On general politics and social questions I could get nothing out of him, and yet in connection with my "idea" those subjects troubled me more than anything. Of men like Dergatchev I once drew from him the remark that "they were below all criticism," but at the same time he added strangely that "he reserved the right of attaching no significance to his opinions." For a very long time he would say nothing on the question how the modern state would end, and how the social community would be built up anew, but in the end I literally wrenched a few words out of him.
"I imagine that all that will come about in a very commonplace way," he said once. "Simply un beau matin, in spite of all the balance-sheets on budget days, and the absence of deficits, all the states without exception will be unable to pay, so that they'll all be landed in general bankruptcy. At the same time all the conservative elements of the whole world will rise up in opposition to everything, because they will be the bondholders and creditors, and they won't want to allow the bankruptcy. Then, of course, there will follow a general liquidation, so to speak; the Jews will come to the fore and the reign of the Jews will begin: and then all those who have never had shares in anything, and in fact have never had anything at all, that is all the beggars, will naturally be unwilling to take part in the liquidation… . A struggle will begin, and after seventy-seven battles the beggars will destroy the shareholders and carry off their shares and take their places as shareholders, of course. Perhaps they'll say something new too, and perhaps they won't. Most likely they'll go bankrupt too. Further than that, my dear boy, I can't undertake to predict the destinies by which the face of this world will be changed. Look in the Apocalypse though … "
"But can it all be so materialistic? Can the modern world come to an end simply through finance?"
"Oh, of course, I've only chosen one aspect of the picture, but that aspect is bound up with the whole by indissoluble bonds, so to speak."
"What's to be done?"
"Oh dear, don't be in a hurry; it's not all coming so soon. In any case, to do nothing is always best, one's conscience is at rest anyway, knowing that one's had no share in anything."
"Aië, do stop that, talk sense. I want to know what I'm to do and how I'm to live."
"What you are to do, my dear? Be honest, never lie, don't covet your neighbour's house; in fact, read the Ten Commandments—it's written there once for all."
"Don't talk like that, all that's so old, and besides … it's all words; I want something real."
"Well, if you're fearfully devoured by ennui, try to love some one or something, or at any rate to attach yourself to something."
"You're only laughing! Besides, what can I do alone with your Ten Commandments?"
"Well, keep them in spite of all your doubts and questions, and you'll be a great man."