Yemelyan Yaroslavsky 1939
Author: Yemelyan Yaroslavsky;
Written: 28 October 1939, delivered as a report at the meeting of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Union of Soviet Writers, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the death of Chernyshevsky,;
First published: 1939 in Istorik Marksist no. 5-6, pg. 15-37;
Translated by: Anton P.
Fifty years ago in Saratov, one of the most remarkable public figures of the last century, the master of the thoughts of the best people of his time, a consistent revolutionary democrat, a remarkably deep critic of capitalism and the greatest representative of utopian socialism in Russia, as Lenin called him, died. He was furthermore the greatest historian, who in his conclusions came close to historical materialism. In the person of Chernyshevsky, who was tortured to death by the Tsarist executioners, Russia lost not only a remarkably deep critic of capitalism, who revealed the helplessness and fetishism of bourgeois political economy: 50 years ago, a great artist of the word also died, leaving us the immortal What Is To Be Done?, Prologue, and a series of other artistic works. Chernyshevsky was a great Hegelian and materialist, this is how Lenin assessed his role in the history of social thought in Russia. Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov were socialist Lessings, as Engels called them.
Crowded gatherings throughout the Land of Soviets dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of his death, numerous editions of the works of the great Russian writer and materials about his life and struggle are an expression of the deep love of our people for Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky and the high appreciation of his activities, which he dreamed of, sitting in Peter and Paul Fortress seventy-seven years ago. Our life belongs to history, he wrote on October 5, 1862 to his wife Olga Sokratovna, hundreds of years will pass, and our names will still be dear to people, and they will remember them with gratitude when there are no longer those who lived with us.
Of course, people like Chernyshevsky are born infrequently. Chernyshevsky belongs to the glorious phalanx of revolutionary democrats-commoners, who replaced the noble Decembrist revolutionaries. His origins and upbringing in the family of a priest and his studies at the theological seminary did little to enable Chernyshevsky to become a socialist and revolutionary. However, we know that quite often, under the influence of a feeling of protest against the stupefying action of the environment, gifted people even left theological seminaries as revolutionaries. The greatest revolutionary of our time, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, in a conversation with Emil Ludwig, described how hatred of the Jesuit educators in the seminary and the methods of their education pushed him, as a fifteen-year-old youth, to the revolutionary struggle.
So Chernyshevsky did not justify the hopes of his official educators. When Chernyshevsky defended his dissertation, the rector of St. Petersburg University professor Pletnev, irritated, remarked to him: It seems that I read something completely wrong to you at lectures. Despite the fact that every living thought was carefully banished from teaching at the university, people like Chernyshevsky found their way to the springs of creative, revolutionary thought.
Chernyshevsky, sensitive, impressionable, brought up on the works of our best writers, from his youthful years eagerly absorbed the emancipatory ideas of his time. The family prepared him for a career as a priest. Chernyshevsky became an atheist. Pushkin, Lermontov and Gogol were his favorite writers. He considered their works above everything written by the artists of the word in his time. Belinsky and Herzen had an enormous influence on him, they pushed him most of all to study the philosophy of Hegel and Feuerbach. During these years, the communist worldview of the great founders of scientific proletarian socialism, Marx and Engels, had already taken shape. And the young Chernyshevsky eagerly absorbed the ideas of utopian socialism. Lenin points out three main sources, three constituent parts of Marxism; he says that Marxism is the legitimate successor to the best that humanity created in the 19th century. represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. Chernyshevsky became a materialist, taking the best of what the German philosophy of Hegel and Feuerbach gave.
Chernyshevsky calls all deviations from materialism both towards idealism and towards agnosticism metaphysical nonsense, Lenin wrote in his fundamental philosophical work Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. And Ilyich continued: Chernyshevsky is the only truly great Russian writer who, from the 1850s until 1888, managed to remain on the level of solid philosophical materialism and to cast aside the pitiful nonsense of the neo-Kantians, positivists, Machists and other muddleheads. But Chernyshevsky was unable to, or rather, could not, due to the backwardness of Russian life, rise to the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels.
It is in the backwardness of Russian life that one must seek an explanation for the fact that, drawing in general from the same three main sources, from the same treasuries of thought from which Marx and Engels drew, Chernyshevsky became the ideologist of utopian peasant socialism, the ideologist and leader of the peasant revolution, while Marx and Engels became the ideologists and leaders of the socialist proletarian revolution. In Western Europe, the revolutionary years of 1846-1850 were marked by formidable uprisings by the proletariat, but in Russia there was no such revolutionary proletariat, in Russia the feudal landowners had not yet been done away with, in Russia the peasantry was that main class-estate whose fate attracted the attention of the best people, from Radishchev and the Decembrists to Chernyshevsky. Lenin points out that the whole situation of the 1850s and especially the 1860s created confidence in the possibility, proximity and even inevitability of a peasant revolution. Marx and Engels considered such a revolution to be quite possible and probable, and at one time they even pinned certain high hopes on it.
When we get acquainted even with the main features of Chernyshevsky’s teachings, we are faced with the majestic image of a historian, philosopher, and economist. Even in the seminary, Chernyshevsky impressed his peers and teachers with his great knowledge. He read everything that could be obtained in his father’s small library and at school, and eagerly assimilated what he read. His love and knowledge of foreign languages reminds us of the young Vladimir Ilyich, who also took the study of ancient and new languages very seriously. Subsequently, Chernyshevsky wrote: What branch of knowledge can the public be interested in that is not interested in history? One may not know, one may not feel an attraction to the study of mathematics, Greek or Latin languages, chemistry, one may not know thousands of sciences and still be an educated person; but only a person who is completely mentally undeveloped can not love history.
The young Chernyshevsky devoted most of his attention to history, philosophy, and political economy. The student’s diary of Chernyshevsky mentions the works of Guizot, Augustine Thierry, Michelet, Schlosser, Barant, Becker; he studied political economy Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Adolphe Blanqui, philosophy – Hegel, Kant, Feuerbach, French materialists – Helvetius, Holbach, La Mettrie, Diderot. In particular, Chernyshevsky was fond of the French socialists and studied Fourier, Saint-Simon, E. Cabet, Pierre Leroux, Proudhon, Considerant, Louis Blanc, and at first he was most interested in Louis Blanc, whose student and follower he considered himself for some time.
Engels wrote about the historical and critical works of Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov to E. Paprits, an emigrant from Russia, that what they created was infinitely higher than everything that was created in Germany and France by official historical science. What historical figures attracted the attention of Chernyshevsky, who was a hero in his eyes? In the article “Turgot, his scientific and administrative activity” Chernyshevsky writes: Let us save our surprise only for those who, ahead of their time, had the glory to foresee the dawn of the coming day, had the courage to welcome its coming; to raise an independent and proud voice when the opinion of modern society rumbles against you; fight against the force that will slander you for the benefit of the crowd that does not understand or does not know you; to find in oneself one’s encouragement, one’s strength, one’s hope; with an inflexible soul, with a holy thirst for justice, go to the goal, not looking around if the crowd follows you, and reach the heights, only the path to which can be shown by lagging behind the topic for your generation, and end your life in the bitter loneliness of your mind and your heart – that’s worthy of eternal wonder. And in honor of those who were capable of such a feat, history should kindle its incense.
If Chernyshevsky had written these words at the end of his life, they would have applied primarily to himself, for he was ahead of his time, foresaw the dawn of the coming day, raised his independent and proud voice against Tsarism and the parasitical landowners, went to the goal without looking back. and ended his life in the bitter loneliness of his mind and his heart. It might seem that Chernyshevsky idealizes the role of an individual outstanding personality who acts without looking around to see if the crowd is following it? No, there were moments in history when the leader of a revolutionary party remained in the minority: the revolutionary minority was the Bolsheviks in the Second International, the revolutionary minority was Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in the German Social Democracy. Chernyshevsky, on the question of the role of the individual in history, came close to historical materialism. In “Essays on the Gogol Period”, Chernyshevsky wrote: Whoever penetrates into the circumstances in which the personality of the Gogol period had to act will clearly understand that its character completely depended on our historical situation; and if Belinsky was the representative of criticism at that time, it was only because his personality was exactly what historical necessity demanded. If it were not like this, this inexorable historical necessity would find another witness for itself, with a different surname, with different facial features, but not with a different character: historical need calls people to activity and gives strength to their activity, but itself does not obey anyone, does not change to please anyone. “Time requires its servant.”
