In my town there are 2 older gentleman who hail from the former Soviet Union. They came over in the 80s during Perestroika. Several times in the past I've heard them claim that the US was heading down the same road as the USSR. I struck it off as hyperbole but recently decided to ask how this could be so given the rights and freedoms we're guaranteed by our Constitution.
Then I found out something I never knew. Before them, no one had told me and if anyone BUT a Soviet had said so I wouldn't have believed them.
They both (independently) answered that the USSR had a Constitution and that Stalin's 1936 version of the Constitution of the USSR was actually more comprehensive and provided more rights than the US Constitution. It provided civil as well as economic rights. Warrants were required for searches, freedom of speech and of religion was guaranteed, freedom of assembly and universal suffrage was guaranteed from the very early days. They also had economic rights which included pensions, vacation, 7-hour (not a typo) work days, provided cross-racial rights 30+ years before the USA. New Zealand in 1941 is credited with the world's first near-universal health care, but in reality that had been provided for the Soviets since at LEAST 1936 (I haven't checked the first constitution yet). It all seemed pretty damn rosy, honestly.
Here's the original russian text if anyone wants to verify my claims.
They just didn't care. The Constitution was a show piece. Increasingly trampled and skirted by the government practically from Day 1. From here I will point out the unnerving analogues between the former USSR and the current USA. Please try and not dismiss what I say as hyperbole... because it's not even MY words. As originally mentioned, these comparisons come from 2 former Soviet citizens.
If the Soviet government didn't agree with what you said, while they couldn't jail you or outright revoke the right to say it, it was very simple for them to simply make you disappear by claiming you were otherwise an enemy of the state. In the US, the executive branch reserves the right to claim US citizens are terrorists and detain them (without trial) at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that no one has used their discretion to do so so far (that we're aware of) does not erase the fact that it's possible.
In the USSR, a person, his possessions and correspondence was inviolable without a warrant. Here is where it's a bit different. In the USSR, the enforcement agencies simply called their superiors and requested a warrant to do as they pleased. The US law enforcement simply passes legislation that says they don't need a warrant.
Here's a neat one. In the original Soviet constitution, it was guaranteed that the individual Soviet Republics not only had the right to their own Constitutions, but those Constitutions could not be altered without their will. Moreover, the individual republics retained the right to secede from the USSR as part of the soviet constitution. I'm not sure how this doesn't sound like what's been happening with US States' rights to formulate their own laws.
Perhaps the most unnerving is the proliferation of the idea that "You didn't build that". Here is a translation of the original Russian text.
In other words, the USSR was the "You didn't build that" mentality writ large. The idea that the means of production exist because of the workers.Article 1. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a socialist state of workers and peasants.
Article 2. political foundation of the USSR is the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, which grew and became strong as a result of the overthrow of the landlords and capitalists and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Article 3. All power in the USSR belongs to the working people of town and country as represented by the Soviets.
Article 4. economic foundation of the USSR is the socialist economic system and socialist ownership of the means of production, firmly established as a result of the elimination of the capitalist economic system, the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the elimination of the exploitation of man by man.
Article 5. Socialist property in the USSR exists either in the form of state ownership (national treasure), or a form of collective-farm property (property of collective farms, the property of cooperative societies).
Article 6. land, its subsoil, water, forests, mills, factories, mines, rail, water and air transport, banks, communications, large state-organized agricultural enterprises (state farms, machine and tractor stations, etc.) as well as utilities and basic housing in cities and industrial localities, are state property, that is the whole people.
Article 7. Public enterprises in collective farms and cooperative organizations, with their livestock and implements produced by the collective farms and cooperative organizations, as well as their public buildings are public, socialist property of the collective farms and cooperative organizations.
Each collective farm, besides the basic income from the common, collective farms, has a personal use a small private plot of land in private ownership and subsistence farming on the plot, a dwelling house, livestock, poultry and minor agricultural implements - in accordance with the Charter of the Agricultural Artel.
Article 8. land occupied by collective farms is secured to them in a free and unlimited time, that is, in perpetuity.
Article 9. Along with the socialist economic system, which is the predominant form of agriculture in the USSR, the law permits the small private economy of individual peasants and artisans, based on personal labor and precluding the exploitation of the labor of others.
Article 10. Right to private ownership in their incomes and savings to residential houses and subsidiary household to household items and appliances, articles of personal use and convenience, as well as the right to inherit personal property of citizens - are protected by law.
Article 11. economic life of the USSR is determined and directed by the state in the economic plan of increasing the public wealth, steadily raising the material and cultural level of the working people, to strengthen the independence of the USSR and strengthening its defense capability.
Article 12. Labour in the USSR is a duty and a matter of honor for every able-bodied citizen, according to the principle of "who does not work shall not eat."
In the Soviet Union is the principle of socialism: "From each according to his ability, to each - according to his work."
In the Soviet Union, they simply took control of the means of production. In Western socialism, the concept is no different, they simply charge you higher taxes for their use.
While there are important distinctions to make between the USA and USSR (Such as a top-down planned economy vs the free market economy) the similarities are striking and should be taken very seriously. Specifically in the realm of the Constitution becoming increasingly a show piece that the government allows itself to pick and choose which bits it likes vs which it doesn't.