Is it better to be fed but enslaved or starving but free?  Is it better to be fed but enslaved or starving but free? Use the connection of the Russian revolution for support.   thanks  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From a philosophical point of view, I think that you would gain much in the way of divergent thought.  I think that the argument, which is steeped in the world of the hypothetical, would drive home the fundamental paradigm of security vs. freedom, if one had to make a choice.  Indeed, the choice does seem to be a tad on the abstract side because in reality, decisions and actions are made that move one back and forth on different ends of this spectrum.  There are instances where individuals act closer to the side of freedom and then the next moment might act closer to the side of security.  Yet, the abstraction of this debate helps sides to be chosen, which worked the benefit of the proponents of the Russian Revolution.  Certainly, leaders of the provisional government, and then later Lenin were able to make the argument that to remain under the control of the Czar and Western ideologies essentially translated into the notion of being fed, but being enslaved.  Given the fact that so much of the Russian population was poor and dealing with the after effects of the First World War, which had shellacked Russia in the most brutal of ways, to be free was desired.  The argument was pitched to Russian citizens that in choosing against the Status Quo, they could give up being enslaved and hungry and exchange it for freedom and food.  This polarization and oversimplification allowed millions to support the overthrow of the Czar.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For many of the Russian revolutionary families, being enslaved did not necessarily mean being fed anyway. So they were both enslaved and starving - and in the freezing depths of Siberian-like winters, that was quite serious. Men could not keep their families - particularly their children and seniors - warm or fed. For men like these then, it became a 'nothing to lose' situation, they had no choice but to take what their dependents needed. Many historians believe that the aristocracy of the country had become so out of touch that they continued to live off the fat of the land the peasants worked - without realising that the peasantry were working themsleves up to fever pitch out of sheer desperation and a new feeling of comraderie and support from outside.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains" was an idealistic slogan of the Marxist era, used in the Russian Revolution to awaken the peasantry to revolt.  Being a peasant serf under the czars was certainly not freedom nor prosperity, so it was true that they did not have much to lose.  Had I been in their place, I would have to argue that freedom was worth the gamble of continued starvation.  While it certainly didn'y pay off for Russians in terms of their freedom over the long term, I can understand why they acted as they did in the revolution.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If those are the only two options, I think I would probably choose to be fed but enslaved, but I suppose it would depend on how terrible the slavery was.

If a person is literally starving, they will of course die soon.  There is no real benefit to being free if you are just going to die as a result.  If you choose to be enslaved, you might at least have the chance of becoming free at some other time.

The only exception I can see here is if somehow the slavery is worse than death and there is no prospect of release.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Different people may feel differently about this. People with children will generally choose the former, because they care about their children's health. People who are on thier own, and don't need to worry about others, might prefer to be free no matter what.
epollock | Student

It is always better to be free than enslaved--under any circumstances. In Russia the tsarist regime continued to be absolutist and failed to develop a national identity to build a sense of loyalty to it. In the late nineteenth century, Russia underwent rapid industrialization, and social tensions increased as the growing middleclass began to demand some participation in the political process. The government responded to their demands with repression. Since Russia lacked a large urban working class, it did not fit the model of Karl Marx. Russian revolutionaries called Populists developed their own brand of socialism, based on the peasantry. They went into the countryside to educate the peasants and attempted to undermine the regime by assassinating its leaders. In both methods, they failed to achieve their goals since the peasants did not rally to them; nor did the regime crumble when its leaders were killed. In the factories the workers endured terrible conditions. In 1905 a group of workers attempted to present a reform petition to the tsar, but instead were fired upon by the troops. The massacre resulted in a revolution, which forced Tsar Nicholas II to introduce limited representative government. By 1910, the tsar had recovered from the Revolution of 1905 and refused to carry out many of the promised reforms.

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