Chernyshevsky embodied the type of historian-publicist about whom Lenin said that a publicist is a modern historian. In the article Chicherin as a publicist, Chernyshevsky wrote that a historian is first of all a politician who defends his convictions, and that only those historians who do not have them can not carry out their convictions. If he (Chicherin), we read in Chernyshevsky, would have thought for himself whether Thucydides, Tacitus, Machiavelli, de Tou, Thierry, Schlosser, Gibbon, or even even such historians as Guizot and Thiers, were indifferent, Macaulay, to those events and people about whom they wrote, he would have seen that not a single, somewhat tolerable historian wrote otherwise than in order to carry out his political and social convictions in his history. Chernyshevsky, as a materialist, considered it extremely important that the historian pay attention to the material conditions of the people’s life. Chernyshevsky believed that these material conditions of life play almost the main role in life, “the root cause of almost all occupations,” and from this point of view he criticized historians such as Schlosser and Guizot.
Even then, Chernyshevsky sharply criticized racist theories and showed their exploitative, class character. Chernyshevsky did this in reference to the work of Agassiz, an advocate of racial theory in North America, who viewed historical science as the handmaiden of the slave-owning planters. When these planters “were seriously worried about the fate of their plantations and saw the need to defend themselves against the attacks of the abolitionists, then they found enormous forces for the oratorical, newspaper, and scientific struggle, as they later found for the military. As at the beginning of an armed clash, the majority of experts in military affairs took the side of the slave owners, so in the scientific struggle, the planters had the labor of people more authoritative than the anthropologists of the abolitionists ... The slave owners were people of the white race, the slaves were Negroes; therefore, the defense of slavery in scholarly treatises took the form of a theory about the fundamental difference between different races of people.”
Chernyshevsky recognized the class struggle as the most important factor in history, and from this point of view he also looked at the national question. He said that within every nation there are estates, classes, and these estates and classes differ from each other to a much greater extent both mentally and morally than, say, the working class of one people differs from the working class of another people. From here there is one step to the recognition of the common interests of the working class of all countries, to the recognition of proletarian internationalism, formulated for the first time by Karl Marx.
Chernyshevsky was not satisfied with the historians of the past. He writes in his diary: It is necessary to write all over again the entire middle and new history, which has not yet been done, has not been started. From his student days, he dreamed that he would be able to complete this task. He clearly saw the class oppressive character of the most democratic states of the West, and in his works he wanted to show this oppressive role of the bourgeois state. Having an independent government, Chernyshevsky writes ironically in his autobiography, each state also has its own special laws. In England they hang, in France they cut off heads – the difference; in England, soldiers are recruited and flogged (today there are very few); in France they recruit soldiers by writing, but they don’t flog them at all.
The revolution of 1848 made a great impression on Chernyshevsky, and the most significant are Chernyshevsky’s historical works devoted to the European revolutions of the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries. Such are his works “The Struggle of Parties in France under Louis XVIII and Charles X” and “The July Monarchy”. He is interested in the Lyon uprising of 1831. He recalls that the slogan of the Lyon weavers “Live working or die fighting” is a resurrection of Babeuf’s communist ideas.
Chernyshevsky’s philosophical views took shape under the direct influence of Hegel and Feuerbach. The progressive Russian intelligentsia was fascinated by Hegel not only in the 1830s and 1840s, but also later. The poet Zhemchuzhnikov jokingly captured this passion in his poems: In a tarantass, in a cart I go / at night from Bryansk, / Everything about him, everything about Hegel, / is in my noble thought. The most prominent left Hegelians were Herzen and Belinsky. About Herzen Lenin wrote: In serf Russia in the 40s of the 19th century, he managed to rise to such a height that he stood on a level with the greatest thinkers of his time. He learned Hegel’s dialectic. He realized that it was “the algebra of the revolution”. He went on to Hegel, to materialism, following Feuerbach. Acquainted with the teachings of Hegel as a twenty-year-old youth, Chernyshevsky in October 1848 writes in his diary that henceforth he decidedly belongs to Hegel. And three months later Chernyshevsky writes that he disagrees with Hegel’s timid conclusions. Chernyshevsky believed that Hegel was afraid to draw revolutionary conclusions from his teaching, afraid to say what should be instead of what is now, and therefore moves away from the turbulent transformations of reality and carefully guards the existing.
“I don’t see genius,” writes Chernyshevsky on January 27, 1849, “because I still don’t see strict conclusions, and thoughts are mostly unsharp, but moderate, they don’t breathe innovation.” Chernyshevsky did not agree with the right-wing Russian Hegelians, who believed that everything that exists is rational, and therefore justified the Tsarist autocracy. In January 1849, Chernyshevsky writes in his diary that the task of history is to show how aspirations and actions are born from a state, how actions and events led a people or part of it from one state and position to another. Later, in 1856, Chernyshevsky expressed his attitude towards Hegelian dialectics in “Essays on the Gogol period of Russian literature”. Calling Hegel’s dialectics “brilliant” and “amazingly powerful”, Chernyshevsky wrote: After all, every fool could seem to guess that life is a series of changes, that everything in the world changes and that one extreme entails another; and the discovery of these truths is perhaps the main secret of Hegelian philosophy.
What did Chernyshevsky see as the essence of Hegel’s “dialectical method of thinking”? Its essence lies in the fact, Chernyshevsky wrote, that the thinker should not rest on any positive conclusion, but should look for whether the subject he is thinking about has qualities and forces that are opposite to what this subject presents at first glance. Thus, the thinker was forced to survey the subject from all sides, and the truth appeared to him only as a result of the struggle of all kinds of opposing opinions. Chernyshevsky points out that Hegel’s philosophy obliges to carefully analyze each phenomenon, to consider the conditions of time and place of occurrence of the phenomenon, the circumstances and causes of its occurrence. In a word, “There is no abstract truth; truth is concrete.”
But the deepest influence on Chernyshevsky was the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach, which he became acquainted with at the beginning of 1849 thanks to Khanykov, one of the members of Petrashevsky’s revolutionary circle. Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity made a huge impression on Chernyshevsky. This influence of Feuerbach was strengthened and deepened more and more in the future. In 1850, Chernyshevsky notes in his diary: Skepticism in the matter of religion has developed in me to the point that I am almost completely devoted to the teachings of Feuerbach from the bottom of my heart.
Chernyshevsky did not part with Feuerbach to the end. Chernyshevsky’s dissertation “The Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality”, written in 1853, and his other significant work, “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy” are imbued with Feuerbach’s ideas. Yves speaks extremely vividly. Palimpsestov in his “Memoirs of a fellow countryman about Chernyshevsky”, wrote that Chernyshevsky, brought up in a religious family of a priest, sharply expressed his new, atheistic views. Calling on the Palimpsestovs in Saratov and pointing to an icon hanging in a corner, Chernyshevsky said to Palimpsestov: “What is it, Ivan Ustinovich, are you all still living?” “Still,” he replied. “And do you pray for Nikolai Pavlovich (that is, for the Tsar)?” “I pray.” “And do you put candles to the miraculous?” “I bet.” “Yes, stop living according to the legends of ancient times; go to St. Petersburg, and you will be enlightened with a truly non-evening light.” “We have one non-evening light, which even the darkness cannot comprehend,” said Palimpsestov. “No, this world has already outlived its time,” Chernyshevsky objected.
