Military Legislation

Military Legislation


or military law, the system of legal norms established by the state that sets down the principles and forms of the structure of the armed forces; regulates relationships regarding the development, life, life-style, and activity of the armed forces; and determines the duties, rights, and responsibilities of those in military service and others involved in social relations connected with the development of the armed forces. The sphere of operation of military legislation usually broadens in wartime and in areas where martial law has been proclaimed; it then extends to the branches of the national economy and transportation that are most important from the military point of view, to the protection of public order and state security, and so on.

Military legislation is part of the legal system of the state; it reflects the traits of the given sociopolitical and govern-mental system and gives legal force to the policy of the ruling class on questions of military development. Taking into consideration the specific organization and designation of the armed forces, military legislation is invoked to ensure rigid military discipline and a well-defined system of internal relations that corresponds to the definite political missions for which the armed forces are used. One of the basic tasks of military legislation is to ensure the conditions for the accumulation of a sufficient number of militarily trained reserves and the maintenance of a high level of combat readiness of the troops.

Soviet military legislation expresses and gives legal force to the Leninist socialist principles and the policy of the CPSU in the field of military development and reflects the truly democratic and humane character of the Soviet state and its armed forces, which stand guard over the peaceful labor of the Soviet people and which defend the cause of peace throughout the whole world. Soviet military legislation is based on the ideas of the indissoluble link between the army and the people, of proletarian internationalism, and of the defense of the socialist achievements of the working people. Military law and order in the Soviet armed forces is based on the social and political unity of the personnel and on relations of comradely cooperation, respect, and mutual aid among officers, soldiers, and sailors.

Soviet military legislation is complex with regard to its legal norms. It includes primarily the norms of state and administrative law, as well as the norms of criminal law, the law of criminal procedure, finance law, and several other branches of law to the extent that these norms regulate specific relations regarding the development of the armed forces and the protection of the law and order established in them. At the same time, military legislation is an internally coordinated system of legal norms that are united by a common goal and a common object of legal regulation; therefore with full justification it can be considered military law—that is, a complex but relatively independent and detached system of legal norms.

Military legislation takes into account the special features of the army as an organization designed for armed warfare and, by virtue of that, based on the strictest military discipline, complete one-man command, unquestioning obedience, and consistent centralization in the control of troops. At the same time Soviet military legislation strengthens the principle of political and civil equality of rights for servicemen and contains firm guarantees of legality in military administration. V. I. Lenin and the Communist Party always attached great significance to the strict and conscious observance of the norms of legislation. V. I. Lenin pointed out: “To obey, not moved by fear but by conscience, all the laws on the Red Army and all orders conscientiously and scrupulously, sup-port discipline in it in every way, and help the Red Army, each to the best of his ability—such is the prime, fundamental, and principal duty of every class-conscious worker or peasant” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 152).

The norms of military legislation include those that regu-late the structure of the armed forces; the organization and powers of the bodies of military administration; the procedure for recruiting active servicemen and reservists of the armed forces; the mode for the carrying out of military ser-vice; the legal status of servicemen and reservists; the organization and procedures for carrying out unit administration and services; the rules concerning the financial and material security of servicemen; the rights of military authorities in localities in which martial law has been proclaimed; and the basic principles regarding the mobilization of the armed forces. One of the principal sources of Soviet military legislation is the Law of the USSR on Universal Military Obligation of Oct. 12, 1967.

A characteristic form of the expression of the norms of military legislation is military regulations, which are codes of rules concerning the conduct and activity of servicemen. Other sources of military legislation are the regulative instruments confirmed by the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, including statutes, articles, directives, instructions, and rules. Military legislation also includes the Law on Criminal Responsibility for Military Crimes, the Statute Concerning the Judge Advocate’s Office, the Statute on Military Tribunals, and the norms of criminal procedure and of procedural law that determine the method, grounds, and particular features involved in instituting criminal proceedings against servicemen.

In the capitalist states military legislation is clearly divorced from the general system of law and is devoid of the democratic institutions that are proclaimed in bourgeois constitutions and advertised by bourgeois ideologists, since the goal of bourgeois military legislation is to isolate the army from the people, to keep soldiers away from participation in public and political life, and to turn the army into an obedient tool of the capitalist monopolies for the suppression of the toiling masses (for instance, the use of the troops of the USA for suppressing Negro riots). In the imperialist armies there are no guarantees of legality for soldiers; soldiers and sailors are virtually deprived of political rights by means of the establishment of numerous electoral qualifications for them. In some bourgeois states servicemen are totally deprived of political rights; they are prohibited from engaging in political activity or from freely expressing their opinion (for instance, in the Federal Republic of Germany according to the Law on the Legal Status of Soldiers, paragraph 15), and harsh punishment is established for violations of military discipline (for instance, in the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the USA). The military command has at its disposal virtually unlimited possibilities for reprisals against soldiers with whom it is dissatisfied.

The military legislation of the imperialist states serves in the most unabashed way the reactionary aims of monopolistic capital; it cultivates in military practice the view of the bourgeois ideologists who maintain that when guns thunder laws are silent and that democracy ends at the barracks gates.


Osnovy sovetskovo voennogo stroitel’stva. Moscow, 1966.


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