Socialist law

Type of legal system / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Socialist law or Soviet law denotes a general type of legal system which has been (and continues to be) used in socialist and formerly socialist states. It is based on the civil law system, with major modifications and additions from Marxist–Leninist ideology. There is controversy as to whether socialist law ever constituted a separate legal system or not.[1] If so, prior to the end of the Cold War, socialist law would be ranked among the major legal systems of the world.

Bulletin at the Elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1946)
Bulletin at the Elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1946)

While civil law systems have traditionally put great pains in defining the notion of private property, how it may be acquired, transferred, or lost, socialist law systems provide for most property to be owned by the Government or by agricultural co-operatives, and having special courts and laws for state enterprises.[2]

Many scholars argue that socialist law was not a separate legal classification.[3] Although the command economy approach of the communist states meant that most types of property could not be owned, the Soviet Union always had a civil code, courts that interpreted this civil code, and a civil law approach to legal reasoning (thus, both legal process and legal reasoning were largely analogous to the French or German civil code system). Legal systems in all socialist states preserved formal criteria of the Romano-Germanic civil law; for this reason, law theorists in post-socialist states usually consider the socialist law as a particular case of the Romano-Germanic civil law. Cases of development of common law into socialist law are unknown because of incompatibility of basic principles of these two systems (common law presumes influential rule-making role of courts while courts in socialist states play a dependent role).[4]

An article published in 2016 suggests that socialist law, at least from the perspective of public law and constitutional design, is a useful category. In the NYU Journal of International Law and Policy, William Partlett and Eric Ip argue that socialist law helps to understand the "Russo-Leninist transplants" that currently operate in China's socialist law system. This helps to understand the "distinctive public law institutions and approaches in China that have been ignored by many scholars".[5]