In Paris and the Social Revolution (), Alvan Francis Sanborn briefly surveyed the history of conscientious tax resistance that preceded Tolstoy’s interest in the subject, from Thoreau through William Lloyd Garrison’s non-resistants, to more recent resisters:

When that great and original child of nature, Thoreau, the Hermit of Walden, protested against the collection of taxes in Concord town, he little suspected, probably, that he was prefiguring a revolutionary movement which, before the century was over, was to alarm the sleek and the smug of the Old World and the New; and yet, whether Thoreau realised it or not, his attitude was the anarchistic attitude and his act an act of the propagande par l’example.

The attitude of the American anti-slavery champion, William Lloyd Garrison, was also essentially anarchistic.

“Garrison,” says Tolstoy, “as a man enlightened by Christianity, starting out with a practical aim, — the struggle against slavery, — understood very soon that the cause of slavery was not a casual, temporary seizure of several millions of negroes by the Southerners, but an old and universal anti-Christian recognition of the right of violence of some people over others. The means towards the recognition of this right was always the evil, which people considered possible to outroot or to lessen by rude force; that is, again by evil. And, realising this, Garrison pointed out against slavery, not the sufferings of the slaves, not the cruelty of the slave-owners, not the equal rights of citizens, but the eternal Christian law of non-resistance. Garrison understood that which the most forward champions against slavery failed to understand, — that the sole irresistible means against slavery was the denial of the right of one man over the liberty of another under any circumstances whatever.

“The Abolitionists attempted to prove that slavery was illegal, unprofitable, cruel, degrading, and so forth; but the pro-slavery champions, in their turn, proved the untimeliness, the danger, and the harmful consequences which would arise from the abolition of slavery. And neither could convince the other. But Garrison, understanding that the slavery of the negroes was but a private case of general violence, put forth the general principle with which it was impossible to disagree, — that no one, under any pretext, has the right of ruling; that is, of using force over his equals. Garrison did not insist so much on the right of slaves to be free as he denied the right of any man whatever, or of any company of men, to compel another man to do anything by force. For the battle with slavery he put forth the principle of the battle with all the evil of the world.”

In an Picket Line entry I wrote about how Garrison and his New England Non-Resistance Society grappled with the tax resistance issue. I’ve since found another Garrison quote (from his magazine The Liberator):

It is argued, that “if voting under the Constitution be a criminal participation in slavery, the paying of taxes under it is equally so.” Without stopping to show that there is a fallacy in this argument, we reply, that, in the common use and understanding of the terms, no seceder will ever again pay taxes to the Government while it upholds slavery. He may consent peaceably to yield up what is demanded of him, but not without remonstrance, and only as he would give up his purse to a highwayman. He will not recognize it as a lawful tax — he will not pay it as a tax — but will denounce it as robbery and oppression.

Sanborn continues:

The refusal of the citizens of the little French commune of Counozouls to pay their taxes because they were deprived of their hereditary right to supply themselves with wood from an adjacent forest, and the “passive resistance” of the nonconformists in England to the enforcement of the new education act, and of the French Catholics to the expulsion of the monastic orders, are recent instances of probably unconscious propagande par l’example.

Tolstoy has made a clear and full statement for the purport of the propagande par l’example.

“Taxes,” he says, “were never instituted by common consent,… but are taken by those who have the power of taking them.… 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, since they are collected by violence from the people.”

He holds military service in similar abhorrence:—

“Every honest man ought to understand that the payment of taxes which are employed to maintain and arm soldiers, and, still more, serving in the army, are not indifferent acts, but wicked and shameful acts, since he who commits them not only permits assassination, but participates in it.”

Tolstoy returned often to the subject of tax resistance, both as a tactic and as a principle. He was influenced by Étienne de la Boétie’s The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude and believed that the trick to ending evil and oppression was to fully stop participating in it, rather than to resist it forcefully. Refusing to voluntarily pay taxes was one way of doing this. At the same time, he saw taxation as itself an example of theft and violence and injustice.

