Leo Tolstoy Archive

Causes of the Transvaal War

Written: 1900
Source: Published on Anarchy Archives
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021

Leo Tolstoy

I cannot agree with those who attribute the cause of the present war to the behavior of this or that political leader.

If two men get drunk in a public-house and fight whilst playing cards, I cannot possibly take upon myself to condemn either, however convincing may be the arguments of the other. The cause of their offensive conduct does not by any means lie in the fact that one of them is right; but in the fact that, instead of quietly working and resting, they found fit to drink wine and play cards in a public-house.

Precisely in the same way, when I am told that in any given war which has broken out one side only is to blame, I can never agree with this. It may be admitted that one side is behaving worse than the other, but no investigations as to which side is behaving worse will in any way ​explain the cause, owing to which such a terrible, cruel, and inhuman phenomenon as war is taking place.

To anyone who does not shut his eyes, the real causes are perfectly evident in regard to the present Transvaal War, as well as to all the wars which have lately taken place. These causes are threefold: firstly, the unequal distribution of property, that is, the robbing of one part of humanity by the other; secondly, the existence of the military class of men educated and foreappointed to murder; and thirdly, the fallacious and, for the most part, fraudulent religious teaching, in which our young generations are forcibly educated. Therefore I think that it is not only useless but harmful to attribute the causes of wars to Chamberlains, William ii.'s, and such like; thus hiding from oneself the true causes, which lie much nearer, and in which we are ourselves participating. Chamberlains and Williams we can only rage against and abuse; but our rage and our abuse will only poison our own blood without changing the course of events; for Chamberlains and Williams are but the blind tools of forces lying far behind them. They act as they are obliged to, and they cannot act otherwise. All history is a series of actions on the part of politicians—exactly similar to those which preceded the Transvaal War; and therefore it is utterly useless, even impossible to be angry with such men and to condemn them, when one sees the true causes of their ​behavior, and when one recognizes one's own participation in one or other aspect of their activity, according to one's relation to the three fundamental causes I have mentioned.

So long as we will profit by privileged wealth, whilst the masses of the people are crushed with labor, there will always be wars for markets, gold mines, etc., which we require in order to maintain our privileged wealth. So much the more will wars be inevitable whilst we participate in the military organization, allowing it to exist, and refraining from combating it with all our power. We ourselves either serve in the army or recognize it as being not only indispensable, but praiseworthy; And then when war breaks out, we condemn some Chamberlain or other. But, above all, war will exist so long as we not only profess, but tolerate without anger and indignation that distortion of Christianity which is called the Christian Church, and according to which such things are admissible as a Christ-loving army, the consecration of guns and the recognition of a Christian and righteous war. We teach our children this religion, we profess it ourselves, and then we say—some, that Chamberlain, others, that Kruger is to blame for the murder of men by each other.

These are the reasons why I cannot agree with you and cannot rebuke the blind tools of ignorance and evil, but see the cause of war in a region in which ​I can myself contribute either to the diminution or augmentation of the evil. To contribute to the fraternal equalization of property, to take advantage to the least possible extent of the privileges which have fallen to my lot; to refrain from in any way participating in military activity, to destroy the spell which makes men, whilst becoming hired murderers, imagine that they are acting well by serving in the army; and, above all, to profess the rational Christian teaching, and to endeavor with all one's might to destroy that cruel fraud of false Christianity in which young generations are forcibly educated,—in this three-fold work, as it seems to me, consists the duty of every man who wishes to serve that which is right, and who is justly revolted by the present dreadful war.