Acquaintance with Feuerbach, who, like Engels and Marx, attached great importance to natural science, forced Chernyshevsky to set about intensively reading books on physics, astronomy, geology, and biology. It is extremely interesting that among the books read by the young Chernyshevsky there are books that the young comrade Stalin later read in the Tiflis seminary, and also, judging by the memoirs of Kapanadze, Ketskhoveli and others, Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity and Lyell’s books on geology played a large role.. Subsequently, Chernyshevsky wrote from Vilyuisk about the new books that for him, “who once knew Feuerbach almost by heart, new in them are only technical trifles.”
Chernyshevsky was a prominent economist. His writings on political economy, especially his notes on John Stuart Mill, made a great impression on Marx; Marx began to study the Russian language to a large extent in order to get acquainted in the original with the works of Chernyshevsky.
Chernyshevsky considered it necessary to direct his scientific work primarily towards the study of the social conditions of life of the working people. In particular, this should be said about such works by Chernyshevsky, which contain criticism of bourgeois economics. These works by Chernyshevsky, largely outdated after the appearance of Marx’s Capital, played an enormous role in Russia in their time, leaving their mark on the whole of economic science, on historical research, and on the formation of revolutionary thought in Russia. Plekhanov was wrong when he wrote in 1890 that even for his time Chernyshevsky was not a great connoisseur of political economy. It suffices to refer to Marx, who considered Chernyshevsky “the great Russian scientist and critic,” who masterfully illuminated the bankruptcy of bourgeois political economy. Speaking of economists who “tried to reconcile the political economy of the capitalists with the claims of the proletariat,” Marx wrote: This is the bankruptcy of bourgeois political economy, as N. Chernyshevsky, the great Russian scientist and critic, already skillfully clarified in his Essays on Political Economy according to Mill.
In a letter to the editor of Otechestvennye Zapiski, Karl Marx wrote: In the afterword to the second German edition of Capital, I speak of the great Russian scientist and critic with the high respect he deserves. This scientist, in his remarkable articles, investigated the question of whether Russia, in order to pass over to the capitalist system, should begin with the abolition of the land community, as liberal economists seek, or, on the contrary, she can, without undergoing all the torments of this system, assimilate all the fruits of it, developing their own historical data. He expresses himself in the sense of the last decision.
Chernyshevsky was very well acquainted with the works of the great utopian socialists, who undoubtedly had a great influence on his views on the laws of economics. Chernyshevsky is a profound critic of capitalism that was emerging in Russia. The great democrat and socialist of the pre-Marx period, Chernyshevsky, in an era when democracy and socialism, according to Lenin, were not yet separated from each other in Russia, gave a sharp and comprehensive criticism of the measures for the emancipation of the peasants in 1861. He gave this criticism from the point of view of the development of the class struggle, from the point of view of the benefits for the peasants of various forms of allotment of land or the redemption of land, from the point of view of the interests of the peasantry and the further development of the revolutionary struggle.
Lenin cites Chernyshevsky’s (Volgin’s) arguments from the remarkable work Prologue. “Let,” says Volgin, “the cause of the emancipation of the peasants be handed over to the landowners’ party. The difference is not great.” And to the interlocutor’s remark that, on the contrary, the difference is colossal, since the landowners’ party is against allocating land to the peasants, he resolutely answers: “No, not colossal, but insignificant. It would be colossal if the peasants received land without redemption. Taking a thing from a person or leaving it to a person is a difference, but taking a payment from him for it is all the same. The plan of the landowners’ party differs from that of the Progressives only in that it is simpler and shorter. Therefore, it is even better. Fewer delays, probably less burdens for the peasants. Which of the peasants has money will buy land for himself. Who does not have them – so there is nothing to oblige to buy it. It will only ruin them. Redemption is the same purchase.” What was needed was the genius of Chernyshevsky, says Lenin, citing these excerpts from Prologue, in order then, in the era of the very completion of the peasant reform ... to understand with such clarity its basic bourgeois character. Chernyshevsky understood, writes Lenin further, that the Russian feudal-bureaucratic state was not in a position to emancipate the peasants, i.e., to overthrow the feudal lords, that it was only able to produce an ‘abomination’, a pitiful compromise of the interests of the liberals (the ransom is the same purchase) and the landlords, a compromise that inflates the peasants with the specter of security and freedom, but in reality ruins them and betrays them to the landowners. And he protested, cursed the reform, wishing it failure, wishing that the government would get entangled in its balancing act between the liberals and the landowners and the result would be a collapse that would lead Russia onto the road of an open class struggle.
Chernyshevsky began to study political economy with Adam Smith, Ricardo and Mill, and he treated the works of these economists with great respect. He studied Malthus and Godwin. He sharply criticized the vulgar economists Bastiat, Mollinari, Roscher, Rau, Chevalier, speaking of them as “so-called economists”, he included the Russian economists Gorlov and Vernadsky, whose work he also subjected to sharp negative criticism. For Chernyshevsky, not only the statement of certain facts was important, but conclusions were important for him. So, in the article “Capital and piles” Chernyshevsky writes: The old theory proclaimed comradeship between peoples, because the well-being of one people is necessary for the well-being of others. The new theory holds the same partnership principle for every group of workers. The old theory says: everything is produced by labour; the new theory adds: and therefore everything must belong to labor; the old theory said: no occupation is unproductive which does not increase the mass of values in society by its products; the new theory adds: no labor is unproductive except that which produces the products needed to satisfy the needs of society, in accordance with prudent economy. The old theory says: freedom of labor; the new theory adds: and the independence of the worker.
While in Russia there was still no open sharp struggle for the liberation of the peasants, the ideas of Adam Smith found wide access to the environment of the educated nobility, and further Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin says: Reading Adam Smith / And there was a deep economy, / That is, he was able to judge / How does the state grow rich? / And what lives, and why / He doesn’t need gold / When he has a simple product. Chernyshevsky saw the weaknesses of the teachings of Adam Smith, but he also saw how official science was trying to replace the teachings of Adam Smith and Ricardo with the teachings of the vulgar economists, the teachings of the historical school of Roscher. Chernyshevsky sought to substantiate his economic doctrine on the works of classical political economy, on one of the sources of Marxism. After all, Engels also admitted that Ricardo’s doctrine that the entire social product belongs to the worker, as the only real producer, leads directly to communism.
What did Chernyshevsky see as the main shortcomings of the teachings of Adam Smith and other representatives of classical political economy? Chernyshevsky criticized the narrowness of Adam Smith’s historical outlook, his attempts to limit the study of economic relations only within the framework of the existing economic system, his inconsistency, and most importantly, his indifferent attitude to the position of the proletariat.
Of course, in Chernyshevsky’s works one can find quite a few statements that testify that he also had strong remnants of certain idealistic theories. Thus, Chernyshevsky examines many questions from the point of view of “reason” or from the point of view of the abstract principle of the “nature of things.” Marx and Engels saw in these features his resemblance to the great enlighteners Lessing and Diderot. Nevertheless, in spite of these shortcomings, Chernyshevsky has an enormous merit in clearing the way for the triumph of Marxist theory.
The immaturity of economic relations in Russia, the backwardness of Russia and the absence of an organized proletariat in it largely explains why Chernyshevsky could not take the standpoint of Marxism. His socialist theories reflect this backwardness of social relations in Russia, whose soil was then more favorable for the development of peasant utopian socialism, rather than the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels.
