12-27-12 Where Are We Going?

 

Alexander Herzen, 1812 – 1870, exiled aristocrat, father of Russian socialism who declared anarchist sympathies, credited as the driving force behind the freeing of the Russian serf, wrote this letter to his son on January 1, 1855 as an introduction to his From the Other Shore.

TO MY SON ALEXANDER

My friend Sasha,

I dedicate this book to you, because I have never written, and probably shall never write, anything better, because I love this book as a monument to the struggle in which I have sacrificed much, but not the courage of knowledge; and because, ultimately, I have no fear whatever of putting into your young hands this, at times insolent, protest of an independent individual against an obsolete, slavish and spurious set of ideas, against absurd idols, which belong to another age and which linger on meaninglessly among us, a nuisance to some, a terror to others.

I do not wish to deceive you; you must know the truth as I know it; may you enter into this truth not through agonizing error and crushing disappointment, but simply as an inheritance.

In your life there will be other questions, other conflicts . . . there will be no lack of toil and suffering. You are only fifteen, and already have experienced some terrible shocks.

Do not look for solutions in this book — there are none; in general modern man has no solutions. What is solved is finished, and the coming upheaval is only beginning.

We do not build, we destroy; we do not proclaim a new revelation, we eliminate the old lie. Modern man, that melancholy Pontifex Maximus, only builds a bridge — it will be for the unknown man of the future to pass over it. You may be there to see him . . . But do not, I beg, remain on this shore . . . Better to perish with the revolution than to seek refuge in the almshouse of reaction.

The religion of the coming revolution is the only one that I bequeath to you. It has no paradise to offer, no rewards, except your own awareness, except conscience . . . When the time comes go and preach it amongst us at home; my language was once loved there and perhaps they will remember me.

. . . I bless you on your way in the name of human reason, personal liberty and fraternity!

YOUR FATHER

RICHMOND HOUSE,

TWICKENHAM,

January 1st, 1855

Alexander Herzen, From the Other Shore & The Russian People and Socialism

Oxford University Press, 1979

 

 

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