He wrote a series of sketches called “The Wisdom of Children” in which he tried to demonstrate that a naïve, child-like view of social arrangements often held more truth than the more sophisticated points of view we learn as we become adults. One of these sketches dealt with taxation:

Bailiff. (entering a poor cottage. Nobody is in except Grushka, a little girl of seven. He looks around him.) Nobody at home?

Grushka. Mother has gone to bring home the cow, and Fedka is at work in the master’s yard.

Bailiff. Well, tell your mother the bailiff called. Tell her I am giving her notice for the third time, and that she must pay her taxes before Sunday without fail, or else I will take her cow.

Grushka. The cow? Are you a thief? We will not let you take our cow.

Bailiff. (smiling.) What a smart girl, I say! What is your name?

Grushka. Grushka.

Bailiff. You are a good girl, Grushka. Now listen. Tell you mother that, although I am not a thief, I will take her cow.

Grushka. Why will you take our cow if you are not a thief?

Bailiff. Because what is due must be paid. I shall take the cow for the taxes that are not paid.

Grushka. What’s that: taxes?

Bailiff. What a nuisance of a girl! What are taxes? They are money paid by the people by the order of the Tsar.

Grushka. To whom?

Bailiff. The Tsar will look after that when the money comes in.

Grushka. He’s not poor, is he? We are the poor people. The Tsar is rich. Why does he want us to give him money?

Bailiff. He does not take it for himself. He spends it on us, fools that we are. It all goes to supply our needs — to pay the authorities, the army, the schools. It is for our own good that we pay taxes.

Grushka. How does it benefit us if our cow is taken away? There’s no good in that.

Bailiff. You will understand that when you are grown-up. Now, mind you give your mother my message.

Grushka. I will not repeat all your nonsense to her. You can do whatever you and the Tsar want. And we shall mind our own business.

Bailiff. What a devil of a girl she will be when she grows up!

More directly, Tolstoy wrote:

I remember the utterance of a Russian peasant, who was religious and, therefore, truly liberal. Like Thoreau, he did not consider it just to pay taxes for things which his conscience did not approve of, and when he was asked to pay his share of the taxes, he asked what the taxes which he would pay would be used for, saying, “If the taxes shall be used for a good thing, I will at once give you not only what you demand, but even more; but if they shall be used for something bad, I cannot and will not give a kopek of my own free will.”

Of course, they lost no time with him, but broke down his closed gate, carried off his cow, and sold it for the taxes. Thus in reality there is but one true and real cause of taxes, — the power which collects them, — the possibility of robbing those who do not give the taxes willingly, and even of beating them for a refusal, of putting them in prison, and of punishing them — as is actually done.

In “The Kingdom of God is Within You” — a text that proved very influential to later Christian anarchists, pacifists, and to Gandhi — Tolstoy explicitly advocated tax resistance, and imagined the state to be essentially helpless before conscientious tax resisters:

What importance, one might think, can one attach to such an incident as some dozens of crazy fellows, as people will call them, refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the government, refusing to pay taxes, to take part in law proceedings or in military service.

These people are punished and exiled to a distance, and life goes on in its old way. One might think there was no importance in such incidents; but yet it is just those incidents, more than anything else, that will undermine the power of the state and prepare the way for the freedom of men. These are the individual bees, who are beginning to separate from the swarm, and are flying near it, waiting till the whole swarm can no longer be prevented from starting off after them. And the governments know this, and fear such incidents more than all the Socialists, Communists, and Anarchists, and their plots and dynamite bombs.

The subjects of a state are all bound to pay taxes. And every one pays taxes, till suddenly one man in Kharkov, another in Tver and a third in Samara, refuse to pay taxes — all, as though in collusion, saying the same thing. One says he will only pay when they tell him what object the money taken from him will be spent on. “If it is for good deeds,” he says, “he will give it of his own accord, and more even than is required of him. If for evil deeds, then he will give nothing voluntarily, because by the law of Christ, whose follower he is, he cannot take part in evil deeds.” The others, too, say the same in other words, and will not voluntarily pay the taxes.

