Communist International, August 1936

The Toilers of the Soviet Union on the Draft of the New Constitution

By M. Brown

Some weeks have already passed since the publication of the draft of the new Constitution of the U.S.S.R. This historically important document continues to occupy the center of attention of the population of the Land of the Soviets. There is not a factory, not on office, not an educational institution, or a collective farm where one or more meetings have not been devoted to a discussion of the draft of the new Constitution. There is not a single organ of the Soviet press – from the Pravda to the factory wall-newspapers – which in issue after issue has not devoted considerable space to this discussion. The workers of the Red capital and the collective farmers of the far-off national republics, professors and students, Red Army men, housewives, writers, masters of art and sport – the most varied strata of the population of all the republics and autonomous regions of which the Soviet Union is composed have joined in the discussion on the draft Constitution, speak at meetings, and send their opinions, remarks and amendments to the draft to the central and local papers.

It is difficult (even impossible) at the present moment to sum up the results of this broad national discussion which is as yet far from ended. It is possible only to characterize the discussion, by citing some of these amendments and additions to the draft which have been made by the toilers of the U.S.S.R.

The amendments are of the most varied character. Sometimes they touch upon separate formulations in the draft Constitution. A number of workers and Red Army men, for instance, propose to delete the word "service" (in speaking of military service) from the draft and substitute instead the words "honorable duty", since service in the ranks of the workers' and peasants' Red Army is not a matter of compulsion but a matter of honor for the citizen of the U.S.S.R. Some comrades, as, for instance, Professor Kulzhinski, Eugenia Vesnik (the initiator of the movement for the organization of the wives of the engineers), and others, argue against the formulation in the first article of the draft Constitution which reads that the U.S.S.R. is a "state of workers and peasants", proposing to replace this by the words "state of toilers".

The worker Barinov in the "Stalin" automobile plant does not agree with them. "Were we to alter Article 1," he writes, "it would mean that we recognize the point that classes have been liquidated once and for all. But we are only on the road to the final and complete liquidation of classes."

The national discussion of the draft Constitution was preceded by a discussion on the draft law on the prohibition of abortions, aid to mothers, etc., in the course of the discussion on which a number of vital questions of Soviet morality and of the Soviet family were raised to heights of principle. Many of those who participated in the discussion on the draft Constitution, basing themselves on their conviction that the family plays a tremendous role in socialist life, proposed to add a special section or articles to the Constitution on the significance of the family, the protection of the rights of the mother, and the duty of parents. Such a proposal, for example, was made by Lieutenant Gorbunov, Ilenko, a working woman, Ivanova, an economist. Professor Archangelsky, a gynecologist, and Mitroshina, a chairman of a village Soviet.

A number of amendments introduced on the articles on the courts were dictated by the desire to provide the best possible protection of the rights of a Soviet citizen. The following corrections brought forward by the Stalin metallurgical plant in Kuznetz (Western Siberia), are characteristic of these amendments: Kalinina, a woman sweeper in the boiler department of the factory, demands that judges give an account of their work to their electors once or twice a year, Tzofmas, an economist in the coking department, proposes the addition of the right of the electors to recall members of the court elected by them. Other citizens propose amendments calling for compulsory legal education for judges, for the establishment of the shortest possible period for preliminary investigations, and so forth.

Many Soviet citizens bring forward amendments touching on the position of foreigners in the U.S.S.R. These amendments clearly show the feeling of internationalism inherent in the Soviet people, their solidarity with the toilers of all countries. For example, a proposal was made that all foreign citizens working in the Soviet Union be given active and passive electoral rights, that the right of asylum be extended also to foreigners persecuted in their countries not only for political, but also for literary and artistic activities, etc.

