“The whole secret of life in two pages of print!”

Here is an enthusiastic rant about socialists by Razumihin, Dostoevsky’s crystallization of the good-natured man of common sense, in Crime and Punishment:

I’ll show you their pamphlets. Everything with them is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. Their favourite phrase! From which it follows that, if society is normally organised, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant. Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, it’s not supposed to exist! They don’t recognise that humanity, developing by a historical living process, will become at last a normal society, but they believe that a social system that has come out of some mathematical brain is going to organise all humanity at once and make it just and sinless in an instant, quicker than any living process! That’s why they instinctively dislike history, ‘nothing but ugliness and stupidity in it,’ and they explain it all as stupidity! That’s why they so dislike the living process of life; they don’t want a living soul! The living soul demands life, the soul won’t obey the rules of mechanics, the soul is an object of suspicion, the soul is retrograde! But what they want though it smells of death and can be made of India-rubber, at least is not alive, has no will, is servile and won’t revolt! And it comes in the end to their reducing everything to the building of walls and the planning of rooms and passages in a phalanstery! The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phalanstery—it wants life, it hasn’t completed its vital process, it’s too soon for the graveyard! You can’t skip over nature by logic. Logic presupposes three possibilities, but there are millions! Cut away a million, and reduce it all to the question of comfort! That’s the easiest solution of the problem! It’s seductively clear and you mustn’t think about it. That’s the great thing, you mustn’t think! The whole secret of life in two pages of print!

Crime and Punishment (1866), Constance Garnett translation, Part III, Chapter 5

Yes, pretty much. What poor Razumihin could not have anticipated, of course, is that the socialists, by mapping that phalanstery onto the souls of diminishingly natural men for five generations, would finally succeed in reducing everything to comfort in the end, and in eliminating the millions of possibilities of life through the simplifying logic of their three acknowledged options.

“The great thing,” as he says, is that for socialism to work, “you mustn’t think.” And so we arrive at today.

You may also like...