Those who have anything to be taken have their property taken from them by force; as for those who have nothing, they are left alone.

“What! didn’t you pay the tax?”

“No, I didn’t pay it.”

“And what happened—nothing?”

“Nothing.”

Tolstoy defended his views, including his attitudes toward taxation, as those demanded of people who would be followers of Jesus. So he was of course asked to explain his understanding of Jesus’s “Render unto Caesar” koan. He responded this way:

In reply to the question as to whether [Jesus] shall give the established tax upon entering Capernaum, He says distinctly that the sons, that is, His disciples, are free from every tax and are not obliged to pay it, and only not to tempt the collectors of the taxes, not to provoke them to commit the sin of violence, He orders His disciples to give that stater, which is accidentally found in the fish, and which does not belong to any one and is not taken from any one.

But in reply to the cunning question as to whether the tribute is to be paid to Cæsar, He says, “To Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s and to God the things which are God’s,” that is, give to Cæsar what belongs to him and is made by him, — the coin, — and to God give what is made by God and is implanted in you, — your soul, your conscience; give this to no one but God, and so do not do for Cæsar what is forbidden by God. And this answer surprises all by its boldness — and at the same time by its unanswerableness.

[Tolstoy’s footnote: “Not only the complete misunderstanding of Christ’s teaching, but also a complete unwillingness to understand it could have admitted that striking misinterpretation, according to which the words, ‘To Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s,’ signify the necessity of obeying Cæsar. In the first place, there is no mention there of obedience; in the second place, if Christ recognized the obligatoriness of paying tribute, and so of obedience, He would have said directly, ‘Yes, it should be paid;’ but He says, ‘Give to Cæsar what is his, that is, the money, and give your life to God,’ and with these latter words He not only does not encourage any obedience to power, but, on the contrary, points out that in everything which belongs to God it is not right to obey Cæsar.”]

When Christ is brought before Pilate, as a mutineer who has been perverting the nation and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar (Luke ⅹⅹⅲ. 2), He, after saying what He found necessary to say, surprises and provokes all the chiefs with this, that He pays no attention to all their questions, and makes no reply to any of their questions.

For this arrangement of the power and disobedience to it, Christ is sentenced and crucified.


Tolstoy contrasted the Christian “Law of Love” with the statist “Law of Force” and tried to convince the Russian people that the oppression they suffered under was of their own devising and that they were responsible for putting an end to it.

It is understandable that those in power may say that without violence there can be no order or good life, meaning by the word “order” a system under which the few can enjoy to excess the fruits of the labor of others, and the words “good life” meaning the non-interference with such a life. However unjust what they say may be, it is comprehensible that they should talk like that, for the abolition of violence would not only deprive them of the possibility of living as they do, but would expose the whole long-standing injustice and cruelty of their life.

But at any rate one would think the working people do not need the violence they (strange to say) so carefully inflict on themselves, and from which they suffer so much. For the violence the rulers do to the subjected is not the direct, personal violence of strong men to weak men, or of the many to the few, of, say, a hundred toward a score, &c. The violence of the rulers is upheld, as the violence of a minority toward the majority can only be upheld by the fraud long ago devised by shrewd and cunning men, which causes people, for the sake of a small present and evident gain, to deprive themselves not only of the greatest advantages, but even to sacrifice their freedom and undergo most cruel sufferings. The essence of this fraud was stated 400 years ago by the French writer, La Boétie, in an article entitled “Voluntary Slavery.”

From this deception — so deeply rooted in the people that the very men who suffer from the use of violence justify it, and even demand it for themselves as something necessary, and inflict it on one another — from this habit of deception, which has become a second nature, results that astonishing delusion which causes those who suffer most from the deception to uphold it.