Chernyshevsky was the great forerunner of Marxism in Russia. This is precisely what explains the deep love and respect for Chernyshevsky of the founders of communism. Chernyshevsky was not afraid of the development of capitalism, and in this he differs from many followers of utopian socialism. On the contrary, from the development of capitalism, he expected the growth of productive forces, the improvement of life. He carries out this idea in the article “Superstition and Rules of Logic” and in a number of other articles. Chernyshevsky saw in political economy a science that should help mankind to organize production in the best possible way in the interests of the working people, to teach in the best way how to distribute the values produced by man, to find such an economic structure of society that would be perfect from the point of view of the development of productive forces, from the point of view of production and distribution. values. Science, says Chernyshevsky, which should be representative of man in general, should recognize as natural only that which is beneficial to man in general when it proposes general theories. If it pays attention to the affairs of any nation in particular, it must recognize as natural those economic institutions that are beneficial to that nation, i.e., in the case of division between the interests of different members of the nation, beneficial to the majority of its members. Consequently, Chernyshevsky believed that people of science should work in the interests of the working majority of the nation. Chernyshevsky believed that political economy should develop laws that would be most useful for the majority of the people, laws that would lead to the maximum satisfaction of society’s needs. Chernyshevsky believed that the main subject of research in political economy is in the theory of distribution; production occupies it only as the preparation of material for distribution. In Chernyshevsky’s notes on John Stuart Mill, one can find many extremely valuable thoughts, indicating that Chernyshevsky in his views approached the views of Marx. Chernyshevsky’s assessment of classical political economy generally coincides with that of Marx and Engels. In the same way, Chernyshevsky’s negative attitude towards vulgar economists coincides with the same attitude towards them in Marx and Engels. In the French economists, writes Chernyshevsky, who followed Jean Baptiste Sey, one cannot find a single fresh thought. Their writings contain only a colorless repetition of the thoughts expressed by Adam Smith, Malthus and Ricardo ... Say’s theory ... is superficial and false. Carey is a dead scholastic, stupid monomaniac. It has already been proved by Bastiat, Chernyshevsky writes, that the poor have nothing to complain about, that every worker receives a proper remuneration, that if there are people in the world who receive less than they should, then these people are not some weavers, seamstresses, agricultural laborers – no, but capitalists, rentiers, manufacturers, bankers and other unfortunate ones offended by fate, arousing envy in unreasonable laborers. Bastiat has already proved that if you count how many sacrifices are made for the common good and how many benefits to society are provided by Rothschild, Mires and their associates, then the poor need to bless their fate and erect monuments alive to these benefactors.
As already noted. Chernyshevsky, while still a student, was fond of the French utopian socialists. The first who made a huge impression on him, who was for him “the first teacher”, is Louis Blanc. On July 30, 1848 Chernyshevsky writes in his diary: I believe that there will be a time when they will live according to Louis Blanc: “Chacun produit selon ses facultes et regoit selon ses besoins” (everyone produces according to his ability and receives according to his needs) – this must be necessary when production increases and there will be no property in the strict sense, because everyone will always have everything he wants, and therefore there will be nothing to seize and store beforehand. On September 8, 1848, Chernyshevsky writes in his diary, mentally addressing the French bourgeoisie: Oh, gentlemen, you think that the point is to have the word republic, but you have power – not in, but in delivering the lower class from its slavery not before the law, but before the necessity of things ... that’s not the point whether there will be a king or not, whether there will be a constitution or not, but in social relations, in that one class does not suck the blood of another.
However, although Chernyshevsky initially considered Louis Blanc a “great man” and dreamed of becoming something like Louis Blanc himself, he soon became disillusioned with him. In his notes on Mill’s Foundations of Political Economy (1860-1861), Chernyshevsky already writes that Louis Blanc is not at all one of those first-class thinkers, such as Saint-Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen were. He’s just a very gifted person. Nevertheless, Louis Blanc left a deep imprint on Chernyshevsky’s socialist views. It is enough to recall the cooperative workshops promoted by Chernyshevsky in What Is to Be Done? or the plans for organizing industrial and agricultural associations to see in this the development of the ideas of Louis Blanc. Fourier made no less impression on Chernyshevsky. The Petrashevite Khanykov introduced him to Fourier’s teachings. Chernyshevsky disagreed with Fourier in many ways, and yet in What Is to Be Done? the tremendous influence of Fourier is felt; “The Dream of Vera Pavlovna”, isn’t this the enthusiastic propaganda of the phalanster Fourier?
In the summer of 1850, Chernyshevsky became acquainted with the teachings of the Saint-Simonists. Chernyshevsky considered valuable in the teachings of the utopian socialists that, penetrating the masses of the workers, these teachings become there the banner of the struggle for the revolutionary, socialist transformation of society. In “Essays on the Gogol Period of Russian Literature”, Chernyshevsky wrote about the teachings of the French utopian socialists: At that time in France, as a contradiction to the soulless and murderous teaching of economists, new theories of national welfare arose. The ideas that animated the new science were still expressed in fantastic forms, and it was easy for opponents who were prejudiced or guided by selfish motives to ignore the sound and lofty basic ideas of the new theoreticians and exaggerate the dreamy passions that no new science avoids at the beginning. ridicule the systems they hate. But under visible oddities and under fantastic passions, deep and beneficent truths were hidden in these systems. Chernyshevsky has gone far ahead of his teachers, the utopian socialists. He was convinced that human society was developing towards socialism: Economic history is moving towards the development of the partnership principle, Chernyshevsky wrote in his notes on Mill.
Chernyshevsky was not a supporter of petty-bourgeois production: he understood and defended the advantages and benefits of large-scale mechanized production. Chernyshevsky believed that for this it was necessary to establish a socialist system, concentrating land and capital in the hands of the people; he was convinced that socialism would eliminate the crises inevitable under the capitalist system.
Is it true, as many literary critics assert, that Chernyshevsky was unfamiliar with the works of Marx and did not experience the influence of the brilliant founder of scientific socialism? This assertion, it seems to us, is based on insufficient knowledge of the facts or on ignoring certain facts. And these are the facts. In literary circles close to the young Chernyshevsky, the notebooks “Deutsche-franzosische Jahrbucher” were in circulation, in one of which Engels’ article “Essays in Political Economy” was printed. Chernyshevsky was familiar with the members of the Petrashevsky circle, was close to the Petrashevite Khanykov and others, and used books from the library of this revolutionary circle. And in the library of Petrashevists there were works by Marx and Engels.
Then Chernyshevsky, of course, came across the names of Marx and Engels in Starchevsky’s Reference Encyclopedic Dictionary (published in 1848); as is well known, he wrote a review of several volumes of this dictionary. In this dictionary, in the article “Modern Philosophy”, Chernyshevsky could not help but read: Neither Marx, nor Engels, who, it seems, can be taken as the main preachers of the new German materialism, nor others have yet made public anything but the particular features of this doctrine. It goes without saying that Chernyshevsky could not ignore the teachings of these “chief preachers of the new German materialism” Marx and Engels.
Then Sovremennik not only defended Engels against Hildebrand, whose book The Political Economy of the Present and the Future was published in Russian translation in 1860, but also called Engels “one of the best and noblest Germans.” In the September issue of Sovremennik for 1861, Shelgunov’s article “The Working Proletariat in England and France” was published, in which extensive excerpts were given from Engels’ book “The Condition of the Working Class in England”. In the May issue of Sovremennik for 1861, an unsigned article was placed, “Economy of sensitivity, machine and man, French working weavers in Lyon.” This article sets out views that testify to the undoubted acquaintance of the editors of Sovremennik with the teachings of scientific socialism, in particular with the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. In this article we read: The whole task of the new economists is to free workers from the yoke of capital ... European society is splitting into two classes, into capitalists and workers. Both classes, each strong in its own way, stand hostile to each other, and the real social order of Western Europe rests precisely on the domination of capital over labor power without capital ... The proletariat and the consciousness it has aroused of the need to change the economic conditions of real European society are not a matter of chance. Anyone who does not see the work of history in all this will not understand either the meaning of the phenomenon or its significance. The proletarian is not at all a beggar and not a lazy person. A beggar doesn’t work. In this form, the proletarian is a phenomenon of modern history; only in the present century has he appeared in the west of Europe in the form of a conscious, independent whole. Until the 19th century, there were poor people who needed general help, perhaps more than now, but there was no question of the proletariat. It is the fruit of a new history. Is this not a statement of the corresponding thoughts of the Communist Manifesto? Subsequently, while in exile in Vilyui, Chernyshevsky received the first volume of Marx’s Capital. One can imagine with what greed he must have plunged into this work. However, no traces remained on the basis of which it would be possible to say more definitely about Chernyshevsky’s attitude to Marx’s Capital. It is well known that Chernyshevsky spoke with great praise of the merits of Marx’s economic doctrine and considered only that the doctrine of dialectical materialism could be stated in a simpler way.
