MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

 

EIGHTH CONGRESS OF SOVIETS. ADOPTION OF THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF THE U.S.S.R.

    In February 1935, the Seventh Congress of Soviets of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics passed a decision to change the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. which had been adopted in 1924. The change of the Constitution was necessitated by the vast changes that had taken place in the life of the U.S.S.R. since the first Constitution of the Soviet Union had been adopted in 1924. During this period the relation of class forces within the country had completely changed; a new Socialist industry had been created, the kulaks had been smashed, the collective farm system had triumphed, and the Socialist ownership of the means of production had been established in every branch of national economy as the basis of Soviet society. The victory of Socialism made possible the further democratization of the electoral system and the introduction of universal, equal and direct suffrage with secret ballot.

    The new Constitution of the U.S.S.R. was drafted by a Constitution Commission set up for the purpose, under the chairmanship of Comrade Stalin. The draft was thrown open to nationwide discussion, which lasted five and a half months. It was then submitted to the Extraordinary Eighth Congress of Soviets.

    The Eighth Congress of Soviets, specially convened to approve or reject the draft of the new Constitution of the U.S.S.R., met in November 1936.

    Reporting to the congress on the draft of the new Constitution, Comrade Stalin enumerated the principal changes that had taken place in the Soviet Union since the adoption of the 1924 Constitution.

    The 1924 Constitution had been drawn up in the early period of NEP. At that time the Soviet Government still permitted the development of capitalism alongside of the development of Socialism. The Soviet Government planned in the course of competition between the two systems -- the capitalist system and the Socialist system -- to organize and ensure the victory of Socialism over capitalism in the economic field. The question, "Who will win?" had not yet been settled. Industry, with its old and inadequate technical equipment, had not attained even the pre-war level. Even less enviable was the picture presented by agriculture. The state farms and collective farms were mere islands in a boundless ocean of individual peasant farms. The question then was not of eliminating the kulaks, but merely of restricting them. The Socialist sector accounted for only about 50 per cent of the country's trade.

    Entirely different was the picture presented by the U.S.S.R. in 1936. By that time the economic life of the country had undergone a complete change. The capitalist elements had been entirely eliminated and the Socialist system had triumphed in all spheres of economic life. There was now a powerful Socialist industry which had increased output seven times compared with the pre-war output and had completely ousted private industry. Mechanized Socialist farming in the form of collective farms and state farms, equipped with up-to-date machinery and run on the largest scale in the world, had triumphed in agriculture. By 1936, the kulaks had been completely eliminated as a class, and the individual peasants no longer played any important role in the economic life of the country. Trade was entirely concentrated in the hands of the state and the co-operatives. The exploitation of man by man had been abolished forever. Public, Socialist ownership of the means of production had been firmly established as the unshakable foundation of the new, Socialist system in all branches of economic life. In the new, Socialist society, crises, poverty, unemployment and destitution had disappeared forever. The conditions had been created for a prosperous and cultured life for all members of Soviet society.

    The class composition of the population of the Soviet Union, said Comrade Stalin in his report, had changed correspondingly. The landlord class and the old big imperialist bourgeoisie had already been eliminated in the period of the Civil War. During the years of Socialist construction all the exploiting elements -- capitalists, merchants, kulaks and profiteers -- had been eliminated. Only insignificant remnants of the eliminated exploiting classes persisted, and their complete elimination was a matter of the very near future.

    The working people of the U.S.S.R. -- workers, peasants and intellectuals -- had undergone profound change in the period of Socialist construction.

    The working class had ceased to be an exploited class bereft of means of production, as it is under capitalism. It had abolished capitalism, taken away the means of production from the capitalists and turned them into public property. It had ceased to be a proletariat in the proper, the old meaning of the term. The proletariat of the U.S.S.R., possessing the state power, had been transformed into an entirely new class. It had become a working class emancipated from exploitation, a working class which had abolished the capitalist economic system and had established Socialist ownership of the means of production. Hence, it was a working class the like of which the history of mankind had never known before.

