How would the judicial system be structured in a socialist society?


From The People, June 15, 1991, page 6

How would the judicial system be structured in a socialist society? Would there be a need for attorneys? Would capital punishment be abolished?

We cannot say precisely how a judicial system would be structured in a socialist society, for it will be up to the people, through their socialist industrial union government, to make that determination. However, we can say what social conditions and socialist principles will guide the people in making that determination, and thus provide some indication of what the answer to the first question would be.

The social conditions that have turned the present judicial system into a monstrous bureaucracy would no longer exist in a socialist society.

Capitalist society is permeated by conflict-not only conflict between the classes, but conflicts within each class as well. There are conflicts between buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants, borrowers and bankers, accident victims and those held responsible, insurance companies and other firms and individuals, etc. In a society characterized by widespread economic hardship and insecurity, generalized competition for limited economic opportunities, and competition-induced greed, material interests make all of these conflicts highly charged battles. The judicial system provides the battlefield, the relatively civilized rules, the "weapons" (lawyers), and the judges and juries.

Capitalist society also breeds crime -because it breeds rampant poverty, as well as fear of poverty, competition, greed, alienation, drug and alcohol abuse and other factors that cause crime.

Though it becomes ever more bloated, the judicial system is essential to capitalism, to maintain some semblance of social order, and to ensure that capitalist-class interests are served, on the basis of capitalist law.

Socialist society will eliminate the material basis for the overwhelming majority of the aforementioned conflicts and the material basis for crime. Conflicts and crimes involving privately owned productive property will be eliminated because there will be no privately owned productive property. Conflicts and crimes born of economic hardship, insecurity and competition will disappear because there will be no more economic hardship, insecurity or competition.

Accordingly, socialist society will have little need for a judicial system-certainly nothing like the huge bureaucratic apparatus that capitalism requires. A judicial system in socialist society would be needed only to handle the small number of crimes or disputes that might occur during the period when the effects of capitalism are still being felt.

To that small extent, some socially sanctioned method of resolving or dealing with these crimes and conflicts would still be needed, and some mechanism would be needed to ensure that the rights of the people involved are upheld. Thus, regarding the second question, it is reasonable to presume that "attorneys," or workers performing the function just described, would be needed. But the number needed would be only a tiny fraction of the armies of attorneys needed by capitalism today. And these "attorneys" would have to be trained or retrained to serve in this different social environment and become versed in a different, much simplified body of laws.

Likewise, a role somewhat akin to that fulfilled by judges and juries today would also have to be filled. What those social representatives would be called, and the precise method of their selection, are matters of speculation. But whatever mechanism is decided upon, these "judges" would not have the same characteristics or powers that judges have in a capitalist political state. All would be elected and subject to discipline and removal by the rank-and-file workers who elected them. They would not be bureaucratically appointed for life or given sweeping interpretive or repressive powers, but would be truly accountable servants of the self-governing society of useful producers.

As to capital punishment: Where there is no state, there will be no more state-sanctioned murder. A socialist self-government will, of course, take necessary steps to ensure public safety in dealing with any violent crime that may linger on as an aftereffect of capitalism. But the aim of such steps will be to effect genuine rehabilitation and social adjustment, and not to exact crude and pointless punishment or vengeance.

Capital punishment is the irrational response of a political state determined to preserve social order in a system that breeds disorder. Supposedly intended as a "deterrent" to violent crime, it accomplishes nothing on that score, nor does it address the social causes of violent crime. It does nothing except temporarily satisfy a capitalist-generated mania for punishment in the face of social chaos.

The classconscious, and thus enlightened, self-governing producers of socialist society would not preserve such a repressive, barbaric institution as capital punishment. But more importantly, the matter would become a moot point, for socialism would put an end to all violent crime as soon as the aftereffects of the capitalist social environment had faded into history.