J. V. Stalin

Either — Or1

August 25, 1917

Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Events are moving. Coalition succeeds coalition, repressions at the front are followed by repressions in the rear—and "all to no effect," because the cardinal evil of our day, the general state of disruption of the country, continues to grow and is assuming ever more menacing proportions.

The country is on the eve of famine. Kazan and Nizhni-Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Ryazan, Kharkov and Rostov, the Donets Basin and the Central Industrial Region, Moscow and Petrograd, the front and the immediate rear—all these and many other areas are in the throes of an acute food crisis. Hunger riots have already broken out, and are being exploited, clumsily as yet, by counterrevolutionary agents. . . .

"The peasants are holding back grain," comes the complaint from everywhere.

But the peasants are "holding back grain" not "from stupidity," but because they have lost faith in the government and do not want to "assist" it any longer. In March and April the peasants believed in the Soviets, and, through them, in the government, and grain flowed in abundance both to the towns and to the front. Now they are losing faith in the government because it protects the privileges of the landlords—and grain has ceased to flow. The peasants are hoarding their grain, preferring to wait for "better times."

The peasants are "holding back grain" not out of wickedness, but because there is nothing they can exchange it for. The peasants need calico, footwear, iron, paraffin, sugar, but these products are supplied to them in insufficient quantities; and there is no sense in exchanging grain for paper money, which is no substitute for manufactures and is moreover depreciating in value.

We say nothing of the "dislocation" of the transport system, which is too undeveloped to supply both the army and the country equally well.

All this, coupled with the incessant mobilizations, which are robbing the countryside of its finest labour forces and resulting in curtailment of crop areas, inevitably leads to disruption of the food supply, from which both the country and the army equally suffer.

At the same time, industrial disruption, too, is growing and spreading, tending in its turn to increase the disruption of the food supply.

Coal and oil "famines," iron and cotton "crises," causing textile, metallurgical and other plants to close down—that is now the familiar picture, confronting the country with the menace of industrial paralysis, mass unemployment and a goods shortage.

The trouble is not only that the mills and factories are producing chiefly for the war and cannot at the same time satisfy the needs of the country in equal measure, but also that the capitalists are artificially aggravating these "famines" and "crises" in order either to raise prices (profiteering!), or to break the resistance of the workers, who, owing to the rising cost of living, are striving to get their wages raised (stay-in strikes of the capitalists!), or else to cause unemployment by shutting down plants (lockouts!) and drive the workers to outbreaks of desperation, in order to put an end to their "immoderate demands" "once and for all."

It is no secret that the Donets coal owners are engineering curtailment of production and promoting unemployment.

Everyone knows that the Transcaspian cotton planters are shouting about a cotton "famine" when they themselves are hoarding vast quantities of cotton with an eye to profiteering. And their friends, the textile manufacturers, who are sharing the fruits of this profiteering and are themselves organizing it, hypocritically complain of a shortage of cotton, shut down their mills and increase the unemployment.

Everyone remembers Ryabushinsky's threat to "seize by the throat" the revolutionary proletariat "with the gaunt hand of famine and destitution."

Everyone knows that the capitalists have already passed from word to deed and have secured the unburdening of Petrograd and Moscow, the closing down of a whole number of factories.

The result is an advancing industrial paralysis and the threat of an absolute goods famine.

We say nothing of the profound financial crisis by which Russia is now gripped. A debt of 50,000-55,000 million rubles, involving an interest payment of 3,000 million rubles annually, at a time when productive forces are in a state of general decline, speaks eloquently enough of the drastic state of Russia's finances.

The recent "setbacks" at the front, so successfully provoked by some skilful hand, only supplement the general picture.

The country is heading irresistibly towards an unparalleled catastrophe.

The government, which in a brief period has enacted a thousand and one repressive measures but not a single "social reform," is absolutely incapable of saving the country from mortal danger.

More, by obeying the will of the imperialist bourgeoisie on the one hand, and being reluctant on the other to abolish the "Soviets and Committees" at once, the government is stirring up an outburst of general discontent from both the Right and the Left.

On the one hand, the imperialist clique, headed by the Cadets, bombards the government with demands for "vigorous" measures against the revolution. When Purish-kevich the other day spoke of the necessity for a "military dictatorship" of "governor-generals" and for the "arrest of the Soviets," he was only frankly expressing the aspirations of the Cadets. They are supported by Allied capital, which is bringing pressure to bear on the government by drastically forcing down the exchange rate of the ruble on the bourse and peremptorily demanding: "Russia must fight, not talk" (Daily Express, see Russkaya Volya, 2 August 18).

All power to the imperialists, home and Allied—such is the slogan of the counter-revolution.

On the other hand, profound discontent is brewing among the worker and peasant masses, who are doomed to land hunger and unemployment and are subjected to repressive measures and the death penalty. The swing to the Left of the soldier-peasant masses, who only yesterday still trusted the compromisers, was very clearly reflected in the Petrograd elections, which undermined the strength and prestige of the compromising parties.

All power to the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants—such is the slogan of the revolution Either, or!

Either with the landlords and capitalists, and then the complete triumph of the counter-revolution.

Or with the proletariat and the poor peasantry, and then the complete triumph of the revolution.

The policy of compromise and coalition is doomed to failure.

What is the solution?

It is necessary to break with the landlords and turn over the land to the Peasant Committees. This the peasants will understand, and grain will be forthcoming.

It is necessary to break with the capitalists and establish democratic control over the banks, mills and factories. This the workers will understand, and "productivity of labour" will rise.

It is necessary to break with the profiteers and marauders and organize trade between town and country on democratic lines. This the population will understand, and the famine will be stopped.

It is necessary to break the imperialist threads, which enmesh Russia on all sides, and proclaim fair conditions of peace. Then the army will understand why it is under arms, and if Wilhelm does not consent to such a peace, the Russian soldiers will fight him like lions.

It is necessary to "transfer" all power to the proletariat and the poor peasants. This the workers of the West will understand and they will, in their turn, launch an assault on their own imperialist cliques.

This will mean the end of the war and the beginning of the workers' revolution in Europe.

That is the solution indicated by the development of Russia and by the whole world situation.


Rabochy , No. 1, August 25, 1917


1. The article "Either—Or" had been printed in slightly abbreviated form in Proletary, No. 10, August 24, 1917, under the title "What Is the Way Out?"

2. Russkaya Volya (Russian Will)—a bourgeois newspaper, financed by the big banks, published in Petrograd from December 15, 1916, to October 25, 1917.