State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

The Constitution, of the USSR

Understanding the Constitution, of the USSR

For those who are young enough not to be totally familiar, the U. S. S. R. was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Soviet Union, which fell apart late last century due mostly to financial insolvency.  The United States and the Soviet Union had been involved in a ‘Cold War’ since World War II, competing in economy, military and space for the hearts and minds of the world.  The Soviet Union was the Communist beacon, and the United States was the model of the free market and individual liberty.  The Western world rejoiced at the victory of freedom in the Cold War, but, did freedom really win?  Or, did we collectively fall asleep to the dangers of tyranny still present in the world?

 To investigate these ideas it is necessary to look at the fundamentals which produced both the United States and the Soviet Union.  When we understand the ideas that were the foundation of each country, we will also have a more clear view of where we now stand.  For the sake of length, we will focus on Chapter X of the 1936 Constitution of the U. S. S. R. (in red) which focuses on the rights and duties of citizens.  This naturally compares with the United States Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, (in blue).

“Article 118. Citizens of the U. S. S. R. have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality.  The right to work is ensured by the socialist organization of the national economy, the steady growth of the productive forces of Soviet society, the elimination of the possibility of economic crises, and the abolition of unemployment.”

 “Article 119. Citizens of the U. S. S. R. have the right to rest and leisure.  The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.”

“Article 120.  Citizens of the U. S. S. R. have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work.  This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.”

The Constitution of the United States has no equivalent to these first three articles.  However, in the 1930’s with the ‘New Deal’ and in the 1960’s with the ‘Great Society’ social insurance programs were legislated.  In 2009 a nationalized healthcare plan was legislated.  Many of these programs would seem to be directly in conflict with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which take the power to do such things from the Federal Government and give it to the people:

“Amendment IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

“Amendment X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Where, in the United States private property is protected, the final portion of the Fifth Amendment must also be considered:

“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“Article 121. Citizens of the U. S. S. R. have the right to education.  This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native language, and by the organization in the factories, state farms, machine and tractor stations and collective farms of free vocational, technical and agronomic training for the working people.”

Once again, in the United States, the Tenth Amendment would suggest that education is a local decision.  However, the Department of Education now largely funds and therefore controls education in the United States.  Interestingly, many students protest tuition, claiming education as a right.

“Article 122. Women in the U. S. S. R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life.  The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.”

In the United States the Equal Rights Amendment was pushed, unsuccessfully, in the 1970’s and early 80’s.  This focused largely, as the Soviet Union on equality of outcomes.

“Article 123. Equality of rights of citizens of the U. S. S. R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social, and political life, is an indefeasible law.  Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.”

While the U. S. Constitution states little about equality of citizens, it does establish that all citizens should be treated equally.  From Section 9:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States…”

And from Section 10:

“No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.”

It was also written in the light of understanding of the Declaration of Independence which famously states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It is worth noting that in context, the Soviet Union and our Founding Fathers had one major difference of opinion regarding equality.  The Soviet Union was focused on an equality of outcomes.  Article 122 guarantees equal pay for women.  Article 123 guarantees economic equality among others.  The United States idea of equality was equality before God, the Law, and in the protection of Rights.  John Adams wrote:

“That all men are born to equal rights is true.  Every being has a right to his own, as clear, as moral, as sacred, as any other being has….But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practiced by monks, by Druids, by Brahmins, by priests of the immortal Lama, or by the self-styled philosophers of the French Revolution” (Koch, The American Enlightenment, Pg. 222).

Unfortunately, all too often the United States has not lived up to the Founder’s high definition of equality.  Time and blood have taught us some difficult lessons.  Perhaps this is why the Soviets were, and many of our current politicians are focused on outcomes.

“Article 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U. S. S. R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church.  Freedom of religious worship and freedom of antireligious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.”

“Article 125.  In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U. S. S. R. are guaranteed by law:

  1. Freedom of speech;
  2. Freedom of the press;
  3. Freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
  4. Freedom of street processions and demonstrations.

These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights.”

