The Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People, approved by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets in January 1918, together with the constitution of the Soviet Republic approved by the Fifth Congress, make up the single fundamental law of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.
This fundamental law becomes effective from the moment of its publication in final form in Izvestia Vserossiiskogo Tsentralnogo Ispolnitelnogo Komiteta. It shall be published by all local organs of Soviet government and prominently displayed in all Soviet institutions. The Fifth Congress instructs the People's Commissariat for Public Education to introduce in all schools and other educational establishments of the Russian Republic, without exception, the study of the basic provisions of the present constitution, as well as their explanation and interpretation.
Part One: Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People
Article 1. Russia is hereby proclaimed a Republic of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. All power, centrally and locally, is vested in these Soviets.
Article 2. The Russian Soviet Republic is established on the principle of a free union of free nations, as a federation of Soviet national republics.
Article 3. Its fundamental aim being abolition of all exploitation of man by man, complete elimination of the division of society into classes, merciless suppression of the exploiters, socialist organization of society, and victory of socialism in all countries, the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies further resolves:
- Pursuant to the socialization of land, private land ownership is hereby abolished, and all land is proclaimed the property of the entire people and turned over to the working people without any redemption, on the principles of egalitarian land tenure.
- All forests, mineral wealth and waters of national importance, as well as all live and dead stock, model estates and agricultural enterprises are proclaimed the property of the nation.
- The Soviet laws on workers' control and on the Supreme Economic Council are hereby confirmed in order to guarantee the power of the working people over the exploiters and as a first step towards the complete conversion of factories, mines, railways and other means of production and transportation into the property of the Soviet Workers' and Peasants' Republic.
- The Third Congress of Soviets regards as a first blow at international banking, financial capital, the Soviet law on the annulment of loans negotiated by the governments of the tsar, the landlords and the bourgeoisie and expresses confidence that Soviet power will be advancing steadfastly along this road until the complete victory of an international workers' uprising against the rule of capital.
- To ensure the sovereign power of the working people and to rule out any possibility of restoration of the power of the exploiters, the arming of the working people, the creation of a socialist Red Army of workers and peasants, and the complete disarming of the propertied classes are hereby decreed.
Article 4. Expressing firm determination to wrest mankind from the clutches of finance capital and imperialism, which have in this most criminal of wars drenched the world in blood, the Third Congress of Soviets unreservedly endorses Soviet policy of denouncing the secret treaties, organizing most extensive fraternization with the workers and peasants of the combatant armies and achieving at all costs by revolutionary means a democratic peace for the working people, without annexations of indemnities, on the basis of free self-determination of nations.
Article 5. With the same aim in view, the Third Congress of Soviets insists on a complete break with the barbarous policy of bourgeois civilization, which has built the prosperity of the exploiters in a few chosen nations through the enslavement of hundreds of millions of working people in Asia, in the colonies in general, and in small countries.
Article 6. The Third Congress of Soviets supports the policy of the Council of People's Commissars which has proclaimed the complete independence of Finland, commenced the withdrawal of troops from Persia, and proclaimed freedom of self-determination for Armenia.
Article 7. The Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets holds that now, in the hour of the people's resolute struggle against the exploiters, there should be no room for exploiters in any governmental agency. Power must belong fully and exclusively to the working people and their plenipotentiary representatives - the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies.
Article 8. At the same time, endeavouring to create a genuinely free and voluntary, and therefore all the more firm and stable, union of the working classes of all the nations of Russia, the Third Congress of Soviets confines itself to promulgating the fundamental principles of a federation of Soviet republics of Russia, leaving it to the workers and peasants of each nation to decide independently at their own representative congresses of soviets whether they wish to participate in the federal government and in the other federal Soviet institutions, and on what terms.
Part Two: General Provisions of the Constitution of the RSFSR
Article 9. The main objective of the constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, designed for the present transitional period, is to establish the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat and the poorest peasantry in the form of a powerful All-Russia Soviet Government, with a view to completely suppressing the bourgeoisie, abolishing exploitation of man by man, and establishing socialism, under which there will be neither division into classes nor state power.
Article 10. The Russian Republic is a free socialist society of all the working people of Russia. All power in the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic belongs to the entire working population of the country united in urban and rural soviets.
Article 11. The soviets of regions with a distinct mode of living and national composition can unite in autonomous regional unions at the head of which, as at the head of all regional unions that can be eventually formed, stand regional congresses of Soviets and their executive agencies.
These autonomous regional unions form, on a federal basis, component parts of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.
Article 12. Supreme power in the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic is exercised by the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, and in the intervals between Congresses by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.
Article 13. In order to ensure genuine freedom of conscience for the working people, the church is separated from the State, and the school from the church: and freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.
Article 14. In order to ensure genuine freedom of expression for the working people, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic abolishes the dependence of the press on capital, and places at the disposal of the working class and the poor peasantry all the technical and material requisites for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books and all other printed matter, and guarantees their unhindered circulation throughout the country.
Article 15. In order to ensure genuine freedom of assembly for the working people, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, recognizing the right of citizens of the Soviet Republic freely to hold assemblies, meetings, processions, etc., places at the disposal of the working class and the poor peasantry all buildings suitable for the holding of public gatherings, complete with furnishing, lighting and heating.
Article 16. In order to ensure genuine freedom of association for the working people, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, having destroyed the economic and political rule of the propertied classes and thereby removed all the obstacles which heretofore, in bourgeois society, prevented the workers and peasants from enjoying freedom of organization and action, renders material and all other assistance to the workers and poorest peasants for purposes of their association and organization.
Article 17. In order to ensure access to knowledge for the working people, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic makes its aim to give the workers and poorest peasants complete all-round and free education.
Article 18. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic declares labour to be the duty of all citizens of the Republic, and proclaims the slogan: 'He who does not work, neither shall he eat!'
Article 19. In order to safeguard the gains of the great workers' and peasants' revolution, the Russian Socialist Federative Republic declares defence of the socialist Fatherland to be the duty of all the citizens of the Republic and introduces universal military service. The honourable right of bearing arms in defence of the revolution is granted only to working people; non-working elements are enlisted for other military duties.
Article 20. Proceeding from the principle of solidarity of the working people of all nations, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic grants full political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners residing in the territory of the Russian Republic for purposes of employment, and belonging to the working class or to the peasantry not employing the labour of others: and it empowers the local Soviets to grant to such foreigners, without any cumbersome formalities, Russian citizenship rights.
Article 21. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic grants the right of asylum to all foreigners subjected to persecution for political and religious crimes.
Article 22. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, recognizing the equality of rights of all citizens, irrespective of their race or nationality, declares the establishment or toleration on this basis of any privileges or advantages, or any oppression of national minorities or restriction of their equality, to be contraventions of the fundamental laws of the Republic.
Article 23. Guided by the interests of the working class as a whole, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic deprives individuals and groups of rights which they utilize to the detriment of the socialist revolution.
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837
© 1996 Robert Beard