One would have thought that just the working people, who derive no kind of profit from the violence done them, would at last see through the deception in which they are entangled, and, having seen the fraud, would free themselves from it in the simplest and easiest way: by ceasing to take part in the violence which can only be perpetrated upon them, thanks to their participation in it.

It would seem that nothing could be simpler or more natural than that, having for centuries suffered from the violence they have themselves done to themselves without any advantage, the working people, especially agriculturalists who, in Russia and also in the whole of the world, are the majority, would at last understand that they cause their own sufferings; that that landed property, belonging to owners who do not work on it, which is the chief cause of their sufferings, is upheld by themselves, as watchmen, policemen, and soldiers; just in the same way as all the taxes, direct and indirect, are collected by them from themselves as village elders, office holders, tax collectors, and again as policemen and soldiers.

It would seem so plain for working people to understand this, and at last to tell those whom they look on as their chiefs, “Leave us in peace! If you, Emperors, Presidents, Generals, Judges, Archbishops, professors, and all you learned people want armies, fleets, universities, ballots, synods, conservatories, prisons, gallows, and guillotines, arrange them for yourselves; collect the money yourselves, Judge, put one another in prison, hang men and kill men in wars — only do it yourselves and leave us in peace, for we want none of it, and no longer wish to take part in all these — to us — unnecessary, and, above all, evil deeds!” What, one would think, could be more natural than that? And yet the laborers, and especially the agricultural laborers, who do not require any of those things, either in Russia or in any other country, do not do this; but the majority continue to torment themselves, fulfilling the demands of the authorities against themselves, and becoming policemen, tax collectors, or soldiers, while the minority, to rid themselves of violence, commit violence whenever they can (in times of revolution) upon those from whose violence they are suffering: that is to say, they quench fire with fire, and thereby only increase the violence done to themselves.

Why do the people behave so unreasonably?

Because, from long-continued deception, they no longer see the connection between their bondage and their own share in the deeds of violence.

And why don’t they see this connection?

For the same reason which lies at the root of all misery — because they have no faith, and without faith men can only be guided by their own interests, and a man guided only by his own interest cannot be anything but a deceiver or a dupe.

This is the cause of the seemingly astonishing phenomenon that working men, the enormous majority of people in despite of common sense and their own interest, commit violence on themselves, despite the fact that violence is evidently disadvantageous for them, and despite the obviousness in our day of the fraud in which the working people are enmeshed, in spite of the exposure of the injustice from which they suffer, in spite of all the revolutions aiming at the abolition of violence, continue not only to submit to violence but to maintain it.

Some working men, the enormous majority of them, cling from habit to the old, church, pseudo-Christianity teaching, no longer believing in it, but believing only in the old law of “an eye for an eye,” and in the State organization founded thereon. The others, among whom (especially in Western Europe) are all those factory hands who have been touched by civilization, although they deny all religion, yet deep in their souls unconsciously believe in the old law of “an eye for an eye,” and, following that law, submit when they have to to the existing order, though they hate it, and try, when they can, to destroy violence by the most variant and violent means.

The first, the great majority of uncivilized laborers, cannot change their position because, believing in government organization, they cannot refuse to take part in its violence, while those who have no faith, the civilized working men, guided only by various political teachings, cannot emancipate themselves from force, because they try to destroy violence by violence.

Having made this case, Tolstoy tried to answer the question of how to get from point A to point B: “What must I do with myself?”

Three, or even two, centuries ago men called upon by the head of the State to join the army did not doubt for an instant that, however hard what was demanded of them might be, they did not merely a good thing, but something unavoidably necessary, by going to war: sacrificing their freedom, labor, and even their life in a holy cause — the defense of their country against its enemies, and above all, by fulfilling the will of the God-appointed monarch. But now every man who is sent to the wars (universal conscription, in particular, having helped to expose the fraud of patriotism) knows that those against whom he is being sent are men like himself, deceived by their rulers in the same way, and (especially in the Christian world) knowing this, he cannot help seeing all the insanity and immorality of the action forced upon him. And understanding its insanity and immorality, he cannot help despising and hating those who enforce it upon him.

