Revolutionary Socialism in Russia (1875)

Revolutionary Socialism in Russia

[1875]

We have before us a very curious text, the translation of which the reader will find, added as an appendix, at the end of this article. It is a confidential circular, recently issued by Mr. le Comte Pahlen, minister of what is called justice in Russia. We find there an indisputable proof of the threatening invasions of revolutionary socialism in that country.

Indeed, it is not the fanatical exaltation of a sectarian, nor the interested calculation of a socialist politician, it is the authorized voice of a statesman, minister of a great Empire, that speaks or rather lets out this cry of distress.

The danger that threatens the Empire must be very great for him to have forgotten to this extent the most rudimentary rules of good politics.

We know that the governments, in general, but especially the openly despotic governments, rigorously observe this principle, to never admit the evils that undermine their power; sustaining themselves, almost always, with illusions, they constantly and systematically spread lies, the experience of the centuries having demonstrated to them the impossibility of the existence of the State without lies.

In all times and all places, political men have understood the immense role that the imagination plays in the history of nations; it nearly always constitutes half, and often much more than half of social and political realities alike, so that it is enough that an opinion, an idea take hold of the masses, in order for it to rapidly transform into a nearly invincible reality, thanks to its great spread.

This explains the jealous care with which all governments, whatever their origin and name, strive to persuade the world of their own power and the powerlessness of their enemies. They think that from the moment when all the world considers them very strong, they will in fact become strong.

No government has pushed that artifice, which constitutes the very essence of high politics, as far as the Russian government. None have mastered the routine and art of lying to the same degree.

In Russia, all the official world, all the manifestations of public life, foreign and domestic: diplomacy, religion of State, government, justice, education, administration of all degrees, official and unofficial representation of the different classes of the Empire, and above all zeal for the public good and paternal interest is the fate of the unfortunate populations who serve as pedestal or raw material for the power of that Empire, finally that power itself, all of that is only a fiction and a lie. Fooling each other mutually, to mislead the sovereign who in his turn attempts to mislead the world, to deceive the public and the people, and at the same time subordinating them, the peers and the chiefs, in the service of the public administration, but especially to deceive the opinion of Europe, such is, after the inevitably satisfaction of individual interests and vanities, the greatest concern of Russian statesmen.

Enguirlander,” is a French verb that was specifically invented at the Court de St.-Petersburg to express this general tendency, this need, this passion to command the respect of Europe. It summarizes all of Russian patriotism, a State patriotism if ever there was one.

Under the reign of the Emperor Nicolas, his great and sole claim was to have made Europe afraid; a pleasure that the patriots of Germany give themselves today to a great extent, since they have fallen from the vertiginous heights of their transcendent idealism and humanitarian dreams of the century past into the brutal worship of a Empire that is fundamentally military and is that much more despotic as it seeks to conceal its police omnipotence under the veils, reasonably transparent, as it happens, of a parliamentary liberalism as unassuming as it is innocent. The fall was terrible and many German brains have found themselves flattened; but the tudesque [Germanic] patriotism console themselves by thinking of the terror that the latest exploits of the German armies has sown in Europe.

In the times of the Emperor Nicolas, this was also the supreme consolation of the Russian patriots. One said to them in vain: You are slaves, the miserable lackeys of a stupid and brutal master; you have neither dignity nor security; your fate, that of your families, the fate of all of Russia finds itself at the mercy of the despot. They responded to you: “But see then how immense our Empire, our prison, our imperial maison de force [prison] is, and how our august jailer, our Tzar, our God is feared everywhere in Europe! He needs only to knit his eyebrows for all the other sovereigns to start to tremble.”

In fact, under the reign of Emperor Nicolas, and even well after, since the very founding of the St.-Petersburg Empire by Peter I, called the Great, this was the sole object of the State: to make Europe tremble, increase, organize and consolidate at any price the power of the Czar, sole representative of the State, as much foreign as domestic, with the sole aim of the conquest of Europe.

[The manuscripts ends here; working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]

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