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The Financial Manifesto of the St Petersburg Soviet, 1905

  • George Garvy

The appeal issued by the St Petersburg Soviet on December 1, 1905, and known as the Financial Manifesto, served as a pretext for the Witte Government to liquidate the Soviet and to start a counterattack which, in a short time, completed the defeat of the first Russian revolution. The Manifesto represents a unique attempt to further the objectives of revolutionaries by undermining the monetary system, but it did not inaugurate a new strategy for revolutionaries in Russia, nor has it influenced revolutionary movement elsewhere. The originality of the Manifesto lies in its advocacy of a set of actions designed to bring about the downfall of Tsarism by exerting pressure on the gold base of the monetary system and by undermining government credit, rather than through withholding of tax payments. Refusal to pay taxes has been a widely used political weapon, at least since the American Revolution. It found its place in the program of the British Chartist movement, one of the first political movements rooted essentially in the working class.

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page 16 note 1 Its full text can be found in numerous Russian sources, including Valk, S. N. and associates, eds, 1905 God v Peterburge, I, Sotsial-demokraticheskie Listovki (Leningrad and Moscow, 1925), pp. 359362;Radin, B. [pseud, of Knunyants, B.], Pervyi Sovet Rabochikh Deputatov (St Petersburg, 1906);Sverchkov, D., Na Zare Revolyutsii (Moscow, 1921); and Trotsky, Leon, Russland in der Revolution (Dresden, 1909), pp. 202204 (Russian version: 1905 God, in Sochineniya, II (Moscow, 1925)).An English translation of the Manifesto has become available only recently with the publication of Trotsky's 1905 (New York, 1972). It is deficient and omits a crucial paragraph. The author's translation, based on the text in 1905 God v Peterburge, is appended.

page 16 note 2 Not always correctly translated or interpreted; see, for instance, Mehlinger, Howard D. and Thompson, John M., Count Witte and the Tsarist Government in the 1905 Revolution (Bloomington, 1972), pp. 141142. E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, Penguin ed. (London, 1966), II, p. 142, has confused the Financial Manifesto with the Vyborg Manifesto (see below).

page 17 note 1 “approved the text of a ‘financial’ manifesto submitted by Parvus”, Trotsky, 1905, p. 225.Interestingly, the French translation (Paris, 1923), which appeared when Trotsky was fighting for his political future, omits the name of Parvus (p. 189). – Among the Western writers, Wolfe, Bertram B., Three Who Made a Revolution (New York and London, 1948), p. 328, identified Parvus as the Manifesto's author. So did Keep, J. L. H., The Rise of Social Democracy in Russia (Oxford, 1963), p. 240, but not Harcave, Sidney, First Blood (New York, 1964), p. 232. The German biographer of Parvus, Scharlau, W. B., “Parvus-Helphand als Theoretiker in der Deutschen Sozialdemokratie und Seine Rolle in der Ersten Russischen Revolution, 1867–1910” (unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of Münster, 1964), has failed to trace and identify his leading role. His authorship is, however, noted in Zeman, Z. A. B. and Scharlau, W. B., The Merchant of Revolution (London, 1965), p. 89. – It is worth noting that a history of the 1905 revolution by a leading Soviet historian published by the Communist Party publishing house Politizdat before the death of Stalin included Parvus among the three actual leaders of the Petrograd Soviet. See Pankratova, A. N., Pervaya Russkaya Revolyutsiya 1905–1907 g., second enlarged ed. (Moscow, 1951), p. 153.

page 17 note 2 All dates are old style.

page 17 note 3 Uchreditelnyi S'ezd Vserossiiskago Krestyanskago Soyuza (Moscow, 1905).

page 17 note 4 Protokoly Delegatskago Soveshchaniya Vserossiiskago Krestyanskago Soyuza, 6–10 Noyabrya 1905 g. v Moskve (Moscow, 1906).

page 18 note 1 Ibid., p. 93. The mentioned proposals of delegates may be found on pp. 70, 71, 78 and 93.