Of great interest is the attitude of Marx and Engels towards Chernyshevsky. Above was Marx’s review of Chernyshevsky’s economic work. It is known that Marx took an ardent part in German Lopatin’s attempt to free Chernyshevsky from Vilyui exile. After his arrest in Siberia, Lopatin wrote to Governor Sinelnikov: During my stay in London, I made friends there with a certain Karl Marx, one of the most remarkable writers in the field of political economy and one of the most versatile educated people in the whole of Europe. About five years ago this man took it into his head to learn the Russian language; and having learned the Russian language, he accidentally came across Chernyshevsky’s notes on Mill’s famous treatise and some other articles by the same author. After reading these articles, Marx felt a deep respect for Chernyshevsky. He told me more than once that of all modern economists Chernyshevsky represents the only really original thinker, while the rest are only mere compilers, that his writings are full of originality, strength and depth of thought, and that they represent the only modern works on this science, really worth reading and studying; that the Russians should be ashamed that none of them has so far taken the trouble to acquaint Europe with such a remarkable thinker; that the political death of Chernyshevsky is a loss for the scientific world not only of Russia, but of the whole of Europe.
In correspondence with Danielson, the translator of Capital into Russian, Marx more than once spoke of Chernyshevsky with great praise and expressed a desire to publish something about his life and work in order to arouse sympathy for him in Western Europe. Marx and Engels, having learned about the arrest of Lopatin, were very worried about the fate of Chernyshevsky. Chernyshevsky died when Marx was no longer alive, but Engels wrote to Danielson: We heard here with great sorrow and sympathy about the death of N. G. Chernyshevsky, and, knowing how Chernyshevsky was tortured, he remarked that, perhaps, death was a boon for Chernyshevsky.
All Chernyshevsky’s scientific activity in the field of philosophy, political economy, history, his study of the great French utopians – all this led him to the development of a socialist worldview, which was not Marxist, and in the then conditions of Russia could not be so. But this worldview came close to Marxism, it prepared and cleared the ground for Marxism, despite the fact that it contained elements of utopianism.
When Chernyshevsky graduated from the university, he already had a socialist worldview, he was already a convinced revolutionary democrat and an equally convinced atheist. Even then, he clearly understood that if he did not want to remain indifferent to the fate of the people, then he would inevitably have to face the Tsarist government. At one time, while still a student, he thought that perhaps it would be better if the absolute monarchy held out until revolutionary consciousness matured among the people and when it became possible for the transfer of power “into the hands of the lowest and most numerous class: farmers plus farm laborers plus workers.” But in January 1850, in his diary, he notes that he came to different conclusions: Now I say: perish, the sooner the better, let the unprepared people come into their own; during the struggle he will sooner prepare himself; until you fall, he cannot prepare himself, because you are the cause of too much hindrance to mental development even in the middle classes. Deciding to marry Olga Sokratovna Vasilyeva, Chernyshevsky considered it his duty to reveal to her his revolutionary sentiments and his fears. On February 19, 1853, during an explanation with Olga Sokratovna, the following conversation took place between them: It would be meanness, meanness on my part to connect someone else’s life with my life, and because I am not sure how long I will enjoy life and freedom. I have such a way of thinking that I must wait any minute for the gendarmes to appear, take me to Petersburg and put me in a fortress, God knows how long. I do things here that smell like hard labor – I say such things in class. “Yes, I heard that,” Olga Sokratovna answered. Nikolai continued: “And I can’t give up this way of thinking. Maybe with the years I will cool down a little, but hardly.” Olga asked: Why? Can’t you really change? to which Nikolai answered: “I can not refuse this way of thinking, because it lies in my character, bitter and dissatisfied with everything that I see around me. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever grow cold in this regard. In any case, until now this trend in me has only become more and more intensified, becoming sharper, colder, more and more entering my life. And so, I wait every minute for the appearance of the gendarmes, just as a pious schemer waits every minute for the trumpets of the Last Judgment. In addition, we will soon have a riot, and if there is, I will certainly participate in it. It will certainly happen,” he said, objecting to Olga Sokratovna’s mocking doubts. “The displeasure of the people against the government, taxes, officials, landowners is growing. It only takes one spark to set it all on fire. At the same time, the number of people from the educated circle who are hostile to the present order of things is also growing. The spark that should ignite this fire is also ready. There is only one doubt: when will it break out? Maybe in ten years, but I think sooner. And if it breaks out, despite my cowardice, I will not be able to resist. I will take part.” Together with Kostomarov? Olga Sokratovna asked. “Hardly,” replied Chernyshevsky, “he is too noble, too poetic; he will be frightened by dirt, massacre. Neither mud, nor drunken men with clubs, nor massacre will frighten me ... And how will this end? Hard labor or gallows.” Chernyshevsky was mistaken only in terms. The gendarmes came for him after 9 years.
The political activity of Chernyshevsky was the most striking in the period of his work in the Sovremennik magazine. This magazine was founded in 1836 by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, in 1847 the magazine passed into the hands of Nekrasov and Panaev. The magazine had strong democratic traditions; it grouped around itself the best publicists and artists of that time.
Since 1856, when Nekrasov went abroad for a while, Chernyshevsky became the de facto editor of Sovremennik and ran the magazine together with Dobrolyubov. Sovremennik enjoyed enormous popularity among progressive youth, and each of his books was sold like hot cakes. Between Chernyshevsky, Nekrasov and Dobrolyubov there existed an exceptionally close relationship. Especially great was Chernyshevsky’s love for Dobrolyubov, whom he considered the most capable, talented man in Russia.
The role of Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov in the then public life was enormous. Here is what Shelgunov wrote about this: It is remarkable what tremendous mental work these two people (Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov) did, each in his own field, and how, replenishing one another, they constituted one complete whole. They all knew, they all understood, they could solve everything. It is unlikely that in any future era of the mental awakening of Russia, anything like this honeymoon of our social thinking, this enormous pressure of the accumulated strength and the energy with which this strength sought to destroy inertia and clear the field for the sprouts of a new life, will be possible.
What an enormous literary work Chernyshevsky performed from 1855 to 1863 is evidenced by the eleven volumes of the complete collection of his works written during this period. He was a brilliant literary critic. His “Essays on the Gogol Period” are a vivid continuation of Belinsky’s work in the field of literary criticism. His works on political economy, talented, fascinating, closely connected with modernity, his articles on historical topics, his philosophical works attracted everyone’s attention, awakened and shaped democratic revolutionary thought. His articles against the serf-owners and against the representatives of the nascent bourgeoisie acquired especially great significance. He hated the Russian liberals, who in his eyes were not much different from outright reactionary serf-owners.
Chernyshevsky had to write, maneuvering between the barbed wire of strict censorship; together with Dobrolyubov, he developed the Aesopian language, with which they expressed the most radical revolutionary thoughts.
Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov and Nekrasov occupied the extreme left wing in the struggle against serfdom and against noble-bourgeois liberalism. They were the leaders of that current of Russian social thought, which the enemies dubbed nihilism. In fact, nihilism was an extreme radicalism of thought associated with the preaching of revolutionary forms of struggle and the most extreme conclusions that the revolutionary thought of Western Europe then reached. It was on this basis that Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov broke with Turgenev and then had a sharp conflict with Herzen. As you know, Herzen made a major political mistake by taking on the role of an adviser to the tsar, trying to persuade the tsar to carry out liberal reforms. When Sovremennik sharply attacked Herzen for this, the latter responded in Kolokol No. 44 of June 1, 1859 with the article “Very dangerous!”: Recently, Herzen wrote, our journalism has begun to smell some kind of pernicious stream, some kind of depraved thought. Herzen called Dobrolyubov’s “Whistle”, which came out as an appendix to Sovremennik, “a special booth for booing the first attempts at the free word of literature.” Herzen, irritated against Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, went so far as to reproach them “that on this slippery road you can whistle not only to Bulgarin and Grech, but (which, God forbid) even to Stanislav on the neck.” In order to have an explanation with Herzen, Chernyshevsky went abroad and in London, observing all the precautions, saw Herzen twice. He acted so discreetly that the police knew nothing about these visits.
In No. 64 of Kolokol of March 1, 1860, a “Letter from the provinces” was printed, signed “Russian man.” This letter undoubtedly belongs to Chernyshevsky, in which Nikolai Gavrilovich reproaches Herzen and his like-minded people for singing in tune with landlord liberalism: No matter how pure your motives, wrote Chernyshevsky, but, I am sure, the time will come, you will regret your condescension to the august house. Look, Alexander II will soon show Nicholas I’s teeth. Do not get carried away by the talk of our progress, we are still standing in one place; during the great peasant question, we were given, for fun, to divert our attention, nameless publicity; but as soon as the matter touches the matter, they will slam it. So now, Mr. Galilean (Chernyshevsky having in mind Herzen’s article “You won, Galilean!” forbade writing about the clergy and farming: No, do not be deceived by hopes and do not mislead others, do not take away energy when it would be useful to many ... our situation is terrible, unbearable, and only an ax can save us, and nothing but an ax will help! .. You did everything you could in order to contribute to a peaceful solution of the matter, change your tone, and let your “Bell” not announce a prayer, but ring the alarm! Call Russia to the ax. Farewell and remember that faith in the good intentions of the Tsars has been ruining Russia for hundreds of years. It’s not for you to support it. This is what Chernyshevsky and Herzen argued about.
Chernyshevsky’s trip to London was undoubtedly of great importance for Herzen; it corrected to a large extent the latter’s line: the revolutionary democrat got the better of the liberal in him.
Chernyshevsky’s articles against the feudal lords aroused the greatest irritation of the entire reactionary and liberal camp. In what did Chernyshevsky see the salvation of the people, what did he fight for? Chernyshevsky saw the salvation of the Russian people in the peasant community; his brilliant defense of the community made him one of the founders of revolutionary populism at a time when democracy and socialism merged into one in the minds of the progressive people of Russia. Chernyshevsky was sure that if the community did not survive, and the peasants received land in personal ownership with the right to sell, then this would bring innumerable disasters to the people. Back in June 1857, defending the community, Chernyshevsky wrote: Every farmer should be a landowner, not a laborer. He must work for himself, and not for a tenant or a landlord ... As soon as we assume that during emancipation the land is given to the full ownership not of the community, but of individual families with the right to sell, they will sell their plots and the majority will become horsemen. Liberation will be when – I don’t know, but it will be; I would like it not to entail the transformation of the majority of the peasants into landless horses! For this I would like to prepare the thought of educated people who have long been prepared for emancipation. Thus, Chernyshevsky believed that the preservation of the peasant community was important not under all conditions, but only if there were certain guarantees: Firstly, the ownership of the rent by the very persons who participate in communal ownership. But this is still not enough. It should also be noted that rent only seriously deserves its name when the person receiving it is not burdened with credit obligations arising from the very receipt of it.
Chernyshevsky met with hostility the Tsar’s manifesto of February 19, 1861, by which the peasantry was robbed in favor of the landowners. The manifesto caused a series of uprisings of peasants deceived by the Tsar. This revolutionary mood of the peasantry was also reflected in the advanced revolutionary intelligentsia. We have in mind the appearance of Mikhailov’s proclamation “To the Young Generation”, the publication of several issues of the revolutionary magazine “Velikoruse” and the emergence of the “Land and Freedom” society. Chernyshevsky was in close relations with the leaders of revolutionary organizations and circles. Chernyshevsky’s position in the social movement was such that every newly appeared appeal, every underground edition of the gendarmes was attributed to him as the author.
In the winter of 1861, Shelgunov wrote an appeal to the soldiers, Shchapov wrote one to the schismatics, sectarians, Chernyshevsky wrote a proclamation to the lordly peasants. This proclamation begins with a greeting: Bow to the lordly peasants from their well-wishers. The proclamation sharply criticizes the manifesto of February 19, 1861 from the point of view of the peasantry: Just to say, the landowners will turn everyone into beggars by the Tsar’s decree ... not to the will, but to that it goes so that the landlords take you into eternal bondage, and even into such bondage, which is much, much worse than today. The proclamation called for preparations for an uprising: We know that as long as there is no preparation, and when there is preparation, we will also see. Well, then we will send such an announcement that it’s time, Russian people, to start a good deed, that in all places a good deed will begin at the same time, because everywhere then the people will be ready and there will be unanimity in it and one place will not lag behind another. Then it will be easy to get the will. Until then, get ready for the job, but do not show yourself that you are preparing for the case. Chernyshevsky was betrayed by the provocateur Kostomarov.
In 1862, student unrest began, and after that terrible fires broke out in St. Petersburg, the reactionaries attributed to Chernyshevsky both student unrest, and peasant unrest, and fires. Enemies of Chernyshevsky bombarded the III Division with denunciations against Chernyshevsky, demanding reprisals against him. At the same time, an event occurred that had a great influence on the future fate of Chernyshevsky. Herzen sent a letter to Russia with a certain Vetoshnikov stating that he and Ogarev were ready to publish Sovremennik abroad with Chernyshevsky’s participation. The Tsar’s spies reported by telegraph that the letter had been sent. Vetoshnikov was immediately arrested on arrival, and a letter from Herzen was found in his possession. The gendarmes used the mention of Chernyshevsky’s name in the letter to arrest Chernyshevsky. He was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Chernyshevsky spent 678 days in the Peter and Paul Fortress, in the Alekseevsky ravelin, which the Russian emperors built for their most dangerous political enemies. Tsar Alexander II himself became the head of the commission of inquiry into the Chernyshevsky case. How many people – and what people! – died in this Alekseevsky ravelin! The great writer, scientist of world renown found himself in the terrible casemate of the ravelin, but he did not yet consider the struggle over. Very soon he became convinced of the insignificance of the evidence against him. He hoped to get out of prison, set to work, and one must be amazed at the gigantic energy shown by him. In a ravelin, he wrote What is to be done?, his political testament to revolutionary Russia. When later Chernyshevsky, already exhausted by hard labor and exile, was asked by one of the visitors: is it true that that he was persecuted by the Tsarist government most of all for the novel What Is To Be Done?, he replied that he had What Is To Be Done? written when he himself could not do anything.
Chernyshevsky did a great job during his imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress. In addition to What Is To Be Done? Chernyshevsky translated the 15th and 16th volumes of Schlosser’s General History, the 7th and 8th volumes of Macaulay’s History of England, and translated Gervinus’ History of the 19th Century and Neumann’s History of the United States; compiled notes for the biography of Rousseau on 46 pages, began to translate Cricket’s book Tribes and Peoples and a number of other works. In total, he wrote over 300 half-sheets. Although he reassured his family that he would soon be released, he himself was sure that he would be convicted. He was tried not for this or that fact – the facts were not proven – but he was tried as a dangerous political enemy; they decided to deal with him and dealt with vilely, mocking the feelings of the people. The Senate sentenced the 35-year-old Chernyshevsky to the deprivation of all rights of the estate and exile to hard labor in the mines for 14 years, followed by eternal settlement in Siberia. The Tsar approved this verdict, hypocritically reducing the period of hard labor by half in order to then rot Chernyshevsky for another 14 years in Siberia! The verdict made a depressing impression on all the progressive people of that time and caused deep indignation.
