constitution(redirected from Constitution (political))
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See J. Barnes, Naval Actions of the War of 1812 (1896); I. N. Hollis, The Frigate “Constitution” (1901); E. Snow, On the Deck of “Old Ironsides” (1932); T. P. Horgan, Old Ironsides (1963); J. E. Jennings, Tattered Ensign (1966); T. G. Martin, A Most Fortunate Ship (1997).
constitution, principles of government
See E. McWhinney, Constitution-Making (1981); V. Bhagwan and V. Bhushan, World Constitutions (2d ed. 1987); P. Bobbitt, Constitutional Interpretation (1991); J. W. Peltason, Understanding the Constitution (12th ed. 1991).
a state’s fundamental law, which has the highest legal force and establishes the basic principles of the political, legal, and economic systems of a given country.
A constitution reflects the correlation of class forces at the time of its adoption. It consolidates the dictatorship of the ruling class, the form of government, the structure of the state, the organizational procedure and jurisdiction of both central and local government bodies and administration, the legal status of the individual, the organization and fundamental principles of justice, and the electoral system.
As to their form, constitutions are usually classified as written or unwritten. In the overwhelming majority of countries, written constitutions consist of a single act. However, they may be composed of a body of constitutional or organic acts. (This is the case in Sweden, Spain, and Finland.) Unwritten constitutions, which are in force in Great Britain and New Zealand, consist of a great number of laws, constitutional customs, and precedents. The right to adopt a constitution (the constituent authority) is given to a constituent assembly (for example, in Italy and India), to the electorate by means of a referendum (for example, in France and Turkey), or to the head of the state (for example, in Iran and Afghanistan). As a rule, the procedure for making changes and amendments is established in the constitution. (The procedure for amending a constitution is more complicated than the procedure for the adoption of ordinary laws.)
The constitutions of most contemporary bourgeois states proclaim a number of democratic rights and liberties for citizens. Thus, as a result of the deepening of the class struggle in the 20th century the majority of bourgeois constitutions came to include provisions concerning universal suffrage, the right to form political parties, and the right to strike, for example. The creation of the world socialist system, which, for the working people of capitalist countries, serves as an example of the realization of citizens’ rights, has greatly influenced the broadening of constitutional rights and liberties.
However, the constitutions of the bourgeois states merely proclaim democratic civil rights and liberties and do not contain real guarantees of their implementation. In these countries constitutions are an instrument of the dictatorship of the ruling class, which makes certain concessions but which, in practice, finds ways to evade constitutional norms and violate the legality it has created. For instance, the established provisions of the constitution may be violated by the government’s legislative activity, which is often contrary to the constitution and which narrows the legislative rights of the elected parliament.
The Communist parties in the capitalist countries attach great significance to the struggle for the observance of constitutional rights and liberties, considering their demands in this regard to be part of the struggle for socialism.
The constitutions of the socialist countries consolidate the power of the working people and establish the principles of the economic, political, and legal systems of socialist society, which has abolished the exploitation of man by man. In addition to consolidating the gains of the working people, and the democratic rights and liberties of the citizens, socialist constitutions contain real guarantees for the realization of these rights and liberties. As a rule, they contain programmatic provisions concerning the further development of the society. All socialist constitutions are uniform, systematized acts. The draft constitutions of the socialist countries are usually drawn up by special constitutional commissions and are subject to public consideration. In the USSR, Poland, Hungary, and Rumania the highest bodies of state power have the right to adopt a constitution. Constitutions are adopted by referendum in the German Democratic Republic and Bulgaria.
A. A. MISHIN