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Sergei Nechayev was born in Ivanovo on 20th September 1847. His parents were of serf origin but by the time he was born his father was a sign painter and his mother a seamstress.
At the age of eighteen Nechayev moved to St. Petersburg and found work as a teacher in a parochial school. In 1868 he enrolled at the Saint Petersburg State University. As a student he associated with a group of radicals that included Mark Natanson, V. N. Cherkezov, F.V. Volkhovsky, Z.K. Ralli and German Lopatin. They read and discussed the work of Philippe Buonarroti. It has been argued that Buonarroti's book on Gracchus Babeuf "helped shape a generation of Russian rebels."
In 1869 Nechayev joined with Peter Tkachev to draft A Program of Revolutionary Action. It included the following: "Those who join the organization must give up every possession, occupation, or family tie, because families and occupations might distract members from their activities."
In March of that year Nechayev moved to Geneva where he met Mikhail Bakunin. Soon afterwards Bakunin wrote to James Guillaume that: "I have here with me one of those young fanatics who know no doubts, who fear nothing, and who realize that many of them will perish at the hands of the government but who nevertheless have decided that they will not relent until the people rise. They are magnificent, these young fanatics, believers without God, heroes without rhetoric."
The two men wrote several political pamphlets together including Catechism of a Revolutionist (1869) that included the famous passage: "The Revolutionist is a doomed man. He has no private interests, no affairs, sentiments, ties, property nor even a name of his own. His entire being is devoured by one purpose, one thought, one passion - the revolution. Heart and soul, not merely by word but by deed, he has severed every link with the social order and with the entire civilized world; with the laws, good manners, conventions, and morality of that world. He is its merciless enemy and continues to inhabit it with only one purpose - to destroy it."
Paul Avrich argues that Nechayev was "one of the first prominent Russian radicals with a thoroughly plebeian background." Vera Zasulich said in her memoirs that he was "not a product of our world but a stranger among us." Another member of his group said that he was a "real revolutionist, a peasant who had preserved all the serf's hatred against his masters."
Catechism of a Revolutionist had a great influence on radical young students throughout Europe. In August, 1869, Nechayev returned to Russia and settled in Moscow where he set up a secret terrorist organization, People's Retribution. When one of its members, Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, questioned Nechayev's political ideas, he murdered him. The body was weighted down with stones and dumped through an ice hole in a nearby pond. He told the rest of the group, "the ends justify the means".
Nechayev escaped from Moscow but after discovering the body, some three hundred revolutionaries were arrested and imprisoned. Nechayev arrived in Locarno, where Mikhail Bakunin was living, in January 1870. At first Bakunin was pleased to see Nechayev but the relationship soon deteriorated. According to Z.K. Ralli, Nechayev no longer showed any deference to his mentor. Nechayev told friends that Bakunin had lost the "level of energy and self-abnegation" required to be a true revolutionary. Bakunin wrote that: "If you introduce him to a friend, he will immediately proceed to sow dissension, scandal, and intrigue between you and your friend and make you quarrel. If your friend has a wife or a daughter, he will try to seduce her and get her with child in order to snatch her from the power of conventional morality and plunge her despite herself into revolutionary protest against society."
German Lopatin arrived from Russia with news that Nechayev was responsible for the murder of Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov. Mikhail Bakunin wrote to Nechayev: "I had complete faith in you, while you duped me. I turned out to be a complete fool. This is painful and shameful for a man of my experience and age. Worse than this, I spoilt my situation with regard to the Russian and International causes."
Bakunin completely disagreed with Nechayev's approach to anarchism which he called his "false Jesuit system". He argued that the popular revolution must be "invisibly led, not by an official dictatorship, but by a nameless and collective one, composed of those in favour of total people's liberation from all oppression, firmly united in a secret society and always and everywhere acting in support of a common aim and in accordance with a common program." He added: "The true revolutionary organization does not foist upon the people any new regulations, orders, styles of life, but merely unleashes their will and gives wide scope to their self-determination and their economic and social organization, which must be created by themselves from below and not from above.... The revolutionary organization must make impossible after the popular victory the establishment of any state power over the people - even the most revolutionary, even your power - because any power, whatever it calls itself, would inevitably subject the people to old slavery in new form."
Mikhail Bakunin told Nechayev: "You are a passionate and dedicated man. This is your strength, your valor, and your justification. If you alter your methods, I would wish not only to remain allied with you, but to make this union even closer and firmer." He wrote to N. P. Ogarev that: "The main thing for the moment is to save our erring and confused friend. In spite of all, he remains a valuable man, and there are few valuable men in the world.... We love him, we believe in him, we foresee that his future activity will be of immense benefit to the people. That is why we must divert him from his false and disastrous path."
Nechayev rejected Bakunin's views and in the summer of 1870 he moved to London where he published a new journal called The Commune. This venture ended in failure and he eventually returned to Switzerland where he found work as a sign-painter. On 14th August, 1872, Nechayev was arrested in Zurich and was extradited to Russia.
Nechayev was tried for the murder of Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov in January 1873. He said in court "I refuse to be a slave of your tyrannical government. I do not recognize the Emperor and the laws of this country." He would not answer any questions and was finally dragged from the dock shouting: "Down with despotism!" He was found guilty and sentenced to twenty years' hard labour and sent to the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.
Mikhail Bakunin wrote to N. Ogarev: "I pity him deeply. No one ever did me, and intentionally, as much harm as he did, but I pity him all the same. He was a man of rare energy, and when we met there burned in him a very ardent and pure flame for our poor, oppressed people; our historical and current national misery caused him real suffering. At that time his external behavior was unsavory enough, but his inner self had not been soiled. It was his authoritarianism and his unbridled willfulness which, very regrettably and through his ignorance together with his Machiavellianism and Jesuitical methods, finally plunged him irretrievably into the mire... However, an inner voice tells me that Nechayev, who is lost forever and certainly knows that he is lost, will now call forth from the depths of his being, warped and soiled but far from being base or common, all his primitive energy and courage. He will perish like a hero and this time he will betray nothing and no one. Such is my belief. We shall see if I am right."
As Paul Avrich pointed out: "The last tell years of Nechayev's life were spent in solitary confinement in the Peter-Paul fortress... When General Potapov of the secret police visited his cell and offered him leniency if he would serve as a spy, Nechayev struck him across the face, drawing blood. For the next two years his hands and feet remained in chains until the flesh began to rot."
Nechayev continued to be involved in politics and was in contact with the People's Will group while in prison. They planned to rescue him from prison but decided to defer this until they assassinated Tsar Alexander II. This took place on 1st March, 1881, but all the conspirators were arrested and eventually executed.
Sergei Nechayev died of consumption and scurvy in the Peter and Paul Fortress on 21st November, 1882.
I have here with me one of those young fanatics who know no doubts, who fear nothing, and who realize that many of them will perish at the hands of the government but who nevertheless have decided that they will not relent until the people rise. They are magnificent, these young fanatics, believers without God, heroes without rhetoric.
The Revolutionist is a doomed man. He is its merciless enemy and continues to inhabit it with only one purpose - to destroy it.
He despises public opinion. He hates and despises the social morality of his time, its motives and manifestations. Everything which promotes the success of the revolution is moral, everything which hinders it is immoral. The nature of the true revolutionist excludes all romanticism, all tenderness, all ecstasy, all love.
Nechayev began to tell me his plans for carrying out a revolution in Russia in the near future. I felt terrible: it was really painful for me to say "That's unlikely," "I don't know about that". I could see that he was very serious, that this was no idle chatter about revolution. He could and would act - wasn't he the ringleader of the students?
I could imagine no greater pleasure than serving the revolution. I had dared only to dream of it, and yet now he was saying that he wanted to recruit me, that otherwise he wouldn't have thought of saying anything. And what did I know of "the people"? I knew only the house serfs of Biakolovo and the members of my weaving collective, while he was himself a worker by birth.
On the night of November 21, 1869, Ivanov was lured to a grotto in the park of the Agricultural Academy on the pretext of unearthing a clandestine printing press. There he was set upon and beaten by Nechayev and four accomplices. Nechayev tried to strangle him but was bitten severely on the hand, whereupon he drew a pistol and shot Ivanov in the head. In this way Nechayev removed a potential adversary, while at the same time incriminating his comrades to ensure their obedience to his authority. It was an extreme example of his technique of gaining compliance through involving his comrades in crime. Their victim, however, was not an agent of the autocracy but one of their own number who had aroused the leader's antagonism.
The murder of Ivanov created a sensation. Dostoevsky used the incident in the plot for his novel The Possessed, with Verkhovensky representing Nechayev and Shatov, Ivanov. The discovery of Ivanov's body four days after the murder led to the arrest of some three hundred revolutionaries and to the trial of eighty-four Nechaevtsy in the summer of 1871. One of the condemned was Peter Lavrov's son-in-law Michael Negreskul, who had previously opposed Nechayev's tactics in St. Petersburg and who was among those whom Nechayev had sought to compromise by sending revolutionary proclamations from Switzerland. Imprisoned in the Peter-Paul fortress, Negreskul fell ill with consumption and died under house arrest in February 1 870. Nechayev, meanwhile, had slipped out of Moscow for St. Petersburg, where he obtained a false passport and succeeded in crossing the border in December 1869, leaving his comrades behind to take the rap.
I pity him (Sergei Nechayev) deeply. We shall see if I am right.
Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (also Sergei Nechaev, Сергей Геннадиевич Нечаев) (born October 2, 1847, died either November 21 or December 3, 1882) was a Russian revolutionary figure associated with the Nihilist movement. The Nihilist movement was an 1860s Russian cultural movement which questioned the validity of all existing moral values and institutions. It is derived from the Latin word "Nihil," which means "nothing." After the killing of Tsar Alexander II Nihilists were known throughout Europe as proponents of the use of violence as the primary tool for political change. Nechayev, in particular, was known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including political violence.
The Communist Catechism
"One cannot fully understand communism without understanding thoroughly the towering importance of this 'Catechism.' Here is the real secret that makes communism work so effectively in fomenting revolution in every land. One will never truly comprehend the psychology of the communist as a person, nor the amazing success communism as a movement has achieved without first weighing Nechayev's contribution to Marxism-Leninism through his advocacy of self-destruction as a fundamental principle of revolution!
Nechayev's name is, today, almost unknown. Yet it should be included with Marx's and Lenin's as those of the major geniuses of evil whose impact upon history has forever changed the world. Marxism would be only another sterile economic theory without Lenin's practicality. Lenin would himself have been only an ineffective socialist revolutionary without Marx and Nechayev. In a word, it is socialism plum 'Nechayevism' which equals communism! There is no single document in the possession of the serious student of communism that approaches Nechayev's 'Catechism' in importance for deep insight into the actual nature of communism. It surpasses in significance even the writings of Marx himself.
The Revolutionary Catechism transformed Lenin into a worthless, murderous monster. It gave him the dreadful instrument that has made communism the most important and sinister movement of the 20th Century. it is the guide to power, the means of the transformation of ordinary men into the 'New Communist Men,' and much more.
When you read the 'Catechism' you will hear (horribly perverted) echoes of the blazing missionary zeal and self denial of early Christianity. More than any other document, the 'Catechism' is the illustration of the fact that 'communism is the perversion of Christianity.' Any person who reads and understands the importance of the 'Catechism' will never again refer to communism as merely another political movement. It is vastly more than politics.
Nothing could possibly be more useful than that everyone who seeks to combat communism become fully acquainted with the Revolutionary Catechism. It is still today the dreadful secret behind communism. It is the reason that there can be no compromise with the communists, no negotiations, no appeasement. Read it for yourself and fear! This is the true measure of your enemy! People who have wondered as to the source of the astounding power of communism need do so no longer. The secret is out! It begins by the transformation of the spiritually destitute individual into a destructive revolutionist, using a strange process called dehumanization. In 1873, Sergey Nechayev, an obscure Russian Jewish revolutionary, aged 24, stood trial before a court in Moscow, charged with murder. His real crime was even greater. 'He discovered the key to the box containing the forces of dissolution which destroy the state. He knew this and the court was perfectly aware that he knew it. Every day the minutes of the trial were laid before a Czar . . .' (The Life and Death of Lenin, Robert Payne, p. 20).
Nechayev, though very young, was already an important leader of the vast conspiratorial revolutionary movement that was secretly spinning its spider's web across the whole of Russia. About 1873, he wrote a document which Lenin was to read and follow to the letter all the days of his life. It was this document called, 'The Revolutionary Catechism,' which provided Lenin with the formula with which he made Marxism into what communists call, 'Marxist-Leninism.'
Nechavyev died in prison in 1882 but his associates had brought the Revolutionary Catechism to the personal attention of Lenin. Lenin later spoke of Nechayev as, 'this titanic revolutionary who gave his ever such startling formulation that they were forever printed on the memory.' Lenin himself added, 'All of Nechayev should be published. It is necessary to learn and seek out everything he wrote.'
