May 29, 2022
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Soviet economic challenge to the West 70 years ago

Stalin’s plan for the creation of a non-dollar common market of socialist and developing countries

The cooperation of the USSR with the United States and its allies, which developed during the Second World War, ended in 1946, when the era of the Cold War of the West against the USSR began, which lasted 45 years and ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

One of the important areas of the Cold War was economic. The West lagged behind the Soviet Union in terms of the pace of post-war economic recovery, and the economic war against the USSR consisted in imposing an exhausting arms race on the Soviet Union, organizing trade and credit blockades, conducting special sabotage operations to undermine the economy, driving wedges into the trade and economic relations of the USSR with other states.

The Soviet Union in the economic war with the West occupied not only a defensive, but also an offensive position. In 1949, on the initiative of Moscow, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) was established. At the first stage, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the USSR and Czechoslovakia became its members. Observer status was given to the PRC, and later to the DPRK. In 1950, the GDR joined the CMEA. Later, Mongolia, Cuba, North Vietnam became members of the organization. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of developing countries and even Finland were accepted as observers in the CMEA.

Another significant international economic initiative of the Soviet Union was the Moscow International Economic Conference, which took place exactly 70 years ago.

The round date gives a reason to recall some details of this event.

Moscow’s proposal to convene such a meeting was supported not only by developing countries, but also by a number of European countries – Sweden, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, who feared the strengthening of American dictate over Europe (“Marshall Plan”) and expressed their readiness to send their ministers to the meeting foreign trade or foreign affairs.

In the autumn of 1951, the CMEA member countries and China announced the need to hold a meeting designed to give impetus to close cooperation between all countries that disagree with the American dictate in the field of trade and international financial and credit relations. As noted in the joint statement, the new colonialists will, firstly, play off all those who disagree with each other, and secondly, they will subject them to any form of aggression and discrimination …“.

The preparation of the economic meeting was personally supervised by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Stalin.

Washington tried to block the meeting. The meeting was branded as an act of Soviet foreign policy propaganda, but it took place and took place in Moscow on April 3-12, 1952. The work was attended by 49 countries represented by 680 officials, entrepreneurs and experts. Of the non-socialist countries, the most representative were the delegations of India (28 people), Argentina and Indonesia (15 people each). Many capitalist countries also participated in this forum: Great Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Japan, the Benelux countries, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Liberia.

During the meeting and until the end of April 1952, over 60 trade, investment and scientific and technical agreements were signed in Moscow – interstate and intercompany for a period of 3 to 5 years, including 19 agreements with the participation of the USSR.

The main principles of such documents are: mutual maximum favored nation treatment in trade, credits, investments, scientific and technical cooperation; customs and price preferences for developing states or their individual goods; harmonization of policies in international economic organizations and in the world market; greater use of barter and clearing; mutual agreement of prices on the world market; use of alternative currencies to the US dollar.

The tone at the conference was set by the USSR and other CMEA member states. They proposed the creation of a common market for goods, services, and capital investments of the socialist and developing countries as a counterweight to the trade, economic and financial dictates of the United States. Such a market had to do without the US dollar.

Thus, 70 years ago in Moscow, an impetus was given to the formation of a common non-dollar market of the socialist and developing countries. It was often called the Stalinist plan abroad. Supporters of the Stalinist plan were even in the UK. Here is one of the messages from that time:A company was established in London under the name “International Joint Stock Company of Merchants for the implementation of the trade agreements concluded by the British delegates at the International Economic Conference held in Moscow in April 1952”“. The first chairman of this society was lord Boyd Orrheading the British delegation at the International Economic Conference. The joint-stock company stated that its goal is “encourage … and facilitate the implementation of trade agreements that were concluded in connection with the International Economic Conference in Moscow, held in 1952, and all similar agreements in the future. All income and property of this society will be used exclusively for these purposes.“.

According to archival materials, Stalin had a grandiose plan to create a new world economic order throughout the planet, with the exception of the United States and its closest allies (“collective West”). Something like a transcontinental “common market”, the core of which would be the CMEA, headed by the Soviet Union.

Stalin planned to hold the next international economic meetings in other countries, using the UN platforms. On February 23 – March 4, 1953, a conference of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECADV) was held in Manila. The conference was convened on the initiative of the USSR, supported by China, Mongolia, India, Iran, Indonesia, Burma and North Vietnam. The conference was attended by delegations from 20 countries. All participants supported Moscow’s proposal to create a free trade regime in Asia and the Pacific. The idea of ​​introducing a system of interstate settlements in national monetary units was also supported. At the Manila meeting, more than ten countries signed trade or investment contracts with the USSR.

According to reports, two or three days before his death, Stalin was given a detailed report on the promising results of the Manila meeting.

In 1953, under the auspices of Moscow, it was planned to hold interstate regional forums, similar to Manila, in Tehran, Addis Ababa, Buenos Aires. And even in Helsinki. However, these meetings did not take place. Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 interfered. After that, no one in the Kremlin remembered Stalin’s initiatives. A. Uncle in the book “Forgotten idea without a statute of limitations” wrote: “After 1953, the authorities of the USSR and most other CMEA countries gradually “departed” from the foreign economic ideology of 1952, preferring almost exclusively bilateral economic and political cooperation with developing countries, and political and ideological factors prevailed in it. In addition, since the mid-1960s, the USSR began to supply the West with cheap energy and industrial raw materials, which actually archived that idea“.

I would like to elaborate a bit more on the issue of de-dollarization of the foreign economic sphere, which was one of the key issues at the 1952 Moscow Conference. Even on the eve of this meeting, some economists and politicians of the CMEA countries were saying that the Soviet ruble could and should become an alternative to the dollar and other Western currencies in the mutual trade of the CMEA member countries. Moreover, in 1950 the government of the USSR decided to peg the Soviet ruble to gold (the establishment of a fixed gold parity); before that, since 1937, the exchange rate of the Soviet ruble was pegged to the US dollar (and earlier to the French franc). At the same time, the government decree indirectly (through the gold parity of the ruble) significantly increased the exchange rate of our currency against the US dollar. Undoubtedly, this resolution increased the authority of the Soviet ruble.

According to the principles of the state currency monopoly (finally established in the 1930s), the Soviet ruble could circulate only within the country and was not intended for international payments. Therefore, Stalin politely rejected the proposals of our partners to use the Soviet ruble as an instrument of international payments.

At the meeting, the idea of ​​introducing an interstate settlement currency was also expressed. Considering that the Soviet Union was the initiator of the creation of an alternative to the dollar zone of the transcontinental “common market”, some participants proposed making the Soviet ruble the interstate settlement currency in such a “common market”, the exchange rate of which was transferred to a gold basis two years earlier.

In 1951, at a meeting of the heads of state and government of the CMEA member countries, China and Mongolia in Moscow, Stalin stated:After we transfer our money to a gold basis, it will be possible to talk about the international gold equivalent of money in our mutual settlements. To do this, we will create a special international commission… ” Here Stalin made it clear that this was not about the gold ruble (as the currency of the classical gold standard, for example, the gold ruble created by the monetary reform S. Witte in 1897). And he did not say that the ruble with gold parity would be used in mutual settlements. Stalin said aboutinternational gold equivalent”, i.e., some special monetary unit, which is intended for international settlements.

The committee was formed and included: Rakosi (leader of Hungary in 1948-1956), Gottwald (leader of Czechoslovakia in 1948-53), Grotewohl (leader of the GDR in 1949-62) and Zhou Enlai (China). And at the Moscow Conference, the Soviet delegation spoke of the need to create a special monetary unit that could be used exclusively for settlements between the CMEA countries and, possibly, within the framework of a broader integration group.

Interesting memories Maxim Saburovthe then head of the State Planning Committee of the USSR on the progress of the work of this commission: “Specialists from the socialist countries already in 1952-53 presented 5 options for transferring mutual settlements between these countries to a currency with a gold content, not pegged to the dollar. It was planned to be introduced from 1955 or from the 1960s. At first, Stalin insisted on 1955, but we managed to convince him that we must first achieve a constant growth of national economies and the purchasing power of national money, bring together the nature of socio-economic planning in the socialist countries, and only then introduce such a currency. Stalin in February 1953, half a month before his death, agreed with the “deadline” no later than 1957, to the 40th anniversary of October. He was afraid that after him, this project would be “buried”. And so it happened later… »

N.S. Khrushchevhaving come to power, he made it clear that the idea of ​​an interstate currency with a gold parity was untimely and returned the ruble to the dollar.

Nevertheless, life urgently demanded the creation of an interstate currency for settlements between the CMEA member countries. And such a currency was created, having received the name “transferable ruble”. It was put into circulation on January 1, 1964, almost 12 years after the Moscow Economic Conference.

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