"The Party can never be mistaken," said Rubashov. "You and I can make a mistake. Not the Party. The Party, comrade, is more than you and I and a thousand others like you and I. The Party is the embodiment of the revolutionary idea in history. History knows no scruples and no hesitation. Inert and unerring, she flows towards her goal. At every bend in her course she leaves the mud which she carries the corpses of the drowned. History knows her way. She makes no mistakes. He who has not absolute faith in History does not belong in the Party's ranks."
"You have prevented the distribution of our material; you have suppressed the Party's voice you have distributed pamphlets in which every word was harmful and false. you wrote: 'The remains of the revolutionary movement must be gathered together and all powers hostile to tyranny must unite; we must stop our old internal struggles and start the common fight afresh.' That is wrong. The Party must not join the Moderates. It is they who in all good faith have countless times betrayed the movement, and they will do it again next time, and the time after next. He who compromises with them buries the revolution. You wrote: 'When the house is on fire, all must help to quench it; if we go on quarreling about doctrines, we will all be burnt to ashes.' That is wrong. We fight against the fire with water; the others do with oil. Therefore we must first decide which is the right method, water or oil, before uniting the fire-brigades. One cannot conduct politics that way. It is impossible to form a policy with passion and despair. The party's course is sharply defined, like a narrow path in the mountains. The slightest false step, right or left, takes one down the precipice. The air is thin; he who becomes dizzy is lost."
"We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voice is heard the trees wither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked . . . .
He shivered. A picture appeared in his mind's eye, a big photograph in a wooden frame: the delegates to the first congress of the Party. They sat at a long wooden table, some with their elbows propped on it, others with their hands on their knees; bearded and earnest, they gazed into the photographer's lens. Above each head was a small circle, enclosing a number corresponding to a name printed underneath. All were solemn, only the old man who was presiding had a sly and amused look in his slit Tartar eyes. Rubashov sat second to his right, with his pince-nez on his nose. No. 1 sat somewhere at the lower end of the table, four square and heavy. They looked like the meeting of a provincial town council, and were preparing the greatest revolution in human history. They were at that time a handful of men of an entirely new species: militant philosophers. They were as familiar with the prisons in the towns of Europe as commercial travellers with the hotels. They dreamed of power with the object of abolishing power; of ruling over the people to wean them from the habit of being ruled. All their thoughts became deeds and all their dreams were fulfilled. Where were they? Their brains, which had changed the course of the world, had each received a charge of lead. Some in the forehead, somein the back of the neck. Only two or three of them were left over, scattered throughout the world, worn out. And himself; and No. 1.
". . . The ultimate truth is penultimately always a falsehood. He who will be proved right in the end appears to be wrong and harmful before it.
"But who will be proved right? It will only be known later. Meanwhile he is bound to act on credit and to sell his soul to the devil, in the hope of history's absolution.
"It is said that No. 1 has Machiavelli's Prince lying permanently by his bedside. So he should: since then, nothing really important has been said about the rules of political ethics. We were the first to replace the nineteenth century's liberal ethics of 'fair play' by the revolutionary ethics of the twentieth century. In that also we were right: a revolution constructed according to the rules of cricket is an absurdity. Politics can be relatively fair in the breathing spaces of history; at its critical turning points there is no other rule possible than the old one, that the end justifies the means. We introduced neo-Machiavellism into this country; the others, the counter-revolutionary dictatorships, have clumsily imitated it. We were neo-Machiavellians in the name of universal reason--that was our greatness; the other in the name of a national romanticism, that is their anachronism. That is why we will in the end be absolved by history; but not they . . .
"Yet for the moment we are thinking and acting on credit. As we have thrown overboard all conventions and rules of cricket-morality, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logic. We are under the terrible compulsion to follow our thought down to its final consequence and to act in accordance to it. We are sailing without ballast; therefore each touch on the helm is a matter of life or death.
"A short time ago, our leading agriculturalist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate of potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. 1 was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong . . . .
"It is that alone that matters who is objectively in the right. The cricket-moralists are agitated by quite another problem: whether B. was subjectively in good faith when he recommended nitrogen. If he was not, according to their ethics he should be shot, even if it should subsequently be shown that nitrogen would have been better after all. If he was in good faith, then he should be acquitted and allowed to continue making propaganda for nitrate, even if the country should be ruined by it. . . .
"That is, of course, complete nonsense. For us the question of subjective good faith is of no interest. He who is in the wrong must pay; he who is in the right will be absolved. That is the law of historical credit; it was our law.
"History has taught us that often lies serve her better than the truth; for man is sluggish and has to be led through the desert for forty years before each step in his development. And he has to be driven through the desert with threats and promises, by imaginary terrors and imaginary consolations, so that he should not sit down prematurely to rest and divert himself by worshipping golden calves.
"We have learnt history more thoroughly than the others. We differ from all others in our logical consistency. We know that virtue does not matter to history, and that crimes remain unpunished; but that every error had its consequences and venges itself unto the seventh generation. Therefore we concentrated all our efforts on preventing error and destroying the very seeds of it. Never in history has so much power over the future of humanity been concentrated in so few hands as in our case. Each wrong idea we follow is a crime committed against future generations. Therefore we have to punish wrong ideas as others punish crimes: with death. We were held for madmen because we followed every thought down to its final consequence and acted accordingly. We were compared to the inquisition because, like them, we constantly felt in ourselves the whole weight of responsibility for the superindividual life to come. We resembled the great Inquisitors in that we persecuted the seeds of evil not only in men's deeds, but in their thoughts. We admitted no private sphere, not even inside a man's skull. We lived under the compulsion of working things out to their final conclusions. Our minds were so tensely charged that the slightest collision caused a mortal short-circuit. Thus we were fated to mutual destruction.
"I was one of those. I have thought and acted as I had to; I destroyed people whom I was fond of, and gave power to others I did not like. History put me where I stood; I have exhausted the credit which she accorded me; if I was right I have nothing to repent of; if wrong, I will pay.
"But how can the present decide what will be judged truth in the future? We are doing the work of prophets without their gift. We replaced vision by logical deduction; but although we all started from the same point of departure, we came to divergent results. Proof disporved proof, and finally we had to recur to faith--to axiomatic faith in the rightness of one's own reasoning. That is the crucial point. We have thrown all ballast overboard; only one anchor holds us: faith in one's self. Geometry is the purest realization of human reason; but Euclid's axioms cannot be proved. He who does not believe in them sees the whole building crash.
"No. 1 has faith in himself, tough, slow, sullen and unshakable. He has the most solid anchor-chain of all. Mine has worn thin in the last few years. . . .
"The fact is: I no longer believe in my infallibility. That is why I am lost....
"Several years ago," said Gletkin after a while, "a little peasant was brought to me to be cross-examined. It was in the provinces, at the time when we still believed in the flower-garden theory, as you call it. Cross-examinations were conducted in a very gentlemanly way. The peasant had buried his crops; it was at the beginning of the collectivization of the land. I kept strictly to the prescribed etiquette. i explained to him in a friendly way that we needed the corn to feed the growing city population and for export, in order to buld up our industries; so would he please tell me where he had hidden his crops. The peasant had his head drawn into his shoulders when he was brought into my room, expecting a beating. I knew his kind; I am myself country born. When, instead of beating him, I began to reason with him, to talk to hiim as an equal and call him 'citizen,' he took me for a half-wit. I saw it in his eyes. I talked at him for half an hour. He never opened his mouth and alternately picked his nose and ears. I went on taling although I saw that he held the whole thing for a superb joke and was not listening at all. Arguments simply did not penetrate his ears. They were blocked up by the wax of centuries of patriarchal mental paralysis. I held strictly to the regulations; it never even occurred to me that there were other methods. . . .
"At that time I had twenty to thirty such cases daily. My colleagues the same. The Revolution was in danger of foundering on these little fat peasants. The workers were undernourished; whole districts were ravaged by starvation typhus; we had no credit with which to build up our armament industry, and we were expecting to be attacked from month to month. Two hundred millions in gold lay hidden in the woollen stockings of these fellows and half the crops were buried underground. And, when cross-examining them, we addressed them as 'citizen,' while they blinked at us with their sly-stupid eyes, took it all for a superb joke and picked their noses.
