Communism can be described as a socio-economic, political, philosophical movement and ideology that seeks to create a communist society where there is joint ownership of all the means of production and lack of social stratification. To achieve this, the communist ideology had its theory of law, which incorporated the legal principles of communism.
The Communist Theory of Law
Before the discussion continues, it should be stated that communism manifested differently in various nations and political spaces. For example, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin were not too keen about legal theory. This explains why the rise of the Soviet Union triggered the need for a theory of law that was either derived from or at least in line with the overall thesis of Marxism and Leninism and the reality of the political realm that dominated the Soviet State.
The legendary scholar Hans Kelsen did a very incisive study into this. In this article, the focus will be on the Communist theory of law and the legal principles of communism. Communist law, as exemplified by the Soviet legal system, had its doctrine based on the Marx-Engels theory of state and law. Anyone familiar with this theory will know that its primary persuasion line is eradicating the government and law itself. However, the manifestation of this theory in practice is a different thing altogether.
Engels thinks that during the transition phase of the proletariat’s dictatorship, the influence of State power becomes overwhelming in one sphere then another until it dominates the entire system. The theory holds that government over persons is then replaced by the administration of things, thus influencing the direction of production processes. In this instance, the state is not destroyed; it becomes weakened.
According to Marx and Engels, what also holds for the communist theory of law is that the state is a forceful partner when it comes to the issuance of law. This same theory also took into consideration the Marxist deprecation of the doctrine of national law. Overall, Marx and Engels’ philosophy was dependent on the notions of natural law, which influenced their perspective on the communist theory of law.
The discussion of Marx and Engels on the gradual dissolution of the state and law is in speculative theory. However, the Soviet State’s creation demonstrated that the practicality of the disappearance of law is a different ball game altogether.
Another scholar, in the person of EB Pashukanis, while explaining Soviet legal theory in its initial phase, stated that all law had its foundation in exchanging commodities. Pashukanis goes ahead to state that law will lose its essence in a society if there are no opposing individual interests. Hence law, as we know it, will eventually become irrelevant in a Socialist society. There will be nothing like law in an ideal Socialist state, but a set of technical regulations will maintain stability.
Legal Principles of Communism
An excellent way to understand the legal principles of communism is to look at how they applied to business contracts and general administration. The first communist system of law was created in Soviet Russia, and it was called the Civil Code of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic of 11th November 1922. There would be no communist systems of law outside the Soviet Union until the Second World War.
In that era, the legal principles of communism stated that the nation’s jurisdiction is represented by the highest organs of state power and the organs of state administration—this incorporated legislation regarding the judicial system, judicial procedure, criminal and civil codes. However, with time, the legal principles were to include decrees, statues, and countless regulations, which sometimes led to disorder in justice administration.
Following the conflicts arising from the legal principles, decentralization in legal enactments was encouraged and then followed by amendments of legislation’s regulations. These legal principles did not focus a lot on civil law but dwelled more on criminal law aspects. As for contract law, it was geared towards the nationalization of enterprises and all the vital means of industrial production, but that is understandable concerning that is the main essence of communism as a socio-economic philosophy.