"The point is, don't you see, that progress of every sort is only
made by the use of authority," he said, evidently wishing to show
he was not without culture. "Take the reforms of Peter, of
Catherine, of Alexander. Take European history. And progress in
agriculture more than anything else--the potato, for instance,
that was introduced among us by force. The wooden plough too
wasn't always used. It was introduced maybe in the days before
the Empire, but it was probably brought in by force. Now, in our
own day, we landowners in the serf times used various
improvements in our husbandry: drying machines and thrashing
machines, and carting manure and all the modern implements--all
that we brought into use by our authority, and the peasants
opposed it at first, and ended by imitating us. Now by the
abolition of serfdom we have been deprived of our authority; and
so our husbandry, where it had been raised to a high level, is
bound to sink to the most savage primitive condition. That's how
I see it."
"But why so? If it's rational, you'll be able to keep up the
same system with hired labor," said Sviazhsky.
"We've no power over them. With whom am I going to work the
system, allow me to ask?"
"There it is--the labor force--the chief element in
agriculture," thought Levin.
"The laborers won't work well, and won't work with good
implements. Our laborer can do nothing but get drunk like a pig,
and when he's drunk he ruins everything you give him. He makes
the horses ill with too much water, cuts good harness, barters
the tires of the wheels for drink, drops bits of iron into the
thrashing machine, so as to break it. He loathes the sight of
anything that's not after his fashion. And that's how it is the
whole level of husbandry has fallen. Lands gone out of
cultivation, overgrown with weeds, or divided among the peasants,
and where millions of bushels were raised you get a hundred
thousand; the wealth of the country has decreased. If the same
thing had been done, but with care that..."