proud and went back to the humble, for the happiness of the humble.
What I say to Thee will come to pass, and our dominion will be built up. I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us. For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou. To-morrow I shall burn Thee. Dixi.’”*
* I have spoken.
Ivan stopped. He was carried away as he talked, and spoke with excitement; when he had finished, he suddenly smiled. Alyosha had listened in silence; towards the end he was greatly moved and seemed several times on the point of interrupting, but restrained himself. Now his words came with a rush.
“But… that’s absurd!” he cried, flushing. “Your poem is in praise of Jesus, not in blame of Him–as you meant it to be. And who will believe you about freedom? Is that the way to understand it? That’s not the idea of it in the Orthodox Church…. That’s Rome, and not even the whole of Rome, it’s false-those are the worst of the Catholics the Inquisitors, the Jesuits!… And there could not be such a fantastic creature as your Inquisitor. What are these sins of mankind they take on themselves? Who are these keepers of the mystery who have taken some curse upon themselves for the happiness of mankind? When have they been seen? We know the Jesuits, they are spoken ill of, but surely they are not what you describe? They are not that at all, not at all…. They are simply the Romish army for the earthly sovereignty of the world in the future, with the Pontiff of Rome for Emperor… that’s their ideal, but there’s no sort of mystery or lofty melancholy about it…. It’s simple lust of power, of filthy earthly gain, of domination-something like a universal serfdom with them as masters-that’s all they stand for. They don’t even believe in God perhaps. Your suffering Inquisitor is a mere fantasy.”
“Stay, stay,” laughed Ivan. “how hot you are! A fantasy you say, let it be so! Of course it’s a fantasy. But allow me to say: do you really think that the Roman Catholic movement of the last centuries is actually nothing but the lust of power, of filthy earthly gain? Is that Father Paissy’s teaching?”
“No, no, on the contrary, Father Paissy did once say something rather the same as you… but of course it’s not the same, not a bit the same,” Alyosha hastily corrected himself.
“A precious admission, in spite of your ‘not a bit the same.’ I ask you why your Jesuits and Inquisitors have united simply for vile material gain? Why can there not be among them one martyr oppressed by great sorrow and loving humanity? You see, only suppose that there was one such man among all those who desire nothing but filthy material gain-if there’s only one like my old Inquisitor, who had himself eaten roots in the desert and made frenzied efforts to subdue his flesh to make himself free and perfect. But yet all his life he loved humanity, and suddenly his eyes were opened, and he saw that it is no great moral blessedness to attain perfection and freedom, if at the same time one gains the conviction that millions of God’s creatures have been created as a mockery, that they will never be capable of using their freedom, that these poor rebels can never turn into giants to complete the tower, that it was not for such geese that the great idealist dreamt his dream of harmony. Seeing all that he turned back and joined–the clever people. Surely that could have happened?”
“Joined whom, what clever people?” cried Alyosha, completely carried away. “They have no such great cleverness and no mysteries and secrets…. Perhaps nothing but Atheism, that’s all their secret. Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, that’s his secret!”
“What if it is so! At last you have guessed it. It’s perfectly true, it’s true that that’s the whole secret, but isn’t that suffering, at least for a man like that, who has wasted his whole life in the desert and yet could not shake off his incurable love of humanity? In his old age he reached the clear conviction that nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could build up any tolerable sort of life for the feeble, unruly, ‘incomplete, empirical creatures created in jest.’ And so, convinced of this, he sees that he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction, and therefore accept lying and deception, and lead men consciously to death and destruction, and yet deceive them all the way so that they may not notice where they are being led, that the poor blind creatures may at least on the way think themselves happy. And note, the deception is in the name of Him in Whose ideal the old man had so fervently believed all his life long. Is not that tragic? And if only one such stood at the head of the whole army ‘filled with the lust of power only for the sake of filthy gain’–would not one such be enough to make a tragedy? More than that, one such standing at the head is enough to create the actual leading idea of the Roman Church with all its armies and Jesuits, its highest idea.
I tell you frankly that I firmly believe that there has always been such a man among those who stood at the head of the movement. Who knows, there may have been some such even among the Roman Popes. Who knows, perhaps the spirit of that accursed old man who loves mankind so obstinately in his own way, is to be found even now in a whole multitude of such old men, existing not by chance but by agreement, as a secret league formed long ago for the guarding of the mystery, to guard it from the weak and the unhappy, so as to make them happy. No doubt it is so, and so it must be indeed. I fancy that even among the Masons there’s something of the same mystery at the bottom, and that that’s why the Catholics so detest the Masons as their rivals breaking up the unity of the idea, while it is so essential that there should be one flock and one shepherd…. But from the way I defend my idea I might be an author impatient of your criticism. Enough of it.”
