, a coalition of anti-government groups in Petrograd decided to call for tax resistance and other forms of economic rebellion against Russia’s czarist government, and composed the following manifesto to announce their campaign:
The government is on the brink of bankruptcy. It has reduced the country to ruins and scattered it with corpses. The peasants, worn out by suffering and hunger, are incapable of paying taxes. The government gave credits to the landowners out of the people’s money. Now it is at a loss as to what to do with the landowners’ mortgaged estates. Factories and plants are at a standstill. There is unemployment and a general stagnation of trade. The government has used the capital obtained by foreign loans to build railways, warships, and fortresses and to store up arms. Foreign sources have now been exhausted, and state orders have also come to an end. The merchant, the supplier, the contractor, the factory owner, accustomed to enriching themselves at the treasury’s expense, find themselves without new profits and are closing down their offices and plants. One bankruptcy follows another. Banks are failing. All trade exchanges have been reduced to the barest minimum. The government’s struggle against revolution is causing daily unrest. No one is any longer sure what the morrow will bring.
Foreign capital is going back home. “Purely Russian” capital is also seeping away into foreign banks. The rich are selling their property and going abroad in search of safety. The birds of prey are fleeing the country and taking the people’s property with them.
For many years the government has spent all its state revenue on the army and navy. There is a shortage of schools. Roads have been neglected. In spite of this, there is not enough money even to keep the troops supplied with food. The war was lost partly because military supplies were inadequate. Mutinies of the poverty-stricken, hungry troops are flaring up all over the country.
The railways are economically sick through the government’s fault. Many millions of roubles are needed to restore the railway economy.
The government has pilfered the savings banks, and handed out deposits to support private banks and industrial enterprises, often entirely fictitious ones. It is using the small saver’s capital to play the stock exchange, where that capital is exposed to risk daily.
The gold reserves of the state bank are negligible compared with the existing claims of government loans and the demands of trade turnover. It will be reduced to nothing if gold coin is demanded for every transaction.
Taking advantage of the absence of any control of the state finances, the government has long been issuing loans which far exceed the country’s means of payment. With these new loans it is covering the interest on old ones.
Year after year the government issues false accounts of expenditure and revenue, showing both to be less than they are in reality and robbing indiscriminately to show a surplus instead of an annual deficit. Officials are free to rob the treasury which in any case is already exhausted.
Only the Constituent Assembly, after the overthrow of the autocracy, can halt this financial ruin. It will carry out a close investigation of the state finances and will draw up a detailed, clear, accurate, and certified balance sheet of state revenue and expenditure (budget).
Fear of popular control which would reveal to all the world the government’s financial insolvency is forcing it to keep putting off the convening of the people’s representative assembly.
In order to safeguard its rapacious activities the government forces the people to fight unto death. Hundreds of thousands of citizens perish and are ruined in this fight, and industry, trade, and means of communication are destroyed at their very foundations.
There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue. This is necessary not only for the country’s political and economic liberation, but also, more particularly, in order to restore the financial equilibrium of the state.
We have therefore decided:
To refuse to make land redemption payments and all other payments to the treasury. In all transactions and in the payment of wages and salaries, to demand gold, and in the case of sums of less than five roubles, full-weight hard cash (coinage).
To withdraw deposits from savings banks and from the state bank, demanding payment of the entire sum in gold.
The autocracy has never enjoyed the people’s confidence and has never received any authority from the people.
At the present time the government is behaving within the frontiers of its own country as though it were ruling conquered territory.
We have therefore decided not to allow the repayment of loans which the government contracted while it was clearly and openly waging war against the entire people.