“Will you have some junket? Masha, pass us some junket or raspberries.” He turned to his wife. “Extraordinarily late the raspberries are lasting this year.”
And in the happiest frame of mind Sviazhsky got up and walked off, apparently supposing the conversation to have ended at the very point when to Levin it seemed that it was only just beginning.
Having lost his antagonist, Levin continued the conversation with the gray-whiskered landowner, trying to prove to him that all the difficulty arises from the fact that we don’t find out the peculiarities and habits of our laborer; but the landowner, like all men who think independently and in isolation, was slow in taking in any other person’s idea, and particularly partial to his own. He stuck to it that the Russian peasant is a swine and likes swinishness, and that to get him out of his swinishness one must have authority, and there is none; one must have the stick, and we have become so liberal that we have all of a sudden replaced the stick that served us for a thousand years by lawyers and model prisons, where the worthless, stinking peasant is fed on good soup and has a fixed allowance of cubic feet of air.
“What makes you think,” said Levin, trying to get back to the question, “that it’s impossible to find some relation to the laborer in which the labor would become productive?”
“That never could be so with the Russian peasantry; we’ve no power over them,” answered the landowner.
“How can new conditions be found?” said Sviazhsky. Having eaten some junket and lighted a cigarette, he came back to the discussion. “All possible relations to the labor force have been defined and studied,” he said. “The relic of barbarism, the primitive commune with each guarantee for all, will disappear of itself; serfdom has been abolished—there remains nothing but free labor, and its forms are fixed and ready made, and must be adopted. Permanent hands, day-laborers, rammers—you can’t get out of those forms.”
“But Europe is dissatisfied with these forms.”
“Dissatisfied, and seeking new ones. And will find them, in all probability.”
“That’s just what I was meaning,” answered Levin. “Why shouldn’t we seek them for ourselves?”
“Because it would be just like inventing afresh the means for constructing railways. They are ready, invented.”
“But if they don’t do for us, if they’re stupid?” said Levin.
And again he detected the expression of alarm in the eyes of Sviazhsky.
“Oh, yes; we’ll bury the world under our caps! We’ve found the secret Europe was seeking for! I’ve heard all that; but, excuse me, do you know all that’s been done in Europe on the question of the organization of labor?”
“No, very little.”
“That question is now absorbing the best minds in Europe. The Schulze-Delitsch movement.... And then all this enormous literature of the labor question, the most liberal Lassalle movement...the Mulhausen experiment? That’s a fact by now, as you’re probably aware.”