Soviet Administrative Legalityby G. G. Morgan

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  • Soviet Administrative Legality by G. G. MorganReview by: Leonard SchapiroThe Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 43, No. 100 (Dec., 1964), pp. 233-235Published by: the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London, School ofSlavonic and East European StudiesStable URL: .Accessed: 18/06/2014 12:25

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  • REVIEWS 233

    But it would be ungenerous and unfair to stress these omissions. Mr Swayze's central chapters give ample evidence of his enormous labours and careful research. His account of the organisation and functioning of the Writers' Union is particularly informative and gives many useful in- sights into the administrative side of Soviet literary life. As a study of Soviet literary politics from I946 to I959 this book will long remain the standard work.


    Morgan, G. G. Soviet Administrative Legality. The Role of the Attorney General's Office. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Oxford Uni- versity Press, London, I962. X+28I pages. Index. Bibliography.

    THIS is a detailed study of one only of the two main functions of the prokuratura: the function of exercising supervision over the legality of sub- ordinate legislation and of certain classes of official enactments and actions- known in Soviet terminology as 'General Supervision'. The book does not deal with the other main group of the procurators' functions-supervision of the observance of legality in the courts, the conduct of criminal investi- gations, the conduct of public prosecutions, the conduct of appeals and protests in the interests of both the state and the accused, the supervision of places of penal confinement and the authorisation of arrests. Even this brief enumeration of functions shows how inappropriate the use of the term 'Attorney General' is when applied to this office, and it is unfortunate that the author should have used it in his sub-title, and even stressed the analogy in his preface. Indeed the whole notion that the state should employ special officials to supervise the legality of the actions of the courts and of officials in general is completely inconceivable in the Common Law countries, which have always relied in one form or another on the right of an aggrieved individual to seek redress in the courts. The Soviet Union in general, and with very few exceptions, does not allow the individual any redress in the courts for the wrongful act of an official or of a subordinate office. Nor does it allow the challenging of subordinate legislation in the courts on the ultra vires principle. The prokuratura therefore is usually the only safeguard open to the individual, and its worth as such a safeguard must necessarily vary according to the extent to which the state authorities, or the party, are prepared to allow it to function.

    The first seven chapters, or nearly half the book, deal with the history of general supervision. The subject is a relatively narrow one and the author has drawn on a great wealth of Soviet sources both on the theory and on the practice of general supervision, including, of course, the periodi- cal organ, Sotsialisticheskaya Zakonnost', published by the procuracy, which is now often very informative.

    The procuracy was not a bolshevik invention. In 1722 Peter the First instituted a system of procurators under the Senate, whose function was 'to protect order in the bureaux and to protect the population from officials

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    encroaching on their rights', and to bring to responsibility persons guilty of illegal actions. (Peter probably copied the contemporary system in force in Sweden, which survives today, though in a more democratic form, in the two Riksdag ombudsmannen).) The system was virtually abolished in 1802, and the procurator retained little more than the function of instituting and conducting criminal prosecutions. The institution had to wait until I922 to be formally revived-its revival was the culmination of an ineffectual struggle during the first years of Soviet rule to introduce some semblance of legal form into a welter of arbitrariness. As Mr Morgan points out, since the Soviet regime was, and is, unwilling to abandon central control in favour of constitutional restraints on administration, general supervision was, and is, a necessity. But granted that this kind of 'general supervision' is a feature of a system in which law is as yet primitive and rudimentary (which is still in many ways the position in the Soviet Union), the history of the institution is not uninstructive. Having established itself, though with many difficulties and limitations, during the period of NEP, general supervision virtually disappeared after I929: Up to I936 the resources of the procuracy were utilised almost exclusively to ensure the success of collectivisation and the Plan. General supervision was resumed after I936, with efficiency rather than legality as its main aim. As the author rightly remarks: 'There never was any role for general supervision in challenging the illegalities and abuses committed by the rulers of the country' (p. i i '). That the efficiency of the system must, and does, depend on the extent to which the rulers are prepared to tolerate it is shown by what has happened in the changed climate since Stalin's death. The statute of 24 May I955, which defines the powers of the procurators as regards general supervision (inter alia), was in substance merely a consolidating re-enactment. Yet improvements in regularity and efficiency of supervision can be noted in the past decade. And, in particular, the procurators have for the first time been challenging the enactments of governmental bodies at the higher levels on a regular basis-a very rare occurrence indeed before I953. It is perhaps a hopeful sign for the future of Soviet legal order that several academic lawyers have in recent years advocated the conferring upon the courts of jurisdiction over violations of the law by government agencies and officials, with the object of providing redress in damages to the aggrieved individual.

    However, there is no sign that this momentous change is contemplated, and 'general supervision' therefore remains one of the main methods of trying to ensure conformity to what the law prescribes. (Another, which has only emerged since Mr Morgan's book was published, is the new Party-State Committee of Control. The whole history of the Soviet regirne is studded with ever new and more ingenious methods for the custody of the custodians.) Mr Morgan has done useful service in putting together in the second part of his book all that can be gleaned from Soviet publications about the legal jurisdiction of the procurator in the matter of 'general supervision', analysis of the methods open to him, and of the action available to him. It is not Mr Morgan's fault if many questions still remain un- answered-in systems where arbitrary power can always prevail in the

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  • REVIEWS 235

    last resort, and where the court's jurisdiction is carefully excluded wherever the interests of the state may possibly be affected, only those who are unaware of the nature of law will expect anything like strict legal norms to emerge. There is no doubt that, compared with what happened ten or fifteen years ago, the procurators are having slightly greater effect in en- suring that the formal laws are observed. But the whole mechanism of officials, who in Soviet conditions, especially at the lower levels, are bound to be ignorant and largely inexperienced of the law, setting out to correct matters of highly technical administrative regulations appears quite grotesque to any lawyer who is familar with the problem of administrative law in, for example, France. It is not surprising that it should creak at every joint whenever the regime tries to use it for more difficult purposes than merely catching swindlers. Mr Morgan's book unfortunately does not deal in any detail with recruitment, training, legal experience, party allegiance or age groups of the procurators, which probably form the most significant aspect of the whole problem. This may, in part, be due to the fact that he has chosen to write on so narrow a topic. But, if so, this raises the question whether he would not have done much better to write on the prokuratura as a whole. The index leaves much to be desired.


    Gershenkron, A. Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective: A Book of Essays. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachussetts, and Oxford University Press, London, I962. 456 pages. Index.

    IN this volume Professor Gershenkron has assembled fourteen essays, written between I95I and I96I, and published in economic and historical journals and symposiums. They range from the broadly historical to the narrowly statistical and from anti-Marxist polemic to literary criticism (disclaimed as such). The first eight deal with problems of European economic development during the igth century in general and in parti- cular, including three case-studies of Russia, Italy and Bulgaria; the next three with industrial problems in Soviet Russia; the last three with recent Soviet novels. It is a difficult book to review, since to assess the essays separately would require a range of qualifications which no reviewer is likely to possess, and would moreover ignore the inter-relationships between them; yet to consider the book as forming a whole would be unjust to the author's intention of presenting 'a series of successive explorations', and would lay too much weight on the 'lack of inner cohesion and repetitious- ness' which the author himself emphasises in the Introduction. So the reader wanders through the vast Russian forest, encountering thickets, losing the way in circles, suddenly seeing a distant view or coming to a clearing where the axe rings and the chips fly.

    It is a journey worth making. Gershenkron's eminence lies in his power of building bridges between different fields of study. He bestrides two

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    Article Contentsp. 233p. 234p. 235

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 43, No. 100 (Dec., 1964), pp. i-iii+1-255Volume InformationFront Matter [pp. i-iii]HistoryRussian 17th-Century Baltic Trade in Soviet Historiography [pp. 1-22]The Agrarian Problem in Poland between the Two World Wars [pp. 23-33]The Croatian Military Border and the Rise of Yugoslav Nationalism [pp. 34-45]The Rumanian Principalities and the Origins of the Crimean War [pp. 46-67]Some Aspects of the Imperial Russian Government on the Eve of the First World War [pp. 68-90]

    History of IdeasKaramzin and England [pp. 91-114]A. P. Kunitsyn and the Social Movement in Russia under Alexander I [pp. 115-129]

    Literary CriticismDr Krstyu Krstev: A Bulgarian Mentor [pp. 130-151]

    DocumentVasya Pozdnyakov's Dukhobor Narrative [pp. 152-176]

    MarginaliaDom Gjon Buzuk's Litany of 1555 [pp. 177-179]Some Recent Shevchenkiana from the American Continent [pp. 179-188]The American Notebooks of Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz: An Early Source of the Polish Ballad [pp. 188-191]

    ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 192-193]Review: untitled [pp. 193-194]Review: untitled [pp. 195-198]Review: untitled [pp. 198-200]Review: untitled [pp. 200-201]Review: untitled [pp. 201-203]Review: untitled [pp. 203-205]Review: untitled [pp. 205-206]Review: untitled [pp. 206-208]Review: untitled [pp. 209-210]Review: untitled [pp. 210-211]Review: untitled [pp. 212-213]Review: untitled [pp. 214-215]Review: untitled [pp. 216-220]Review: untitled [pp. 220-223]Review: untitled [pp. 224-227]Review: untitled [pp. 227-229]Review: untitled [pp. 229-230]Review: untitled [pp. 230-232]Review: untitled [pp. 232-233]Review: untitled [pp. 233-235]Review: untitled [pp. 235-240]Review: untitled [pp. 240-242]Review: untitled [pp. 242-245]Review: untitled [pp. 245-247]Shorter NoticesReview: untitled [pp. 247-248]Review: untitled [pp. 248-249]Review: untitled [pp. 249-250]Review: untitled [pp. 250-251]Review: untitled [p. 251]Review: untitled [pp. 251-252]

    Publications Received [pp. 253-255]Back Matter