Collectivism: What is the Government’s to take?

With the birth of the Soviet Union and the beginning of communist rule, the new government had to establish socialist norms for those living in the country. The All- Russian Central Executive Committee established these new rules, as on March 21, 1921 the committee addressed NEP in the Countryside, The Tax in Kind. In this document, the committee established collectivism norms for peasants in the form of taxing for the needs of the government and overall Soviet State. A little more than a year later, on May 22, 1922, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee spoke again, this time on the Right of Private Property in Commerce and Industry. This document clears confusion around the rights to private property in the Soviet Union, however also states that the decree is not retroactive, and does not return the right to property confiscated by the Soviet Union back to previous owners.

Both documents exemplify the complexity involved in changing the kind of government in a nation. Moving from Tsarist rule to communist rule involved a complete transformation of government and therefore laws and societal norms. Ideas that once did not need clarification, such as what is considered one’s private property or crops, suddenly needed vast explanation. The committee does seem to at least attempt to protect the rights of peasants and farmers within the confusion of the documents.

In my opinion, both decrees were confusing and somewhat contradictory. The first decree on NEP in the Countryside is hard to understand what rights exactly the government had to farmers’ crops and supplies. The second decree on the Rights to Private Property was a bit easier to follow, however at the end stated that the decree does not act retroactively in returning past confiscated property. With that being said, and considering how much property and land the Soviet Union confiscated at this point already, the second decree seems somewhat useless. Also, the wording of the documents and idea flow throughout the documents is hard to follow and was most likely not understood by the typically uneducated peasants. With that, the government most likely was able to get away with not following these laws as most of the people they applied to, the peasants and farmers, did not understand them. It seems that the government released these decrees just as a means to cover up any possible accusations of abuse of power.