    No less profound were the changes that had taken place in the condition of the peasantry of the U.S.S.R. In the old days, over twenty million scattered individual peasant households, small and middle, had delved away in isolation on their small plots, using backward technical equipment. They were exploited by landlords, kulaks, merchants, profiteers, usurers, etc. Now an entirely new peasantry had grown up in the U.S.S.R. There were no longer any landlords, kulaks, merchants and usurers to exploit the peasants. The overwhelming majority of the peasant households had joined the collective farms, which were based not on private ownership, but on collective ownership of the means of production, collective ownership which had grown from collective labour. This was a new type of peasantry, a peasantry emancipated from all exploitation. It was a peasantry the like of which the history of mankind had never known before.

    The intelligentsia in the U.S.S.R. had also undergone a change. It had for the most part become an entirely new intelligentsia. The majority of its members came from the ranks of the workers and peasants. It no longer served capitalism, as the old intelligentsia did; it served Socialism. It had become an equal member of the Socialist society. Together with the workers and peasants, it was building a new Socialist society. This was a new type of intelligentsia, which served the people and was emancipated from all exploitation. It was an intelligentsia the like of which the history of mankind had never known before.

    Thus the old class dividing lines between the working people of the U.S.S.R. were being obliterated, the old class exclusiveness was disappearing. The economic and political contradictions between the workers, the peasants and the intellectuals were declining and becoming obliterated. The foundation for the moral and political unity of society had been created.

    These profound changes in the life of the U.S.S.R., these decisive achievements of Socialism in the U.S.S.R., were reflected in the new Constitution.

    According to the new Constitution, Soviet society consists of two friendly classes -- the workers and peasants -- class distinctions between the two still remaining. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a Socialist state of workers and peasants.

    The political foundation of the U.S.S.R. is formed by the Soviets of Deputies of the Working People, which developed and grew strong as a result of the overthrow of the power of the landlords and capitalists and the achievement of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    All power in the U.S.S.R. belongs to the working people of town and country as represented by the Soviets of Deputies of the Working People.

    The highest organ of state power in the U.S.S.R. is the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.

    The Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., consisting of two Chambers with equal rights, the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities, is elected by the citizens of the U.S.S.R. for a term of four years on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.

    Elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., as to all Soviets of Deputies of the Working People, are universal. This means that all citizens of the U.S.S.R. who have reached the age of eighteen, irrespective of race or nationality, religion, standard of education, domicile, social origin, property status or past activities, have the right to vote in the election of deputies and to be elected, with the exception of the insane and persons convicted by court of law to sentences including deprivation of electoral rights.

    Elections of deputies are equal. This means that each citizen is entitled to one vote and that all citizens participate in the elections on an equal footing.

    Elections of deputies are direct. This means that all Soviets of Deputies of the Working People, from rural and city Soviets of Deputies of the Working People up to and including the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., are elected by the citizens by direct vote.

    The Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. at a joint sitting of both Chambers elects the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Council of People's Commissars of the U.S.S.R.

    The economic foundation of the U.S.S.R. is the Socialist system of economy and the Socialist ownership of the means of production. In the U.S.S.R. is realized the Socialist principle: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."

    All citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed the right to work, the right to rest and leisure, the right to education, the right to maintenance in old age and in case of sickness or disability.

    Women are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of life.

    The equality of the citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, is an indefeasible law.

    Freedom of conscience and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.

    In order to strengthen Socialist society, the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, press, assembly and meeting, the right to unite in public organizations, inviolability of person, inviolability of domicile and privacy of correspondence, the right of asylum for foreign citizens persecuted for defending the interests of the working people or for their scientific activities, or for their struggle for national liberation.

    The new Constitution also imposes serious duties on all citizens of the U.S.S.R.: the duty of observing the laws, maintaining labour discipline, honestly performing public duties, respecting the rules of the Socialist community, safeguarding and strengthening public, Socialist property, and defending the Socialist fatherland.

    "To defend the fatherland is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R."

    Dealing with the right of citizens to unite in various societies, one of the articles of the Constitution states:

    "The most active and politically conscious citizens in the ranks of the working class and other strata 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 which represents the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state."

    The Eighth Congress of Soviets unanimously approved and adopted the draft of the new Constitution of the U.S.S.R.

    The Soviet country thus acquired a new Constitution, a Constitution embodying the victory of Socialism and workers' and peasants' democracy.

    In this way the Constitution gave legislative embodiment to the epoch-making fact that the U.S.S.R. had entered a new stage of development, the stage of the completion of the building of a Socialist society and the gradual transition to Communist society, where the guiding principle of social life will be the Communist principle: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."