page 18 note 2 Ibid., p. 95. The wording of this point is quite awkward and reads, literally, that the Union will withdraw its savings deposits and peasants' capital. In the November 11 issue of Syn Otechestva, a daily published by the Party of Social Revolutionaries, a slightly different text appeared as part of a report on the Conference. The first point demanding the transfer of land to those working it was omitted. The passage quoted is thus listed as point 6 and the amendment quoted below as point 10. Minor differences in the text of point 10 and some other points may be due to errors in the telephonic transmission from Moscow to St Petersburg.

page 19 note 1 Protokoly, p. 98.

page 19 note 2 See Veselovskii, B., Krest'yanskii Vopros i Krest'yanskoe Dvizhenie v Rossii (St Petersburg, 1907), pp. 74ff., for comments on the Convention and quotations from Groman's article in Moskovskaya Gazeta, 1905, No 5. Groman was an agricultural expert of the Mensheviks and later became a leading planner in the first years of the Soviet regime. See Jasny, N., Soviet Economists of the Twenties (Cambridge, 1972), the chapter “Vladimir Gustavovich Groman”.

page 19 note 3 The Okhrana colonel Gerasimov (1905 God v Peterburge, I, p. 113) refers to “two peasants”. Protokoly mentions Chernigov but not Tambov gubernia as being represented at the Peasants' Union Congress. While all remarks by delegates appear in the Protokoly in a much condensed version, examination of those made by the delegates, none of whom is identified as an intellectual, from the Chernigov gubernia does not suggest that Parvus was one of them. It is, furthermore, likely that Parvus, who, except for one short trip, had not returned to Russia for 18 years and never had been exposed to a farm milieu, could have easily played the part of a peasant. Sverchkov mentions the representative of the Congress (p. 154), and on the following page states that the draft of the resolution was presented to the Soviet's committee (see below) by Parvus.

page 20 note 1 Parvus subsequently devoted considerable attention to the role of banking and, in particular, of the large mixed (deposit-investment) banks, in furthering the concentration of business and of their potential use for controlling industry in economically advanced countries. See Zeman and Scharlau, p. 41, and Parvus, , Banken, Die, der Staat und die Industrie (Dresden, 1910) and Die Verstaatlichung der Banken und der Sozialismus (Berlin, 1919).

page 21 note 1 Nachalo, 1905, No 8. Also Deutscher, p. 242.

page 21 note 2 Testimony of Rostruev, A. N., in Sidorov, N. I., ed., 1905 God v Peterburge, II, Sovet Rabochikh Deputatov (Leningrad, 1925), p. 185.

page 21 note 3 Testimony of F. F. Shanyavskii preceding the trial of the Soviet leadership, ibid., pp. 199–200. See also testimony by N. F. Olshanskii, ibid., pp. 196ff., who referred to the delegate as a “short, nimble Jew” (p. 202).

page 22 note 1 The report of the Okhrana erred on this point: Colonel Gerasimov referred to payments to landowners (obrok) while the Manifesto refers to payments to government banks for land transferred to peasants as a result of the 1861 reform (vykupnye platezhy). Gerasimov, furthermore, noted that at its meeting on November 25 the Executive Committee debated “how to use the limitations of the money market [sic] to further the goals of the revolution”. 1905 God v Peterburge, II, pp. 113 and 115, respectively.

page 22 note 2 Sverchkov, p. 154. Sverchkov, who, under the pseudonym of Vvedensky ran against Trotsky for the chairmanship of the Soviet on November 27 and was defeated by a few votes, was of noble origin, maintained during the revolution a neutral position between the two wings of the social-democratic party, but later became a member of the communist party. Sverchkov, pp. 3–4 and 8. Sverchkov recollected that the “draft of the manifesto was submitted by Parvus and adopted with my and Trotsky's amendments” (p. 155). There is no evidence that the commission formally coopted Parvus, although it had the right to do so.

page 24 note 1 Sverchkov, p. 158.

page 24 note 2 Trotsky, Leon, ed., Istoriya Soveta Rabochikh Deputatov g. S.-Peterburga (Moscow, 1906), pp. 192193. At the trial of the leaders of the Soviet, the Public Prosecutor, V. Bal'ts, stated that the Manifesto had had “some effect” as the inflow of funds into savings banks declined “in December by 94 million rubles below normal”. 1905 God v Peterburge, II, p. 404. This figure is somewhat higher than the difference derived from the figures given in the table on p. 26, but perhaps he used a different period for “normal”.