Lenin used the principles of this brutal Revolutionary Catechism to come to power. More importantly, he used them to insure that communism would stay in power (a historically unique secret which no other tyranny has known), and to spread the communist revolution throughout the earth. All communists, whether they know it or not, are still following Nechayev's soul-shattering covenant with death and destruction" (M.S. McBirnie, Community Churches of America, P.O. Box 90, Glendale, CA 91309).
The Revolutionary Catechism
by Sergey Nechayev (1847-1882)
The Duties of the Revolutionary Toward Himself
1). The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.
2). The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities and customs and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy and if he continues to live with them, it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.
3). The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order. (In You Gentiles, (Harcourt, Brace & Co, New York, 1924, Maurice Samuels well explained Genesis 3:15 and the irreconcilable conflict between the seed of Cain and the children of Adam: "There are two life forces in the world I know: Jewish and Gentile, ours and yours . . . I do not believe that this primal difference between Gentile and Jew is reconcilable. You and we may come to an understanding, never to a reconciliation. There will be irritation between us as long as we are in intimate contact. For nature and constitution and vision divide us from all of you forever" (p. 19, 23). "We Jews, we are the destroyers and will remain the destroyers. Nothing you can do will meet our demands and needs. We will forever destroy because we want a world of our own" (p. 155).
4). The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.
5). The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.
6). Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude and even honor must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction, the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim, merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.
7). The nature of the true revolutionary excludes all sentimentally, romanticism, infatuation and exaltation. All private hatred and revenge must also be excluded. Revolutionary passion, practices at every moment of the day until it becomes a habit. It is to be employed with cold calculation. At all times and in all places the revolutionary must obey, not his personal impulses, but only those which serve the cause of the revolution.
The Relations of the Revolutionary Toward his Comrades
8). The revolutionary can have no friendship or attachment except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution. The degree of friendship, devotion and obligation toward such a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.
9). It is superfluous to speak of solidarity among revolutionaries. The whole strength of revolutionary work lies in this. Comrades who possess the same revolutionary passion and understanding should, as much as possible, deliberate all important matters together and come to unanimous conclusions. When the plan is finally decided upon, then the revolutionary must rely solely on himself. In carrying out acts of destruction each one should act alone, never running to another for advice and assistance except when these are necessary for the furtherance of the plan.
10). All revolutionaries should have under them secondor third-degree revolutionaries, i.e., comrades who are not completely initiated. These should be regarded as part of the common revolutionary capital placed at his disposal. This capital should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit. The real revolutionary should regard himself as capital consecrated to the triumph of the revolution he may not personally and alone dispose of capital without the unanimous consent of the fully initiated comrades.
11). When a comrade is in danger and the question arises whether he should be saved or not saved, the decision must not be arrived at on the basis of sentiment, but solely in the interests of the revolutionary cause. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh carefully the usefulness of the comrade against the expenditure of the revolutionary forces necessary to save him, and the decision must be made accordingly.
12). The new member, having given proof of his loyalty not by words but by deeds can be received into the society only by the unanimous agreement of all the members.
13). The revolutionary enters the world of the state, of the privileged classes, of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred. All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends or lovers, he is no longer a revolutionary if he is swayed by these relationships.
14). Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionary may and frequently must live within society while pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle classes, into the houses of commerce, the churches and the palaces of the aristocracy, and into the worlds of the bureaucracy and literature and the military, and also into the Third Division and the winter Palace of the Tsar.
15). This filthy social order can be split up into several categories. The first category comprises those who must be condemned to death without delay. Comrades should compile a list of those to be condemned according to the relative gravity of their crimes and the executions should be carried out according to the prepared order.
16). When a list of those who are condemned is made and the order of execution is prepared, no private sense of outrage should be considered, nor is it necessary to pay attention to the hatred provoked by these people among the comrades or the people. Hatred and the sense of outrage may even be useful in so far as they incite the masses to revolt. It is necessary to be guided by the relative usefulness of these executions for the sake of the revolution. Above all, those who are especially inimical to the revolutionary organization must be destroyed, their violent and sudden deaths will produce panic in the government, depriving it of its will to action by removing the cleverest and most energetic supporters.
17). The second group comprises those who will be spared for the time being in order that, by a series of monstrous acts, they may drive the people into inevitable revolt.
18). The third category consists of a great many brutes in high positions distinguished neither by their cleverness nor their energy, while enjoying riches, influence, power and high positions by the virtue of their rank. These must be exploited in every possible way they must be implicated and embroiled in our affairs, their dirty secrets must be ferreted out, and they must be transformed into slaves. Their power, influence and connections, their wealth and their energy will form an inexhaustible treasure and a precious help in all our undertakings.
19). The fourth category comprises ambitious officeholders and liberals of various shades of opinion. The revolutionary must pretend to collaborate with them, blindly following them, while at the same time prying out their secrets until they are completely in his power. They must be so compromised that there is no way out for them, and then they can be used to create disorder in the state.
20). The fifth category consists of those doctrinaires, conspirators and revolutionists who cut a great figure on paper or in their cliques. They must be constantly driven on to make compromising declarations: as a result the majority of them will be destroyed, while a minority will become genuine revolutionaries.
Sergei Nechayev - History
Written: June 2, 1870
Source: From Michael Confino: "Daughter of a Revolutionary: natalie Herzen and the Bakunin/Nechayev Circle", transl. by Hilary Sternberg and Lydia Bott. Library Press, LaSalle, Illinois 1974
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com 2021
I now address you and, through you, your and our Committee. I trust that you have now reached a safe place where, free from petty squabbles and cares, you can quietly consider your own and our common situation, the situation of our common cause.
Let us begin by admitting that our first campaign which started in 1869 is lost and we are beaten. Beaten because of two main causes first &ndash the people, who we had every right to hope would rise, did not rise. It appears that its cup of suffering, the measure of its patience, has not yet overflowed. Apparently no self-confidence, no faith in its rights and its power, has yet kindled within it, and there were not enought men acting in common and dispersed throughout Russia capable of arousing this confidence. Second cause: our organization was found wanting both in quality and quantity of its members and in its structure. That is why we were defeated and lost much strength and many valuable people.
This is an undisputable fact which we ought to realize without equivocation in order to make it a point departure for further deliberations and deeds.
You, and doubtless your friends as well, had realized it long before you spoke to me about it. In fact one could say that you never spoke to me about it and I had to guess it for myself from many abvious contradictions in your talk and finally to convince myself by reference to the general state of affairs which spoke so clearly that it was impossible to hide it even from uninitiated friends. You more than half realized it when you visited me in Locarno. But nevertheless you spoke to me with complete assurance and in the most positive manner about the imminence of the inevitable revolt. You decieved me, while I, suspecting, or feeling instinctively the presence of deceit, consciously and systematically refused to believe it. You continued to speak and act as if you told me nothing but the truth. Had you shown me the real state of affairs during your stay in Locarno, as regards both the people and the organization, I would have written my appeal to the officers in the same spirit but in different words. This would have been better for me, for you and, most important, for the cause. I would not have spoken to them about the impending rising.
I am not angry with you and I do not reproach you, knowing that if you lie or hide the truth, you do it without self-interest and only because you consider it useful to the cause. I, and all of us, love you sincerely and have a great respect for you because we have never met a man more unselfish and devoted to the cause than you are.
But neither love nor respect can prevent me telling you frankly that the system of deceit, which is increasingly becoming your sole system, your main weapon and means, is fatal to the cause itself.
But before trying, and I hope succeeding, in proving this to you, I must say a few words about my attitude to you and to your Committee and will try to explain why, in spite of all forebodings and rational or instinctive doubts which increasingly forewarned me about the truth of your words, up to my last visit to Geneva I spoke and acted as if I believed them unreservedly.
It might be said that I have been separated from Russia for thirty years. From 1840 to 1851 I was abroad, first with a passport, then as an émigré. In 1851, after a two-year imprisonment in Saxon and Austrian fortresses I was extradicted to the Russian government which held me prisoner for another six years, first in the Alexeev ravelin of the Peter and Paul Fortress, then in Schlüsselburg. In 1857 I was sent to Siberia and spent two years in western and two in eastern Siberia. In 1861 I fled from Siberia and since then, obviously, I have not returned to Russia. Therefore in the last thirty years I have only lived four years (nine years ago) from 1857 to 1861 in freedom in Russia, i.e. in Siberia. This of course gave me the opportunity of getting to know the Russian people better, the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, the merchants (specifically the Siberian merchants), but not the revolutionary youth. In my time there were no other political exiles in Siberia, except a few Decembrists and Poles. True, I knew also the four Petrashevtsy: Petrashevsky himself, Lvov and Tol, but these people represented only a sort of transition from the Decembrists to the real youth &ndash the were doctrinaire, bookish socialists, Fourierists and pedagogues. I do not know the real youth in whom I believe, this classless class, this hopeless phalanx of the people&rsquos revolution about whom I have written several times and only now gradually begin to learn.
The majority of Russians who came to London to do homage to Alexander Herzen were either respectable people, or writers or liberally and democratically inclined officers. The first serious Russian revolutionary was Potebnya the second was you. I shall not speak about Utin and the other Geneva em igrants. Thus, before I met you, the real Russian revolutionary youth remained for me terra incognita.
I did not need much time to understand your earnestness and to believe you. I was convinced and still remain convinced that even if you were few, you represent a serious undertaking, the only serious revolutionary movement in Russia. Having been convinced of this, I said to myself that my duty lay in helping you with all my power and means and in allying myself as much as possible with your Russian cause. This decision was all the easier for me because your program, at least during the last year, not only resembled but was identical with my program, worked out on the basis of the total experience of a rather long political life. Let us define in a few lines this program on the basis of which we were completely united last year and from which you seem now to be departing to a considerable extent, but to which I, on my side, have remained faithful to a degree which would oblige me to break all intimate political relations with you, if your convictions and your, or your friends&rsquo, departure from it were completely final.
The program can be clearly expressed in a few words: total destruction of the framework of state and law and of the whole of the so-called bourgeois civilization by a spontaneous people&rsquos revolution inviksibly led, not by an official dictatorship, but by a nameless and collective one, composed of those in favor of total people&rsquos liberation from all oppression, firmly united in a secret society and always and everywhere acting in support of a common aim and in accordance with a common program.
Such was the ideal and such was the plan on the basis of which I joined you and gave you my hand in order to realize it. You know yourself how faithful I remained to the promise of the union which I recognized. You know how much faith I had in you, having once convinced myself of your earnestness and in the simularity in our revolutionary programs. I did not ask who your friends were, nor how many. I did not check your strength I took your word.
Did I believe out of weakness, out of blindness, or because of stupidity? You know yourself that this is not so. You know very well that I was never given to blind faith. That even last year when we talket alone together, and once at Ogarev&rsquos and in his presence, I told you clearly that we ought not to believe you as you were quite capable of lying when you thought that a lie might be useful to the cause. We thus had no other guarantee of the truth of your words but your obvious sincerity and undoubted devotion to the cause. This was an important guarantee which, however, did not save you from mistakes and us from blunders if we follow you blindly.
Despite this conviction of which I spoke to you several times, I stayed in contact with you and helped you everywhere and as much as I could. Do you want to know why I did it?
Firstly, because, up to your departure from Geneva for Russia, our programs were truly identical. I was convinced of this not only by our daily conversations, but by the fact that all my writings, conceived and printed while you were here, evoked in you a sympathetic response precisely on the points which most clearly expressed our common program and because your writings, printed last year, bore the same character.
Secondly, because acknowledging your real and indefatigable strength, devotion, passion and power of thought, I considered you, and still consider you, capable of uniting around yourself real forces, not for your own sake but for the cause. I said to myself and to Ogarev that if they are not yet united, they will necessarily be so shortly.
Thirdly, because of all the Russian people whom I knew I considered you the most capable of carrying out this enterprise and I said to myself and to Ogarev that there was no point in waiting for another man, that we were both old and unlikely to meet another man more dedicated and more able than you. That is why, if we want to be allied with the Russian cause, we must be allied with you and with no one else. We do not know your Committee, or your Society, and can form an opinion about them only through you. If you are in earnest, why should your present and future friends not be in earnest too? Your earnestness was for me a guarantee that, on the one hand you would not admit worthless people to your company and, on the other, that you will not remain alone and will attempt to create a collective force.
You have, it is true, a weak point which astounded me from the first days of our acquaintance and to which, I confess, I did not attach sufficient importance. This is your inexperience, your ignorance of life and people and, associated with this, a fanaticism bordering on mysticism. Your ignorance of the social conditions, customs, morals, ideas and usual feelings of the so-called educated world renders you even now incapable of successful action in this environment even with a view to its destruction. You do not know as yet how to acquire inluence and power within it, which is bound to lead to inevitable blunders every time the needs of the cause bring you in contact with it. This was clearly demonstrated in your ill-fated attempt to publish Kolokol in impossible conditions. But we shall talk about Kolokol later. This ignorance of men leads to inevitable blunders. You demand too much and expect too much from people, giving them tasks beyond their strength in the belief that all people must be filled with the same passion which animates you. At the same time you do not believe in them, and consequently you do not take into consideration the passion which is aroused within them, their orientation, their independently honest devotion to your aim. You try to subdue them, frighten them, to tie them down by external controls which mostly prove to be inadequate, so that once they get into your hands they can never tear themselves free. And at the same time they do escape, and will continue to escape as long as you do not change your behavior towards them, while you do not look within them for the main reason for joining you. Do you remember how cross you were when I called you an Abrek and your catechism a catechism of Abreks? You said that all men should be such, that a complete renunciation of self, of all personal wishes, pleasures, feelings, affections and ties, should be a normal, natural, everyday condition of everybody without exception. You wished, and still wish, to make your own selfless cruelty, your own truly extreme fatanticism, into a rule of common life. You wish for an absurdity, an impossibility, a total negation of nature, man, and society. This wish is fatal because it forces you to spend your strength in vain. always shooting to miss. No man, however strong he is, and no society, however perfect its discipline and however powerful its organization, can conquer nature. Only religious fanatics and ascetics could try to conquer it &ndash that is why I was not very surprised, or suprised for long, when I recognized in you a certain mystical, pantheistic idealism. In connection with your characteristic orientation this seemed to me completely obvious, but completely absurd. Yes, dear friend, you are not a materialist like us sinners, but an idealist, a prophet like a monk of the Revolution, your hero should not be Babeuf, not even Marat, but some sort of Savonarola. According to your way of thinking, you are nearer to the Jesuits than to us. You are a fanatic. This is your enormous and peculiar strength. But at the same time this is your blindness, and blindness is a great and fatal weakness blind energy errs and stumbles, and the more powerful it is, the more inevitable and serious are the blunders. You suffer from an enormous lack of the critical sense without which it is impossible to evaluate people and situations, and to reconcile means with ends.
All this I understood and realized last year. But for me all this was balanced in your favor by two considerations. Firstly, I recognized (and still recognize) in you a great and, one might say, perfectly pure force, free of any admixture of self-love or vanity, such as I had never met in any Russian. Secondly, I told and still tell myself that you are still young and whole-hearted, and being without personal egoistical whims and selfdelusions you cannot long remain on the wrong path and under a delusion which is fatal to the cause. I am still convinced of this.
Finally, I clearly saw and felt that you were far from having full confidence in me and in many respects attempted to use me as a means to immediate aims which were unknown to me. But this did not bother me at all.
Firstly, I liked your silence about the people involved in your organization, and the conviction that in such movements even the most trusted people should know only as much as is practically necessary for the success of their particular enterprise. You will do me the justice of admitting that I never asked you indiscreet questions. Even if you had, contrary to your duty, given me some names, I should not have known the people to whom these names belonged. I would have had to judge them on your word, and I believed and believe in you. Composed of people like you who have earned your total trust, the Committee, should, I think, be equally trusted by us.
The question is: Did your organization really exist, or were you only going to create it somehow or other? If it did exist, was it large, did it at least represent an embryo of power, or did this all exist only as a hope? Did our holy of holies, the Committee itself, exist in the shape you described and with the undoubted unity of forces for life or death &ndash or were you only going to create it? In a word, were you the only representative of a quite respectable individual power, or of a collective power already in existence? And if the society and the Central Committee really existed, and assuming the participation in it (particularly in the Committee) of only true, firm, fanatically devoted and selfless people like you, still another question arises: Was, and is, there in it sufficient common sense and knowledge, sufficient theoretical training and ability to understand the conditions and relationships of the Russian people and classes to make the revolutionary Committee effective to cover the whole of Russian life and penetrate all social strata with a really powerful organization? The sincerity of the cause depends on the fervent energy of the participants, its success on their common sense and knowledge.
In order to discover this both as regards actual and potential development, i.e. in the spirit of your movement, I asked you many questions and I must confess that your replies did not satisfy me in the least. However much you wriggled and dodged, you told me, in spite of yourself, that your society was still numerically insignificant and lacked funds. It had as yet very little common sense, knowledge and skill. But the Committee is created by you and certainly from people like you, among who you are one of the best and most determined. You are the creator and, up to now, leader of the society. All this, dear friend, I understood and learned last year. But this did not in any way prevent me from joining you, recognizing in you an intelligent and passionately devoted activist of a sort which is rare, and being certain that you had managed to find at least a few people like you and unite with them. Also I was, and still am, certain that with experience and sincere and tireless aspiration you would soon achieve that knowledge, wisdom and skill without which no success is possible. And as I did not, andx do not now, suppose that there can exist in Russia in addition to your group another group as much in earnest as yours, I decided, in spite of everything, to remain united with you.
I did not hold it against you that you always tried to exaggerate your strength to me. This is an objective, often useful and sometimes bold gesture of all conspirators. It is true that I saw your attempts to deceive me as proof of your as yet insufficient knowledge of people. It seemed to me that from our talks you ought to have understood that in order to attract me there was no need to furnish proof of an already existing and organized power, but only proof of an unbending and reasonable determination to create such a power. I also understood that you were appearing before me as if you were an envoy of an existing and fairly powerful organization. Thus, it seemed to you, you put yourself into a position to present your conditions as emanating from great power, while you actually appeared before me as a person who was in the process of collecting strength. You should have talket to me as an equal, person to person, and submit for my [approval] your program and [plan] of action.
But this did not enter into your calculations. You were too fanatically devoted to your plan and your program to subject them to criticism by anyone. And secondly you did not have enough faith in my devotion to the cause, in my understanding of it, to show me the cause as it really was. You were skeptical about all émigrés, and you were right. About me you were probably less skeptical than about others, because I gave you too many proofs of my readiness to serve the cause without any personal demands or vainglorious calculations. But you still considered me as an indalid whose counsels and knowledge might sometimes be useful, but no more whose participation in your fervent efforts would have been superfluous and even harmful. I saw this very well but it did not offend me. You knew this could not prompt me to break with you. It was not my business to prove to you that I was not such a hopelessly unfit case for an ardent, a real movement as you thought. I left it (and leave it) to time and your own experience to convince me of the contrary.
At the same time there existed, and still exists, a special circumstance which forced and forces me to be particularly careful in relation to all Russian affairs and people. This is my total lack of funds. I have struggled with poverty all my life, and every time I have managed to undertake and do something more or less useful, I had to do it not with my own, but with other people&rsquos money. For a long time it has drawn down on me a whole cloud of slander and reproach, particularly from Russian blackguards.
These fellows have totally besmirched my reputation and thus paralyzed my activities to a considerable extent. I needed all the genuine passion and sincere determination which I recognize in myself, from experience and not boastfully, to prevent me from breaking and discontinuing my activities. You also know how untrue and ignoble are the rumors about my personal luxury, about my attempts to make a fortune at the expense of others and by duping them. In spite of this, the Russian émigré blackguards, Utin and Co, dare to call me a swindler and a self-seeking exploiter, me, who ever since I can remember have never lived or wanted to live for my own pleasure and have always striven for the liberation of others. Do not take this as boasting &ndash I tell it to you and to friends. I feel that it is necessary and right to say it to you once and for all.
It is clear that in order to devote myself fully to the service of the cause, I must have the means to live. I am getting old. Eight years of imprisonment have led to a chronic illness and my impaired health demands certain care and certain conditions so that I can usefully serve the cause. I also have a wife and children whom I cannot condemn to death by starvation. I try to reduce expenses to the minimum, but I still cannot exist without a certain monthly sum. Where can I get this sum if I give all my labor to the common cause?
There is another consideration. Having founded some years ago the secret International Revolutionary Union, I cannot and will not abandon in it order to devote myself entirely to the Russian cause. And besides, in my opinion, the international and the Russian cause are one and the same. Up to now the international cause did not provide me with the means of existence, but only involved me in expense. This, in a few words, is the key to my situation. You will understand that this poverty on the one hand, and ignoble slander spread about me by the Russian émigrés on the other, hamper me in relation to all new people and to all my activities. You see how many reasons there were not to foist myself upon you, not to demand your trust to a greater extent than you deemed useful to wait until you and your friends should finally be convinced of the possibility, the usefulness, and the necessity of trust.
At the same time I saw and felt very keenly that in approaching me not as an equal, not as a trusting person or as a trustworthy one, you considered me, according to your system and obeying so to say the logic of necessity, a three-quarters blind but experienced instrument for the cause and used my name and my activity as a means. Thus, in fact, lacking the power which you pretended to have, you used my name in order to create power in Russia. So that many people do in fact think that I stand at the head of a secret society about which, as you are aware, I know nothing.
Should I have allowed my name to be used as a means of propaganda and in order to attract people into an organization whoose plans and immediate aims were three-quaters unknown to me? Without hesitation I reply in the affirmative, yes, I could and should. Here are my reasons:
Firstly, I was always convinced that the Russian Revolutionary Committee could and should act only within Russia, and it is an absurdity to the lead the Russian revolution from abroad.
If you and your friends remained abroad for a long time, I should have proclaimed you incapable of remaining members of the Committee. If you become émigrés, you will have, as I have had, to accept orders, as far as any Russian movement is concerned, from the undisputed leadership of a new Committee in Russia recognized by you on the basis of mutually discussed programs and plans while you yourself would have to create a Russian Committee Abroad for independent management of all Russian relations, activities, individuals and groups abroad, in full agreement with the views of the Russian Committee, but with suitable autonomy in the choice of men and methods of action and, most important, in complete agreement with the International Union. In such case I would demand, as my duty and right, full membership of this Russian Committee Abroad, which I did, by the way, in my last letter to the Committee and to you, recognizing the fact that the Russian Committee must be within Russia itself. Obviously did I not wish, nor was I able, to return to Russia, and so do not desire to be a member of that. I got to know its program and the general aims of its activity through you. I was in full agreement with you and expressed my readiness and my firm resolution to help and serve it by all means available to me. Since you considered my name useful for attracting new people into your organization, I gave you my name. I knew that it would be used for the cause and our common program and that your character was a guarantee of this, and was not afraid that, as a consequence of mistakes and blunders, I might be generally condemned &ndash I am used to insults.
However, you remember that last summer we agreed that all Russian efforts and persons abroad should be known to me, and nothing that was done or undertaken abroad should be done without my knowledge and consent. This was an essential condition. Firstly, because I know the world abroad much better than any of you and, secondly, because and a blind and dependent solidarity with you in actions and publications abroad might conflict with my duties and rights as a member of the International Union. This condition, as we shall see, was not carried out by you and if it is not going to be carried out completely, I shall be forced to break off all intimate political relations with you.
To begin with, my views are different in that they do not acknowledge the usefulness, or even the possibility, of any revolution except a spontaneous or a people&rsquos social revolution. I am deeply convinced that any other revolution is dishonest, harmful, and spells death to liberty and the people. It dooms them to new penury and new slavery. But the main point is that any other revolution has now become impossible and unattainable. Centralization and civilization railways, the telegraph, new arms and new military organization in general the techniques of administration, i.e., the science of systematic enslavement and exploitation of the masses of the people and the science and suppression of people&rsquos and all other riots, carefully worked out, tested by experiment and perfected in the last seventy-five years of contemporary history &ndash all this has at present armed the state with such enormous power that all contrived secret conspiracies and non-popular attempts, sudden attacks, surprises and coups &ndash are bound to be shattered against it. It can only be conquered by a spontaneous people&rsquos revolution.
Thus the sole aim of a secret society must be, not the creation of an artificial power outside the people, but the rousing, uniting and organizing of the spontaneous power of the people therefore, the only possible, the only real revolutionary army is not outside the people, it is the people itself. It is impossible to arouse the people artificially. People&rsquos revolutions are born from the course of events, or from historical currents which, coontinuously and usually slowly, flow underground and unseen within the popular strata, increasingly embracing, penetrating, and undermining them, until they emerge from the ground and their turbulent waters break all barriers and destroy everything that impedes their course.
Such a revolution cannot be artificially induced. It is even impossible to hasten it, although I have no doubt that an efficient and intelligent organization can facilitate the explosion. There are historical periods when revolutions are simply impossible there are other periods when they are inevitable. In which of the two periods are we today? I am deeply convinced that we are in a period of a general, inevitable popular revolution. I will refrain from proving the truth of this conviction because this will lead me too far. Furthermore, it is unnecessary for me to prove it as I address a man and people who, I think, fully share this conviction. I maintain that a popular social revolution is inevitable everywhere within Europe as a whole. Will it catch fire soon and where first? In Russia, or in France, or elsewhere in the West? Nobody can foretell. Perhaps it will blaze up in a year&rsquos time, or even earlier, or perhaps in ten or twenty years. This does not matter, and the people who intend to serve it honestly, do not serve for their own pleasure. All secret societies who wish to be really useful to it must, first of all, renounce all nervousness, all impatience. They must not sleep on the contrary, they must be as ready as possible every minute of the time, alert and always capable of seizing every opportunity. But, at the same time, they must be harnessed and organized, not with a view to an imminent rising, but aiming at long and patient underground work, taking as an example your friends the Jesuit fathers.
I will confine my coonsiderations to Russia. When will the Russian revolution break out? We do not know. Many, and I a sinner among them, ezpected a people&rsquos rising in 1870, but the people did not awake. Must we conclude that the Russian people can do without the revolution, that it will pass them by? No, this conclusion is impossible it would be nonsense. Whoever knows the desperate, indeed critical condition of our people economically and politically and, on the other hand, the absolute incapacity of our government and our state not only to alter it, but to ameliorate it at all, an incapacity stemming not from one or another characteristic of the individuals in our government, but from the very essence of any government structture and our government in particular, must conclude that the Russian people&rsquos revolution is inevitable. It is not only negatively but positively inevitable, because our people, in spite of its ignorance, has historically arrived at an ideal which it strives, consciously or not, to achieve. This ideal is the common ownership of land with freedom from state oppression and all extortion. The people tried to achieve this under the False Dimitris, under Stenka Razin, and under Pugachev, and still tries by means of continual riots which are, however, scattered and therefore always suppressed.
I have merely pointed out the two main features of the Russian people&rsquos ideal and do not claim the describe it fully in a few words. One does not know what else exists in the intellectual aspirations of the Russian people and what will emerge in the light of day with the first revolution. At the moment it suffices for me to prove that our land is not a blank page on which any secret society can write whatever it wishes &ndash for instance, say, your Communist Program. It has worked out, partly consciously, probably three-quarters unconsciously, its own program which the secret society must get to know or guess and to which it would have to adapt itself if it wants to succeed.
It is an undisputable and well-known fact that under Stenka Razin and also under Pugachev, every time the people&rsquos rising succeeded for a while, the people did one thing only: they took all the land into common ownership, sent the landowning gentry and the Czar&rsquos government officials, sometimes the clergy as well, to the devil and organized its own free commune. This means that our people holds in its memory and as its ideal one precious element which the Western people do not possess, that is, a free economic community. In our people&rsquos life and thought there are two principles, two facts on which we can build: frequent riots and a free economic community. There is a third principle, a third fact, this is the Cossacks and the world of brigands and thieves which includes both protest against oppression by the state and by the patriarchal society and incorporates, so to say, the first two features.
Frequent riots, although they are always provoked by accidental circumstances, nevertheless stem from general causes and express the deep and general dissatisfaction of the people. They constitute, in a way, an everyday and customary phenomenon of the Russian people&rsquos life. There is no village in Russia which is not deeply discontented which its condition, which does not experience poverty, overcrowding, oppression, and which does not hide, in the depth of its collective heart, the desire to seize all the land belonging to the landslords and then that of the richer peasants (kulaks), and the conviction that this is its indubitable right. There is no village which, with skill, cannot be induced to revolt. If the villages do not revolt more often, this is due to fear or to a realization of their weakness. This awareness comes from the disunity of peasant communes, from the lack of real solidarity among them. If each village knew that when it rises all others will rise, one could say for certain that there is no village in Russia which would not revolt. Hence it follows that the first duty, purpose and aim of a secret organization is to awaken in all peasant communities a realization of their inevitable solidarity and thus to arouse the Russian people to a consciousness of their power &ndash in other words, to merge the multitude of private peasant revolts into one general all-people&rsquos revolt.
One of the main means for the achievement of this aim, I am deeply convinced, must and should be our free Cossacks, our innumerable saintly and not so saintly tramps (brodiagi), pilgrims, members of &rdquobeguny&rdquo sects, thieves, and brigands &ndash this whole wide and numerous underground world wcich from time immemorial has protested against the state and statism and against the Teutonic civilization of the whip. This was expressed in the anonymous broadsheet Statement of the Revolutionary Question which provoked a howl of indignation from all our vainglorious chatterers who take their doctrinaire Byzantine words for deeds. This, however, is quite correct and is confirmed by all our history. The world of Cossacks, thieves, brigands and tramps played the role of a catalyst and unifier of separate revolts under Stenka Razin and under Pugachev. The tramping fraternity are the best and truest conductors of people&rsquos revolution, promoters of general popular unrest, this precursor of popular revolt. Who does not know that tramps, given the opportunity, easily turn into thieves and brigands? In fact, who among us in Russia is not a brigand and a thief? Is it perhaps the government? Or our official and private speculators and fixers? Or our landowners and our merchants? For myself, I cannot tolerate either brigandage or thieving, nor any other anti-human violence. But I confess, if I had to choose between the brigandage and thieving of those occupying the throne and enjoying all privileges. and popular thieving and brigandage, I would, without hesitation, take the side of the latter. I find it natural, necessary, and even, in some sense, legal. I must confess that the popular world of brigands is far from beautiful from the truly human point of view. But what is beautiful in Russia? Can anything be dirtier than our respectable official or civilized bourgeois and decent world, which hides under its smooth Western form the most horrible depravity of thought, feelings, relationships and deeds, or at best a joyless and inescapable emptiness! On the other hand, the people&rsquos depravity is natural, forceful and vital. By sacrifice over many centuries the people have earned the right to it. It is a mighty protest against the root cause of all depravity and against the state and, therefore, contains the seeds of the future. That is why I am on the side of popular brigandage and see in it one of the most essential tools for the future people&rsquos revolution in Russia.
I understand that this could enrage our scrupulous or even unscrupulous idealists &ndash idealist of all colors from Utin to Lopatin, who imagine that they can force on the people their ideas, their will, and their mode of action through an artificial secret organization. I do not believe in this possibility and am convinced that as soon as the All-Russian state is destroyed, from wherever this destruction comes, the people will rise not for Utin&rsquos, or Lopatin&rsquos, or even for your ideal, but for their own, that no artificial conspiratorial force will be capable of containing or even altering its native movement &ndash as no dam can contain a turbulent ocean. You, my friends, will be sent flying like chips of wood, if you cannot swim with the popular current. I am certain that with the first big popular revolt, the world of tramps, thieves and brigands, which is firmly embedded in our life and constitutes one of its essential manifestations, will be on the move and will move powerfully and not weakly.
Be it good or bad, it is an undisputable and inevitable fact, and whoever really wishes for a Russian popular revolution, wants to serve it, help it, organize it, not on paper only but in deed, must know this. Moreover, he must take this fact into account and not try to avoid it he must establish conscious and practical relations with it and be able to use it as a powerful instrument for the triumph of the revolution. It is no use being too scrupulous about it. He who wishes to retain his ideal and virginal purity should stay in the study, dream, think, write discourses or poetry. He who wants to be a real revolutionary in Russia must take off his gloves no gloves will save him from the deep and all-embracing Russian mud. The Russian world, both privileged state and poopular, is a terrible world. A Russian revolution will certainly be a terrible revolution. Whoever is frightened of horrors or dirt should turn away from this world and this revolution. He who wants to serve the latter must know what he is facing, must strengthen his nerves, and be preparing for anything.
It is not easy to use the world of brigandage as a weapon of the people&rsquos revolution, as a catalyst of separate popular revolts I recognize the necessity, but, at the same time, am fully conscious of my incapacity for this task. In order to undertake it and bring it to a conclusion, one must be equipped with strong nerves, the strength of a giant, passionate convictions, and iron will. You might find such people in your ranks. But people of our generation and with our upbringing are incapable of it. To join the brigands does not mean becoming wholly one of them, sharing with them all their unquiet passions, misfortunes, frequently ignoble aims, feelings and actions but it does mean giving them new souls and arousing with them a new, truly popular aim. These wild and cruelly coarse people have a fresh, strong, untried and unused nature which is open to lively propaganda, obviously only if the propaganda is lively and not doctrinaire and is capable of reaching them. I could say much more on this subject sould our correspondence continue.
Another precious element in the future life of the Russian people is, as mentioned before, the free economic commune, a truly precious element which does not exist in the West. The Western social revolution will have to create this necessary and basic embryo of all future organization, and its creation will give a lot of trouble to the West. Here it is created already. Should revolution occur in Russia, should the state with all its officials fall into ruin, the Russian peasantry would organize itself without any trouble the same day. But Russia is faced with a difficulty of another kind which does not exist in the West. Our communes are terribly scattered, hardly know each other and are often at enmity with each other, according to the old Russian custom. Lately, thanks to the government&rsquos financial measures, they are becoming used to being joined into rural districts (Volosti) so that the rural district is progressively acquiring some popular awareness and content, but that is all. Rural districts do not know and do not want to know anything about each other. In order to achieve revolutionary success, to organize future popular liberty, it is essential that rural districts should, of their own popular volition, join into larger districts (Uezdy) and these into regions (Oblasti). Regions should set up a free Russian Federation.
To awaken in our communes the consciousness of this necessity, for the sake of their own liberty and advantage, is again the task of the secret organization, since nobody else will want to take on this job which is totally contrary to the interests of the state and all privileged classes. This is no place to describe at length how to approach it, and how and what to do to awaken in the communes this saving consciousness, the only one promising salvation.
There, my friend, are the main lines of a whole program for the Russian popular revolution which is deeply imprinted on the people&rsquos instinct, on the whole situation of our people. He who wants to be at the head of a popular movement must adopt it as a whole and execute it. He who tries to foist his own program on the people will be left holding the baby.
As a result of its ignorance and disunity, the people are unable to formulate the program, to systemize it and to unite for its sake. Therefore they need helpers. Where can one find these helpers? This is the most difficult question in any revolution. In the West as a whole, up to now, the helpers of the revolution came from the pprivileged classes, and nearly always became its exploiters. In this respect also, Russia is more fortunate than the West. There is in Russia an enormous number of people who are educated, intelligent, and deprived at the same time of any position and career and without a solution to their problem. At least three-quaters of young persons studying at the present time find themselves in this position, theological students, children of peasants and petty bourgeoisie, children of junior officials and ruined gentry&hellip but need one speak about this, you know this world better than I do. If one considers the people as a revolutionary army, here is our General Staff, here is the precious material for a secret organization.
But this world must be really organized and moralized while your system depraves it and prepares within it traitors to the system and exploiters of the people. You must remember that there is very little true morality within this world with the exception of a small number of strong and highly moral crachters which have emerged, by Darwinian selection, from sordid oppression and inexpressible poverty. They are virtuous, i.e. they love the people and stand for justice against any injustice, for all ooppressed against all oppressors, only because of their situation, not consciously or deliberately. Choose a hundred people by lot out of this world and put them in a situation which would enable them to exploit and oppress the people &ndash one can be sure that they will exploit and oppress it. It follows that there is little original virtue in them. One must use their poverty-stricken condition which makes them virtuous in spite of themselves and, by constant propaganda and the power of organization, arouse this virtue, educate it, confirm it in them and make it passionately conscious. Whereas you do the opposite: following the Jesuit system you systematically kill all personal human feeling in them, all feeling of personal fairness &ndash as if feeling and fairness could be impersonal &ndash educate them in lying, suspicion, spying and denunciation, relying much more on the external hobbles with which you have bound them, than on their inner courage. It follows that should circumstances change, should they realize that the terror of the state is stronger than the fear which you inspire, they would (educated by you) become excellent state servants and spies. The fact is now indisputable, my dear friend, that the overwhelming majority of our comrades who have fallen into the hands of the police have betrayed everything and everybody without any special efforts by the government and without torture. This sad fact should open your eyes and make you change the system if you are at all capable of amendment.
How can this world be made more moral? By arousing in it frankly and consciously, by strengthening within its reason and heart one all-embracing passion for the liberation of the people and all mankind. This is the new and only religion which has the power to move sould and create a collective force of salvation. From now on this must be the exclusive content of our propaganda. Its immediate aim is the creation of a secret organization, an organization which should, at one and the same time, create a popular auxiliary force and become a practical school of moral education for all its members.
Let us first of all define more exactly the aim, meaning, and purpose of this organization. As I have mentioned several times above, according to my system it would not constitute a revolutionary army &ndash we should have only one revolutionary army: the people &ndash the organization should only be the staff of this army, an organizer of the people&rsquos power, not its own, a middle-man between popular instinct and revolutionary thought. A revolutionary idea is revolutionary, vital, real and true only because it expresses and only as far as it represents popular instincts which are the result of history. To strive to foist on the people your own thoughts &ndash foreign to its instincts &ndash implies a wish to make it subservient to a new state. Therefore, an organization sincerely wishing only for a liberation of people&rsquos life, must adopt a program which should express popular demands as fully as possible. It seems to me that the program delineated in the first number of The People&rsquos Cause (Narodnoe Delo) fully answers this purpose. It does not foist upon the people any new regulations, orders, styles of life, but merely unleashes its will and gives wide scope to its self-determination and its economic and social organization, which must be created by itself from below and not from above. The organization must accept in all sincerity the idea that it is a servant and a helper, but never a commander of the people, never under any pretext its manager, not even under the pretext of the people&rsquos welfare.
