THE LEGISLATIVE RUBBER STAMP
NO GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTION better illustrates the profound gap between theory and practice in political systems based on the dictatorship of the proletariat than the communist legislatures. In constitutional theory they rule supreme. Not only do they enjoy the monopoly of legislative power, but they are masters of all the other central government agencies, which they create and abolish, and whose heads they appoint and remove. They alone have the exclusive authority to amend the constitutions on which their vast powers ostensibly rest and they are thus legally in absolute command over their own destinies as well as those of all other governmental organs. "From the constitutional viewpoint the leading position in the system of the highest state organs belongs to the National Assembly," states an official KSČ textbook on "the highest state organs."1 Indeed, nowhere has the principle of legislative supremacy been carried further than behind the Iron Curtain; and the communist legislatures well deserve the lofty designation of "supreme organs of state power" applied to them by the Soviet bloc's constitutions. The well-known adage that a parliament can do anything except change a man into a woman--used to stress the dominant position of the British House of Commons-- could fittingly be employed to underscore the towering constitutional status of its Soviet and people's democratic equivalents.
However, actual political practice tells a different story. It reveals communist legislatures to be Cinderellas whose feet failed to fit the lost shoe. In flagrant contrast to their tremendous constitutional prerogatives, legislative assemblies of the Soviet orbit have been reduced to mere rubber stamps for Party decisions which are fed to them at long intervals via the Party's executive transmission belt. The principle of legislative supremacy has thus been replaced in practice by that of____________________