Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

The Revolutionary Communist Party has recently published a draft proposal for a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (available from Revolution Books for $8). Regardless of the substantive merits of the proposed Constitution, this publication raises in my mind the intellectual credibility of the RCP as an organization sincerely dedicated to forming a working post-capitalist government and society. More importantly, they specifically request "serious and substantial engagement" with the work. I will take them at their word.

The work is long (91 pages plus an introduction) and rather dense, so I'll be covering it chapter by chapter. All page numbers will refer to the October 2010 print edition from RCP Publications.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and no one else's; I speak only for myself and no other individual, group or organization, and no one but myself exercises any power or influence to restrict, censor or alter anything I say here. More to the point, nothing here represents the official position of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The introduction to the Constitution gives a realistic assessment of what the Constitution is and is not, and can and cannot be. It is first, explicitly a draft proposal, intended to "stimulate, as broadly as possible... serious and substantive engagement" about what a new socialist society would look like. The introduction explicitly predicates the adoption of the Constitution on the elimination of the existing capitalist-imperialist state and a broad popular mandate for the Revolutionary Communist Party. This is not a Constitution to be imposed from above, but serves rather to attract a popular mandate; it is to be established not by the party, but by the "millions and millions" of people who must act to bring about a revolutionary change to our society. Whether such events will actually come to pass is beside the point: this document lays out in print what the RCP would do if they were to win.

The authors also realize that the actual course of events were they to win would substantively affect any final Constitution; the draft proposal can at best be a starting point for — given the appropriate circumstances — a real Constitution for a new republic.

I would prefer a somewhat different style and organization. The RCP has a distinctive rhetorical style; it is not to everyone's taste, usually florid and often repetitive, but they can express their ideas unambiguously. The existing proposal also mixes the necessary legalese with commentary and philosophical background; I would prefer a more rigorously separated organization, such as found in the United States Constitution, distinct from the Federalist Papers. The document also seems at times to include the RCP's political platform; unless they were to intend an explicit one-party state (which they do not), this material would seem more appropriately separated out. But I offer these criticisms only to dismiss them as trivial, and get on with a more substantive analysis.

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