Every Soviet student of government and law reads Vyshinsky's book. Administrators and jurists use it for reference. It is, in a sense, the militant handbook of those engaged in government. It provides a guide through the intricacies of the central and local levels of administration, an explanation of the Constitution, and a documented analysis of the laws relating to the courts, elections, and rights and duties of citizens. It is designed also as a means of instilling in the public official a firm conviction that be is a part of a system of government which has no equal in the world outside.
Much of the determination of Soviet soldiers in the war just ended can be traced to sources typified by this book. Much of the persistence and confidence evidenced by Soviet diplomats in international councils can likewise be traced to the same sources. Vyshinsky and his team of collaborators present the doctrine which Soviet men and women are taught in their schools and general reading. In view of this fact, Vyshinsky's book provides one avenue of approach to an understanding of the habit of thought which has become characteristic of Soviet citizens.
Americans will find interest in this book not only because it is a statement of a creed and an outline of the structure of the Soviet form of government: the book is also revealing of Soviet pedagogical techniques. American readers will be introduced to the vigorous, uncompromising manner in which Soviet teachers present their thesis. There is to be found the highly critical and even scornful approach to non-Soviet systems of government. There is to be found frequent repetition of ideas in varying forms. All of this is characteristic of the Soviet textbook, whether it be written for mass consumption or for the advanced student in the professional school.
A brief statement of the setting in which the book was written may aid the American reader who approaches Soviet political and legal literature for the first time. It will be remembered that the year 1936 was a milestone in Soviet constitutional history. A constitutional drafting commission under Stalin's chairmanship brought forward a draft of a new constitution in June, 1936, to replace the constitution under which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had come into being. The Draft Constitution was enacted by the Eighth Congress of Soviets on December 5, 1936. It was heralded as a reflection of the changed economic and social conditions which had resulted from . . .