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.),
1913, pp. 332-333.