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The Negativists

The most propitious and fertile soil in which collective mania can grow
is that of unhappiness. Famine, unjust taxation, unemployment,
persecution by local authorities, and so on, frequently lead to a dull
hatred for the existing social, moral and religious order, which the
simple-minded peasant takes to be the direct cause of his misfortunes.

Thus it was that the Negativists denied everything--God, the Devil,
heaven, hell, the law, and the power of the Tsar. They taught that
there is no such thing as right, religion, property, marriage, family
or family duties. All those have been invented by man, and it is man
who has created God, the Devil, and the Tsar.

In the record of the proceedings taken against one of the principal
upholders of this sect, we find the following curious conversation
between him and the judge.

"Your religion?"

"I have none."

"In what God do you believe?"

"In none. Your God is your own, like the Devil, for you have created
both. They belong to you, like the Tsar, the priests, and the

These people believe neither in generosity nor in gratitude. Men give
away only what is superfluous, and the superfluous is not theirs.
Labour should be free; consequently they kept no servants. They
rejected both trade and money as useless and unjust. "Give to thy
neighbour what thou canst of that of which he has need, and he in turn
will give thee what thou needest." Love should be entirely free.
Marriage is an absurdity and a sin, invented by man. All human beings
are free, and a woman cannot belong to any one man, or a man to any one

Here are some extracts taken from some other legal records. Two of the
believers were brought before the judge, accompanied by a child.

"Is this your wife?" the judge inquired of the man.

"No, she is not my wife."

"How is it then that you live together?"

"We live together, but she is not mine. She belongs to herself."

Turning to the woman, the judge asked:

"Is this your husband?"

"He is not _mine_. He does not belong to me, but to himself."

"And the child? Is he yours?"

"No, he is not ours. He lives with us; he is of our blood; but he
belongs to himself."

"But the coat you are wearing--is that yours?" demanded the exasperated

"It is on my back, but it is not mine. It belonged once to a sheep;
now it covers me; but who can say whose it will be to-morrow?"

The Negativists invented, long before Tolstoi, the doctrine of inaction
and non-resistance to evil. They were deceived, robbed and ruined, but
would not apply to the law, or to the police. Their method of
reasoning and their way of speaking had a peculiar charm. A solicitor
who visited one of the Siberian prisons reports the following details
concerning a man named Rojnoff. Arrested and condemned to be deported
for vagabondage, he escaped repeatedly, but was at length imprisoned.
The inspector was calling the roll of the prisoners, but Rojnoff
refused to answer to his name. Purple with rage, the inspector
approached him and asked, "What is your name?"

"It is you who have a name. I have none."

After a series of questions and answers exchanged between the ever more
furious official and the prisoner, who remained perfectly calm, Rojnoff
was flogged--but in spite of raw and bleeding wounds he still continued
to philosophise.

"Confess the truth," stormed the inspector.

"Seek it," replied the peasant, "for yourself, for indeed you have need
of it. As to me, I keep my truth for myself. Let me be quiet--that is
all I ask."

The solicitor visited him several months later, and implored him to
give his name, so that he might obtain his passport and permission to
rejoin his wife and children.

"But I have no need of all that," he said. "Passports, laws,
names--all those are yours. Children, family, property, class,
marriage--so many of your cursed inventions. You can give me only one
single thing--quietness."

The Siberian prisons swarmed with these mysterious beings. Poor souls!
Their one desire was to quit as soon as possible this vale of injustice
and of tears!

Next: The White-robed Believers

Previous: The Organised Sects

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