The War and Democracy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 414 pages of information about The War and Democracy.
to the establishment of a Duma, and the present war has already led to surprising results.  The consumption of alcohol has been abolished, concessions have been promised to a reunited Poland, and, except against the unhappy Jews in the Polish war-area, there has been a subsidence throughout the Empire of racial antagonism.  It is the hope of all who love Russia, and no one who really knows her can help loving her, that these beginnings may be crowned not only with victory over Germany in the field of battle but with victory over the German spirit in the world of ideas, a victory of which the first-fruits would be the firm establishment of representative government, a cleansing of the bureaucratic Augean stables, and a settlement of the problem of subject nationalities upon lines of justice and moderation.

But whatever the outcome may be, let us in England be fair to Russia.  The road to fairness lies through understanding; and we have grossly misunderstood Russia because we have not taken the trouble to acquaint ourselves with the facts, the real facts as distinct from the newspaper facts, of her situation.  When those facts are realised, is it for us to cast the first stone?  Russia needs political reform, the tremendous task of Peter the Great needs completing, the bureaucracy must be crowned with representative institutions; but is Russia’s need in the sphere of political reform greater than ours in the sphere of social reform?

Look at our vast miserable slums, our sprawling, ugly, aimless industrial centres, inhabited by millions who have just enough education to be able to buy their thinking ready-made through the halfpenny Press and just enough leisure for a weekly attendance at the local football match and an annual excursion to Blackpool or Ramsgate; who seldom, if ever, see the glorious face of Nature and, when they do, gaze into it with blank unrecognising eyes; whose whole life is one long round of monotony—­monotonous toil, monotonous amusements, monotonous clothes, monotonous bricks and mortar;—­until the very heaven itself, with its trailing cloud-armadas and its eternal stars, is forgotten, and the whole universe becomes a cowl of hodden grey, “where-under crawling cooped they live and die.”  And then look at those other millions—­the millions of Russia—­look at the grand simple life they lead in the fields, a life of toil indeed, but of toil sweet and infinitely varied; Russia is their country, not merely because they live there but because they—­the peasants—­now actually possess by far the greater part of the arable land; God is their God, not because they have heard of Him as some remote Being in the Sunday School, but because He is very near to them—­in their homes, in their sacraments, and in their hearts; and so contentment of mind and soul is theirs, not because they have climbed higher than their fellows, whether by the accumulation of knowledge or wealth, but because they have discovered the secret of existence, which is to want little, to live in close communion with nature, and to die in close communion with God.

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The War and Democracy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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