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6. THE MAIN DUTIES OF SOVIET CITIZENS
 

[introduction.]

p From what has been said it may be concluded that socialism gives Soviet citizens full rights to participate in socio-political, government, economic and cultural life.

p But a citizen’s legal status in society is determined not only by his rights but also by his duties. Constitutional rights and duties must, therefore, be examined as an integral whole.

p The socialist system has made man the competent owner of his country. His position in society does not depend on his capital or noble birth, but on his work, initiative, intelligence and his participation in public affairs. Socialism has made history by offering man endless opportunities for his all-round development and the application of all his abilities, giving him real, and not sham freedom.

p However, as we have seen, freedom in the MarxistLeninist sense has nothing to do with the so-called “ unlimited freedom”, which considers man’s will to be free from any objective laws and directed exclusively by his subjective wishes. As is known, absolute, unlimited freedom has never existed in any country.

p Lenin emphasised that “this absolute freedom is a bourgeois or an anarchist phrase”, that “one cannot live in society and be free from society”.  [201•* 

p Communism will be achieved not by freeing the individual from his duties, or from his obligation to observe the established law and order, but by increasing his responsibility to society.

p Freedom to the Soviet man does not mean merely enjoying the rights given to him by society; it also implies the unfailing performance by him of his honourable social 202 duties. “Not only society for the individual, but the individual for society as well,” as the saying goes. This becomes obvious if one bears in mind that socialism is inconceivable without good organisation in all spheres of life, and without following certain norms of behaviour.

p Democracy without discipline would degenerate into anarchy and cause the disorganisation of society. The organic connection between socialist democracy and discipline is founded on the very nature of Soviet society: the broadening and perfection of socialist democracy demands a high sense of discipline of every member of society. In the report of the Party Central Committee to the 23rd C.P.S.U Congress Leonid Brezhnev said: “The substance of socialist democracy lies in efficient socialist organisation of all society for the sake of every individual, and in the socialist discipline of every individual for the sake of all society.”  [202•* 

p This principle is made practicable by the fact that the duties with which Soviet citizens are entrusted are not a burden, as they might appear in a society with antagonistic classes. Soviet people, being the masters of their country, perform their tasks willingly because of the inner urge to do their duty by the community and their country. The age-long conflict between personal interests and the interests of society no longer exists. The fulfilment of duties to the state is becoming an inner necessity for more and more people.

p The overwhelming majority of Soviet people have been doing their best to perform their revolutionary duty to society ever since the Soviets came to power. This is proved by what they have accomplished throughout the history of the Soviet state: during the Civil War when the fate of the first socialist state in the world hung by a thread and the working people defended it in incredible conditions against foreign imperialists and internal counter-revolu tion; in the period of socialist construction when great difficulties arose on this pioneer road; during the Great Patriotic War when the Soviet people accomplished an unparalleled feat by saving their motherland and all progressive mankind from fascist enslavement; and, finally, 203 in our own days when the huge, unprecedented task of communist construction is being accomplished.

p Over a hundred years ago Engels foresaw the creation of such a society in which community of interests “becomes a fundamental principle, making common interests and the interests of the individual one and the same thing”.  [203•* 

p Indeed, any duty imposed on a Soviet citizen and fulfilled by him consciously must in the long run serve his own interests, as he is a member of society. It is clear to every Soviet citizen that only by performing his duties conscientiously can he make full use of his rights and freedoms. The further rise in the living standard of Soviet people directly depends on the rate of development of the productive forces of the whole country, increased labour productivity, and the creative energy and initiative of the Soviet people.

p In safeguarding socialist property—the sacred and inviolable basis of the whole social system—Soviet people strengthen the source of public wealth, and, consequently, the source of well-being for every member of society.

p So it is obvious that the wealth of socialist society is the people’s wealth, the bedrock on which the prosperity of every individual is founded.

p Service to public interests in these conditions fully corresponds to the vital interests of the individual. The changes in the nature and substance of citizens’ duties that have occurred in the U.S.S.R. form the backbone of the Soviet social system. Here every person is judged as a member of the community; in such a society “the common wealth must obviously be for everybody”, as Jean Jacques Rousseau far-sightedly remarked.

p Under socialism the whole system of government and non-government organisations teaches the working people to perform their duties willingly and conscientiously.

