Notes on the Soviet Constitution

[Editor’s notes: The transcript of this document retains its original spellings, with corrections noted only where necessary for clarity.

[Bea Orsot Grubbs, who typed these notes, tended to put her words in all caps. We have used the sentence case in transcribing this.]

[Likely in an effort to save paper, Temple members often used the reverse side of old documents. That is the case here, and the some reverse sides of the pages on this memo were not transcribed.

[The pages in this document were rearranged to place them in chronological order.]

 

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10-12-78

To: Dad

From: Bea Grubbs

Re: USSR Constitution

Here is lesson 2. Gerry Bailey says that the tape is not being played each day, one lesson per day, as requested by you, I guess. Says she is having trouble getting them to play it and asked that I pass the information on to you.

 

G-1-d-1b [Reverse side of G-1-d-1a, not transcribed]

 

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10-10-78

To: Dad

From: Bea Grubbs

Re: USSR Constitution

Here is lesson I – there will be 20 more to come.

 

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Study outline of the Constitution (fundamental law) of the Union of Socialist Republics

Introduction: A constitution is the highest law of the country. It is the basic framework upon which all other laws are made. It is the highest law and no other laws or regulations can be made in conflict with it. It tells about the basic organization of the government, which affects all parts of life, political, economic and social.

This Constitution was adopted October 7, 1977. There have been several constitutions before it. It is the summary of the experience of the Soviet people in governing themselves and in building a socialist state working toward communism, beginning with the October 1917 Revolution. It is the fruit of sixty years of the development of the Soviet state. It speaks not only to the form and structure of their own government, but also to the goals, ambitions and dreams for the progress of all mankind along the path of Marxism-Leninism.

This Constitution is divided into 21 chapters. Each chapter sets forth a particular aspect of the Soviet system. We shall study the chapters one at a time. These chapters are fitted into nine basic sections, which are in turn divided into one or more chapters which are in turn divided into a total of 172 articles. So the Constitution has nine sections, 21 and 172 articles.

Note: I don’t know what they call the nine basic divisions – they do not say. I gave them the name of “Sections” for convenience of reference.”

Teaching note: I am going to divide the Constitution into 21 “lessons” – one for each chapter. One or more lessons or fewer, can be given, of course, at the instructor’s convenience. I have included explanation where I felt it might be of value.

 

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Lesson one

Section 1. Principles of the social structure and policy of the USSR

Chapter 1. The political system

(This chapter outlines the basic political structure of the state. That is, the basis of political power and the ways in which that power is used, how decisions are made.)

[Marginal note: “USSR as a Socialist state”] Article 1. The USSR is a socialist state. That is, it expresses the will of the whole people including workers, peasants and intellectuals of all of the nations and nationalities of the country. The Soviet Union is a federation of a number of different states (as is the United States) in which there is a central government and local governments. The reference to “Nations” and “Nationalities” refers to member states or Soviets, and the people who live in them, for example, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, in which many people of Armenian ancestry live. We will learn more about this in Chapters 9 [likely 8], 9, and 10.

[Marginal note: “All power belongs to the people”] Article 2. All of the power in the USSR belongs to the people. This is the fundamental concept of the socialist state – not kings nor capitalists but the people control their own destiny. The people exercise state power (that is, power normally exercised by governments) through Soviets of Peoples Deputies. A Soviet it is like an assembly of Parliament of persons elected by the people to govern. These Sovietsconstitute the political foundation of the USSR. All other state bodies (that is, organs of government) are under control of, and accountable to, the Soviets of the Peoples Deputies. This clause insures the basic democracy of the system, and keeps the basic power in the hands of the people.

Article 3. The Soviet state is organized and functions on the principle of democratic centralism. In this principle all bodies of state authority are made up of people elected to those bodies, each of those bodies of government authority is accountable to the people, in each lower body must abide by the decisions of higher bodies. This system combines central leadership with local initiative and creative activity. It faces direct responsibility on each state body and official for the work entrusted to them.

