Ernest Belfort Bax

The Late Czar

(10 November 1894)

The Late Czar, Justice, 10th November, 1894, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The tardy death of Alexander III has, as might have been expected, given rise to the usual amount of nauseous sentiment in the Press. One is disgusted to see expressions proper only to the most sacred feelings of which every-day human nature is capable, prostituted to purposes of the mere conventional elegiac gush of sycophantic journalism. None know better than the writers themselves that Alexander III was a thoroughly evil-minded man, who is the opinion of many of the best of his subjects of all persuasions, social, political, and religious, deserved to have paid the last penalty for his crimes as a ruler, long ago. We say this, notwithstanding the frothy appearance of overwhelming grief which a powerful police and Official class can always conjure up, and most of all in the Russian Empire, where even the despatches of a foreign newspaper correspondent; are subject to the control of a censorship.

In vain the organs of the governing classes cast about them for something good to say of Alexander III. All they can think of is that he kept the European peace, which he could not have broken without uselessly jeopardising his own empire. We all know that the three things which conduce to a continuance of the present armed truce of Europe, are (1) The complete uncertainty of the issue of war under the new and totally changed conditions of ammunition, weapons, and tactics. (2) The growing impatience (when not absolutely requisite to their own interests) on the part of all those sections of the middle-classes not immediately concerned in “war industries” of a state of things which temporarily disturbs trade-relations and therefore upsets their most cherished plans; and (3) the dread of a social upheaval which in a case of a reverse might issue in the Social Revolution. The same factors tell in Russia as elsewhere, in addition to the circumstance that the Russian army was hopelessly disorganised after the war of 1877-78, and has only just been got into a state of efficiency.

Alexander III, as a prudent man, was not going to risk all on a single card until he was obliged. So he gets the credit of a scrupulous humanity, which his whole internal policy shows to have been as far removed from his nature as that of flint is from wax. For what was his internal policy? The extirpation and murder of Jews, Stundists, “social reformers” (not to speak of revolutionists), the destruction of Finnish rights and of German rights in defiance of pledges and treaties! Truly we have here the “treacherous, kindless villain” of Shakespeare embodied – a creature who, grovelling in fear of the avenging hand which his evil conscience taught him to daily expect, had for his chief concern in life the preservation of his own vile carcase, utterly regardless of the welfare, happiness, or even safety of the unhappy victims, his subjects, who came across his path. “Oh, but think of his horrible position and temptations!” says the apologist. “Yes, and a lot you think of the horrible position and temptations, the bringing-up, the provocation, of the poor, common criminal for whom you demand the tortures of the convict prison as for an irreclaimable brute and pest of Society!” Let us adopt the tout-savoir-c’est-tout-pardonner principle by all means, if you will, only let us apply it all round – to Jack the Ripper no less than to the Czar of Russia. If it be said the late Czar acted up to his lights in rivetting ever new chains on the Russian people it might also be alleged that Jack the Ripper or Neil Cream acted up to their lights in adopting a short and simple method of thinning the prostitute population of the London streets. But in the latter cases you don’t allow the argument to weigh with you in mitigation of the enormities of these individuals.

The fact is, you know all you talk to be humbug, you know that pity wasted on a wretch like the late Czar is a crime against humanity – that he richly deserved all he suffered and ten times more. The rubbish about distinguishing the man with his family virtues and other properties from the ruler, and pitying the man, is another subterfuge of toadyism to allay an uneasy conscience. The man accepted the post of Czar, and as such renounced his claim to that common humanity which makes all the world kin. An autocrat is not a fellow-man and can never become one. Furthermore, Alexander did his best to aggravate the evils incidental to his position, and crowd as much administrative wickedness into his reign as lay within his power. The democracy of Europe if it be sincere, can only view with satisfaction the mental and bodily sufferings of Czars and wish that they may wax in intensity until the position of Czardom becomes too intolerable for any sane human being to accept.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 11.6.2004