A big difference of opinion is aroused by the question of granting electoral rights to the ministers of religious cults, particularly in the backward national regions where the influence of the priest, mullahs and shamans is still strong. Members of the Young Communist League, Melnikov (Moscow), Jashkarin (Mordovia) and Ternersesjantz (Novocherkask) argue strongly in the columns of the Komsomolskaya Pravda against granting electoral rights to the ministers of religions, as the conveyers of religious dope. Many other toilers agree with them. Some voices are also heard against granting electoral rights to the "people with a past", the former kulaks, merchants, etc. But even more numerous are the voices in defense of unrestricted, general electoral rights, in accordance with the draft Constitution. For example, engineers Nugaram, Mamedov and Malishev write in the Worker of Baku:

"Can we, for example, deprive the many builders of the White Sea-Baltic Canal of these rights [electoral] simply because they are 'people with a past'? How many of these 'former' people have been re-educated by the Soviet Power and are now honest toilers?"

Evdokia Krasnova, the wife of a worker from the city of Kalinin, writes similarly:

"Some people worry that, now, when any citizen can be elected to the Soviets, some unworthy people may crawl into office. We will be vigilant. The enemies of the people will not be permitted to get into the Soviets."

It should be particularly noted that in the discussion of the draft Constitution great activity is also shown by the unorganized sections of the population, those who only recently stood aloof from political life – the handicraftsmen, individual peasants and housewives. The latter persistently demanded that their political rights should be separately specified in the Constitution. For instance, housewives in Kharkov (Chereshevski St. No. 88) placed the question of giving housewives an equal right with organized electors to put forth their own candidates.

The political activity of the collective farmers, boldly putting forth varied, often very original, proposals, strikes one even more strongly. For example, Burlakov, a collective farmer from the Karachaevaki Autonomous Region, writes in the Peasants' Gazette:

"The chairman of the Supreme Council is the head of the government – our Soviet, people's, president. And, according to my opinion, he must be elected not by the Chambers but by all the people."

Lipchik, a collective farmer in White Russia, proposes that the withdrawal of any republic from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics should be permitted only with the unanimous approval of the entire people of the given republic.

To the concluding section of the Constitution (in addition to separate proposals on changes in the emblem and flag of the U.S.S.R.), many toilers propose that the "Internationale" be recognized as the state hymn of the U.S.S.R. A very sympathetic response is given to the proposal of the Ukrainian writer Ivan Mikitenko that the Constitution should end with the words: "The present Constitution has been discussed and adopted by the people of the U.S.S.R., under the leadership of the great leader of toiling humanity – Stalin."

The response of the toilers of the U.S.S.R. to the draft of the new Constitution is not limited to amendments and corrections alone. A number of the most interesting written and verbal statements of workers, peasants and intellectuals of the Soviet Union regarding the draft Constitution give a general estimation of the draft, explain its significance and sum up the results of those long years of hard work by means of which the people of the Soviet Union have won for themselves the material and social prerequisites for the new Constitution, the most democratic Constitution in the world.

A number of statements by the people in regard to the Constitution represent vivid human documents in which the gruesome past of the people of former tsarist Russia is contrasted with their happy present.

Here, for example, is the statement of Zyev, an old textile worker, who participated in the historic Morozov strike of 1885:

"In the draft of the new Constitution our remarkable life is reflected as in a mirror. I am happy that I have lived to see the epoch of Stalin.

“I receive a personal pension. The state has materially secured my old age. Prior to the revolution, an old man of 60-65 used to say: 'I wish I could die sooner.' These men felt that no one needed them. The old man was a burden on his family, an extra mouth. The manufacturer squeezed everything out of him, as from a lemon, and then threw him out of the factory. In those days old age was horrible. And now, in spite of my 72 years, I am not so old – I feel myself rejuvenated. I want to live and live.... And if the enemy dares to encroach upon our Constitution, then I, in spite of my declining years, I will be the first to pick up a rifle, I will go to the defense of my fatherland together with my sons, and I will go with a Red flag, as boldly and as proudly as in 1885."

Pchelkin, assistant foreman in the Vokova factory (Orekhova- Zyeva), writes in the Moscow Worker:

“I read in Maxim Gorky that 'the word man rings proudly'. The Party and the Soviet government have raised man – the citizen of the U.S.S.R. – to unheard of heights.