In the United States, the First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

For as similar as Articles 124 and 125 seem to be to the First Amendment, we know from history that the Soviet Union enjoyed virtually no freedom in these ways.  I believe this is due to the way these rights are guaranteed.  The government provided the printing presses, paper, buildings, streets, etc. for the exercise of these rights, in order to strengthen the socialist system.  Could one be critical of socialism?  Could one speak out against the government?  Freedom of worship was accomplished by allowing someone to pray in secret, but freedom of anti-religious propaganda could gain resources from the government.  The church, separate from the state, in a state which owned the property, was destined to failure.  But remember, there was not freedom of religion, just freedom of religious worship.

“Article 126.  In conformity with the interests of the working people and in order to develop the organizational initiative and political activity of the masses of the people, citizens of the U. S. S. R. are ensured the right to unite in public organizations—trade unions, cooperative associations, youth organizations, sport and defense organizations, cultural, technical and scientific societies, and the most active and politically most conscious citizens in the ranks of the working class and other sections of the working people unite in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), which is the vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and is the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state.”

The U. S. Constitution guarantees none of these, nor forbids them.  It is interesting that in our society, we tend to use the wording ‘collective bargaining rights.’  Collective bargaining or trade unions were a right in the U. S. S. R., but would legally be a privilege in the U. S.

“Article 127. Citizens of the U. S. S. R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person.  No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.”

“Article 128.  The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.”

How much power is given to a procurator or judge?  Note the system of checks and balances in the U. S.:

“Amendment IV.  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“Amendment V.  No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“Amendment VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

“Amendment VII. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.”

“Amendment VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The court system of the United States seems to provide much more individual protection, so long as the Constitution is followed.  There have been historical times when it wasn’t.  During World War II, many Americans of Japanese or known Italian and German descent were deprived of their rights and sent to camps.  It is becoming, in our time, more common for the Supreme Court to look to foreign court rulings and International law to interpret our Constitution.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is especially supportive of this idea.  (See Washington Examiner, April 13, 2009, article by Hans Bader.)

“Article 129.  The U. S. S. R. affords the right of asylum to foreign citizens persecuted for defending the interests of the working people, or for their scientific activities, or for their struggle for national liberation.”

“Article 130. It is the duty of every citizen of the U. S. S. R. to abide by the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to observe the laws, to maintain labor discipline, honestly to perform public duties, and to respect the rules of socialist intercourse.”

“Article 131. It is the duty of every citizen of the U. S. S. R.  to safeguard and strengthen public, socialist property as the sacred and inviolable foundation of the Soviet system, as the source of the wealth and might of the country, as the source of the prosperous and cultured life of all the working people.  Persons committing offenses against public, socialist property are enemies of the people.”

Once again from the Fifth Amendment:

“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

In the government takeover of General Motors in 2009, the bond holders were forced to take pennies on the dollar “for the public good.”  In both the deal for General Motors and Chrysler, the people of the United States were forced to pay taxes and service debt where the unions of the respective companies gained in ownership and kept lucrative contracts.

“Article 132. Universal military service is law.  Military service in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army is an honorable duty of the citizens of the U. S. S. R. “

“Article 133. To defend the fatherland is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U. S. S. R.  Treason to the country—violation of the oath of allegiance, desertion to the enemy, impairing the military power of the state, espionage is punishable with all the severity of the law as the most heinous of crimes.”

In relation to military service, the U. S. Constitution allows for a standing Navy, and a draft Army in times of need.  The Bill of Rights adds the following:

“Amendment II. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“Amendment III. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

In conclusion, our Constitution and base rights are very different from the Soviet Union’s. President Obama summed up the difference very well:

“But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.  And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical.  It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers and the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted.  And Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you.  But it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.  And that hasn’t shifted, and one of the, I think the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that.” (WBEZ, public radio, Jan. 18, 2001)

Our Constitution is a charter of ‘negative’ liberties.  It protects the people from the government.  The Soviet Constitution includes mostly ‘positive’ liberties.  It is focused on what the government must do for the people (thus take from the people).  I believe we need to look at where our culture is headed and how we are now interpreting our Constitution if we are to preserve the freedom it brought.

“You Americans are so gullible.  No, you won’t accept Communism outright; but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of Socialism until you will finally wake up and find that you already have Communism.  We won’t have to fight you; we’ll so weaken your economy, until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands.” –Nikita Khrushchev

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  1. Awesome post! Thanks!

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