"The third hearing of my man took place at two o'clock at night; I had previously worked for eighteen hours on end. He had been woken up; he was drunk with sleep and frightened; he betrayed himself. From that time I cross-examined my people chiefly at night. . . . Once a woman complained that she had been kept standing outside my room the whole night, awaiting her turn. Her legs were shaking and she was completely tired out; in the middle of the hearing she fell asleep. I woke her up; she went on talking, in a sleepy mumbling voice, without fully realizing what she was saying, and fell asleep again. I woke her once more, and she admitted everything and signed the statement without reading it, in order that I should let her sleep. Her husband had hidden two machine guns in his barn and persuaded the farmers of his village to burn the corn because the Anti-Christ had appeared to him in a dream. That the wife had been kept waiting on her feet the whole night was due to the carelessness of my sergeant; from then onwards I encouraged carelessness of that kind; stubborn cases had to stand upright on one spot for as long as forty-eight hours. After that the wax had melted out of their ears.
"I don't approve of mixing ideologies," Ivanov contiued. "There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all mean, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community--which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivicection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two cnceptions; in practice, it is impossible. Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative. Do you know, since the establishment of Christianity as a state religion, a single eample of a state which really followed a Christian policy? You can't point out one. In times of need--and politics are chronically in a time of need--the rulers were always able to evoke 'exceptional circumstances', which demanded exceptional measures of defence. Since the existence of nations and classes, they live in a permanent state of mutual self-defence, which forces them to defer to another time the putting into practice of humanism. . . .".....
...Rubashov shrugged his shoulders. "Admit," he said, "that humanism and politics, respect for the individual and social progress, are incompatible. Admit that Gandhi is a catastrophe for India; that chasteness in the choice of means leads to political impotence. In negatives we agree. But look where the other alternative has led us. . . ."...
... "Yes," said Rubashov. "So consequent, that in the interest of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year. So consequent were we in the liberation of human beings from the shackles of industrial exploitation that we sent about ten million people to do forced labour in the Arctic regions and the jungles of the East, under conditions similar to those of antique galley slaves. So consequent that, to settle a difference of opiion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, maneur, or the Party line to be followed in Indo-China. Our engineers work with the constant knowledge that an error in calculation may take them to prison or the scafoold; the higher officials in our administration ruin and destroy their subordinates, because they know that they will be held responsible for the slightest slip and be destroyed themselves; our poets settle discussions on questions of style by denunciations to the Secret Police, because the expressionists consider the naturalistic style counter-revolutionary, and vice versa. Acting consequentially in the interests of the coming generations, we have laid such terrible privations on the present one that its average length of life is shortened by a quarter. In order to defend the existence of the country, we have to take exceptional measures and make transition-stage laws, which are in every point contrary to the aims of the Revolution. The people's standard of life is lower than it was before the Revolution; the labour conditions are harder, the discipline is more inhuman, the piece-work drudgery worse than in colonial countries with native coolies; we have lowered the age limit for capital punishment down to twelve years; our sexual laws are more narrow-minded than those of England, our leader-worship more Byzantine than that of reactionary dictatorships. Our Press and our schools cultivate Chauvinism, militarism, dogmatism, conformism and ignorance. The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the Press, or opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been. We have built up the most gigantic police apparatus, with informers made a national institution, and with the most refined scientific system of physical and mental torture. We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can see. For the energies of this generation are exhausted; they were spent in the Revolution; for this generation is bled white and there is nothing left of it but a moaning, numbed, apathetic lump of sacrificial flesh. . . . Those are the consequences of our consequentialness. You called it vivisection morality. To me it sometimes seems as though the experimenters had torn the skin off the victim and left it standing with bared tissues, muscles and nerves. . . ."
"Well, and what of it?" said Ivanov happily. "Don't you find it wonderful/ Has anything more wonderful ever happened in history? We are tearing the old skin off mankind and giving it a new one. That is not an occupation for people with weak nerves; but there was once a time when it filled you with enthusiasm. What has so changed you that you are now as pernickety as an old maid?"
Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler