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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the strict observance of laws and of legal acts of similar effect by state agencies, officials, citizens, and social organizations. Legality represents one aspect of the democratic state system and expresses the equality of all before the law from the viewpoint of all participants in social relations being equally subject to the law.

As an element of the political democracy of a particular historical type of class society, legality always conforms to the nature and class-bound function of democracy. Bourgeois legality is the ascendancy in social relations of laws expressing the will of the bourgeoisie; consequently, like all of bourgeois democracy, bourgeois legality is in the final analysis the means for consolidating and protecting the interests of the exploiters. In relatively peaceful periods of the development of capitalist society, the proletariat and the working masses led by it support the strengthening of legality and oppose the attempts of the reactionary forces to undermine the bourgeois-democratic political regime, since under these conditions bourgeois democracy and legality as one of its elements represent under capitalism a favorable political climate for organizing the proletariat and promoting the struggle for the defense of its interests, rights, and freedoms—in the end, the struggle for socialism.

Socialist legality is, until the complete and final victory of socialism, one of the most important methods of implementing the dictatorship of the proletariat. After the historical aims of the working class have also become the aims of the new kolkhoz peasantry and of the new people’s intelligentsia, proletarian legality, together with all of socialist democracy, will develop into an all-people’s legality. In an all-people’s state socialist legality serves the interests of all the people. In accordance with the principles of socialist democracy, the basic features of socialist legality are the supremacy of laws in the system of legal acts and the supremacy of decisions of local Soviets corresponding to laws over the acts of subordinate state agencies and officials; the strict carrying out by local agencies of acts promulgated by central agencies of power and administration and the noninterference by central agencies in lawful and expedient local operational activity; the strict implementation of the rights and freedoms of citizens and the forbidding of any arbitrary actions on the part of state agencies and officials with respect to citizens; and the strictest fulfillment by citizens of their legal obligations toward society, the state, and their fellow citizens. Socialist legality and rule of law are the basis of the normal life of society and of socialist discipline and order, which are the means by which society strengthens the socialist method of production; socialist legality and rule of law are thus an indispensable condition for the successful fulfillment of the tasks of building communism.

The strengthening of socialist legality has great significance in the normal functioning of the entire economic machinery. In connection with the transition to the new economic policy, V. I. Lenin emphasized that “the closer we approach conditions of unshakable and lasting power and the more trade develops, the more imperative it is to put forward the firm slogan of greater revolutionary legality” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 44, p. 329). In explaining Lenin’s idea, the Central Committee of the ACP pointed out that “the question of revolutionary legality was not accidentally put forward by life, for revolutionary legality is called forth by economic necessity” (The CPSU in Resolutions, 8th ed., vol. 4, 1970, p. 131). These tenets remain relevant under the conditions of the economic reforms being implemented in the USSR (since 1965), since the socialist economy can develop most successfully as a unified economy only under the condition of a strictly planned and contractual discipline and of strict legality both in the relations between administrative agencies and enterprises and in the relations between the economic agencies themselves.

Many of the violations of legality under socialism are the consequence of bourgeois and other survivals in people’s minds, and, therefore, the task of eradicating violations of the law and eliminating the most harmful manifestations of the survivals of nonsocialist ideology, psychology, and morality in the minds and behavior of individuals becomes especially important.

The objective principles necessary for the existence and stability of socialist legality—the elimination of exploitation, of private property, and of the abuse of power—underlie the socialist social and state system. The CPSU and the Soviet state are continuously working toward strengthening the regime of socialist legality, considering the strengthening of legality to be a national and a party task. In a socialist state, an entire system of measures is taken to strengthen legality. This system includes measures of persuasion, prevention, and direct public pressure on transgressors, the perfection of the legal guarantees of legality, and the use of compulsion by the state to execute legal determinations, such as the use of punishment under criminal law.

The further expansion of democratic rights, freedoms, and institutions is organically combined with the demand for observance of Soviet laws and for inescapable responsibility in the event of violation of legality.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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