page 24 note 3 And not merely “seizure”, as stated by Deutscher (p. 142). The list of the metropolitan newspapers which published the Manifesto may be found in 1905 God v Peterburge, II, pp. 8182. See also Morskoi, A. [pseud, of Shtein, V. I.], Iskhod Rossiiskoi Revolyutsii 1905 Goda i Pravitelstvo Nosar'ya (Moscow, 1911), p. 94. The radical Russkaya Gazeta published only the analytical part of the Manifesto, and Trotsky and Parvus resigned in protest from its editorial board (Scharlau, p. 229, note 48). All other papers were warned by the government that they would be shut down if they published the Manifesto (p. 94). The Manifesto was also distributed as a one-page leaflet.

page 24 note 4 Parvus escaped arrest at that time, but was jailed later. He devoted much time in his subsequent exile to the study of finance and by 1910 formulated a theory assigning the banking system a key role in building a socialist society, a theory which Lenin subsequently advanced in his Imperialismus, which appeared shortly before the February revolution. See Garvy, George, “The Origins of Lenin's Views on the Role of Banks in the Socialist Transformation of Society”, in: The History of Political Economy, Spring 1972.

page 25 note 1 1905 God v Peterburge, II, p. 281.

page 25 note 2 “Pervaya Gosudarstvennaya Duma v Vyborge”, prepared for publication by Sergeev, A. A., in: Krasnyi Arkhiv, LVII (1933), pp. 9798. Some alternative language crossed out in the preserved original draft.

page 25 note 3 Neither Martov, Julius, “Der Staatsstreich in Russland”; in: Die Neue Zeit, XXV, 2 (1907), pp. 516528, nor Leon Trotsky, “Der Arbeiterdeputiertenrat und die Revolution”, ibid., pp. 76–86, writing immediately after the defeat of the revolution, mention it. It is, therefore, not surprising that Oskar Anweiler, Die Rätebewegung in Russland, 1905–21 (Leiden, 1958), refers to it only in passing (p. 74). Trotsky's statement at the trial of the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet that the actions advocated in the Manifesto were meant to be “temporary” should be interpreted as an attempt to obtain a less severe verdict.

page 25 note 4 Pankratova, p. 153.

page 27 note 1 Sidorov, A. L., ed., “Finansovoe Polozhenie Tsarskogo Samoderzhaviya v Period Russko-Yaponskoi Voiny i Pervoi Russkoi Revolyutsii”, in: Istoricheskii Arkhiv, 1955, No 2, pp. 121149; “Denezhnoe Obrashchenie i Finansovoe Polozhenie Rossii (1904–07 gg.)”, ibid., 1956, No 3, pp. 88–123. The first contains six documents from the archives of the Ministry of Finance with a four-page introductory note by Sidorov, while the second consists of the “Memorandum of the Chairman of the Board of the State Bank, S. I. Timashev, on Monetary Circulation in Russia, 1904–1907”, dated February 12, 1907 (from the Central State Historical Archive, Leningrad) with a similarly short introduction. The captions for the various memoranda and other documents were clearly supplied by the editor. The statistical data cited in Timashev's memorandum are from the Ezhegodnik (Annual Report) of the Ministry of Finance for 1905, published in 1906. The most important documents included in the first article are a memorandum of December 5, 1905 (the third day following the publication of the Manifesto) on the possible need for suspending conversion of paper currency and a memorandum by the Minister of Finance on the need to protect the official gold stock. Sidorov remarked in a footnote to the first article that “neither historians, nor economists have studied this aspect [the deterioration of the financial position of the government] of events”.

page 28 note 1 “Finansovoe Polozhenie”, loc. cit., pp. 128 and 135.

page 29 note 1 Ibid., p. 143.

page 29 note 2 See Long, James William, “Organized Protest Against the 1906 Russian Loan”, in: Cahiers du Monde Russe et Soviétique, XIII (1972), pp. 2439, for an account of the campaign of Russian revolutionaries and democrats of various persuasions, supported by the French Socialists, to prevent floating of Russian loans in France. See also Crisp, Olga, “The Russian Liberals and the 1906 Anglo-French Loan to Russia”, in: The Slavonic and East European Review, XXXIX (19601961), pp. 497511.

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International Review of Social History
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