“You are perhaps a Mason yourself!” broke suddenly from Alyosha. “You don’t believe in God,” he added, speaking this time very sorrowfully. He fancied besides that his brother was looking at him ironically. “How does your poem end?” he asked, suddenly looking down. “Or was it the end?”
“I meant to end it like this. When the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: ‘Go, and come no more… come not at all, never, never!’ And he let Him out into the dark alleys of the town. The Prisoner went away.”
“And the old man?”
“The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man adheres to his idea.”
“And you with him, you too?” cried Alyosha, mournfully. Ivan laughed.
“Why, it’s all nonsense, Alyosha. It’s only a senseless poem of a senseless student, who could never write two lines of verse. Why do you take it so seriously? Surely you don’t suppose I am going straight off to the Jesuits, to join the men who are correcting His work? Good Lord, it’s no business of mine. I told you, all I want is to live on to thirty, and then… dash the cup to the ground!”
“But the little sticky leaves, and the precious tombs, and the blue sky, and the woman you love! How will you live, how will you lovethem?” Alyosha cried sorrowfully. “With such a hell in your heart and your head, how can you? No, that’s just what you are going away for, to join them… if not, you will kill yourself, you can’t endure it!”
“There is a strength to endure everything,” Ivan said with a cold smile.
“The strength of the Karamazovs–the strength of the Karamazov baseness.”
“To sink into debauchery, to stifle your soul with corruption, yes?”
“Possibly even that… only perhaps till I am thirty I shall escape it, and then-”
“How will you escape it? By what will you escape it? That’s impossible with your ideas.”
“In the Karamazov way, again.”
“’Everything is lawful,’ you mean? Everything is lawful, is that it?”
Ivan scowled, and all at once turned strangely pale.
“Ah, you’ve caught up yesterday’s phrase, which so offended Muisov–and which Dmitri pounced upon so naively and paraphrased!” he smiled queerly. “Yes, if you like, ‘everything is lawful’ since the word has been said, I won’t deny it. And Mitya’s version isn’t bad.”
Alyosha looked at him in silence.
“I thought that going away from here I have you at least,” Ivan said suddenly, with unexpected feeling; “but now I see that there is no place for me even in your heart, my dear hermit. The formula, ‘all is lawful,’ I won’t renounce–will you renounce me for that, yes?”
Alyosha got up, went to him and softly kissed him on the lips.
“That’s plagiarism,” cried Ivan, highly delighted. “You stole that from my poem. Thank you though. Get up, Alyosha, it’s time we were going, both of us.”
They went out, but stopped when they reached the entrance of the restaurant.
“Listen, Alyosha,” Ivan began in a resolute voice, “if I am really able to care for the sticky little leaves I shall only love them, remembering you. It’s enough for me that you are somewhere here, and I shan’t lose my desire for life yet. Is that enough for you? Take it as a declaration of love if you like. And now you go to the right and I to the left. And it’s enough, do you hear, enough. I mean even if I don’t go away to-morrow (I think I certainly shall go) and we meet again, don’t say a word more on these subjects. I beg that particularly. And about Dmitri too, I ask you specially, never speak to me again,” he added, with sudden irritation; “it’s all exhausted, it has all been said over and over again, hasn’t it? And I’ll make you one promise in return for it. When at thirty, I want to ‘dash the cup to the ground,’ wherever I may be I’ll come to have one more talk with you, even though it were from America, you may be sure of that. I’ll come on purpose. It will be very interesting to have a look at you, to see what you’ll be by that time. It’s rather a solemn promise, you see. And we really may be parting for seven years or ten. Come, go now to your Pater Seraphicus, he is dying. If he dies without you, you will be angry with me for having kept you. Good-bye, kiss me once more; that’s right, now go.”
Ivan turned suddenly and went his way without looking back. It was just as Dmitri had left Alyosha the day before, though the parting hadbeen very different. The strange resemblance flashed like an arrow through Alyosha’s mind in the distress and dejection of that moment.
He waited a little, looking after his brother. He suddenly noticed that Ivan swayed as he walked and that his right shoulder looked lower than his left. He had never noticed it before. But all at once he turned too, and almost ran to the monastery. It was nearly dark, and he felt almost frightened; something new was growing up in him for which he could not account. The wind had risen again as on the previous evening, and the ancient pines murmured gloomily about him when he entered the hermitage copse. He almost ran. “Pater Seraphicus-he got that name from somewhere–where from?” Alyosha wondered. “Ivan, poor Ivan, and when shall I see you again?… Here is the hermitage. Yes, yes, that he is, Pater Seraphicus, he will save me–from him and for ever!”
Several times afterwards he wondered how he could, on leaving Ivan, so completely forget his brother Dmitri, though he had that morning, only a few hours before, so firmly resolved to find him and not to give up doing so, even should he be unable to return to the monastery that night.