First Constitution of Soviet Russia, 1918 - Peter Myers. Update April 13, 2011.

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The first Soviet constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic was adopted by the Congress of Soviets on July 10, 1918.

Sec. 2, Chap. IX, para. 18 reads, "He who does not work shall not eat," a formula carried over into Stalin's later constitution of 1936. Trotsky, on the receiving end of the medicine he had once dished out, rephrased it, "He who does not OBEY shall not eat."

With the addition of three other Soviet republics (Ukraine, Byelorussia and Georgia) into the new Union (Federation) of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in 1923, a new Federal Constitution was adopted in 1924. That constitution in turn was replaced by Stalin's Constitution of 1936.

Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, 1918

Sec.1.

Chapter I

1. Russia is declared a Republic of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies. All central and local authority is vested in these soviets.

2. The Russian Soviet Republic is established on the basis of a free union of free nations, as a federation of national soviet republics.

Chapter II

3. With the fundamental aim of suppressing all exploitation of man by man, of abolishing forever the division of society into classes, of ruthlessly suppressing all exploiters, of bringing about the socialist organization of society and the triumph of socialism in all countries, the Third All -Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies further decrees:  

a. In order to establish the 'socialization' of land, private ownership of land is abolished; all land is declared national property, and is handed over to the laboring masses, without compensation, on the basis of an equitable division giving the right of use only.  

b. All forests, underground mineral wealth, and waters of national importance, all livestock and appurtenances, together with all model-farms and agricultural enterprises, are proclaimed public property.  

c. As the first step toward the complete transfer of factories, works, shops, mines, railways, and other means of production and of transport to the ownership of the workers' and peasants' Soviet Republic, and in order to insure the supremacy of the laboring masses over the exploiters, the Congress ratifies the soviet law on workers' control of industry ... 

d. The Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets considers the soviet law repudiating the loans contracted by the government of the Tsar, the landlords, and the bourgeoisie as a first blow at international financial capitalism; and it expresses its conviction that the Soviet government will continue firmly in this direction until the complete victory of the international revolt of the workers against the yoke of capitalism.  

e. The Congress ratifies the transfer of all banks to the ownership of the workers' and peasants' government as one of the conditions insuring the emancipation of the toiling masses from the capitalistic yoke.  

f. In order to exterminate all parasitic strata of society and to organize the economic life of the country, general compulsory labor is introduced.  

g. In order to secure the supremacy of the laboring masses and to guard against any possibility of the restoration of the power of the exploiters, the Congress decrees the arming of the laboring population, the formation of a socialist Red Army of Workers and peasants, and the complete disarmament of the propertied classes.

CHAPTER III

4. Expressing its fixed resolve to liberate mankind from the grip of capital and imperialism, which flooded the earth with blood in its present most criminal of all wars, the Third Congress of Soviets fully agrees with the Soviet Government in its policy of abrogating secret treaties, of organizing on a wide scale the fraternization of the workers and peasants of the belligerent armies, and of making all efforts to conclude a general democratic peace without annexations or indemnities, upon the basis of the free determination of peoples.

5. It is also to this end that the Third Congress of Soviets insists upon putting an end to the barbarous policy of the bourgeois civilization which enables the exploiters of a few chosen nations to enslave hundreds of millions of the working population of Asia, of the colonies, and of small countries generally.

6. The Third Congress of Soviets hails the policy of the Council of People's Commissars in proclaiming the full independence of Finland, in withdrawing troops from Persia, and in proclaiming the right of Armenia to self-determination.

Chapter IV

8. ... the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets ... leaves to the workers and peasants of each nationality the right to make an independent decision, at their own, at their own plenipotentiary congress of soviets, whether they desire, and if so upon what basis, to participate in the federal government and in other federal soviet institutions.

Sec. 2 Chapter IX 9.

The principal object of the constitution . . which is adapted to the present transition period, consists in the establishment of the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat and the poorest peasantry, in the form of the strong all-Russian soviet power, with the aim of securing the complete suppression of the bourgeoisie, the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, and the establishment of socialism, under which there shall be neither class division nor state authority. ...

13. In order to secure for the laboring masses genuine freedom of conscience, the church is separated from the state and the school from the church, and freedom of religious and anti- religious propaganda is acknowledged to be the right of all citizens.

14. In order to secure for the laboring masses genuine freedom of expressing their opinion, the [state] annuls the dependency of the press upon capital and hands over to the working class and the poor peasants all the technical and material resources necessary for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, and all other printed matter, and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.

17. In order to insure for the laboring masses effective access to education, the [state] undertakes to provide for the workers and poorest peasants complete, universal, and free education.

18. The [state] recognizes work to be the duty of all citizens of the republic and proclaims the watchword: "He who does not work shall not eat."

23. Guided by the interests of the working class as a whole, the [state] deprives individuals or separate groups of any privileges which they may use to the detriment of the socialist revolution.

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The complete 1918 Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic is at http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/constitution/1918/.

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