A major aspect of Soviet criminal law reform since 1959 has been the transfer of certain judicial functions to Comrades' Courts, which are nonprofessional tribunals established to try petty offenses in enterprises, apartment houses, collective farms, universities, and elsewhere. These are called "social," rather than "state," agencies, because they are not staffed by civil servants but by volunteers and because they are conceived to perform a persuasive rather than a coercive function. Apart from their practical importance, they play an important part in symbolizing the theory that in the new period of "expanded construction of communism" there will be a decline in the use of formal and coercive sanctions and an increase in the use of informal and popular instruments of self-government. Under communism itself, the first stage of which, according to the 1961 Party Program, is to be achieved by 1980, this process of the dying out of the state, it is said, will be accelerated, as crime gradually disappears and such remnants of the past as the spirit of individualism and money-grubbing, the psychology of private property, and moral callousness cease to exist.
Harold J. Berman & James W. Spindler,
Soviet Comrades' Courts,
Wash. L. & Rev.
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