So also, in olden times, people when paying taxes: that is, yielding their labor to their Governments, felt sure that what they gave was needed for important and necessary things; and, moreover, they regarded those who disposed of this produce of their labor almost as holy and immaculate men. Now, almost every workman looks upon the Government, if not as a band of robbers, at any rate as men concerned about their own interests, and certainly not about those of the people; and he looks upon the necessity of putting his labor at the Government’s disposal, as a temporary evil from which, with the whole power of his soul, he hopes and longs, one way or other, to liberate himself soon.

Two hundred or even one hundred years ago people regarded riches as a sign of worth and the accumulation of wealth as a virtue; and they respected the rich and tried to imitate them. Now people, especially the poor, despise and hate the rich simply for being rich, and every attempt on the part of the rich to share some of their wealth in one way or other with the poor only evokes from the latter yet greater hatred of the rich.

In former times the powerful and rich had faith in their position and knew that the working people believed in its lawfulness, and the people really did believe that the position of the rich and of themselves was foreordained. Now both the rich and the poor know that there is no justification either for the power of rulers or for the wealth of the rich, or for the oppression of the workers, and that for the powerful and rich to maintain their position and for the workers to liberate themselves from their dependence neither the former nor the latter must disdain the employment of any possible means to attain their aim, including deception, bribery, and murder.

And both parties do so; and, worst of all, do it though for the most part they both know in the depth of their hearts that they will gain nothin by it, and that the continuance of such life is becoming ever more and more impossible, and they search, but do not find, a way of escape from this position. But the inevitable escape, one and the same for them all, reveals itself ever more and more clearly. There is but one way of escape: to liberate one’s self from the belief, once common to mankind, in the necessity and lawfulness of violence and to assimilate the belief — suitable to the present age of humanity, and preached by all the religions of the world — in the necessity and lawfulness of love, excluding all violence of whatever kind, between man and man.

Face to face with this decisive step, which confronts all mankind today, the people of our world now stand in indecision. But whether they like it or not, they cannot but take that step. They cannot help taking it, because the religious belief which sanctioned the power of some men over others has outlived its day, and the new faith, suitable for our time, faith in the highest law of love, is entering more and more into men’s consciousness.

One would think the sufferings arising from the violence men do to one another would awaken in them the thought that they are themselves to blame for their sufferings. “If people are themselves to blame, and I am a man, it follows that I am in fault,” is what one would expect each one to say to himself, and, consequently, to ask himself: “What have I done to cause the misfortunes from which I and everybody else is suffering?”

That is what one might expect, but the superstition that some men not only have the right, but are specially called to arrange and are able to arrange the lives of others, is so deeply rooted in men’s habits as a result of life having been so long based on violence that the thought of his own part in the evil arrangement of human life occurs to no one. They all accuse one another. Some accuse those who, they think, ought to arrange their life for them, and have not arranged it properly. Others, who arrange people’s lives for them, are dissatisfied with those whose lives they arrange. And both the former and the latter ponder over most intricate and difficult questions, but do not put to themselves the question that seems most natural: “What must I do to change the arrangement of life which I consider bad, and in which I cannot avoid participating, in one way or other?”

Love must supercede violence. “Granting that it is so,” people will say, “how, in what way, must and can the change come about?”

“What must be done that this change should be accomplished, and the life of violence exchanged for a life of love?”

“What is to be done?” ask both the rulers, and the ruled, the revolutionists, and those engaged in public life, always attaching to the words, “What is to be done?” the meaning of, “How should men’s lives be organized?”

They all ask how to arrange men’s lives, that is to say, what to do with other people; but no one asks, “What must I do with myself?”