"I read the entire Constitution, line by line, at home in my family circle. My wife and my two sons listened attentively to the simple and wise words of the Constitution. I told my children in detail how we lived before. All of us – five brothers and two sisters – prior to the revolution, were illiterate. And now I am studying in courses for the job of assistant foreman – and I am studying algebra. The Constitution is the banner of our happy life. For this reason I and all the members of my family join in the proposal of the Tula munition workers that the day of the adoption of the new Constitution shall be declared a general people's holiday."

The representatives of the former backward nationalities, resurrected by the great socialist revolution to a free and happy life, met the draft of the new Constitution with particular exaltation – the draft which consolidates full equality for all nationalities, won by the people of the Soviet Union. Bektenbai Kosynov, a Cossack student, writes in Labor:

"In the second chapter of the new Constitution it is stated that among the eleven Union Republics is also my native Kazakhistan. When I read this my heart filled with pride....

"The equality of the rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality and race, is an immutable law – reads the Constitution. For me, a Cossack in the past, a shepherd, the son of a farmhand – it is clear what a great meaning these words imply. In my family much is told about the horrors of the times when the tsarist gendarmes took away from the native people their best lands. It is easy for us to draw an analogy between the activity of the tsarist officials in the past in Kazakhistan and the contemporary practices of the Japanese generals in independent Manchukuo. We know that in all countries where fascism rules – in Germany, in Italy, in Japan – the theories of race and national exceptionalism are taught, in the name of enslavement.

"In the Soviet Union such propaganda, in any form, is punishable by law."

No less ardently does K. Hoffman, a representative of a culturally advanced national minority, a railroad worker of the Engelsk railway center (German Volga Republic), write in the German Central Newspaper:

"The right to education! The right to education in one's native tongue! At one time I was forced to serve in the tsarist army, where we were forbidden to speak German, and letters from our relatives, written in German, were not given to us....

"We Volga Germans have, thanks to the Soviet Power, become full-fledged citizens of our glorious Soviet country.... Let the toiling Germans, no matter in which country they live, read our Soviet Constitution and say whether they would not also like to live in a country with such a Constitution."

In a still better position to estimate the significance of the new Constitution is Fritz Shimansky, a German worker and political immigrant, who is well acquainted with all the glories of capitalist "democracy" and who has found a new fatherland in the Soviet Union:

"The draft is a world historic document. The citizens of the great Soviet Union enjoy all rights for the possession of which the proletarians of the capitalist countries are so stubbornly fighting.

"The toilers of the entire world will read with great exultation the draft of the new Constitution. They will see in it a new glorious success of the U.S.S.R.

"The only right which the German worker possesses is the right to be exploited, the right to die of hunger.

"In the Soviet Union the right to labor is established, the government guarantees work to every citizen. Here there are no unemployed, there is work for all. It is a joy to work in such a country!"

It is particularly significant that the draft of the new Constitution is sincerely and wholeheartedly greeted not only by the workers, not only by the members of the collective farms, not only by the representatives of the classes formerly oppressed by capitalism, but also by recent enemies of the Soviet power who have found happiness and a new meaning in their life in socialist labor. Here is one of the many letters written by people who were formerly deprived of citizens' rights (published in Pravda) – the letter of a former kulak, Sergei Tomnikov, who works as foreman in the Kirov mining region (Murmansk district):

"There is not a corner in our country where the Stalinist Constitution is not discussed. With special happiness do we former kulaks discuss it....

"Seven years ago I was sent out from the Varnensk region of the Ural district. My new place of residence became the construction field of the apatite combinat on the Kolsk Peninsula. When I arrived I found nothing here but mountains, forests, lakes and valleys. At first I had to experience discomforts, but as soon as the construction began life improved perceptibly....

“The better we worked, the better care was taken of us. I was taught the building trade. Soon I became a foreman at the wages of 550 rubles per month. All of my children entered school....

