Why, then, do men live thus ?
It is natural for the rich, who are used to their wealth
and who do not see clearly that wealth does not give hap-
piness, to try to maintain their position. But why does
the vast majority, in whose hands is every power, assume
that there is happiness in wealth, and continue to live in
want and submit to the minority ?
Indeed, why do all those men who are strong in muscles
and in artisanship and in the habit of work -- the vast
majority of men -- submit, give in to a handful of feeble
people, pampered old men and mainly women, who for
the most part are not fit for anything ?
Take a walk before the holidays or during bargain
weeks along the business streets, say through the Mos-
cow Passages. Ten or twelve Passages, consisting of
solid rows of magnificent shops with immense plate-glass
windows, are all filled with all kinds of expensive wares,
-- exclusively feminine ones, -- stuffs, dresses, laces, gems,
foot-gear, house adornments, furs, and so forth. All these
things cost millions and millions, all these articles have
been manufactured in establishments by working people
who frequently ruin their lives over this work, and all
these articles are of no use, not only to the working
people, but even to the wealthy men, -- they are all
amusements and adornments of women. At the en-
trances porters in galloons stand on both sides, and
coachmen in expensive garments sit on the boxes of
expensive carriages, which are drawn by trotters that cost
into the thousands. Again millions of working days have
been wasted on the production of all the luxury of the
harnesses: old and young working people, men and
women, have devoted all their lives to the production of
all these articles. And all these articles are in the power
and in the hands of a few hundred women, who in expen-
sive furs and hats of the latest fashion saunter through
these shops and purchase all these articles, which are
manufactured for them.
A few hundreds of women arbitrarily dispose of the
labor of millions of working people, who work to support
themselves and their families. On the whims of these
women depend the fate, the lives of millions of people.
How did this happen ?
Why do all these millions of strong people, who have
manufactured these articles, submit to these women?
Now a lady in a velvet fur coat and a hat of the very
latest fashion drives up with a span of trotters. Every-
thing upon her is new and most expensive. A porter
hurries to throw back the boot of her sleigh, and respect-
fully helps her out, by supporting her under her elbow.
She walks down the Passage as though through her king-
dom, enters one of the shops, and buys five thousand rou-
bles worth of material for her drawing-room, and, having
given the order to send it up to her house, goes elsewhere.
She is an evil, stupid, and not at all beautiful woman,
who does not bear any children and has never done any-
thing in her life for any one else. Why, then, do the
porter, and the coachmen, and the clerks fawn so serv-
ilely before her? And why has all that over which
thousands of workmen have laboured become her prop-
erty? Because she has money, and the porter, the coach-
man, the clerks, and the workmen in the factory need
money, with which to support their families. The money
is most convenient for them, and frequently can be gained
only by serving as a coachman, porter, clerk, workman in
And why has this woman money ? She has money
because people who have been driven off the land and
have forgotten how to do any other work are living in
her husband's factory, while her husband, giving the work-
men as much as they must necessarily have for their sup-
port, takes all the profit from the factory, to the amount
of several hundred thousands, for himself, and, not know-
ing what to do with the money, is glad to give it to his
wife, for her to spend it on anything she may wish.
And here is another lady, in a still more luxurious
carriage and garments, who is buying up all kinds of
expensive and useless things in all kinds of shops. Where
does she get the money from? She is the mistress of a
wealthy landowner of twenty thousand desyatinas, which
were given to his ancestor by a harlot queen for his de-
bauchery with that old queen. This landowner owns all
the land around a colony of peasants, and lets this land
to the peasants at seventeen roubles per desyatina. The
peasants pay this money, because without the land they
would starve. And this money is now in the hands of
the mistress, and with this money she buys things which
have been made by other peasants, who have been driven
off the land.
Here again a third rich woman, with her fiancé and
mother, is walking clown the Passage. This woman is
about to marry, and she is buying bronzes and expensive
dishes. She has money given her by her father, a distin-
guished official, who is receiving a salary of twelve thou-
sand roubles. He gave his daughter a dowry of seven
thousand roubles. This money was collected from import
revenues and taxes, again from the peasants. These same
taxes compelled the porter, who opens the door (he is a
Kaluga peasant, -- his wife and children are left at home),
and the coachman, who brought them up (he is a Tula
peasant), and hundreds, and thousands, and millions of
men, who work out in houses or in factories, -- to leave
their homes and to work on articles which are consumed
by the ladies, who receive the money, which by the man-
ufacturers, landowners, officials is collected from the profit
in the factories, or from the land, or from the taxes.
Thus millions of workmen have submitted to these
women, because one man has taken possession of a fac-
tory, in which people work, another has taken possession
of the land, while a third has seized the taxes, which are
collected from the laboring classes. It is this that pro-
duced that which I saw about the foundry.
The peasants ploughed somebody else's field, because
they have not enough land, and he who owns the land
permits them to use his land only on condition that they
work for him. The stone-breakers broke rock, because
only by means of this work were they able to pay the
taxes demanded of them. In the foundry and in the mines
the people worked, because the earth from which the ore
is extracted and the smelter where it is smelted do not
belong to them.
All these working people do hard work, not for them-
selves, because the rich have taken possession of the land,
collect taxes, and own the plants.
Tolstoy, Lev N., Complete Works: Letters and Essays, Vol. 23-24,
Translated by Leo Wiener, Willey Book Co., New York, 1904.
Prepared for the web by Thomas Pollock AKA Spartacus, Editor of
The Men's Tribune.