The organization is faced with an enormous task: not only to prepare the success of the people&rsquos revolution through propaganda and the unification of popular power not only to destroy totally, by the power of this revolution, the whole existing economic, social, and political order but, in addition, having survived the success of the revolution, to make impossible after the popular victory the establishment of any state power over the people &ndash even the most revolutionary, even your power &ndash because any power, whatever it called itself, would inevitably subject the people to old slavery in a new form. Therefore our organization must be strong and vital to survive the first victory of the people and &ndash this is not at all a simple matter &ndash the organization must be so deeply imbued with its principles that one could hope that even in the midst of revolution it will not change its thoughts, or character or direction.
Which, then, should be this direction? What would be the main purpose and task of the organization? To help the people to achieve self-determination on a basis of complete and comprehensive human liberty, without the slightest interference from even temporary or transitional power, i.e. without any mediation of the state.
We are bitter foes of all official power, even if it were ultra-revolutionary power. We are enemies of all publicly acknowledged dictatorship we are social-revolutionary anarchists. But you will ask, if we are anarchists, by what right do we wish to and by what method can we influence the people? Rejecting any power, by what power or rather by what force shall we direct the people&rsquos revolution? An invisible force &ndash recognized by no one, imposed by no one &ndash through which the collective dictatorship of our organization will be all the mightier, the more it remains invisible and unacknowledged, the more it remains without any official legality and significance.
Imagine yourself in the midst of a successful spontaneous revolution in Russia. The state and with it all socio-political order in ruins. The people has risen, has taken all it needed and has chasen away all its oppressors. Neither law nor power exist any longer. The stormy ocean has burst all dams. This far from heterogenous, on the contrary extremely varied mass, the Russian people, covers the illimitable space of the Russian Empire. It has begun to live and act for itself as it really is, and no longer as it was ordered to be, everywhere in its own way &ndash general anarchy. The enormous quantity of mud which has accumulated within the people is stirred and rises to the surface. In various places emerge a large number of new, brave, clever, unscrupulous and ambitious people who, of course, attempt each in his own way to obtain the people&rsquos trust and to direct it to his own advantage. These people come into collision, fight and destroy each other. It seems this is a terrible and hopeless anarchy.
But imagine, in the midst of this general anarchy, a secret organization which has scattered its members in small groups over the whole territory of the Empire but, is nevertheless, firmly united: inspired by a common ideal and a common aim which are applied everywhere, of course modified according to prevailing conditions: an organization which acts everywhere according to a common plan. These small groups, unknown by anybody as such, have no officially recognized power but they are strong in their ideal, which expresses the very essence of the people&rsquos instincts, desires and demands, strong also in their vlearly realized purpose among a mass of people struggling without purpose or plan. Finally, they are strong in their solidarity which ties all the obscure groups into one organic whole, in the intelligence and energy of their members who have managed to create around themselves a circle of people more or less devoted to the same ideal and naturally subject to their influence &ndash these groups will be able to lead the popular movement without seeking for themselves privileges, honors or power, in defiance of all ambitious persons who are divided and fighting among themselves and to lead it to the greatest possible realization of the socio-economic ideal and to the organization of fullest liberty for the people. This is what I call the collective dictatorship of the secret organization.
The dictatorship is free from all self-interest, vanity, and ambition for it is anonymous, invisible, and does not give advantage or honor or official recognition of power to a member of the group or to the groups themselves. It does not threaten the liberty of the people because it is free from all official character. It is not placed above the people like state power because its whole aim, defined by its program, consists of the fullest realization of the liberty of the people.
This dictatorship is not contrary to to the free development and self-determination of the people, or its organization from below according to its own customs and instincts for it acts on the people only by the natural personal influence of its members who are not invested with any power and are scattered like an invisible net in all regions, districts, and rural communities and, each one in his own place and in agreement with others, trying to direct the spontaneous revolutionary movement of the people towards a general plan which has been fully agreed and defined beforehand. This plan for the organization of the people&rsquos liberty must firstly be firmly and clearly delineated as regards its main principles and aims in order to exclude any possibility of misunderstanding and deviation by its members who will be called upon to help in its realization. Secondly, it must be sufficiently wide and human to embrace and take in all the inescapable changes which arise from differing circumstances, all varied movements arising from the variety of national life.
Thus the problem is at present how to organize from elements which we know and to which we have access this secret collective dictatorship and strength &ndash which could, firstly, disseminate at present a wide popular propaganda, a propaganda which would really penetrate among the people, and by the power of this propaganda and by organization within the people itself unite the divided strength of the people into a mighty force which could break the state &ndash and, secondly, which is capable of remaining in being in the midst of revolution itself without breaking apart or altering its directiion on the morrow of the people&rsquos liberation.
This organization, particularly its basic nucleus, must be composed of persons who are most determined, most intelligent and as far as possible knowledgable, i.e. intelligent by experience, who are passionately and undeviatingly devoted, who have, as far as possible, renounced all personal interests and have renounced once and for all, for life, or for death itself, all that attracts people, all material comforts and delights, all satisfaction of ambition, status, and fame. They must be totally and wholly absorbed by one passion, the people&rsquos liberation. They must be persons who would renounce personal historical importance while they are alive and even a name in history after their death.
Such complete self-denial is only possible in the presence of passion. It cannot be arrived at by a consciousness of absolute duty, but even less by a system of external control, of restriction and compulsion. Passion alone can bring about this miracle within a man, this strength without effort. Where does passion come from, and how does it arise in a man? It comes from life and arises through an interaction of life and thought negatively, as a protest hating all that exists and oppresses positively, in the society of people of the same mind and with the same feelings, as a collective creation of a new ideal. Nevertheless, one must point out that this passion is only real and salutary when both sides, the positive and the negative, are closely connected in it. Hate, the negative side alone, does not create anything, does not even create the power necessary for destruction and thus destroys nothing. The positive side alone will not destroy anything since the creation of the new is impossible without the destruction of the old, and will not create anything, remaining always a doctrinaire dream or a dreaming doctrine.
Deep passion which cannot be uprooted or shaken is, therefore, the foundation of everything. Without it, even if he is the wisest of men, if he is the most honest of men, he would not have the strength to carry on to the end the fight against the terrible socio-political power which oppresses us all. He would not have the strength to withstand all the difficulties, possibilities, and (most of all) the disappointments which await him and which he will meet without fail in this unequal and daily struggle. A passionless man would not have the strength, faith, or initiative he would not have the courage and this business cannot be carried out without courage. But passion alone is not enough. Passion engenders energy, but energy without sensible guidance is fruitless and absurd. Allied to passion there must be reason, cold, calculating, real and practical, but also based on theory, educated by knowledge and experience, wide-ranging but not overlooking details, capable of understanding and discerning people, capable of grasping the realities, relationships and conditions of social life in all strata of society and in all their manifestations, in their true aspect and sense and not arbitrarily and in a dream, as is often done by my friend, namely, you. Finally, it is necessary to know well both Russia and Europe and the real social and political situation in both. Thus passion, while always remaining the basic element, must be led by reason and knowledge, must not rush aimlessly about but, without losing its inward fire, its fervent inexorability, must become cold and thereby much stronger.
Here is the ideal of the conspirator destined to be a member of the nucleus of the secret organization.
You will ask, where are we to find these people, are there many of them in Russia, or even in the whole of Europe? The point is that according to my system not many are needed. Remember that you do not have to create an army but a revolutionary staff. You might find possibly ten such people who are nearly ready, perhaps fifty or sixty capable of becoming such men and preparing themselves for this role &ndash this is more than enough. I am deeply convinced that you yourself, in spite of all blunders, regrettable and harmful mistakes, in spite of a series of disgusting petty and stupid deceits, into which you were drawn only by a false system, not by ambition, vanity, or self-interest, as many, too many people begin to believe, you with whom I would be obliged to break and have resolved to do so if you do not renounce this system &ndash you belong to the number of these rare people. This is the only reason for my love for you, my faith in you in spite of everything, and my patience with you, a patience which, however, is now exhausted. In addition to all your terrible shortcomings and abortive thinking, I recognized and continue to recognize in you an intelligent, strong and energetic man, capable of cold calculation and, be it from inexperience, ignorance, and frequently from false argument, capable also of complete self-denial. A man passionately and wholly devoted and consecrated to the cause for popular liberation.
Rebounce your system and you will become a valuable man if, however, you do not wish to renounce it, you will certainly become a harmful militant, highly destructive not to the state but to the cause of liberty. But I very much hope that the latest events in Russia and abroad have opened your eyes and that you will want and understand the necessity of joining hands with us on a basis of sicerity. In that case, I repeat, we shall acknowledge you as a valuable man and will gladly recognize you as our leader for all Russian activities. But if you are as I described, then surely there will be found in Russia at least ten people like you. I they have not yet been found, look for them and set up a new society with them on the following principles and mutual conditions:
1. To adopt fully, wholly and passionately the above-mentioned program in The People&rsquos Cause (Narodnoe Delo), with additions and clarifications which seem necessary to you.
2. Equality among all members and their unconditional and absolute solidarity &ndash one for all and all for one &ndash with the obligation for each and everyone to help each other, support and save each other to the uttermost, in as mych as it is possible without danger of annihilation to the society itself.
3. Complete frankness among members and proscription of any Jesuitical methods in their relationship, of all ignoble distrust, all perfidious control, of spying and mutual accusations, the absence and a positive strict prohibition of all tattling behind members&rsquo backs. When a member has to say anything against another member, this must be done at a general meeting and in his presence. General fraternal control of each other, a control which should not be captious or petty and above all not malicious. This type of control must take the place of your system of Jesuitical control and must become a moral education, a support for the moral strength of each member. It must be the basis of mutual fraternal trust on which rests all the internal and, therefore, external power of the society.
4. All weak-nerved, cowardly, ambitious and self-seeking people are excluded from the society. They can be used as weapons by the society without their knowledge, but on no account must they belong to its nucleus.
5. In joining the society, every member condemns himself for ever to be socially unknown and insignificant. All his energy and all his intelligence belong to the society and must be directed not to the creation of personal social strength, but to the collective strength of the organization. Each must be convinced that personal influence is powerless and fruitless and that only collective strength can overcome the common enemy and achieve the common positive aim. Therefore collective passion must gradually be substituted for personal passions within each member.
6. Everyone&rsquos personal intelligence vanishes like a river in the sea in the collective intelligence and all members obey unconditionally the decisions of the latter.
7. All members are equal they know all their comrades and discuss and decide with them all the most important and essential questions bearing on the program of the society and the progress of the cause. The decision of the general meeting is absolute law.
8. In priciple each member has the right to know everything. But idle curiosity is forbidden in the society as is aimless talk about the business and aims of the secret society. Knowing the general program and the general direction of affairs, no member asks or tries to fins out details which are not needed for better execution of that part of the enterprise with which he is entrusted and, if it is not necessary in practice, will not talk with any of his comrades about it.
9. The society chooses an Executive Committee from among their number consisting of three or five members who should organize the branches of the society and manage its activities in all the regions of the Empire on the basis of the program and general plan of action adopted by the decision of the society as a whole.
10. This Committee is elected for an indefinite term. If the society &ndash I shall call it the People&rsquos Fraternity &ndash if the People&rsquos Fraternity is satisfied with the actions of the Committee, it will be left as such and while it remains a Committee each member of the People&rsquos Fraternity and each regional group have to obey it unconditionally, except for such cases where the orders of the Committee contradict either the general program of the principal rules, or the general revolutionary plan of action, which are known to everybody as all the Brothers have participated equally in the discussion of them.
11. In such a case members of the group must halt the execution of the Committee&rsquos orders and call the Committee to judgment before the general meeting of the People&rsquos Fraternity. If the general meeting is discontented with the Committee, it can always substitute another one for it.
12. Any member and any group is subject to judgment by the general meeting of the People&rsquos Fraternity.
13. Since each Brother knows everything and knows even the personnel of the Committee, the acceptance of a new member among them must be conducted with extreme caution, difficulties and obstacles. One bad cbhoice can ruin everything. No new Brother can be accepted without the consent of all or at the very least three-quarters of all the members of the People&rsquos Fraternity.
14. The Committee divides the members of the Fraternity among the Regions and constitutes Regional groups of leaderships from them. This leadership could consist of one Brother alone, if there are too few members.
15. Regional leadership is charged with organizing the second tier of the society &ndash the Regional Fraternity, on the basis of the same program, the same rules, and the same revolutionary plan.
16. All members of the Regional Fraternity know each other, but do not know of the existence of the People&rsquos Fraternity. They only know that there exists a Central Committee which hands down to them their orders for execution through Regional Committee which has been set up by it, i.e. by the Central Committee.
17. As far as possible the Regional Committee is composed exclusively of People&rsquos Brothers appointed and replaced by the Central Committee, with at least one People&rsquos Brother. In such a case this Brother, with the consent of the C.C., will appoint the two best members of the Regional Fraternity to act jointly with himself as a Regional Committee but these will not have equal membershi rights in so far as only the eople&rsquos Brother will be in contact with the C.C. whose orders he will pass on to his comrades of the Regional Committee.