“During the six years, factories, plants, mines of the apatite combinat grew up before our very eyes in the former wilderness, and to a certain extent with our own labor. The remarkable city of Kirovsk was created and grows with each day. Here are theaters, stadiums, educational and other public institutions caring for the welfare of the people. This district has become dear to me and particularly to my children. In case of necessity I and my children will not spare our lives to justify the confidence of the Party, of the Soviet Power, of the great leader of the people, Comrade Stalin.”

And here is what Professor N. Ustralev, who formerly, in the years of the New Economic Policy, was the ideologist of those strata of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals who dreamt of the degeneration of Soviet Power into capitalism, now writes:

“Yes, this remarkable document of world significance, in every atom of which shines socialist humanism and in which there is to be felt the Stalinist epoch, must be much and thoroughly studied. But now, in the first hasty response, one wishes first of all to express one’s direct vital joy at the fact that our country, our fatherland, our great people of the Soviet Union have become the genuine advance guard of mankind, the hub of the new world – the world of freedom, of happiness and creative work.”

The basic thought which runs like a red thread through all the statements of Soviet citizens on the draft of the new Constitution is that in the Constitution we see reflected the rights and liberties of the toilers which have actually been already realized in the daily life of those participating in socialist construction. In their statements regarding the draft, the people tell with pride how they already, in actual practice, enjoy the right to work, rest, education, social insurance and participation in the management of the state.

It is worth while to cite in full a letter to the Komsomolskaya Pravda of Galina Katsova, a young Soviet girl, which enumerates the Constitutional rights already enjoyed by her:

“Stalin’s draft of the Constitution is the story of my happy coming of age. Like wonderful verses I read in the tenth chapter of the Constitution on the rights and duties of the citizens of the U.S.S.R.

“When my father died I was eight years of age and my brother was still younger. What would our mother have done with us in the olden days? Our lot would have been hunger and beggars’ doles. In the land of the Soviets this does not happen. We were not orphans, we did not suffer hunger and we did not go begging. Mother lives a prosperous life in the ‘Engels’ collective farm in the Moscow district. I have everything that is written in the tenth article of the draft Constitution:

“The right to work:

"Happy, creative work – my pride and joy. I am a mechanic in the Kaganovich car shops of the Sverdlovsk railway, I repair automatic brakes. It is good to work here – flowers, pictures and carpets adorn our light, roomy, Stakhanov department. The people's Commissar of Railways, L. M. Kaganovich, rewarded me with an engraved watch and a 'Stalinist Shock Brigadier' badge. The government rewarded me with the 'Red Banner of Labor'.

"The right to rest:

"I work seven hours a shift. Evenings and free days I spend in the Park of Culture and Rest, in theaters, at the cinema, and out of town. I have just returned from the floating rest-home 'Almaz'. It was a marvelous two-weeks' journey over the river Kama.

"The right to education:

"I have finished the factory technical school. Now I am preparing myself to enter the transport institution and I know definitely that I will be a car-construction engineer.

"This year I will be 18 years of age. I will receive the right to participate in elections. The first time this will be under the new Constitution. Together with all those of my age I will cast my first vote in the elections for our own beloved Stalin."

The draft of the new Constitution is not the "music of the future", is not a program of action, is not a distant aim – but a record of that which has already been won by the happy Soviet people. This has been expressed in simple and touching words by Shevaleva, a textile woman worker in the City of Kalinin:

"No matter what article of the Constitution I read, everything comes out just as in life, as though those who drew up the Constitution came to me at home and asked about my own life."

The thought of the woman worker Shevaleva and of millions of other workers, collective farmers and intellectuals of the U.S.S.R. was expressed even better by an old Putilov worker (Leningrad), Comrade Nazarov. Comrade Nazarov named the Stalin Constitution a "golden book which will shine throughout the world". "Word by word, article by article", he stated at a meeting in the Kirov Plant (former Putilov), "all is joy, all is happiness, which all of us have won." This is how the happiest of all people in the world, the multi-national population of the U.S.S.R., speak of the draft of the new Constitution, drawn up under the direct leadership of the beloved leader and teacher of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. – the great Joseph V. Stalin.

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