On May 19 (31), 1864, in St. Petersburg, on Mytnaya Square, Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky was subjected to the rite of “civil execution”. Mounted gendarmes stood in a ring around the black scaffold, pushing back several hundred people, mainly student youth, who had come to this shameful spectacle. Behind the scaffold was a fence, behind it were crowds of factory workers and the common people in general. Quite a few detectives were driven there, eavesdropping on conversations in the crowd.
Here a black deaf carriage appeared at the scaffold. The gendarme opened the doors; an elderly man with graying hair stepped out. He was led to the black platform of the scaffold, at the end of which rose a black pillar, and at the pillar were chains screwed into rings. Two executioners met Chernyshevsky: one took off his cap, the other hung on his chest a black board with the inscription in white “State Criminal”. The official read the verdict: “By the decree of His Imperial Majesty...” Chernyshevsky calmly listened to this vile sentence and only from time to time took off his glasses and wiped them from the rain with his fingers. It seemed that he continued to think some kind of calm thought of his own, not paying attention to the hostile exclamations from among the assembled; he knew that these hostile exclamations were either police detectives, provocateurs, or exclamations of people deceived by spies, gendarmes, priests, who considered Chernyshevsky an “arsonist”, a “traitor”.
The reading of the verdict is over. Chernyshevsky was taken to the pillory and chained to it. For a quarter of an hour one of the greatest Russian men stood chained to a pillory, with his thoughts. He calmly looked around, and there was no excitement on his face. Chernyshevsky controlled himself and did not give the royal executioners a reason to rejoice.
Finally, the executioner took off his chains, led him to the middle of the scaffold and broke his sword over his head. Some woman threw a bouquet of flowers onto the scaffold – it was Michaelis – Shelgunov’s sister, she was immediately arrested. Chernyshevsky was put into a carriage and taken back to the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Herzen, after this execution, wrote in The Bell (N 186, 1864): Is it possible that none of the Russian artists will paint a picture representing Chernyshevsky at the pillory? This accusatory canvas will be an image for future generations and will consolidate the defamation of stupid villains, tying human thought to a pillar of criminals ... Chernyshevsky was you put up to the pillar for a quarter hours, and for how many years, will you remain attached to it? Damn you, damn it, and if possible, revenge!
More than half a century after this shameful execution, the people were able to avenge this desecration of one of the best Russian people, the greatest scientist, thinker and socialist of the pre-Marxian period ardently devoted to the people. After Chernyshevsky, entire generations of revolutionaries perished in search of the true path. This path was found later by the revolutionary Marxists, but the Russian enlighteners Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov were also looking for it in Russia. The “stupid villains” who chained Chernyshevsky to the pillory for a quarter of an hour were overthrown by the workers and peasants in 1917 under the leadership of the Lenin-Stalin party, which always treated Chernyshevsky with the greatest respect. The vile deeds of the “stupid villains” who ruined the flower of the Russian people, who ruined Chernyshevsky, are now revealed to the people in all disgust.
After the rite of “civil execution”, Chernyshevsky’s mournful journey through hard labor and exile began. He was sent to Nerchinsk penal servitude. He hoped that when his prison term was over, he would be able to return to work. Hard was the life of Chernyshevsky in the Nerchinsk penal servitude. But he did not lose courage, he worked and amazed everyone who came across him with his efficiency. On April 18, 1868, Chernyshevsky wrote to his wife that from next spring, in all likelihood, he would live in Irkutsk or Krasnoyarsk, “then,” Chernyshevsky dreamed, “the time will come to write for publication, and it will be possible to use the many plans of scientists and fiction works that have accumulated in my head over these years of idle study and reflection.”
The term of hard labor ended, but Chernyshevsky was not released. He asks with anxiety and longing in a letter to his wife on January 12, 1871: How long will this delay last? But instead of the long-awaited freedom, a “top secret” order came to transfer Chernyshevsky to Vilyuysk and to place him there in the cell where “prisoner number 11” was previously kept.
In the winter of 1871, Chernyshevsky was sent on a long, long journey from the Aleksandrovsky plant of the Nerchyansk penal servitude to Vilyuisk. In an abandoned town, again a prison, again a prison. Chernyshevsky lived a hard life there, lonely, abandoned. Letters, magazines rarely reached, the mail did not go sometimes for several months, there was no telegraph. Meager food, almost prison regime, mocking attitude of the guards, vile denunciations, searches. In the illegal magazine “Common Cause” in 1879, a description of the life of a Vilyui prisoner appeared: In the snow-covered desert, in a miserable frozen hut, with armed soldiers at the door, the great sufferer quietly tormented. His early gray head has already made friends with the crown of thorns; laurel – will crown his grave. Not joyful greetings and warm brotherly speeches are heard around him, but funeral tunes, snow blizzards, wild howls of a pack of wolves. Devoured by grief, deadly longing, sick, hungry, he works at night, by the light of a tallow candle, and late sleep does not refresh his aching head ... Sixteen years have passed since the executioners filled up the crypt with a heavy stone and it became unbearable to breathe in it. In the same year, they wrote about Chernyshevsky in “Nabat”: Whoever has even a spark of soul smolders will understand what this innocent martyr endured, with enormous mental needs, with a thirst for life and activity, slammed shut in his stone coffin for sixteen years!
The revolutionary Narodniks wanted to save Chernyshevsky. Twice German Lopatin tried to organize Chernyshevsky’s escape. The organization failed from the very beginning. The most daring attempt to free Chernyshevsky from Vilyuisk was made by the remarkable revolutionary of that time, Ippolit Myshkin. Having disguised himself as a gendarmerie officer, he had already reached Vilyuisk, but there the police officer suspected the authenticity of his papers. Myshkin was arrested and subsequently executed. Chernyshevsky’s position after this worsened even more. He was subjected to humiliating searches, and after one of them, when Colonel Kupenkov took everything he had written from him, Chernyshevsky began to burn everything he wrote. It is scary to read the story about this from the old-timer of the city of Vilyuisk, Evdokia Vasilievna Koryakina, who knew Chernyshevsky closely: He wrote everything. He writes, writes, it happened, and then he starts to burn until he burns everything. I ask him: why are you, Gavrilych, writing and then burning? And he will look at me, move his lips, his eyes are sad, sad, but he won’t say anything.
Chernyshevsky wrote in Siberia, apparently, Notes on Marx’s Capital, which he received there, the novels Reflections of Radiance and A Story from the White Hall, in the latter he wanted to put all the best thoughts, aspirations and hopes of mankind. This novel Chernyshevsky began to write in the Kadai mine.