p However, there still exist some anti-social elements who take a purely formal attitude to their work and duties and to socialist property. And some people still have nationalist prejudices and other features of the old life and morals. Such people place their selfish interests above public 204 interest. They try to get as much as they can from society, giving nothing in return.

p A resolute struggle is waged against these anti-social elements who ignore socialist laws and morals. Mass organisations try to reform them by persuasion and education. If that does not help, the coercive powers of the state are resorted to. According to Marxism-Leninism, democracy is a form of state that employs as well as persuasion— its principal method—stronger measures against those who seek to disorganise the normal life of society, to undermine the social and state system established by the will of the people.

p Now let us examine the fundamental duties of Soviet citizens in greater detail.

p a) One of the most important duties of the Soviet citizen is to keep strictly to the U.S.S.R. Constitutionthe Fundamental Law of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicsand to observe all the other Soviet laws as well. The laws express the will of the people and they maintain, strengthen and further develop the system which the people want and which works to their advantage. They are a powerful weapon in the struggle against criminal elements, and help to root out the survivals of capitalism from people’s minds.

p The unconditional and strict observance of laws by all government bodies, mass organisations and institutions, officials and individuals is one of the most important demands of socialist legality, and one of the most effective means of accomplishing communist construction;

p b) the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. charges Soviet citizens to be conscientious in their work, and to observe working discipline. Work in the U.S.S.R. is the main requisite for the development and prosperity of socialist society, and the basis for the strengthening of economic and military power;

p c) the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. charges every Soviet citizen to be honest in performing his public duty and to respect the rules of socialist community. These rules, coinciding with socialist morals as well, were born out of the revolutionary traditions of the working people. They demand, above all, a collectivist spirit and friendly mutual help, relations of humanity and mutual respect, honesty 205 and truthfulness, moral uprightness, modesty and unpretentiousness, care for the upbringing of one’s children, and a refusal to tolerate any injustice, idleness, dishonesty, careerism and money-grabbing.

p These principles have become normal human relations. Comrades’ courts and people’s voluntary public order squads play a big part in the struggle against those who infringe these principles and this gives greater weight to the moral factor, increasing the prestige and effectiveness of public opinion and influence;

p d) one of the most important constitutional duties is to safeguard and fortify socialist public property.

p Socialist property, belonging either to the state or to the collective farms, is the economic foundation of the Soviet system, the source of the country’s wealth and power. Public property is the basis of all democratic rights and freedoms won through revolutionary struggle and socialist construction. The protection and defence of socialist property, therefore, imply the defence of the rights and prosperity of the Soviet man. This makes it incumbent on every citizen to take care of socialist property, to combat extravagance, squandering, and misuse of material wealth. Every Soviet person must make it a habit to treat national property as a Communist should;

p e) to defend the country is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R.

p Further strengthening of the might of the socialist state is essential to the security of the motherland. The Soviet Armed Forces must be equipped with the latest defence weapons. The most important function of the Soviet state is to ensure the defence potential of the country, to protect the peaceful labour of Soviet people.

p Military service in the Armed Forces of the U.S.S.R. is the honourable duty of all male citizens of the Soviet Union, irrespective of race, nationality, religious belief, educational qualification, social origin or position.

p Soviet citizens are obliged to defend their country in the event of aggression, and defend its interests under any conditions and at any price. Treason to the motherland— violation of the oath of allegiance, desertion to the enemy, impairing the military power of the state, espionage—is 206 punishable with all the severity of the law as the most heinous of crimes.

p All the fundamental rights and duties that have been mentioned apply to all citizens of the U.S.S.R. without exception.

p As the socialist state develops into communist public self-administration, the norms regulating the basic duties undergo an evolution.

p The Constitution of the U.S.S.R. expresses not only the legal duties of citizens, but the moral code as well.

p The socialist period provides citizens with all the necessary prerequisites for carrying out all their voluntary and compulsory duties, and for a gradual merging of rights and duties into the ethics of the future communist society.

p As society advances to communism and the moral code of the builder of communism is put into practice, law and morality tend to combine ever more closely, bringing about the integrated standards of behaviour of communist society that all the educational work done by government and non-government organisations seeks to promote. A high sense of morality and undeviating fulfilment of one’s duty to the state are required to achieve this integration of rights and duties.

p Such is the substance of the fundamental rights and duties of Soviet citizens. The following distinguishing features demonstrate their consistently democratic nature: their socialist character, their material guarantees, and the unity between rights and duties.