[Marginal note: “Rule of Socialist Law”] Article 4. Every part of government functions on the basis of socialist law. (This means that people who are entrusted with power by the people cannot use it just any way that they want, but that they must use it according to the law). This insures the maintenance of law and order, and

Continued on page 3
 

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safeguards the interest of society and the rights and freedoms of citizens, Allstate organizations (meaning organizations of the government), public organizations (such as cooperatives and trades unions) and officials shall observe the Constitution of the USSR and Soviet laws.

[Marginal note: “Referendum on major issues.”] Article 5. Major matters of state (meaning very important decisions that would affect all of the people) shall be submitted to nationwide discussion and put to a popular vote. (A referendum)

[Marginal note: “The role of public organizations”] Article 6. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is the leading and turning force of Soviet society. It exists for the people and serves the people. The CPSU, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, determines the points of view from which the society is to develop and the basic elements of domestic and foreign policy, it directs the work of the Soviet people in a planned and systematic way and provides the theoretical basis for the development of communism. The party must function within the framework of the Constitution. This means that it is subject to the will of the people.

Article 7. All public organizations, such as the all-union Leninist Young Communist League, cooperatives, trade unions, and other public organizations participate, according to their own rules, in managing state and public affairs and in deciding political, economic and social and cultural matters. (This is different from the United States where unions have no polotical power and are just tools of capitalists.)

[Marginal note: “The role [of] work collectives”] Article 8. Work collectives (which are described as the total population), of a production unit, such as a factory, take place in discussing in deciding state and public affairs, in planning production and social development, in training and placing personnel, and in discussing and deciding matters pertaining to the management of enterprises in institutions, the improving of work and living conditions, and the use of financial incentives. Work collectives promote the socialist example, teach progressive methods of work, strengthen socialist production discipline, educate their members in the spirit of communist morality, and strive to enhance their political consciousness and raise their cultural level and skills and qualifications.

over

 

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4

Teaching Note: We need a more specific definition and some descriptions of work collectives. It seems to fit our own case rather well.

[Marginal note: “Main direction of Soviet political system is broadening the participation of Soviet citizens in management of affairs of state.”] Article 9. The principle [principal] direction in the development of the political system of Soviet society is the extension of socialist democracy, mainly, ever broader participation of citizens in managing the affairs of society and the state, continuous improvement of the working out government, increasing the activities of public organizations, strengthening of the system of peoples control, unifying the functions of state and public life (making the government and the society one and the same), greater openness and publicity, and constant responsiveness to public opinion.

This is the end of lesson I – “The Political System”

 

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Study outline of the Constitution (fundamental law) of the Union of Socialist Republics

Lesson 2: Chapter 2 “The Economic System”

Introduction: An “economic system” is that part of society which is concerned with the production and distribution of goods and services. It controls concepts of property, which can generally be described as “ownership” with emphasis on the ownership of the means of production. The Soviet system is a socialist system where most property is public property, except for personal goods, personal savings from earned income, and personal residence, which is private property – subject only to the control of the person who owns it. The other property is collective or public property owned by all the people, and administered by government for the benefit of all the people. This chapter describes the Soviet system in general terms.

[Marginal note: “socialist ownership”] Article 10. The basis of the Soviet economic system is the public ownership of the means of production. The people on it in the form of state property, collective farms, and co-operative property. It also includes the property of trade unions and other public organizations. The government protects socialist property. No one has the right to use it for personal gains or other selfish ends.

[Marginal note: “state property”] Article 11. State property is the common property of the Soviet people. It is the principle [principal] form of socialist property. Land, minerals, waters and forests are the exclusive property of the state. No public organization, like a trade union, or private person can hold them. The state owns the basic means of production in industry, construction and agriculture, transportation and communication, the banks, trade organizations and public utilities; most urban housing, and other property necessary for state purposes.

