Soviet society and law : the history of the legal campaign to enforce the constitutional duty to work
In both the 1936 and 1977 USSR Constitutions conscientious labour in socially useful activity was decreed to be a "duty and matter of honour" for every Soviet citizen. This study examines the various approaches adopted by successive Soviet leaderships in their determined efforts to reinforce that ethos. It focuses, in particular, on the so-called "anti-parasite" laws dating back to 1957, when as a part of Khrushchev's attempt to revive popular justice, several smaller republics experimented with enactments that permitted peer justice institutions in the form of amorphous social assemblies to exile "parasites" via a procedure which bypassed the existing court system. Special attention is devoted to the criticism lodged against the laws (during their adoption and spread to the other union republics in 1961) by members of the legal profession, who complained that the wide punitive given to the extra-judicial bodies and the attitudes and behaviour encouraged in them would erode the respect for "socialist legality" which they had been charged with enhancing in the minds of the mass public. Although as a result of such criticism, the Khrushchev regime modified the peer justice institutions in the early 1960's, and even though his populism was absorbed by or subordinated to the normative sector of social control in Brezhnev's legal policy, the study highlights the fact that complaints of abuses and inconsistencies in anti-parasite proceedings continued to be levelled against the prosecution process. This, it is contended, was due in large part to the extreme vagueness of the notion of social parasitism itself, although the lack of a precise and consistent definition of this peculiar offence (and of the key elements which were deemed to constitute it) was actually seen as necessary and even desirable since it allowed the authorities to use the anti-parasite legislation as a weapon of suppression against a broad spectrum of socially, politically, and economically inconvenient groups within Soviet society.