Let us now examine each of these features in greater detail.

The Socialist Character of the Fundamental
Rights and Duties of Soviet Citizens

p Marxism-Leninism, rejecting the abstract conception of freedom, teaches us to examine democracy, and political rights and freedoms from the point of view of class interests. Which class benefits by them? Whose interests do they protect: those of the working people, or those of the exploiters?

p Freedoms, like democracy in general, must be discussed 207 in specific terms. Their content is to be judged not by outward signs or declarations, but by finding out what class they serve.

p The socialist character of the rights and duties of Soviet citizens lies in the fact that they protect and guarantee the interests of the working people; they promote the socialist way of society’s development, ultimately leading to communism ; using them against the people’s interests or against the strengthening of the socialist system would be a violation of the Soviet Constitution.

p Abstract freedom outside a given socio-economic and political system has never existed and could never exist.

p Lenin refuted all arguments favouring “pure democracy" and equal freedom “for all" in a society torn by antagonistic contradictions. He always stressed that when talking about freedom, equality and democracy, it should be specifically stated for whom they are intended. “We say to the workers and peasants—tear the mask from these liars [supporters of freedom and equality in general—Authors.], open the eyes of the blind. Ask them:

p Is there equality of the two sexes?

p Which nation is the equal of which?

p Which class is the equal of which?

p Freedom from what yoke or from the yoke of which class? Freedom for which class?

p “He who speaks about politics, democracy and freedom, about equality, about socialism, without posing these questions, without giving them priority, who does not fight against hushing them up, concealing and blunting them, is the worst enemy of the working people, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the rabid opponent of the workers and peasants, a lackey of the landowners, the tsars and the capitalists.”  [207•* 

p These views of Lenin’s are embodied in all the Soviet Constitutions and in the entire socialist legal system.

p The socialist character of democratic rights and freedoms was emphasised way back in the 1918 Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R. It pointed out that the R.S.F.S.R., guided by the interests of the working class, deprived certain individuals 208 and groups of people of the rights they were employing to the detriment of the socialist revolution (Art. 23). The socialist essence of rights and freedoms is emphatically laid down in the present Soviet Constitutions as well.

p According to Articles 125 and 126 of the Constitution of the U.S.S.R., all the democratic rights and freedoms— freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings, freedom of street processions and demonstrations, or the right to unite in mass organisations—are guaranteed to citizens of the U.S.S.R. only “in conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system. . .”, or, “in order to develop the organisational initiative and political activity of the masses of the people. . . .” This laconically expresses a vital Marxist-Leninist principle that reveals the special features of socialist rights and freedoms.

p The state protects all rights and freedoms that serve the interests of the working people, and prohibits any acts that may serve to the contrary.

p As we have seen, the propaganda of war and the advocacy of racial or national hatred are punishable by law. Films corrupting youth or extolling immorality, violence and immoral behaviour are prohibited.

p It goes without saying that genuine freedom does not mean the liberty to infringe the interests of other people, of society as a whole, or of peace and democracy.

p The fact that in the U.S.S.R. the state prohibits any activity harmful to other people does not mean that democracy is violated or limited. On the contrary, such restriction is in the interest of the people and protects their genuine, socialist democracy from encroachment.

Duties, too, are socialist in character in the U.S.S.R. They have not only a legal meaning, but ethical value as well, and give citizens the opportunity to take an active part in communist construction.

Guarantees of the Fundamental Rights of
Soviet Citizens

p Rights and freedoms are genuine only if they are guaranteed and protected. “On paper it is easy to proclaim a constitution,” Marx pointed out, “and also the right of 209 every citizen to education, employment, and above all to certain minimum means of subsistence. But putting all these generous wishes on paper is still far from what is really needed; the task of fertilising these liberal ideas with material and reasonable social institutions has yet to be accomplished.”  [209•* 

p Needless to say, the hardest part is to accomplish this task.

p In the Soviet Union the rights and freedoms of citizens are not only proclaimed, but, what is more important, they are actually ensured by political, economical and legal guarantees.

p The most important political guarantee is the social and state system of the U.S.S.R. and the power of the people, led by the Communist Party.

p Care for the Soviet people’s welfare and for the satisfaction of their constantly rising requirements is the supreme task of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government.