18. People&rsquos Brothers or Brothers in the regions will seek out from among members of the Regional Fraternity people capable and worthy of being admitted to the People&rsquos Fraternity, and will introduce them through the C.C. to the general meeting of the People&rsquos Fraternity.
19. Each Regional Committee will set up District Committees from members of Regional Fraternity and will appoint and replace them.
20. District Committees can, if necessary and only with the consent of the Regional Committee, set up a third tier of the organization &ndash District Fraternity with a program and regulations of the People&rsquos Fraternity. The program and regulations of the District Fraternity will not come into force until they are discussed and passed by the general meeting of the Regional Fraternity and have been confirmed by the Regional Committee.
21. Jesuitical control and a system of entanglement by police methods and lies are totally excluded from all three tiers of the secret organization, likewise from the District, Regional, and People&rsquos Fraternities. The strength of the whole society, as well as the morality, loyalty, energy and dedication of each member, is based exclusively and totally on the shared truth, sincerity and trust, and on the open fraternal control of all over each one.
Here you have the main outline of a plan for the society such as I conceive it to be. Obviously this plan must be developed, supplemented, and sometimes altered according to circumstances and the character of the environment and should be defined much more clearly. But I am convinced that its essence must remain, if you wish to create a real collective power which is capable of serving the cause of people&rsquos liberation and not initiate a new exploitation of the people.
The system of entanglement and of Jesuitical lies is totally excluded from this plan as being harmful, divisive, and corrupting principle and means. But parliamentary chatter and ambitious fussiness are also excluded. Strong discipline of all members in their relations with the Committees and all individual Committees in their relation with the C.C. are retained. The right of judgment and control over members belongs to Fraternities and not to Committees. New executive power is in the hands of the Committees. The right of judgment over Committees, including the Central, is the province of the People&rsquos Fraternity alone.
According to my plan the People&rsquos Fraternity will never consist of more than fifty to seventy members. At first it will probably consist of ten men or even less and will grow slowly, accepting one man after another, submitting each one to the strictest and most thorough study and, if possible, accepting him only with the unanimous consent of all members of the People&rsquos Fraternity, but in any case not less than three-quarters of the Fraternity. It is impossible that in the course of two or three years thirty or forty men cannot be found who would be capable of being People&rsquos Brothers.
Imagine the People&rsquos Fraternity for the whole of Russia consisting of forty, at most of seventy members. In addition there would be some hundreds of members belonging to the second tier of the organization. Regional Brothers &ndash and you have covered the whole of Russia with a mighty net. Your staff is set up. One has, as mentioned, assured within it &ndash in addition to strict caution and the exclusion of all chatter, all ambitious and idle parliamentary debate &ndash sincerity and mutual trust, real solidarity, as the only moralizing unifying elements.
The whole society constitute&rsquos one body and a firmly united whole, led by the C.C. and engaged in unceasing underground struggle against the government and against other societies either inimical to it or even those acting independently of it. Where there is war, there is politics, and there inescapably arises the necessity for violence, cunning, and deceit.
Societies whose aims are near to ours must be forced to merge with our society or, at least, must be subordinated to it without their knowledge, while harmful people must be removed from them. Societies which are inimical or positively harmful must be dissolved, and finally the government must be destroyed. All this cannot be achieved only by propagating the truth cunning, diplomacy, deceit are necessary. Jesuit methods or even entanglement can be used for this &ndash entanglement is a necessary and marvelous means for demoralizing and destroying the enemy, though certainly not a useful means of obtaining and attracting a new friend.
Thus this simple law must be the basis of our activity: truth, honesty, mutual trust between all Brothers and towards any man who is capable of becoming and whom you would wish to become a Brother &ndash lies, cunning, entanglement, and, if necessary, violence towards enemies. In this way you will moralize, strengthen, and unite your own people and destroy the strength of others.
You, my dear friend &ndash and this is a terrible mistake &ndash have become fascinated by the system of Loyola and Machiavelli, the first of whom intended to enthralled the whole of mankind, and the second to create a powerful state (whether monarchist or republican is of no importance, it would equally lead to the enslavement of the people). Having fallen in love with police and Jesuitical principles and methods, you intended to base on them your own organization, your secret collective power, so to say, the heart and soul of your whole society. You therefore treat your friends as you treat your enemies, with cunning and lies, try to divide them, even to foment quarrels, so that they should not be able to unite against your tutelage. You look for strength not in their unity but in their disunity and do not trust them at all. You try to collect damning facts or letters (which frequently you have read without having the right to do so, and which are even stolen), and try to entangle them in every way, so that they should be your slaves. At the same time you do it so clumsily, so awkwardly and carelessly, so rashly and inconsiderately, that all your deceits, perfidies, and cunning are exposed very quickly. You have fallen so much in love with Jesuit methods that you have forgotten everything else. You have even forgotten the aim which led you to them, the passionate desire for the people&rsquos liberation. You have so much in love with Jesuit methods that you are prepared to preach their necessity to anybody, even to Zhukovsky. You even wanted to write about them, to fill Kolokol (The Bell) with these theories &ndash reminding one of Suvorov&rsquos saying, &rdquoThank goodness, he is not cunning whom everybody knows to be cunning.&rdquo Briefly, you are playing with Jesuit methods as a child plays with a doll or Utin at Revolution.
Now let us have a look at what you have achieved and have had time to do in Geneva thanks to your Jesuit system. You were given the Bakhmetev fund. This is the only real result which you have achieved. But Ogarev gave it to you and I warmly advised that you should be given it, not because you played the Jesuit with us, but because we felt and recognized in you, in addition to your far-from-clever Jesuitism, a man who is deeply, warmly, and earnestly devoted to the Russian cause. But you know &ndash this is bitter confession for me &ndash I almost repent that I advised Ogarev to give you the fund. Not because I could think that you might use it dishonestly or for your own advantage &ndash saints preserve me from such an ignoble and simply inept thought! I am prepared to answer with my life that you will never use one penny more than necessary for yourself. No, I begin to repent because, observing your actions, I have stopped believing in your political wisdom, in the earnestness and the reality of your Committee and your whole society. The sum is not large, but it is the only one and it will disappear in vain, uselessly, and wantomly in mad and impossible activities.
You could have done a lot of useful things in Geneva with this modest sum in your hands and with the help of a few people who met you with complete sincerity and expressed their readiness to serve the common cause without demands or claims, without vanity or ambition. You could have set up a serious organ with an avowed social-revolutionary program and, attached to it, a foreign bureau for the management of Russian activities outside Russia and in a certain, though not absolute but positive [&hellip] to it. Your Committee, i.e. you, invited me to Geneva for this purpose for the first time. What did I find in Geneva? First of all, a mangled program for Kolokol on which the Committee and you made simply absurd and impossible demands. Do you know, I simply cannot forgive my weakness in yielding to you on this question &ndash I have to answer for this poor Kolokol and for solidarity with you to all my international friends, thanks on the one hand to Utin and on the other to Zhukovsky, the first of whom slanders me and you maliciously, and the second goodhumoredly.
By the way, about Zhukovsky. You demonstrated with regard to him your complete ignorance and your incomprehension of people, your inability to attract them in a straight-forward, honest, firm way to your cause. Knowing him intimately, I have described his character to you in detail, his abilities and ineptitudes, so that it should not have been difficult for you to establish serious relations with him. I described him to you as a very kind and able man, far from stupid, although without any intellectual initiative, accepting all ideas at second hand and capable of popularizing them or chattering about them fairly eloquently, not so much on paper as in conversation. As a man of artistic sensibility fairly firmly committed to a certain orientation, but without much cracter, in the sense that he does not like danger, he bows before strong contradiction and easily succumbs to all sorts of influences. In a word, he is a man very capable of being a conductor of propaganda, but completely incapable of being a member of a secret society. You ought to have believed me, but did not do so and instead of attracting Zhukovsky to our cause, alienated him from you and from me. You tried to enlist and ensnare him, and having ensnared him, to make him your slave. To do this you started to scold and ridicule me but Zhukovsky has an instinct for honesty which rebelled. He told me everything that you told him about me, told it with indignation and scorn and had I been a vainer and weaker man this would have been enough for me to break my connection with you. You will remember that I contented myself with faithfully repeating to you Zhukovsky&rsquos words without comment. You did not reply, and I did not think it necessary to continue this discussion. Then you started to explain to Zhukovsky your favorite stae-communist and police-Jesuit theories, and this finally estranged him from you. Finally, there was this unfortunate gossip by Henry, and Zhukovsky became your bitter and irreconcilable foe, not only your foe but almost mine as well. And he might have been useful in spite of all his weaknesses.
I must also confess, dear friend, that your system of blackmailing, entangling and scaring Tata was extremely repugnant to me and I told you about this several times. The result was that you instilled in her a deep suspicion towards all of us and a conviction that you and I intended to exploit [her] financial resources and to exploit them, of course, for ourself and not for the cause. Tata is a truly honest and truthful person incapable, it seems to me, of giving herself completely to anyone or anything, therefore a dilettante if not by nature then by perception, an intellectual and moral dilettante, whose word, however, one can trust and who is capable of being, if not our friend, at least a true well-wisher. She should have been treated in a straightforward and honest manner, without resorting to the tricks which you think are your strength, but which in fact show your weakness. While I considered it possible and useful to speak to her directly and openly to try to influence her free convictions, I did so. I did not wish to go any further with you in this matter as I found it repugnant. As soon as I heard from you that Natalya Alexeevna had slandered me, maintaining that I had designs on Tata&rsquos pocket and saw that Tata herself was doubtful, not knowing whether this was true, I withdrew from her decisively.
By the way, you insisted several times that you heard from Tata herself that Natalya Alexeevna and Tchorzewski claim everywhere, shout and write to everybody, that I want to exploit Tata&rsquos financial resources. Natalya Alexeevna and Tchorzewski, on the contrary, maintain that they have never written and said it, and Tata herself confirmed this. During your visit to Geneva you told me that you heard from Serebrennikov (Semen) that Zhukovsky had told him that I exploit Tata. I asked Serebrennikov and found out that Zhukovsky said that not about me, but about you. You also told me that Zhukovsky&rsquos wife tried to persuade you to join Utin, assuring you that an alliance with me was useless, impossible, and harmful. She maintains the contrary: she did not speak about me to you she did not invite you to join Utin with whom she herself had more or less broken, and that you, not she, proposed that you find funds to achieve this alliance and she was waiting to receive these funds from you.
You see how many unnecessary, stupid lies there are, and how easily they are revealed. Yes, I must confess that my first vidit to Geneva had already disappointed me and undermined my faith in the possibility of a firm alliance and common action with you. In addition, not a sensible word was said between us about the business for which I was summoned and solely for which I came to Geneva. Several times I started a discussion about the foreign bureau you avoided it, awaiting some sort of final answer from the Committee, which never arrived. Finally, I left, having sent through you a letter to the Committee in which I demanded a clear definition and explanation of the business for which I was summoned, firmly intending not to return to Geneva unless I had received a satisfactory reply.
In May you again started asking me to come to Geneva. I refused several times finally I came. The last trip confirmed all doubts and completely shook my faith in the honesty and truthfulness of your word. Your conversations with Lopatin in my presence on the evening of my arrival: his direct and sharp accusations, which he made to your face with a conviction which did not permit any doubt as to the veracity of his words &ndash words which showed your statements to be lies. His direct contradiction of all details in the story written by you about your escape. His direct accusations against your dearest friends, accusations of ignoble, even stupid treachery before the commission of inquiry, accusations which were not unsupported but based on their written evidence which (according to him and confirmed by you later) he had a chance to read. In particular, the contempt expressed by him about the completely unnecessary denouncing of Pryzhov, of whom you spoke as being one of your best and firmest friends. Finally, his direct and definite denial of the existence of your Committee which was expressed in the following words:
&rdquoN[echayev] can tell the story to you who live outside Russia. However, he will not repeat all this in my presence, knowing full well that I am familiar with all the groups, all the people and all attitudes and facts in Russia. You see that he confirms by his silence the truth of all I say both about his escape, the circumstances of which, as he is aware, are only too well known to me, down to the smallest detail, and I know also about his friends and imaginary Committee.&rdquo
And in fact you remained silent and did not attempt to defend yourself, or any of your friends, or even the reality of the existence of your Committee.
He triumphed you retreated before him. I cannot express to you, my dear friend, how hurt I was both for your sake and for mine. I could not doubt the truth of Lopatin&rsquos words any longer. It followed that you systematically lied to us, that your whole enterprise was riddled with rotten lies and was founded on sand. It meant that your Committee consisted of you accounting for at least three-quarters of it, with a following of two, three, or four people who are subordinate to you, or at least under your predominant influence. It meant that the cause to which you had entirely dedicated your life had burst, dissipated in a puff of smoke, as a result of false and stupid orientation, as a result of your Jesuitical system which had corrupted you and, even more, your friends. I loved you deeply and still love you, Nechayev. I firmly, too firmly, believed in you and to see you in such a position, so humiliated in front of the chatterer Lopatin, was inexpressibly bitter to me.