[Marginal note: “Property of collective farms and co-operative organtions [organizations]”] Article 12. Collective farms and co-operative organizations own their means of production and the other things that they need to fulfill all of the purposes laid down by their rules. Collective farms do not own their land, but they are given the right to use it free, by the state, forever. The policy of the state is to encourage collective farms and cooperative farms and cooperative property, as being similar to state property. Collective farms, like all land users, are obliged to make effective and thrifty uses of the land and to increase its fertility.

Over

 

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Article 13. Earned income forms the basis of the personal property of Soviet citizens. This means that income cannot be got by investment – collecting rents, income from stocks and so forth. That is capitalism. The principle is that all personal property must be earned by the individual by his own labor – not the labor of another. Such property includes articles of every day [everyday] use and consumption, tools required to work a small private farm which is permitted; provided that it does not exceed one acre, that it worked only by the “owner”, and that it is done in spare time after a regular job. This is done by many people who work on state farms  and collective farms. Other approved personal property – a house and earned savings. The state provides assistance to people who farm small parcels, which they refer to as “small holdings”. Property owned or used by citizens may not be used to derive unearned income or be employed to the detriment of society. For example, one may have money in a savings account but it is against the law to limit to a friend or neighbor at interest because the interest would be “unearned income”.

[Marginal note: “Labor is the source of wealth”] Article 14. The labor of the Soviet people, free of exploitation (that is, capitalists raking off a profit), is the source of the growth of social wealth and well-being of the Soviet people. The state controls the amount of labor required, and the amount of consumption allowed (given there in terms of money or wages) in accordance with the principle of socialism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” It fixes the rate of taxation on tasable income.

Socially useful work and its results determine a person’s status in society. The state helps to meet the needs of all citizens by combining material and moral incentives, usually in the form of bonuses and education to duty, and encouraging creativity and new methods of work.

[Marginal note: “Goal of social production”] Article 15. The supreme goal of social production under socialism is to fulfill the needs of people to the highest extent in all aspects of life, including the material, cultural and intellectual spheres. The state (government) insures [ensures] the growth of the productivity of labor which raises production efficiency and quality in a planned matter – resulting in a higher standard of living for everyone. To do this, the state uses the socialist means of education, by example, technological progress, and reliance on the creativity and initiative of the working people.

(Cont’d p. 3, Lesson 2)

 

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Lesson 2. The Economic System

[Marginal note: “Managed economy”] Article 16. The economy of the USSR is a whole, made up of several parts including social production (meaning not for private gain), distribution, and exchange, all done on Soviet territory. The economy is managed on the basis of state plans for economic and social development, giving a fair share to each sector of the economy and to each geographic part of the country. It combines central direction with managerial independence, and the initiative of indivudual and groups of enterprises. Use is made of management, accounting, profits, costs, and other economic levers and incentives.

[Marginal note: “Individual labor, for private gain”] Article 17. The law permits individual labor (for private gain) in handicrafts, farming (on small-holdings only), the provisions of services for the public, and other forms of activity based exclusively on the personal work of individual citizens and members of their families, so long as such work serves the interest of society. For example, a person may earn a living as a writer, but not as a writer of capitalist propaganda.

[Marginal note: “Environmental protection”] Article 18. The USSR takes all necessary steps to insure the rational use of the land and its mineral and water resources, and the plant and animal kingdom, to preserve the purity of air and water, ensure reproduction of natural wealth, and improve the human environment. Teaching note: A lot of material can be obtained from “Cities Without Crisis” to describe the tenents [tenets] of the economic structure. It may be advisable to describe the Soviet trade union which is much more like nineteenth century benevolent society, coupled with a management function and a political legislative function, then it is like the US version of a “collective bargaining agent”. It might also be useful to describe the distinction made in the USSR between state workers which they considered industrial workers and collective farmworkers, which they class as peasants (a distinction that is becoming more and more academic), by the intention and plan of eliminating the distinction between urban and rural work and society.

Originally posted on December 2nd, 2021.

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