p The principal economic guarantee is the socialist organisation of the economy and public ownership of the means of production.

p Rights and freedoms accompanied by ever more guarantees for practising them steadily acquire broader scope as the economy and public wealth of the country grow. This has become an objective law in the development of socialist society.

p By legal guarantees the Soviet state protects citizens’ rights against encroachment. This is one of the basic functions of the socialist state, and the main object of socialist law.

p In accordance with the Constitution of the U.S.S.R., a number of state bodies are appointed to see that citizens’ rights and freedoms are well protected. One of the specific tasks of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. is to adopt measures for the maintenance of law and order and for the safeguarding of citizens’ rights (Article 68 of the U.S.S.R. Constitution). The respective state bodies in the Union and Autonomous Republics, centrally and locally, are also assigned the same task.

210

p Judicial bodies, too, have similar assignments. Article 2 of the Fundamentals of Legislation on the Judicial System of the U.S.S.R., the Union and Autonomous Republics, consolidates the protection of political, labour, housing and olher rights and interests of citizens from encroachment. The rights and interests of Soviet citizens are protected by civil, labour, administrative, financial and other laws. An effective legal guarantee is also the Procurator’s supervision which ensures that all laws are correctly observed and carried out.

Another important legal guarantee is the accountability of all Soviet officials, and the citizen’s right to lodge complaints about any unlawful act that may be committed by any official or institution.

The Equality and Unity of the Fundamental
Rights and Duties of Soviet Citizens

p Under socialism, the first phase of communism, the economic conditions have not yet been created for the achievement of full equality as regards the material wealth of all members of society. But material wealth in this society does not affect a person’s status in socialist society.

p All citizens of the U.S.S.R. are equal as far as their fundamental rights and duties are concerned, irrespective of their property status.

p Equality in their relations to the means of production, equal rights to work, equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities for acquiring knowledge and for the constant improvement of one’s qualifications—all these make people’s position in socialist society radically different from what it is in a capitalist society, and signify a gigantic advance in the development of society. Marx’s and Engels’s vision of a society with equal rights and duties for all has been realised in the U.S.S.R.

p Ever since society based on exploitation came into being, rights and duties have been opposed to each other; rights were mainly the privilege of the ruling classes, while duties were the lot of the exploited.

p It should be added that unity between individual and public interests and their harmonious combination does 211 not imply the merging of the individual with society. The individual docs not and will never dissolve in society since people will always have individual features, needs and interests.

p Socialism has put an end to this age-old evil for ever. Real unity of rights and duties was achieved for the first time in the land of the Soviets. Marx’s vision of a society in which there are “no rights without duties, no duties without rights"  [211•*  has come true.

p The unity of rights and duties stems from the popular nature of the socialist state, which recognises no other interests but the people’s.

p Socialism is the system that combines the interests of the individual with those of the community. But enforcing the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work”, it cannot yet provide full economic equality for everyone, because individual abilities and qualifications, family make-up, etc., differ. Because of all this, some social distinctions still survive in socialist society, they include distinctions between classes, between town and country, between mental and physical labour, and differences in social and living conditions. For a variety of reasons society is not completely free of possible conflicts between personal and public interests. However, these conflicts are not irreconcilable or antagonistic; and they can be resolved not through class struggle, but through the co-operation of all classes and strata of society, all of which are equally interested in strengthening socialism and building communism.

The material well-being of every citizen improves with the development of socialist society, providing him with greater opportunities to display his abilities for the benefit of the common cause. And so it follows that the more vividly the individuality of a person manifests itself through his moral, spiritual and creative powers, the higher the cultural level attained by the whole of society to which he belongs. Through the collective the individual obtains satisfaction of his diverse material and cultural needs on the basis of the wealth at the disposal of society as a whole. 212 The prosperity of the individual is, therefore, based on the well-being of all. It is this fact that forms the basis for the unity of rights and duties of the citizens of the U.S.S.R. This is why the interests of the individual and those of the whole of socialist society coincide in all matters of fundamental importance.

* * *
 

Notes

[201•*]   Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 48.

[202•*]   23rd Congress of the C.P.S.U., p. 129.

[203•*]   Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Works. 2nd Russ. ed.. Vol. 2, p. 538.

[207•*]   Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, pp. 121–22.

[209•*]   Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Works, 1st Russ. ed., Vol. 3, pp. 687–88.

[211•*]   Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 387.