I was lso hurt on my own account. Carried away by my faith in you, I gave you my name and publicly esoused your cause. I tried as much as I could to strengthen Ogarev&rsquos sympathy towards you and his faith in your cause. I continually advised him to give up to you all the money. I attracted Ozerov to you and spared no efforts in order to persuade Tata to join us, i.e. you, and to devote herself wholly to your cause. Finally, against my better judgment, I persuaded Ogarev to agree to publish Kolokol according to the wild and impossible program invented by you. Briefly, having complete faith in you, while you systematically duped me, I turned out to be a complete fool. This is painful and shameful for a man of my experience and my age. Worse than this, I spoiled my situation with regard to the Russian and the International causes.
When Lopatin left, I asked you: Is it possible that he told the truth, that ecerything you told me was a lie? You evaded an answer. It was late and I left. All the conversations and discussions with Lopatin the following day finally convinced me that Lopatin told the truth. You were silent. I awaited the result of your last talk with Lopatin you did not tell me about it, but I found it out from Lopatin&rsquos letter which Ozerov will read to you.
What I found out was enough to induce me to take measures against further exploitation of myself and my friends by you. Accordingly I wrote you an ultimatum which I hastily read to you at the Turks and which you appeared to accept.
Since then I have not seen you.
The day before yesterday I finally received a letter from Lopatin from which I gathered two rather sad facts: firstly you (I do not wish to use any adlectives) you lied when you reported to me your talk with Lopatin. Everything you told me about his alleged words were a complete lie. He did not tell you that I gave him letters from Lyubavin: &rdquoThe old man could not hold out, he is in our hands now and cannot do anything against us, and we can now all&hellip&rdquo, to which you were supposed to have replied: &rdquoIf Bakunin was so weak as to give you Lyubavin&rsquos letters, we have other letters, etc.&rdquo You lied, you slandered Lopatin, and you deliverately duped me. Lopatin is surprised that I believed you, and in a polite form deduces from this fact a conclusion less than flattering to my mental capacities. He is right. In this case I showed myself a complete fool. He would not have judged me quite so severy had he known how deeply, how passionately, how tenderly I loved you and believed in you! You were able, and found it useful, to kill this belief in me &ndash so much the worse for you. How could I think that a man who was intelligent and devoted to the cause, as you still remain in my eyes in spite of all that has happened &ndash how could I imagine that you would tell such barefaced and stupid lies to me of whose devotion you could have no doubts? Why did you not realize that your impudent lies would be discovered and that I would demand, would have to demand, an explanation from Lopatin, the more so because my ultimatum contained a clearly expressed demand that the Lyubavin affair must be completely clarified? Another fact: Lyubavin did not get my reply to his rude letter, therefore he did not receive my receipt which I enclosed with this reply. When I showed you my reply and receipt, you asked me to wait and not send them. I did not agree, and you offered to post them but did not do so.
This is enough, Nechayev &ndash our old relationship and our mutual obligations are at an end. You yourself have destroyed them. If you thought and still think that you have bound me, entangled me morally and materially, you are completely mistaken. Nothing on earth can bind me against my conscience, against my honor, against my will, against my revolutionary convictions and duty.
It is true that thanks to you my financial position is now very difficult. I have no means of existence, and my only source of income, translating Marx and the hope of other literary work connected with it, has now dried up. I am aground and do not know how I shall manage to get off, but that is the least of my troubles.
It is true that I have compromised friends and was compromised in front of them. It is true that I am being slandered in connection with the fund, in connection with Tata, and finally in connection with all the recent events in Russia.
But all this will not deter me. In case of dire necessity I am prepared for a public admission and confession of my stupidity, of which of course I shall be very much ashamed, but which will reflect even more upon you &ndash but I shall not remain your unwilling ally.
Thus I give notice to you that all my horrid relationships with you and with your cause are at an end. But in breaking them off I offer you new relations on a different basis.
Lopatin, who does not know you as well as I do, would have been surprised at my suggestion after all that has happened between us. You will not be surprised, nor will my close friends.
There is no doubt that you have perpetrated many stupidities and many dirty tricks, positively harmful and destructive to the cause. But it is also clear to me that all your inept actions and terrible blunders were not caused by your self-interest, greed, vanity, or ambition, but only by your misunderstanding of the situation. You are a passionately dedicated man there are few like you. This is your strength, your valor and your justification. You and your Committee, if the latter really exists, are full of energy and are prepared to execute without fuss anything you consider useful for the cause &ndash this is valuable. But neither your Committee nor you possess any common sense &ndash this is now obvious. You have taken to the Jesuit system like children, and seeing in it your whole strength, success, and salvation have forgotten the very essence and aim of the society: liberation of the people not only from government but from you, from yourselves. Having adopted this system you have carried it to a monstrously stupid extreme, have corrupted yourselves by it and have disgraced the society throughout the world by your only too obvious guile and incredible stupidities &ndash like your stern letters to Lyubavin and to Natalya Alexeevna which were matched by your polite patience towards Utin like your attempts to ingratiate yourself with him while he slandered all of us loudly and impudently like your stupid communist program and a whole series of shameless deceits. All this proves an absence of common sense, an ignorance of people, relationships, and things. It follows that one cannot rely on your common sense, at least at present, in spite of the fact that you are an extremely intelligent man, capable of further development. This, however, gives hope for the future at present you are as clumsy and inept as a boy.
Having finally convinced myself of this, my position is now as follows:
I do not believe your words, your unsupported assurances and promises which are not confirmed by facts, knowing that you would not hesitate to lie if this seemed to you to be useful to the cause. Nor do I believe in the justice or wisdom of what imagine to be useful, because you and your Committee have given me too many proofs of your positive lack of sense. But denting your veracity and your wisdom, I do not deny your energy and your undoubted devotion to the cause, and believe that there are few people in Russia equal to you in either. This, I repeat again, was the chief, indeed the only basis of my love for you and my faith in you and I am convinced it still remains a guarantee that you alone of all the Russians I know are capable of serving the revolutionary cause in Russia and destined to do so but only if you want and are able to alter the whole system of your activities in Russia and abroad. However, if you do not wish to change it, you will inevitably become a man highly harmful to the cause as a result of those very qualities which are your strength.
As a consequence of these connsiderations and in spite of all that has happened between us, I would wish not only to remain allied with you, but to make this union even closer and firmer, on condition that you will change the system entirely and will make mutual trust, sincerity and truth the foundation of our future relations. Otherwise the break between us is inevitable.
Now here are my personal and general conditions. I will enumerate the personal ones first:
1. You must shield and clear me entirely in the Lyubavin affair by writing a collective letter to Ogarev, Tata, Ozerov and S. Serebrennikov in which you will announce, as is indeed the truth, that I did not know anything about the letter of the Committee and that it has been written without my knowledge and consent.
2. hat you have read my reply to Lyubavin with the enclosed receipt for 300 rubles and having undertaken to send it, have either posted or not.
3. That I have never directly or indirectly interfered in the disposal of the Bakhmetev fund. That you have received the whole of the monies at various times: first from the hands of Herzen and Ogarev and the remaining, larger part from the hands of Ogarev who, after the death of Herzen, was the only one who had the right to dispose of it, and that you received this fund in the name of the Committee whose manager you were.
4. If you have not yet given Ogarev the receipt for this fund, then you must do so.
5. You have to return as soon as possible the note from Danielson through us and through Lopatin. If you have not got it (though I am sure you have) you must in the same letter undertake to deliver it in the shortest possible time.
6. You will abandon purposeless or, worse, positively harmful attempts for a rapprochement with Utin, who most vilely slanders both of us and all that is ours in Russia, and on the contrary will undertake, having chosen the right time and occasion in order not to harm the cause, to conduct open war against him.
These are my personal connditions a refusal of one of them, in particular of the first five and the first half of the sixth (i.e. breaking off all ties with Utin) will be sufficient reason for me to break all relations with you. All this has to be done by you generously, frankly, honestly without any misunderstandings, reservations, hints and equivocations. It is time we put our cards on the table.
Here are the general conditions:
Without naming the names, which we do not need, you will show us the actual state of your organization and cause in Russia, of your hopes, your propaganda, your movements, without exaggeration and deceit.
You will eradicate from your organization any use of police and Jesuitical systems, confining their application to the government and inimical parties and only when it is really necessary in practice and in accordance with common sense.
You will drop the absurd idea that revolution can be made outside the people and without its participation, and will adopt as a basis of your organization the spontaneous people&rsquos revolution in which the people will be the army and the organization only its staff.
You will adopt as a basis of the organization the social-revolutionary program expounded in the first number of The People&rsquos Cause [Narodnoe Delo], the plan of organization and revolutionary propaganda expounded by me in my letter, with such additions and alterations as we shall together find necessary at a general meeting.
All that has been agreed in our common discussion and unanimous decisions will be proposed by you to all your friends in Russia and abroad. Should they reject our decisions, you will have to decide for yourself whether you wish to follow them or us, to break your ties with them or with us.
If they accept the program, organizational plan, the rules of the society, the plan for propaganda and for revolutionary action worked out by us, you will, in your own and in their name, give us your hand and your word of honor that from now on this program, this plan of organization, propaganda and action, will be absolute law and the indispensable basis of the whole society in Russia.
We shall believe you and will make a new firm bond with you &ndash Ogarev, Ozerov, S. Serebrennikov and I, possibly Tata, if she should so wish and if you and all the others agree. We shall in truth be People&rsquos Brothers who live and act abroad. Therefore, without ever showing any undue curiosity, we shall have the right to know and will indeed know actively and in the necessary detail the situation of conspiratorial affairs and immediate aims in Russia.
Then we, all the above-mentioned, will set up a bureau abroad to deal with all Russian affairs abroad, without exception, taking into consideration the lines of Russian policy, but choosing freely methods, people and means.
In addition, Kolokol will be published with a clear revolutionary, socialist program, if this is necessary and if money for it is available.
Here are my conditions, Nechayev. If you have been inspired by good sense and sober judgment and if love of the cause is really stronger in you than all other considerations, you will accept them.
And if you do not accept, my decision is inflexible. I shall have to break all ties with you. I will act independently, taking nothing into consideration except my own conscience, understanding and duty.
Sergei Nechayev - History
Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (or Nyechayev Russian: Серге́й Генна́диевич Неча́ев) was a Russian revolutionary associated with the Nihilist movement and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including terrorism. He was the author of the radical Catechism of a Revolutionary.
|Born:||October 2, 1847||Ivanovo, Vladimir Governorate, Imperial Russia|
|Died:||Nov. 21 or Dec. 3||St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia|
He fled Russia in 1869 after having been involved in the murder of a former comrade. Complicated relationships with fellow revolutionaries caused him to be expelled from the "First International". Arrested in Switzerland in 1872, he was sent back to Russia, received a 20-year sentence and died in
Despised the masses and wanted to drag them forcibly to revolution
In connection with the extreme maximalist tendencies of the end of the 'sixties the sinister, grim, and characteristically Russian figure of Nechaev is of particular interest. He was the founder of the revolutionary society called 'The Axe or the People's Justice'. Nechaev composed the 'Revolutionary Catechism', a document of unusual interest, unique of its kind. In this document is to be found the extreme expression of the principles of atheistic revolutionary asceticism. They are the rules by which the genuine revolutionary should be guided, his manual, as it were, of the spiritual life. Nechaev’s catechism is reminiscent to a grim degree of Orthodox asceticism turned inside out and mixed with Jesuitism. He was a sort of Isaac the Syrian and Ignatius Loyola of revolutionary socialism, the extremist form of the revolutionary ascetic denial of the world. Nechaev was, of course, absolutely sincere, and his fanaticism was of the extremest kind. His was the psychology of the sectarian. He was prepared to burn his neighbour, but he was ready at any moment to be burned himself. Nechaev alarmed everybody. Revolutionaries and socialists of all shades rejected him and found that he was compromising the work of revolution and socialism. Even Bakunin repudiated Nechaev. … It is of special interest to us that Nechaev to a large extent anticipated the bolshevik type of party organization, in which everything comes from above, the extreme of centralized and despotic organization. Nechaev desired to cover the whole of Russia with those small revolutionary cells, with an iron discipline for which everything would be permissible for the sake of achieving the revolutionary purpose. Nechaev despised the masses and wanted to drag them forcibly to revolution. He rejected democracy. How does Nechaev characterize the revolutionary? 'The revolutionary is the doomed man. He has no personal interests, business, feelings, connections, property, or even name. Everything in him is in the grip of the one exclusive interest, one thought, one passion, revolution.'
