Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples
This declaration, published in January 1918, outlines the key rights to be obtained in the new Soviet state. Compare it with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the English Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Bill of Rights. What common themes and values do you notice? What is unique about this document when compared to earlier revolutionary declarations?
The Constituent Assembly resolves:
I. 1. Russia is hereby proclaimed a Republic of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. All power, centrally and locally, is vested in these Soviets.
2. The Russian Soviet Republic is established on the principle of a free union of free nations, as a federation of Soviet national republics.
II. Its fundamental aim being to abolish all exploitation
of man by man, to completely eliminate the division of society
into classes, to mercilessly crush the resistance of the
exploiters, to establish a socialist organisation of society and
to achieve the victory of socialism in all countries, the
Constituent Assembly further resolves:
1. Private ownership of land is hereby abolished. All
land together with all buildings, farm implements and other
appurtenances of agricultural production, is proclaimed the
property of the entire working people.
2. The Soviet laws on workers' control and on the
Supreme Economic Council are hereby confirmed for the purpose
of guaranteeing the power of the working people over the
exploiters and as a first step towards the complete conversion
of the factories, mines, railways, and other means of
production and transport into the property of the
workers' and peasants' state.
3. The conversion of all banks into the property of the
workers' and peasants' state is hereby confirmed as
one of the conditions for the emancipation of the working
people from the yoke of capital.
4. For the purpose of abolishing the parasitic sections
of society, universal labour conscription is hereby
5. To ensure the sovereign power of the working people, and to eliminate all possibility of the restoration of the power of the exploiters, the arming of the working people, the creation of a socialist Red Army of workers and peasants and the complete disarming of the propertied classes are hereby decreed.
III. 1. Expressing its firm determination
to wrest mankind from the clutches of finance capital and
imperialism, which have in this most criminal of wars drenched the
world in blood, the Constituent Assembly whole-heartedly endorses
the policy pursued by Soviet power of denouncing the secret
treaties, organising most extensive fraternisation with the
workers and peasants of the armies in the war, and achieving at
all costs, by revolutionary means, a democratic peace between the
nations, without annexations and indemnities and on the basis of
the free self-determination of nations.
2. With the same end in view, the Constituent Assembly insists on a complete break with the barbarous policy of bourgeois civilisation, which has built the prosperity of the exploiters belonging to a few chosen nations on the enslavement of hundreds of millions of working people in Asia, in the colonies in general, and in the small countries.
The Constituent Assembly welcomes the policy of the Council of People's Commissars in proclaiming the complete independence of Finland, commencing the evacuation of troops from Persia, and proclaiming freedom of self-determination for Armenia.
3. The Constituent Assembly regards the Soviet law on the cancellation of the loans contracted by the governments of the tsar, the landowners and the bourgeoisie as a first blow struck at international banking, finance capital, and expresses the conviction that Soviet power will firmly pursue this path until the international workers' uprising against the yoke of capital has completely triumphed.
IV. Having been elected on the basis of party lists drawn up prior to the October Revolution, when the people were not yet in a position to rise en masse against the exploiters, had not yet experienced the full strength of resistance of the latter in defence of their class privileges, and had not yet applied themselves in practice to the task of building socialist society, the Constituent Assembly considers that it would be fundamentally wrong, even formally, to put itself in opposition to Soviet power.
In essence the Constituent Assembly considers that now, when the people are waging the last fight against their exploiters, there can be no place for exploiters in any government body. Power must be vested wholly and entirely in the working people and their authorised representatives – the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies.
Supporting Soviet power and the decrees of the Council of People's Commissars, the Constituent Assembly considers that its own task is confined to establishing the fundamental principles of the socialist reconstruction of society.
At the same time, endeavouring to create a really free and voluntary, and therefore all the more firm and stable, union of the working classes of all the nations of Russia, the Constituent Assembly confines its own task to setting up the fundamental principles of a federation of Soviet Republics of Russia, while leaving it to the workers and peasants of each nation to decide independently at their own authoritative Congress of Soviets whether they wish to participate in the federal government and in er federal Soviet institutions, and on what terms.
 The draft of the declaration was placed before the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on January 3, 1918, and adopted as a basis by a majority with two against and one abstention. It was referred to a Co-ordinating Commission for final drafting. The declaration was adopted by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and published in Izvestia on January 4. On behalf of the Committee it was read out by Sverdlov at the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly on January 5 and motioned for approval. The counter-revolutionary majority of the Assembly rejected the motion to discuss it. On January 12, it was approved by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets and subsequently formed the basis of the Soviet Constitution.
Paragraph 2 of Lenin's manuscript was altered by Stalin. The paragraph beginning with the words "In essence the Constituent Assembly considers"... was written by Bukharin and edited by Lenin.
 On December 6, 1917, the Finnish Diet adopted a declaration of Finland's independence. In accordance with the nationalities policy of the Soviet state, the Council of Peoples Commissars, on December 18, 1917, issued a decree on Finland's independence. At the meeting of the government, Lenin personally handed the text of the decree to Prime Minister Svinhufvud, who led a Finnish Government delegation. On December 22, 1917, the decree on Finland's independence was approved by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.
On December 19, 1917, in conformity with a treaty concluded between Russia and Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria at Brest-Litovsk on December 2, the Soviet Government proposed to the Persian Government to elaborate a common plan for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Persia.
On December 29, 1917, the government issued the Decree on Turkish Armenia, which was published in Pravda No. 227 on December 31, 1917.
This work is in the Public Domain.