Nevertheless politically Tsarism could not break Chernyshevsky. In 1874 Vinnikov, an aide-de-camp to the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, was sent to Vilyuisk to induce Chernyshevsky to write to the tsar for a pardon. We know that such a prominent political figure as Mikhail Bakunin once wrote a humiliating “Confession” – a request for pardon to Tsar Nicholas I. Chernyshevsky did not stoop to this. Here is what Vinnikov himself says: I did not find Chernyshevsky in the prison, the gendarme pointed me towards the lake, not far from the prison, adding that “the prisoner went out for a walk, he does this every day,” it was about two o’clock. I saw Chernyshevsky sitting on a bench, facing the lake, in a gray robe, with his head open. I went up to him and introduced myself, saying that, by the way, I was instructed by the Governor General to ask you, “Are you satisfied with everything? Do you have any complaints?” He got up from the bench, quickly looked me through his glasses from head to toe, looked slowly at himself, bending his head at the same time. Then, lifting it up, he said, “Thank you! I seem to be happy with everything and have no complaints.” I asked him to sit down, and sat down next to me, saying that I still needed to talk to him about one important circumstance. He sat down simply, at ease, without any visible interest on his lean, pale yellowish face, stroking his wedge-shaped beard with his hand, looking at me through his glasses calmly. At the same time I noticed his hair thrown back, the wrinkles on his broad, tanned forehead, the wrinkles on his cheeks, and the comparatively white hand with which he stroked his beard. I got right down to business: “Nikolai Gavrilovich! I have been sent to Vilyuisk on a special assignment from the Governor-General specifically to you ... Here, would you like to read it and give me a positive answer in one direction or another.” And I gave him the paper. He silently took it, read it carefully, and holding the paper in his hand for maybe a minute, gave it back to me and, rising to his feet, said: “Thank you. But, you see, in what I should ask for pardon?! This is a question ... It seems to me that I was exiled only because that my head and the head of the chief of the gendarmes Shuvalov are arranged in a different manner – and how can one ask for pardon about this?! I thank you for your efforts ... I positively refuse to file a petition.” To tell the truth, I was confused and, perhaps, for about three minutes I stood like a real blockhead. “So, then you refuse, Nikolai Gavrilovich?!” “I positively refuse!” and he looked at me simply and calmly. “I will ask you, Nikolai Gavrilovich,” I began again, “to give me proof that I have presented you with an order from the Governor General.” “Sign in reading? he finished with a question.” “Yes, yes, sign.” “With readiness!” And we went to his cell, in which there was a table with books, a bed, and, it seems, some furniture. He sat down at the table and wrote on paper in a clear hand: “I read that I refuse to file a petition. Nikolay Chernyshevsky.” Leaving him, I felt ashamed of myself, and maybe something else, adds Vinnikov.
In Vilyuisk, Chernyshevsky learned about Nekrasov’s serious illness and wrote to Pypin: If, when you receive my letter, Nekrasov still continues to breathe, tell him that I loved him dearly as a person, that I thank him for his good disposition towards me, that I kiss him, that I am convinced that his glory will be immortal, that Russia’s love for him, the most brilliant and noblest of all Russian poets, is eternal. I weep for him. Pypin conveyed Chernyshevsky’s greetings to the sick Nekrasov. Nekrasov was already dead. He said in a barely audible, dying stomp: Tell Nikolai Gavrilovich that I thank him very much; I am now comforted; his words are dearer to me than anyone else’s words.
When the poet A. K. Tolstoy, close to Alexander II, during the hunt, shortly after the conviction of Chernyshevsky, to the question of the king, what was new in literature, answered: Russian literature has put on mourning over the unjust condemnation of Chernyshevsky, Alexander II said displeasedly: I ask you, Tolstoy, never remind me of Chernyshevsky.
Chernyshevsky received 21 years of hard labor, prison and exile from the Tsarist government for the enormous work that he did for the people, so the Tsarist government dealt with him.
Only on the night of September 1-2, 1883, did Chernyshevsky leave Vilyuisk under the name of “secret criminal No. 5”; Chernyshevsky was allowed to return to European Russia, but only on the way did he learn that the city of Astrakhan was assigned to him as his place of residence. On October 22, 1883, 17 years later, Chernyshevsky saw his family. Here, in Astrakhan, and then in Saratov, his last years passed. He did a great new job here. Chernyshevsky did not want to give up. He worked until the last hour of his life and was already sick, delirious, continued to dictate the translation of Weber’s General History and completed a number of other literary works.
The priests, who hated Chernyshevsky throughout his life for his atheism, for his revolutionary activity, defiled his funeral with their participation and vile obituaries. The Tsarist censorship strictly monitored that no laudatory articles about Chernyshevsky should appear in the press, so that the truth would not be told about Chernyshevsky. But this truth could not be hidden. No matter how strict the censorship was, a significant part of Chernyshevsky’s works were published under Tsarism. Indeed, Chernyshevsky’s complete works could only be published after the October Socialist Revolution. Only the revolution made possible a worthy assessment of the activities of Chernyshevsky, whose name was a symbol of struggle for many generations.
Marxists, who are critical of the utopian nature of Chernyshevsky’s socialist views, appreciate in him one of the great revolutionary democrats, a consistent materialist, a forerunner of revolutionary Marxist thought, a man who did much to “clear the way for the revolutionary movement in Russia.” We see with what great respect Marx and Engels wrote about him, how they cared about Chernyshevsky.
In his numerous statements about Chernyshevsky, Lenin reveals to us the image of this great thinker, for whom, like for Belinsky, love for the good of the motherland was the only passion.
Chernyshevsky is the head of a whole generation of revolutionary enlighteners of the Russian people. He loved his homeland, he loved his people. Lenin in 1920 wrote in “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder”: For about half a century, from about the 40s to the 90s of the last century, advanced thought in Russia, under the yoke of an unprecedentedly wild and reactionary Tsarism, greedily searched for the correct revolutionary theory, following each and every one with amazing zeal and thoroughness “the last word” of Europe and America in this area. In this quest to find Marxism, as the only correct revolutionary theory, Russia has truly suffered through half a century of unheard of torments and sacrifices, unprecedented revolutionary heroism, incredible energy and selfless search, learning, testing in practice, disappointments, testing, comparing the experience of Europe. N. G. Chernyshevsky, under the yoke of an unprecedented, wild and reactionary Tsarism, greedily searched for a correct revolutionary theory and suffered unheard-of torments and sacrifices. His unprecedented revolutionary heroism, incredible energy and selflessness of seeking the right to have a grateful posterity put him on a par with the greatest figures of the revolutionary movement.
Chernyshevsky in his novel What Is to Be Done?, describing the life of people under socialism, wrote: What we have shown you will not soon be in its full development, which you now saw. Many generations will pass before what you foresee is fully realized. No, a few generations: my work is now going fast, faster every year, but still you will not yet enter this splendid kingdom; at least you saw it, you know the future. It’s light, it’s beautiful. Tell everyone: behold, what is in the future, the future is bright and beautiful. Love it, strive for it, work for it, bring it closer, transfer from it to the present as much as you can transfer: your life will be so bright and kind, rich in joy and pleasure, as far as you can transfer it from the future. But the realization of socialism became possible when the utopian socialism was replaced by the proletarian scientific socialism of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, when the October Socialist Revolution triumphed, when it became possible for this future to build freely, joyfully, with the consciousness that we are doing a great historical a matter of global importance.
Plekhanov called Chernyshevsky “Prometheus on the rock”. Chernyshevsky was indeed such a Prometheus, whose body was pecked out by vile executioners. But Chernyshevsky’s thought remained an eternal monument to the fruitfulness of the gigantic efforts of one of those remarkable people who were given to mankind by the Russian people. Chernyshevsky was confident in the victory of the people and did everything he could for this victory.
Lenin wrote that there are two Russias: one is the Russia of the Purishkeviches, the Russia of the reactionaries, and the other is the revolutionary Russia, the Russia that shows the way to humanity; and among the people who symbolize this Russia, Lenin mentioned the name of Chernyshevsky.
We know as surely as twice two are four that the night will be followed by a day, and whoever lives to see a bright day will, of course, enjoy a radiance that is brighter and more life-giving than what was given by the luminaries of the night, which illuminate our path in darkness, Chernyshevsky wrote.
And we, the disciples of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, recall with gratitude Chernyshevsky, the glorious figure of the past era, when the dawn of freedom was just breaking, this Chernyshevsky who, alone, in the casemates of the Alekseevsky ravelin of the Peter and Paul Fortress and in the distant Nerchinsk penal servitude, in cold Vilyuisk, everywhere proudly carried the banner of the liberation of the Russian people from Tsarism, the banner of socialism. This banner was raised in the new era by Lenin and Stalin. They created our invincible party, they led us to the great victories of socialism. They taught us to love such glorious predecessors of ours as Belinsky, Dobrolyubov, Chernyshevsky.