The revolutionary has broken with civil order, with the civilized world, and with the morals of the world. He Hves in this world in order to destroy it. He must not even love the sciences of this world. He knows one science only, the science of destruction. To the revolutionary everything is moral which serves the revolution — words which Lenin repeated later. The revolutionary destroys everything which hinders the attainment of his purpose. He is no revolutionary who holds anything in this world dear. The revolutionary should penetrate even the secret poHce and have his agents everywhere. It is necessary to increase suffering and violence in order to arouse the masses to rebellion. He must associate with outlaws, who are the real revolutionaries. He must focus this world into one invincible destructive force.
According to Nechaev the psychology of the revolijtionary requires the rejection of the world and personal life, exceptional efficiency, exceptional concentration upon the one thing needful, readiness to face the pain and suffering which he must expect.
‘Catechism of a Revolutionary’
Nechayev took part in devising the student movement’s “Program of Revolutionary Action,” which named “social revolution” as its ultimate goal. The program laid out plans for creating a revolutionary organization and conducting covert subversive activities.
This program was the root of Nechayev’s most famous work, the 1869 dark masterpiece “Catechism of a Revolutionary.”
While only a few hundred words long, “The Catechism” has become a legendary revolutionary work. Former Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver referred to it as his “bible”:
“I took the Catechism for my bible and … I began consciously incorporating these principles into my daily life, to employ tactics of ruthlessness in my dealings with everyone with whom I came into contact. And I began to look at white America through those new eyes,” he wrote in “Target Zero: A Life in Writing.”
In Catechism, Nechayev lays out his philosophy of revolution. It’s breathtakingly bleak in its embrace of pure evil in the pursuit of an ill-defined working-class utopia.
In the first section, “The Duties of the Revolutionary Toward Himself,” Nechayev explains what it means to be a real revolutionary:
“The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.
“The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.
“The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night, he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.
“The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.
“The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.
“Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution.
“For him, there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction—the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim—merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.”
Only the Revolution
According to Nechayev, the true revolutionary must be as hard on his comrades as he is on himself:
“The revolutionary can have no friendship or attachment, except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution. The degree of friendship, devotion, and obligation toward such a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.”
Nachayev is totally ruthless in his pursuit of revolution and shows no mercy to anything or anyone standing in the way:
“The revolutionary enters the world of the State, of the privileged classes, of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred. All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends, or lovers he is no longer a revolutionary if he is swayed by these relationships.”
He holds that every leading institution of society must be penetrated by the revolutionaries. Business, religion, academia, the arts, and the military must all be twisted to serve the revolution:
“Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionary may and frequently must live within society while pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle-classes, into the houses of commerce, the churches, and the palaces of the aristocracy, and into the worlds of the bureaucracy and literature and the military, and also into the Third Division [secret police] and the Winter Palace of the Czar.”
And no mercy must be shown to counter-revolutionaries. Those not immediately murdered must be exploited to the hilt:
“This filthy social order can be split up into several categories. The first category comprises those who must be condemned to death without delay. Comrades should compile a list of those to be condemned according to the relative gravity of their crimes and the executions should be carried out according to the prepared order. …
“The second group comprises those who will be spared for the time being in order that, by a series of monstrous acts, they may drive the people into inevitable revolt.
“The third category consists of a great many brutes in high positions, distinguished neither by their cleverness nor their energy, while enjoying riches, influence, power, and high positions by virtue of their rank. These must be exploited in every possible way they must be implicated and embroiled in our affairs, their dirty secrets must be ferreted out, and they must be transformed into slaves. Their power, influence, and connections, their wealth and their energy, will form an inexhaustible treasure and a precious help in all our undertakings.”
Nechayev’s tiny revolutionary “Society” had only one goal: the “happiness” of the working masses. So much did they prize that elusive state of bliss, they were prepared to make the masses completely miserable to achieve it:
“The Society has no aim other than the complete liberation and happiness of the masses—i.e., of the people who live by manual labor. Convinced that their emancipation and the achievement of this happiness can only come about as a result of an all-destroying popular revolt, the Society will use all its resources and energy toward increasing and intensifying the evils and miseries of the people until at last their patience is exhausted and they are driven to a general uprising.”
The Duties of the Revolutionary toward Himself
1. The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.
2. The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.
3. The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.
4. The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.
5. The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.
6. Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, on consolation, one reward, one satisfaction—the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim—merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.
7. The nature of the true revolutionary excludes all sentimentality, romanticism, infatuation, and exaltation. All private hatred and revenge must also be excluded. Revolutionary passion, practiced at every moment of the day until it becomes a habit, is to be employed with cold calculation. At all times, and in all places, the revolutionary must obey not his personal impulses, but only those which serve the cause of the revolution.
The Relations of the Revolutionary toward his Comrades
8. The revolutionary can have no friendship or attachment, except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution. The degree of friendship, devotion and obligation toward such a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.
9. It is superfluous to speak of solidarity among revolutionaries. The whole strength of revolutionary work lies in this. Comrades who possess the same revolutionary passion and understanding should, as much as possible, deliberate all important matters together and come to unanimous conclusions. When the plan is finally decided upon, then the revolutionary must rely solely on himself. In carrying out acts of destruction, each one should act alone, never running to another for advice and assistance, except when these are necessary for the furtherance of the plan.
10. All revolutionaries should have under them second- or third-degree revolutionaries—i.e., comrades who are not completely initiated. These should be regarded as part of the common revolutionary capital placed at his disposal. This capital should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit. The real revolutionary should regard himself as capital consecrated to the triumph of the revolution however, he may not personally and alone dispose of that capital without the unanimous consent of the fully initiated comrades.
11. When a comrade is in danger and the question arises whether he should be saved or not saved, the decision must not be arrived at on the basis of sentiment, but solely in the interests of the revolutionary cause. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh carefully the usefulness of the comrade against the expenditure of revolutionary forces necessary to save him, and the decision must be made accordingly.
The Relations of the Revolutionary toward Society
12. The new member, having given proof of his loyalty not by words but by deeds, can be received into the society only by the unanimous agreement of all the members.
13. The revolutionary enters the world of the State, of the privileged classes, of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred. All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends, or lovers he is no longer a revolutionary if he is swayed by these relationships.
14. Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionary may and frequently must live within society will pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle-classes, into the houses of commerce, the churches, and the palaces of the aristocracy, and into the worlds of the bureaucracy and literature and the military, and also into the Third Division and the Winter Palace of the Czar.
15. This filthy social order can be split up into several categories. The first category comprises those who must be condemned to death without delay. Comrades should compile a list of those to be condemned according to the relative gravity of their crimes and the executions should be carried out according to the prepared order.
16. When a list of those who are condemned is made, and the order of execution is prepared, no private sense of outrage should be considered, nor is it necessary to pay attention to the hatred provoked by these people among the comrades or the people. Hatred and the sense of outrage may even be useful insofar as they incite the masses to revolt. It is necessary to be guided only by the relative usefulness of these executions for the sake of revolution. Above all, those who are especially inimical to the revolutionary organization must be destroyed their violent and sudden deaths will produce the utmost panic in the government, depriving it of its will to action by removing the cleverest and most energetic supporters.
17. The second group comprises those who will be spared for the time being in order that, by a series of monstrous acts, they may drive the people into inevitable revolt.
18. The third category consists of a great many brutes in high positions, distinguished neither by their cleverness nor their energy, while enjoying riches, influence, power, and high positions by virtue of their rank. These must be exploited in every possible way they must be implicated and embroiled in our affairs, their dirty secrets must be ferreted out, and they must be transformed into slaves. Their power, influence, and connections, their wealth and their energy, will form an inexhaustible treasure and a precious help in all our undertakings.
19. The fourth category comprises ambitious office-holders and liberals of various shades of opinion. The revolutionary must pretend to collaborate with them, blindly following them, while at the same time, prying out their secrets until they are completely in his power. They must be so compromised that there is no way out for them, and then they can be used to create disorder in the State.
20. The fifth category consists of those doctrinaires, conspirators, and revolutionists who cut a great figure on paper or in their cliques. They must be constantly driven on to make compromising declarations: as a result, the majority of them will be destroyed, while a minority will become genuine revolutionaries.
21. The sixth category is especially important: women. They can be divided into three main groups. First, those frivolous, thoughtless, and vapid women, whom we shall use as we use the third and fourth category of men. Second, women who are ardent, capable, and devoted, but whom do not belong to us because they have not yet achieved a passionless and austere revolutionary understanding these must be used like the men of the fifth category. Finally, there are the women who are completely on our side—i.e., those who are wholly dedicated and who have accepted our program in its entirety. We should regard these women as the most valuable or our treasures without their help, we would never succeed.
The Attitude of the Society toward the People
22. The Society has no aim other than the complete liberation and happiness of the masses—i.e., of the people who live by manual labor. Convinced that their emancipation and the achievement of this happiness can only come about as a result of an all-destroying popular revolt, the Society will use all its resources and energy toward increasing and intensifying the evils and miseries of the people until at last their patience is exhausted and they are driven to a general uprising.
23. By a revolution, the Society does not mean an orderly revolt according to the classic western model—a revolt which always stops short of attacking the rights of property and the traditional social systems of so-called civilization and morality. Until now, such a revolution has always limited itself to the overthrow of one political form in order to replace it by another, thereby attempting to bring about a so-called revolutionary state. The only form of revolution beneficial to the people is one which destroys the entire State to the roots and exterminated all the state traditions, institutions, and classes in Russia.
24. With this end in view, the Society therefore refuses to impose any new organization from above. Any future organization will doubtless work its way through the movement and life of the people but this is a matter for future generations to decide. Our task is terrible, total, universal, and merciless destruction.
25. Therefore, in drawing closer to the people, we must above all make common cause with those elements of the masses which, since the foundation of the state of Muscovy, have never ceased to protest, not only in words but in deeds, against everything directly or indirectly connected with the state: against the nobility, the bureaucracy, the clergy, the traders, and the parasitic kulaks. We must unite with the adventurous tribes of brigands, who are the only genuine revolutionaries in Russia.
26. To weld the people into one single unconquerable and all-destructive force—this is our aim, our conspiracy, and our task.
[Here also is a PDF version of Sergey Nechayev, The Revolutionary Catechism (1869).]
Nechayev graduated from Lomonossow University in Moscow in 1975 as a Germanist . His political career began in 1977 as an employee of the Soviet embassy in the GDR . From 1982 to 1986 he was third and then second secretary of the Consulate General of the USSR in Erdenet , Mongolia . In 1988 he completed courses at the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of the USSR and from 1992 was appointed First Secretary and Advisor to the Russian Embassy in Germany. In 1996 he took over the management of the German section of the Fourth European Department in the Russian Foreign Ministry . From 1999 Netschajew worked as the first counselor of the Russian embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany.
From 2001 to 2003 he worked as the Russian Consul General in Bonn and then served as Deputy Director in the Fourth European Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was converted into the Third European Department in 2004. In 2007 he took over the management of the third European department of the Russian Foreign Ministry. From March 9, 2010 to August 10, 2015, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in Austria and later again headed the Third European Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On January 10, 2018, he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Federal Republic of Germany by Decree No. 9 of the Russian President .
Nechayev is married and has one son. In addition to Russian, he also speaks German and English .
Sergei Netschajew was born in the city of Ivanovo in 1847 and grew up as the son of a waiter and a seamstress in poor circumstances. He attended lectures at St. Petersburg University without being enrolled there. Thereby he got to know the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin and the Decembrists . From 1868–1869, Nechayev headed a radical student group during the student unrest. In January 1869 he spread the rumor that he had been arrested in St. Petersburg and fled to Geneva . There he sought contact with Russian exiles and pretended to be the head of a revolutionary organization that had fled the Peter and Paul fortress . In Switzerland, Nechayev made a close friendship with Mikhail Bakunin and Nikolai Ogaryov , where he wrote his program, the Revolutionary Catechism . He won Alexander Herzen to finance a propaganda trip in which the Revolutionary Catechism was smuggled into Russia and distributed there.
In August 1869 he returned to Russia and founded the secret organization Narodnaja Rasprawa ( Russian : Народная Расправа, "popular retaliation", "people's court", "people's revenge"). The organization referred positively to the Cossack Society of Vasily Us in Astrakhan and criticized Chernyshevsky's agitation in Russia. When Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, a member of the group, left the group because of a disagreement, he was beaten and shot by Nechayev and his group. Three years later, Dostoevsky described this event in his novel The Demons .
In 1870 Nechayev left Russia again and wrote for a while for the newspaper Kolokol , which Ogaryov continued for a short time after Herzens death in 1870. But when he began to steal private writings and letters from Bakunin and other exiles in order to blackmail them if necessary and in Bakunin's name to send a death threat to his publisher, Bakunin and many others distanced themselves from Nechayev. In the meantime Russia has demanded extradition and the Swiss police started the search. Friends tried to intervene with the federal government and saw Nechayev as a politically persecuted person who could not be extradited. In 1872 he was betrayed by the Polish exile Stemkowski to the police in Zurich and then arrested. Because of the murder of Ivanov, Nechayev was extradited to Russia as a common criminal and sentenced there. In 1882 Sergei Nechayev died of dropsy in the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg .