Constitution of the Soviet Union


Constitution of the Soviet Union

There were three versions of the constitution of the Soviet Union, modeled after the 1918 Constitution established by the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (RSFSR), the immediate predecessor of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Contents

Chronology of Soviet constitutions

These three constitutions were:

These constitutions had most provisions in common. These provisions declared the leadership of the working class and, in the latter two, the leading role of the CPSU in government and society. All the constitutions upheld the forms of social property. Each of the constitutions called for a system of soviets, or councils, to exercise governmental authority.

The differences between Soviet and Western constitutions

On the surface, the constitutions resembled many constitutions adopted in the West. The differences between Soviet and Western constitutions, however, overshadow the similarities. Soviet constitutions declared certain political rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. They also identified a series of economic and social rights, as well as a set of duties of all citizens. The legislature was to be elected at periodical elections.

However, there was no mechanism for enforcing the rights provided by the constitutions - there was no constitutional court, the citizens could not sue the government, there were no guarantees for independent judiciary.

The special leading role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was mentioned in the constitutions. In fact, it was the leadership of the Party which made all the political decisions in the country. The elections were a sham at which there was only one candidate for each constituency (proposed by the Party leadership) who was invariably elected.

Only during Perestroyka in the late 1980s did the constitution provide a framework for the emergence of real democracy.[1]

Criticism

According to Communist ideologists, the Soviet political system was a true democracy, where workers' councils called "soviets" represented the will of the working class. In particular, the Soviet Constitution of 1936 guaranteed direct universal suffrage with the secret ballot. However all candidates had been selected by Communist party, at least before the June 1987 elections. Historian Robert Conquest described this system as

"a set of phantom institutions and arrangements which put a human face on the hideous realities: a model constitution adopted in a worst period of terror and guaranteeing human rights, elections in which there was only one candidate, and in which 99 percent voted; a parliament at which no hand was ever raised in opposition or abstention."[2]

See also

References

  1. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies. - Soviet Union
  2. ^ Robert Conquest Reflections on a Ravaged Century (2000) ISBN 0-393-04818-7, page 97

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