The superstition that religion is immutable, which has led people to accept as lawful the rule of some men over others, has given birth also to another superstition (flowing from the first) which more than anything else hinders people from passing from a life of violence to a peaceful and loving life: namely, the superstition that some men should and ought to organize the lives of others.

So that the chief cause of men’s stagnation in a form of life they already admit to be wrong, lies in the amazing superstition (the outcome of the superstition of the immutability of religion) that some men not only can, but have the right to, predetermine and forcibly organize the life of others.

People need only free themselves from this common superstition and it would at once become clear to all that the life of every group of men gets arranged only in the same way that each individual arranges his own life. And if men — both those who arrange others’ lives, and those who submit to such arranging — would only understand that, it would become evident to all that nothing can justify any kind of violence between man and man; and that violence is not only a violation of love and even of justice, but of common sense.

So that the deliverance of men from the disasters they now endure lies first of all in freeing one’s self from the superstition of the immutability of religion, and therefore from the false and already obsolete religious doctrine of the divine right of the powers that be, and from the belief in the lawfulness and utility of violence that follows from it.

“Love, instead of laws executed by violence, is all very well! We will grant that the acceptance of love instead of violence as the means of uniting men would increase their welfare; but it would only do so if all accepted the law of love as obligatory,” is what people generally say. “But what is to become of all those who reject force, while living among people who have not rejected it? They will be deprived of everything, tormented, and will become the slaves of those who live by violence.”

This, and always this, is said by those who defend violence, without trying to understand what is included in the teaching of love.

I will not speak of the fact that if violence has ever protected the life and tranquility of men, it has on the other hand innumerably often been the cause of the greatest calamities — calamities that could not have happened if people had not tolerated violence. I will not speak of all the horrors which, from the earliest times, have been committed in consequence of the acceptance of the necessity of violence, nor about the horrors of ancient and mediaeval wars, nor of the horrors of the great French Revolution, nor about the 30,000 Communists of the year 1870, nor about the horrors of the Napoleonic, Franco-Prussian, and Turkish wars, of Indian pacifications, of the present affairs in Persia, of the massacres of Armenians now taking place, of the murders and executions in Russia, nor about the many millions of workmen continually perishing of want and hunger.

We cannot weigh and decide the question whether more or less material evil would have resulted from the application of violence or the law of love to social life, because we do not and cannot know what would have happened had but a small portion of mankind followed the law of love, while the greater number continued to live by violence. That question cannot be solved either by experience or by argument. The question is a religious-moral one, and is therefore solved not by experience but by one’s inner consciousness. Like all religious-moral questions, it is solved not by considerations of what is profitable, but by what man considers good or bad, right or wrong.

The relation of people of our world to the question of applying the law of love and the inseparably connected conception of non-resistance to evil illustrates more clearly than anything else the total absence in the people of our time, not only of Christian belief, but of any kind of religious belief, and not only of any kind of religious belief, but even of an understanding of what constitutes religious belief.

“The law of love, excluding force, is impracticable, because it might happen that a scoundrel would kill a helpless child before our eyes,” say they.

People do not ask what they are to do when they see a man led out to execution, or see people being taught how to slay one another, or factory hands — men, women, and children — being killed off by unhealthy labor. They see all this, and not only never ask what they are to do, but themselves take part in the things: executions, army service and army training, and the starving of workmen, and in many other things of the kind. But they are greatly interested and disturbed by the question of how to deal with a man who slays an imaginary child before their eyes. The fate of that imaginary child touches them so nearly that they cannot admit that one of the inevitable conditions of love is the non-use of violence. In reality, however, what concerns these people who wish to justify violence is not the fate of the imaginary child at all, but it is their own fate, their own way of life, supported by violence, and not maintainable if violence is repudiated.

It is always possible to protect a child by interposing one’s own breast to receive the murderer’s blow; but this thought, natural to a man guided by love, cannot enter the heads of those who live by violence, for such people have not, and cannot have, any but animal motives for their actions.

In reality the question of applying to life the demands of love can be brought to the simplest conclusion, which has always been accepted, and cannot help but be accepted, by reasonable people: namely, the conclusion that love is irreconcilable with the doing to others of what one does not wish for one’s self; irreconcilable, therefore, with wounding, depriving of freedom, or murdering other men, actions which are always inevitably included in the idea of violence. Therefore it is possible to live by violence, not acknowledging the law of love as a religious law; or to live according to the law of love, and not admit the necessity for violence; but to regard the law of force, i.e., violence, as Divine, and the law of love as also Divine, appears impossible. Yet, in this most glaring contradiction live all the people of our day, and especially the people of the Christian world.

“But this is all abstract argument. Granting that I believe in the law of love, what am I, John, Peter, Mary, or any man, to do, if he believes that humanity has attained the point at which it is necessary to enter on a new way of life? What am I, John, Peter, Mary, to do that the evil life of violence should cease and the good life based on love should be established? What must I, just I, John, Peter, or Mary, do to help that change?”

Ashamed as one is to answer so naïve a question, I will yet do so for the sake of those who may need such an answer.

The answer to the question of what a man must do who disapproves of the existing arangement of life and wishes to change and improve it, is simple, natural, and identical for all not dominated by the superstition of violence. It is this:

First, to leave off doing direct violence one’s self, or preparing to do it. That is the first thing.

The second is, to take no part in any kind of violence done by others, or in preparations for violence.

The third is, not to approve of any violence.

First, not to do violence one’s self, means not to seize any one with one’s own hands, not to beat or kill any one, either for personal motives or on the pretext of public service.

Secondly, to take no part in any kind of violence is not only not to be a police officer, Goveronr, Judge, juryman, Tax Collector, Czar, Minister, or soldier, but also not to take part in lawsuits, either as plaintiff, defendant, guard, or juryman.

Thirdly, not to approve of any kind of violence means, besides not making use for one’s own profit of any kind of violence, neither in speech, nor in writing, nor in actions, to express either praise of, or agreement with, violence itself, or any actions upholding violence or supported by it.

It may easily happen that if a man behave so: refuses to have anything to do with army service, law courts, passports, the payment of taxes, or acknowledgment of the authorities, and shows up the users of force and their supporters, he will be subjected to persecution. It is very likely that, in our times, such a man will be tortured, deprived of his property, exiled, imprisoned, and perhaps even killed. But it may also happen that a man who does nothing of all this, but on the contrary obeys the demands of the authorities, will suffer from other causes just as much, or even more, than one who refuses to obey. It might also happen that a refusal, founded on the demands of love, to take part in deeds of violence, would open other people’s eyes, and lead many to refuse in the same way, so that the authorities would no longer be able to use violence against all who refused.

All this may be, or may not be, and therefore the answer to the question, “What must a man do?” cannot, for one who acknowledges the truth and applicability to life of the law of love, be founded on the anticipated results of actions.

The results of our actions are not in our power. Only our actions themselves are in our power. What actions are natural, and above all what actions are unnatural to a man, depend always and only on the man’s faith. If he believes in the necessity of violence, and believes in it religiously, then such a man will do violence — not for the sake of good results he expects from the violence, but simply because he so believes. Similarly, if a man believes in the law of love, he will fulfill the demands of love and keep from actions contrary to the law of love, quite independently of any consideration of results, and merely because he so believes, and cannot act differently.

Therefore, to fulfill the law of love and substitute it for the law of violence, one thing alone is needed: that people should believe in the law of love as they now believe in the necessity for violence. Let men but believe in the law of love, even approximately, as firmly as they now believe in the necessity for violence, and the question of how those who have rejected violence must deal with those who use violence will no longer be a question; and without any effort or shock the life of men will take a form unknown to us, toward which mankind is moving, and which will release humanity from the evils from which it now suffers.

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