"WHAT IS the state but a great robber band if it be lacking in justice?" When studying the communist system of justice, one cannot help thinking of this celebrated sentence of St. Augustine, written fifteen centuries before anyone had ever heard of Lenin and his "Revolutionary legality." Indeed, no story is sadder for anyone reared in the legal and judicial concepts of Western civilization than the progressive decay of these concepts in Czechoslovakia, a country that used to be justly proud of its rule of law and judicial integrity. It took the communist rulers of Czechoslovakia only a few years to tear down the elaborate palace of pre-communist justice and erect on its site a new structure dedicated to class warfare.
"Our people's courts stand in the first line of the struggle for socialism . . . educate citizens to respect socialist property . . . tighten the working and state discipline . . .," wrote the Czechoslovak Minister of Justice, Štefan Rais, in February 1953.1 His successor, Jan Bartuška, spoke in the same vein in May 1955: "Our people's democratic laws . . . are directed against those who disturb the foundations and the development of socialist construction of our fatherland and the rules of socialist life of our people. . . . Not only does our judiciary strictly and uncompromisingly punish all criminals, agents of imperialism, traitors and enemies of our people's democratic system, but it also provides for the education of these culprits and gives all those who have gone astray the opportunity of rejoining the building work after they have served their sentences. . . ."2 Three years later, yet another Minister of Justice, Václav Škoda, urged the courts to make "better use of their functions of suppression and education" and to strengthen "the socialist consciousness of the citizens"; and he reminded them that, together with the organs of public prosecution--the Army and Security forces-- they were responsible "for the liquidation of hostile elements."3____________________