Alexander Herzen: Middle class idyll impossible with half a million bayonets clamoring for “work”
From My Past and Thoughts
Translated by Constance Garnett
Yes, if the army could be reduced to the defenders of property, the bodyguard of capital, everything would quickly reach its stable final order. But there is nothing perfect in the world, and the hereditary knightly spirit keeps up the ferment and prevents life from settling down. However tempting is plunder and however natural is blood-thirstiness to men in general, the dash of a huzzar, the aggressiveness of a Suvorov, are not compatible with maturity, with quiet unruffled culture. The dislike for everything military in China is much more comprehensible in a mature people than the passion of a Nicholas for ‘braid and epaulettes and buttonholes.’
That is just the trouble. What is to be done with the great people which boasts of being a military people, which is made up of Zouaves, pioupious, and Frenchmen, who are also soldiers!
Peuple de France, peuple de braves!
It is absurd to talk about quiet nights, moonlight walks, free trade, political freedom, or freedom of any sort, while five hundred thousand bayonets, bored and idle, are clamoring for their ‘right to work.’