The Soviets and Tsarist Debt

Toussaint, Eric

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/07/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23389

A history of the Soviet's refusal to honor Tsarist debt afterthe 1971 revolution. Looks at the effect on Russia up to and after the end of the USSR.



The February 1918 repudiation of the Russian Tsarist debt by the new Soviet government shocked international finance and sparked off unanimous condemnation by the governments of the great powers. The struggles that followed are of both historical and present-day interest for nations crushed by international debt....

At the beginning of January 1918 the Soviet government suspended foreign debt servicing, and in early February decreed the repudiation of all tsarist debts as well as the debts contracted by the Provisional Government. Simultaneously it decided to confiscate all the assets of foreign capitalists in Russia and restore them to the national estate. Russian public debt amounted to £930 million (roughly 50% of GDP) in 1913. Between the beginning of the war and Bolsheviks’ accession to power with their Left Socialist Revolutionary allies, the debt soared to £3,385 million, about three-and-a-half times what it had been.

The desire for peace had been one of the basic causes of the revolutionary uprising of 1917. The great majority of Russian soldiers were set against pursuing war. Almost all were peasants who wished to go home and work on the land. Moreover, for many years, since long before the start of the war, the Bolsheviks, who had been members of the Socialist International until its betrayal of the working classes in August 1914, had opposed the policy of preparation for war. They maintained that what was needed was a common struggle to bring capitalism and its imperialist phase and colonized territories to an end.

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