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Wiktor Sukiennicki (1901-1983)

Sovietologist and economist. B. July 25, 1901, the Kovno region. He took part in the 1920 war serving in the Polish army. One of the most distinguished Polish Sovietologists. Member of the Science and Research Institute of Eastern Europe in Vilnius. He studied the nature of Soviet statehood, constitution, and law; it was his suggestion to use the word "radziecki" [from rada 'soviet' - translator's note] instead of "sowiecki". When Vilnius was occupied by USSR, he was arrested in 1941 and sent to a Siberian camp near Krasnoyarsk. After the war he collaborated with Radio Free Europe and the Hoover Institute in Stanford, USA. He came to California to lecture at Stanford. Late in his life he devoted most of his efforts to his unfinished work about the World War I years on the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the fate of East-European nations. Major works: "Marksowsko-leninowska teoria prawa" ("Marxist-Leninist Theory of Law"), Wilenski Przegl¹d Prawniczy, VI (51), 1935; "Kolektywizacja rolnictwa w ZSRR w okresie pierwszej piêciolatki" ("Collectivization of Agriculture in the USSR During the First Five-Year Plan"), Wileñski Przeglad Prawniczy, VIII (10), 1937; Ewolucja ustroju ZSRR 1917-1936 ("Evolution of the Constitution of the USSR 1917-1936"), Vilnius 1937; Pol wieku rewolucji rosyjskiej ("A Half-Century of the Russian Revolution"), Paris 1967; East-Central Europe during the First World War, Boulder, Colorado, 1988, vol. 1-2. D. April 10, 1983, near San Francisco.


Although both Marx and Lenin had received legal training, in their later writings, usually devoted to economic and political issues, they hardly ever took up legal matters in general, and jurisprudential problems in particular. No wonder, then, that with the abandonment of "War Communism", and with the development of New Economic Policy and the economic revival of 1922, legal problems regained relevance in the Soviet Union, serious difficulties arose with finding a theoretical foundation for building new legal structures, fitted to the Soviet system. The majority of authors then writing in the USSR were inclined to base their reflections on the most up-to-date legal theories of Petra¿ycki (Rejsner, Engel, Ilyinsky) or Duguit (Goybarkh, Wolfson, and others).

These theories, starting from an essentially anti-idealistic viewpoint, apparently were fully compatible with the general Marxist outlook, and resting on them, Soviet jurists attempted to justify and explain from the legal perspective all of the revolutionary moves of the Soviet government. However, the First All-Russian Congress of Marxists, convened in 1931 by the Communist Academy in Moscow and attended by political and legal experts, took a fundamentally different position. After listening to the lecture For a Marxist-Leninist Political and Legal Theory and after a lengthy debate, the Congress decided that the psychological theory of Petra¿ycki ultimately led to a position of subjective idealism. The sociological theory of Duguit, on the other hand, was based on the idea of social solidarity incompatible with the Marxian principle of class struggle. Hence both theories were condemned by the Congress and held to be bourgeois theories alien and hostile to Marxism [...]. The Congress decided that, despite a number of fallacies and errors in the details, two theories were in accord with the general Marxist-Leninist assumptions: that of the recently deceased Petr Stuchka (a Latvian by origin, a St. Petersburg barrister, and later a Commissar of justice in the Soviet government, and prime minister of the Latvian government in 1918-1919), and that of Yevgeniy Pashukanis (son of Bronislav), vice-president of the Communist Academy and president of the Institute of Soviet Building Construction and Law in Moscow.

Only the theories of these two authors, then, may be regarded as Marxist-Leninist legal theory, because the Congress decided that they remained essentially in harmony with the general Marxist-Leninist philosophical worldview, the so-called historical or dialectical materialism. This philosophical doctrine held that the foundations of all existence (being) are constituted by ever-developing - through its inherent dialectical contradictions - matter, and that only at a certain level of development do consciousness, reason, and thought appear, as specific features of human matter taking the shape of the brain. The content of thought, as a product of the material brain, is largely determined by the living conditions of the thinking individual, that is, primarily by economic circumstances. It is on the economic foundations, then, constituted by production relations and the distribution of goods produced, that various forms of social life emerge and develop, forms which can be reduced to an arrangement of social relations between particular individuals. Historical materialism argues that the emergence of the notion of private property, that is, the recognition of particular factors of production (land, tools and machines) as the private possessions of particular individuals, had a decisive influence on the overall pattern of social relations between individual members of society and on the substance of their thinking, on their ideology. Once particular individuals were recognized as solely and exclusively entitled to disposing of certain economic goods, and especially of the means of production, the so-called class society came into being, torn by inner contradictions of class interests. [...] Purely economic factors, then, that is, the social conditions of production, led, when the principle of private property was accepted, to the emergence of an antagonistic society, composed of social classes remaining in relentless conflict with each other.

Staunchly rejecting all conceptions of social solidarism (Duguit), Marxists claim that in a society with private property, and hence with social classes, no solidarity of interests is possible and that the profound essence of such a society is a relentless, incessant class struggle on the material/economic as well as the ideological/intellectual plane. For varying material conditions produce varying ways of thinking; they create fundamentally different ideologies (mode and substance of thinking) of a large landowner on the one hand, and a landless farmhand on the other, a great banker or an industrialist on the one hand, and an unemployed person, a poorly paid member of the intelligentsia, or a worker on the other. Class struggle, stemming from the fundamental clash of interests between owners and non-owners, were it unrestrained, would tend to degenerate into armed civil war, and in that war, along with particular classes, all of society would suffer. To prevent the eruption of this out-and-out civil war, which could lead to the complete annihilation of society, the institution of state and law comes forth. Setting them up is, according to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, in the immediate and exclusive interest of the class which is the strongest economically and rules politically in a given society, and which would like to perpetuate the currently prevailing arrangement of economic relations - advantageous for this class - and hence the arrangement of social relations in general. The state organization, with its apparatus of public power and coercion, becomes a formidable weapon in the hands of the ruling class, serving the perpetuation, securing, and safeguarding of the "law", which, according to Stuchka, is a "system (or order) of social relations" suiting the interests of the ruling class. For once the state is established, class struggle can be fought only within so-called "legal frames", that is within the limits of the currently existing system of social relations. Should class struggle confront these relations, it would breach legal frames and the public power of the state would have to intervene in order to force it back within these frames, that is to make it fundamentally recognize that the current arrangement of social relations is inviolable. The current pattern (system) of social relations, ultimately based, as we have said, on economic factors, also determines the thinking of particular individuals, it finds an ideological reflection in the human brain and makes people disposed to think that things should remain the way they are now, that law, i.e. the current order (system) of social relations is "valid", and that this order should be maintained in the future. Thus in the brains of the masses an ideological reflection of current social relations appears, taking the shape of a system of valid legal norms. Legal norms, then, are only an ideological form of the law, while social relations constitute its essential content. This line of argument leads Stuchka to the fundamental assertion that "law in general", as an objective idea/concept of "law", does not exist; what exists are only various "class laws" contradictory in their content, reflections of various arrangements of social relations in human brains. [...]

Claiming that every law is class law, that each social class creates its specific law, differing from the law of other classes, Stuchka defined law as a "system (or order) of social relations advantageous to the interests of the ruling class and protected by its organized power". [...] This position was taken by Stuchka as early as 1919, when he was preparing, in the Collegium Narkomiusta (The People's Commissariat of Justice), The Guiding Principles of Criminal Law of RSFSR. It was based, as the author frankly admits, "rather on the revolutionary sense than on a theoretical elaboration of the issue", [...] (and yet) it was fully accepted by the aforesaid 1931 Congress.

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