How Can Governments Be Abolished?
by Lyoff N. Tolstoy
From Number 73 - April 1995
Slavery results from laws, laws are made by governments, and, therefore, people
can only be freed from slavery by the abolition of governments. But how can governments
be abolished? All attempts to get rid of governments by violence have hitherto,
always and everywhere, resulted only in this: that in place of the deposed governments
new ones established themselves, often more cruel than those they replaced. Not
to mention past attempts to abolish governments by violence, according to the
Socialist theory, the coming abolition of the rule of the capitalists - that
is, the communalization of the means of production and the new economic order
of society - is also to be carried out by a fresh organization of violence, and
will have to be maintained by the same means. So that attempts to abolish violence
by violence neither have in the past nor, evidently, can in the future emancipate
people from violence, nor, consequently, from slavery. It cannot be otherwise.
Apart from outbursts of revenge or anger, violence is used only in order to compel
some people, against their own will, to do the will of others. But the necessity
to do what other people wish against your own will is slavery. And, therefore,
as long as any violence, designed to compel some people to do the will of others,
exists, there will be slavery. All the attempts to abolish slavery by violence
are like extinguishing fire with fire, stopping water with water, or filling
up one hole by digging another. People must feel that their participation in
the criminal activity of governments, whether by giving part of their work in
the form of money, or by direct participation in military service, is not, as
is generally supposed, an indifferent action, but, besides being harmful to one's
self and to one's brothers, is a participation in the crimes unceasingly committed
by all governments and a preparation for new crimes, which governments are always
preparing by maintaining disciplined armies.
The age for the veneration for governments, notwithstanding all the hypnotic
influence they employ to maintain their position, is more and more passing away.
And it is time for people to understand that governments not only are not necessary,
but are harmful and most highly immoral institutions, in which a self-respecting,
honest man cannot and must not take part, and the advantages of which he cannot
and should not enjoy. And as soon as people clearly understand that, they will
naturally cease to take part in such deeds - that is, cease to give the governments
soldiers and money. And as soon as a majority of people ceases to do this the
fraud which enslaves people will be abolished. Only in this way can people be
freed from slavery. And in order not to do the evil which produces misery for
himself and for his brothers, he should, first of all, neither willingly nor
under compulsion take any part in governmental activity, and should, therefore,
be neither a soldier, nor a field-marshal, nor a minister of state, nor a tax
collector, nor a witness, nor an alderman, nor a juryman, nor a governor, nor
a member of Parliament, nor, in fact, hold any office connected with violence.
That is one thing. Secondly, such a man should not voluntarily pay taxes to governments,
either directly or indirectly; nor should he accept money collected by taxes,
either as salary, or as pension, or as a reward; nor should he make use of governmental
institutions, supported by taxes collected by violence from the people. That
is the second thing. Thirdly, a man who desires not to promote his own well-being
alone, but to better the position of people in general, should not appeal to
governmental violence for the protection of his own possessions in land or in
other things, nor to defend him and his near ones; but should only possess land
and all products of his own or other people's toil in so far as others do not
claim them from him.
Reprinted from Charles Sprading, (ed.),
LIBERTY AND THE GREAT LIBERTARIANS
1913, pp. 332-333.