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,
br /> 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!