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Aug 1, 2022
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Ideas S.F. Sharapova and modern Russia

About money, constant in relation to a person, personifying the main factor of production – labor

In my article “The Russian Economy from Sergei Witte to Sergei Sharapov”, dedicated to the gold ruble introduced in the Russian Empire in 1897, I spoke about Sergei Fedorovich Sharapovthe main criticism of the gold ruble at that time. This outstanding Russian figure is undeservedly forgotten today. However, many of his ideas seem very relevant today.

Sergei Fedorovich was born on June 1, 1855 in the Sosnovka estate of the Vyazemsky district of the Smolensk province in a well-born noble family. In 1868-1872. studied at the 2nd Moscow Gymnasium. He continued his education at the Nikolaev Engineering School in St. Petersburg. With the outbreak of hostilities in the Balkans, he volunteered for the war in Bosnia. After the war, from 1877 he worked abroad as a correspondent for the leading St. Petersburg newspaper Novoye Vremya. Returning in the fall of 1878 to his homeland, he retired and took up agriculture, settling in his native Sosnovka. He became famous as the inventor of the plows of the new system, which were successfully exhibited at many exhibitions (received 16 awards, including the first 10). He founded a workshop for these plows in Sosnovka.

Since 1905 he became an active participant in the monarchist movement. He acted as one of the founders of the Union of Russian People in Moscow, created the Russian People’s Party. He was a member of the monarchist congresses, often made presentations in the Russian Assembly. He was an active participant in the Slavic movement, was vice-president of the Aksakov Literary and Political Society in Moscow.

Engaged in publishing activities. He published the newspapers “Russian Labor”, “Russian Business”, “Sower”. He also published the Moscow Collection (1887), which, in addition to his works, included works M. D. Skobelev, A. A. Kireev, F. M. Dostoevsky, I. S. Aksakov and others, the collection “The Theory of the State among the Slavophiles” (1898), which included the works I. S. and K. S. Aksakov, A. V. Vasiliev, A. D. Gradovsky, Yu. F. Samarin.

Author of a number of literary works. For a long time I was preparing a series called “My Diary”, in the form of separate brochures, but the title had to be hidden inside for censorship reasons. Neutral names were put on the cover: “Snowdrifts”, “Crops”, “Harvest”, “Frosts”, “Prosha”, “Snowstorms”, etc. half a century”, political fantasy “The Dictator”.

Sharapov wrote a large number of works on economic life and finance. The most important of them – “Paper Ruble” (1893) – was published in 1895 as a book, having survived several editions during the author’s lifetime. Separate books were published during the life of the author, and his other works: “On Russian Farms” (1881) “The Future of the Peasant Economy” (1882); “France and Slavdom” (1894); “Help to young owners in the arrangement of their farms on a new basis” (1895); “How to liquidate gold currency” (1899); “Peaceful speeches and other articles by Sergei Sharapov” (1900); “Two notes by Sergei Sharapov on Russian finances, submitted in February 1900 to the new State Comptroller P.L. Lobko (1901; published in Berlin). In 1900-1906. Petersburg, a 9-volume collection of works by Sergei Fedorovich Sharapov was published.

He died suddenly in St. Petersburg on June 26 (July 9), 1911.

Sergei Fedorovich, as a convinced Slavophile and Russian patriot, was distinguished by a wide range of interests that went far beyond such topics as economy, finance, and money. Most of the Slavophiles were engaged in a metaphysical understanding of the problems of being, Russian civilization, spiritual and religious life, and culture. Sharapov was primarily a practicing economist, dealing with applied issues, but at the same time he looked at things much more broadly. Here is a short list of the major issues he raised in his writings and public speeches:

  1. On the existing monetary system of Russia. Critical look.
  2. The struggle against the gold ruble and monetary reform S.Yu. Witte.
  3. Model of the monetary system for Russian civilization. The theory of “absolute” money. The project of transition to the paper ruble.
  4. On foreign capital and foreign credits. About the loss of control by the Russian state over the economic and political life of the country, about the “external management” of the country by Western bankers and stockbrokers.
  5. The theory of “imaginary capital” and practical proposals for the use of “imaginary capital” by the state for the construction of railways and other infrastructure facilities (“imaginary capital” as an alternative to credit money that creates debts and hinders economic development).
  6. On taxes, insurance, state property, reserve funds (reserve capital), the system of economic departments of the state.
  7. About the degradation of the countryside, agriculture. Criticism of Stolypin’s reform. On the organization of credit to the village.
  8. On the organization of the government of the country. Criticism of bureaucratic management methods. On the liquidation of provinces and the creation of regions. Zemstvo self-government. Model of the people’s monarchy.
  9. About the state of our church. On the need to restore the patriarchate and overcome the consequences of the church schism.
  10. About the church parish as a “primary cell” of Russian society.
  11. The Jewish Question in Russia.
  12. On economic science.
  13. About family and marriage.
  14. On the foreign policy of Russia and the threat of world war.
  15. Criticism of capitalism and socialism as two socio-economic models equally unacceptable to Russian civilization.

As can be seen from this list of issues, a number of them are directly related to the economic life of Russia. None of the Slavophiles paid as much attention to economic issues as Sharapov. And among the economists in Russia there was no person with a more pronounced Slavophile worldview than Sharapov.

In one article it is impossible even to state even one of the questions of the above list in telegraphic language. So, for a modern young man who, for example, studied at an economic university according to programs designed in the spirit of economic liberalism, it is difficult to understand what Sharapov’s “absolute money” is. Sharapov seeks to restore the original purpose of money – as a means of ensuring the normal life of society based on healthy processes of economic metabolism (firstly, the exchange of goods; secondly, the combination of the main factors of production in order to produce goods). Under the conditions of capitalism that won in the West, money finally turned into:

a) an independent and priority goal of economic activity for most of those who are called “entrepreneurs” (accumulation of wealth);

b) a means of enrichment for “money entrepreneurs” (based on usury and stock market speculation);

c) a means of power of the “chosen ones” over society (the gradual establishment of the dominance of the largest “monetary entrepreneurs” – usurers and stockbrokers).

Based on the Russian, Orthodox, non-capitalist (even anti-capitalist) understanding of money (as a medium of exchange, a servant of society), Sharapov quite rightly asked himself how to provide society with the necessary amount of these means of exchange. For Sharapov, the lack of signs of absolute money, as well as their excess, is highly undesirable; both negatively affect the well-being of society. After all, it is bad for a zealous owner when he has few servants and workers; but it is also bad when there are too many of them. S.F. Sharapov refers to the idea of ​​absolute money in many of his works, looking for increasingly vivid analogies and images that are sometimes not directly related to the world of economics at all. What monetary system can be considered perfect? Sharapov asks. And he answers: one in which money does not have a self-sufficient influence on the interaction of the three main factors of production – labor, capital and knowledge, when money does not interfere with the economy to function normally, when the economy “does not notice” them, just as the person who breathes it does not notice the air .

This is money that is constant not in relation to precious metals, but in relation to the entire economy and, first of all, to a person who personifies the main factor of production – labor. Sharapov tries to convey his idea with the following words (“Paper ruble”):

We need to find a monetary unit that would be constant in itself, and not in relation to gold. We have this unit. It was given to us by history. This is a paper ruble issued by the supreme power … Constancy is its neutrality, its indifference, its non-interference in those transactions that are made with its help. For this condition to be achieved, there must be as many rubles at every point in Russian territory as life will require. If there are less of these rubles, the lack of them presses labor, knowledge and capital in one direction. If there are more of them – to another. Salvation from evil is the arrangement of the correct organs of the monetary economy, where rubles are born, act and disappear completely automatically, that is, as a transfer, as a receipt, and not as an independent commodity“.

By the way, after the publication of The Paper Ruble, researchers of money began to widely use the concept of “neutral” money used by Sharapov, as well as the concept of “free” money, which is close in meaning. The concept of “free” money was introduced into circulation by a German entrepreneur Silvio Gezel (1862 – 1930) in his book The Natural Economic Order (first published in Switzerland in 1916 under a different title). Gesel focused on the violation of the equivalent exchange as a result of the fact that the economy uses mainly money, which is of a credit nature and creates interest. As a result, there is an illegal (unfair) enrichment of bankers who monopolized the issue of interest-bearing money. As a means of overcoming this shortcoming of modern money, Gezel proposes to use money with zero and even negative interest. Gesell’s theory of “free money” successfully complements Sharapov’s theory of “absolute money”. Sharapov focuses on the exchange as a factor that violates the “neutrality” of money, and Gezel – on the usury of bankers. Modern supporters of the ideas of S. Gesel, by the way, use the term “neutral” money to explain the advantages of interest-free money.

Those wishing to learn more about Sharapov’s theory of “absolute” (or “neutral”) money can refer to my book: Katasonov Valentin. Economic theory of the Slavophiles and modern Russia. “Paper ruble” S. Sharapov. – M.: Institute of Russian Civilization, Oxygen Publishing House, 2016 // Chapter 6. “S. Sharapov: what kind of money Russia needs (pp. 377-468).

The ideas of S. Sharapov were partially put into practice by the Bolsheviks when they created a monetary system of a new, socialist type. In particular, the Soviet ruble, with which industrialization was carried out in the Soviet Union, had all the signs of absolute money. This ruble had nothing to do with Witte’s pre-revolutionary gold ruble. It is more correct to call it Sharapov’s commodity ruble.

(To be continued)

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