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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 577

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And who is most to blame, the Czar? "The one to blame is he who first said: 'This is mine.' That man has now been dead some several thousand years, and it is not worth the while to bear him a grudge," Said the Little Russian, jesting. His eyes, however, had a perturbed expression. "And how about the rich, and those who stand up for them? Are they right?" The Little Russian clapped his hands to his head; then pulled his mustache, then spoke for a long time about life and about the people. But from his talk it always appeared as if all the people were to blame, and this did not satisfy Nicolay . . . He left dissatisfied and gloomy. Once he said: "No, there must be people to blame! I'm sure there are! I tell you, we must plow over the whole of life like a weedy field, showing no mercy!"

Russian factory workers inspired by socialist literature become zealous to remake society according to their new beliefs in the years before the Russian revolution of 1905. Some of these philosophers of the proletariat argue that they must educate those around them about socialism to win them over to their side. Others argue that this will take too long and that they must "plow over" anyone that stands in their way "showing no mercy." The author is showing us the debate on the left between the socialists (who wanted gradual and uncoerced adoption of socialism) and the communists (who wanted the revolutionary and violent imposition of socialism).

"That's what I say, the record clerk [at the local factory] once said about us!" the mother said. For a while the two were silent.

Here Maxim Gorki has the namesake of the book point out, in the sentiments of the factory clerk, how the guardians of the current social order viewed the socialists (as a pernicious threat to be combatted). He has the same contempt for the socialists as they have for him. Both sides see the other as standing in the way of the society that they want. A society that upholds private property as sacrosanct must inevitably view socialists as gang of robbers come to loot their property. For socialists, private property itself is the root of evil, and all goods must be shared more equally by the community to achieve a just society. These two views may be philosophically incompatible, but in practice, they often coexist to some degree in mixed government systems around the world.

Yes, he's a bad man. He spies after everybody. Fishes about everywhere for information. He has begun to frequent this street, and peers into our windows.

Here the socialists view the defenders of the status quo as "bad" for trying to defend the current social order which they are working day and night to destroy. Their own covert, underhanded actions of sneaking socialist literature into the factory against the will of the factory owners are "good" in their minds because the strength of their private convictions justify overriding the conventions and even laws of their "unjust" society. They are right, and so in their cause they can do no wrong. Thus they have transformed themselves in their minds into righteous outlaws and at the same time transformed their law-abiding neighbors into bad people. The political tensions that resulted eventually erupted into violence in the failed revolution of 1905, and the successful revolution of 1917 which toppled the Czar and his government.

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