Catechism of the Revolutionary

“Live to destroy” as the goal of a revolutionary turns Sergei Nechaev’s catechism into a program of broad -scale terrorist activity. He aims to infiltrate society with the purpose of “passionate, total, universal, and total destruction.” A scary idea, even thinking about Russian nineteenth-century society, where, according to the Program of the Narodnaia Volia, “economically and politically” Russian people lived “in a state of absolute slavery.” They were deprived of any citizens’ rights and worked to “support the parasitic classes,” – the Russian elite. The Catechism of the Revolutionary is so extreme and terror-oriented, that it is hard to try understanding the good intentions behind it. Saving the Russian people from oppression by eliminating all traditions and orders of Russian life is an impossible thing to do – Russian character relies upon tradition and long history, so total destruction as a way to change the order of life is a dead end in Russian society, or any other society for that matter.

The Program of the Narodnaia Volia also sets the task to improve the miserable lives of the Russian people. The members of Narodnaia Volia protested against the state oppressing the Russian people and worked to achieve freedom, equality and prosperity of the people through the revolution. Inspired by the slogan “power to the people,” they put duty to the country above human feelings and were ready for self-sacrifice to fulfill their aim at any cost. At the same time, Narodnaya Volia saw terror as the last resort and blamed the fact that they had to use terror on the Russian monarchy, cruelly vanquishing any attempts of social unrest. It waged “partisan warfare” within society, that was undermining the foundation of the Russian state and winning the sympathies of broad social circles.

It seems strange and unfortunate that the activity of Narodnaia Volia were so passionately directed against the tsar Aleksander II, known as the Liberator, who put an end to serfdom in Russia and supported many reforms in Russian society. Even after assassinating Aleksander II, Narodnaia Volia, let alone the revolutionary organizations more terrorist in nature, like those described in Nechaev’s Catechism of the Revolutionary, could never achieve their goals. This brings me to the conclusion that extremist ideologies like Nechaev’s or, to some extent, that of Narodnaia Volia, are not effective methods to bring about positive change into society. The principle “the purpose justifies the way” often causes destruction without creating a successful alternative for the future.